Saturday, July 3, 2010


Space is important for us in daily life, regarding, among others, the following issues:
Where am I, and how are my body parts currently oriented?
Where are important environmental objects in relation to me?
Where are these objects in relation to each other?
What do I need to know about these objects?
How should I go about doing what should be done?

Design and the Brain

While moving in space, we always have to take the above points into consideration. This usually happens without us being aware of it at all times—in most cases we realise the level of success, though: if while walking we bump into an object without intending to, or if we loose our way while travelling to a new destination by car, we clearly got it wrong. Human abilities related to space are conceptualised and studied in the discipline of cognitive (neuro-) psychology as spatial awareness, or spatial cognition. Conventionally, the brain area considered in charge of spatial cognition is the right parietal lobe (although research published in Nature in 2001 suggests that the superior temporal lobe is in charge, and not the parietal lobe)5. I propose that people who create scenography have more highly developed abilities of spatial cognition, and should perform better in tasks devised to test such spatial cognition abilities. Perhaps scenographers recognised as ‘great’ will perform better than ‘average’ scenographers. Possibly performance in spatial cognition is correlated with levels of success and recognition. One specific activity will develop one specific region in the brain by developing numerous further connections of neurons6. A different activity will develop a second specific area. By implication, the posterior parietal lobe (or the superior temporal lobe) should show more neuronal connections in scenographers than in members of professions that do not engage in activity requiring spatial awareness to the extent that scenographers do.
Spatial cognition is related to mental imagery, which is defined as the ‘experience that resembles perceptual experience, but which occurs in the absence of the appropriate stimuli for the relevant perception’. Such experiences may ‘seem to anticipate possible, often desired or feared, future experiences’. It would be interesting to collect qualitative data about the creative processes of scenographers, and to compare this with existing research into mental imagery.
To further elucidate the relationship between space and consciousness, I want to refer to recent research into the meaning of Vedic Literature of India. The 40 aspects of Vedic Literature correspond in structure and function to the human anatomy and physiology. The aspects of Vedic Literature that correspond to the parietal lobe are twofold: first, to the third house (bhava) in Vedic astrology (jyotish), and secondly to the third of four chapters of Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Reading or listing to the reading, in Sanskrit, of a specific aspect of Vedic Literature would have beneficial effects on the part of anatomy and / or physiology related to that specific aspect. Reading and / or listening to passages in Sanskrit from jyotish and yoga should improve spatial cognition, and thus the ability for scenography8.

Design and Sthapatya Veda

In Indian philosophy, the discipline relating most closely to scenography is Sthapatya Veda, comprising a range of treatises on architecture and design. Design in the context of Sthapatya Veda refers to building on every conceivable scale and in every conceivable context, ranging from a room to a building, a village, a city, and even an entire country. Sthapatya Veda also comprises the creation of form in the arts. In each context, and at each point of the scale, the purpose of applying rules of Sthapatya Veda is to achieve form that is ‘in full alignment with the structuring dynamics of the whole universe’9. In terms of consciousness studies, those dynamics are the dynamics characteristic of the state of consciousness refereed to as pure consciousness, or pure consciousness event10: apart from waking, dreaming and sleeping as most commonly experienced states of consciousness, pure consciousness is a state that is devoid of any contents of consciousness while experienced as fully awake. When pure consciousness is eventually experienced together with waking or dreaming or sleeping, higher states of consciousness are developing. Thus, Sthapatya Veda provides practical knowledge how to create visible form that is in tune with the principles and procedures of invisible pure consciousness at the basis of form. Form created in line with Sthapatya Veda will express the laws of nature responsible for that form to their full extent, undiminished and unobstructed.
Why should we wish to achieve such alignment? Because any form that complies with the rules of Sthapatya Veda will, in turn, have the impact of enlivening and structuring the laws of nature in the observer of that form that led to its creation in the first place. For example, research suggests that houses built in accordance with Sthapatya Veda make their inhabitants think more clearly and creatively, make better decisions, feel happier and healthier, feel more alert and refreshed throughout the day, enjoy more restful and refreshing sleep, enjoy more energy and less fatigue, and experience less stress and greater peace of mind.
What applies for architecture for domestic dwellings should also apply to scenography. In the context of the proposal that Vedic texts have their direct correspondence in the human physiology, Sthapatya Veda is related to the spinal chord and the nerves emanating from it. “The spinal chord, with its 35 segments or nerves on either side (…) presents two symmetrical parts which total 70 divisions. These 70 divisions correspond to the 70 chapters of Sthapatya Veda”11
The question is whether perceiving form created in line with the rules of Sthapatya Veda has the same effect as reading Vedic texts. Thus reading Sthapatya Veda should have a measurable impact on the spinal column and the nerves emanating from it. Similar effects are to be found when watching a scenography that follows the rules of Sthapatya Veda.

Design and mirror neurones

How could any impact of scenography on the spectator’s consciousness work in neurophysiological terms? Research on mirror neurones suggests that when we see the movement of another person, specific neurones fire in such a way that we would copy the movement we see if other neurones would not stop this mirror action by firing more intensively at the same time. In some cases, such a yawning, the inhibitory effect seems ineffective or not present.

Thus the distribution of LIFE FORCE CHARGE is governed by the SCIENCE of STHAPATHYA VEDA .

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