Search Results for representation
Representation in both the literary and artistic sense refers to depicting through language, music, visual art or dance some psychological, social, political or spiritual idea or environment.
C. G. Jung believed that representation was essential to the healthy growth of the psyche. He envisioned the conscious ego as a relatively small entity that must, through representation, express and therefore control the immense powers of the archetypes of the collective unconscious.
Postmoderns question to what degree representation actually represents some supposed thing and to what degree the process of representation creates it. Further distinctions are made in anthropology, philosophy and theology between second-order, conceptual realities and first-order sense datum.
In abstract art some believe that the personality and personal message of the artist can be removed from the overall representational message, whereas others say this is impossible–i.e. the artist, artwork and viewer will always exist in some kind of relationship.
In Platonic philosophy and much of the theology of the Middle Ages questions were raised as to the possibility of eternal, unchanging essences or ideas which are imperfectly represented in our world of change and decay.
» Active Imagination, Archetypal Image, Barthes (Roland), Bultmann (Rudolf), Cockburn (Bruce), Durkheim (Emile), Emic-Etic, Icon, Object, Participation Mystique, Surrealism, Wittgenstein, Ludwig (Josef Johann), Yoni
According to the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, the archetypal image is a representation of an underlying archetype. Archetypal images symbolize and mediate the psychological power of the collective unconscious to the ego (i.e everyday consciousness).
Through different types of expression (e.g. works of art and architecture), mankind translates these hidden archetypal forces into the observable world of human culture.
Some modern and ancient examples of archetypal images would be figures like Godzilla, the Klingons, The Cylons, Luke Skywalker, Spiderman, Superman, Superwoman, Batgirl, Marilyn Monroe, Spock, the Magician, the Witch, the Angel, Yahweh and the Devil.
Jung believes the ancients did not always see archetypal images as mere symbols, but often as actual things in themselves. The Indian sun god, Surya, for instance, was not a symbol but a real deity, diurnally traveling across and lighting up the sky in a splendid chariot. Likewise, many American Indian cultures firmly believe their myths tell of actual ancient events and heroic ancestors. And today, Catholics believe that the Eucharist is not just a symbol but the real presence – in essence but not form – of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.¹
On the topic of UFOs, Jung believed the rounded flying saucers of the 1950s were archetypal images of the human self, not unlike the mandala. By the same token, Jung didn’t rule out the possibility of actual UFOs.
However, Jung was not as open-minded with regard to Christian truth-claims, choosing to adapt them to his own theories. At times he speaks of the crucifixion of Jesus, for instance, as producing an upwardly skewed symbol of the self (i.e. the crucifix) instead of seeing Jesus’ death as a saving sacrifice and absolute victory over evil, as do most Christians. Some might argue that Jung’s and the Christian view do not really differ. Others do believe that they differ on important points—most notably, on the nature of and how to deal with evil.²
¹ Belief, alone, does not create truth out of falsehood. But as Plato pointed out, a true belief does relate to an actual truth, if not knowledge of that truth.
² An interesting follow-up to this point can be found in Jung’s relationship with the Dominican priest, Victor White. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_White_%28priest%29
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Around the 6th century CE Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite‘s The Celestial Hierarchy outlined three groups of hierarchically arranged angels. And angels are mentioned in the Jewish Kabbala as inhabiting seven heavenly halls.
Both Jewish and Christian (especially Catholic and Baptist) cosmologies differentiate angels from gods—unlike gods, angels are never worshipped. Instead angels are revered or called upon as beings created by God.
However, the study of world religions is far from easy. And misunderstandings and uncertainties lead many to question this difference. For example, some gods in the Zoroastrian Avesta or the Hindu pantheon are worshipped as deities subservient to or representing a single God. And some casual observers liken these to angels without asking if the character and function of angels and gods could possibly differ.
In a somewhat Christianized Neoplatonism we find that Proclus (4th century CE) adapts ancient Greek philosophy in relation to otherworldly beings:
In the commentaries of Proclus (4th century, under Christian rule) on the Timaeus of Plato, Proclus uses the terminology of “angelic” (aggelikos) and “angel” (aggelos) in relation to metaphysical beings. According to Aristotle, just as there is a First Mover, so, too, must there be spiritual secondary movers.¹
Mystically inclined Christians tend to believe that angels are slightly more dignified than human beings, as evident in the Old Testament:
What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:6-8 NIV).
