Home > Creativity, Symbols, Thoughts > The Meaning of Symbols

The Meaning of Symbols

I had a discussion recently over at Koldo Barroso’s site, regarding one of his pieces which had a very strong symbolic meaning for me, which was apparently never intended by the author.

In response to my comment, he mentioned:

I usually get an image in my head and later I add a text or a story to it, ’cause I’m more of a painter rather than a writer. So, the image comes to my head, I don’t think of the image in terms of symbols, but later it can be interpreted.

This answer illustrates a rather curious fact. Why is it that we are always looking for meaning and symbolism in everything we see? Is it not right for a work of art to exist just for it’s own sake, without necessarily transmitting a message?

I’ve curiously fallen into this habit too. The fractal images I create based on chaotic principles always start out as a blank slate, dots littering the screen, just being dots. However, as soon as I start arranging them in a specific order, a meaning emerges. The chaos becomes something more; all of a sudden it stands for a concept, a state of mind, or even a mythical creature.

I guess all of this just proves that we are fundamentally creative beings, that we choose our own meaning for things whenever we can’t find any. But is the meaning of anything even there, before we take our very first look at it?

Ultimately, it’s just the other half of our joint creative act taking place, don’t you think?

Categories: Creativity, Symbols, Thoughts
  1. May 15, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Hi Vitor!
    I’m very surprised about having discoverd this. What you say is really interesting.

    I’m not particularly interested in symbols from a cultural or freudian point of view. I’m more interested in Carl Yung’s perspective related to the universal power that lies behind the symbols and the collective conscience. I believe that the power of the symbols are not in a culturally learned code, but in a more primitive conscience that works equally to every human being. All of the ancient civilizations worked with this, they controlled human reactions with the power inbuilt in this universal symbols.

    It’s prety much the same about Crop Circles, I’ve been inside one of these huge symbols without knowing the meaning of it but I lost my memory for about 20 minutes so there must be something very powerful going on there, further than any cultural interpretations.

  2. May 15, 2008 at 10:08 am


    Exactly. There is a strange property to symbols, our urge to interpret them, beyond any cultural context. it’s something very personal for each of us, so I call it creativity.

  3. May 16, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Vitor, if our creative finished product, art, for example, ia a joint creative process, maybe the finished result and its interpretation are what God/Universal Source intended for it to be and we are just the instrument that He used to bring about the joint creative act. ???? Just a thought that came to me after reading your article and comments.

  4. May 16, 2008 at 4:07 pm


    You make an excellent point. The purpose of the divine always shines through every act, specially so when two people are communicating creatively.

    It’s like divine sparks traveling through some sort of neural network formed by humanity, making meaning emerge out of the whole, while each of us only holds a part of the piece.

  5. May 21, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    I hold the fundamental belief that our creativity is our divinity. That we are most like the creator when we act like it.

    The “purpose” of consciousness is to experience itself; nature has a tendency to form greater and greater complex systems from chaos.

    The Universe is self-consciously organizing itself, looking in the mirror… we are the way by which God experiences itself.

  6. May 21, 2008 at 3:33 pm


    Yes, and symbols are shorthad way of carrying messages in this sea of chaotic information. When so much meaning is associated to such a little piece of data, it’s very hard to miss it.

  7. June 30, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I believe creativity is a part of everything we do! As a writer, we have constant creativity. We have to think about which words to use to describe something with intention. This is not to say that creativity does not play a large role in most professions. To think about it, there are very FEW professions that do not require creativity. Creativity allows us to be successful. It allows us to solve problems, communicate, and work efficiently. Creativity is essential to success.

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