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September 4, 1972

The Voice of the Symbol

Author Affiliations

Syntex Laboratories, Inc. Palo Alto, Calif


by Martin Grotjahn, 224 pp, 5 illus, $8, Mara Books (2840 W Rowena Ave, Los Angeles 90039), 1972.

JAMA. 1972;221(10):1167. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200230053028

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Throughout history men have sought to squeeze a little logic out of the absurdity of life by making use of symbolic thinking. Unfortunately, ignorance of this often unconscious activity is widespread, and Dr. Grotjahn, with 40 years of psychoanalytic practice behind him, believes it vital for us to understand the extent of this ignorance and to correct it. His book is a collection of essays on symbolic thought in a wide variety of situations—some historical, some contemporary.

Naturally, there are chapters on dream symbols and on the symbols in psychoanalytic theory, which follow a Freudian path. There is an interesting biographical study of Georg Groddeck, an unconventional physician. Grotjahn also explores the multiple symbolism in Hieronymus Bosch's masterwork, "The Millennium" (a triptych showing the creation of Eve, the Garden of Earthly Delights, and Hell). This picture he interprets as an illustrated text for a medieval sect called the New Adamites,