Association of ideas, of images, of thoughts; whatever names may be given to the counters added together with delight by the mind, equalling in its scrupulous hoarding the passion of the miser, association is the same mode of mental activity which once gave being to the theory of correspondences and which still presents the same riddle to the reason. Just so was the Sphinx itself the riddle that it asked, and is even yet a symbol of the unchanging deep of man's mind: it displays the blank mask behind which there lies the most entrancing and the most terrible problem. The riddle is propounded as well as answered in the one word Man, and the key to the mystery of Man is, it may be, Mind. And the mental associations with which the mind plays in a childlike ecstasy of joy with, perhaps more than a child's innocence, are the basis of the artist's mode of representation and his purpose in representing.
The world of old based its intellectual system on analogy, but in a different mode, even to a different end from our day. To live in a splendour of joy in the knowledge of the Gods, to call on them and to see them appear in anthropomorphic glory, was the ancient dream. To-day's visionary dreams towards dissecting the fabric of the ultimate particle of matter with some unimagined mechanical device of incredible ingenuity to the end-? That an end may be found-? Or a newer labyrinth in the immarcessible mind of the demiurge be unveiled? Or is it that and aged man may whimper in his ragged beard, "A new field is opened to human research," and so die?
Of all those writers who have consistently used and maintained this doctrine of correspondences, of divine analogy and signatures, the two now best known are Jacob Boehme and William Blake. The effective labors of Swedenborg, familiar as is his name, are little known as literature compared to the dark splendours of these others, his predecessor and his successor, although his work throws a valuable-indeed, a necessary-light on theirs. That others have used the system in their measure, and that, indeed, all poets employ a closely related system of analogy in metaphor is but faintly recognized; and the poet's mastery would seem to be in its application with such art that the most recondite allusion should appear as if drawn by intense emotion, in passionate regard, from nature without the intervention of intellectual thought or labour, and in such manner that the association of images should appear to be immediate. Truly this subtle clarifying of intellectual effort in Shakespeare or Shelley has the fine directness of the light and is free of that murky glow of hidden fires and their sultry glory, which obscures the images of those who speak with too ardent a passion for their day's particular theology. That these heretical great poets, seeming to disregard the authoritarian science of the gods of their times have a deeper intimacy with the "soul of the world dreaming of things to come" is a thesis which would require for its exposition the invention of a new apparatus of criticism. Yet even without this, evidence in favour of the argument, derived comparatively, may be drawn from images and symbols of the greater poets.
That the symbol is of peculiar force in the "unconscious" mind, wide extended in range, liberated by obscure and ill-understood phases of emotion, and both inhibiting or sublimating in power, is accepted to-day by psychologists; yet a limited and a purely pathological quality is attributed to it. Its power to set free emotion, to induce a mood or mode of thinking is probably its premary value in the greater normal range of human interests; but its secondary quality, that it is given off by, or that it indicates, repressed emotion, is the only one accepted by professed analysts of the soul.
But until new names became the mode, these matters went under the general title of magic, in which astrology had an essential part. A slight reading of the works of astrologers gives ample evidence that they attached great importance to the constellation myths as containing a system of symbolism, but the interrelation of these myths, and even the philosophic ordering and interplay of the signs of the Zodiac as symbols has never been stated with any clarity or directness. On the subject of the Zodiac of the Alchemist, which was definitely stated to be not of the same nature as that of the Astrologer, we have vague statements only to go upon. The Bible, however, in particular the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and most of all, the Apocalypse of St. John, as well as the mythology of Greece, were regarded by them as directly important, and references from these sources were given as of authority. Neccessarily, the relation of all myth and religious revelation to Alchemy and Astrology can only be maintained if all are examined in the common terms of psychology, when it will be found that a clearer connection manifests itself amongst them.