When I was in college, I had one favorite subject, which, ironically, nobody else liked. That subject is called semiotics, and it is the study of signs. It is not yet a fully developed science, but this is what its pioneers aimed for, and are still aiming. Every semiotics theoretician is completing its predecessors work in regards to the basic concepts through which a sign can be identified and analyzed. In order for it to be science, the conceptual basis has to be accepted by most of the scientific community on that domain.
Anyway, everybody got entangled with semiotic’s first theory, by the domain’s inventor, Ferdinand de Saussure. He defines three characteristics to a sign, given to its form, essence, and way of perceiving: the signified (the concept), the significant (the form of the sign: it can be word, an image, sound), and it’s referent (the actual object in reality that it refers to).
Once you get this, you may see all the mysterious and interesting implications the study of signs can have in the understanding of humanity.
One of this implications is portrayed in the movie Arrival (2016), where Aliens communicate with humans in a very different language than any we have ever imagined. Signs lead to language eventually, because any language is made of them, and every component of that language has the three dimensions Saussure spoke of.
In the movie, the relationship between signified and signifier is stretched until it seems inexistent, and the referent is only half of a real thing.
The Aliens are fourth-dimensional beings, that means they live the past, the present and the future simultaneously. Their language is shaped by this, but humans don’t know it yet, so they can’t process the signs they see because the concept of atemporal beings is not yet in their perception of life and the referent is not yet in their experience since they have not lived the future yet.
This is how complex the interpretation of signs can get, and how many implications it can have on understanding a population’s lifestyle and culture.
My college teacher enchanted me through other stories that sparked my imagination. One that I clearly remember and which became my project’s theme is the Greek myth of the golden era. It refers to a very ancient time in which humans were more evolved than today, living longer or never dying, not having material needs like food, and communicating through a language in which the concept, the form of the sign and the referent are all the same.
That was the first time when in my mind sparked the idea of telepathy as a an evolution of traditional language. The myth also encompasses the silver and the bronze eras, which correspond with the steps of human fall. The main ideal that was characteristic for the golden era was the fact that communication didn’t have any losses, on any side.
A message meant something like the transportation of a whole feeling into another person’s mind and body. From this, I jumped to the fascinating conclusion that in the study of signs lies the understanding of communication errors and communication is key to the development of our faulted society.
Since then I learned a lot more about this subject and studied the concepts of other semioticians like Charles Sanders Peirce and Umberto Eco. But most importantly, I still see new implications for it. Like, for example, I’m now more inclined to say that images might hold more significance than any other form of a sign we have developed. Or maybe it is just our brain that produces more when in contact with them.
The thing is, an image can hold almost infinite signifieds while we can only perceive a couple of them based on our already existent written language, our knowledge and our perception of reality. It is only every paint dot in an image that can be taken as a symbolic component, but also the whole of them.
The most interesting sign I have known for a long time remains the ancient symbol of the flower of life. It has been proven to represent everything inside it, depending on the perspective you choose. It is also said to contain information we can’t decipher related to our body energies, our planet’s, our ancestors, maybe even something about God.
It is amazing to think about this sign with the tools given by different semioticians – given that it looks like cuneiform writing, while being an image, but can also be all the letters in all alphabets and all kind of images. It is at the base, a mathematical machine of representation.
I wanted to share this with you because I think not enough people are even aware of this domain of research and it might prove to be the most useful for decoding the key to our problems. It also is the most interesting thing to play with in your head and develop different theories and ideas. I really suggest you look into all the semioticians I mentioned and also into the research history of the flower of life.
Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
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