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The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

Medical symbolism in connection with historical studies in the arts of healing and hygiene

by Thomas S. Sozinskey


Dear Sir :—Please accept my thanks for your paper on "Medical Symbolism," received this morning. I have read it with great interest, more especially as it is in the direction of the higher education of plrysicians. The preponderance of the so-called practical (empirical) in medical literature, which appeals strongly to the trade element in the profession, makes such a contribution all the more enjoyable.

Very truly yours,

Frances Emily White.

1427 N. Sixteenth St.

Dr. Sozinskey:

Dear Doctor :—Many thanks. You ought to enlarge the article to a little book. It interested me greatly. In a bas-relief of myself by St. Gaudens, New York, he has set beside the head the caduceus and twin serpents as symbolical; at all events, they will symbolize my relation to snakes.

Yours truly,

Weir Mitchell.

1524 Walndt St., PniLA.


Philadelphia, Jan. 23, 1884.

Dr. T. S. Sozinskey:

My Dear Doctor :—I write to thank you for a copy of your interesting and instructive paper on " Medical Symbolism." In Fergusson, on "Tree and Serpent Worship," which you quote, you can readily trace the connection between the emblems of religion and medicine. I recognize that, as priest and physician were once the same person, medicine is yet justly termed "the divine art." It affords me much pleasure to see your studious interest in your profession. Yours truly,

Henry H. Smith.




A Symbol is an illustration of a thing which, to use a poetic phrase, is " not what it seems." When a familiar object, or figure of any kind, from some cause or other, has attached to it a meaning different from the obvious and ordinary one, it is symbolic. Thus, if one take a poppy-head to convey the idea of sleep, it is a symbol; one may regard it as symbolic of sleep,'or, if he choose, of Hypnos (Somnus), the god of sleep. The illustration on the next page will afford a still more apt example. To the eye, it appears to be simply a partly coiled serpent resting on a pedestal. That is, in truth, what it is. But, regarded from the stand-point of the student of medical symbolism, it has another and very different signification. Before such a figure many a human being, diseased and suffering, has bowed in reverence and piously offered to it petitions for relief; to many a noble Greek and haughty Roman, indeed, to generations of such, it was a god, the great god of " the divine art," as medicine was often beautifully called in ancient times. The serpent is the most important of medical symbols.

In any composite figure the elements of it are spoken of as attributes; and of these some are essential and some conventional. The essential ones only are, strictly speaking, symbols. Thus, in a representation of the

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Goddess of Liberty, the cap is not a symbol; it is a conventional attribute. Says the learned and distinguished historian of ancient art, C. O. Miiller, "The essence of the symbol consists in the supposed real connections of the sign with the thing signified."1 In some authoritative works, as, for instance, that of Fairholt,2 the serpent in medical art is said not to be a symbol; but this is not true if it be taken to represent the god of medicine, which, as I have already stated, was done by both Greeks and Romans. Evidently, if taken as of this narrow meaning, there are not many comprehensive medical symbols. But I will take it in a wider sense; I will take it to mean any mystic figure or any kind of attribute. In doing so I do no more than Fairholt holds should be done. Referring to the words symbol, image, and allegorical figure as well as attribute, he says, "Their shades of difference are so slight that it would

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