The theme of the last alchemy group gathering for the winter was the Cave. This seemed so appropriate. I can’t think of caves without thinking of cave painting, the first known human art form and image making practice, such testimony to the idea that the making of images is as vital as eating and breathing. Because those early humans, so oriented towards survival, had no energy to spare for the unnecessary.
Cave imagery is about the dark, about going inward and underground to explore, or hibernate, or both. Forming my cave image out of chicken wire and plaster, I remembered climbing into Wind Cave with the Photographer several years ago, and Mammoth Cave more recently. Both are now tourist attractions; Wind Cave even has a revolving door built into the side of it. But the first entrance known to white men looked barely big enough for a human adult to crawl into. It’s impossible to guess that behind that small hole and its yards of rocky tunnel, there are rooms big enough to hold hundreds of people.
This is what it’s like for me as well, going inward to meditate, to sleep or to write. I find some way in, crawl through a tight space of restlessness, or boredom, a space where my mind tells me there are so many other things to do. But eventually I step into a spacious, dark and quiet place. Time opens up, and the same five minutes that feels like such a tiny room in everyday consciousness stretches into an enormity of wonderful emptiness. This is a space those early ancestors knew as well; meditation, yoga and prayer are ancient practices, and I often think it’s the primitive human brain that still knows how to do this, that despite all our collective intellectualism and study around psychology and religion, it’s really the primitive mind that guides the conscious one.
At least, I hope so.