In the Paleolithic age, a young boy is transformed into adulthood overnight through a terrifying process in the underground tunnels of Lascaux. Through fear, isolation, and the use of images, the experience allows him to recognize his powers and comprehend his purpose in life. He must face frightening ordeals such as traveling through a cramped tunnel in total darkness, being incarcerated and buried in the earth, and told that he would be eaten by a monster. The terror he experiences forces him to discover the inner strengths and resources that he was unaware existed within. Completely alone, he becomes conscious of his being and gains an understanding of life and death. Being stripped from everything familiar he knew above ground, he finds independence, and “is pushed into a new state of consciousness that enables him to appreciate the profound bonds that links hunter and prey in their common struggle for survival.” When the images of the cave are revealed, the boy is enlightened, both literally and spiritually; the artwork triggers timeless human emotions and thoughts that complete his initiation. The experience a young initiate undergoes gives him new knowledge, changing him into a man that is ready to hunt with sacred respect and sacrifice himself for his people.
Our religious experiences today are different because of our changing culture and needs. Our way of life has changed dramatically, and so has our society’s relationship to religion. The hunt sustained the ancient peoples, and so, to value and respect life was an essential part of their spiritual being. Today our world is sustained by money and production; our concerns no longer revolve around survival, but focus on consumerism. Our emotional response to the killing of animals and death are indifferent because we do not have understanding of those subjects on a personal level. The hunting rituals have lost their power in meaning because they are irrelevant to our cares and culture. The personal ties that the ancient peoples had in their respect for nature we now have for our technology and communication devices. An adolescent needs time to “find himself” today amongst the many choices and distractions around him, rather than “going into the tunnel” and searching for answers within. In our very busy world, personal reflection is difficult to experience and our identities are created, and our values dictated, by the technology and images around us. Primarily, religion has diminished because its importance to our being has been replaced by the many things that we can buy.
At the time, I did not realize that Homo Religiosis is a theory, not an essay, so if I find the work that this was inspired by or you happen to recognize it, please comment or link. This was written in 2011, and interestingly, after completely forgetting about it, I realize the content of a biology essay I wrote this year is very similar. My ideas have changed and developed since and I think it might be interesting to compare the two, so the other may be published in the future…
Thanks for reading,