The single example of self-knowledge of the will as a whole is the idea as a whole, the whole world of perception. It is the objectification, the revelation, the mirror of the will.-- Schopenhauer, THE WORLD AS WILL AND IDEA.
In Part 1 I reiterated Susanne Langer's term "gesture" to signify the process by which human beings formulated emotional conceptions so that they were no longer expressive of a particular emotion brought on by a real event, but became formalized so as to call up the essence of the emotion at will. Langer associates this cultural action with the proto-religious rituals from which primitive man formulates religion. But it's just as easy to see how the same cultural action may have deeper roots in the process of human storytelling, whether the stories convey emotions associated with what purports to be real-life accounts ("You shoulda seen the one that got away!") or the stories told to give human context to the inhuman world around primitive man.
Langer is also much concerned in NEW KEY with the process by which humankind makes sense of what German thinkers have called the "Gestalt," the total form of the world which is naturally elusive to mankind on a purely perceptual basis, and which must also be approached through the only methods primitive man had for pulling together "the blooming, buzzing confusion:" art and religion. Langer writes:
What we should look for is the first indication of symbolic behavior [in man's predecessors the anthropoids], which is not likely to be anything as specialized, conscious, or rational as the use of semantic. Language is a very high form of symbolism; presentational forms are much lower than discursive, and the appreciation of meaning probably earlier than its expression... It is absurd to suppose that the earliest symbols could be *invented;* they are merely *Gestalten* furnished to the senses of a creature ready to give them some diffuse meaning."-- NEW KEY, p. 110.
Now, one meaning of Gestalten is not just "the whole," but the notion that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Art and religion are fundamentally attempts to put forth narratives by which the audience achieves a sense of meaning, whether it is "diffuse" (that is, accomplished through presenting gestural symbolic forms) or something more rationally articulated (through discursive symbolism, arguing an idea out to its conclusion). A given meaning may not demonstrate "wholeness" in any sense but an emotional one, but art, unlike religion, need not prove that it has any bearing on reality beyond its ability to articulate emotions. Ironically, though, for Schopenhauer it is the contemplation of art, not religion, through which one can both gain an understanding of the Universal Will's nature and at the same time gain a measure of control over the Will's demands on the human subject.
In my next essay I'll return to the subject of how presentational gestural symbols are at the root of narrative's tendency to perpetuate certain "given" circumstances for the sake of a story-- or rather, for summoning the emotions the story involves.