What is symbolic thought?

Symbolic Thought

Symbolic Thought

Symbolic thought is a way of thinking. Symbols represent an object, a reality, an idea etc.. For example, a ring may be a symbol for “this person is married”.

Red ochre was early in human history a symbol for blood. Blood was the symbol of life. Hunters and gatherers knew very well that when some one lost his blood, his life was lost. Red ochre was used by different types of man, from Homo erectus on, at funerals. It was e.g. sprinkled on the corpses. This proves that our predecessors were able to think symbolicaly.  By sprinkling red ochre on a corpse they gave blood/life along with the dead. They were convinced that the dead kept on living, that they still had a life/soul. That is the way the oldest supernatural concept/entity/symbol arose, the soul, born directly out of the daily life of hunters and gatherers.

Other symbols in the early history of man were totems. Totems are probably originally born out of hunting rituals but evolved to symbols for a group of people who had an animal (or plant or object) as a totem, as a symbol. The properties that were projected on a totem (courage, intelligence) were real or imaginary (the Moon did not bring prosperity), they were symbolic. In our society, there are countless symbols: national , mathematical, vestimentary, political, religious, and so on. An iPod or an iPhone are also symbols. There are utensils but possessing them can also be a sign that one belongs ‘, that is ‘ cool ‘.

Marc.Vermeersch@gmail.be

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