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European Etymology of Images

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Phantasia, derived from Fantasy and Fancy, was a popular word with ancient Greek Stoics (c308 BC) and they gave it much of its modern meaning. After those terms were translated by the Roman Cicero (106-43 BC) into Notion and Comprehension, Latin rendered them into Image in the sense of Mental Image. Cicero then employed Image (and Spectre) in discussing these Epicurean (pleasure) expressions in his odd theory of Perception. He held that the surfaces of all objects are continually throwing off 'images'--kinds of films or husks which float about in space and, at last, penetrating into the mind through pores of the body. Both the Stoics' "Phantasia" and Democritus' (460-370 BC) word 'Eidolon' (Phantom)--translated as 'Ideal Image' by Cicero--contributed parts of their meaning to the later "Imagination." Aristotle referred to ideas in potency as Phantasmata (i.e. phantasm or image) whereby the active intellect operates on the phantasm to produce a universal nature Image. In Biblical times 'Images' original meaning was effigy or likeness (Gen. i. 27) and thus to form a mental image was to "imagine"--picture to oneself as a copy, reproduction, or duplication of a thing. The C13 word "Imagery" (French, to form image) was for images collectively, visible or mental representations, or embodiments of something, as in pictures. Its earlier Biblical meaning was "Idol(s)"; then "carved images"; and then "images." In C13, "Image" meant a physical figure given as a "likeness (nearly identical in appearance or characteristics), representation, or copy of something's natural shape"; the 'outlines' sent by objects to ones senses in perception; a thought, conception; a semblance (a token appearance); similarity (something alike in some respects); an appearance; a shadow; a statue; an impression; and a picture. Likeness was also in C13 the earliest meaning of Imago (from the same source as "Imitate"), which developed the sense of Phantom, Conception, or Idea; then an idealized figure or phantasy of what a person beloved in childhood stands for--usually a parent.

The commonest Images were deemed to be ones parents and with the deepest, the mother-child relation. The mother then maintains a continuum of the psychic atmosphere, exercising a marked influence as a control and as a standard in later life. Vision (C13, something seen in the imagination) embraced all of these Image and Imago senses. Subsequently, it developed a range of secondary senses--e.g. "Echo," "Ghost," a reflection seen in a mirror or through the lens of a camera. Some added that an Image occupies the grey area between Concept and Intuition. Image was then distinguished as a mental representation of an earlier sensory experience, a copy of it--a copy less vivid than the sensory experience but still consciously recognizable as a memory of it--i.e. an 'act as if' picture in the head. The physical sense of Image dominated until C17. But it started expanding in the C16 into predominantly mental references. Hence, within the category of Structuralism (analyzing "Things") the three subclasses of Consciousness were Image, Sensations, and Affections. The C17 brought Images' important specialized use to indicate a "Figure" of writing, speech, or religious Art (later taking on an unfavorable connotation by overlapping with Idol). "Generic Image" arose in C19 to indicate a bridge between the 'concrete' data of sensation and general concepts--a kind of composite photograph--the product of a variety of individual sensations of a particular kind.

Next all of its meanings were overtaken by Image in terms of publicity, which can be seen to depend on the earlier senses of conception or character type but which in practice means 'perceived Reputation', as in the commercial brand image or a politician's concern with his image. A today's meaning is the overall judgments of relevant others to an individual, institution, organization, or nation. Nevertheless, in general, an Image can be considered as a visible representation, having or supposed to have a close resemblance to the concrete thing it represents. Those images appearing from ones inner world (e.g. imagination, insights, dreams, thoughts, feelings) or ones outer world (e.g. patterns of Nature) can have application on any metaphysical or objective plane--singularly or straddling two or more. Behind these variable meanings is the belief that they enable mentally seeing the images leading, on the one hand, to a surprise Apperceptive (recalled memory) remembering of something hazy or forgotten; and, on the other hand, to an awakening of ones higher powers.


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