The term, symbolism covers a great variety of apparently dissimilar modes of behavior. In its original senses it was restricted to objects or marks intended to recall or to direct special attention to some person, object, idea, event or projected activity associated only vaguely or not at all with the symbol in any natural sense. By gradual extensions of meaning the terms symbol and symbolism have come to include not merely such trivial objects and marks as black balls, to indicate a negative attitude in voting, and stars and daggers, to remind the reader that supplementary information is to be found at the bottom of the page, but also more elaborate objects and devices, such as flags and signal lights, which are not ordinarily regarded as important in themselves but which point to ideas and actions of great consequence to society. Such complex systems of reference as speech, writing and mathematical notation should also be included under the term symbolism, for the sounds and marks used therein obviously have no meaning in themselves ands can have significance only fir those who know how to interpret them in terms of that to which they refer. A certain kind of poetry is called symbolic or symbolistic because its apparent content is only a suggestion for wider meanings. In personal relations too there is much behavior that may be called symbolic, as when a ceremonious bow is directed not so much to an actual person as to a status which that person happens to fill. The psychoanalysts have come to apply

(493) the term symbolic to almost any emotionally charged pattern of behavior which has the function of unconscious fulfilment of a repressed tendency, as when a person assumes a raised voice of protest to a perfectly indifferent stranger who unconsciously recalls his father and awakens the repressed attitude of hostility toward the father.

Amid the wide variety of senses in which the word is used there seem to emerge two constant characteristics. One of these is that the symbol is always a substitute for some more closely intermediating type of behavior, whence it follows that all symbolism implies meanings which cannot be derived directly from the contexts of experience. The second characteristic of the symbol is that it expresses a condensation of energy, its actual significance being out of all proportion to the apparent triviality of meaning suggested by its mere form. This can be seen at once when the mildly decorative function of a few scratches on paper is compared with the alarming significance of apparently equally random scratches which are interpreted by a particular society as meaning "murder" or "God." This disconcerting transcendence of form comes out equally well in the contrast between the involuntary blink of the eye and the crudely similar wink which means "He does not know what an ass he is, but you and I do."

It seems useful to distinguish two main types of symbolism. The first of these, which may be called referential symbolism, embraces such forms as oral speech, writing, the telegraph code, national flags, flag signaling and other organizations of symbols which are agreed upon as economical devices for purposes of reference The second type of symbolism is equally economical and may be termed condensation symbolism, for it is a highly condensed form of substitutive behavior for direct expression, allowing for the ready release of emotional tension in conscious or unconscious form. Telegraphic ticking is virtually a pure example of referential symbolism; the apparently meaningless washing ritual of an obsessive neurotic, as interpreted by the psychoanalysts, would be a pure example of condensation symbolism. In actual behavior both types are generally blended. Thus specific forms of writing, conventionalized spelling, peculiar pronunciations and verbal slogans, while ostensibly referential, easily take on the character of emotionalized rituals and become highly important to both individual and society as substitutive forms of emotional expression. Were writing merely referential symbolism, spelling reforms would not be so difficult to bring about.

Symbols of the referential type undoubtedly developed later as a class than condensation symbols. It is likely that most referential symbolisms go back to unconsciously evolved symbolisms saturated with emotional quality, which gradually took on a purely referential character as the linked emotion dropped out of the behavior in question. Thus shaking the fist at an imaginary enemy becomes a dissociated and finally a referential symbol for anger when no enemy, real or imaginary, is actually intended. When this emotional denudation takes place, the symbol becomes a comment, as it were, on anger itself and a preparation for something like language. What is ordinarily called language may have had its ultimate root in just such dissociated and emotionally denuded cries, which originally released emotional tension. Once referential symbolism had been established as a by-product of behavior, more conscious symbols of reference could be evolved by the copying in abbreviated or simplified form of the thing referred to, as in the case of pictographic writing. On still more sophisticated levels referential symbolism may be attained by mere social agreement, as when a numbered check is arbitrarily assigned to a man's hat. The less primary and associational the symbolism, the more dissociated from its original context, and the less emotionalized it becomes, the more it takes on the character of true reference. A further condition for the rich development of referential symbolism must not be overlooked-the increased complexity and homogeneity of the symbolic material. This is strikingly the case in language, in which all meanings are consistently expressed by formal patterns arising out of the apparently arbitrary sequences of unitary sounds. When the material of a symbolic system becomes sufficiently varied and yet homogeneous in kind, the symbolism becomes more and more richly patterned, creative and meaningful in its own terms, and referents tend to be supplied by a retrospective act of rationalization. Hence it results that such complex systems of meaning as a sentence form or a musical form mean so much more than they can ever be said to refer to. In highly evolved systems of reference the relation between symbol and referent becomes increasingly variable or inclusive.

