Dissertation Title:

Homo Spiritualis: An Imaginal Hermeneutic of Religious Instinct in Paleolithic Cave Art


Nicholas Literski

Date, Time & Place:

March 14, 2022 at 10:00 am


This study applies the depth psychological tool of active imagination in a novel manner to engage 36,000-year-old Paleolithic art images from Chauvet Cave, with an eye toward further understanding C. G. Jung’s concept of the religious instinct. Archeological and anthropological contexts are described in detail, after which three separate active imagination sessions are conducted with each image and transcribed. The resulting material is amplified through comparison with known myths, rituals, and cultural practices to provide results that reach beyond the individual psyche to the collective unconscious. An imaginal council practice is then conducted to draw further psychological understanding from the images as a collective grouping. The outcome of these processes demonstrates that the religious instinct reflects the emergence of human consciousness, is expressed through projection, and satisfies a yearning to perceive the archetypal Self reflected in the external world. The study holds implications for the field of depth psychology, demonstrating that tools such as active imagination may be advantageous in cross-disciplinary studies.

  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psych Jungian Archetypal Studies, N, 2015
  • Chair: Dr. Safron Rossi
  • Reader: Dr. Lionel Corbett
  • External Reader: Dr. Chester Liwosz
  • Keywords: Jungian Psychology, Depth Psychology, Active Imagination, Religious Instinct, Imaginal Hermeneutics, Cave Art, Chauvet Cave