Unreal Nature

February 26, 2012

Imagining Itself

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:08 am

… as we see into images of both deep space and the brain, we also see psyche imagining itself.

Continuing through The Book of Symbols, eds. Ami Ronnberg and Kathleen Martin (2010):

Bone: … Since human and animal flesh decays rather quickly after death, leaving the bones behind, bone is a tangible reminder of the loss of life and at the same time alludes to something substantive that transcends the death of the bodily flesh.

… Classical cultures identified the marrow of thigh bones, the fluids of brain, spine and knee, the sticky stuff of the viscera next to bones, with the dew of life, strength and generation, analogous to the sap of plants in the pulp, around the seed case. The Latin os, bone, refers not only to the substance of the skeleton, but metaphorically to one’s inmost part, one’s soul, or the hard or innermost part of trees or fruits; their seed or stone or “heart.”

Spine: … The word “spine” comes from the botanical word meaning “thorn” or “prickle.” Each individual vertebra has a dorsal projection called a spine and at the same time the heartwood (duramen) of a tree, like a backbone as a whole, is also known as its spine. One of the most important symbols to the ancient Egyptians was the djed pillar, which suggests both tree and spine.

… According to Eric Neumann, the many meanings of the djed column symbolize essential features of the principle of integration that leads to “duration,” “transformation” and the “ascent” from mere biology to consciousness. Sacred poles (and in the human body, the backbone) unite symbolically what is below with what is above, earth with heaven — or the ego with the realm of archetypes.

Skin: … is a responsive, tactile boundary between self and other, and the inside and outside of the individual. Vital to survival, skin is the geography where two can meet.

… skin is a canvas on which to portray symbolic elaborations of social standing and personal identity … In the Inuit imagination, one could encounter an animal that pulled back its skin to reveal a human, or a human that pulled back its skin to reveal an animal — such was the shifting, fluid nature of the psychic landscape and its interconnections.

Head: … Throughout human history the head has been hunted, preserved, venerated, offered as sacrifice and even eaten. The uppermost part of the body, it contains the brain, eyes, ears, nose and mouth, all essential elements of human awareness, inspiration and expression. Most ancient peoples located soul, vitality, power and daimon or genius (divine spirit) in the head. Heads are universally believed to contain the essential spirit of a person or deity.

… Only recently in the scientific age has the head come to represent reason and mind; ancient peoples considered these to reside in the heart and chest, while the head contained psyche, fertile essence and incorruptible life. Symbolically, the ancient view still holds true in the unconscious of modern individuals. Round and simple at the beginning of life, transformed into a differentiated mandala at the end and beyond, the head symbolizes the vessel and substance of life’s eternal re-creations.

Brain: … It is only recently that the brain was recognized as the locus of consciousness. For the ancients, the abode of thought and feeling was imagined to be, variously, in the heart, chest or liver.


Anne Thulin, Dura Mater and Pia Mater (Hard Mother and Soft Mother), sculptures in iron and rubber, 1999

… Subject to both brainwashing and brainstorming, our imagination about the brain is informed as much by our fantasies about our essential natures, as by scientific and technological innovation. As the terrae incognitae of the universe and the brain open to exploration, it is worth noting that as we see into images of both deep space and the brain, we also see psyche imagining itself.

Hair: … is incredibly potent. Its root follicles, fed by tiny blood vessels, lie invisibly under the skin, associating hair with interior, involuntary fantasies, thoughts and longings. … Hair carries DNA and thus codes race, ethnicity and gender, but the cut or characteristics of a head of hair can also reveal individuality or conformity, freedom or inhibition, even religion, profession, political persuasion and the idols or trendsetters with whom a person identifies.

Baldness: … The notion of inner change is crucial to the symbolic meaning of baldness. To have one’s head ritually shaved conveys the idea of consecration, initiation and spiritual transformation.

… The symbolic strength of baldness is, perhaps, precisely because it expresses the surface of the head — the brainpan and vessel of understanding and potential change, the container of one’s intimate thoughts and imaginings. While baldness is associated symbolically with receptivity to the spiritual and with new life, it also evokes psychic as well as physical nakedness and acute vulnerability. The inevitability of change may require one to submit to a state of baldness, where images of beginning and end, masculine and feminine, nature and spirit lose their sharp distinctions.

Previous symbols are here.

-Julie

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