In this groundbreaking book, Warren Colman provides a reformulation of archetypal symbols as emergent from humans’ engagement with their social and material environment. This view is rooted in a phenomenological perspective that sees psychic life as emergent from embodied action in the world. How then might humans first have developed the capacity for symbolic imagination, epitomized by the oldest known figurative image in the world, the 40,000 year old Lion Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel in Germany?
Colman traces the emergence of symbolic imagination through the origins of language, the growth of human sociality and cooperation, and the creative use of material objects from the earliest use of stone tools through the first flowering of figurative imagery in the cave paintings and figurines of Upper Paleolithic Europe. Drawing on recent developments in cognitive archaeology, he argues that the social use of material objects play an active role in the constitution of symbols which enact a distinctively human imaginal mind. This leads to a consideration of how the imaginal world of the spirit may have come into being, not as separate from the material world but through active participation within a world that is alive with meaning.