What if symbolism plays a role in shaping our future?


The accumulation of economic crises would tell us something about our imagination, which is so powerful in determining our actions, prevailing over the rationality of our decision-making. Recognizing its influence also means holding the keys to recovery, renewal, recovery, and understanding that it is the driving force behind the implementation of a new cycle in society.

Nature is a temple where living pillars
Sometimes leave confusing words;
Man passes through forests of symbolism.
Who look at him with familiar looks.
Charles Baudelaire

When we talk about crisis or recovery, if we remain confined to the economic or political field, we lose sight of other elements of life that are just as decisive.

As he aptly put it in his book " From symbolic misery", Bernard Stiegler denounces that in the twentieth century, consumerist capitalism has taken control of the symbolic through its hegemonic appropriation of industrial technology. Aesthetics became both the weapon and the theatre of economic warfare. The result today is a symbolic misery in which conditioning replaces experience, a symbolic misery as generated by the "control societies". It is necessary to understand the historical tendencies that have led to the specificity of the present time, but also to deviously arm and fight against a process that is nothing less than the attempt to liquidate the "control society". spirit value", as Paul Valery said.

Symbol etymologically, comes from Latin symbolus...as a sign of gratitude. It comes from the Greek sumbolon and designated a sign of recognition, which was originally cut in half. Each person kept one part, gave it to his children who could, in time, put the two parts together to demonstrate the hospitality that had been contracted between the two hosts at the initiative of the initiative.
It was in the middle of the 16th century that it took on the meaning we know it today, namely an object or a fact, which evokes, by its form or nature, an association of idea with something absent or abstract.
"Symbols are now enjoying a new favour. Imagination is being rehabilitated, the twin sister of reason, as the inspiration for discoveries and progress. This favour is largely due to the anticipations of fiction that science is gradually verifying, to the effects of the current reign of the image that sociologists are trying to measure, to the interpretations of ancient myths and the birth of modern myths, to the lucid explorations of psychoanalysis. Symbols are at the centre, they are the heart of this imaginative life. They reveal the secrets of the unconscious, lead to the most hidden springs of action, open the mind to the unknown and the infinite. »

A small detour through the year one thousand

Why not enjoy unlimited reading of UP'? Subscribe from €1.90 per week.

We draw a parallel between contemporary majority economic inertia and what happened at the turn of the millennium during the Middle Ages. Indeed, if the terror of the passage of the Year One Thousand was largely accentuated in the 19th century, as we are reminded by Georges Dubys historic work on the Jules MicheletAlthough the data have been revised today to seek a little more objectivity in its analyses, one observation of a clear economic slowdown has nevertheless been recorded.

The inertia of the approaches to the Year One Thousand corresponded to the effects of the fears linked to this passage described by the Apocalypse of Saint John. The thousand years, announcing the return of Christ to save humanity, cited by St. John was then taken as a calendar fact and not symbolic, as it has since been widely described. If that moment in history was not the terror described by Jules Michelet, many people, prey to the superstitions common at that time, waited for the passage, in fear, withdrawal and inertia.

Already at that time, a message delivered by bees: vers 1045, the monk and chronicler Raoul Glaber describes the various prodigies that would have followed the millennium of Christ's Passion. After 1033, according to him, supernatural signs and events multiplied, which he interpreted as a way for God to punish men for the enormity of their sins and, above all, to incite them to penance. Raoul Glaber insists on these facts, after the fact, because he wants to show how "the sins of the earth resounded in heaven". Moreover, he explicitly links the accumulation of all the calamities he describes to the unleashing of Satan foretold in Revelation. Several chronicles of the 16th century take up his testimony to describe real scenes of panic due to the belief in the imminence of the end of time. Raoul Glaber evokes a certain Leutardwhich can be considered an envoy of Satan." Following a message delivered by bees, he left everything and went by the roads to make speeches that "made people forget the doctrine of the masters".

Since then, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment made it possible to overcome the obscurantism of the early Middle Ages, that period following the fall of the Roman Empire during which education regressed to the point that only monks in monasteries retained the use of reading and writing and copied and recopied works, mainly religious works, without thought being revived by the contribution of new knowledge or discussions resulting from exchanges with other communities, religions and contradictory points of view.
Then, the year 1000 having passed without the world collapsing, life resumed its rights with an economic expansion, commercial exchanges opening the borders and a revival of demography. Little by little, the Middle Ages entered its second part, bright and enlightened, prefiguring the Renaissance.

