ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
ago by our Paleolithic ancestors. While these abstract designs baffled the first investigators, they are comparable to artwork done by contemporary or near-contemporary nomads such as the San of Southwest Africa (popularly called Bushmen) and Australian aborigines. Similar designs have been discovered elsewhere, such as in South America.
In a deeper stage of ASC, according to Clotte and David-Williams, attempts are made by shamans to attribute religious or emotional significance to the geometric shapes they see. A round luminous form may stand for a cup of water; shimmering zigzags may be a writhing serpent.
In the next stage, subjects experiencing an ASC may enter a vortex or tunnel and feel themselves drawn through to emerge at the far end in a bizarre world of monsters, intensely real animals, and people. Some who have had such experiences liken them to “pictures painted before your imagination” or to a “motion picture or slide show.” The vortex is particularly interesting because of the many accounts in recent years of near-death experiences in which the person leaves the body and glides through a a tunnel with light at the end, often with an accompanying guardian, and arrives at a beautiful landscape from which the person does not want to return. C .G. Jung experienced just such an episode during a bout with pneumonia when he was delirious. He later recalled being in outer space gazing down at India below. He felt great peace and euphoria There was a Hindu temple in space which he wanted to enter, but instead he felt himself drawn back down to earth, back into his pain-wracked old body. The experience convinced him of the immortality of the soul. (I once met a bearded man in London who, over beers in a pub, told me how, when ill, he also had found himself in outer space gazing down at India. He had longed to stay, but was drawn back. Both this man and Jung had been to India, which was possibly a reason for this particular hallucination, but on a deeper level, perhaps India was chosen because of the intense religiosity of the people.)
Such experiences as these are very possibly the origin of accounts such as that of the Chinvad Bridge in the Zoroastrian Avestas. The souls of the dead are said to cross this bridge, and, if virtuous, are greeted with their goodness embodied in the form of a beautiful woman surrounded by dogs who leads them to paradise, where they are reunited with departed friends and family. (There is a poem called Rainbow Bridge written for bereaved owners of animal friends. Just this side of Heaven is a place where the beloved animal companions cavort and play until one or another bounds to a familiar form who has just arrived, and then they all cross the Rainbow Bridge together. While this poem is unquestionably the product of imagination, the motif on which it is based is very ancient and is found in very old sacred texts as well as recurring in archaic myths. Its origins may well be shamanic.)
In the deepest stage of ASC, some people also esperience transformation into animals. South African San rock art shows images of shamans turning into antelopes. They have antelope heads, hooves, and human bodies. “The Dancing Sorcerer” found in a paleolithic cave, mentioned earlier, is the origin of the famous “Sorcerer” of Lascaux, almost the logo of the Paleolithic. The antlered