Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Jungian archaeology and the Palaeolithic Venus: conclusion

Venus of Brassempouy
Photo: Mathis Patrick
cropped to golden proportion,
stand removed.
When I found  J. T. Thomas' paper, The Cousins of Sarah Baartman, it struck me that it was pertinent both to my series, The Palaeolithic artist, and to my concept of a Jungian archaeology.

Facing a lack of physical evidence about the motives of the prehistoric artist, the archaeologist must inject suppositions and the source of these can be nowhere but the mind of that archaeologist. Archaeology obtains its results purely from physical evidence so we have to ask ourselves to what degree of psychological materialism is the archaeologist working from and how much did that psychology play a part in the adoption of archaeology as an interest? In other words we cannot study the object without also studying the subject (the observer). At the very least, the subject formulates questions about the object.

In recent years, the subject of art has come under scrutiny by archaeologists and the consensus of opinion has separated ancient art from modern art to a very great degree: art for art's sake has been rejected in ancient art, but the only studies that have been done on the subject have involved not the creative processes of the artist, but the reception and function of the art, itself. I maintain that this is a projection of the materialist psychology and that its consensus is partly due to to agreement from minds of the same psychological type and partly due to the fact that the materialist psychology is strongest in extraverted types who are favoured in organizations and who are more forceful in transmitting their wishes than introverted types.

An archaeological organization or group wishing to embrace Jungian concepts would organize itself more along the lines of an impartial think tank and thus select people who, together, displayed a balanced psychological viewpoint. Only by doing this could objectivity be better approached. Communication is very difficult for for people on opposite ends of the introvert/extravert spectrum and the best scientific collaborations are always made by people that are opposite in this spectrum but much closer to the middle as such people can communicate very well and have a great deal of respect and even admiration for each other.

But given the setting up of such an ideal crew, the mind of the prehistoric artist might seem to be unavailable. While this is true for particular, specific and conscious thoughts, it is not true for the underlying psychological components from which these specific thoughts issue in the same way that the thoughts issue from the archaeologist depending on their degree of extraversion/introversion; materialism/spiritualism and so on.

For the last part of these dichotomies, Jung's observation about the unconscious will be considered both valid and more importantly, applicable: As deeper levels of the unconscious are revealed, the first loss is that of language which is replaced by mental pictures. Going deeper, the mental pictures lose their subjectivity and become geometrical arrangements e.g. Jung's quarternity and his extraverted collaborator, Wofgang Pauli's dominant double-triadic symbol (section 3.2)

The mind/brain duality becomes quite useful for such an archaeological crew as I envision because the materialist can come to the same conclusions by looking at the evolutionary development of the brain, itself: The reptilian brain does nothing more than regulate the physical processes, but the human brain evolved from primates and is capable of conscious thought, abstraction and language.Between these two is the limbic brain which appeared in the first mammals and "It can record memories of behaviours that produced agreeable and disagreeable experiences, so it is responsible for what are called emotions in human beings.". Clearly, this is also the part of the brain that governs aesthetics as it is very common for artists to be unable to state exactly why they did a certain thing beyond the statement that it "felt right". So, this leads us back again to the concepts of art and aesthetics as discussed by Jung; the "peak experiences" of Maslow (which can be both aesthetic and religious) and Joyce's definition of "proper art".

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