Closing the Gap in Ways of Knowing

The Uluru Statement from the Heart

In 2017, 250 delegates of Australia’s First Nations’ people came together at Uluru for the National Constitutional Convention.  As a result of widespread consultation among First Nations’ people, they issued the Uluru Statement from the Heart as a way forward for Australia and its peoples to heal the deep psychic wound that lies at the heart of Australia as a modern nation—our unresolved relationship with Australia’s Indigenous people, whose heritage is more than 60,000 years of continuous cultural relationship with this ancient continent.

Aboriginal people today comprise but 3 per cent of the national population.  People of Anglo-Celtic cultural background, the descendants of the whitefella settler population of 19th century British colonialism, and more recent immigrant settlers with this cultural background, comprise over 58 percent of the national population.  This modern ‘whitefella’ culture has, since the end of WWII, been joined by waves of immigration and refugee settlement, 18 percent from other European cultures and 21 per cent non-European— the Middle East, East and South Asia, and Africa—to create Australia’s multicultural society.

However, the reality is that the seat of power in business, government, media and our legal institutions remains dominated by people of Anglo-Celtic cultural background, and they carry their worldview with them.  This worldview carries with it a strongly materialistic view of reality, a cultural assumption that British institutions are the triumph of Western civilisation, and that ‘whitefellas’ are the most evolutionarily sophisticated of all peoples, as evidenced by their science, technology and material wealth. It was historically enshrined in the infamous declaration of ‘Terra Nullius’, which legally removed Indigenous rights to their own land, and excluded Indigenous people from citizenship until the 1967 Referendum.  The history of white settlement of Australia is marked by widespread massacres, language suppression, dispossession, exclusion from important cultural sites, and the forced removal of mixed-race Aboriginal children from their Indigenous parents, to be brought up in institutional environments of harsh discipline and cultural and linguistic suppression.

The result is pervasive and widespread racism and discrimination against our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which is reflected in rates of imprisonment, especially among young people, high levels of youth suicide, and extensive socio-economic disadvantage.  Australia has sought to address this through legal measures such as the Native Title Act 1993, the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and through the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, established in 2008.  While the Closing the Gap Agreement seeks to address socio-economic disadvantage among First Nations’ peoples in terms of education, health and employment, it does not address issues of the cultural disruption and dispossession visited upon First Nations peoples though white settlement.  The result is extensive lateral violence among First Nations peoples as they grapple with this historical legacy of cultural exclusion, suppression and loss of connection to their traditional country.

How to Address This History of Cultural Dispossession

The Uluru Statement from the Heart states:

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.

Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.

We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

The Australian Government Response

Continuing the lack of cultural sensitivity to Indigenous voices, the Coalition Government under Minister Turnbull, who regards himself as a progressive, well educated and cultured liberal, summarily dismissed the call by the Uluru Statement from the Heart for the Voice to Parliament, as comprising a Third Chamber of the parliament. This is despite the fact that a chorus of eminent constitutional lawyers all confirmed that, the recommended Voice was not such a Third Chamber.

This is widely regarded as his vain attempt to shore up his political support among the radically right-wing members of the Coalition Government’s Liberal and National party room—the same group of people who fought a long campaign against the Native Title Act, and who, under Minister Howard, refused to make an official apology over the Stolen Children scandal, and who want to wind back protections against racism under the Racial Discrimination Act.

As a result of this failure of leadership to lead a national referendum to change the Australian Constitution, as requested in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Aboriginal people are now mired in a lengthy process of trying to find a way to ensure that any referendum put to the Australian people would not be subject to a disinformation and scare campaign by the same people who have campaigned against the rights of Indigenous people in the past.