In condensation symbolism also richness of meaning grows with increased dissociation. The chief developmental difference, however, be-

( 494) -tween this type of symbolism and referential symbolism is that while the latter grows with formal elaboration in the conscious, the former strikes deeper and deeper roots in the unconscious and diffuses its emotional quality to types of behavior or situations apparently far removed from the original meaning of the symbol. Both types of symbols therefore begin with situations in which a sign is dissociated from its context. The conscious elaboration of form makes of such dissociation a system of reference, while the unconscious spread of emotional quality makes of it a condensation symbol. Where, as in the case of a national flag or a beautiful poem, a symbolic expression which is apparently one of mere reference is associated with repressed emotional material of great importance to the ego, the two theoretically distinct types of symbolic behavior merge into one. One then deals with symbols of peculiar potency and even danger, for unconscious meanings, full of emotional power, become rationalized as mere references.

It is customary to say that society is peculiarly subject to the influence of symbols in such emotionally charged fields as religion and politics. Flags and slogans are the type examples in the field of politics, crosses and ceremonial regalia in the field of religion. But all culture is in fact heavily charged with symbolism, as is all personal behavior. Even comparatively simple forms of behavior are far less directly functional than they seem to be, but include in their motivation unconscious and even unacknowledged impulses, for which the behavior must be looked upon as a symbol. Many, perhaps most reasons are little more than ex post facto rationalizations of behavior controlled by unconscious necessity. Even an elaborate, well documented scientific theory may from this standpoint be little more than a symbol of the unknown necessities of the ego. Scientists fight for their theories not because they believe them to be true but because they wish them to be so.

It will be useful to give examples of some of the less obvious symbolisms in socialized behavior. Etiquette has at least two layers of symbolism. On a relatively obvious plane of symbolism etiquette provides the members of society with a set of rules which, in condensed and thoroughly conventionalized form, express society's concern for its members and their relation to one another. There is another level of etiquette symbolism, however, which takes little or no account of such specific meanings but interprets etiquette as a whole as a powerful symbolism of status. From this standpoint to know the rules of etiquette is important, not because the feelings of friends and strangers are becomingly observed but because the manipulator of the rule proves that he is a member of an exclusive group. By reason of the richly developed meanings which inhere in etiquette, both positive and negative, a sensitive person can actually express a more bitter hostility through the frigid observance of etiquette than by flouting it on an obvious wave of hostility. Etiquette, then, is an unusually elaborate symbolic play in which individuals in their actual relationships are the players and society is the bogus referee.

Education is also a thoroughly symbolic field of behavior. Much of its rationale cannot be tested as to direction or value. No one knows or can discover just how much Latin, French, mathematics or history is good for any particular person to acquire. The tests of the attainment of such knowledge are themselves little more than symbolic gestures. For the social psychologist education, whatever else it may be or do, stands out as a peculiarly massive and well articulated set of symbols which express the needs of the individual in society and which help him to orient himself in his relations to his fellow men. That an individual possesses the bachelor's degree may or may not prove that he knows, or once knew, something about Roman history and trigonometry. The important thing about his degree is that it helps him to secure a position which is socially or economically more desirable than some other position which can be obtained without the aid of this degree. Society has misgivings about the function of specific items in the educational process and has to make symbolic atonement by inventing such notions as the cultivation of the mind.

It is important to observe that symbolic meanings can often be recognized clearly for the first time when the symbolic value, generally unconscious or conscious only in a marginal sense, drops out of a socialized pattern of behavior and the supposed function, which up to that time had been believed to be more than enough to explain it and keep it going, loses its significance and is seen to be little more than a paltry rationalization. Chairmanship of a committee, for instance, has symbolic value only in a society in which two things are believed: that administrative functions somehow stamp a person as superior to those who are being directed; and that the ideal society is a democratic one and that

(495) those who are naturally more able than other; somehow automatically get into positions of administrative advantage. Should people come to feel that administrative functions are little more than symbolic automatisms, the chairmanship of a committee would be recognized as little more than a petrified symbol and the particular value that is now felt to inhere in it would tend to disappear.

An important field for investigation is that of personal symbolisms in the use of cultural patterns. Personal symbolisms are often the more valuable as they are hidden from consciousness and serve as the springs of effective behavior. Interest in a particular science may be an elaborately sublimated symbol of an unconscious emotional attachment to what a man who is significant in one's personal development is believed to be linked up with, such as the destruction of religion or the discovery of God, these grandiose preferences in turn serving as symbols of repressed hate or love. Much charitable endeavor is animated by an unconscious desire to peer into lives that one is glad to be unable to share. Society itself, perfecting its rigid mechanisms of charitable activity, cannot in every case or even in the vast majority of cases subject the charitable act to a pragmatic critique but must rest content for the most part with charity organization as its symbolic gesture toward alleviating suffering. Thus individual and society, in a never ending interplay of symbolic gestures, build up the pyramided structure called civilization. In this structure very few bricks touch the ground.



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