Back in the 1950's there was a big scandal when it was learned that advertisers on the new medium television were imbedding subliminal messages into their advertising to increase consumer buying of their products. The research on the effectiveness of subliminal messages in advertising is still debated but I want to employ this idea to the practice of contemplative photography.
The word subliminal
means "below the threshold of conscious awareness". We may not be conscious of it but some part of our brain is. This information becomes part of our minds storehouse and, over time, repetition of a message can subtly influence our thoughts and perceptions. Now I have no scientific evidence to back up this statement, only personal, experiential evidence.
In our interaction with the natural world there is a subliminal message underlying our encounters. It is the whole basis of contemplative photography for me. This is not as far fetched as it may, at first, seem. This subliminal understanding occurs because of the invisible thread of connectivity that exists between all of creation. On some plane of existence we all communicate with each other even if we are unaware of it. Some people are simply more adept at it than others and the practice of contemplative photography nurtures it.
Harvard researcher, Howard Gardner
, postulates 9 forms of intelligence. The 8th and 9th, ones he didn't add until years after his initial book Frames of Mind
was published in 1983, are natural intelligence
and existential intelligence
. Natural intelligence
is the kind of intelligence we all had at one time and which manifests itself most clearly now in native peoples. They don't know how
they know things about the natural world, the plants and animals, the patterns found in the weather, for instance, they just know it
. These individuals, in my opinion, are the ones who can hear very clearly the subliminal messages of nature. Existential intelligence
is present in people who seem to have a spiritual insight that is more highly developed than the rest of us. They have the ability and the need to ponder the weightier issues of life, death, and Man's ultimate purpose on earth.
I did my masters work at Harvard in the late 1970's when Gardner was formulating his theory of multiple intelligences. It was a very exciting time to study there. His theories made so much sense to me back then and they still do especially as I delve deeper and deeper into contemplative photography. In fact, these two intelligences, natural and existential
, are what contemplative photographers seek to nurture in their practice. Perhaps, if contemplative photography was made required study in our schools, we could raise a generation of children who could easily tune into the subliminal messages of nature and wouldn't that be a wonderful thing!
Here is a short video that explains 8 of the multiple intelligences. The 9th, Existential Intelligence
is still controversial and research continues to determine if it should or shouldn't be included in the list.