It was the ancient Greeks who first coined the idea, and word, ‘icon’ – or eikenai – meaning ‘to seem’ or ‘to be like’, and in so doing captured the symbolism of the religious practices through which supplicants were drawn onto some higher ideal.
Their gods – who were in essence their values abstracted – could be realised only in the form of the statues and figurines that were to represent them. Some things are too lofty, the Greeks knew, to abide this fallen plain, requiring a middleman of sorts, a conduit able to be both celestial yet natural, beyond sight and yet seen – like dreams, speaking to us of those things too transcendent for our common tongues and minds to hold.
In many ways, my favourite writers have been like this…
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