The bleeding wound at the heart of Australia continues to leech our national and individual psyches

Closing the Cultural Gap

There is another gap that must be closed.  This is the gap in understanding among ‘whitfella’ culture about:

  • The fact that the worldview of ‘modern’ Australia is but one cultural frame by which we come to understand reality, and that this worldview has been culturally shaped by the scientific materialism of the colonial era, which saw British culture gain world dominance, which has continued with the role of the US as a global world power
  • This worldview also shapes and constrains the structure of knowledge and ways of learning in our education system, from pre-school right through to the highest levels of academia
  • This worldview, aligned with the profit logic of capitalism as the most effective structure for economic growth and wealth creation, has led to accelerating global warming and widespread environmental destruction on a global scale that is threatening the future of the planet and the quality of future human life, not to mention the extinction of many species in our natural world
  • This predominantly dualistic worldview is out of tune with the reality of the contemporary ecological-systems insights of complexity theory, reflected in the sciences of ecology, modern physics, and biology
  • This ecological worldview is actually closely in tune with our Indigenous culture.  We therefore need to learn from this cultural heritage as a matter of urgency.

How do we close this gap?

How do we begin to learn from our First Nations peoples about a worldview that is so different to our own?

Many Australian universities now host Schools of Indigenous Knowledge Systems, where a new generation of Indigenous intellectuals and researchers are beginning to explore how to do this.  It is not easy, for they operate in a system which is itself completely bounded by the explicit and hidden rules of ‘whitefella’ culture and the very logic and structures of the English language. This directs our understanding of the world as made up of ‘things’, rather than of networks and flows: that deals with reality as abstract concepts, rather than phenomenal experience in specific places and times.  Unlike our First Nations’ people we ‘know’ the category, trees, but we do not know individual species of the idea of ‘tree’ in their actual seasons and location.  This is the same for all objects of our perception and ways of learning, and of categorising knowledge and experience.

We are trapped by our language and epistemology in a world of disconnected abstractions

We are trapped in an alienated world of objectification as skin bounded individual ‘egos’ seeking desperately to feel connection to the ‘other’, whether it be our families, our communities, or our natural world—often even to our inner sense of being.

We have also recently become all too easily trapped in the self-reinforcing world of the algorithms of social media that track out clicks and likes to feed us a worldview of our psychological preferences in order to maximise advertising profit for the tech oligopolies that own the platforms—Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, WeChat, etc.

COVID has revealed our alienation and cultural vulnerability in a tsunami of both mental health crises and growing conspiracy theories sweeping the world—feeding ever increasing levels of anxiety, anger and alienation.

A Window into the Worldview of Our First Nation’s Peoples

Many ‘whitefella’ anthropologists and archaeologists have sought to try to understand Australia’s First Nations peoples.  They have made a significant contribution to whitefella understanding.  At the same time they have often alienated Indigenous groups by capturing their knowledge as the ‘resource’ to build academic careers and publish information, so that it becomes separated from its cultural owners, and often reveals information that is not meant to be ‘public’ to those who have not undergone the required kind of spiritual maturation to be able to embody this knowledge.

Robert Lawlor: Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime

One ‘whitefella’ who has attempted to provide a window for other ‘whitefellas’ in the Indigenous worldview in terms of its implications for whitefella understanding is Robert Lawlor, who published Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime, in 1991. 

I have found his book of immense value in helping my own understanding as a ‘whitefella’ woman.  I have been cautious about sharing it, as it is not written by a ‘blackfella’, but is about Indigenous ‘blackfella’ culture.  However in a recent TV interview with Darran Nolan, who runs a bridging course, provided by the University of Newcastle for Indigenous people wanting to become doctors, I saw Lawlor’s book prominently displayed on his bookshelf.  So I have taken this as a sign that is is worth sharing.  It may also be true that it takes a ‘whitefella’ to know what aspects of the ‘whitfella’ worldview block our understanding, and to build an intellectual bridge to overcome this.

The following is a series of extracts from his book, in random order.  I urge all of you who read these extracts, and find them useful to go online and purchase this book.  It is published by Inner Traditions (US), and still available.

Modernity Versus Eco-Spirituality

Written language tends to dogmatise, reduce and oversimplify our thinking processes while it inhibits our perception from flowing with the eternal ever-changing process of nature. Just as we alter and harden the minerals of the earth, we harden our thought processes in restrictive language forms and solidify our economic and industrial centres.