Gnostics, on the other hand, generally regard human beings as superior to angels. For Gnostics, angels serve God by serving humanity.
Jewish apocalyptic literature tells the story of the fall of the angel Satan – the author of all lies and evil – and his dark angels in terms of their unwillingness to humble themselves before mankind. And Jesus Christ sees Satan fall in the New Testament story:
I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning” (Luke 10:18).
Contemporary beliefs about angels take a different tone from the more traditional understanding. Some writers suggest that the warm, loving presence of angelic beings can be felt in every part of the body, almost like a romantic, sensual relationship.
This idea is found in the 19th century novel Ardath: The Story of a Dead Self by Marie Corelli (1889):
And by and by, as each mellifluous stanza sounded softly on his ears, a strangely solemn tranquility swept over him,–a most soothing halcyon calm, as though some passing angel’s hand had touched his brow in benediction…Ah! ’tis a glittering pathway in the skies whereon men and the angels meet and know each other! …she stretched out her hands toward him: “Speak to me, dearest one!” she murmured wistfully–”Tell me,–am I welcome?” “O exquisite humility!–O beautiful maiden-timid hesitation! Was she,–even she, God’s Angel, so far removed from pride, as to be uncertain of her lover’s reception of such a gift of love? Roused from his half-swooning sense of wonder, he caught those gentle hands, and laid them tenderly against his breast,–tremblingly, and all devoutly, he drew the lovely, yielding form into his arms, close to his heart,–with dazzled sight he gazed down into that pure, perfect face, those clear and holy eyes shining like new- created stars beneath the soft cloud of clustering fair hair!
And yet Corelli also mentions the stunning beauty of evil angels:
His countenance, darkly threatening and defiant, was yet beautiful with the evil beauty of a rebellious and fallen angel.
Throughout history many believe they have been guided by a guardian angel.
St. Basil writes,
Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life (Catholic Catechism, par 336).
The philosopher Leibniz (1646 – 1716) claimed that angels communicate with a universal language, and began to develop a universal symbolic language that would help human beings communicate among universities.²
The Roman Catholic catechism doesn’t place too much emphasis on angels but does affirm their existence as servants of God and man.
From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession (Catholic Catechism, par 336).
Glorifying God, Catholic angels are said to be spiritual powers whose perfection – in contrast to Gnostic belief – surpasses that of human beings. Created by God, Catholic angels are inferior to Christ and the prophets but nearer to God, making them higher than human beings.
As for the contemporary notion that angels and aliens (ETs) are simply different cultural representations of the same basic essence, the American evangelist Billy Graham, among others, insists that angels and aliens are mutually exclusive.³
² Geert Lovink says “Leibniz also philosophized about a computer based on a binary numerical system. In 1679 he wrote, ”Despite its length, the binary system, in other words counting with 0 and 1, is scientifically the most fundamental system, and leads to new discoveries. When numbers are reduced to 0 and 1, a beautiful order prevails everywhere” (See “The Archeology of Computer Assemblage” 1992 at http://www.mediamatic.net/article-8664-en.html).
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Active Imagination is a therapeutic technique developed by C. G. Jung that uses some form of self-expression, such as a fantasy-image, to represent and analyze the contents of the hypothesized collective unconscious.¹
Active imagination may involve artistic representation but this is secondary to its essentially internal character.
Jung says imaginary changes within active imagination should be carefully observed and noted because they indicate underlying unconscious processes.
In advanced stages of active imagination, Jung suggests a more direct engagement with imaginary contents, where one places oneself on the stage, as it were, of the unconscious to become one of the players. By doing so, one explores unconscious attitudes toward a person or situation by running imaginary trials – fantasy dialogue or interactions – that Jung says contribute to an overall integration of the unconscious within consciousness.
Jung, himself, practiced active imagination deeply, going as far to say that he was guided by a “ghost guru” called Philemon.² When Jung became bored with Philemon, however, he cut him off.
We cannot know whether Jung was dealing with a spiritual being, a personification of an archetype, or a mere product of his imagination.
