The key above is in the words that a "symbol is not a thing but rather a conspiracy between things". This conspiracy forms the correspondence. A symbol is the sum of all of these correspondences or conspiracies. One is reminded of the quote in the previous section from Robert Meredith and John Fitzgerald that the "symbol is like a metaphor that has lost its bond with something close and searches to bond itself to many other words." The words it attempts to bond with are words which represent various senses and perceptions.
The affinities and correspondences between the various senses really comprises a type of sub-theory within the larger context of the Theory of Correspondence. The Theory of Synaesthesia holds that there are mysterious affinities between the sense of sound and other senses. The literary technique of synaesthesia utilizes a blending or confusion of different kinds of sense-impression in which one type of sensation is referred to in terms more appropriate to another. Common synaesthetic expressions include the descriptions of colors as "loud" or "warm" and of sounds as "smooth". The Symbolists sought to bring poetry closer to music in the belief that sound had these mysterious qualities.
In the most complete classification of symbols ever undertaken, the Spaniard J.E. Cirlot writes in his important and influencial Dictionary of Symbols that the Theory of Correspondences is "founded upon the assumption that all cosmic phenomena are limited and serial and that they appear as scales or series on separate planes." However, Cirlot notes, "this condition is neither chaotic nor neutral, for the components of one series are linked with those of another in their essence and in their ultimate significance." The French philosopher Ely Star offers some examples of this in his book Les Mysteres du verbe where he writes that each "of the colors of the prism is analogous to one of the seven faculties of the human soul, to the seven virtues and the seven vices, to the geometric forms and to the planets."
Correspondences between meaning and situation can certainly be found in the physical world. Cirlot provides an example of the correspondence between speed and height. Sound, he notes, is more shrill (or higher) the faster it moves, and more soft (or lower) the slower it moves. Hence, speed corresponds to height and slowness to lowness within a binary system. Correspondences can also be found between colors and distance. "If cold colors are retrogressive," Cirlot writes, "then coldness corresponds to distance, and warmth to nearness." In Les Mysteres de l'Etre, Ely Star suggests correspondences between colors and musical notes: violet (the leading-note); red (the tonic); orange (the super-tonic); yellow (the mediant); green (the sub-dominant); blue (the dominant) and indigo (the sub-mediant).
The Theory of Correspondences is closely tied to philosphy and history. Cirlot proposes that the attributes of the ancient gods were really nothing less than unformulated correspondences. Venus, for example, was felt to correspond with the rose, the shell, the dove, the apple, the girdle and the myrtle. He notes that the Greeks, the Cabbalists and the Gnostics founded a great deal of their philosophy upon the theory of correspondences. Porphyry mentions the following relationships between the Greek vowels and the planets: alpha corresponding to the moon; epsilon to Mercury; eta to Venus; iota to the sun; omicron to Mars; upsilon to Jupiter and omega to Saturn. Cirlot notes that the symbolism of plants, scents and animals is often based upon the theory of correspondences or derivations of it. For example, the oak (by association with the sun); the walnut (with the moon); the olive tree (with Mercury); the pine (with Saturn).
Among the most important systems of correspondences is the Zodiac. Corresponding to the twelve signs of the Zodiac one finds the months of the year, the tribes of Israel, the labors of Hercules and the color scale. There is also the correspondence between the Zodiac signs and the parts of the human body: Aries (corresponding to the head); Taurus (the neck and throat); Gemini (the shoulders and arms); Cancer (the chest and stomach); Leo (the heart, lungs and liver); Virgo (the belly and intestines); Libra (the backbone and marrow); Scorpio (the kidneys and the genitals); Sagittarius (the thighs); Capricorn (the knees); Aquarius (the legs) and Pisces (the feet). In addition to the correspondence between the Zodiac signs and the human body, there is also an interesting correspondence between the Zodiac signs and colors. As Cirlot points out, the first six signs form an involutive series which corresponds to the descending color series of the alchemists, that is, from yellow through blue and green down to black. The second six signs form an evolutive series corresponding to the ascending metamorphosis from black, through white and red up to gold.
There is also an important relationship between the Zodiac and place. In the 1934 book The Book of Instructions in the Elements of the Art of Astrology by the Italian scholar Alberuni the author found relationships between the signs of the Zodiac and various places. He found that Aries corresponds to the desert, Taurus to the plains, the Gemini to the twin mountain-peaks, Cancer to parks, rivers and trees, Leo to a mountain with castles and palaces, Virgo to a homestead, Scorpio to prisons and caves, Sagittarius to quicksands and centers of magic, Capricorn to fortresses and castles, Aquarius to caverns and sewers and Pisces to tombs.
These are only a few of the examples of correspondences in the world and the heavens. The important thing to understand is that the various contexts which symbolize place are related to each other as the Theory of Correspondences would suggest. In this sense, the place of East is symbolized by the time context of "birth" or "beginning" because the day is "born" in the East. Corresponding to East and the time context of "birth" and "beginning" is the color context of white and yellow symbolizing light and day. And corresponding to all of these is the space context of "above" and "outside" because the day that the place of East brings is ruled by the light from above rather than the darkness from below.
I suggest in this book that our most powerful stories have proper alignment between these various symbols of place. In other words, the psyche of the story hero is most effectively communicated when the symbolic aspects of place are aligned properly according to the theory of correspondences. In the above example, a form of misalignment might be with the pairing of the East with "death" and the "end" rather than with "birth" and "beginning".
