COMBO DISCOUNT applies when you register for 2 or more in-person courses in France July and August: use Coupon code: “summercombo” ($250 off for 2 summer courses).
Dates: July 12-18, 2020
Location: Caves Journey – Hotel des Roches, Les Eyzies, Dordogne, France
Faculty: Jim Garrison, Pier Luigi Lattuada, Pascal Raux and Calen Rayne
Academic Credit: Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral – 4 credits
Logistics Info: Travel & Accommodations, Arrival & Departure (click here)
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The Caves of the Dordogne: Shamanic Journey into Primordial Consciousness
The theme of our 2020 exploration of the first liberal art of Grammatica in Chartres is the basis and origins of Consciousness. We will explore consciousness and consider how to transform it. We will learn practices to catalyze healing and well being by attaining higher states of consciousness.
To deepen our understanding of these matters, we will travel to southern France immediately after the course in Chartres is finished to where the earliest recorded expressions of human consciousness are depicted on the walls of caves. These earliest expressions of human spiritual, artistic and cultural intelligence are available to us today, remarkably preserved tens of thousands of years after our ancestors painted them in the form of animals, birds, shamanic figures, human faces and a range of abstract depictions. By going back to the roots of consciousness, we are better able to discern the appropriate manifestation of consciousness in the modern world.
The first cave was discovered on September 12, 1940 when the dog of a peasant boy Marcel Ravidat fell through a hole near Lascaux in the Dordogne region of France. Marcel brought three friends to help him and they went down a 12-meter shaft to recover the dog. To their utter astonishment, the boys found an extensive cave with walls and ceilings covered with depictions of animals and birds. They hurried back to their village and reported their amazing discovery, and on September 20 they came back with a scientist Abbe Henri Breuil who over the next several months made sketches of most of the paintings. The paintings were dated to be over 17,000 years old. Eventually, over 600 depictions were found. Soon other caves, some dating as far back as 40,000 years, were found, all in the same region. similar caves have been found throughout Europe, the oldest being in Spain.
These ancient caves have revolutionized our understanding of the origins of human consciousness. Our ancestors, using very primitive tools, demonstrated an extraordinary and sophisticated artistic capacity. They developed pigments of different colors with techniques still in use today. They used the contours of the caves to create three-dimensional animals and an extraordinary sense of movement. They expressed a whole spectrum of life and themes. They also used sound within the caves to both engage in ritual and to communicate over long distances. Their intelligence and sophistication rival the greatest artists of modern times.
From the very inception of our species, our consciousness has turned to the eternal, the mysterious, the sacred. What they were, we are. The mysteries they explored are still mysteries to us. By sitting in the caves they decorated, we connect with primordial time. Empowered by this, we can deepen our own consciousness and refine our understanding of ourselves and our world.
This requires us to remember our shamanic origins and to re-enter shamanic consciousness to re-connect with our primordial past. To assist in our shamanic journey, Pascal Raux, a French paleologist who was born and raised in this region and has been studying the caves all his life, will be our guide. He is considered one of the world’s leading experts in the caves. Additionally, he has deep shamanic experience and leads initiatory rituals designed to activate primordial consciousness. He will be joined by Pier Luigi Lattuada, an MD, PhD and someone deeply steeped in the shamanic arts. Pier Luigi has spent decades studying the shamanic arts in Brazil and Europe. Together, they will lead the group on a shamanic journey back into primordial consciousness.
During our journey to this region, we will stay at a lovely hotel called Hotel des Roches (the Rocks) situated alongside a beautiful river very close to Lascaux. You can hear the water flow and birds singing. We will eat at local cafes and travel each day to a different cave.
We will visit many of the most famous caves like Lascaux as well as some which are owned privately and off the tourist track. We will be briefed by local experts and ponder the meaning of the cave art. What were our early ancestors trying to record or convey? Was the art religious in nature or simply the first creative exuberance of prehistoric artists? We will take time for our own artistic expression and meditation after each cave visit. We will convene ceremony by the river next to the hotel where we will all be staying and perform rituals and initiations in a nearby prehistoric cave that will help us enter into primordial time and prehistoric consciousness.
The Caves we will visit
There are many caves in the region and we will build an itinerary that includes as many as we can. Below is a list of caves we are considering. We cannot guarantee that all will be visited as schedule, weather and reservations will shape our time there.
