Empathy may be a concept saturating today’s popular lexicon so completely as to border on meaninglessness, yet it was entirely novel and ablaze with numinous meaning in Rilke’s day. Its invention is the work of two unlikely co-creators — Wilhelm Wundt, a German doctor who “accidentally forged the birth of psychology in the 1860s,” and Theodor Lipps, a philosopher from the following generation. In seeking to understand why art affects us so powerfully, Lipps originated the then-radical hypothesis that the power of its impact didn’t reside in the work of art itself but was, rather, synthesized by the viewer in the act of viewing. Corbett condenses the essence of his proposition and traces its combinatorial creation:
“The moment a viewer recognizes a painting as beautiful, it transforms from an object into a work of art. The act of looking, then, becomes a creative process, and the viewer becomes the artist.”
Lipps found a name for his theory in an 1873 dissertation by a German aesthetics student named Robert Vischer. When people project their emotions, ideas or memories onto objects they enact a process that Vischer called einfühlung, literally “feeling into.” The British psychologist Edward Titchener translated the word into English as “empathy” in 1909, deriving it from the Greek empatheia, or “in pathos.” For Vischer, einfühlung revealed why a work of art caused an observer to unconsciously “move in and with the forms.” He dubbed this bodily mimesis “muscular empathy,” a concept that resonated with Lipps, who once attended a dance recital and felt himself “striving and performing” with the dancers. He also linked this idea to other somatosensory imitations, like yawns and laughter.” ~brain pickings-Rachel Corbett
can’t even remember the last time I questioned compassion, empathy, or lovingkindness…..wonderful to dip into a philosophy of heart…..
inquiry for today~ deepen your love and awareness around the aesthetics of heart through simplicity of being….how?…..trust beauty
Though you may laugh if I tell you where my very greatest feeling, my world-feeling, my earthly bliss was, I must confess to you: it was, again and again, here and there, in such in-seeing in the indescribably swift, deep, timeless moments of this godlike in-seeing. ~Rilke