4. The Hidden Context Of Communication
It seems somewhat ironic that the world which surrounds us is more hidden from our view than the objects within this world. But this is truly the situation today.
In the ancient world the outside context of nature and place dominated the world of man but in our modern world the focus has shifted away from outside context and to a type of "inside" content. Our perspective is from the inside looking out rather than from the outside looking in. In this respect, it is easier for us to see the effects we have on our environment than it is for us to see the effects that our environment has on us.
Modern science can claim that it is being objective when it focuses on content rather than context. But is it "playing in the wrong ballpark" altogether? The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard observes in the Introduction to his book The Psychoanalysis of Fire. "We have only to speak of an object to think that we are being objective. But, because we chose it in the first place, the object reveals more about us than we do about it." One might extend Bachelard's observation and add that the choice to focus on content rather than the context reveals much about our western system of science and knowledge.
One of the major methods of western science has been to focus on the object for understanding rather than the context of the object. Its method of investigation progresses from dissecting objects into smaller and smaller parts. Western science is less interested in finding connections between the contents and contexts. Scientific analysis, and for that matter psychoanalysis, are inward methods and their main techniques are to break down rather than to build up. Therefore the understanding of the relationship of man and his environment becomes first a focus on man and man-made objects rather than first a focus on the contextual environment of man and these objects.
In addition to western scientific method, the technology of modern science has had the effect of cutting the connection between the outside world and the inside world. If it was not cut altogether, it was certainly made more difficult to see. Winifred Gallagher in The Power of Place puts her finger on the subtle root of the problem brought on by the technology of modern science. "In one of the least remarked of these transformations, the Industrial Revolution drew the West indoors. Turning away from the natural world, huge populations gravitated toward a very different one made up of homes and workplaces that were warm and illuminated regardless of season or time of the day." It was the indoor environment of the cities which were built around the factories. In fact it was the indoor environment of the factories themselves.
Along with the new technology of the industrial revolution the psychoanalytic method of Freudian theory had an overwhelming importance on a person's the inward focus. Gallagher observes that "Metaphorically speaking the inward orientation of psychoanalysis, rooted in the thinking of its early Eastern Europan forefathers, reflects something of the enclosed, restricted environment of the shetetl, whose residents could not always move about freely."
Some observers have related this modern psychological condition to the myth of Narcissus who died contemplating his own image in a reflection pool. Modern man is similar to Narcissus in many ways in that we fool ourselves into thinking we are contemplating the outside world when we are really only contemplating ourselves and the objects we have created. These cultural products are like the small reflective pool of the Narcissus myth, reflecting back on ourselves rather than outside into the world. This reflection transfixes and mesmerizes us. We trick ourselves into thinking that we are concerned with the earth and all of its places when all we are really concerned with is our own little "pool" of existence in the context of this world.
The Spanish philosopher Joachim Gasquet sees the Narcissus myth not on a sexual but on the cosmic level. He comments that "the world is an immense Narcissus in the act of contemplating itself." In this sense, Narcissus becomes a symbol of this self-contemplative, introverted, and self-sufficient attitude.
The Narcissus myth has been identified by other observers as the predominant neurosis of modern America. In his book The Culture of Narcissism, Christopher Lasch finds this to be the case. It is the myth of rugged individualism in America, of the lone cowboy in the wilderness. It has evolved into a modern neurosis expressed through an ancient myth.
Some observers have linked the focus on context or content on the basic functioning of "left" brain and "right" brain activity. In The Global Village, communications theorists Marshall McLuhan and Bruce Powers explore the concept of objects and the context of objects. They term objects as "figures" and context of objects as "ground". They find the "left brain with its sequential, linear bias, hides the ground of most situations, making it subliminal." The "ground", or the context, therefore becomes an area of "inattention" and is, in fact "hidden" from attention and analysis:
"All cultural situations are composed of an area of attention (figure) and a very much larger area of inattention (ground). The two are in a continual state of abrasive interplay, with an outline or boundary or interval between them that serves to define both simultaneously."
In our consumer culture objects, or products, are these "figures" which become the focus of attention. This focus has aspects of a hypnotic state and it becomes difficult to pull our gaze away from the products of our culture even when we try to do this.
It is as if we are watching a magic show and while our attention is focused on the magician and his objects the real magic is happening out of our area of attention in the environment or the "ground" of the magic show.
Carl Jung lamented that much of the magic from our past contained in nature and places has been lost in the modern world. Perhaps he is right. But perhaps much of this magic is only hidden and perhaps it can be discovered once again.
This book is an expedition through the places of the world in an attempt to rediscover this magic and to discover how it is used in telling modern stories through film, literature and advertising. In the process we hope to show that place far from being lost to us is an all pervasive aspect of the stories we tell others and tell ourselves.
Our investigation first of all calls for showing that the symbolism of place is something more than a form of esoteric speculation and that it has an overriding relevance to popular culture. In the next chapter we argue that place symbolism is the primary determinant of our major story genres and that it has an important function in the science and art of advertising.
We then move to formulate a workable classification of places and the various qualities associated with them. We then show how place is properly (and improperly) used in the context of stories. Finally, we look at some modern conceptions of place and how these are changing in an electronic context.