Hugh M. Lewis
Symbols may stand for themselves as well as each other and
for other things of relative significance in the human environment. Symbols
have both a substantial, empirical basis in physical reality, by being
embodied within some 'thing' or set of things which come to literally
represent the symbol and its associated significances. Symbols also have a
metaphysical 'essence' which phenomenologically and experientially transcends
their corporeal substance and figuratively represent the things they stand
for. Thus symbols and symbolisms stand between heaven and earth, the physical
and the metaphysical, and mind and body--and it is their function to
'inter-integrate' and mediate these two different and otherwise separate kinds
of reality. Thus symbolisms provide a sense of unity and integration to human
reality in a very basic kind of way. And we can look at the separate realities
of Man as but the two sides of the same symbolic coin of human reality and
thus understand that while we believe our feet are planted firmly in one kind
of reality and our head is obscured in the clouds of another, we are actually
only in a single kind of human reality which is preeminently symbolic and
usually two sided. Seeing a single, whole, un-dichotomizes symbolic human
reality, we no longer need to be so vexed by the dilemmas and illusions of
being simultaneously in two separate realities at once.
It is the substantial human physicality of the things which
stand for our symbols and the ethereal insubstantiality of the things which
our symbols stand for, that lead us to such chronic confusion over symbols,
ideas and things. It is sometimes difficult to fathom the ideology that
regards a gigantic arsenal of nuclear warheads with their promise of total
devastation as primarily of non-substantial symbolic value. They exist not so
much as weapons of potential or actual destruction, but as symbols of power,
control, mutually assured deterrence, strength and even perennial peace. They
have been allowed into our lives primarily as symbols of the kind of political
economic authority they represent and this is how their otherwise incredible
and horrible presence has become fostered into our lives. They stand forever
poised as both our weapons of ultimate force and as out symbols of ultimate
Automobiles are another example of objects of possession
and control which are primarily symbolic embodiments of our personal mobility,
status, success, power and freedom, and yet which we habitually even
compulsively use as functional vehicles for transportation. In this case, the
fossil fuel automobile has become a predominant cornerstone of our collective
modern existence as symbolisms of technological and industrial dominance and
success over our physical environments--inspite of the fact that they are
dangerous, polluting, expensive and ecologically unaffordable. They have
become the mainstay of our modern lives not so much because they are symbols
of the success of progress, but because they functionally mediate our physical
environments, whether we really need them or not. They have become
symbolically foisted upon our collective imagination because they have become
a real physical need of modern Homo automobiles.
It is the failure to understand that our realities, whether
ideological or material, are primarily and ultimately symbolic, that leads us
to mistakenly identify as inevitable matters of fact such things as nuclear
missiles and petro-powered cars.
Dialectical symbolism is a central theory in the culture
historical studies of the developmental processes of human civilization,
explaining how the dynamics of social movement, cultural change and historical
patterning function in a self organizing but predictable way. It is a
systematic theory about mind, how it works and the ways it becomes manifest in
the civilizing processes of culture history. It is a theory explaining how
mindness as culture historical frames of mind, has become expressed
symbolically and dialectically in the evolution and ecology of mind. It
outlines this evolutionary and ecological process of development of mind as
the central thesis of the study of culture history.
Dialectical symbolism stands Marx back upon his head--it
converts Marxism political economy and materialistic arguments back to an
Hegelian unfolding of Geist or Idea, except that it is not a theory of the
progressive immanation of Spirit, but holds the notion of the dialectics of
symbolism as the principle form and function of the expression of human
mind--all symbolisms leaves substantively real, epi-phenomenal 'things in the
world' which can become 'objects' of scientific verification and all
symbolisms has pragmatic, adaptive function in the empirical world which
serves to scientifically explain itself.
The gradual but increasing rapid, even explosive, emergence
of global human civilization is seen as an inevitable, mathematical outcome of
a long term process of the structuring of many different but interrelated
processes of patterned human phenomena. Given enough time and the relatively
irreversible character of many kinds of changes, the self organizing critical
state made up of many local culture historical processes of change.
The unfolding of mind has been a dialectical process--its
main thesis has always embodied its own contradictions which eventual leads,
through environmental change, to its self transformation. As a dialectic it is
always a synthesizing reality which transcends itself through the fusion of
opposites--it is a never ending process of revolution and resolution about a
central, common axis of directional change. The synthetic transcendence of
this continuous dialectical counterpoint is never an inevitable outcome of
this contrapuntal movement--it is the power of metaphor as vital symbolism to
combine contradictory opposites as if a single unity, but this is always
outside of the main axis of movement of the dialectic.
It is a movement from thesis to antithesis and back to a
new thesis without a necessary sense of progressive fulfillment or
realization. The dialectics simply describe the resultant patterning of the
social movement of symbolization about directional axis of transition and
change. The movement characteristically turns about a central axis and
describes an undulating, to and fro, cyclical movement of change through time
and across space.
Besides being essentially self organized and
non-progressive, the dialectics of symbolism are also complex in being
multi-modal and multi-thematic. Unlike the 'simple' dialectics of dialectical
materialism in which there is a single axis of movement, dialectical symbolism
involves the multiple movements about several axis of structural change
simultaneously--and these multiple axis of change are interrelated one with
another such that there is a net synergistic patterning of the entire process
of developmental unfolding. It is this synergism which confers upon the
patterning of culture historical process a 'life of its own' independent of
its separable or component patterns. We cannot understand the total dialectic
merely by analyzing the separate movements of each of its axis of change--the
whole dialectic can only be understood by revealing how each axis is
interrelated to the others and how the functioning of each is interdependent
with the functioning of the others.
Dialectical symbolism substitutes for the basic materialism
as the driving motto of Marx's theory the basic pan human reality of symbolism
and symbolization as the focal 'prime mover' of culture historical process.
The principle mode of expression of mind has been metaphorical and
symbolic--and it is from the starting point of the metaphor as the basic
symbol of mind that we are to understand its process, purpose and pattern of
development. The pan human processes of symbolization which 'drive' this
complex dialectic of culture history give to change the sense of patterned
form--the regularity we associate with stability--symbolisms are the vessels
and vehicles which contain and carry change. symbolization does not so much
energize culture historical process, so much as channelize the available human
energies and potentialities into focal directions of development. It harnesses
these forces around the central axis of change. symbols carry significance
which mobilizes people into action and metabolizes social systems to change.
the function of symbolization is primarily organizational--it interrelates and
articulates otherwise disparate elements in order to provide an overarching
continuity to change and action.
Symbolism organizes not only our metaphysical sense of
world view or mindness, but our physical representational worlds as well.
Symbolism intermediates our two worlds--the life of mind and our experience of
Dialectical symbolism also integrates in the study of
culture history the different levels of analysis and synthesis, the general
and the particular, the universal and the individual. It shows how the pan
human problematics of mind are expressed and mediated on an everyday level of
the individual within larger contexts of relational sets. It shows that the
fundamental symbolic process is identical at every level of analysis and helps
to confer a sense of theoretical and philosophical unity to the whole range of
realities, from experiential to the conceptual.
Dialectical symbolism thus focuses the brunt and burden of
culture historical process, of change, of civilization, upon the understanding
of the individual in daily interaction with other people. It shows how
relative context is always generally defined in metaphorical terms and how
this context always symbolically influences the attitudes, orientations and
actions of the individual. It does so neither through passive constraint or
predetermination--the symbolic dialectic on the level of the individual's
reality is always one of continuous negotiation, compromise, transaction, give
and take, and contingency with ever changing complex environments.
Dialectical symbolism is in a sense a complete theoretical
orientation which qualifies it as a systematic 'science' of culture
history--its symbolic referents have a real, scientifically amenable basis in
empirical reality--but it is simultaneously something more than this in also
being a metaphysical and metalogical philosophical orientation which informs
such scientific theory--it asks ultimate questions and seeks relative answers.
Dialectical symbolism is dialectical in the sense of
encompassing a movement of mind from thesis to antithesis and back again
through synthetic transcendence, and yet the process is non-revolutionary in
the sense that there is no sense of governing necessity or purpose in its
development. Mind is not immanent or emergent from the dialectic, rather it is
only the result of the patterning of the dialectic. The movement of the
dialectic from thesis to counterpoint and back again, and the transformations
it involves, are always relative and relationally contextualized. It is the
total set of universal relations of mind which is evolving in an anti-entropic,
directional sense, in the process of its working out of its own possibilities
and it is this evolving context which accounts for the sense of transcendent
development of the dialectic within any given provenience.
Only in a universal sense is mind developing--in a local
culture historical context mind is simply changing in a less than more random
way. Though mind is evolving in a universal sense, we in our local frames of
mindness cannot ever know in any non-relative way that general direction or
how this evolution is occurring except to vaguely sense and infer its
directionality and systematicity from a broader sense of history and the
changes of mind in the so called structure of the long run. We can redefine
our understanding of this 'evolution of mind' from the ecological changes
which have come from it, but we can never conclusively prove that mind is
evolving or what its ultimate direction or purpose is.
The evolution of mind is not a metaphysical phenomena--but
it is a physical process of transformation which is experienced perceptively
through the senses. Mind is the potential total possibility of self organized
relational patterning of humankind in the physical universe. The brain and its
abstract functioning, the electronic super computer, DNA and cultural
transmission, exist in the world because mind exists as the expression of the
patterning of mind. As self organizing principles and properties of the
physical universe, its patterning is 'dumb' in a random, non-reflexive sense,
and yet its evolution is based upon an inherent 'anti-entropic' tendency to
maintain a weakly chaotic sense of order in the face of natural disorder and
randomization. It came into being as a statistical possibility of the long
run, as the epi-phenomena of a unique concatenation of 'forces' or 'events'
which lead to its self sustained growth and development.
In our limited and local framework we are forced to accept
the possibility of mind on the basis of a grand leap of faith, without the
possibility of conclusive demonstration and yet without it we cannot achieve a
coherent sense of order in the experiential universe of our collective being.
Dialectical symbolism is a theoretical orientation based
upon Hegelian dialectics applied to the evolution of symbolism as the
principle process of human culture historical development. It is neither
strictly a form of philosophical idealism nor a brand of materialism--symbols
are partly ideational and always materially expressed. Symbolism cohere
naturally to form 'synergism' of mind which embody contradictions of beingness
and non-beingness and which transcends these contradictions in their own
Dialectical symbolisms is the central theoretical
orientations of culture history. The human being is by definition a
symbolizing creatures--it is an essential and vital part of our nature and
character. Symbolizing is a 'need' just like the needs of breathing, drinking
water or nutrition--without it we must perish as something less than fully
human. Neither can we distance ourselves from its omnipresence in our worlds
nor separate ourselves from its ultimate sense of realism. Symbolism confers
upon our reality an indivisible unity, and it brings to our sense of realism
the possibility for its own dichotomization.
The dialectic of symbolism is developmental, but it is
non-progressive and always incomplete. It revolves and resolves itself around
central directional axis of change in the unfolding of mind as an objective of
time, reality of beingness in the world. This central axis is that of time,
and it is irreversible in an absolute, non-relative sense. Our measure of
change as time is the measure of the duration of all things which have been
and will ever be. The dialectics of symbolism has as its basis the spatial
mediation of time--mind is the spatialization of time in human consciousness.
