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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

AFFECTIVITY, MEET EFFICACY

In this essay I compared the spectrum of affectivities that appear within all three phenomenalities of literary narrative to Ernst Cassirer's concept of "efficacy." Since I support a pluralistic phenomenology-- that is, one in which each literary phenomenality has its own valuable modus operandi-- I relate this to Cassirer's appreciation for "the world of subjective emotions" and their ability to form "a sensuous, objective existence." Cassirer compares his concept of objective affectivity with that of "magical efficacy" as he conceives it from anthropological reports on primitive concepts of magic and "mana," or "spiritual energy."

It should go without saying, though, that Cassirer's comparison was purely metaphorical. He wanted to demonstrate that archaic primitives had an appreciation for the sensous, objective side of emotions, as against the tendency of the empircists and positivists to regard emotional states as epiphenomenal.  He was not drawing a comparison between "the world of subjective emotions" and the literal belief in magic, even the sort of passive magic associated, say, with the notion that sacred kings of old could not touch the ground with their feet in order to prevent the loss of kingly "mana."

Of course, there may be no point in making such nice distinctions, since I have also advocated Jung's archetypes as a valid way of analyzing the many permutations of the intersubjective world of shared, often highly structured emotions.  Comics-fans of my acquaintance have often proven astoundingly ignorant of Jung's phenomenology, choosing to believe that if he approached religious subjets with anything but a hard-nosed empirical bias, he could be nothing more than a dreamy-eyed mystic.  Presumably the same ignorant reaction would pertain with regard to Cassirer.

Jung did, to be sure, theorize about synchronicity as an "acausal" principle, and I summarized some aspects of his argument here. Interestingly, Jung does draw upon the psychic experiments of J.B. Rhine to suggest that "under certain conditions space and time can be reduced almost to zero, causality disappears along with them, because causality is bound up with the existence of space and time and physical changes, and consists essentially in the succession of cause and effect."  Thus Jung did suggest the possibility-- though not an outright conviction-- that the mind's possible capacity for psychic phenomena could be connected to the acausal principle of synchronicity, in which the human mind more or less "synchonized" its affectivity with whatever elements mirrored its nature.  Jung's famous story of the scarab is axiomatic:

A young woman I was treating had, at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me this dream, I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the window-pane from the outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), which, contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt the urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment. I must admit that nothing like it ever happened to me before or since.

I would not rule out a possible correlation between psychic phenomenon and the objective phenomenology of emotional unity. But one does not necessarily depend upon the other. 

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