Magic Art

Art as Theology: Chapter Two

      1. Paintings on the Wall
      2. The Contemporary Stone Age
      3. Demonic Art

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“There is a spirit in things to which we owe allegiance.” (William James, 1956. Page 43)

Paintings on the Wall

Current archeological finds of Paleolithic art are largely images of deer or bison, often being struck down by arrows or spears, (Myers, 1967, Pages 9-11). These were not only the animals which filled their world about, but they were also the center of their economy. These deer, bison, antelope and such were food, clothing, as well as raw material for tools, musical instruments and more. But we still want to ask why did these cave dwellers go to such great effort to produce the magnificent cave art we have found so far. In particular cave art which has been found far from the light of day causes us to doubt that its purpose was aesthetic. While these people must have had decorative arts, particularly in clothing or mundane objects, the cave paintings interest us because they seem to suggest a greater depth to the spiritual life of these people.

In art historian Arnold Hauser's view, “The Paleolithic hunter and painter thought that he was in possession of the thing itself in the picture, thought he had acquired power over the object in the portrayal of the object. He believed the real animal actually suffered the killing of the animal portrayed in the picture.” (Hauser, 1951, vol.1. Page 7; see also: Gardner, 1959. Pages 41-42; and Rosenberg, 1964. Pages 200-202). Bernard S. Meyers notes that there are many cave paintings in northern Spain which are found in difficult to reach passages with no indication of habitation, which further strengthens the argument that they were of ritual significance not aesthetic, (Myers, 1967. Page 10). Some sites show evidence of cutting or slashing at the pictures as if the hunt were being enacted. Careful excavation in another cave has revealed ancient footprints which appear to indicate dancing.

Further, while animals are often portrayed with a great deal of realism, people, if portrayed at all, are drawn extremely crudely. “It is almost as though the artist, feeling he must draw the animal convincingly in magic terms, was afraid to portray the man, who might thereby fall prey to an enemy.” (Myers, 1967. Page 10). So animals drawn with exquisite realism and beauty are found side-by-side with drawings of human stick figures. Similarly, small carved amulets from the period representing female figures are heavily stylized with disregard to the features of the face, arms and legs. In fact the head is often represented by little more than a bump and the arms may disappear altogether. The sexual portions are amply represented by voluptuous lumps (Gardner, 1959. Page 42; Levey. Pages 17-18). These amulets, created by societies capable of exquisite representation are intentionally not representational, but are designed to ensure fertility.

The hunters on the wall of Lascaux or the “Venus” of Willendorf are stylized, not by the clumsiness of the artist, but by the religious and spiritual intentions of the artist. Hauser and Meyers are reasoning backwards from the art to attempt to paint a picture of the Paleolithic mind. With Clifford Geertz (Geertz, 1973. Pages 77-78) I believe that thinking necessitates a ‘symbol-set’. The arts provide a visceral symbol-set as close to the bone, as gut level as we ever display. In the case of an ancient culture, particularly one with no written language, this is the best hint we have of their thinking. Geertz, who is a social-anthropologist of contemporary cultures, says that, “In order to make up our minds we must know how we feel about things; and to know how we feel about things we need the public images of sentiment that only ritual, myth and art can provide.” (Geertz, 1973. Page 82). There is a field of psychology Paleo-Psychology, which attempts to deduce the psychology of early artists from their art. Particularly in the case of a culture no longer with us, it is only reasonable to reason backwards from their symbol-set to their mind-set.

Given the incredible refinement of the Lascaux painting in particular, we are forced to assume that either the entire society had a very high degree of artistic skill, or that certain individuals had been separated out to develop their skills as artists. To the eye of the modern anthropologist, it appears that the Paleolithic artist was a magician/priest serving the community interests by insuring a successful hunt, fertility, etc. As the subject matter of the cave art is clearly defined and meaningful to the whole community, it is reasonable to assume that the Paleolithic artist is not bending to an aesthetic task, but to an occult or religious one. It is reasonable to assume that some form of magic was involved, most probably that of visualizing the successful kill in the hunt or visualizing fertility. The first known artists appear to be priests and magicians as well as artists. Magic of this sort is self centered, using occult means to ensure my wants and needs or our wants and needs are met.

The religious content of this art is more difficult to ascertain. By this I mean it is hard to determine whether or not the artists were leaning Godward or towards heaven at all. Certainly many of the paintings have a rare beauty to them, but that does not imply any higher motives than personal satisfaction and artistic pride. Like the Tower of Babel, from the best we can discern over long unwritten history, any leaning of these peoples toward God was strictly self-seeking. On the other hand it is interesting to note the lack of any obvious totemic art. Unless the ‘Venus’ amulets can be assumed to be representative of a goddesses of fertility, which I don't think we can infer, there is no empirical evidence of polytheistic worship either.


The Contemporary Stone Age.

Resemblance between modern day hunter/gatherer societies dwelling in rain forests or the Australian outback involves some tendentious speculation. The mind set of a society that hasn't fundamentally changed over several hundred millenia is hard to apply to Paleolithic societies which did change. Although their external circumstances may appear to resemble each other, the soul of their art may be another matter. One academic discussion of paleo-psychology “Paleolithic Cave Art: the Tactile-Kinesthetic vs. the Visual Modality” by Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, of the University of Oregon, questions whether the intellectual processes of ancient Paleolithic cave dwellers was the same as those of contemporary paleolithic societies. This points up the difficulty. We are guessing and will never know for sure the who and the why of these artists.