The magnitude of the transition confronting us requires a dream that releases us from these fixations and conventions

A dream that reaches to the seed essence

That preceded all of civilisation’s accumulated growth, residue, encrustation and dormancy.143

From the Protestant Reformation and the Italian Renaissance sprang the third branch of the Judeo-Christian continuum, the growth of the scientific revolution. The work of Francis Bacon and the ensuing development of the ‘scientific priesthood’ rested on the foundation of new ambitions and riches gleaned from colonialism in the New World. Scientism flourished and its view that knowledge gave humans power over all creation was gaining ground.

The Protestants were trying to bring about an irreversible change in attitude, eradicating the traditional idea that spiritual power pervades the natural world, and is particularly present in sacred places and in spiritually charged material objects. They wanted to purify religion and this purification involved the disenchantment of the world. All traces of magic, holiness and spiritual power were to be removed from the realm of nature . . . The Protestant iconoclasts had a different goal: not the substitution of one kind of sacred place for another, but the abolition of all sacred places. (Rupert Sheldrake, 20-21)

Modern men are no longer initiated into knowledge that enables them to enter the deep states of consciousness, in which the remanifest world can be perceived and acted on. In its place, modern men attempt to dominate the physical world, constructing, regulating, analysing categorising mechanising, and taking other desperate measures to control the natural world—the domain of the life-giving, life-nourishing Universal Feminine. 181

Aboriginal attitude toward myth are in keeping with their doctrine of two kinds of existence: the existence of extraordinary powers and the ordinary existence of humans and other creatures. For the Aborigines the existence of perceivable reality in no way excludes or eliminates the existence of the extraordinary reality of the powers. 187

An Aboriginal myth personifies this symbolic male birth-giving capacity as a serpent that swallows young boys and then regurgitates them as men. The birth canal of male procreative power is the mouth, which emits the spoken word, symbol of a spiritual birth through language and culture. 187

Aborigines consider the veins of ochre and iron to be the blood circulation system of the earth. 141

Rainbow Serpent

Rainbow is a symbol that makes visible the hidden energies that stir earth and animals to fertility

As the first Creator she taught the people the Laws and ceremonies, and failure to abide by these Laws will arouse her fury and desire for revenge. Many stories tell of her swallowing people who have not observed the taboos, or of causing natural disasters such as flash floods, earthquakes, torrential rains, or droughts. 119

The Rainbow Serpent is attracted to menstrual blood and will mingle with it to crate life in the womb. It is also attracted to rituals in which people are painted with red ochre. These rituals used the force of the serpent in their ceremonies to regenerate and increase the fertility of the dancers as well as the various plant and animal species, Aboriginal myths of the Rainbow Serpent guide these rituals; the serpent is an energy figure symbolic of the sacred body of the earth and the performative spiritual order of the universe – the creative energy in the Dreamtime. The serpent is always associated with vibration and flowing energy fields. 115

Many people today feel that their biological parents are not the source and basis of their fundamental identity; their parents represent only an entrance point to life. These people often spend their lives seeking spiritual families or affiliations through which they may discover their capacities and inner identity. In this sense the phenomenon of the spirit child is still an active part of human birth. 161

Language and Culture

Argument (the contentious opposition of fixed positions), critical thinking, unilinear logic, dualistic opposition, mechanical causality, systematic formal proof, and a belief in absolute resolution and finalities—all these characteristics are fundamental to our religious, political, legal and scientific thought. These characteristics predispose Western thinking to negativity and a defensive/aggressive mode.

In contrast to the extraordinary linguistic diversity and mutability of Aboriginal languages, our language is based on the goal of establishing a fixed, constructed meaning for each word. Each word is intended to be an enclosed entity, like a “toy block with an unchanging colour and shape”. These characteristics of language generate thought patterns that seek absolutes, ideals and sharply defined, exclusive categories…

Our emphasis on singular fixed definitions and logical processes is a direct result of our overreliance on the written word….Our language has lost the ability to be responsive to immediate perceptions of an ever-changing reality…

We have furrowed the neurons of the brain to adhere to fixed semantic and linguistic patterns. Language has become as real as, or more real than, the living world and cuts us off from the very habitat it is intended to describe. . .creating a false permanence that is incapable of dealing with an ever-changing reality.