The symbolic spatialization of time is expressed as
beingness in the world--we know it as 'experience'. Mind thus becomes
expressible in terms of and through our experience of the world. The
construction of culture and the process of civilization is the expression of
the realization of our experience of mind--culture and civilization become
symbolically patterned in their unfolding dialectics in the form of mind. As
symbolic process, the development of civilization becomes the patterning of
the function of mind.
The dialectics of symbolism become experienced cyclically,
as recursive patterning and revolution about the axis of time.
All symbolisms have as their ultimate referents the
representation of time as the formal/functional mediators of change. its
spatialized manifestations are the expression of its beingness in the
world--of the human experience of the world.
Dialectical symbolisms integrates and idealist versions of
reality, and through integration transcends its own inherent contradictions.
Many natural communication systems contain symbolisms
however mechanical or rudimentary. But it has been only humankind of all the
species of nature who have developed the capacity for the spontaneous creation
of symbolisms, their generalizations and metaphorical elaboration. Symbols
encompass human reality complete. All things and acts which are primarily
functional in the human world are also always symbolic but not all symbolisms
are necessarily functional or pragmatic in any concrete sense. Sometimes they
occur for a purely symbolic purposes, or spontaneously happen for no apparent
reason at all.
Symbols intermediate between the ideational constructs of
the human mind and the many physical signs occurring in the environment--they
are the synthesis of this intermediation, always having analytically an
ideational component and a sign set. It may also be said that ideas are the
synthesis of the dialectic between symbols as such and signs, and signs are
what remains once we've removed ideas from symbols. This informs a kind of
complex dialectic in which each may be a synthesis of the other two
components. Mind thinks symbolically and dialectically--deduction is the
inference of signs and/or symbols from the dialectic between ideas and
symbols. Induction is the synthesis of ideas from the conjunction and signs
and symbolisms. Symbolic abduction is the derivation of a symbol from the
dialectic between ideas and signs. Another way of putting this is to refer to
ideas as general metaphysical concepts and signs as particular, metonymical
percepts. The intermediate level consists of metaphorical symbolisms.
Symbolic development underwent a critical shift in
orientation, from extensiveness of mind to intensiveness of world view, when
symbols went from being based upon primitive ideas rooted in signs of the
natural environment to being based upon derivative signs based upon
independently existing ideas. The environment became transformed from being
one of a field of natural signs to one of a socio-cultural construction of
conceptual signs as reified ideas. Symbols switched from being 'sign oriented'
to being 'idea oriented'. The function of symbols shifted from a general
purpose mechanicalness to a special purpose organismic orientation.
'Signs/symbols/ideas' like 'mind/language/culture' is in
fact an integral, singly unified reality. The categories are useful analytical
divisions which in fact describe a single complex process of mind as an
unfolding stream of collective human consciousness within environmental
contexts. It describes the dialectic of mind in terms of how mind creates
itself--tracing the movement of 'meaning' between intensive center and
extensive environment. There is no way of clearly separating exactly what a
sign is from a symbol or what an idea is without reference to some symbolic
sign. Signs, symbols and ideas do not have exclusively concise boundaries.
This complex dialectic describes the developmental or
unfolding process of mind interacting or symbolically mediating with the
environment--or rather as the process of mind as a dialectical synthesis as
the mediation between environment and experiential human beingness. Symbols
mediate, negotiate, transact, identify the critical boundary between self and
world--symbols create a 'boundary' of identity which relates our beingness to
Symbols have an 'evocative' function vital to human
identity and beingness in the world. It is this which empowers symbolism as
the expression of mind.
A reflexive characteristic of our metalogical metalogue
about the question of 'what is human reality?' is that our definitions,
meanings and our information and communication are all primarily symbolic and
metaphorical in construction and function, and we may refer to metaphorical
symbolism or symbolic metaphors which compose the fundamental quality of human
'Metaphor' comes from the Greek word meaning 'to bear
over', 'referring to a transfer of the sense of one word to another', and is
defined 'a figure of speech in which one thing is likened to another,
different thing by being spoken of as if it were that other; implied
comparison, in which a word or phrase ordinarily and primarily used of one
thing is applied to another…'
A 'symbol' is defined as '1. Something that represents
something else by association, resemblance or convention. 2. A printed or
written sign used to represent an operation, element, quantity, quality or
relation as in mathematics or music.' It comes from the Greek 'symbolon' which
means 'token for identification'. A sign, token, pledge by which one infers
something, from 'symballein' or 'to throw together'. It is also defined as
'something that stands for or represents another thing, especially an object
used to represent something abstract; an emblem; a written or printed mark,
letter, abbreviation, etc. standing fort an object, quality, process,
The key symbol of meaning is the 'word as metaphor'.
Without language, humankind would have no culture nor civilization: Language
is the principle symboling system of human culture--it is the voice of mind.
Meaning is principally metaphorical, phenomenological, psychological and
abstracted from basic concrete percepts. Meaning is something suggesting
something else or its antithesis to human rationality. The word as metaphor
functions as analogy, comparison of similarities and the relationship between
different or disparate things, 'affecting' a meaningful crossover, or
'identification' between previously unrelated symbols, bridging differences
and creating new possibilities of relationship, patterns and integrities and
imposing alternative frames of reference out of an original context of
meaning, fusing together different meanings of different symbols to create new
meanings and new symbols.
Metaphor is connotative, suggesting new associations and
possibilities of meaning, expanding meaning qualitatively beyond mere one to
one correspondences between words and their dictionary definitions, as if they
were mere numbers or names or signs with the most immediate referents. It is
this metaphorical quality which allows us to reference more than is
immediately available to our sense, that allows us to go further in our
meaning structures to posit inferences and to ask and answer questions.
"A metaphor, and, by extension, a trope generally,
equates on conventional point of reference with another, or substitutes one
for another, and obliges the interpreter to draw his or her conclusions as to
the consequences. It elicits analogies, as perceptions through language, so to
speak, and those analogies or perceptions become the intent and the content,
of the expression.
Figurative usage, then, because it makes a kind of prism of
conventional reference, cannot provide a literal field of reference. It is not
formed by 'indicating' things or by referencing them, but by setting pointers
or reference points into a relation with one another, by making them into a
relation that is innovative upon the original order of reference. It 'conveys'
a re-negotiated relation, but, not being 'literal' in any sense, cannot
'point' to it. Thus we may say that it 'embodies' or 'images' its object,
figuring sympathetically by becoming itself that which it expresses. When we
speak of things that do not have conventional referents, then out manner of
speaking must itself become the referent. The effect of the construction is
embodied in its impingement upon conventional reference; this impingement is
simultaneously what it is and what it is about." (Roy Wagner; Symbols
That Stand For Themselves; 1986:6)
To write 'metaphorical symbolism' is something akin to
'mixed metaphor' but more like 'power politics'. It is difficult to say
exactly which term, 'metaphorical' or 'symbolism' is the more general and
inclusive. The expression metaphorical symbolism is used to suggest more than
just a category of mind or a class of symbols--but to emphasize the point that
all symbols are by their intrinsic nature 'metaphorical' and thus to emphasize
as well the 'something standing for something else' function of symbols.
Furthermore, metaphorical symbolisms express or stand for a characteristic
feature of human inter-relatedness to reality--human beings define meaning,
express significance, relate to reality through the use of metaphorical
symbolisms. In a sense, it is a propos to refer to human reality or to human
relativity within reality, as irreducibly metaphorical and symbolic in nature,
and in structure.
"Any symbolic metaphor provides a conceptually
definitive frame of reference/inference serving to dichotomously separate and
distinguish aspects of reality--internal/external, subjective/objective,
figure/ground--'outer forms frame an inner meanings'. One may refer to
alternative symbolic functions, like 'dominant symbol', 'master symbol', 'key
symbol' or 'summarizing metaphor' or 'elaborating metaphor' but the primary
function of all metaphorical symbolisms is to serve as a frame of reference
for the conveyance of human meaning. In order to do so, any symbol must have a
primary referent which serves as 'signifier' or a 'denotation' which is
concrete and derived from the physical environment. To reiterate, all symbols
are ultimately derived from and refer to nature, no matter how abstractly or
indirectly. This primary referent may be simple or complex, either taken
directly from empirical, perceptual reality or else composed of many diverse
elements drawn directly from or abstracted indirectly from Mother Nature. This
primary referent serves as significant marker in that it embodies and
incorporates relatively significant meanings which are recognizable, however
unconsciously or structurally or concretely by the knower. The act of
recognition is a form of humanological involvement, an expression of the
inter-relatedness of human reality, bringing meaning to it.
The symbolic metaphor is applied, or recognized and created
within a universal reality of human meaning which is both continuous and ever
changing--a dynamic continuum which forms both a relational context which is
all encompassing and within which symbols are created, destroyed and
recreated, and reconstituted by new meanings and new relationships. Meaning is
derived from the human inter-relatedness with symbolic metaphors. The act of
recognition of a symbolic metaphor as a frame of reference/inference is
properly known as the function of 'identification'. The marker or primary
referent serves as a cognitive, symbolic boundary which identifies meaningful
differences--defining the identity of human meaning. Identification is a
process of differentiation of meaning inside and outside of the boundary of
the symbolic marker. Differences between relationships or 'things' or meanings
outside of the boundary and inside of the boundary are emphasized as
relatively significant, while the similarities are de-emphasized as relatively
insignificant. Attention is focused upon the figure in the foreground,
outlined by the symbolic frame of reference/inference, while the background if
ignored. Furthermore, differences within the boundaries of the symbolic marker
become emphasized, the similarities ignored, while the similarities outside of
the boundary are emphasized to the ignorance of differences.
Humans create their meaningful reality through the process
of symbolic identification. Furthermore, as frames of reference/inference,
metaphorical symbols also function as symbolic mirrors of meaning, as a
vehicle of both subjective reflection and of objective projection of the self.
Identification within human reality is properly a process of self
identification through the reflective/projective process of human
interrelationship. Symbolic identification expressed as a process of
interrelationship between external differences/internal similarities and
between subjective reflection/objective projection, defines the secondary
referents of symbols and metaphors. The primary symbolic referent serves as a
metaphorical mediator, or a medium of expression, a frame of reference for the
identification and recognition of the relationships of secondary
reference." (Lewis; unpublished manuscript, 1986: 53-55)
Symbolisms 'relate things' in an unmarked manner, and
'thing relations' in a marked manner. Symbolisms come in two basic
forms--things to be related and relations between things. Unmarked things and
relations imply contextual neutrality--a lack of significant emphasis which
reinforces the status quo of the identity of experience. The usual or 'normal'
state of being in the world is such an 'unmarked' manner of experience.
Marking significance is a matter of emphasis and may have
either a positive or negative connotation and lead to either positive or
negative evaluations of experience. If the 'normal' state is positively
valued, the tendency would be to mark negative evaluations of difference in a
covert way, i.e., unconscious symbolic context of experience and to overtly
mark positively evaluative 'things'.
'Relating things' temporizes space, and 'thinging
relations' spatializes time. Symbolisms of things are expressed
spatially--relational symbolisms are temporal. Matter is made of 'things' and
the 'thingness of relations; and mind is composed of the relations of things.
