(PDF-File by Floco Tausin)
In Western culture, the phenomenon of eye floaters (or muscae volitantes) is primarily understood in line with modern ophthalmology as “vitreous opacities”. However, the review of mythical and spiritual visual arts from former and non-Western cultures discloses abstract symbols that resemble the typical structures of shining structure floaters (cp. Tausin 2012a). This suggests that floaters have been widely interpreted as a mythical or spiritual phenomenon; and that there might be a perceptual dimension of floaters that is hardly known to modern man. This article takes the reader to the visual worlds of ancient China and suggests that floaters have found their way into the art and imagination of this Far East civilization.
This article is based on the following theory: Somewhere along the Paleolithic (about 2.6 million years ago to 10,000 BC), “shamanic” ritual practices and techniques of ecstasy gave rise to evolving homo sapiens’ awareness of so-called entoptic phenomena, including shining structure floaters. Rock art from the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 to 10,000 BC) consists of abstract geometric forms that might represent entoptics and, thus, reflects the importance of these phenomena to modern man (cp. Dowson/Lewis-Williams 1988; Eliade; Tausin 2012b, 2010b). Passed down from Paleolithic art – and/or seen by later shamans anew – these visual appearances have been incorporated into the art of the first civilizations.
In China, shamanic symbols and ideas – like the three cosmic regions (heaven, earth, the underworld) and the soul’s journey to these spheres, the cosmic pillar or mountain (Kunlun), spirit possession – are present since the earliest times. Female and male shamans (wu, xi) – in their roles as funerary priests, sorcerers or mediums, traveled between the cosmic spheres, communicated with the dead or carried out healing and cleaning rituals. Chinese rulers of the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age dynasties even engaged shamanic rituals in order to maintain the cosmic order and thus consolidate the authority and legitimacy of their rule (Kohn 2009; Overmyer/Adler 2005; Roth 2005; Chang 1983; Waley 1973; Eliade 1957). Therefore, shamans most likely had an impact on the philosophy and art of the Chinese culture. It is reasonable, then, to consider the following examples of Chinese art as an expression of shamanic visionary experiences...