an article about meaning in ancient art, and whether we can "recover" what the original artists meant.
The article acts as though ancient people were substantially different than we are — which is not at all true. They were different technologically; and their intellectual understandings of the world were different. Yet emotively and physically, they were identical to us, and they felt the way we do; there is no difference between their neural impulses and our own, and if they heard the word "hippopotamus" it would sound exactly the same to their ears, whether they understood what we meant by it or not.
Meaning in art is not just embedded in the intellectual understanding, the set of associations, that it evokes. Art touches the feelings; and there is an emotive meaning to it that is sensed, subliminally, beneath the thick compost of intellectual material we bring to every viewing. I say compost because the emotional content of art, any kind of art, is actually much more important than the intellectual interpretations we bring to it. If we begin with that emotive understanding, only then can the intellectual interpretation of art make sense — because it begins based on the premise that we are attempting to understand deep, emotive, feeling-based concepts of Being and society, rather than just rote constructs that present rigid ideas about gods, goddesses, hunting, and so on.
In this sense, it is far more important to first intuit the meaning of a piece of art by using one's feeling function, and only then understand it intellectually.
What does the art say about who I am? What I think of myself? How I feel about the world?
I am cut off from a deeper understanding of many of my feeling functions; music and images can help me to reconnect with that. The rich, deep time-based structure of the collective unconscious of mankind, the complex heritage of everything all of us have ever been in terms of our emotive life, is accessible through these mediums — in a way that the intellect cannot make them so. We need intelligence to interpret; but intelligence doesn't feel. Feeling feels; and I speak here not of our average coarse emotional feelings, the obvious ones that arise from reaction and whose nuances are so often transmuted immediately into exaggerations, but the finer feelings which relate to a connection to one's inner Being, to one's soul.
Our souls need food; and they are fed by a right relationship to feeling, else they do not grow. The lack that so many people feel in the modern world, where everything is based on the consumption of coarse material things, is a lack of the right feeding of feeling center. When Jeanne de Salzmann says, in her notes to herself (the book The Reality of Being is notes she wrote to herself, not to us), that we must "stay in front of our lack," the lack is above all other things a lack of right feeling connection. One ought to have a much better connection to one's feelings, so that one's hubris was dissolved in a more real attitude towards life; but ordinary intellectual activity doesn't do this, on the contrary, it is very nearly destructive in its lack of understanding. We don't value emotive meaning in the way that we ought to. Only emotive meaning can impart the appreciation of the sacred, which is so utterly lacking in the material culture of the modern world.