Analytically, human experience may be divided into
cognitive, emotive and conative or motivational categories or modalities. Like
'mind/language/culture', and 'idea/symbol/sign' it is better to consider
experience wholly as a unified field of 'cognition/emotion/conation'. This
unity is achieved through articulation of symbolisms in the environment and
can be spoken of as being 'synthetic' in dialectical structure. There can be
no clear separations between cognitive, emotive or motive components of
experiential events--all ideas have an emotional and a motivational dimension
and all emotions have an ideational construction and motivational implication.
It is by the 'cognitive/emotive/conative' unity of
experience that we can usefully recognize the internal structure of human
experience as a process of dialectical symbolization. All is experience is
structured, or integrated in this way.
Human consciousness is engaged in the process of fixing
symbolisms in the environment to fit intentional frames of mind or ideas, and
also in fitting frames of mindness in order to fix symbolisms in the
environment. Fix and fit are the mediation processes of human symbolization
which constitute its dialectic. This symbolic dialectic is critically related
to human adaptation to environmental change. There is a human predisposition
to preserve the constancy of symbols across differing contexts. But the
process of change, variation in the context, disrupts the symbolic continuity
of experience, so the need for fixing and fitting symbols within their
contexts in order to make sense of them is continuous and never ending as a
process of human consciousness. Failure to do so creates psychological
incoherence which is unsettling and dysfunctionally maladaptive. The process
of fixing and fitting symbolisms is referred to as 'framing' and there is a
proclivity towards preserving constancy and consistency of symbolic 'frames'
across different contexts.
The two functions of symbolization are reference and
inference. Reference is the process of relating a thing to its contextual
relations with other things. Inference is the process of determining a thing
by its interrelationships within its context of understanding. Symbolisms used
referentially are 'names' for things. Symbolisms used inferentially describe
the 'verbal' relations between things.
Reference related to the denotation of a thing--inference
to connotation of relationship. Reference is deductive in deriving something
logically from something else--inference is inductive in something else being
derived from a thing.
Symbolic frames are simultaneously frames of
reference/inference. Mind functions according to the dialectic of
reference/inference frames. Any symbolism entails both an explicit reference
and implicit inference functions.
Symbolisms become 'fixed' by investment of certain emotive
'values' in their structure. These values are achieved by 'marking' or
highlighting the symbolism in a figure/ground context. There is an emphasis
upon certain significances or order of significances and of stress which leads
to metaphorical salience and metaphysical importance. Emotions become encoded
through symbolisms into our cognitive mappings of experience and are recalled
through 'elicitation' and read by 'evaluation'. It is the cognitive evaluation
of symbolisms which leads to our sense of 'understanding'--it is their emotive
evaluation which leads us to their 'feeling' or 'sense of relevance'.
'Values' as organizing principles of the lifeways of people
and their ways of life have a symbolic structure of 'evaluation' which is
emotively fixed or fitting. Symbolisms have come to have an evaluative
structure in the way in which they dialectically articulate human cognition,
emotion and behavior.
Linguistic practices, through marking/unmarked, over/covert
categories or relative inter-or intra-sentential code switching/mixing in our
everyday usage of language, reveals the subtlety of the symbolic process.
The primary human function of symbolisms is evocative (to
call forth, to elicit or bring forth). This evocative function always has
cognitive, emotive and perceptive elements. Symbolisms evoke meaning and
reaction. Evocations are basic stimuli to complex attitudinal and behavioral
responses. Specific signs or sign patterns act as triggers which actually
precipitate response--symbols generalize this stimulus function of signs from
their particular contexts of occurrence.
Symbols also 'fix' this evocative function in certain
environmental configurations--similar symbolisms evoke similar ranges of
response and experience. This 'fixing' stores latent or potential 'energy' in
environmental configurations--complex symbolisms become a reservoir of pooled
'response potential' which can have a delayed release and a triggering
threshold. Thus symbolisms come to have a relative value in their evocative
potential. This evocative potential 'empowers' symbolisms as the mediators of
transformational experiences in changing environmental contexts.
From the standpoint of the individual, an important point
of this evocative function is its emotional expression. The symbolic synthesis
is part of an emotional expression. The symbolic synthesis is part of an
emotional dialectic which integrates psychological and physiological processes
in natural and social environments. Emotional energy becomes 'stored away' in
certain symbolism--evocation of these symbolisms provokes or precipitates the
release of the flood of feelings--the stored potential emotionally expressed
energy dammed by behind symbolic frames.
Experiential isomorphism of mind and matter confers a sense
of symbolic symmetry of experience--a symmetry reflected by cognitive
consonance, emotive harmony and symbolic resonance within the environment. It
renders human reality reflexive. Cognitive dissonance is the result of a lack
of symmetry between experience and the environment. Experience and identity
seeks an equilibrium between mind and matter, a sense of ecology of beingness
in the world. Disequilibrium results in cognitive dissonance, and requires
readjustment of mind and matter in order to reestablish symbolic symmetry.
Such a synthesis presupposes a normative conception of mind
as a balanced, 'steady state system'--it is precisely this sense of the
identity of experience which makes possible a normative conception of the
world. It is actually a mechanism for the mediation of environmental change in
the environment, allowing ecological adaptation of the individual in the
world. As such, it is a mechanism of evolution. It presupposes a sense of
adaptive, functional integration in the world, which may or may not exist
except as a relative state.
Symbols are derived from configurations of signs--all
symbols are contextual in that they are derived from and conditioned by the
sign context in which they occur. As such, symbols depend upon their
contextual framework as an 'extrinsic' part of their 'negative definition' or
connotation by association with other elements. It is this contextuality of
symbolism which gives to symbols their unconscious depth of
multidimensionality if meaning and which renders them the vehicles of
empowerment in motivating and directing human action.
Symbols cannot stand completely isolated and separated from
all relational contexts--their coherence and relevance would dissolve away
into a chaotic disarray of separate signs. As such symbols are always found
interconnected with other symbols and thus become grouped according to
different 'principles' of patterning. Symbols have a boundary of their
possible experience--an outline which distinguishes their outer contextual
'horizon' and an inner structural 'horizon' which carries it across different
contextual frameworks and incorporated a range of variation of profiles. It is
this boundary which is transformative, variable and malleable and yet which
retains a net, overall thematic consistency in the life and function of the
Symbols are composites of signs--they are epi-phenomenal
artifacts of human experience and the vehicles of human condition.
It is this contextuality of symbolism which makes them
relational and relative and the by products of dialectical transformation.
Unconsciousness is the internalization or introjection for
the symbolic contextuality of our environments. It is always encompassing and
comprehending, always relational and yet indirect. It is total and complete in
its openness and all inclusiveness and yet our consciousness can only cast
light on only small portions of it at any time. All symbolisms must be found
or fit within a relational context in order to carry meaning--the contextual
relations of symbolisms must become internalized in the unconscious as
implicit, connotative, latent and over components of meaning which 'configure'
the outlines of symbols upon a background.
Symbols are commonly related to other symbols, normally
occurring in groups or 'symbolic complexes'. People come to have sets of
expectations as to the cognitive coherence and perceptual consistency of such
complexes--these sets of expectations are quite cognitive and behavioral
'frames' into which experience becomes sorted and rendered significant.
Cultural environments are 'universes' composed of
interconnected 'symbolic constellations' or groupings of centrally oriented or
focal 'symbolic complexes'. A library is a culture historical cosmos of mind
composed of many books, each a symbolic 'constellation' made up of chapters,
paragraphs and sentences that represent interconnected 'symbolic complexes'. A
word is a 'sign symbol' or a 'symbolic marker' made up of sets of signs and
sign relations. Signs are relatively independent and arbitrary but when
grouped together in different arrangements create different symbolisms.
A cultural universe provides the unconscious framework of
an individual's consciousness--an individual's conscious is constrained in
definite ways by the kinds of symbolic constellations which compose his
culture historical contextuality. Different symbolic contexts constrain the
consciousness of the individual in different, but distinctive ways. An
individual's consciousness is an active, normative, energetic, evaluating,
selecting, focusing, defining, decision making instru-mentality of mind which
arbitrarily or customarily assigns values to various symbolisms and symbolic
complexes within respective contexts--it functions symbolically, referentially
reading from and inferentially reading into the environmental experiences of
It is by means of the dialectic between the unconscious
substrate, or introjected relational context, and the symbolic consciousness
that people normally manipulate the elements and relations of their
environments and navigate through their collective shared worlds.
The unconscious, both individual and collective is composed
of experiential, referential and inferential 'frames within frames within
frames' that are drawn from the background of the culture historical context
and the 'cosmos of mind'. There occurs between mind, encompassing the
dialectic between consciousness and the unconscious, and the culture
historical context, a cybernetic interaction of symbolization. The on going
conscious experiences of people are 'fitted' into unconscious 'frames of
expectation' derived from similar relational contexts as elicited by the
present sets of experience.
Symbols recur and resonate in environmental contexts in
regular, ritualized and expected ways which are directly or indirectly
constrained by both the 'culture historical' flow of events and the past
relational contexts of understanding which are brought to bear upon the
Symbols which seem to occur 'out of place'--a poor man
driving a limousine, a rich man dressed in rags, or an adjective poised behind
rather than before the English noun it modifies, or a misspelled word--then
its experience no longer 'fits' the expected frames of reference/inference.
Frames then become disrupted and either the symbols need to be repaired or
'fixed' or else the frames need to be 'reevaluated' and reconstructed.
'Common sense' is largely composed of the expected,
unconsciously 'embedded' and ritualized regularities of the culture historical
universe of experience. These regularities are frequently left implicit or are
taken for granted in the experience of the environment. Common sense interacts
with cognition in both conceptual and perceptual ways, in the mediation of
symbolic environments which are both ideal and material, cognitive and
Symbolic dependency is a cognitive predisposition to
conceive or perceive symbols within expected frames of reference/inference
which leads to selective preference for regularly recurring symbolisms and to
the inability to 'cope' with symbolisms which occur 'out of frame' and to a
cognitive 'dissonance' about the irregularity of such symbolisms. This relates
to the capacity to tolerate margins of error and to the inability to
manipulate symbolisms independently of their expected, 'common sense'
contexts. Highlighting common symbols leads to an 'unconscious' filling of its
expected framework--to its common 'configuration' by which it is rendered
significant. Psychologically symbols take on a significance of their own,
largely independent of the actual experiences in which they occur, but
predetermined by the frames of expectation and the contextual configurations
in which they 'common sensically' recur.
Symbolic dependency leads to 'fixation' of a symbolic
configuration within a given framework or context of understanding--such a
fixation becomes invested with an inordinate degree of cognitive, emotional
and behavioral significance and importance as a centrally orienting and
ordering device of one's experiences. Disruption of such 'significant
symbolisms and their fixed frames' results in a great deal of symbolic
disorientation and confusion, emotional turmoil and to 'behavioral
maladjustment' or failure of 'coping mechanisms' to functionally adapt in
appropriate or expected ways. The sense of ego identity undergoes a crises,
disintegrating and breaking down. Developmentally, symbolic dependency may be
linked to a 'field dependency'. Children should be expected to be relatively
more symbolically dependent than adults. As adults mature, they become more
symbolically independent, but symbolic dependency in adult life may lead to a
failure to fully mature or develop either cognitively, emotionally or
Culture may come to reinforce or encourage or sanction some
forms of symbolic dependency, such as those acts or values relating to
paternal authority, libidinal ties to the mother, or to acts of violence or
sexuality, and thus discourage the development of symbolic independence in
these areas. Likewise, it may encourage development of symbolic independence
in other ways and therefore discourage symbolic dependency in indirectly
related ways. Again, there is a cybernetic
(WILL START FROM PAGE 335) …..interrelationship between
the collective symbolisms of culture and cognitive symbolism.
