Monday, August 02, 2010

The Paleolithic Imagination, Clayton Eshleman and the Juniper Fuse, Nostagia for the Present

Don Hitchcock's image of the ibex discussed below. He writes about other aspects of the cave where this ibex was found over at this site.

I’ve been reading Clayton Eshleman’s remarkable THE JUNIPER FUSE about “upper paleolithic imagination and the construction of the underworld.” Two things in chapter one which have me thinking.

One. At some point, people made a fantastic imaginative leap. They developed a ‘vision’ of the(ir) world. They were able to conceptualize the world as a concept. We assume that a squirrel just lives in the world and moves through it without a thought to it being something. These people made the leap to imagine the world.

Two. In discussing the imagery created by Paleolithic people found on the walls of caves,
Eshleman makes a remarkable point which comes from the writing of  James Hillman. We tend to conceive of this kind of imaginary, and indeed the imagery of dreams, as being a representation of the real, waking world, the world above ground. But, what if we conceive of dreams and this subterranean imagery as referring only to archetypes, myth, the subconscious, and an internal world? It is not a working out or an illustration of the aboveground, of the conscious, but instead is made to exist solely and wholely in the unconscious and mythic world. Here’s what Eshleman says: “Modern people have interpreted their dreams and treated them as a reflection of daylight and daytime activities, thus denying them an autonomous realm, an archetypal place that corresponds with a distinct mythic geography – in short, an underworld that is not merely a reflection or diminution of an empirical sense world.”

In the caves of  Mas d'Azil (La Grotte du Mas d'Azil) there was found a carving on the end of a spear of an ibex with a turd emerging from it, two birds sitting on the turd. Evidently this image was quite significant or popular. It is found carved in a number of other places.

Here's a poem about it:

an ibex bends
a turd emerges

two birds land there
with remarkable wings

this a message from
our ancestors

ten thousand years ago

ten minutes
five minutes

one minute



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