The Irreducibility of Images

The Irreducibility of Images

Remember Democritus’ theory of the atom? The Greek word, atomos, means “indivisible.” Democritus stated correctly that matter is composed of these units we call atoms, but they are certainly not indivisible, as we have seen in nuclear physics research.

I have this idea I’ve been ruminating on. I think that an image in the imagination is a better example of something that is indivisible and irreducible.  Indivisibility will only occur if we see atoms as images, since the image of an atom is what is truly indivisible.

Is this dualistic? Not if we assert that everything is image. Since everything is image, everything is, in this regard, indivisible, but only because we can divide it no further than the image.

I see an image of a lake. I can see the beautiful, green, tree-lined shore very clearly. I see a small rowboat with a long-haired girl inside rowing gently across the lake. I see a swan gliding slowly over the surface of the water. Does the dissection of this image into its elemental parts make it divisible in the same way an atom is divisible into subatomic particles? I don’t think so. An image in the imagination is a gestalt, a form which cannot be derived from its constituent components. Such an image is a unified whole and is indivisible.

The entire Universe is image. The Universe qua universe, cannot be imagined any other way but as a holistic phenomenon. There are certainly constituent parts to the Universe, but no single part can be the Universe.
Therefore, with that being said, I believe it is in order to claim that images belonging to the realm of the mundus imaginalis are, indeed, indivisible and irreducible. They are not only indivisible and  irreducible, but they are the sine qua non of all human experience. All that we think and all that we do in this life must be preceded by an image.

2 thoughts on “The Irreducibility of Images

  1. Hi Mark, nice article, the concept of irreducibility as applied to images is a good one, as indeed this is the spirit of the Mandala, which essentially is hologramic and fractal-recursive, of which case each part contains the whole.

    When I was a kid a schoolteacher once said that a painting is never finished, that it can always be worked on. I suppose this is true, and this is its own irreducible nature as well, because it is always “work in progress” until the artist or some circumstance puts a determinate cap on it, and it gets ensconced in the social field, and recognized as a final product.

    You're definitely on to something here.

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