Man and His Symbols

Man, with his symbol-making propensity, unconsciously transforms objects or forms into symbols (thereby endowing t h em with great psychological importance) and expresses them in both his religion and his visual art. The intertwined history of religion and art, reaching back to prehistoric times, is the record that our ancestors have left of the symbols that were meaningful and moving to them. Even today, as modern painting and sculpture show, the interplay of religion and art is still alive.~Aniela Jaffe, Man and His Symbols, Page 232 .

In the following pages, I have chosen three recurring motifs with which to illustrate the presence and n a t u r e of symbolism in the art of
many different periods. These are the symbols of the stone, the animal, and the circle—each of which has had enduring psychological significance from the earliest expressions of human consciousness to the most sophisticated forms of 20th-century art.~Aniela Jaffe, Man and His Symbols, Page 232

The emphasis on the ‘spirit’ in much sculpture is one indication of the shifting, indefinable borderline between religion and art. Sometimes one cannot be separated from the other. The same ambivalence can also be seen in another symbolic motif, as it appears in age-old works of art: the symbol of the animal.   ~Aniela Jaffe, Man and His Symbols, Page 234.

Image: Prehistoric drawings of horses from Chauvet Cave.