Werner Herzog’s 2011 documentary The Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a gorgeous and meditative exploration of a 25,000-year-old ceremonial cave in Southern France. In the clip below, the camera crew illuminates the walls and brings the intricate paintings to life, thereby simulating the cave’s likely function as a temple for ritualized mythopoetic imaginings:
This prehistorical cinema is not alien to us. We also project our longings whenever we descend into the darkness of the movie theater and root for superheroes or become entranced with hyper-real special effects. Myth is always ritual, Karen Armstrong reminds us in A Short History of Myth. Is there anything more ritualistic than buying a ticket, some popcorn, and sinking into a dark room for two hours of alternative reality, only to leave disoriented and squinting into the sun like an unchained man escaping Plato’s cave?
Surfing the internet has also become a prominent ritual of the electronic age, accompanied by predictable physiological responses, unending streams of surreal and disconnected imagery, and the need for communal bonding.
Cliff Bostock’s 2003 article “Cyberwork: the Archetypal Imagination in New Realms of Ensoulment” (which Jeremy wrote about here) argues that cyberspace is not a retreat from the hard work of spiritual questing, but is instead a medium that allows us to engage with archetypal imagery and to explore manifestations of psyche. The ritual of browsing the internet produces the same effects as the ceremonies of ancient shaman: