But Emanuel Swedenborg and George Gurdjieff both disputed this contemporary assumption. They insisted that the human intellect has actually atrophied since remote times. Proof of this seemingly anti-intuitive position is that modern academics have great difficulty interpreting prehistoric and cave artwork. An element of mystery always surrounds ancient art.
Scholars try to interpret these images in purely natural terms, believing that ancient humans were merely trying to understand the physical world and habitat around them. They do leave some room for abstract thought and primitive religious expression. However, this abstract thought is seen as an early expression of human fantasy and superstition.
What is misjudged is the depth of intellectual abstraction portrayed in the images used by prehistoric humans. These ancient images represent supra-natural (other-worldly) knowledge and wisdom!
Swedenborg called this superior knowledge the science of correspondences. Ancient civilizations based this science on the premise that all things and processes in the visible terrestrial world were analogs of things existing in the invisible spiritual realm. Ancient artists, therefore, used objects and animals found in nature to represent heavenly and theological realities.
Swedenborg went to great lengths to reintroduce this knowledge to the modern world.
For instance, a stag (like the one above) depicted not simply “food on the hoof,” but intellectual freedom. The antlers represented the intellectual power obtained from this freedom. (Gurdjieff maintained that the number of “forks” or branching displayed by the antlers represented a particular level of spiritual development enjoyed by either the artist or those of the tribe.)
Hunters with spears or bows and arrows represented those who had the persuasive power to teach spiritual lessons for the human heart. Killing an animal represented the death of an inferior state of mind and its transformation into a nobler level by becoming the food, which would support and maintain the higher qualities of the spiritual hunters. (If this idea seems strange, remember that Jesus told His disciples to become “fishers” of men.)
Not only did Jesus use this symbolic language (He only spoke in parables), Swedenborg claimed that all the narratives of the Lord God’s Holy Word contains the same symbolic language as that depicted by ancient artwork! (This revelation will eventually turn the modern worldview on its head.)
Grasping this sacred symbolic language requires opening a level of the human mind, which modern neuroscientists have yet to detect. This higher level of understanding in the human mind has been gradually closed off by the increased propensity of researchers to embrace merely natural philosophy and reductionist thinking.