Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/561

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SYMBOLS.

group of ideas and sentiments, if these associations do not come the symbol passes into the condition of reality, because the emotion is arrested by it and does not rise to what it represents. This is why idolatry is always repugnant to great intellects, from Moses and Mohammed to Pascal and Matthew Arnold, who protest always, but often in vain, at least from the plebeian point of view, against the worship of images."

Another phenomenon of emotional arrest is the banner, substituted for the fatherland, for whose sake are created honors and feuds. Thus, in politics, parties are designated by colors black, blue, red, according as men hold to one set of ideas or another. Thus also in parliaments there are the Right, the Left, and the Center; so, at the time of the rise of the new Italy, there was a fierce struggle over the emblems of the three colors, to display which every opportunity was seized. So, again, the name of Verdi, at the same epoch, served as a symbol for the patriotic cry "Viva Vittorio Emmanuele, Re d'Italia!" The toga, like the flag, is a mystic symbol, and it symbolizes in the tribunals the majesty of justice. Nor does the bureaucracy disdain the use of symbols.

In his chapter on the pathology of the symbol, Ferrero narrates how it had been adopted by criminals, and is the hinge of such secret societies as the "Maffia" and the "Camorra." Our author relates how even madmen adopt symbols, as well as the sick, concluding: "Certainly we are here treating of disease, but the extraordinary intensity of the phenomenon proves how profound is the tendency of the human soul to reduce sensations, images, sentiments; to exchange the whole for a part; to concentrate all its energies upon some particular, which thus becomes more potent in its action. Certainly in those normal processes of reduction whence the symbol proceeds, this absorption of everything into itself of the particular, is not so intense as in these morbid cases, precisely because these are an exaggeration. But in any case the phenomenon of symbolism by reduction, and these phenomena of moral pathology, throw light upon each other."

The second part of Ferrero's essay is entitled Symbolism in Modern Law. This chapter contains precious and useful observations with regard to the manner in which the letter and the spirit of the code are applied. The greater part of the juridic ideas consecrated in our codes, and the manner in which they are applied—almost everything, in short, known as justice—is nothing but one gigantic mystic symbol, the effect of a fatal confusion of the sign with the thing, a spring of infinite evil to society, and above all of that greatest of evils: the possession, that is, of a justice which causes more torment, perhaps, than benefit. In