psychedelic-cave-paintingsA new scientific paper on the origin of cave paintings suggests that humanity’s earliest artists deliberately sought out psychedelic states to create visionary art.

Prehistoric cave paintings across the continents have similar geometric patterns not because early humans were learning to draw like Paleolithic pre-schoolers, but because they were using psychedelics, and their brains—like ours—have a biological predisposition to “see” certain patterns, especially during consciousness altering states.

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At its core, this proposed theory challenges the long-held notion that the earliest art and atrists were merely trying to draw the external world. Instead, it sees cave art as a deliberate mix of rituals inducing altered states for participants, coupled with brain chemistry that elicits certain visual patterns for humanity’s early chroniclers.

The cave painters had rituals that involved taking drugs (undoubtedly plants) that they consumed in a frenzy to get to this creative state. This behavior and the same results were noted by 1960s-era academics studying the effects of peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus found in North America.

The non-ordinary visual experiences were often characterized by similar kinds of abstract geometric patterns, which he classified into four categories of form constants:

(1) gratings, lattices, fretworks, filigrees, honeycombs, and checkerboards

(2) cobwebs

(3) tunnels and funnels, alleys, cones,and vessels

(4) spirals

“Intriguingly, these form constants turned out to resemble many of the abstract motifs that are often associated with prehistoric art from around the world, including Paleolithic cave art in Europe.”

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psychedelic-cave-paintings-Blog Peterborough glyph

psychedelic-cave-paintings-ShamanFremontWarriorA BBC Documentary How Art Made the World suggested that art was originally an exclusive domain of spiritualists – these images were what the “Shaman” saw in trance. Terence Mckenna’s Stoned Ape Theory goes even deeper by suggesting that the ingestion of shrooms by early primates was the starting point of human evolution.

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psychedelic-cave-paintings-huntBut why would people across continents and cultures be drawn to record the same shapes?

The paper states the images generated by specific neural centers do resemble the templates for lots of 1960s psychedelic artists.

Why did they early humans gravitate to these patterns? Because the imagery was seen or sensed while having a super-sensory experience and therefore seemed to be imbued with cosmic significance. Put another way, people who explore their consciousness with psychedelics tend to find magic in simple details.

Were Paleolithic Cave Painters High on Psychedelic Drugs? Scientists Propose Ingenious Theory for Why They Might Have Been | AlterNet