Monday, August 08, 2016

Blended spaces

Sørensen argues that in magical rituals, participants (including ritual performers) view themselves as interacting with elements and rules originating in both the sacred and profane domains—a matter of conceptual blending. The model Sørensen uses for this understanding is based in Mark Turner and Gilles Fauconnier’s theory of conceptual blending which in turn derives from Fauconnier’s theory of mental spaces. Conceptual blending refers to a cognitive process people use to combine elements from two or more “worlds” or domains. Sørensen explains ritual as occupying a blended space constructed of two input mental spaces: one comprising elements from the sacred domain and the other comprising elements from the ordinary or profane domain. Ritual participants bring concepts and image-schemata from each domain into the blended space of the ritual. Because aspects of both input spaces are present in participants’ conceptions in the ritual context, participants understand themselves, or the ritual itself, as having potential access to powers (which Sørensen terms “magical agency”) beyond those operative in the ordinary world. Participants understand how the ordinary world operates, based on early experiences of physical forces, living beings, and communication among human beings: thus they have a solid sense of causality in the input space from the ordinary domain. What those using magic lack is a correspondingly strong grasp of how causality works in the sacred domain. The precise mechanisms linking ritual actions to ritual effects remain mysterious.—Forestalling Doom page 23

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