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Inside the Neolithic Mind: Consciousness, Cosmos, and the Realm of the Gods Hardcover – October 17, 2005
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About the Author
David Pearce is a research officer at the Rock Art Research Institute.
Top Customer Reviews
The authors take us from Turkey to Ireland, from Neolithic to Bronze Age. They investigate the "religious" thinking of the era. We are frequently reminded that the three dimensions of religion are "experience, belief, and practice". Neolithic monuments and often houses are related to the cosmos in its separate layers.
Catal Huyuk, Bryn Celli Ddu, Newgrange and Knowth, and Brittany are given particularly detailed treatment. The rock scribings of these and other monuments are looked at in depth. The explanation is put forward that the designs represent the visions experienced by people undergoing a "religious" experience as in a trance-like state. In this the authors reject the concept that the designs relate to astronomical phenomena.
At the end a comparison is made between the age of the neolithic and our own times with our reliance on science, and the part played by Aristotle and the Greek philosophers in changing human thinking.
The book is very readable,well presented and illustrated.
The main thesis of this book is that altered-states of consciousness and our beliefs in and attempts to control supposed supernatural forces may have played a significant role in some major technological advancements from the Neolithic age. Moreover, these altered state experiences are not only central to the development of religious beliefs, but are also neurologically hard-wired into our central nervous systems. The archeological evidence and arguments are worth the effort of understanding, if just to get a speculative glimpse of the Neolithic world. What is less convincing, however, is the scant neurological backing the authors provide. This is one of the major shortfalls of this book.Read more ›
The discussion of modern work on hallucinogens and what it has to say about the neurology of perception and spiritual experience was very interesting also and in line with some of the books on mind/brain studies I've read. That one can look at the development of religious experience in an evolutionary manner has been suggested by other authors as well, most notably by Newberg in Why God Won't go Away.
I do have some reservations with respect to the author's approach, however. While I can appreciate that Neolithic thought made no distinctions between the spiritual world and the natural one, since many present people still don't, I find it difficult to accept that we can actually "know" the content of their thoughts, especially the emotional significance of them.
The author insists that by examining the cultural remains left by Neolithic groups one can come to an understanding of how they thought about their world. He uses the frequency of specific concepts in art found among a variety of people, both past and present, which suggest a degree of continuity. Somehow I'm doubtful.
First and foremost, one culture often has no real understanding of the significance of cultural items outside of their specific culture. Sometimes we don't even know how different individuals perceive these items within a shared culture.
For instance, my feelings about Christmas and Christmas icons, like pine trees, wrapping paper and blinky lights, are very upbeat.Read more ›
Using the recent finds of archaeology and the cognitive sciences, the authors postulate that Neolithic society developed the foundations of religion. Moreover, religion pre-dated the adoption of agriculture and husbandry. Archaeology has revealed sites in Asia Minor suggesting that hunter-gatherer groups built shrines, seasonally visited for ritual purposes. Communities grew around these shrines and agriculture was developed to support them. The shrines marked a departure from earlier practices of dealing with the spirit realm in caves, represented by such sites as Lascaux and Chauvet as described in Lewis-William's previous book, "The Mind In the Cave" . The above-ground shrines allowed greater community participation and a new social structure. One aspect of that change was the burial of heads beneath the floors of houses. Some of the corpses may indicate more than just ancestral burial, and represent sacrifices. Was spiritual power derived from those buried heads, the authors query?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read this book for one of my more advanced Anthropology courses and found it enjoyable as well as informative. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Larissa
I think this is a really interesting view of early human culture. I think it brings some modern and interesting insights into what is the source of religion for early man, shows... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Paul Hoehne
I've been seeing hints of this sort of work over the past many years - and here it is.Published 16 months ago by D. Finnley
Very interesting, but just a little on the heavy side....more so than his 1st book.....Published 18 months ago by Kathleen Anne TenWolde
This book traces esoteric facts from the past and presents a case that appears to be a carefully cobbled possibility from the past.Published on May 22, 2014 by John M Haaheim
This is an interesting, if uneven, book that attempts to penetrate the thought processes of neolithic peoples in the Near East and Western Europe. Read morePublished on February 2, 2014 by Robert J. Crawford
Another excellent book in the field written by well-credentialed authors. Especially valuable is there commentary on the hard-wiring in the brain that all humans share and that... Read morePublished on January 17, 2014 by Eileen