Editorial Note to Volume II of the Encyclopedia of Archetypal Images

Editorial Note
Volume II of the Encyclopedia of Archetypal Images

by Ami Ronnberg

With a large project like the Encyclopedia and a staff of only a few people, each one has played many roles. It has been a pleasure to work with Karen Arm (Assistant Managing Editor and Assistant Curator), George Elder (National Editor of ARAS and author of this volume), and Charles Taylor (Editorial Chairman of the Encyclopedia project), and I have learned much from each of them. As Curator of the Archive I worked mainly on selecting the images, coordinating the contributions of the research consultants, and compiling the index.
Making the selection of images has bee a collective effort. Imagine a large room full of art books and file drawers containing 13,000 images of sacred and symbolic art from prehistory to the present. This was the setting for our many image-selection meetings at the Archive. There was always a feeling of exhilaration during this part of the project when we found our own favorite images. As anyone knows who has spent time reflecting on images, one begins to feel that one knows them deep within. Ultimately, it was this sense of recognition in body and mind that helped us decide whether we had found the right picture.
In choosing art for The Body, we were looking for the most striking images from as many cultures and time periods as possible. Some go back to the time when humans first began to express themselves in images. In this way the book reflects not only our time, which might be called the "heroic era"-with its principles of spirit perceived as masculine-but also reaches back to the time before the hero, to the time before writing, "before history." This earliest era shows a great goddess from whom all life was born. Her forms and images were as varied as nature itself. She could be seen in the starry vault of heaven and the earth below, she was the fruit-bearing tree, the fruit, and the serpent encircling the tree, or she was carved into the form of a woman's body, like the small but powerful Venus of Laussel whose image opens our book.
Many scholars have generously contributed to this work. We consulted specialists in the fields of archaeology, anthropology, art history, and the history of religion for the best and latest materials to help guide the writing of the descriptions and the cultural commentaries, in particular, that accompany the representation of each image. This research included copies of journals, bibliographies, of the most important books in the field, and their own interpretations of the image at hand. We are immensely grateful to these scholars for their willingness to share their knowledge and to enrich this book; they are recognized by name in the credits facing the title page. In a sense their contributions are the "backbone" of this volume.
The index of the Encyclopedia, based on the unique cataloging system that is used in ARAS, is designed to lead the reader through related themes in both text and image. In addition, the index provides an initial overview of a particular symbol. For example, the reader who looks up "Ears, pierced" can begin to have some understanding about this symbolism before continuing to read the essays. At that entry one can learn that pierced ears are associated not only with beauty and luxury but also with protection, penance, and transformation. One might feel moved to look up "Transformation" under this entry and there again find that the index indicates that there are various facets to this particular item. Using the index attentively may thus suggest something of the web of connections that exist within the archetypal psyche. It is our hope that those connections are manifest.
As I was writing this note a letter arrived from a friend who was recovering from an illness. She wrote: "My body has been heard increasingly these last few months. My body has always been neglected, its voice deadened consistently." Many voices are calling our attention to nature and the body. Behind the harsh language of addictions, illnesses, or the earth's pollution we may discover new instructions for how to live. Without the wisdom of nature our culture cannot survive. We are being challenged to see the natural body no longer separated from soul or spirit, just as modern science has begun to discover that an image in our mind can affect the body and bring about our healing. Maybe the Voice of the Devil in William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell knows a new truth-or one as old as the goddess-about the body when he says: "Man has no Body distinct from his soul; for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age." In word and image the theme of this book is a reflection on that same paradoxical vision, the conscious reunion of body and psyche.