The Purpose of Amplification

The personal references in a dream may relate to actual persons and outer events, but often the persons represent aspects of the psyche that are a metaphorical reference to cultural and archetypal aspects behind persons and events. It is here that amplification gives range to meaning. Lady Mac Beth's obsessive handwashing is her attempt to wash away the murder, to return the world as it was, to recreate the world in its original purity. Rite and ritual are metaphorical because they "recreate" the original events.

[aras-image:5Jb.037,,8,,,Figure 2 'Lady Macbeth Grasping the Daggers' by Henry Fuseli]

Symbol amplification is the elaboration of the historical and cultural matrices of a symbol in its variant forms so that one develops a larger sense of its polyvalences. This process is different from subjective association. Association stems from one's personal biography projected on to the symbol. In this process symbolic meaning may be legitimately and absolutely personal, carrying a value which no one else shares nor needs to share. Amplification, however, leads to significant clues which lie in the cultural unconscious. for each of us is born into a culture as well as into a family. These meanings come to us through the mother's milk and the air we breathe, so to speak. Amplification and association are parallel pathways to symbolic meaning. "The Essential problem is to know what is revealed to us not by any particular version of a symbol, but by the whole of the symbolism."7 Amplification is looking for those specifics which emerge from the flux of the living process as found in the cultural histories of mankind.
By looking at a symbol in its original cultural setting and with cross-cultural equivalents one can find a wider range of associations which enrich the symbolic experience. While every person is unique, it is also true that every person is born into a culture and an historical period which continually effect the events in one's life and the way one experiences them. Thus amplification of an image provides a wider, enriched context from which to view those symbols which are important to one's personal psychic structure and its continuing development.
It may be useful when considering the meaning of an archetypal symbol to look at it as one might look at a work of art. Suzanne Langer contrasts the information and its organization embodied in discursive language from the "import" of a work of art, its gestalt. Import results from the impact of the work as a whole, not from the sequential accumulation of its constituent parts. The total experience of a work of art always carries something more then, and something different from, what can be analyzed by linear discussion. The whole is more than a sum of its parts.8