Our logical habits cause us to fall into a static, uniform, quantitative interpretation. The Aboriginal view integrates past and present, qualities and quantities, objects and process, visible and invisible, sequential and simultaneous.

We are dealing with binary versus relational logic:

between diachronic logic (through time) and synchronic logic (at one point in time).

Totemic Logic and Art

Totemism can be seen as animating lines of identification flowing from the origin through all things, forming an invisible web on which the species and societies of the earth grow, nourish, and reflect each other. 279

Totemic identification forms the basis of three major social groupings: the tribes (common language), the clans and the bands. People move frequently between tribes, which are linked by marriage, ceremonial interactions and the sharing of resources

Totemic art depict the layered structure of the world, with each layer being a different manifestation of a metaphysical seed power.

The main tendency of Western signs and symbols is toward singular, unambiguous, unchanging connotations. For Aborigines the opposite is the case. The only accurate symbol is ambiguous because, like all of life it conjoins many meanings and many levels at once.

In sacred art, the Dreamtime Ancestor actually live within the transformative images – the image is the vehicle, indeed the body and presence of the fertilising power of the Ancestors on Earth. 291

The living world does not reduce to images or language. The actions and reactions of life occur in an immeasurable variety of intertwined relationships. The perceivable world (yuti) can only be spoken of in fleeting images drawn in sand. Its truths can only be transmitted through story. It is a flowing unformed world whose inner energy existed before symbols, before the ‘naming’. The naming mummifies the experience, converting the mushrooming confluence of the actual into a reflection suspended in the veiled mirror of language. Reality and meaning escape the entombment of experience. They fly through the grid trap of sign and symbol.

Aborigines see psychic energies as causatively involved in every natural process and event from sunlight, wind and rain to human fertility. Sacred art and ritual play an important role in the congruence of a multilayered universe and the cycles of harmonic transformation from the Dreaming to the physical world. 293

Sacred art always implies transformation: the transformation of pure energy into form, the transformation of ancestral powers into animals, animals into humans, and humans, through ritual costume and body painting into the ancestral beings and their animal powers. Transformation in sacred art recalls the potency of the Dreaming. 289

Visual arts have a language that is always associated with, or parallel to, other languages: myths,, stories, dance, song or ritual. The meaning of a symbol is inscribed in one’s awareness only when it is absorbed through languages that affect both mind and body.

All symbols are highly contextual – the listener does not memorise but must visualise anew with each story a connection between a symbol and its object or action.

Aboriginal art takes three forms: personal art, social art and sacred or ritual art.

The spirit of the species is believed to flow from the spirit world into the physical world at a particular site within the sanctuary (of ritual). The stories contain the secret songs and vibrational rhythms, words and dances that stimulate the fertility of that species when performed at the sacred site.

Mind and Landscape

When Westerners generalise about the physical environment, we categorise it with terms defining country, state or regions. Aborigines do not apply such abstract terms to their environment but refer only to specific land formations.

Mixing together oblique physical and metaphysical reference to define a spatial area is consistent with Aborigines sense of reality – intensifying the relation between the land and mythic creation.

Westerners live in a mental world shadowed by fantastic boundary creatures such as nations, religions, social classes and political parties. These function as binding configurations in which humans confine and limit themselves and, at worst, destroy one another.

Our drive to impose generalities, categories and fantastic projections on the world around jus expresses the need to withdraw from the intensity of the actual moment and to define the living uniqueness of nature with fictitious constructs or the familiar categories of our language and science.

We have closed ourselves off from the multilayered, spiritual dimensions of existence.

No intervening agency, such as restrictive perception or architectural armour, stands between Aborigines and the naked intensity of physical reality. They confront the wilderness and wonder of creation through the unfiltered perception of the Dreamtime Creators. 275

The ability to generalise (from which at its highest level we derive our physical and natural laws) is the most prized faculty of our so-called advanced mental development. As an inductive thought process, generality creates non-existent classes, categories or linkages based on observed similarities between separate, particular things. “The laws of nature work exactly only in the imagined laboratories of the physicists’ minds’.