Symbolic dependency leads to the development of elaborated
symbolic fantasy life, both culturally and cognitively, in which the relevant
symbolisms, divorced from the validation of real experience, become used in
the distorted manipulation of frames of reference/inference. There is a
general suspension of credibility, even though the symbolisms so divorced may
carry heavy loads of cognitive, emotive and behavioral significance. Non-being
is the result of such exaggeration of frames and distortion of experience in
Symbolisms become 'fixed' into certain 'categories' of
experience. Such symbolic categories take on an independence of relation--a
distinctiveness of separate identity among commonly related things--which come
to have special significance and come to be seen as pre-existent or previous
to experience, as 'coming before experience' and as therefore existing 'beyond
or outside of the realm of experience', even though its pre-existence must
then be verified by consecutive experience. Such 'categories' come to organize
experience in certain expected ways, and serve to simplify the problems of
maintaining symbolic symmetry in the experience of the world. Such symbolic
'categories' confer a certain a-priori 'imperativeness' to the generic kinds
of experiences which they subsume.
It is in such a way that symbolisms lose their
arbitrariness of representation, their original concrete signifiers and their
functional independence from the constraints of custom and culture historical
Such categorical symbolisms accrete into symbolic
'configurations' which frame experience in certain pre-selective ways.
Configurations become 'fixed frames' which are relatively inflexible and
unamenable to experience in the environment. They are different from symbolic
constellations in that they organize the identity of experience intensively,
working ideationally from within, while symbolic constellations are
environmentally rooted and functionally derived from an extensive orientation
in the world. Symbolic configurations are a special order of symbolic
congregation--they carry past experience forward into the present and future.
Configurations are composed of symbolisms which are marked with special
Symbolic categories and configurations compose 'world view'
as opposed to the 'natural' symbolic conglomeration of 'mind'. They come to
have a common senseness and 'givenness' which is frequently absent in the
paradoxicalness of mind.
Power rests in the Center. Movement toward the Center
represents symbolic empowerment of non-being--controlling change or the
possibility of 'non-being in the world'. Centeredness of world view defines
itself in terms of the symbolic empowerment derived from the super imposition
of fixed frames, symbolic categories and configurations of experience and
expectation upon the world. It is this fixedness of frames, its categorical
imperativeness reinforced by common sense configurations of experience and
expectation, which creates the grand illusion of the Center.
Symbolisms provide configurational frames by which to
contextualize and make sense of our experience. We share in multiple frames of
mind which confer a sense of continuity and order to our world and its
experience, orienting us in relation to things in ways which are predictable
and stable. We are actively reformulating our frames of mind in order to
accommodate the changes we encounter in confrontation with new environments.
The dialectics of symbolism are the dialectics of change. We symbolically
construct our realities based on symbolisms derived from past experiences--and
then we reconstruct them based upon modification to fit or fix our sense of
change. Or symbolic realities are constructed, negotiated, interpreted,
evaluated and configured in a world of on going change.
Frames are mostly general and generalizing in
orientation--they contextually relate particular elements of reality. They are
derived from and composed of these elements, but they take on a life of their
own--a metaphorical and metalogical level of 'importance' which 'translates'
change and difference in our realities.
'Frame disruption' occurs when events in our environments
occur which demand our attention but fail to fit our frames of
reference/inference or else work at their margins to undermine their relevance
'Frame elicitation' is the calling forth of frames to met
or 'fix' the experience of environmental events or relational situations.
Signs in the environment stimulate or trigger the elicitation of frames, often
'Frame fixation' is the relative inflexibility of a frame
to be adjusted to fit changes in the experience of environments. Frames are
carried forward and made to 'force fit' such changing contexts.
'Frame reinforcement' are conscious, ego coping mechanisms
which attempt to 'force fit' frames and environmental changes in ways,
cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally, which reestablish the relevance and
importance of the original frames.
'Frame reevaluation' is the effort to deconstruct and
reconstruct the frames in order to accommodate or assimilate the environmental
changes in such a way that restores the frames adaptive significance.
'Frame replacement' or 'revolution' is the complete
destruction of a frame, and its substitution by an altogether different frame
which may or may not incorporate the elements and relational patternings of
the old frame, but always in a new configurational arrangement.
Frames are devices of rationalization and ritualization of
human consciousness and behavior. As rationalizing devices, they serve to
order the experiences of the environment in a way that is purposive or fitting
to the 'design' of the frame. As ritualizing process, they order behavior in
prescriptive and predictable ways, controlling reaction and response in ways
which behavioral reinforce or ideological legitimate the structure of the
Frames become represented and are reflexive of culture
historical process in the patterning of social networks and in the unfolding
of social movements.
Frames are generally derived from 'schemata' that exists
within culture historical contexts. Schemata are the 'elements' of culture.
They are like 'cliché' of speech--they are either words or several syllable
phrases from which larger symbolisms are constructed. Schemata are combined
into schemas or 'strips' which are like sentences or paragraphs. Strips
normally describe or represent a single 'event' or a single combined instance
of experience. Schemata are the elemental atoms of culture history--they might
be thought of as the minimal component units of phenomenological experience.
Strips become the normally combined units of phenomenological experience.
Strips become the normally combined units--they are like 'molecules' which
compose the substantial fabric of culture history. They have a normal sense of
ordering of its component units which combine together for form the patterning
of culture historical process.
It is in terms of such phenomenological atoms and
experiential molecules that we construct, deconstruct and reconstruct our
symbolic realities in the paradigmatic patternings of culture history.
Everyday we are engaged in the manipulation of these minimal units of meaning
in the configuring and reconfiguring of our sense of identity in our world. We
take these units from the culture historical contexts in which the experience
of our world is situated. Our culture historical contexts are internalized in
the form of these units as they occur in groups and sets that form regular
It is in terms of such schemata and strips that we build
our frame and deploy them in our confrontations with reality. It has bee
estimated that there are natural, normal limits to our innate capacity to
process such units, and that these limits of 'long term memory' define the
structural sizes of various levels of groupings of such components. It is
estimated that the most elements that can be dealt with in the most direct
manner is around a hundred or so, and that the minimal units will be grouped
in composites of no more than five or ten. These one hundred or so elements
are derived indirectly from a larger context composed of no more than five
hundred elements. These five hundred elements can be structurally grouped into
a single taxon which contains no more than perhaps three thousand such
elements. Over time he total long term capacity can be pushed upward fifty or
even slightly eight thousand such 'bits and pieces'.
It is possible that these kinds of structural limits in the
capacity of symbolic systems superimpose other kinds of constraints and have
certain kinds of predetermining consequences in the patterning of culture
history. Any given system of symbolism must have a certain optimal carrying
capacity for its relative order of functioning. Any inputs overreaching this
inherent limit leads to a 'supercritical' state of overload which results in
'events' or damage to the system. Such a system may then 'evolve' into a new
systemic arrangement incorporating new elements and throwing off others, or it
may structurally lift the whole system to a higher more general order or level
It is also likely that the pathway taken by any given
scenario would be to some predetermined extent by the larger structural
relations of power in the context--such that larger more powerful systems tend
to 'swallow' smaller ones, while systems which coexist on a even parity of
power perhaps compete with or mutually resist one another or counterbalance
each other in directive ways.
Power, in its various forms, structures relationships in
Symbol systems and the contexts which frame them, exist in
critical and dynamic states--their stability is a function of their
flexibility to deal with inevitable changes which alter their composition of
Symbolisms accrete meaning, grow, mutate by several
mechanisms or principles of symbolic change. Metaphorically, symbolisms
continuously go through a process of 'extension of meaning' into other
contexts incorporating other elements and relations between elements. The
looseness and fuzziness of metaphor allows meaning to be extended or to be
'displaced' by other meanings in a gradual but steady manner. Euphemization
and Dysphemization of language are examples of such displacement, in which
'bad meaning' tends to drive out good meaning.
Symbolisms sometimes transfer meaning or significance from
one symbolic domain to another or from one context to another or from one
environment to another. Metaphorical meaning is easily transferred from one
symbolism to another, and this can follow a whole indirectly line or chain of
such transference such that the original significance may be very remote or
directly unrelated to the symbolism to which it becomes contextually related.
Symbolisms can also change from the mechanism of 'stimulus
generalization' in that they signifiers of the symbolism become part of
another class or group of 'stimuli' to which the symbolism becomes attached.
Symbolisms can also be modified by continuous or proximate
analogical association to other symbols, such that the traits of one symbolism
become associated with the traits of the other one.
SIGNS, SYMBOLS AND IDEAS
Symbols are composed of signs. All symbols are signs, but
not all signs are symbols. Signs are the minimal building blocks of
symbols--they are characterized by their recursiveness, redundancy,
uni-directionality, uni-dimensionality and proximity of meaning. The
metanymical function of signs is mechanical and relatively non-arbitrary.
Signs are context dependent, occurring in an order which is not as random as
with symbols--they are 'harder', more highly constrained by their denotational
Signs may be elevated to the functional level of symbol,
than carrying metaphorical 'suggestiveness' of meaning, but in doing so it
looses its significant determinacy. Signs carry fixed meanings--significance,
which is always metonymical, referring to 'things' at a concrete level.
Employed in combinations, signs become symbolic 'markers'--they loose their
individual metanymical significance as vehicles for carrying the
metaphorically relevant meaning of the symbol they stand for.
Whereas symbols function analogically and metalogically,
signs function homologically and relationally by logical principles which
disambiguate its significance. Signs have a communicational purpose which
requires that they have unambiguous significance--a determinacy of value
relatively invariable and inflexible.
Ideas are similar to symbols and signs--all ideas are
symbolic and are composed of signs but not all signs or symbols are
'ideational'. Ideas are the basic units of metaphysical importance. Single
symbols or even signs may be elevated to the status of an idea--'0' (zero) for
instance--but more regularly ideas are composed of sets of symbols in typical
arrangements or configurations. Ideas are abstractions--complex thoughts whose
only concretized embodiments are the signs employed for their expression.
Ideas are not normally constrained by any external reference or bound within a
context, but are 'super contextual'. Ideas are metalogical as well as
metaphysical in function, serving to 'focus' thought in given directions.
Ideas are also normally polythetic and polythematic as nomothetic categories.
Ideas are eidetic and 'meta-relational'--they refer to relations between
things and relations of such relations, but rarely to 'things' themselves.
Ideas are 'constructs'--mental images built up from experience, but indirectly
separate from such experience.
A table is an idea of a sign, a symbol and an idea, as is a
'triangle'--the 'idea of table' may be symbolized by the word 'table' and be
signified by an actual instance of a typical table, but is still only a mental
construct of mind.
SIGNS AND SYMBOLS
It is important to emphasize the critical differences and
similarities between signs and symbols, as these differences and similarities
underlie the split between the sciences and the humanities---they inform an
important epistemological division in our rational knowledge. All science is
ultimately a study of signs as systems. The humanities are ultimately a study
of symbols as conglomerations.