Due to a hypothesized interconnectedness of all things, some depth psychologists and New Age enthusiasts believe that the internal dialogue of active imagination has real effects on other people and the visible world. But this claim is hard to prove in the usual scientific sense.
The American psychologist/philosopher William James similarly wrote in The Varieties of Religious Experience about ‘thought insertion,’ where the power of thought apparently influences another person at a distance. Today, the archaic idea of ‘thought insertion’ is sometimes called Remote Influence within parapsychological circles. Or in a negative sense, some believe that the mind can be psychically “hacked” like a computer on the internet.
Jung mentioned but didn’t emphasize the of Remote Influence in his published works, perhaps to avoid negative repercussions from skeptics and the “medical materialists,” as he put it, of his era.
However, Jung did speak of belonging to an alleged “inner circle” of notable, mystically inclined thinkers like the novelist Herman Hesse and the Chilean diplomat Miguel Serrano.
The idea of Active imagination is similar to Shakti Gawain’s notion of creative visualization but is more about developing psychological balance instead of achieving external goals.
¹ Antecedents to Jung’s therapy can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_imagination
² Jung’s father was a Protestant pastor and Jung, himself, had extensive knowledge of the Christian Bible. So a skeptic could point out that Philemon is a character in the New Testament. Would Jung have actively imagined Philemon had he not been steeped in the Gospels? In reply, one could ask, does it matter? Those sympathetic to Jung’s claims could say that God knew all about the preconditions leading up to Jung’s active imagination. The fact that his father was a pastor and that Jung knew the name Philemon from the Bible does not invalidate the idea that the collective unconscious (or possibly a spirit) spoke to Jung.
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Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) was a German theologian of Lutheran origin who tried to strip away the mythic and ambiguous aspects of the Bible. Bultmann hoped to provide a universal representation of Christ. He believed that trying to pin down the historical details of Christ’s life, including specific teachings by word and example, didn’t really matter.¹ What mattered for Bultmann was that Christ lived, taught and died by crucifixion.²
Perhaps part of the reason Bultmann is not exactly a household name is due to C. G. Jung‘s observation that mankind usually needs myth and symbolic images to fill in the gaps and point to higher realities in ways that dry, intellectual theology cannot.
Hindus, too, recognize the importance of stories and sentimental imagery for many believers. Rather than looking down on this as some kind of childish crutch, those sympathetic to the many ways that religious believers connect with their God see the mythic aspect of religion as indispensable tools. After all, not everyone is attracted to books and intellectual theories. Some people just want to be close to their God. And they’ll naturally do this in a way that suits them best. So, if mythic stories and pretty pictures do it, then so be it.
On the other hand, Bultmann probably appeals to those who see themselves as intellectuals. And also to those who are appalled at how some fundamentalists cherry pick certain stories from religious texts and uphold them as truth—and, as it usually follows, uphold them as alleged proof that certain beliefs and behaviors are unnatural or evil.
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Martin Buber (1878-1965) was a Viennese-born Israeli-Jewish theologian, best known for his 1922 classic, Ich und Du (I and Thou).
Buber has been described as a modern representative of a heterodox form of Jewish mysticism called Hasidism. His work is often mentioned in university philosophy and religion courses, mostly for his description of relating to others and to God in terms of an “I – Thou” (Ich‑Du) relationship. This, for Buber, is the only authentic way to relate.
Ich‑Du (“I‑Thou” or “I‑You”) is a relationship that stresses the mutual, holistic existence of two beings. It is a concrete encounter, because these beings meet one another in their authentic existence, without any qualification or objectification of one another. Even imagination and ideas do not play a role in this relation.†
Buber contrasts the “I – Thou” relationship to an “I – It” (Ich-Es) relationship. “I – It” relationships involve the intellect, concepts, projections, etc of another person instead of their authentic source.
The Ich-Es (“I‑It”) relationship is nearly the opposite of Ich‑Du. Whereas in Ich‑Du the two beings encounter one another, in an Ich‑Es relationship the beings do not actually meet. Instead, the “I” confronts and qualifies an idea, or conceptualization, of the being in its presence and treats that being as an object. All such objects are considered merely mental representations, created and sustained by the individual mind.†
Buber believes that “I – Thou” relationships are quite rare. In reality most of us oscillate between seeing others in “I – Thou” and “I – it” terms.
