I was taught, as was everyone else, that prehistoric man was ‘a barbarian’, of whom I would be afraid if, as I am, I found myself, by the effect of some miracle, in his presence. I doubt it very much, when I think of the perfection of the skulls of the ‘Cro-Magnon race’, of superior capacity to those of the most beautiful and intelligent men of today. I doubt it when I recall the extraordinary frescoes of Lascaux or Altamira; the rigour of the drawing, the freshness and harmonious blending of the colours, the irresistible suggestion of movement, and especially when I compare them to those decadent paintings, without contours, and what is more, without any relation to healthy visible or invisible reality, which the cultural authorities of the Third Reich judged (with good reason) to be suitable for furnishing the ‘museum of horrors’. I doubt it when I remember that in these caves, and many others, no trace of blackening of the stone due to any smoke was found.
This would suggest that the artists of twelve thousand years ago (or more) didn’t work by torchlight or wick lamps. What artificial light did they know that allowed them to decorate the walls of caves as dark as dungeons? Or did they possess, over us and over our predecessors of the great periods of art, the physical superiority of being able to see in the thickest darkness, to the point of being able to navigate at leisure and to work there without lighting? If this were so, as some rightly or wrongly have assumed, the normal reaction of a perfection-loving mind to these representatives of pre-history, at least, should be not retrospective anguish, but unreserved admiration.
To go back beyond any period in which men who created art and symbols surely lived, would be to take a stand in the old controversy of the biological origins of man. Can we do so, without entering the realm of pure hypothesis? Can we see, in the classifiable remains of a past of a million years and more, proof of any bodily filiation between certain primates of extinct species and ‘man’, or certain races of men, as R. Ardrey has done based on the observations of an impressive number of palaeontologists? Wouldn’t the assumption that certain ‘hominid’ primates of extinct species, or even living ones, are rather specimens of very old degenerate human races, explain the data of the experiment just as well, if not better?
Men of the quite inferior races of today, who are wrongly called ‘primitives’, are, on the contrary, the ossified remains of civilised people who, in the mists of time, have lost all contact with the living source of their ancient wisdom. They are what the majority of today’s ‘civilised’ people might well become, if our cycle lasts long enough to give them time. Why shouldn’t the ‘hominid’ primates also be remnants of humans, fallen survivors of past cycles, rather than representatives of ‘gestating’ human races? As I am neither a palaeontologist nor a biologist, I prefer to stay out of these discussions, to which I couldn’t bring any new valid argument. The scientific spirit forbids talking about what we don’t know.
I know neither the age of the ruins of Tiahuanaco or Machu-Picchu, nor the secret of transporting and erecting monoliths weighing hundreds of tons; nor that of painting—and what painting!—without torches and lamps, in caves where it is as dark as in an oven or a dungeon of the Middle Ages. But I know that the human beings who painted those frescoes, erected those blocks, engraved in stone the calendar, more complex and precise than ours, according to which the civilisation of Tiahuanaco was given an approximate date, were superior to the men I see around me—even to those comrades in battle, before whom I feel so small.
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Editor’s note: Savitri obviously rambles on in these paragraphs. But it must be understood that there was no internet in her time and pseudo-anthropology and parapsychology were all the rage. I myself, in the early 1970s, used to buy Duda magazine and came to believe a lot of things because there was no sceptical criticism in the media. I remember a drawing of those ruins of Tiahuanaco in one of the issues of Duda that impressed me.
Now, after studying the pre-Columbian Amerindians of South America with reliable sources, I realise that they not only were primitive, but serial killers as I said in another instalment of this series when talking about pre-Hispanic Peru.
Regarding the specific monument that Savitri mentions, in excavations at the archaeological site of the Tiahuanaco culture, bones and human burials have been found. At the base of the first level of Akapana, dismembered men and children with missing skulls were found. On the second level, a completely disarticulated human torso was found. A total of ten human burials were found. These human sacrifices correspond to offerings dedicated to the construction of the pyramid. Savitri continues:
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They were our superiors, certainly not in the power, which all the moderns share, to obtain immediate results at will, merely by pressing buttons, but insofar as they could see, hear, smell, know directly both the visible world, near or distant, and the invisible world of Essences. They were closer than us, and the most remarkable of our predecessors of the most perfect ‘historical’ civilisations, to this paradisiacal state that all the forms of the Tradition make, at the beginning of times, a privilege of not yet fallen man. If they were not—or were no longer—all sages, at least there lived among them proportionally many more initiates then, even in our more remote Antiquity, more or less datable.
 The paintings in the Lascaux caves date from the ‘Middle Magdalenian’ (Larousse).