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ARIADNE'S CLUE
A GUIDE TO THE SYMBOLS OF HUMANKIND (1998)
by Anthony Stevens
Publishers
Published in hardback by Allen Lane, The Penguin Press (1998) and by The Princeton University Press, New Jersey (1999).  Published in paperback by Penguin in June 2001.
Publishers Description

Symbolism is the most powerful and ancient means of communication available to humankind. For centuries human beings everywhere have expressed their preoccupations and concerns through symbolism in forms of myths, stories, religions and dreams, and the meaning of symbols has long been the cause of argument among philosophers, antiquarians, theologians, and, more recently, anthropologists and psychologists.

In Ariadne's Clue distinguished analyst and psychiatrist Anthony Stevens explores the nature of symbols and explains how and why we create the symbols we do. Taking the ideas of C.G. Jung a stage further, Stevens asserts that we not only possess an innate symbol-forming propensity which exists as a creative and integral part of our psychic make-up, but also that the human mind evolved this capacity as a result of selection pressures encountered by our species in the course of its evolutionary history. Stevens argues that symbol formation has an adaptive function: it promotes our grasp on reality and in dreams often corrects deficient modes of psychological functioning.

From the ancient symbol of the serpent to the archetypal masculine and feminine, from the primordial landscape of the savannah to the mysterious depths of the sea, Stevens elegantly traces a host of common symbols back through time to reveal their psychodynamic functioning and looks at their deep-rooted effects on the lives of modern men, women, and children.

Reviews
"Stevens has a unique capacity for relating myths and symbols to the way our minds function today, thus bringing them alive rather than dismissing them as historical curiosities. He has demonstrated that symbolization is an essential part of the creative process and is neither primitive nor escapist. If I had to pick out one outstanding feature, it would be this capacity for integrating ancient and modern. 

"Ultimately, as Stevens says, this is a book for browsing in rather than for reading straight through; but anyone wishing to enlarge his knowledge of symbolism will find what he needs in this original and interesting book."
Anthony Storr, The Literary Review.

"One need not be a Jungian to appreciate this fine book as both a reference and a contemporary introduction to symbolism. Psychiatrist Stevens treats the specialist or lay reader to a brilliant integration of psychological archetypes with Darwinian theory. Symbols, a 'natural Esperanto', transcend ethnic and linguistic boundaries while absorbing and reflecting cultural (as well as biological) influences. Stevens draws heavily on Jung but goes beyond him, making effective use of philosophy, semiotics, biology, and dream research. His 'Thesaurus' (over 300 pages) is divided into four parts: Physical Environment; Culture and Psyche; People, Animals and Plants; and The Body. 

"Stevens presents vast learning easily and precisely in prose that is at once calm and exciting. A bibliography rich with recent references, a glossary, and a separate symbol index combine to make this a standard - if not the standard - in the field; essential for most libraries." 
E. James Lieberman, George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC., in The Library Journal.

"Considering symbols 'living entities with a life-cycle of their own' (that is, their meanings evolve rather than remain fixed), Stevens (a Jungian analyst and psychiatrist) begins this reference by exploring the origins, psychology, and use of symbols. The Thesaurus that follows is arranged thematically, and individual symbols are examined in detail. But the author offers the caveat that individuals should examine their own personal meanings for a particular symbol before reading what he has to say about it. Small pen and ink illustrations enhance the presentation."
Reference and Research Book News.

"Ariadne's Clue is probably the best available book on how to approach our dreams. It is a look at the world of symbolism (the landscape our dreams inhabit) and takes us deeply into the myths and traditions which make various animals and plants, heroes and heroines, objects and subjects, important to our inner selves. [Stevens] aims to show how our understanding of the symbols of our dreams can actually make waking reality more real, and how the dreams themselves help to adjust and fine-tune us and the way we function."
Derek Parker, The Good Book Guide.

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