Ariadne's Clue: A Guide to the Symbols of Humankind

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Princeton University Press, 2001 - Psychology - 480 pages
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Symbolism is the most powerful and ancient means of communication available to humankind. For centuries people have expressed their preoccupations and concerns through symbolism in the form of myths, stories, religions, and dreams. The meaning of symbols has long been debated among philosophers, antiquarians, theologians, and, more recently, anthropologists and psychologists. In Ariadne's Clue, distinguished analyst and psychiatrist Anthony Stevens explores the nature of symbols and explains how and why we create the symbols we do.

The book is divided into two parts: an interpretive section that concerns symbols in general and a "dictionary" that lists hundreds of symbols and explains their origins, their resemblances to other symbols, and the belief systems behind them. In the first section, Stevens takes the ideas of C. G. Jung a stage further, asserting not only that we possess an innate symbol-forming propensity that exists as a creative and integral part of our psychic make-up, but also that the human mind evolved this capacity as a result of selection pressures encountered by our species in the course of its evolutionary history. Stevens argues that symbol formation has an adaptive function: it promotes our grasp on reality and in dreams often corrects deficient modes of psychological functioning. In the second section, Stevens examines symbols under four headings: "The Physical Environment," "Culture and Psyche," "People, Animals, and Plants," and "The Body." Many of the symbols are illustrated in the book's rich variety of woodcuts. From the ancient symbol of the serpent to the archetypal masculine and feminine, from the earth to the stars, from the primordial landscape of the savannah to the mysterious depths of the sea, Stevens traces a host of common symbols back through time to reveal their psychodynamic functioning and looks at their deep-rooted effects on the lives of modern men, women, and children.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - GeraldLange - LibraryThing

Stevens needs to take himself down a peg or two. Not a bad book, overall... -so long as you don't have to take it seriously. If you're researching the subject of symbology, skip this one until you've ... Read full review

Ariadne's clue: a guide to the symbols of humankind

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

One need not be a Jungian to appreciate this fine book as both a reference and a contemporary introduction to symbolism. Psychiatrist Stevens (Private Myths: Dreams and Dreaming, LJ 3/15/96) treats ... Read full review

Contents

Ariadnes Clue
3
What is a Symbol?
12
The Evolution of Meaning
22
How Do Symbols Work?
36
Basic Symbolic Themes
45
The Conjunction of Heaven and Earth
61
Living the Symbolic Life
76
THE EXPLANATORY THESAURUS
91
vii Eros and Psyche
220
viii Individuation and Transcendence
235
ix Death and Rebirth
256
x Morality
262
xi Sickness and Healing
274
xii Tools Weapons Utensils and Musical Instruments
280
xiii Transport
291
xiv Performance and Ritual
298

The Physical Environment
97
i Landscape
99
ii The Psychic Compass
116
iii The Four Elements
123
iv Alchemy
132
vi Colours
146
vii Buildings
150
viii Migration
154
Culture and Psyche
161
i Religion and the Sacred
170
ii Gods Goddesses and Demons
173
iii Creation Myths
195
iv Paradise and the Pall
200
v Heroes and Heroines
208
vi Initiation Male and Female
216
People Animals and Plants
305
i Sex Gender Bonding and Childrearing
306
Dominance and Submission
323
iii Animals
332
iv Monsters and Fabulous Beasts
367
v Plants Fruits and Trees
379
The Body
395
i Adornment Clothes and Nudity
396
ii Parts of the Body
401
iii Physical Activities
415
Bibliography
423
Glossary
433
General Index
439
Symbol Index
449
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About the author (2001)

Anthony Stevens is also the author of Archetype: A Natural History of the Self (1982), On Jung (1990), and, most recently, The Two Million-Year-Old Self (1993).