Another such illustration is found in the gaunt, emaciated figures of some Gandharan statues of the Buddha in contrast to the well-fleshed figures sitting in serene bliss. Again the iconographic details are identical: the Buddha sitting cross-legged on the floor or a lotus with the right hand touching the earth, and the open left hand, palm up, sometimes holding a bowl. The first speaks of discipline and sacrifice on the road to enlightenment (and also the extreme asceticism which Gautama put aside for the "middle way"), and the second of the peace of spiritual understanding.
|[aras-image:7Lf.007,,8,,,Figure 4 Buddha Seated with Pendant Legs.]|
What Langer has to say about a work of art applies equally well to symbols. Langer uses the word art in its wider sense and not as an a synonym for painting or visual arts alone; and while, for most persons, the first impulse is to describe a symbol as a visual form, (even poetic metaphors are often visually derived) a symbol can occur in other sensory modes as well. In rite and ritual, as well as dance, distinct movement patterns carry specific symbolic meanings. The rise and fall of a melodic line can evoke a symbolic form, even as the regular rhythm of a waltz evokes responses different from that of banjo picking for a tap dance. From the perspective of a painter Ben Shahn defines form as the shape of content.9 The content is the inner, unified experience of the creative artist which calls forth emotional, feeling responses in the viewer. It is something more than an illustrative representation. The symbol also carries the inner, unified vision which is its essential content.
Erich Neumann writes, "Images and symbols have the advantage over paradoxical philosophical formulations of infinite unity and imaged wholeness, in that their unity can be seen and grasped as a unity in one glance."10 We can see contradictory points of view all together at once which become sequential when we talk about them; they exist as a totality rather than a set of discursive ideas. For instance, if we look at the image of fire: fire is destructive, fire is violent, but fire is also warming, fire is inspiring. It is all these at once; they are all true and all the possibilities exist together; the image presents all of them. One does not need to be a pyromaniac to recognize that a building burning or a forest fire is exciting, violent, destructive and, at the same time, beautiful. The power of a symbol lies in its multi-valued expression of human experience in its dynamic reality. Carl Kerényi writes that "Human experience does not always give rise immediately to ideas. It can be reflected in images or words without the mediation of ideas. Man reacted inwardly to his experience before he became a thinker. Prephilosophical insights and reactions to experience are taken over and further developed by thought, and this process is reflected in language...Language itself can be wise and draw distinctions through which experience is raised to consciousness and made into a pre-philosophical wisdom common to all those who speak that language."11
One of the evolutionary phases of our culture in the late 20th century may be the emergence of a distinctly feminine point of view which gives us new vantages. It extends the viewpoints of men as well as making women more conscious of their place and position in western culture and the problems which then appear for men as well as for women. Sometimes the problems raised by such discussions finally become genuine human problems rather than gender-specific problems.
When we consider a specifically feminine perspective within the totality of western culture, another kind of amplification becomes available. In her opening definitions, Annis Pratt is clear that literature studies archetypal images since the archetype itself exists in the unconscious, and so the presentation varies with the cultural bias of the story teller. She writes that Jung says "...that a single archetype can be subject to a variety of perceptions, not only from culture to culture but even within a given culture or the mind of a single individual. Archetypes thus constitute images, symbols, and narrative patterns that differ from stereotypes in being complex variables, subject to variations in perception."12