Signs are 'symbolic markers' which carry specific
significance--as markers they function mechanically and automatically to
produce a significance which is moderated by proximate or sympathetic
connection with other signs. Signs do not 'carry' meaning separately as do
symbols--they have separate significance which is non-arbitrary--it cannot
yield up or transpose its separate significance. It is only in conjunction
with other signs or when signs become promoted to the status of a symbol that
they act as vehicles of metaphor. Signs function as 'markers' serving to
anchor meaning to concrete, contextually determinate reality. Signs are
mnemonic devices--perceptual 'markings' which trigger significance.
In a strict sense, significance is a communicational
metaphor for 'information'--it is important for the significant of a sign be
clear and unambiguous in order to efficiently communicate information. They
tend therefore to be hard and strong. Signs denote some definite and
specific--they are therefore concise. Symbols 'connote' or suggest something
general and therefore vague. It is important therefore that symbols are
indeterminate in order to exploit their inherent ambiguity--their relevance
depends upon a 'critical indeterminacy' or 'vagueness' or 'indefiniteness' of
A sign functions--it 'does something', performing an
informational, communicational service. A symbol 'means' something,
integrating by suggestion. Signs are special purpose devices. Significance is
always context dependent. 'General significance' refers to a classificational
or taxonomic function of signs--their hierarchical design--they locate and fix
a context of significant relations around a 'thing'--thereby situating and
orienting a sign within a framework of significations. A symbol may act as a
sign, its metaphorical function relegated to a special purpose by becoming
context bound--symbols come to have a special significance in a given context.
A password is a symbol relegated to the function of a sign. A dictionary is a
sigh system of symbols.
Sign systems communicate knowledge, solve puzzles, reduce
noise and communicate, describe, explain, predict and control. Symbols systems
create understanding, asking why instead of answering how, resolve dilemmas,
'destruct' the given and determinate, and thrive on noise and indeterminacy as
the groundless ground of meaning.
Symbols readily cohere in to clusters, complexes,
constellations and galaxies because they have a characteristic stickiness--an
adhesive quality which allows one symbol to be readily lined to others. This
is symbolic cohesion.
In order to understand how symbolic cohesion works, it is
necessary to examine the structure of the symbol as a 'thing' and as a
'relation' between things. A symbol functions as a 'metaphor'--it is
something, 'anything', which stands for something (anything) else. This
metaphorical function is polysemic--a thing can stand for many things at
once--and 'multi-vocal'--a thing can say many things at once. Symbols have,
therefore, a certain metaphorical flexibility which allow them to be adjusted
to fit many different kinds of contexts--they are contextually independent and
generalizable--they are general purpose metaphors.
Symbols have fussy edges--their definitional boundaries are
rarely clear cut but phase into a wider less determinate connotational realm
of general metaphorical saliences. These fussy edges give symbols an added
malleability that allows them to be fit into varying contextual schemas with
relative ease and which allow two or more 'compatible' symbols to be
conjoined--to be hooked together by the conflation of their edges. Words as
metaphors are the archetypal symbols--compounding or modifying words into
phrases is an example of the fussiness and looseness of symbols.
The fussiness of symbols is due in part to the fact that
most symbols are composite sets of 'signs' which function as minimal building
blocks of symbols--these signs can be added to or modified--conditioned, to
alter the form and metaphorical function of a symbol. Morphological
conditioning of words are an example of this sign modification of symbols.
The metaphorical 'general purposeness' and the looseness of
symbols allows them to be used in several ways--symbols may stand for other
symbols, for themselves, for other 'things' of significance, for relations
between symbols or things, or for relations of such relations. One symbol may
summarize a whole set of symbols, or a set of symbols may elaborate a single
symbol. Symbols can be arranged taxonomically into a hierarchical order of
determinations or can be used polythetically.
Symbolic cohesion is most often weaker than it is stronger,
allowing symbols to be easily conjoined into larger sets and allowing symbols
also to be lifted from one context and put into another. Symbolic cohesion
accounts for the conglomeration of symbols into patterned sets, but it also
accounts for the criticality of the structure of such conglomerations--symbols
systems may disintegrate as easily as integrate.
SYSTEMS OF MIND
Signs, symbols and ideas form their own separate kinds of
systems which operate at different functional levels of meaning. All idea
systems are symbol and sigh systems and all symbol systems are sign systems as
well, but sign systems are not symbolic or ideational. These systemic orders
inter-function and in most instances co-function and overlap but it is useful
to analytically separate them in order to understand their critical
'Symbolic logic' is an example of a sign system, despite
its name. Linguistics deals with language at the level of a sign system, but
not as a symbolic system. In general, science does not treat symbolic systems
except as these systems are also sign systems. Mathematics is an example of a
'pure' sign system. A sign system is necessarily a 'pre-determined relational
system'--in this sense it is 'pre-logical'--specified or specifiable
'relational rules' which serve to order and disambiguate its patterns, and
render the interconnections between signs decisive and exact or precise. These
rules function as direct constraints. Natural information systems, as with
chemistry, physics and micro-biology are sign systems predetermined by
'natural laws'--man made sign systems, statistics, mathematics, traffic signs,
cook books, telephone books are predetermined by 'conventional rules'. Sign
systems tend to be directly and explicitly constrained--its rules are amenable
to direct, explicit explanation. Sign systems have a rational and an empirical
order--signs cannot occur at random or out of order or sequence.
The difference between a sign system and a symbol system is
the difference between a computer and the mind or natural language--a mind may
function like a computer if so constrained and a natural language may be
prescriptively regulated to fit a computer language, but a computer may never
function like the mind or natural language. A symbol system is
metaphorical--it tends to be indirectly constrained, context independent and
analogical. It functions to mediate multiple levels of meaning and
mythologically in the process of identification. Symbol systems are
dialectical and 'dialogical'. They are also syncretistic--composing a
hodgepodge or a collage of different symbolic conglomerations. Sign systems
are denotational, symbol systems are connotational. Sign systems function
referentially, symbol systems inferentially.
Ideational systems are metaphysical--ideas refer to other
ideas or to relations between ideas. Ideational systems are ideo-logical and
metalogical. They are rational systems that are tautological--ideas are
justified by other ideas, and are unconstrained themselves, but are themselves
constraints--ideas are 'rules' or meta-relational constructs ordering
FRAMES OF MIND
Though Mind exists as a universal, all encompassing
possibility, its real manifestations consist of an infinite number of possible
Frames of Mind, attitudes of Beingness which inform our existence of meaning
Frames of Mind are different points of view, or casts of
light, which give to Mind its holothetic multidimensionality. Frames of Mind
cohere and link together to provide the on-going articulation of the
possibility of Mind.
Frames of Mind do not form a taxonomic structure on the
basis of essential differences in meaning of its components--Frames of Mind
are but varying combinations of ideas which are configured thematically about
some central axis of transformation. Different Frames of Mind may share many
similar components. Differences are not structural, but historical and
contextual--each Frame of Mind is contextualized within a larger comprehensive
framework of the possibilities of Mind.
Frames of Mind do share some common distinguishing features
of design and content. Frames of Mind have a particular provenience of period
and place which defines their cultural historical context of origination,
diffusion, development. Frames of Mind shift provenience as a process of
gradual steady transformation, just as language gradually changes and alters
in an imperceptible way. This transformation occurs regardless of the
ideological attempts to conserve the status quo of world view. Frames of Mind
encompass entire contrapuntal dialectics of thesis and antithesis--at any
particular point they are represented by the complete range of variation of
world view manifest. Frames of Mind are constituted locally by the total
relations within the complete text of their articulation. Frames of Mind flow
sequentially--they are streams of consciousness which appear to be
historically continuous and yet in hindsight can only be studied
discontinuously--they are the opposite of the frames of a movie being
projected--where as the animation of the movies is only an apparent optical
illusion of the running together of a long sequence of many discrete stills,
the streams of consciousness of frames of mind are not the derivative effect,
but the primary experience of Mind, where as its analysis and study entails
'slowing it down' to appear as if it were a sequential series of skills. The
transformational development of Frames of Mind can only be discontinuously
apprehended over the long run. Frames of Mind are set of relations between
things rather than sets of things--they provide formula for the ordering of
relationships between things. Different Frames of Mind can describe the same
set of things in essentially different ways. Every world view, every theory,
every field of inquiry is made up of multiple, overlapping frames of
mind--every Frame of Mind encompasses a plethora of different world views,
theories, fields of inquiry. Frames of Mind have thematic unity, and provide
thematic unity of understanding to diverse sets of date, things, relations.
Frames of Mind are basically 'meta physical' and the relations they are based
on are irreducibly 'meta logical'.
Frames of Mind are culture historical phenomena--they are
like languages and cultures in that they have an historical integrity and a
kind of synergism which makes them unique, and yet Mind is like language and
culture in the sense that all somehow share a similar set of universal
characteristics which define them across time and across the entire range of
variation. Frames of Mind are like 'culture areas' or language groups which
are defined on the basis of phylogenetic relationship.
Frames of Mind are our way of understanding from a
historical perspective in terms of its contextual articulation. They cannot be
understood of distinguished outside of the frameworks of understanding which
we superimpose upon the relationships which constitute it or the language by
which we interpret it--Frames of Mind are subject to the same kinds of biases
and problems of interpretation which all historical phenomena are prone
to--they can be constrained by the world view which predominates and dictates
The understanding of Frames of Mind provide an approach to
the resolution of the paradox of history--the dilemma of rewriting the past as
a reflection of the present. Relational phenomena of the past were independent
of present and yet in some measure events of the present are not independent
of relational phenomena of the past--transcribing Frames of Mind is by
demonstration of how the present is or is not an indirect representation of
the past without the surreptitious projection of ideology. It involves
reconstructing the past as an 'independent event' of the present which
nevertheless has its own historical sense of precursory relations. Events of a
past become written in terms of a previous lost sense of the past which is
independent of the sense of the present. Frames of Mind are Frames of
Difference, focusing upon the relativizing differences inherent in historical
processes of change. Unlike world views they are not collectivizing
orientations, but detotalizing and relativizing orientations, serving to
historically isolate sets of relational phenomena within their contexts of
understanding and articulation. They exist culture historically as the
necessary counterpoint to any collectivizing world view, assuming that all
world views cannot be total or absolute in a sense of not being subject to
processes of historical change. Reconstructing past frame of Mind is a
hermeneutical problem of philology. It is a vital and prerequisite problem if
contextualization of the past in terms of the past in a non-ideological manner
is desired. At no point is the collectivity of humankind comprehended by a
single world view or paradigm--each point of time is characterized by a
plurality of perspectives and multiplicity of points of view which provides
the chaotic tension of the times--the dramatic sense of culture historical
importance. Past Frames of Mind provided the motivations and the
rationalizations for historical action which are basically lost to our present
world view. We cannot fully reconstruct these past frameworks of mind, but we
can come to a sense of their critical differences through the ideological
disinvestment of our own Frames of Mind and through seeking the unity of Mind
which constitutes the principle identity of humankind. In such a search for
lost difference, no stone can be left unturned, no matter how 'irrelevant' or
trivial, whether in relation to our own fields of view of to those of other
culture historical contexts. We can do no better than the excoriation of
identity to get to the problematic core of basic, underived differences.
