Symbolism of Place
XIII. Alignment of Place
If the outside world serves as the most effective method for expressing character psychology, it is necessary that there exist a proper alignment between the outer world and the inner world. This alignment is achieved when the external symbolic contexts are correctly matched with internal psychic content.
For example, a story that has a character who is in a depression should utilize inside, dark space, perhaps below the ground (such as a cave), to show this depression rather than placing the character on the peak of a mountain. Putting this type of character on the peak of a mountain would be a type of misalignment of place with character psychology. A better alignment might be to have the character in a valley to suggest his depressed state and the weather might be cloudy or dark to further suggest this state. Putting the character in a valley and creating a clear, sunny day would be an example of mis-alignment among place elements. The valley is used to symbolize depression but a sunny day does not symbolize depression.
We have discussed the external place and the internal psychological elements a narrative has to work with. The next sections on alignment and movement examine how these elements are made to work together to create the most powerful stories. Elements of place and psychology provide the fuel while alignment and movement provide the engine to infuse drama with symbolic elements. By utilizing elements of external place in stories inner psychology can be shown in the most effective and illuminating manner. Psychology becomes geography, what is outside becomes what is inside. At its most effective symbolic level, the outside world becomes the inside psychological world.
It is not enough, though, to simply recognize the connection between the outside and the inside. In order to create powerful narrative structure, the elements of place must be properly aligned in time. This means that various place elements which denote the same or similar symbols need to work together towards the psychology they symbolize.
In the Introduction to A Dictionary Of Symbols, Cirlot notes that one of the basic ideas and suppositions which allow us to conceive of "symbolism" is that "Nothing is independent, everything is in some way related to something else." This is true between the elements of place symbolism. Many of these elements are related as to what they symbolize. It therefore becomes important to work with groups of these common relationships. This begins to move towards what we mean by alignment of place.
1. Theory Of Correspondences
Alignment is really the utilization of the Theory of Correspondences within story context. As Cirlot reminds us the Theory of Correspondences is founded on the assumption that "all cosmic phenomena are limited and serial and that they appear as scales or series on separate planes; but 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. It is possible to marshal correspondences by forcing the components of any given scale or scales into a common numerical pattern: for example, it is not difficult to adapt the colour-scale from seven to eight colours, should one wish to equate it with the scale of temperaments laid down by modern character-study..." Cirlot offers an example using the ancient god of Venus. "The attributes of the ancient gods," he says, "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.
The Greeks, Cabbalists and the Gnostics founded much of their philosophy on the Theory of Correspondences. Cirlot notes that Porphyry mentions the following between the Greek vowels and the planets: alpha corresponds to the moon; epsilon to Mercury; eta to Venus; iot to the sun; omicron to Mars; upsilon to Jupiter and omega to Saturn.
One of the most important systems of correspondences is the Zodiac system. Corresponding to the twelve signs of the Zodiac are the twelve months of the year, the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve labors of Hercules and the color scale adapted to include the twelve colors.
In his book Les Mysteres de l'Etre, Ely Star relates the system of correspondences to the human body. Star notes that Aries corresponds to the head; Taurus to the neck and throat; Gemini to the shoulders and arms; Cancer to the chest and stomach; Leo to the heart, lungs and liver; Virgo to the belly and intestines; Libra to the backbone and marrow; Scorpio to the kidneys and genitals; Sagittarious to the thighs; Capricorn to the knees; Aquarious to the legs and Pisces to the feet.
The signs of the Zodiac also find correspondence to the symbolism of place. In The Book Of Instructions In The Elements Of The Art Of Astrology, the author Alberuni relates the signs of the Zodiac with the principal elements of landscape. In this system of correspondence Aries corresponds to the desert, Taurus to the plains, Gemini to the twin mountain-peaks, Cancer to the parks, rivers and trees, Leo to a mountain with castles and palaces, Virgo to the homestead, Scorpio to prisons and caves, Sagittarious to quicksands and centers of magic, Capricorn to fortresses and castles, Aquarius to caverns and sewers and Pisces to tombs.
The various symbolic elements of place we have discussed previously are all part of the system of correspondences. For example, the inner psychological concept of birth can be represented by a number of objective, outside elements which may exist on different "planes" or "dimensions," In the "time" dimension, birth "corresponds" to a daily cycle represented by "sunrise" or a yearly cycle represented by the season of Spring. In the direction dimension birth "corresponds" to the direction of "sunrise" in the East. In the dimension of place, birth corresponds to the ecosystem of ocean and, to a lesser extent, the ecosystem of jungle or tropical weather. In the dimension of color, birth corresponds to the achromatic tone of white or the chromatic color of yellow. White symbolizes birth and is a binary symbolic system (system of contrasts) and yellow symbolizes the light of day (as opposed to dark blue symbolizing night) in the historical physiological system.
There is an old saying that "there is nothing new under the sun." What this really means is that the concept of "new", just like the concept "birth", can be expressed in a number of ways in the outside world. If it could not be so expressed, then it really would be "new." In other words, there is really no new "birth" under the sun.