The first two-dimensional images were thus not two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional things in the material world, as researchers have always assumed. Rather, they were ‘fixed’ mental images.
Shamanism is not simply a component of society: on the contrary, shamanism, together with its tiered cosmos, can be said to be the overall framework of society.
The notion that an image is a scale model of something else (say, a horse) requires a different set of mental events and conventions from those that perceive the social symbolism of red marks on someone’s chest.
Consciousness has evolved biologically and can therefore be explained biologically.
The cerebral cortex, the outer ‘skin’ of the brain, contains as many as ten billion neurons. This complexity is daunting. Yet it is out of complex interactions between the billions of neurons that consciousness arises.
Primary consciousness is a state of being aware of things in the world – of having mental images in the present.But it is not accompanied by any sense of a person with a past and future…
Primary consciousness is a kind of ‘remembered present’…
I believe it is reasonable to assume that higher-order consciousness developed neurologically in Africa before the second wave of emigration to the Middle East and Europe.
Improved memory made possible the long-term recollection of dreams and visions and the construction of those recollections into a spirit world.
Once human beings had developed higher-order consciousness, they had the ability to see mental images projected onto surfaces and to experience afterimages.
For the makers, the paintings and engravings were visions, not representations of visions.
In Lascaux and other sites, hoofs are depicted to show their underside, or hoofprint.
The portable animal statuettes were therefore far more than decorative trinkets: they were reified three-dimensional spirit animals with all their prophylactic and other powers.
I now argue that entry into Upper Palaeolithic caves was probably seen as virtually indistinguishable from entry into the mental vortex that leads to the experiences and hallucinations of deep trance.
Certainly, the sensory deprivation afforded by the remote, silent and totally dark chambers, such as the Diverticule of the Felines in Lascaux and the Horse’s Tail in Altamira, induces altered states of consciousness.
Shamans submit to death in order to serve their communities.
The Upper Palaeolithic figures known as ‘wounded men’ occur at Cougnac and Pech Merle, two sites in the Quercy district of France.
The ‘wounded men’ may, I argue, represent a form of shamanistic suffering, ‘death’ and initiation that was closely associated with somatic hallucinati
Sexual arousal and penal erections are associated with both altered states of consciousness and sleep.
According to Martindale’s view, as we drift into sleep we pass through: – waking, problem-oriented thought, – realistic fantasy, – autistic fantasy, – reverie, – hypnagogic (falling asleep) states, and – dreaming.
In altered states of consciousness, the nervous system itself becomes a ‘sixth sense’ that produces a variety of images including entoptic phenomena.
The behaviour of the human nervous system in certain altered states creates the illusion of dissociation from one’s body (less commonly understood in hunting and gathering shamanistic societies as possession by spirits).
San religion is built around belief in a tiered universe. As do other shamanistic peoples throughout the world, the San believe in a realm above and another below the surface of the world on which they live.
There were at least four contexts in which San shamans acquired insights into the spiritual world: – the trance dance, – special curing rituals, – viewing rock art, and – dreams.
The principal aim of a vision quest is to ‘see’ a spirit animal that will become the quester’s animal-helper and source of his power.
Entering a cave” or rock was a metaphor for a shaman’s altered state; therefore, caves (and rocks more generally) were considered entrances or portals to the supernatural world.
A shaman’s activities as a sorcerer, or his own conscious act of entry into the supernatural world, were a kind of “killing”.
Rock art sites were symbolic vaginas, and entry into the wall of a rock art site was thus akin to intercourse.