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Vanitas (1603) by Jaques de Gheyn II, see symbols of death
Vanitas (1603) by Jaques de Gheyn II, see symbols of death

"It is in and through Symbols that man, consciously or unconsciously, lives, works, and has his being: those ages, moreover, are accounted the noblest which can the best recognise symbolical worth, and prize it highest." --Sartor Resartus (1836 ) by Thomas Carlyle, epigraph

"Dadaism was a queer special development of Symbolism. the writings of the Dadaist grew directly out of the Symbolist tradition, as their hoaxes and practical jokes recall the perverse non sequitur capers of Jules Laforgue's "Pierrot Fumiste" and Tristan Corbière's stroll in Rome with a mitre, a dress-suit and a pig."--Axel's Castle (1931) by Edmund Wilson

"It was in the Orient, too, that mythical and symbolical zoology, as the natural outgrowth of the doctrine of metempsychosis, attained its most exuberant development. The monstrosities of Indian, Assyrian, Egyptian, and archaic Greek art, sphinxes, centaurs, minotaurs, human-headed bulls, lion-headed kings, horse-headed goddesses, and sparrow-headed gods, are all the plastic embodiments of this metaphysical tenet. The same notion finds expression in heraldry, where real and fabulous animals are blazoned in whimsical devices on coats-of-arms and ensigns as emblems of qualities supposed to be peculiar to individuals- or hereditary in families."--Animal Symbolism in Ecclesiastical Architecture (1896) by E. P. Evans

Innocence (1893) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau: Both young children and lambs are symbols of innocence
Innocence (1893) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau: Both young children and lambs are symbols of innocence

Related e



Symbolism is the representation of a concept through symbols or underlying meanings of objects or qualities. It is the applied use of symbols: iconic representations that carry particular conventional meanings.

The term "symbolism" is often limited to use in contrast to "representationalism"; defining the general directions of a linear spectrum - where in all symbolic concepts can be viewed in relation, and where changes in context may imply systemic changes to individual and collective definitions of symbols. "Symbolism" may refer to a way of choosing representative symbols in line with abstract rather than literal properties, allowing for the broader interpretation of a carried meaning than more literal concept-representations allow. A religion can be described as a language of concepts related to human spirituality. Symbolism hence is an important aspect of most religions.


In the visual arts


The use of symbols is common in the visual arts.

see also
symbols of death


All forms of language are innately symbolic, and any system of symbols can form a "language;" even a binary system. Human oral language is based on the phoneme. The written word is symbolically representative of both the symbolic phoneme and directly to the cognitive concept which it represents. The field of cognitive linguistics explores the cognitive process and relationships between different systems of phonetic symbols to indicate difference.


dream interpretation

The interpretation of abstract symbols has had an important role in religion and psychoanalysis. As envisioned by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, symbols are not the creations of mind, but rather are distinct capacities within the mind to hold a distinct piece of information. In the mind, the symbol can find free association with any number of other symbols, can be organized in any number of ways, and can hold the connected meanings between symbols as symbols in themselves. Jung and Freud diverged on the issue of common cognitive symbol systems and whether they could exist only within the individual mind or among other minds; whether any cognitive symbolism was defined by innate symbolism or by the influence of the environment around them.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Symbolism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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