Grotte de Cognac consists of two caves, side by side; with absolutely stunning paintings and acoustical properties. It is the essential site to visit.
Font de Gaume, within walking distance from our hotel, the cave contains paintings, engravings and ceremonial places.
Pech Merle, oldest known cave; we will visit the small museum on site.
Lascaux II, recreates the great hall of the Bulls and over 2,000 painted and incised images. The original Lascaux is now closed due to uncontrolled tourism which nearly destroyed the site. Lascaux II is near to the original and is accurate to within a few centimeters of the original. Even though this is a re-creation, the beauty and sacredness of the original shines through.
Roc De Cazelle, a prehistoric troglodytic site.
Site visit to Moustier, the home of the Neanderthal and Saint Leon sur Vezere, an ancient Roman Church and the troglodytic site La Madeleine.
Cap Blanc Cave, place of the discovery of the famous Venus (Gaia or Mother Earth).
La Roche Saint Christophe, a local cliff dwelling that is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world where humans have lived continuously for over 50,000 years until it was turned into a preserve by the French Government 100 years ago.
Pier Luigi Lattuada, Pascal Raux, Jim Garrison, Calen Rayne
Pascal Raux and Pier Luigi Lattuada will be our shamanic guides. Jim Garrison will provide contemplations on paleolithic culture and its importance to modernity. Calen Rayne will lecture on acoustic archeology, the use of sound in the caves from ancient times to create resonance and to communicate over long distances. This art form was well known among ancient cave dwellers.
For those attending the course on Grammatica in Chartres July 5-11, we will all take a bus from Chartres on Sunday July 12 south to Les Eyzies, a small town centrally located in the cave region. For those not attending Grammatica, directions will be provided for how to get to Les Eyzies by train. The opening ceremony will take place at 4:00 PM Sunday July 12.
Les Eyzies is a small town with many shops and restaurants. The temperature is warm during the summer with highs of 79°F and lows of 58°F.
Logistics and Practical Matters
Hotel Des Roches Hotel Des Roches is located just on the edge of town. Laundry, shops, restaurants, and even a museum are within walking distance. More information about the Hotel is available in the section, “Practical Matters.”
Amenities at Hotel Des Roches: The hotel serves buffet style breakfast each morning that typically includes fruit, cheese, croissants, yogurt, cereal, juice and coffee. The hotel also has a full bar in the lobby where you can purchase sparkling water, soda, juices, and coffee most times of the day. There is free wifi available in the rooms.
Attire: The main thing to keep in mind when packing clothes for this trip is that the weather can be quite warm outside while in the caves temperatures can drop to 52°F. Casual clothing comfortable shoes are appropriate for walking around town and most places we will be going to. The caves are cold and damp, so pants, shirt, jacket, and covered shoes should be worn. This is especially important when we are in a cave for a prolonged amount of time.
General recommendations: When we leave the hotel for the day it is always good to bring a bag that can hold a sweater or jacket for the caves and a bottle of water and a small snack.
Taking pictures are not generally allowed inside the caves unless our guide permits us. The light from flashbulbs damages the art. Taking pictures outside of the caves is permissable. There are gift shops that have postcards and pictures for sale of some of the cave’s interior.
Required reading for students taking the class for credit.
These books are highly recommended for everyone participating.
Christine Desdenmaines-Hugon, Stepping Stones: A Journey through the Ice Caves of the Dordogne
Paul Devereux, Stone Age Soundtracks
Mark Dubowski, Discovery in the Cave
Martin Walker, The Caves of Perigord
I highly recommend this pilgrimage to anyone who wants to experience the mysteries of antiquity- to rekindle the flame of unity we all hold both individually and collectively. The caves provided an intangible source of solace for me as I imagined (or remembered)the whispering stories of our collective memory- the stories passed down to all of us through firelight.
The pilgrimage offers the opportunity to pursue the discovery of one’s own indigenous lineage as a sacred process… Or, in some cases, the soulful possibilites that awaken as one untangles the roots of a dismembered family tree.
Being in the caves with the other pilgrims and local teachers, I experienced a profound connection to the ancestors who knew how to access the spirit world within and around them. This week was an incomparable experience.