Frames of Mind are always heterogeneous and complex
interactive phenomena encompassing the complete local context and configuring
this against a general universal context of possibility. They are continuously
dynamic in that they are subject to historical changes and process of
transformation. And yet different Frames of Mind share similar sets of things
or relations between things, recomposed differentially--the total range of
which may actually be finite and limited and the relations between which may
be systematically ordered in some complex manner. Different Frames of Mind are
united by a common ground in the possibilities of mind--sharing a similar
relational context which allow the possibility of intercommunication and
mutual recognition and understanding between peoples.
COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND THE EXPERIENCE OF STRESS
Symbolic disequilibrium between experience and environment
induces a state of cognitive dissonance--cognitive dissonance leads to a need
to assimilate new environment to one's experiential expectations or to
accommodate ones expectations to new environmental problems. Cognitive
dissonance is the expression of the experience of stress which is created by
inexorable change. Stress becomes expressed cognitively, emotionally and
motivationally. Stress is a symptom of experiential disease of the self in the
environment. Overwhelming stress leads to a breakdown of the mind as an
adaptive mechanism for the mediation of change in the environment--trauma may
result in a 'conversion experience' which leads to a consequential
experiential inflexibility--a fixation upon the stimulus of the traumatic
event. Pathology of mind--disintegration of the identity of being--is the long
MIND AS AN ADAPTIVE MECHANISM
Natural 'mind' evolved as a super organic adaptive
mechanism or managing change in the environment. It evolved at the level of
the individual human being, as a dual cybernetic system--an integrated natural
sign system and natural symbol system focused exclusively upon perceptual
images. The dialectical synthesis of a natural sign and symbol system was a
primitive ideational system of mental images derived from
experience--perceptual events. This ideational system may have been largely
un-self-reflexive. Symbols remained 'sign oriented' and the natural
environment was largely a 'sign dominated environment'.
The evolutionary ecology of 'mind' sign systems were
'mechanisms of selective perception' allowing reduction of noise and
indeterminacy in complex natural environments--allowing maximization of
carrying capacity of environmentally adaptive information for purposes of
'organic communication'--biological transmission.
Symbolization of signs allowed for a greatly increased
order of information processing, arising as a 'learning' or 'stimulus
generalizing mechanism' which enabled 'adaptive radiation' into a broad range
of environments. Symbols were largely perceptual images--concepts remained
'concrete' and 'non-abstract' . symbols become general purpose tools that
could be carried into different environments--tools were general purpose
symbols which allowed adaptive flexibility in different environments.
The picture which emerges is one of small groups--family
sized micro-bands spreading out from clan sized macro-bands. Small group
survival depended upon the selective fitness of the individual. Adaptive
radiations may have comprised only a small series--a wave of a few hundred or
a few thousand individuals in a kind of 'outward movement'. The ability of
'mind' to function as a sign/symbol system in complex environments--not just
in hunting but also in gathering adaptations, lead to 'environmental
Two or three such 'adaptive radiations' are apparently
recorded in the hominid fossil record--the earliest is the highly successful
Homo Erectus. Later the adaptive radiation of Archaic Homo Sapiens. Finally
came the radiation of Modern Homo Sapiens in the upper Paleolithic 50-35,000
It is impossible that these early adaptive radiations were
characterized by mechanisms of species wide 'self selection'--preferential
mating of 'successful hunters/gatherers' and a gradual loss or culling of less
fit members. This early selective mechanism focused upon the mother infant
bond which promoted longer post partum infant dependency periods, a reduction
in the rate of ontogenic development, selecting for greater cognitive growth
and longer periods of 'learning'. Poor mothers would have been unsuccessful in
reproduction. Crucial to infant cognitive development would have been
peripatetic exploratory behavior, encouraging 'field independence'. Infant
orality--putting things into the mouth might have selected for mothers who
were able to keep a careful eye upon their infants and who knew the
environment and yet who allowed children to explore.
Saltational episodes, early evolutionary events, were
probably complex phases of rapid reproduction and population growth, perhaps
stimulated by the introduction of new symbols or new 'discoveries' and perhaps
preceded by a previous phase of population reduction or adaptive contraction
which bottle necked a gene pool. Rapid reproductive increase and selection
favored cognitive reorganization of 'mind' promoting symbolization. Successful
'cognitive' adaptation favored selective increase of the population, leading
to a gradually slowing adaptive radiation, which gradually modified the 'new
traits'. This process did not happen all at once, but took place in a series
In this view, symbolic culture as an ideational system that
is conceptually oriented and highly abstract is largely an 'epi-phenomena' of
human evolution--a burgeoning development of human 'cultural evolution'
(development) which emerged more recently and slowly but exponentially began
to depart from the tract of human biological evolution.
Seen in this light, culture either as process or as
material artifact is largely a secondary, derivative phenomena occurring long
after the cognitive evolution of human 'mind' as an adaptive mechanism in
Regulatory mechanism of 'culture' and 'cultural ecology'
the bio-psychological functions of culture arose after the evolution of human
mind, as secondary development and involved the development of the ideational
systems component of 'mind' as a symbolic system--putting to service a
symbolic system which had its own reasons in a previous evolutionary epoch.
Pre-cultural symbol systems were 'natural symbol
systems'--symbols derived directly from nature. These systems served several
interrelated functions--their primary function was to mediate changes in
complex environments--by the framing of events by 'cognitive maps' derived
from previous experiences. The empowerment offered by 'symbols' is to be found
still in their evocative function to elicit modes, moods, memories and
physiological and psychological responses which have their origin in
'instinct'--whether it is mass hysteria, stress response, hypnosis, exotic
ritual, mass media preoccupied with sex and violence. They create the
illusions of fear, of the separation of death and non-beingness, which have
their symbolic source in the biological being of the primeval human being. The
behavioral and physio-psychological responses symbol systems evoke are
discrete and measurable. Natural symbols order an d channel such responses
into appropriate patterns. The return to the communitas of 'primitive states'
of being is a natural inclination.
Symbols stand intermediately between ideational and sign
systems, serving to mediate and integrate these levels into a coherent
'whole'. This relates to the symbolic system function of individual
identification in the dialectic between being and non-being. Symbol systems
provide a 'cognitive identity of experience' of the individual which allows
functional adaptation to strange environments. This begins at the perceptual
level--the identity of perceptions--and becomes a cultural ideational identity
of conception. With the development of culture, natural mind of the individual
becomes displaced by the rational mind of the culture bearer.
With evolutionary development of mind, sign, symbol and
ideational functions differentiate and become more systematically distinct.
With the development of culture history, symbol system come
to have a higher, separate ideational function which is critically related to
the organization structure of the social order. At this cultural order,
natural symbol systems come to have a sign system function which becomes
contextually bounded and conventionally non-arbitrary, tied by proximity to
other symbols and come to have a 'cultural evolutionary and culture
ecological' super organic purpose. In their ideological functional, abstract
idea symbols cease to be arbitrary in their implicit arbitrariness--having a
functional significance of their own, distinguishes from the sign function of
WORLD VIEW AND CYBERNETIC SYSTEMS
The 'world view' of 'mind/language/culture' defines a
centeredness of overlap and integrative congruence between sign systems,
symbol systems and idea systems as a single cybernetic system. As sign
systems, idea and symbol systems are subject to the same kinds of constraints
as all sign systems but as an idea and symbol systems they become used 'both
ways'--as sign systems and as symbol systems and as ideational systems--the
constraints as if signs are lifted as symbols and ideas.
It is possible to cross reference sign, symbol and idea
systems with analytical categories of mind, language and culture, and to
investigate the relations between each of the nine combinations of the matrix.
It is also possible to speculate about the evolutionary
order of development of 'world view' from signs to symbols to ideas, as a
sequential unfolding of increasing sophistication. This sequence is reflected
in the development of writing--from idiographic and rhebus and syllabic signs
to alphabetic world symbols to modern concepts; but it is more likely that
'primitive' 'signs/symbols/ideas' co-evolved together into more complex
There is a sense of systems rooted in percepts--in
perception based experience--and of 'primitive systems' adaptive function to
process perceptual information. 'Sign systems' remain basically perceptually
rooted systems, though the signs may become conceptually abstracted from root
percepts. Symbols systems are anchored to sign percepts, concrete or
abstracted, but float loosely upon the conceptual, completely abstracted
level. Idea systems are no longer so anchored to percept based signs.
An 'etic' view of 'world view' would interpret symbol and
idea patterns as 'sign systems' in the way that the natural sciences elicit
from patternings of natural events basic ordering rules. An 'etic' view
depends upon the 'natural ordering' of human cybernetic systems, of symbols
and ideas, as if 'signs' and attempts to elicit what the rules for such a
natural arrangement might be. An 'emic' view deals with symbol systems as
symbols, idea systems as ideas and symbols, and tends to treat all human sign
systems as if symbolic and ideational.
As sign systems the cybernetics of 'world view' has
'nothing but' significance--but as 'symbol systems' they have 'something more'
SYMBOLIC TRAITS AND METAPHORICAL FUNCTIONS
The cohesive structure of symbols confers upon them other
traits and other functions as metaphors which are ordering principles in the
patterning of symbolic conglomerations. Symbols have depth and a
multidimensionality which allow them to recur and co-occur upon several
metaphorical levels of significance simultaneously. This accounts for their
'duality' of design--they function not only as signs at the level of
signification and as multiple metaphors at the level of salience, but they
also function metaphysically at a level of general relevance which is
primarily abstract. These three levels are designated as 1) metonymical
significance, 2) metaphorical relevance, 3) metaphysical importance. Each of
these levels is characterized by the degree of contextual
dependence/independence of function.
A limited number of symbols can be used in an almost
infinite number of possible combinations to create an endless variety of
combinations. Nominal symbols refer to 'things' or other symbols--'verbal
symbols' refer to relations between things or symbols. Summarizing symbols
refer to whole sets of symbols, elaborating symbols elucidate a single symbol.
Dominant or master or key symbols are focal symbols which subsume or summarize
symbolic conglomerations. Strong symbols have strong cohesive characteristics,
weak symbols weak cohesiveness. Hard symbols are less fuzzy and more
determinate--soft symbols have greater conglomerations and less determinacy.
Peripheral symbols occur upon the margins of conglomerations, core symbols
occur near the center. Dependent symbols modify independent or unbound
symbols. Abstract symbols are mostly metaphysical--concrete symbols mostly
metonymical. Orienting symbols and organizational symbols are used to order
symbolic conglomerations--to 'center' them structurally. Independent symbols
stand alone--accreting their own significance or meaning free of context, or
making their own context.
Besides sharing all their design features of human
language, such as semanticity, prevarication, truth value, duality, hierarchy,
displacement, etc., symbols also have other characteristic functions. Symbols
may be synonymous or antynonymous. Symbols function analogically and carrying
meaning which is metalogical. Symbols are both reflexive and referential. They
are arbitrary. Symbols must occur in arrangements which are internally
non-contradictory and externally consistent with other symbols or experiential
reality. Despite their fuzziness and plasticity symbols cannot be erroneous or
out of order in arrangement. Despite arbitrariness, symbolic arrangements
follow conventions and are constrained in an unrestricted sense.
