The cave - the uterus of the Mother Earth
Dr. Diego Frigoli*
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MATERIA PRIMA Rivista di Psicosomatica Ecobiopsicologica
Convergenze e Divergenze - Numero XII – Dicembre 2013 - Anno III
From time immemorial the cave has always been considered the mysterious prelude to an underground world, the symbolic expression of the maternal womb, the favoured place for the cults of the Great Mother. The mystery of the darkness related to the larval condition, and the walls of the cave rich in stalactites could not but recall, in the mentality of the ancient peoples, the hidden charm of the analogous “cave” of the woman from which they could observe the rhythmic flow of the menstrual humors and, at times, the creative manifestation of the birth of the human being.
Place of rebirth
Therefore the symbolic “cave”, the uterus and the vagina of the Earth, permitted he who inhabiting it, to metaphorically return, with the evolution of his consciousness, to the emotions and the memories of his own embryo life. That explains why the caves present in the Mesopotamic and Indian areas as well as in the Mediterranean basin by the Celts or by the Amerindic peoples, have always been considered more than permanent homes, sacred places, where the encounter with the secular forces of the Mother Earth responsible of the generation, could take place.
That is why on the walls of many caves of the Neolithic or more recently as described for the Nay-Tunich cave by the Maya, there are painting depictions of ritual scenes of hunting and also sexuality. The incomprehensible sense for our modern thought of the presence of these images in these hidden, almost inaccessible places, often difficult to be observed, can in fact only be grasped with an empathic identification with the thought of these ancient peoples. In comparison to the modern men, the ancient men had a more immediate, visceral, instinctive relation with nutrition. For them dominated by the fear of diseases and famines, terrified by the world of the elements which were suffered more than understood, the only possibility could be figured in a sort of constant and silent prayer, almost an imploring through a participation mystique, of the chthonic forces in order to ingratiate them to get favours.
For the priests of the time the act of impetrating, meaning imploring was carried out through the act of engraving the stones of the cave, the uterus of the Mother Earth, with scenes representing the wish of a people. In so doing, the priest assimilated himself to a cosmic fecundating agent able to penetrate the concrete “matter” of the Mother Earth to store his desires in order to obtain from it, after an opportune time of gestation, the visible and concrete result of his needs.
An act of sympathetic magic that through the use of analogies, enabled him to have access to the mysteries of the man-cosmos relation in a focused way. But what once, for our ancestors, represented a rite to get in touch with the telluric forces of the Great Mother, for us as modern men, it subsists as a symbolic memory of the emotions sedimented in our body that sometimes, in the hard times of our life, can wake up in dreams and fantasies.
Out of time, between birth and death
For that, the psychology of the deep treats the oniric images of entering a cave or a cavern as a need for re-generation and metamorphosis of the personality only possible to be obtained at the price of repeating metaphorically the act of our gestation, an inner renovatio able to modify in depth our own consciousness.
Allusively, returning to the cave means re-living the security of a remote event antecedent the birth to experience that moment of shadow, that indistinct instant, where in the limbo, the soul is not only the spiritual essence of the living man, but in its purity, has not been incarnated in the body yet.
In the cave the time does not exist, there is neither yesterday nor tomorrow, because in it also the day and the night are undivided in a homogeneity of larval existence as it happens in the life of the dead before the final dissolution of the terrestrial links. Therefore the cave is not only the place of the psychological regeneration, but also of the spiritual one.
In the caves of the Neolithic there are often graves with the bodies of our ancestors buried in the fetal position in the attempt to orientate the animic forces of the dead in the paligenetic direction of resurrection in the hope of overcoming the traps and the deceits of the afterlife through a position of the body that, miming the position of the body during the gestation, is inevitably aimed to the future rebirth.
The fact that the cave represents the bridge of a symbolic passage between the World of the Causes and the World of the Forms is demonstrated also by the well known Platonic myth in the Republic.
The Platonic myth of the cave
In the myth, Plato imagines an underground cave with people tied among themselves having been chained since their childhood facing only a blank wall opposite the entrance, without the possibility of turning their head around or backwards.
Behind them, high and far away shines a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners, is a road limited by a wall along which people walk carrying objects of all kinds that overcoming the wall, are visible from the cave - wood or stone little statues symbolizing things and animals. The prisoners cannot but watch the shadows of these little statues projected on the wall in front of them: they cannot imagine either the shadows are not real realities, neither they are originated from real objects they cannot know about.
But if one of the prisoners was untied and could turn his head, he would have difficulty at least at first, in realizing what he had thought as real were just shadows. If then the prisoner was taken to the light of the Sun, he would at first be unable to contemplate it directly and should limit to see the images of the real things reflected in the waters of the rivers and the lakes; only gradually he would manage to contemplate the light and the Sun directly and without bewilderment anymore.
The shadows of the cave can confuse us
And if the prisoner returned to the cave, he would have harm in persuading the prisoners still in cave all their knowledge is made of just evanescent and inconsistent shadows, unreal in their manifestation.
The interpretation offered by the myth is clear.
The tied man is a slave of the learnt opinions, of the fake images his psyche since childhood has been forced to be subjected to. Only when the imperceptible but strong link of the learnt opinions is broken, the psyche addressing to itself, can examine its inner side and discover the images it has always believed in, were only representations of the things and facts assimilated by others.
In so doing the psyche can discover the emotion and the life of the affections, that is the empathic dimension according to which things exist in a process of perennial development and entanglement of the bonds dominated by the heart; but only when the psyche is able to leave the “cave” of the links, with the matter, it can know the “clear light” of the mind and explore the world and its real connections.
According to the myth, getting out of the cave means entering the knowledge of the reason of the things as does the mathematician who starting from postulated hypotheses, following the cause-effect criterion, builds up the speculative building of his own representations.
Out into the light to know the world
Generally speaking, such a knowledge expresses the attempt commonly made by the “evolved” man, who is not yet integrated, to search for a rational explanation to the ordinary facts of life.
But only when the psyche is able to get the secret sense of the Light and stabilizes it inside itself as a conscious act, then it will experiment the greatest moment of knowledge defined as intellection or noesis (intus-legere) metaphorically meaning reflecting in its inner the economy identified by the experience from the outside.
Thanks to the noesis or intellection, the return to the cave will become illuminating because once the consciousness awaken, it will be able to give the right sense and measure to the things articulating each aspect with the other, in a process according to which the man as stated by Pico della Mirandola, once become the “centre” of the world, can build up a dialogue with it or better a dialectics not anymore unmindful, oblivious, but alive and empathic.
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*Dr. Diego Frigoli - Founder and promoter of the ecobiopsychological thought. Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist and Director of the ANEB Institute – School of Specialization in Psychotherapy. Innovator in the study of the imaginary focusing on the symbol in relation to its dynamics between the individual and the collective knowledge.
Translated by Dr.ssa Raffaella Restelli – Psychologist, member of the British Psychological Society (UK), Ecobiopsychological Counselor and expert in ANEB Psychosomatic Medicine. Linguist in ANEB Editorial area.