ON THE BASIS OF MEDIUM, DEDUCTIBILITY AND
As stated in the previous division there is a tendency in traditional
thought to associate the symbolic with the visual-auditory
and the spiritual, whereas in actual fact the symbolic
need not be visual or auditory, and is not less 'spiritual' when
it is not. Now, when speaking of 'visual', 'auditory' and other
symbols, we classify them on the basis of medium. But this is
merely one way of classifying symbols (or modes of generative
symbolism); there are at least four different criterions on
the basis of which they can be subdivided, namely:
- the medium of representation
- the deductibility of the symbol
- the primary function of the symbol
- the ideological acceptability of the symbol
Granted that human beings usually have five senses, the classification
on the basis of the medium of representation involved yields
five types of symbol.
They are, with the corresponding sensory modalities:
- visual: the sense of sight
- auditory: the sense of hearing
- olfactory: the sense of smell
- tactual: the sense of touch
- gustatory: the sense of taste
Examples of ancient symbols which are not
visual-auditory are the burning of incense and the kissing of something
that is believed to be holy or sacred.
The former symbol is olfactory, the latter one tactual.
(Tactual is to be preferred to tactile because of the
analogy with visual.
Compare also visualize with tactualize.)
For all five mediums it must be possible in principle to find or create
symbols which can represent
neutral-inclusivity in general, or
neutrality proper and
For example, pure water as a neutral liquid which is neither acid
nor basic can be used as an ideal gustatory symbol representing
neutrality proper or neutral-inclusivity in general.
Insofar as the neutrality of water is, or can be, connected with the
inclusivity, it is etymologically
justifiable to look at and experience water as a 'holy' substance.
This must, then, be understood in a symbolic fashion.
To unconditionally believe that water would literally always have a
purifying or healing effect is supernaturalism.
Water may be suitable as a chemical symbol of neutrality, it does not
follow from the
norm of neutrality that it should be.
Likewise, a symmetrical design, for instance, may very
appropriately represent neutrality too, but it cannot be proved in any way
that neutrality proper must per se be represented by symmetry even
tho it is certain that
neutrality proper cannot be represented by asymmetry.
The choice of water and something that is symmetrical as neutralistic
symbols can be defended because of their inherent qualities.
Perfect neutrality does indeed appear as symmetry of the purest water.
Yet, the choice of water and symmetry as symbols is not an automatical
result of the choice of neutrality as a normative value.
In other words, the symbolic significance of such elements cannot be
deduced from the
perfective value of neutrality.
While it never can in a way, there are considerable gradual differences
Some entities (the supreme being in particular) stand on the borderline
presentative and the symbolic.
They have practically the same significance whether viewed from a
presentative or from a
Other entities or elements, like water, only become significant in a
symbolistic sense because of what they represent, and not so much for what
A being such as the supreme being is in its representative capacity a
The deductibility of such a fundamental symbol is maximal.
That is why the distinction between fundamental and nonfundamental
symbols can be said to be one on the basis of the deductibility of
third chapter it will be discussed in more
detail why the supreme being is indeed a fundamental symbol of
Nonfundamental symbols can be subdivided on the basis of their primary
At least three types of symbol can be distinguished in this way.
They are, with the phenomena or activities with respect to which they
play a role:
- linguistic: the choice and use of words and names
- emotional: expressions such as celebration and mourning
- ritual: formal acts or series of acts
We will deal with linguistic symbolism in the
next chapter, and of emotional and ritual
The first reason to discuss the linguistic symbols (in Chapter Two)
before the fundamental ones (in Chaper Three) is that even fundamental
thought has to make use of linguistic symbols for its communication.
The second reason is that the different types of symbolism do, of course,
occur in combination too, and by treating linguistic symbolism first it is
possible to immediately apply this form of symbolism —of generative
symbolism in the case of
the Ananorm— to a number
of nonlinguistic symbols to be presented in the later chapters.
Before doing this, however, we should consider a fourth way of