Symbolic cohesiveness allows symbols to be aggregated into
conglomerations or congregations of various sizes. A minimum number of symbols
may form 'sets' or clusters--clusters may be congregated into larger sets or
'complexes' of associated clusters which may in turn be further aggregated to
form entire 'constellations' which have a centeredness of gravitational
attraction. Constellations are grouped to form whole cultural galaxies--what
might be referred to as 'civilizations' of symbolic forms. These civilizations
occur within a single integrate cultural continuum referred to as the symbolic
universe. Symbol 'sets' of various orders have different integrational
functions experiences--presenting themselves in a series, ordered one after
another. They are read as a cultural narrative of experiences, or 'events'
which are sequential in arrangement. Symbolic complexes organize domains of
experience--different categories of complexes produce different categories of
experience--they are 'trains of events' or separable, qualitatively distinct,
'episodes' of experience. Symbolic constellations order different symbolic
complexes as 'trait complexes' which have a particular spatio-temporal locus.
Symbolic constellations resemble bounded 'cultures' within a given
geographical locale and historical period. They are an arrangement of a series
of episodes into a particular cultural historical 'epoch'. This is the level
of experience which has received the greatest attention by traditional
cultural anthropology. 'Epoch' are ordered or arranged into a culture
historical tradition of civilization which frequently has a specifiable
boundary or set of long term growth patterns. Frequently this has been called
'culture area' and has become a way of parsing the globe in terms of cultural
geography. Traditional civilizations tend to span several distinctive epochs,
and may have a 'civilizing influence' extending well beyond boundaries of
political control. What characterizes symbolic constellations and galaxies are
not so much defining boundaries so much as 'complex centers' and the distances
between such centers. Complexity 'centers' symbolic congregations--such
complexity is made up of the local or regional integration of symbolic
complexes--several such complexes or sets of complexes overlapping in such a
way as to provide a symbolic unity of experience or of different sets of
experiences in an orderly and organic manner. Within a tradition such centers
go through a developmental cycle which leads to 'cultural evolution'--the
branching of traditions into different directions, the coming together of
other traditions, their extinction.
CRYSTALLYTIC STRUCTURE OF SYMBOLISM
Dialectical 'signs/symbols/ideas' cohere into 'symbolisms'
of mind--salient focal points upon the culture historical landscape.
Symbolisms are the nodal points of the symbolic networks--the points of
overlap, conjunction and disjunction along symbolic pathways. They are
critical points of transition or transformation of mind, from one state of
beingness to another.
Symbolisms have a characteristic 'crystallytic'
structure--their reiteration and conglomeration forms recognizable complex
patterns which have a sense of symmetry, order and balance but which are
infinitely variable in design. Symbolisms are able to refract dialectical mind
through many different facets of beingness simultaneously. Similar symbolisms
within larger complexes take on characteristic, characterizable forms which
serve to distinguish them from other kinds of symbolisms--one symbolism will
have a similar structure as a similar symbolism--however separated in space
and time and though the actual symbolic markers or components may be
heterogeneous and quite different from one another.
It is this crystallytic structure which allows different
kinds of symbolism to integrate into organic complexes which then come to have
a super organic or synergistic function. Symbolisms have definite
compatibilities and complementarities with other kinds of symbolisms which
allow them to become functionally integrated and specialized.
Symbolism have their original function in the individual's
beingness in the world--and though they may be integrated to form complex
organisms, these larger entities come to reflect and take on many of the basic
characteristics of these symbolism on an independent, individual level.
Complex symbolism thus become organized into patterns which resemble the
organic organization of the individual. This allows us to compare levels of
symbolic integration in homologous and cybernetically related ways.
The crystallytic structure of symbolism not only determines
their patterns of development but sets the critical limits to the growth in
complexity of symbolisms, beyond which they are subject to 'random events'
which increase the likelihood of their disintegration over time.
The crystallytic structure of symbolisms makes their growth
somewhat self organizing and also self limiting. It also creates symbolic
'resonances' or reverberations which tend to become 'self amplifying' and
inter-integrative between different kinds of symbolisms--growth and decay in
some symbolisms becomes reflected in the facets of other symbolisms.
BASIC SIMPLEXITY AND DERIVED COMPLICITY
Symbols oriented toward the natural environment have a
basic simplicity about their design and function,--they are 'simplex' in the
way that they network mind. Symbols which are derived from ideational
constructs and which are oriented toward ideas have a fundamental complexity
or 'complicity' about their design and function. Simplexity is basic and
'primitive' symbolic structure--complicity is always a 'derived' form.
Symbolisms develop from simple forms and functions into complex forms and
functions--they go from a general use design to one which is special purpose.
Basic symbols and derived symbolisms thus organize mind in fundamentally
different ways--the former being 'extensive' in orientation and the latter
being 'intensive'. Growth of basic symbol is like an explosion diffusing
outward from a center of origin--derived symbols 'implode' in an ever
increasing complexity towards a center.
Simplex symbols form different inter-relational patterns
than complex symbolisms. Simplex symbolisms interrelate with a limited number
of other symbolisms in many different ways--each symbolism comes to take on an
independent identity of function which cannot be easily substituted by other
symbolisms in the network. Symbolism come to take on a variety of functions
which gives them a versatility but which limits its capacity for any single
kind of function. Symbolisms come to have an externally undifferentiated
Complicit symbolisms take on special purpose functions
which come to define their relationship to other symbolisms--many different
symbolisms perform many different, distinctive and discrete functions and
these functions come to inter-integrate. One symbolism may be easily
substituted for another--it is their function which remains indispensable.
With simplex symbolisms discrete functions may be lost
without destroying the integrity of the whole symbolism--the symbolism remains
symbol oriented in its primary purpose. Complicit symbolisms become function
oriented--individual symbolisms may be lost without disturbing the functions
in relation to the whole.
Simplex symbols act as symbolic ideas organizing a plethora
of environmentally inscribed signs--complicit symbolisms become as symbolic
signs organizing a range of ideas. Simplex symbolism tend to be highly
internally differentiated but grouped on the basis of external differences and
intensive focus. Simplex ideas lack a focus, but have a locus within
themselves--complicit ideas have a focus, a center, but lack an internal
EVOLTION OF SYMBOLS
Symbolic conglomeration 'evolved' from simplexity into
complexity--individual pathways formed networks of symbolic clusters which
eventually coalesced into larger and larger centers. This 'evolution' is
actually a matter of fairly continuous development of the culture historical
continuum. There was always some minimal symbolic network of
humankind--individual pathways were never completely disconnected or
non-overlapping. And this minimal network arose out of and is directly rooted
in a minimal 'biological network'--the social behavior required for species
survival and propagation. And it is at this original 'baseline' that the first
symbolic rudiments of human culture history are to be found. The symbolic
capacity which later allowed the full scale development of culture history
must have evolved at this first stage in terms of the rudimentary network
pattern of humankind.
Symbolisms, as systems and mechanism of mind, have a logic
of its own which occurs at an unconscious level and which predetermines and
preconditions conscious activity.
This unconscious symbolic logic exhibits certain
distinguishing characteristics--a recurrence and resonance of motifs, multiple
overlapping motifs, a consistent and symmetrical ordering or arrangement of
its components. The symbo-logic is largely an aesthetic symbolism and appeals
to an individual's aesthetic sensibilities and sense of design.
The unconsciousness of symbo-logic is the symbolic context
which is rooted culture historically to larger symbolic context of
understanding. It is an embedded and embodied 'mythology' of meaning which
reiterates and reinterprets and recreates a larger culture historical context
and which speaks unconsciously through the individual 'enactor' who is the
vehicle or voice for bringing it to the level of conscious manifestation.
Symbo-logic is characteristically a hyperbolic mode of
representation of reality--it involves a slight unconscious distortion to
achieve its effect. It is this hyperbola which distinguishes symbo-logic.
The logical aspect of symbolism is its sense of syntactic
configuration or arrangement which gives it relational constancy of pattern
across different contexts. Symbolic syntax is a kind of complex dialectic
involving a multiple number of thematic components contra poised to one
another and indirectly related through another mediating component. This
syntax is hypertactic, syncretistic and synthetic in that it involves
conjoining components by relational linkages. Symbols have a dual function in
that they may be either thing or relation or both--symbols relate other
symbols. Symbological syntax has a 'shadow' effect, a translative and
transformative consequence, and a reflectivity of symbolism such that one
symbol is tuned into other symbols which are contextually related.
It is the systematicity of symbo-logic in their
articulation and manifestation which allow symbolisms to be configured into
complex, sophisticated arrangements of design and to cohere into 'cultural
historical' complexes. Symbolism become 'woven' together in the worf and weft
of time and space to create a tapestry of meaning which represents and
reflects the reality in which it exists.
Part of the syntax of symbolism are the dialectics or the
logic of opposites, of infinite reduction and the multifaceted 'profiles; of
The basis of symbo-logos is relational logic--that set of
principles governing relations between things and the contextuality of things.
Relational logic transcribes signs into different signs and involves the
translation of symbolism from spatial to temporal or temporal to spatial
dimensions--relational logic is spatio-temporal. It is hyper physical in that
the relations which it governs are beyond the purview of physical principles
governing the relations between signs. They are relations of partial identity
and relative differences between things based on ascribed values or importance
assigned within a culture historical framework or 'hermeneutic circle'. This
relational logic is nevertheless syntactically systematic and forms the basis
of the structure of the unconscious as it is embedded and embodied in the
relational context. It is based on the hypostatization of the relation between
things and the reification of the attribution as if it were a 'thing' which
embodies the identity and differences of the things being related. The
strength of the attribution is based on the number of aspects of similarity
and differences which it encompasses between things. For instance, round balls
of different sizes are related on the basis of 'roundness' but distinguished
on the basis of girth. If such balls were of a similar color and surface
texture then they would held to be more alike even though their sizes were
vastly different. Relational logic involves a balancing and a weighing of
similarities and differences between things to determine the strength of
weakness of the relationship.. it allows different objects to be taxonomically
related on the basis of the number of shared affinities or ascribed
characteristics and thus forms a taxonomy which is polythetic and
non-hierarchical in structure.
These taxons tend to cross cut the physical perceptual
ordering of experience even though the two sets overlap and are frequently
contiguous. Principles of relational logic include: 1) Things spatio
temporally proximate are more alike than things distal. 2) Things of similar
shape or form or of similar sequential ordering are more alike than things of
different form or sequential ordering. 3) Things which share a number of
physical traits are more alike than things which have more differences between
physical traits. 4) Things which are symmetrical in design are more alike than
things which are asymmetrical. 5) Things which share the same set of
contextual relations are more alike than things which have different sets of
contexts. 6) Relations are more alike than things which have different sets of
contexts. 6) Relations between things tend to be hyperbolic such that
similarities or differences tend to be overemphasized or de-emphasized such
that emphasis of the former leads to a conflation of identity and emphasis of
the latter leads to contra distinction of differences. 7) Similarities tend to
be positively values and differences tend to be negatively valued. 8) Things
become relatively ranked according to their net positive and negative values.
