According to an enactive approach, self-sustaining neural dynamics can generate their own intrinsic value in relation to their conditions of self-maintenance, and they can also serve as a neural mechanism by which to decouple autonomous brain activity from the influence of environmentally mediated sensorimotor dynamics. Both of these aspects can help to explain the aesthetic selective biases of the first artists, in particular their interest in inner experience as exemplified by abstract hallucinations and imaginary phenomena, which are not directly related to the demands of their physical environment. We speculate that the self-sustaining dynamics may account for why these geometric hallucinations were experienced as more significant than other phenomena, and that at the same time their underlying neural dynamics may have served to mediate and facilitate a form of imaginary sense-making that is not bound to immediate surroundings.
This allows the authors to dispense with Lewis-Williams’s semi-Marxist idea of a prehistoric class struggle between shamans and the rest of society for control over these hallucinations. Frankly, though, I never thought that was the most important part of Lewis-Williams’ ideas, and I happily jettisoned it myself in my references to his work in Knowing Fear and another work whose details I can’t reveal yet. Lewis-Williams, if I recall correctly, was trying to say that in known cultures shamans acted on behalf of the community as ritual specialists, not that they were in a war with the hunters and the gatherers for control over the supernatural.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Froese et al.’s work. It is certainly extremely rigorous in its analysis, but I’m just not sure it’s all that different from Lewis-Williams’s original idea.
At any rate, the recognition of spiral patterns as indicative of altered states of consciousness counts as a point against the ancient astronaut and alternative history writers, who try to make these into symbols of distant galaxies, worldwide Atlantis cults, or other unsupportable ideas.