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Symbolism

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SYMBOLISM. The word symbol is de rived indirectly from the Greek symbolon, a sign or token. Symbolism is the art and doc trine of symbols; it is the knowledge of the treatment of symbols or of deciphering the occult intent of signs or symbols and espe cially in reference to things spiritual, invisible or unable to be pictured, as an idea, a quality, etc. To the Greeks the word symbolon meant signs of such clearness that the allusion and the object were practically coincident. Among the Greeks their hospitality ended in giving their guests, or exchanging with them, a memo rial of the visit in the form of a wooden tab let, a die or a ring, broken into two pieces. The host retained the other half, and in case of a future meeting presentation of the halved token was a sure identification, as one half fitted exactly into the fracture of the other half of the symbola. It is claimed by authori ties that the origin of symbolism is traceable to the hieroglyphics or pictorial writings of the ancient Egyptians and was transmitted from them to other nations by the Jews. The Egyp tians symbolized their gods with animal forms or combinations of both human and animal form; thus Horus, the sun-god, took the form of a sparrow-hawk, the disc was the hieroglyph of the sun, hence the winged disc (Mir), de rived from the Assyrians, has its clear defini tion, and expressed also the victory of good over evil. The snake (uraeus) was symbol of death, hence, used as an attribute of the Egyp tian icings, meant power over capital punish ment, just as the handled cross (ankh) seen held by gods and kings signified life. The staff (mar) was the Nile kings' symbol of author ity and has retained that significance with most nations ever since. From insect life also the Egyptians obtained such important symbols as the scarab (Scarabwus saver), the °sacred beetle' which they worshipped as a symbol of divinity, carving its form on finger rings con taining inscriptions,to he carried as an amulet. As to the mythology of the ancient Greeks and Romans it is not clear to us whether at first they looked upon their gods as symbolic of the elements of the world surrounding them; cer tain it is that they embody a very perfect sys tem of the symbolism of Creation. With Ura nus, god of the heavens above them, wedded to Gaza, the broad-chested earth, bringing forth Cronus, god of the harvests, and Zeus, the light of heaven, springing forth from the heaven god; with the•storm-besieged mountain top of Olympus dedicated as seat of the lightning god and realm of the divine brood, poetic symbol ism could get no closer to the human account ing of nature. Contemporary writers appear to show the acceptance of the theogony as alle goric if not symbolic, and symbolism played a big role in the mysteries and in orphism. And

the Neo-Platonists under Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus and the Emperor Julian were forced by the ridicule and logic of the Christian apolo gists to acknowledge that Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Minerva and Venus were but symbols under which with other myths they represented divine attributes and manifestations. Leaders in the modern schools of learning begin to see that it is symbolism that is expressed in the mytholo gies of Egypt and India as well as of Greece and Rome. But the most universally practised worship has been that of the sun-god, whose symbol, the swastika, dates back earlier than the Sanscrit, and which symbolic cross has al ways been a sacred sign and known as the "Wheeling cross° or °wheel of the law" with Buddhists. Representing the sun, when its hands point to the right, on its westward orbit, ind symbol of the earth's revolution in easterly direction when the hands point to the left (sometimes then termed suavastika), it is found as an ancient symbol all over the American continent on pottery of our prehistoric races. In a slightly varying form this swastika, known as the fylfot, appears among the ancient Celts as a favored symbol, occurring very frequently among the Scandinavian nations of early days. Variables such as the triskelion, tetrarkelion, etc., are interesting but belong to the subject of symbols, not symbolism now under discussion. The Chinese live in an atmosphere of symbol ism, every decoration having symbolic motifs as the chief characteristic, and even the shapes of the vases and jugs are symbolic. Scattered all over their pottery, porcelain, bronzes and enamels we find such symbols as those of lon gevity: Kylin (unicorn), kwei (tortoise), ho (crane), luh (deer). Their mystic number eight (Pa) shows forth in the Pa-pao or eight °precious things"; the Pa-kiva or eight mystic tngrams, the astrologers' symbols; the Pa-chi slang or eight Buddhist symbols, etc. From the vegetable kingdom they find symbolism in the peach (tao), token of marriage and lon gevity, while the latter condition is also sym bolized in the gourd (hu-lu) and the fungus (chi); and the bamboo (chuh), pine (sung) and plum tree (mei) are symbol of three friends. With the Japanese symbolism is a large part of their life. Among such we find: A plum, bamboo, orchid and a chrysanthemum symbolize the °four wise men° of Confucius; a pine twig, wisp of straw and a red lobster are a New Year symbol combination; a moon, snow flake and a flower in conjunction are symbols of the changing conditions of nature.

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