What contemporary correspondence?

And in our contemporary world, what are we observing?
In 1999, during the storm that wreaked havoc in France, some people saw the signs of the Apocalypse, there was enthusiasm for the famous total solar eclipse and Paco Rabanne had a strong audience with his predictions. And on January 1st, the world was still there and the Y2K changeover for computers had gone well - even very well - without any major catastrophe. Only the Internet bubble came to remind us that excessive speculation is not eternal and that it is not possible to stretch speculation about reality forever without an equivalent feedback effect.

With the disenchantment of the world, described by Max Weber, In our modern age, science allowing to explain everything and to evacuate any animist, religious or magical interpretation on the phenomena of the world, the world lost its poetry.
Perhaps we could have been content with this if the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century had not been accompanied by repeated crises that gave the impression that there was probably no longer any question of economic crises, which by definition are short and temporary. Their accumulation indicates that we are contemporaries of a profound change in society, following the example of the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries.

The need to re-enchant the world

The return of certain superstitions is concomitant with a need to re-enchant the world. Faced with the effects of crises: rising unemployment, poverty and all kinds of suffering - note the emergence of the terms harassment, suffering and violence at work - individuals need to dream, to escape from a difficult reality in which economy and science have not brought their promises of happiness for all. So it's the return of the magic that Hollywood cinema has so successfully staged, of the Lord of the Rings, à Harry Potter or The Hobbit  The worldwide success of these sagas demonstrates the need to feed the imagination with new substances.
Let's observe that these films using magic are mostly set in the High Middle Ages, as if we had to tread the humus of our societal shadows to bring back new light.

Closer to home, following the crises of 2008 and 2011 - it is becoming difficult to date them, as the majority of citizens are experiencing continuing difficulties - there has been a craze for the end of the crisis. from world and celebrates December 21, 2012, which strategically, as the date approaches, everyone has cleverly renamed the end of the world. from a world. And this even if it was rightly so.
This is precisely the confusion that leads us to the heart of our argument. 
To evoke the end of the world was to participate in the apocalyptic egregore, to mention the end of a world is to highlight the profound change in our society. And of course, such a recurrence of apocalyptic imaginary comes to inform us about the need to destroy the old world in order to rebuild the new one, to lift the veil of catastrophes to reveal the light of the future to co-construct.

To fight against disinformation and to favour analyses that decipher the news, join the circle of UP' subscribers.

The decisive part of the imagination

By drawing a parallel with the Middle Ages, we wanted to show the determining part of the imagination, of representations on reality itself. Nothing objectively differed before the Year One Thousand from the few days that followed January 1; but the representation that some people made of it induced fear and withdrawal. In the same way today, this resurgence of superstitions to explain objectively inexplicable situations - that a minority becomes rich by deliberately impoverishing an ever-increasing part of the planet's population without there being any major revolutions that might sometimes seem incomprehensible - leads us to give pride of place to the imagination of the Apocalypse taking precedence over reality. Or trying to explain it.
This then conditions behaviours and reactions that are described as irrational and amplifies the crisis rather than diminishing it. Whether there are objective economic, social, climatic, environmental (reduction of resources and increase in pollution) reasons for these crises we do not discuss, however, maintaining fears, stunning crowds and making them dependent on leisure and consumption is a deliberate will to prevent any change in the system.

Our responsibility then lies in the orientation we give to our thoughts and the choice of the imagination we nurture.

The power of the symbol

Thus, taking the full measure of the influence of symbols on our thinking allows us to pass the delicate stages in consciousness. Thus, turning the page of 2012, leaving aside the superstitions of Mayan prophecy and the New Age drifts have brought us quietly to 2013. One year after the other. However, how many of us have taken the symbolic measure of that year? The number 13 carrying its cohort of superstitions, bringing good luck for some and "evil" for others. How many still remember the roots of that superstition?

