Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Imaginal Archaeology

We're heading down to San Diego today for the annual conference for the Society of the Anthropology of Consciousness. They're an eclectic group of anthropologists, transpersonal psychologists, and consciousness explorers - including the remnants of the academic psychedelic research scene from the 1960s.

Back before Timothy Leary started hawking LSD like it was snake oil.

The image above is a prehistoric rock art site in Nicaragua, an ancient sacred site close to my heart, and the reason why I'm travelling down to San Diego. Spirals, concentric rings and other abstract geometric shapes (as well as as a few monkeys, birds and otherworldly creatures for good measure) were pecked into these boulders by the indigenous people of Nicaragua long before the Spanish arrived in the 15th century. Archaeologists still don't know who these people were, or when they lived.

I'm presenting a short paper on my experiences in Nicaragua last year when I volunteered with the Ometepe Petroglyph Project. I tracked my dreams during the fieldwork session to reveal my biases, expectations, and intuitions about prehistoric rock art on Ometepe Island. That practice forever changed the way I see the enterprise of science.

Let me tell you, I'm all about William James' radical empiricism, and learning to pay attention to the anomalous experiences we have but tend to deny because they don't fit our conscious worldview. Dreamwork can do this, as can body meditation, journalling, learning a new language, fasting, and watching an entire season of Battlestar Galactica in one sitting. I recommend all but the last.

When it's all said and done, this work is really about sense of place. By staying close to our perceptions, we can learn how be open to the unique landscapes all around the world and also in our own communities.

This work is crucial for places like Ometepe Island, where the ancient rock art is endangered by modern living practices as well as the eco-tourism market that is capitalizing on the artifacts.

I hope that by sharing my experiences about rock art and dreams, that more people will come to remember - and protect - the sacred landscapes we live within.


Doctor Snick-Beak said...

Thank you for another long-awaited slice of dreamcrisp, Dungan. You know, William James was all the rage, a real up & comer philosophist nouveau...until Freud eclipsed him. That's what I heard once, anyway. Apparently Freud's ideas were more, um, you know, sexy. As in penis and vagina, but also as in the neat little promises of a "sweet scientific objectivity." Freud was also charismatic as hell...and charisma goes a long way. At any rate, the two men actually met once, in Boston, 1909. Know what happened? Well, this is what I heard anyway: I heard that James had an anxiety attack during their meeting. There's a lot of symbolism in this image: those two cats, representing two important strains of philosophical/psychological/spiritual inquiry, and one of gets caught up in a swell of anxiety. Well, it was foreshadowing, if nothin' else...

Dr. Freud and the Eclipses said...

Whoa, snick-beak ...and objectivity in observation is the fantasy scientists have been jerking off to ever since.

Dear Dungan, I think methods like yours of including self-awareness of bias, assumptions, and impact as another variable in the experiment is as close to honest information as we are ever going to get.

Good luck in your talk. Have fun being the philosopher nouveau.