When applying the “I – Thou” model to the way we relate to God, this stance may be contrasted to religious systems that advocate the ego becoming lost, engulfed or absorbed in God. Buber never eradicates the individual. It’s always about relationship, either respectful, loving and reverent (authentic) or cold, distant and opportunistic (inauthentic).
Unlike some so-called intellectuals who don’t practice what they preach, Buber resigned from his teaching post in Frankfurt when Adolf Hitler came to power. He left Germany in 1938 to settle in Jerusalem, where he continued to try to put his philosophical ideals into practice.
† For these quotes and their relation to other philosophers like Immanuel Kant, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Buber
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Hieronymus Bosch (Originally Jerome van Aken, 1450-1516) was a Catholic Painter from the Netherlands born in Hertogenbosch. Later in life he was suspected of heresy, which is not surprising, considering the times and the nature of much of his work.
Bosch’s depictions of demons and hell are horridly convincing, perhaps enough to compel some of the most hardened of sinners to repent and pray.
The contemporary treatment of Bosch’s work is illustrative. Prestigious art galleries display his frightening and gruesome representations without any public protest while fundamentalist and conservative religious persons point to the alleged debauchery and danger in rock and rap music videos, seeing these as indicative of a decline in cultural morality.
This arguably is a form of hypocrisy and, perhaps, racism against black rappers. In any case, it illustrates how societies, or certain aspects of a given society, can be arbitrary and selective when pointing the proverbial finger.
Many people don’t realize that representing evil doesn’t necessarily mean that an artist (or writer) advocates evil. In fact, C. G. Jung argued the opposite. Jung believed that evil left unrepresented or “swept under the rug” just reemerges in equally disgusting forms—a point that many religious persons and pillars of society sometimes overlook.¹
Among Bosch’s most popular works are The Garden of Earthly Delights (in the Prado) and the Temptation of St Anthony (at Lisbon). Bosch also had a noticeable impact on Surrealism.
Interestingly enough, there’s ongoing debate over how many of Bosch’s works were actually created by Bosch. He only signed seven works and art scholars agree on a mere 25 that they believe can be attributed to him. Many other works once thought to be Bosch’s are now thought to be those of his followers and imitators, his style being hugely influential.
¹ A similar dynamic occurred with satirical writings and dialogues of Erasmus (1466 – 1536). Martin Luther denounced Erasmus’ Ten Colloquies and vowed to tell his son not to read them. Even some of Erasmus’ friends and patrons didn’t like some of his work. Craig Thompson notes that, in his defense, Erasmus distinguished between (a) content appropriate for characters and dramatic situations and (b) an author’s actual opinions. See Erasmus, Ten Colloquies, trans. Craig R. Thompson 1986, MacMillan, pp. xxv – xxvii.
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Behaviorism is a psychological theory that sees mankind as operating more like a machine than as a free agent. Its modern form arose in reaction to so-called armchair philosophers, depth psychologists and alleged mystics who tried to understand human motivation in terms of what went on inside the mind or soul. For behaviorists, what really counts is what we can directly observe—in a word, behavior.
This approach is traceable to thinkers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke David Hume, George Berkeley and David Hartley. Hobbes viewed man as a natural and social creature, while the others stressed the importance of the association of ideas.
In 1739, the so-called British empiricist philosopher David Hume wrote in A Treatise of Human Nature:
The qualities, from which…association arises, and by which the mind is after this manner conveyed from one idea to another, are three, viz. resemblance, contiguity in time or place, and cause and effect.¹
Most will say that the scientific study of behaviorism begins with the Russian, Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), who conditioned dogs to salivate not just at the sight of food but also at the sound of a bell that preceded feeding.
The American psychologist J. B. Watson (1878-1958) generalized these findings to human beings, emphasizing the importance of recency and frequency. This means that if we’ve smiled every time we’ve seen a child for the past ten years, we’re very likely to smile if we see a child today. The American B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) extended this system to include the idea of positive and negative reinforcement.
