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The Multiplicity of Being

 

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What a wonderful workshop we just had in Moscow on January 7, 8 and 9! Thank you to all who organized and participated! Our theme was “Dancing the Multiplicity of the Human Being.” Renata Murez led a talk and brief introduction to the workshop on January 6, which happened to be the celebration of Kolyada, and, following traditional custom, several members of the audience were dressed in animal costumes!

Kolyada is a feast day which is gradually coming back to life, originally a day to acknowledge the return of the sun, and to sing songs wishing one another good harvests and happy marriages, with many dressing up as the opposite gender, or as animals, such as bear, goats or sheep.

Celebrations like these remind us of what our ancient ancestors knew: that we are descendants, and younger members of the animal kingdom. The walls of caves such as Lascaux or Chauvet give greater attention to depicting animals, rather than humans. Exquisitely rendered images of deer, horses, panthers, lion, bears, hyenas, bison, rhinoceros, mammoths, owls, ibex, aurochs, hyenas and wolves stand in contrast to the rare human figures which are often drawn as stick figures, or wearing animal skins or antlers, or bearing an animal-like feature, such as a bird’s head or beak.

This reverential rendering of animal figures suggests, as poet and explorer Clayton Eshleman points out, a longing to return to an earlier state in which human and animals were one. In his introduction to his seminal work of poetry and prose, Juniper Fuse, Eshleman writes:

…I believe that the origin and elaboration of cave imagery may have been motivated by a crisis in which Upper Paleolithic people began to separate the animal out of their about-to-be human heads and to project it onto cave walls (as well as onto a variety of portable tools and weapons often made out of the animals themselves). In other words, that the liberation of what might be called the autonomous imagination came from within as a projective response on the part of those struggling to differentiate themselves from, while being deeply bonded to, the animal.

This separating out of the animal as a formative function of Cro-Magnon imagination indicates, on a daily, practical level, the increasing separation between animal and human domains. I conjecture that this separation was brought about in large part by action-at-a-distance weapons (the spear, the spear-thrower, the harpoon, and probably the bow and arrow). Shamanism, or what might be more accurately termed proto-shamanism, may have come into being as a reactive swerve from this separation continuum, to rebind human being to the fantasy of that paradise which did not exist until the separation was sensed.

(from http://www.claytoneshleman.com/intro.html)

Eshleman goes on to point out the three-dimensional correspondence between features of the cave wall and the animals depicted—for example, the movement of the cave’s contours corresponding with the rhythmic run of bison. This gives a visceral quality to these paintings, a sense of what it’s like to be in close range to these animals.

And indeed Eshleman suggests that the artists imagined the animals to be emerging from the cave wall itself—from dimensions on the “other side” of the wall.

Reflecting on these creations, we can feel our ancestors’ wonder at appearing as the latecomer into this incredible diversity of interdependent being and perception. We can imagine that the animals called forth our human ancestors from the walls of a cosmic cave, from that original, infinite source, to dream us into being.

 

 

We will explore this theme in depth in our upcoming Workshop in Berlin, July 1, 2 & 3 2016 followed by a July 4 visit to the forests and wetlands of Spreewald, a UNESCO biosphere reserve,

and in other Upcoming Events:
Online Classes
Local Classes
Workshops

 

Related Posts:
The Multiplicity of Being: Who Dreamt Who?
Introducing Animal of the Month Series: The Sponge

 

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Comments

  1. titreyen kaya says:

    For me the most important finding in this seminar was that every disturbing sensation, feeling or thought can be changed no matter how much it looks like basical, essential, real, objective and unchangeable. I can change like everybody else. I have all possibilities of a human being. Thanks to all organizing and realizing this workshop.

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