Saturday, July 18, 2009


What is a symbol? There are a good few who revel in the word with a knowing air, and who make it a speciality of theirs or even consider themselves to be a quasi occult elite.

The root of the word is strong, it is the same as in the word symbiosis, sympathetic, etc. All right, let's cut the chase, a symbol is something that unites the visible and the invisible. Well I think it's time we said something about it that is not solely idiotic. It is not easy to pinpoint what a symbol is. As we practically only have the root to move forward with, it is tempting to seek its inverse or contrary. Now the contrary of “sym” is “dia”, as in dialysis. Now pay attention, this is where it gets amusing, watch: therefore, what is the strict contrary of symbolic (symbolique)? Yep, you got that right: diabolical (diabolique). On the one hand we have something that unites, and on the other something that divides.

So let us imagine your friend is sick, and just before the big jump, he gives you a present, with no monetary value, which he is holding in his outstretched hand. You have thus inherited something without value yet which is eminently symbolic, thus precious. Hence, the value of the object you have inherited lays not in its price but in what it represents - i.e. in its capacity to manifest a link between the visible and the invisible. Besides, if your friend had given you an expensive gift, what would make it foremost valuable would be no more its price, but what it represents, in other words its capacity to manifest a link between the visible and the invisible.

So what are we doing when we hold this object to be a trinket, or when we sell it because we can get some money for it? Well we disunite and divide, that is all, nothing more, but one should be honest and not hesitate to say it. We therefore radically trample a link. What good could we then expect for he who is at the other end of the link? When you knock your Hi-Fi with a hammer, are you surprised when it doesn't work as well? Well, some are surprised... Yes, positively, I assure you! Naturally, I do not speak of a case of force majeure, as when one is forced to sell an object laden with symbol because of a food shortage. In that case, in my view, the symbol would be even stronger, even without the object. :)

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  1. Now if the symbol stands for or represents something, then the diabol (if there is such a word) will stand for or represent nothing, in the active sense. Goethe called Mephistopheles "the spirit of negation." Therefore, the division will be between something and nothing, between the real and the unreal.


  2. A good topic. An intriguing one. The Yang and Yin of existence. Seeking the light? Fleeing the darkness? I'll post this and more on the discussion you started. Thank you.

  3. Harvey-coincidentally just stumbled across this in a journal by Charles Simic: "Contemporary poets have for the most part forgotten about symbolism, especially its one great insight that Being cannot be stated but only hinted at." Similar to your contention that the symbol unites the visible with the invisible.

  4. @DB,
    Nice to see you again. Interesting twist!

    Apperciate you dropping by. Thanks for your contribution to the BC discussion!

    Thank you. I will look into Simic now! I'm looking for something good to read on symbolism. Hope I find it.