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Slochower, H. (1965). Symbolism and the Creative Process of Art. Am. Imago, 22(1-2):112-127.

(1965). American Imago, 22(1-2):112-127

Symbolism and the Creative Process of Art

Harry Slochower, M.D.

Symbolism is central in human communication and is the key to culture. The development and transmission of ritual and myth, of religion and philosophy, of art and mythopoesis are made possible by symbolic transformation.

The nuclear place of symbolism is recognized by philosophers and critics. Charles S. Peirce, one of the seminal philosophers of science, holds that symbols are related to meaning and that man's essential nature must be regarded as symbolic. This notion has received lapidary summation in Ernst Cassirer's formulation that man is a symbolical animal.

Similarly, psychoanalytic writers. In a basic essay on “The Theory of Symbolism,” Ernest Jones states that, in its widest sense, the subject of symbolism comprises “almost the whole development of civilization.” Kubie calls the symbolic capacity “the unique hallmark of man.” Erich Fromm sees the symbol as “rooted in the properties of our body, our senses, and our mind, … the one common tongue developed by the human race …” Melanie Klein argues (1930) that, if symbolization does not occur, the whole development of the age is arrested. Earlier, Freud had characterized symbolism as “connected with our archaic thinking—our ‘root-language’” (Schreber's term), adding that it appears in dreams, as well as in mythology and folk-lore, and seems to be “a fragment of extremely ancient inherited mental equipment.” Elsewhere, Freud noted that the

1 Cf.

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