Context is important to art. Place a urinal on the wall in a public space, it is a bizarre action. But, during a time of social and political turmoil, place a urinal on the wall of an art gallery, sign it, and suddenly a statement is being made about the nature of aesthetics itself. Whether Duchamp's “Fountain” is brilliant art or pugnacious prank, it is representative of a sea change in thinking about art. Context is everything to understanding the “Fountain” as art. In the case of Paleolithic art, we infer the social context, partly from tiny clues, and partly from contemporary cultures which most closely approximate those clues. But we have to realistically admit it is all guess work. While a rigid equivalence should not be made, there is undoubtedly some validity in comparing the two.

The Wallendorf “Venus” is clearly the figure of a woman from very early European times. The figure has no face, tiny arms, and large breasts and a large midsection with pronounced vulva. It really doesn't take much imagination to suggest that this is either early pornography or a charm or amulet for sexual or fertility purposes. The best clue we have, since it is impossible to look in on those cultures directly, is to examine aboriginal Australians, or African tribal art. As I have already noted this is not without it's dangers, but it does make the guesswork a little less free-form. Here we find remarkably similar artifacts produced throughout the world which are idols representing various goddesses of fecundity, many of which are still worshipped.

Of particular note are elaborate headpieces. The “Wallendorf Venus” has the face obscured by a an elaborate hairdo or perhaps a woven headpiece with seashells. I do not believe, as I stated above that we can state with any assurance that the Venus of Wallendorf represents a goddess figure. Surely the best explanation is that this is a charm or amulet. It is most likely represents an occult attempt to insure fertility. In fact, the lack of features might suggest that it does not represent a specific being, spiritual or otherwise, but merely a desire.

As in the case of the churinga of the Australian aborigines, (Durkheim, 1961. Pages 140-148), many paleo-lithic societies have a number of taboos related to occult objects. This will immediately cause us to speculate that the reason for placing cave art deep in difficult to reach locations, which can only be viewed by torch light, was to strictly limit who could and who could not see it, and or take place in any activities which involved the art. I think that this is a fair assumption even if we don't know the exact nature of their relationship to and thinking about the art.

Modern paleo-lithic societies do have decorative arts to be sure, but the most significant artwork produced by tribesmen in Australia, New Guinea, Africa or other contemporary stone using people groups seems to be for occult or magic purposes, or to invoke the favor of various gods. Because of this, the occult purposes drive the depictions. Interestingly, we do not see the careful beauty of the art of Lasquex or other cave art. Is it possible that specifically by training out the experimental joy of art, these current societies have become rooted in a rhythm that refuses to change over the millennium.


Demonic Art.

Religious conviction and experience constrains me to enter a note of caution here. It is not surprising that a web search for “Wallendorf Venus” turns up Wiccan sites involved in Mother goddess worship. Most of what we know of Paleolithic art appears to represent idols, or was designed for the purpose of witchcraft control over nature. Commandment number two “You shall not make for yourself an idol” (Genesis 20:4) along with various biblical injunctions against witchcraft (Deuteronomy 18:10 & 14) should be a good clue.

There is a lot of very fascinating art created for cultic purposes, either for witchcraft to bring blessings or curses, or objects for the devotion to various gods, saints, or ethereal beings. This is very interesting stuff but I would suggest you stay away from it. Definitely do not keep it in your house. This is very popular stuff nowadays. Oriental statuettes, Mayan calanders with the sun god, Northwest Coast Indian totemic art, Mexican or African masks or other cultic objects. The list is endless. I myself wore a Thunderbird image on a belt buckle for years. These are cursed objects that we should stay away from.

Assuming these objects are decorative items with no real significance, then I am being foolish. If on the other hand they do have the ability to motivate spiritual beings, then following the biblical lead treat them as an abomination and destroy them utterly. At the risk of sounding a bit off I can relay an incident from Pastor Chris Simpson, who I work with. A woman came to him who was having various problems in her life including poltergeists in her house. She and her husband had spent time in Africa and had collected many objects for use in witchcraft or cultic worship. When she called in the middle of the night because the dishes where moving by themselves, Pastor Chris went over to investigate. Finding the house full of ritual art, Pastor Chris and those with him, with the owner's permission and help, immediately destroyed it all. No more poltergeists. As for the thunderbird belt buckle I wore, it was definitely connected to a spirit of judgement which I actually felt leaving my body when I entered into high praise. I felt a empty place for several weeks after that. The best I can assume is that a spiritual entity had taken up residence in me. While it did not control me, (i.e. I was not ‘possessed’), it did greatly affect my outlook on the world, and not for the better.

I recently had a question put to me about the use of crosses. The answer is this: if a cross is being used as a cultic object, to worship, or as an amulet for protection, this symbol of execution is being used in a way forbidden, that is, it is being used in an occult manner. This is exemplified by Hosea's destruction of the brazen serpent because “the children of Israel did burn incense to it” (2 Kings 18:4). Because of the syncretic nature of Catholicism the inclusion of cultic objects as ‘holy’ is endemic. It is not unusual for Catholics to be under many curses because of this witchcraft despite loving Jesus. Idolatrous worship of various statues, images and shrines is rampant throughout many churches. Halloween, Christmas and Easter (“Ishtar”) are all rooted in pagan ritual celebrations. Halloween especially seems to have returned to where it began and worse. I have noticed that Christmas and Easter are also becoming un-Christianized as well.

I do not want to give the impression that crosses are evil, nor am I an iconoclast. Like fire, it's not the image that is a fault, but the manner in which a piece of art may be used. It appears that usage in an occult way, causes an occult memory. This was undoubtedly the case with the collection mentioned above. Even though the collectors had never used them in any occult way to our knowledge. What the nature of this memory is I cannot say any more than I can tell you what a demon is for sure. But in the deliverance ministry we go by the motto, “when in doubt, cast it out”. I know I don't want it, so I get rid of it. The same should apply to occult art.

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