The Purpose of Amplification

[aras-image:8Cj.008,,10,,,Figure 10 Stone disk incised with pair of rattlesnakes.]

By analyzing the formal characteristics of the yin-yang symbol which is pervasive through Chinese literature, Plaks finds two persistent characteristics: the first is "complementary bipolarity" which means that "the apprehension of experience as realized in terms of the relative presence or absence of opposites rather than absolute states" and the second is "the fact that phenomenological change is conceived of in terms of regular ceaseless alternation towards and away from the hypothetical poles of each duality. This alternation may perhaps be termed 'cyclical' in the sense of recurrence within a closed system, but the notion of circularity should not be allowed to obscure its essentially bipolar form."27
Plaks then makes clear that he is not classifying "the human race into two categories of mental activity." Rather he is classifying the preferred cultural forms of two traditions as they have been shaped by their cultural histories. "It is not the mythical materials themselves that lead us to such general conclusions, but how these materials are used in shaping a cultural mainstream."28
Archetypes themselves, as far as we can know them through manifested forms, exist in the collective unconscious in abstract, undifferentiated forms. The birth-death-resurrection narrative has been accepted as one of those archetypal patterns. The discussion by Arthur Plaks suggests that this linear sequence of events arises from the cultural unconscious of the West in contrast to the circular movements of change and renewal expressed in Chinese culture by the I Ching, one example known to many Westerners. Behind the narrative of death and resurrection in the West and the circular movement of the hexagrams in China lie an archetype about "change and renewal." The birth-death-resurrection sequence is an image specific to Western culture. Amplification in this instance then, considers structure as well as content, and thus broadens the material for the amplification process.
This unexpected dimension illustrates well the values which lie within the technique and process of amplification. By pursuing a symbol through many cultural variations and now, considering its structural form, we are led into perceptions and connections previously unconscious to us. These are like overlays of transparencies which make evident the interconnections which increase the dimensionality of the symbol. It glows for us as we partake of its numinous history in times and places unfamiliar to us. Certainly one goal of analytical psychology has always been to bring more and more of the contents of the psyche into consciousness. Perhaps from shared assumptions this is one of the goals of life itself in both its personal and collective evolution.