The Dynamic Relationship Between Palaeolithic Cave Art and Depth Psychology


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Our studies suggest that Palaeolithic man's thoughts and feelings did not significantly differ from our own and that he was a modern man in the sense that he was not 'primitive' or simple but already had astonishing creative talents. Above all, his imaginative, intuitive skills were developed to such a degree that we can say with confidence that he had a belief system that was sophisticated, and far more developed than has hitherto been assumed. Palaeolithic man knew the difference between his ordinary activities for daily survival, and his religious practices where he consciously entered into an exalted state of mind, at once in and out of space and time. We have also seen that Palaeolithic man had a fundamentally different relationship with and attitude to nature than modern man. He believed that there was a divine soul in nature, and he responded with feelings of profoundest awe and obeisance. He did not strive to master the animals; instead, he worshipped them with gratitude for their divine strength and knowledge, eternally sacrificed for the renewal of the tribe. If the psychological approach has helped to throw light on cave rock-art, it has also taught us that intellectual explanation and interpretation are not the end, and that what really matters is the experience - an experience which though defying rational elucidation is nevertheless real and truly enlightening, as those who have had such transformative experiences have again and again testified.
The Niaux Cave Art Paintings
Niaux Cave
The Lascaux Cave Art Paintings
Lascaux Cave
The Chauvet Cave Art Paintings
Chauvet Cave
The Lascaux Cave Art Paintings
Lascaux Cave
For primitive man the door was still open - part of his mind was outside in the object, and he could effortlessly cross the threshold between the worlds of hard fact and mystical phenomena. He knew more than he actually knew because he was at one with nature, the unconscious, and, furthermore, he accepted that he was in touch with something that was far greater and wiser than him. It appears that modern, 'civilized' man's highly differentiated consciousness has come at a price. Modern man's inward path is made difficult by the demands for explanation, logic, justification, profit, use, effect, and so on. However, those willing to push past these obstacles, those with the stamina to brave the downward-inward journey to the unchartered regions of the mind will, like Palaeolithic man, find the 'right' spot, the place of penetration, where all opposites fuse in the divine spark of creation.
Ilse Vickers
London, January 2013.
Further Reading:
Cave Art: An Intuition of Eternity
Dr. Ilse Vickers
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