My projects are all finished, the tree is up, there are fairy lights adorning the walls, and while I was researching something unrelated, I found this really profound quote from the eminent phenomenologist J.D. Lewis-Williams:
“All communities are obliged to formulate definitions of consciousness, various kinds of altered consciousness and madness, whether explicitly or implicitly, for these mental conditions are inescapably part of being human. At the same time, those definitions are always a site of contestation. The resources on which Upper Palaeolithic individuals drew in the construction and transformation of acceptable and powerful social identities therefore doubtless included definitions of various kinds of consciousness. As in many societies and subcultures today, altered, or ecstatic, states of consciousness were a manipulatable resource. Indeed, any account of the past that omits consideration of altered states of consciousness is likely to be incomplete (cf. Sherratt 1991: 52). The hostility of some researchers to discussion of altered states is obscurantist.”
— J.D. Lewis-Williams, 1997, page 812.
I had the distinction of meeting Professor Lewis-Williams in a pub back in 2008 or possibly 2009, and I am sorry to say that I did not understand phenomenology in the slightest, although he explained it very patiently. Maybe that was the point of the conversation, since I started out thinking I understood phenomenology and finished the first pint of beer whilst realizing I had less comprehension than John Snow. Revisiting the whole concept this week has been enlightening, though I’m sure if I met him again I’d discover that I still don’t understand it.*
Happy beginning of December, everyone!
*Due to the Spiral Curriculum.
|Lewis-Williams, J.D. (1997) “Agency, art and altered consciousness: a motif in A7 (Quercy) Upper palaeolithic parietal art”, Antiquity 71. 812.|