9) Things of higher positive or negative rank tend to have more salience--the
extremes tend to be emphasized and the middle ground excluded. 10) The
systematic exclusion of the of the middle range of value leads to the
hypostatization of absolute values of identity and difference between
relational taxons. 11) These relational values become reified as substitutes
for the elements of the taxons. 12) There is a systematic process of
substitution, Grisham's Law, such that hyperbolic values and attributes tend
to drive out or displace actual relations. 13) Previous values tend to lose
their relational salience and become continuously replaced by more salient
values, which in turn begin to lose their salience. 14) The greater the
valence between things the greater the salience. 16) The greater the salience
the faster the rate of substitution. 17) Things of balanced valence tend to
have neutral value and are the slowest to substitute--the rate of substitution
is more even, gradual, continuous. 18) Neutral things tend to remain in the
SYMBOLIC PATHWAYS AND EXPERIENTIAL STREAMS
The function of symbolic congregations is to 'channel
experience' along certain spatio temporal pathways--experience becomes
channeled into continuous streams of meaning. Consciousness travels along
these streams both through time and across space. Symbolic clusters constitute
individual experiential pathways, arranging experience into a sequence of
events--these pathways for networks at the level of symbolic
complexes--symbolic networks situate individual experience into communities of
relational, interpersonal experiences. Separate such symbolic networks may
converge or overlap into a complex aggregation with develops a 'locative'
center orienting different orders of experience in an integrated way. A set of
such centers forms a regional or interregional dynamic leading to a
complementary functional integration or a widening sphere of influence
extending over wide areas of space or continuing through long frames of time.
At symbolic centers, networks converge and overlap and take
an essentially different structural character than in simple aggregations. In
such a way it can be seen how individual streams of experience become
channeled into converging common streams of cultural experience, which flow
'together' in centers which constitute 'pools' or experiential reservoirs.
While pathways multiply and criss-cross in ever increasing social
entanglements, streams of experience steadily converge into a collective pool.
In such pools, 'collective experience' takes on a 'corporate' character, such
that the total range of experience extends beyond the single spans of
SYMBOLIC MAZEWAYS AND MENTAL MAPPING
Experiential pathways structured symbolically into
congregation and networks become a labyrinth of experience--a symbolic mazeway
composed of corridors of movement and change, turning points, intersections,
doorways and windows, walls and fences and open areas. The mazeway becomes an
expression of symbolic unconsciousness, or the unconsciousness is the
expression of the symbolic mazeway of mind--as it is composed of the
collective 'unknown' pathways which represent possibilities of experience. The
existential problematic of the individual is to learn how to negotiate these
mazeways in a successful manner, such that movement down a corridor does not
lead to a dead end but to gateways through which other openings may be found.
We acquire 'cognitive maps' derived from our own or other people's
experience--ideational symbolisms which 'map' onto the mazeway and allow us to
successfully negotiate it. Mental 'maps' are cognitive constructions of
experience of environments.
CENTERS OF GRAVITY, CENTRIFUGALITY AND CENTRIPEDALITY
Symbolic galaxies and cultural groupings have a
centeredness of gravity about which all symbols become oriented. People and
things become defined in relation to their centeredness. This field of gravity
attracts and pulls everything towards the center--it is a great constraining
force preventing movement from the center or crossing over to other cultural
centers. The force at the center is much stronger than at the
periphery--beingness at the center is much more constrained than beingness at
Cultural centers have a centrifugality and a
centripedality--things and people are thrown off from the center, diffusing
outwardly and other things are pulled into the center through gravitational
The push and pull of cultural centeredness is the result of
symbolic displacement--two ideas of mind that cannot occupy the same point in
time and the same place. Symbols have an inertia, mind has a beingness of its
ideas. Movement of some ideas toward the center entails displacement of other
ideas from the center--movement of ideas from the center creates a vacuum
which draws in other ideas away from the center.
The center of gravity of a cultural grouping defines the
structural integrity of that symbolic constellation, the web of relations--the
culture historical fabric. The sense of integrity is greater at the
center--the consistency and coherence. There is less ambiguity or uncertainty
at the center. There is greater overlap between culture historical boundaries
and spatio temporal boundaries. Reality at the center is much more highly
'structured'. There is greater momentousness of mind and culture historical
momentum at the center. There is greater symbolic and relational 'density' at
the center, hence greater inertia. The closer to the center something is
drawn, the steeper the gradient for such movement, and the more difficult such
movement becomes. There is hence greater degrees of displacement towards the
center, with a corresponding greater centripedality.
The center of gravity leads to an accretion of symbols
toward the center, a gradual aggregation of such symbols until a critical
phase line is surpassed, at which point forces of randomization begin to set
in leading to the disintegration or disaggregation of the center.
SYMBOLIC UNIVERSES AND CULTURAL CONTINUUM
A culture is a limited grouping of particular people in a
given time or place--frequently circumscribed by a linguistic or territorial
boundary--or it is the distinctive way of life of such a grouping. A culture
exists in history. A culture consists of a given 'galaxy' of symbolic
constellations which accrete centrifugally about some 'center of gravity'. But
culture are rarely if ever completely isolated from other cultures--there is
always some degree of interchange across cultural borders. 'Culture' describes
the pan cultural characteristics of humankind as it occurs through all time
and across all space, and the 'cultural continuum' is complete range of
intercultural relations and interchanges serving to situate separate,
distinguishable cultural groupings within a larger field of relations. The
cultural continuum encompasses all boundaries between cultural groupings,
whether of space or time or of kind, as being semi-permeable and non-absolute.
The cultural continuum itself has no recognizable boundaries--it encompasses
the symbolic universe of humankind as the total, but infinite, range of
symbolic variations and combinations available through space and time. The
symbolic universe has no edges and no beyond in an extensive sense, except the
unknowables of death and non-beingness.
It is moot point to ask whether there are not multiple
symbolic universes. There are as many separable symbolic universes as there
have been cultural galaxies and symbolic constellation with their own center
of gravity. These differences though are intensive and qualitative--there may
be infinite variations upon common themes, and no definite historical
boundaries but these remain many variations upon a finite number of common
themes. Cultural galaxies may be internally and intensively infinite, but they
remain always extensively bounded and finite in the fixed range of its
variations. Intensively, there are multiple symbolic universes, but
extensively there remains only one, and that is the symbolic universe of the
cultural continuum--the human universe of 'culture' as a defining
characteristic of humankind.
Though there are no extensive boundaries of the cultural
continuum, there are definitely recognizable 'horizons' of our understanding
of its universe, beyond which our knowledge gives way to the unknown. As we
approach our human horizons, knowledge gives way to ignorance, and is replaced
by myth and prejudice until we are no longer able to deal in a scientific
world of fact but in one of fiction. And this is an approximate
matter--approaching an ever receding point of absolute zero--or of absolute
DIALECTICS AND DICHOTOMIES
The dialectical tradition reaches back to Plato and
Aristotle and took the form of discursive argument between an opponent and a
respondent in which the arguments were framed in a syllogistic arrangement. It
was not demonstrative in the way that syllogistic logic was held to be, nor
was it rhetorical or convincing as 'eristic'--the success of the dialectic was
to achieve an effective and relatively objective question and answer dialogue
about some central theme of discussion. This dialectic tradition formed the
basis of western scholastic tradition up until the 18th century--it
was the core part of the curriculum of every major European university with
but minor variations. Even so, dialectics in the traditional sense has fallen
by the wayside as a polemical practice, with few surviving records of its many
instances, or else it has come down to us 'Hegelian Dialectics' which involves
a transcendent synthesis as an intrinsic part of the counterpoint between
thesis and antithesis.
The important point is that our academic tradition remains
steeped in an embedded tradition of dialectical practice though it has become
largely unaware the extent of its influence in the modern world. Dialectics
allows for a thematic dichotomization of reality between a thesis and its
opposite antithesis--an affirmation of identity and the negative denial of
difference. It is this dichotomization of human reality which provides the
consistent and extended tension of reason and relevance for theoretical
polemic and discourse--it also opens the way for falsification and
prevarication of truth.
The dichotomization of human reality is a consequence of
the pervasiveness of the dialectical tradition. Such a tradition has been
rooted in the importance of basic oral dialogue as a fundamental part of the
socio cultural fabric of language in a public forum. Dialogue and discursive
practice is at the heart of dialectics as a tradition of intellectual
practice, and dialectics was principally and purposely achieved by means of
such dialogical exercise. It also points up in the dichotomization of reality
between thesis and antithesis the essential duality of human understanding and
meaning systems as these are projected symbolically within cultural contexts.
Basic terms such as identity/difference, being and non-being, means/end,
rational/relative, mind/body, nature/culture, male/female, becomes the focal
center point for such dialectical discourse, pursued formally and informally
as an exploratory intellectual exercise in asking and answering questions.
SYMBOLISM OF CYCLICAL TIME
All time is cyclical--the circle is the only method of for
the measurement of time. The circle and the center of the circle are the
symbolic embodiments and spatialized representations of time (the clock).
The exact, ever diminishing perfect center of the circle is
the symbol of perfect, eternal time--time which transcends changing and
comprehends absolute peace. It is perfectly motionless time. Concentric
circles about the center expresses relative time which is also real and
incomplete time. It is the time of the cosmic which is in endless movement
about the center. The circle represents infinity--as the endless movement of
time in space. Distance from the center is the relative degree of change. The
further from the center the greater the rate of change, the faster the
movement of time. All change emanates from the center and orients itself
around the center in cyclical revolutions.
Linear time is the unfolding of cyclical time projected
upon a single plane. Linear time becomes spatialized time. The view from the
center must see linear time as 'progressive' and purposive--as an evolution of
events unfolding in a determined direction of change.
The center constitutes the greatest degree of control over
change. It represents absolute control. It is the symbol of the Oculus or the
pan optical eye of the cosmos--the omniscient knower or envisor of truth.
The number of revolutions counted from the baseline of time
are the indexes of measurement of the degree of change from a point of origin.
Time is spiraling out worldly.
Journeying closer to the center is to embody greater
timelessness as the center of being. Journeying to the center is a journey to
absoluteness--absolute power, truth and time. Standing at the center of the
circle is to empower oneself with an omnipotency and omnipresence of spirit.
It is a symbolic and ritual act of absolute control.
Spirit always exist at the motionless, changeless
center--the exact center of the hub of the spokes of the turning wheel.
Emotionally, the center is the point of origin. It is the
womb of the mother. The essence of the female element. Time and change become
a male-female dialectic of roundness and straightness, pole and fountain,
etiphallic penis and vulva.
Natural time is time ordered periodicities and sequences of
events--eclipses, waxing and waning of moons, diurnal/nocturnal rhythms,
biological cycles, seasonalities of plants and the growth cycles of animals,
living and dying.
Calendrical time is ordered cosmologically by the counting
of the cycles of the sun and the moon. There is agricultural time and
Mechanical time, clock time, machine time and developmental
time of the modern era with increasing degrees of the symbolic directions of
time. Time is linearized and vectorial in its symbolization of force.
Cybernetic time are the cycling of systems of
information--the rate and capacity of the flow of information. Scientific time
is symbolic of prediction and control of physical processes.
Symbolisms and systems of symbolization evolve boundaries
and borders in the regions of mind which define the limits of their
adaptiveness and functioning. These boundaries might be described as symbolic
ecotones which serve to separate different symbol systems and to control and
constrain the interaction between outer and inner regions demarcated by the
Different kinds of symbolisms may overlap to some extent,
and thus integrate to form a large system, but symbolism of the same order or
kind tend to be mutually exclusive of one another which it becomes the
function of the ecotone to maintain separation and distance.
Ecotones are the edges of the adaptive radiations of
symbolisms in culture history. They are the adaptive boundaries of time and
space which determine where and when one style or trait ends and another takes
Blanket Copyright, Hugh M. Lewis, © 2005. Use of
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Last Updated: 08/25/06