Let us remember: in ancient Egypt, it was a blessed day for the Hebrews following Moses and fleeing from slavery, but it was a cursed day for Pharaoh who saw his troops wiped out in the Red Sea. 13 It is also the symbolism of the Last Supper, the twelve apostles and Christ, with the controversial role of Judas, described as a traitor by the canonical gospels and as an apostle serving Christ's desire for the apocryphal gospels . This number also corresponds to the arrest of the Knights Templar (October 13, 1307) and again to the symbolic of the Tarot card meaning symbolic death and rebirth and finally for the Kabbalah, the 13th thanks to the guematria, is the numerical translation of the word Ahava which means love.

Here is a number which conveys many very contrasted meanings, which are operative in our imaginations, consciously or not, and which reappears to condition our behaviour at the slightest opportunity. La Française des Jeux has understood this, as have the airlines and hotels, which have neither a seat nor a room 13.
So, after having largely glossed over and relayed the end of the world, what did we think for its reconstruction? Where have we read or seen reports on what needed to be built, with just as much fervour and media coverage? Nothing.
On the other hand, 2013 was a year that thousands of people experienced as particularly trying, marked by questioning, deconstruction, losses, quests for meaning and the need to rebuild something new. Nor will we comment on the parallel between facts and the power of symbols. To each his own reading.

Reconciling reason and symbols to co-construct a responsible future

We just want to emphasize that if we could, in our world that we describe as Cartesian, recognize the power of symbolism and its influence on thought, then we would see better the reasons why we are mired in fear and caught in the gruel of inaction.

We would then put all our energy into modifying our thought-forms (egregores) which have the consequence of influencing all human activities. For knowing symbols and myths allows us to be less prisoners and to control with more awareness and discernment what animates us, consciously or unconsciously. This allows us to move forward and innovate in our actions.

The unanimous agreement of human societies on the importance of the symbol

It is remarkable to note that all civilizations, including the traditions of the first peoples, included for the occasion, favour symbolism, particularly through mythology. The latter is the foundation of the imagination of a civilization as was the case in ancient Greece. Symbolism has always been the power of the most powerful, priests, sorcerers, kings and emperors, wise men. Then this knowledge was relegated to esotericism when science took centre stage. Symbolism is now the prerogative of secret societies, the object of study of anthropologists, ethnologists, theologians and a few psychologists or psychoanalysts!

Yet can we ignore the power of Greek myths that continue to fuel our imaginations, which marketing and advertising companies know how to use to their advantage? Archetypes have a hard time and that sells well, as an advertisement for a brand of chocolatesqs Ferrero Rocher. But the impact of Olympus does not stop there; Greek mythology has largely nourished Freudian theories or lent several names to astronomical constellations or space missions. We can thus measure the multiple symbolic anchors of our scientific disciplines and our everyday life, whose historical and mythological roots we have completely forgotten but whose effects we cannot minimize.

Starting soon in 2020, we can therefore voluntarily decide to consciously direct our thoughts towards a certain re-enchantment of the world, to value and privilege the Renaissance that is springing up through thousands of citizen initiatives and to recognize the innovations that shape tomorrow. Discerningly combine symbolism and other planes of reality for greater societal and economic vitality.

The falling tree makes more noise than the growing forest....
African proverb.

Illustration: Van Gogh's painting "The Starry Night" 1889 - New York Museum of Modern Art

"The False Terrors of the Year One Thousand" from Sylvain Gouguenheim - Ed. Picard 1999
- "Re-enchanting the industry through innovation." by Christophe Midler, Rémi Maniak and Romain Beaume - Ed. Dunod 2012
- "What's up, Doctor? Or innovation as will and representation" by David Morin-Ullman - UP' Magazine 2012
- "Re-enchanting the World: Spirit Value vs. Industrial Populism" by Bernard Stiegler - Ed. Flammarion - Dec. 2013
- "The reenchantment of the world" by Michel Maffesoli - Ed. La Table ronde - 2010

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Previous article

Co-creating stories for a liveable tomorrow?

Next article

Would we risk an imaginary deficit?

Latest articles from Imaginaire, SF and prospective



Already registered? I'm connecting

Register and read three articles for free. Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest news.

→ Register for free to continue reading.



You have received 3 free articles to discover UP'.

Enjoy unlimited access to our content!

From $1.99 per week only.