design practice and theory
has tried to penetrate the meaning of Neolithic symbols in her ‘The Language
of the Goddess’ which I mentioned already elsewhere in this site. She classified
them in four categories following the functional attributes of the Deity:
So let me, for our purpose, try to approach this theme from another angle: how can we draw a sign? It can be three or two dimensional: either a sculpture or a scratch. Let's start from that scratch (in both senses).
Let me start with the simplest of signs, a dot, the mark of a presence
(now and here), a beginning or an end (e.g.. of a phrase), a center, a
source of power (of radiation or emanation), the silent counterpart of
a single sound (perhaps the beat of a drum).
We will need now some type of classification of signs or forms.
Rene Thom affirms that forms in their origin and evolution can be classified by means of topological models as wholes of points, in a given morphogenetic field, ever in search of stability in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics, with distinct sets of probabilities (at the limit of chaotic behavior) and he pursues his analysis applying complex topological formula (out of reach for ordinary designers).
The morpho-genetic field is, in the case of signs, determined by the Formgiving Pulsion of man, motivated by his necessity to cope by means of assimilation or accommodation with (trying to dominate) the forces of nature and society. Once called into existence the different signs become instruments in recording and pursuing the quest of human destiny. Many have indicated the endeavor of early mankind to invent signs as the origin of both religion and science. The question for a useful classification of these signs becomes evidently more and more necessary.
We, as designers, would be satisfied with a, less precise but more manageable
classification than Thom's. I suggest that a relative simple classification
of symbolic forms or signs can be proposed applying the theory of
symmetry. This is already, in a simplified version derived from mathematics
(Jacob Steiner, 1836), biology (D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, 1917)
and crystallography (Andreas Speiser, 1927, and before him in 1891, E.S.Fedorov)
a common platform for courses in ‘basic design’ in many design schools.
The different operations are effected at regular 'intervals' such as a length delta d and direction (up/down, left/right) in the case of translation, and as an angle alpha a(clock- and counter-clockwise) in the case of rotation and as a variation lambda l(lengthening or shortening of the distance and or angle) in respect to its origin in the case of dilatation.
My announced intuition concerning Ursign, conducts me at this point to the following questions:
The basic operations, motives and intervals in the Theory of Symmetry coincide perhaps with relevant aspects of transcendental thought of neolithic, or even earlier, man? Could these signs have their origin in gestures, in the rhytm of ceremonial dances and even precede the spoken word?
Some simple motives (derived from the primordial dot or point) can effectively be semiotically explained as derived from symmetrical operations and understood as signs in the peircean notification in the following way:
More complex operations explain further concepts, such as:
We can at this point suggest the construction of a credible and practical
classification, each class referring to a different symmetrical operation.
The 'operations', 'motives' and 'intervals' in this system represent symbolically
the wealth of believes and knowledge of neolithic man, and especially his
respect and terror of the White Goddess . This program must of course be
completed with a less abstract class of iconic symbols representing animals,
humans, artifacts or their parts.
|note 1||Marija Gimbutas||The Language of the Goddess||Harper & Row, 1989||back|
|see also||J.J. Backofen||Das Mutterrecht||Stuttgart, 1861|
|note 2||René Thom||Stabilité structurelle et Morphogénèse. Essai d’une théorie générale des modèles||InterEditions, Paris, 1977 (1972)||back|
|note 3||Ambrogio Donnini||Breve storia delle religioni||Newton Compton, Roma, 1994 (1991, 1959)||back|
|note 4||Bronislaw Malinowski||Magic, Science and Religion||Doubleday, New York, 1948||back|
|note 5||Ernst Cassirer||Philosophie der symbolischen Formen, die Sprache||Oxford, 1923||back|
|note 6||E.Will||Elements Orientaux dans la réligion grecque ancienne||Paris PUF, 1960||back|
|note 7||Robert Graves||The White Goddess. A historical grammar of poetic myth||Faber and Faber, London, 1961 (1948)||back|
|note 8||Joseph Campbell||The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology||Pinguin, Arkana, 1991 (1964)||back|