Observations placeholder

J Wentzel van Huyssteen – Interdiscliplinary perspectives on human origins and religious awareness - And the owl

Identifier

021731

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

A description of the experience

Neolithic sculpture 3rd-2nd millenium BCE.
Cult stele or simple sculpture of a owl, from Algeria

J Wentzel van Huyssteen – Interdiscliplinary perspectives on human origins and religious awareness

And as far as specific Palaeolithic imagery goes,…. it is almost certainly a reliable expectation that a society which constructed complex tools and spectacular artistic imagery also had a correspondingly sophisticated symbolic infrastructure (cf. Deacon 1997: 365). Deacon's argument confirms the transversal impact of palaeoanthropology on the interdisciplinary dialogue with theology: a society that leaves behind evidence of permanent external symbolization in the form of paintings, carvings, and sculpture,  most likely also included a social, iconic function for this activity.

As far as Palaeolithic imagery goes, then, the first cave paintings and carvings that emerged from this period do give us the very first direct expression of a symbolizing mind.

What has emerged from the work of Mithen, Noble and Davidson, Donald, Tattersall and Deacon, and should be of primary interest to theologians working on anthropology, is that human mental life includes biologically unprecedented ways of experiencing and understanding the world, from aesthetic experiences to spiritual contemplation. In a recent article, Terence Deacon makes the important point that the spectacular Palaeolithic imagery and the burial of the dead, though not final guarantees of shamanistic or religious activities, do suggest strongly the existence of sophisticated symbolic reasoning and a spiritual disposition of the human mind (cf. Deacon 2003: 504fI).

The source of the experience

The Ancestors

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

Symbol system

Symbols

Owl

Science Items

Symbol system

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Commonsteps

References