New research on synaesthesia has been presented, where especially the synaesthetic cognition of time as a spatial arrangement was exemplified.
In a study of synaesthetic children Dr Simner has showed that "synaesthetic associations (e.g. a = carmine red) develop from chaotic pairings into a system of fixed, consistent cogno-sensory responses over time". This study and other related research suggests that the neurological basis for synaesthetic cognition is open to change through habits, choices and efforts of systematizing.
In this type of studies a distinction between being a synaesthete (which only a few are) and being a non-synaesthete that can have synaesthetic associations (which most people have) is made.
A developed synaesthetic condition consists in the ability to perceive spontaneously and consistently connections across the separate senses.
Researchers into this field have often repeated that the synaesthetically cognated colours for musical notes or for vowels are specific to the individual synaesthete, and does not represent an objective substratum of reality.
A lot of this research is about measuring activity in neural pathways and comparing the two test-groups. Nevertheless, "full-blown" synaesthetic phenomena are to some degree open to anyone´s experience under certain conditions, for example during periods of insomnia, in hypnagogic reverie or in fever dreams.
Also, non-synaesthetes can have synaesthetic associations in ordinary states of mind. Such synaesthetic associations are of a more ephemeral nature, where social conventions and mental effort play in. Mnemotechnical methods that utilize mental images of spatial arrangements would be an active example of this. Everyday cognition that makes use of visual metaphors to make sense of the world would be a passive example. Synaesthetic associations of this kind are usually not perceived as vividly as the eidetic imagery of non-ordinary states, neither do they occur with the certainty about the correlation that proper synaesthetes seem to experience, but rather take place within thinking (if such a distinction is meaningful).
A reasonable interpretation of the research presented here, is that the neurological basis for synaesthetic cognition is open to change through habitual choices and efforts of systematizing even for non-synaesthetes.
The surrealist group of Stockholm once conducted an experiment in the intersubjectivity of synaesthetic association, where abstract concepts were imagined systematically, in a joint effort, as if they were concrete objects possessing sensual traits. The focus for this experiment/game was on poetic materialism; thus an emphasis on material qualities such as texture, colour, morphology prevailed. If you want to, you can read about it here.
Naturally, an investigation into the concrete dimension of the abstract could be taken in other directions too.
One of the aspects of synaesthesia of space-time was for example called "ordinal-linguistic personification". Example:"You might not have a colour for Thursday, but you know that it's a young girl who has spent too long kept in the house and wants to break out into the world."
This type of animistic thinking resembles mythological imagination, for examples:
Kronos: greek god of general time.
Aeons; immense successive units of time, that were personalized in gnostic mythology.
The Four Riders of the Apocalypse.
(Arguably, modern anthropomorphic personifications from everyday language and scientific jargon, like Planck time, indian summer, the wolf hour, the Gaussian year (365.2568983 days), also play a part of mythic imagination.)
According to present-day metaphorical standards time is usually conceptualized as a journey. But this also implies the traveller; time is crawling, flying et c.
So, what types of moments of time can be "ordinal-linguisticually personificated"?
Taking a lead from the swedish author Göran Palm, who once asked, through a book title of his, "Why don´t the nights have any names?", I´ll ask:
- Who is the night before monday, which person or entity personificates the night before tuesday et c? Let´s fill out a week of personificated nights.
Any method will do, of course, but perhaps finding the answer in a dream from the particular night which is being investigated lies close at hand.
/ N N