Pavlov’s type of learning is usually called classical conditioning, while Skinner’s is called operant conditioning. Skinner soon became the most popular advocate of behaviorism. He argues that past reinforcements determine behavior. We learn to repeat or decline behaviors based on their consequences. This is called the Stimulus-Response-Reinforcement (S-R-R) model.
Skinner also formulated the idea of shaping. By controlling the environmental rewards and punishments for behaviors, one is able to shape behavior. Psychologist also call this behavior modification.
Critics of behaviorism say it depicts a soulless, mechanistic view of mankind. Instead of resembling a pleasure-seeking machine, critics say that human beings are uniquely free, replete with emotional, intuitive, intellectual and spiritual concerns extending well beyond the narrow confines of reward and punishment.
Daniel Dennett contends that human beings are Skinnerian, Popperian and also Darwinian creatures. This means that we learn from stimulus, response and reinforcement but we also have the inner ability to test our hypotheses prior to enacting them in the real world.
This challenges Skinner’s anti-mentalism, as does Dennett’s Darwinian component. According to Dennett we act partially in accord with ancestrally acquired knowledge. A good example of this can be found in our capacity for language. Because of our language skills, many believe that human beings are hard-wired to learn languages. And we do, in fact, learn language if we’re raised in the right kind of environment, whereas a child parented by wolves in the wild won’t learn how to speak a language.²
¹ David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature London: Collins, 1962 , p. 54.
² Wittgenstein’s notion of a private language might seem to challenge this idea. But Wittgenstein, himself, argues that any kind of representation that isn’t socially shared cannot truly be language. More recently, the postmodern notion of connotation complicates this claim. Some postmoderns ask: If everyone understands signs differently, are we really communicating?
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Roland Barthes (1915-1980) was a French semiologist, best known for his book Mythologies (1957). Barthes argued that most of what we assume to be natural could be products of history and culture. More specifically, linguistic and artistic representations play a crucial role in the naturalization of arbitrary and morally ambiguous historical events.
By way of example, politically active gay persons usually challenge the following argument:
Homosexuality is ethically bad because it is unnatural, and heterosexuality is ethically good because it is natural.
Critics will say that, according to this line of reasoning, a deadly rattlesnake could be good for children because it is natural. And this seems a valid critique of this kind of argument. Regardless of one’s beliefs about the joys or horrors of homosexuality, to challenge it with this type of reasoning is philosophically weak.
Barthes also makes a distinction between readerly and writerly text, outlined well at Wikipedia:
A text that makes no requirement of the reader to “write” or “produce” their own meanings. The reader may passively locate “ready-made” meaning. Barthes writes that these sorts of texts are “controlled by the principle of non-contradiction” (156), that is, they do not disturb the “common sense,” or “Doxa,” of the surrounding culture. The “readerly texts,” moreover, “are products [that] make up the enormous mass of our literature” (5). Within this category, there is a spectrum of “replete literature,” which comprises “any classic (readerly) texts” that work “like a cupboard where meanings are shelved, stacked, [and] safeguarded” (200).
A text that aspires to the proper goal of literature and criticism: “… to make the reader no longer a consumer but a producer of the text” (4). Writerly texts and ways of reading constitute, in short, an active rather than passive way of interacting with a culture and its texts. A culture and its texts, Barthes writes, should never be accepted in their given forms and traditions. As opposed to the “readerly texts” as “product,” the “writerly text is ourselves writing, before the infinite play of the world is traversed, intersected, stopped, plasticized by some singular system (Ideology, Genus, Criticism) which reduces the plurality of entrances, the opening of networks, the infinity of languages” (5). Thus reading becomes for Barthes “not a parasitical act, the reactive complement of a writing,” but rather a “form of work”¹
However, this distinction seems spurious, for readers are always interpreting and creating as they take in a text, regardless of if being a so-called “classic” text or an “avante-garde” text. In fact, avant garde texts usually emerge within some new kind of clique or arts group that can be just as “bourgeois” as traditional groups. This was made abundantly clear whenever I attended a Cultural Studies class in university, which usually reeked with the snobbery of style exuded by some students living on their wealthy parents’ credit cards.
¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes#Key_terms. See more on this distinction here: http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca/~raha/700_701_web/BarthesLO/readerly.html
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