The propensity to approach the diversity of the natural world with a categorical eye has the effect of lumping together all our different perceptions, thereby obscuring the nature of reality. Generality places the mind in a position of power above and in control of the multitude of perceived particulars.

Scientific thought has in effect replaced the realm of the archetype (Creation Ancestors) with the mental faculty of standing above the phenomenal world and reducing it to comprehensible regularities. “Physics doesn’t describe nature, physics describes regularities among events and only regularities among events.”

The intellectual and linguistic practice of reducing and generalising characteristic of Western thought actually reinforces a physiological filtering mechanism in the lower brains stem, called reticular formation. This part of the brain cuts down and selects the images and impressions that reach the brain from the great flood of information that comes in through the senses (Hampton-Turner, Charles, (1981) Maps of the Mind, 76-77).

The act of thinking changes the thinker. The brain is structurally and functionally changed by the thought processes and other mental activities flow through it. Once language patterns and pathways and the neural networks are altered and subsequently shape our view of reality. Worldview, language and thought patterns then act to reinforce one another. Everyone that speaks the same language or uses the same thought processes is therefore disposed to see the world in a particular way. Generalising and categorising are cerebral activities that stimulate a brain activity that reduces perceptual richness and intensity. 269 (Peat, David, Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Matter and Mind, 1988, 141-142).

Aboriginal culture and conceptualisation situate themselves in an ever-moving passage between two planes of being —yuti (physical, perceivable truth) and tjukurrtjana (Dreamtime – fundamental universal continuum from which all differentiation arises). Unlike many of today’s world religions, which reject the physical world and sensual experience in favour of transcendental or ideal states, Aboriginal spirituality consider the sensual experience of the physical world the only means to realise the truth, beauty and reality of the metaphysical creative powers. 266

Dreamtime stories are rich in implication, hidden symbolism and assumed knowledge. They trigger vast storehouses of cultural and natural information. 264

Ways of Thinking—Body as Metaphor

Western societal structure is comparable to the traditional mechanistic biological concepts of the body: it is organised around the brain and central nervous system, and the brain is considered a hierarchal, centralised control system. All the neural and chemical messages either originate in or are processed in the brain centre and then disseminated to control and maintain the rest of the organism. This concept of the body developed in the late 19th century and early 20th century along with centralised systems of power, both socialist and capitalist. 251

Recently, the body is seen as a self-organising, self-maintaining integrated whole. New emphasis is placed on the interconnectedness of parts and the self-sustaining, autonomous capacities of each cell and tissue and their symbiotic relationship to each other. Each cell expresses an intelligence that indicates an internal sense of its own identity and meaning within the symphonic play of the whole.

This image of an organism is much closer to the order of Aboriginal society. In Aboriginal tribes, the source of organisation is deep within the emotional center of each individual, which the Aborigines locate in the solar plexus. This internalised source of emotive power is directed and modified by the sensitivity to, and knowledge of one’s social and natural surroundings. The organ of this sensitivity is the ear. Hearing or listening to—not thinking about—the external world is considered the major activity of intelligence and understanding. The verb to hear is the same as the verb to understand.

Aboriginal identity is a product of an expanding field of deeply empathetic relationship with the entirety of the living world and the timeless beings who created it. 251

World is experienced as an extension of self.

Eco-Spirituality

The first emotion that Aboriginals cultivate is compassion. For them, the feeling of compassion extends beyond a moral sense; it is the summation of their sympathetic and empathetic sensitivity to the surrounding world. Aborigines promote psychic identity with the entire society rather than fortifying a subjective sense of individuality.

Aborigines believe in a complete concordance of the physical and psychic worlds.246

For Aborigines the present moment and eternity have been physicalised as place. One is alive in the moment by being utterly grounded and centred in space.

None of our attitudes towards nature—not our passionate possession of real estate, not the poetic inspiration that some derive from nature and wildness, not the growing concern of many for our threatened environment—can replace the depth of spirituality that results form the immediate transferral of a spirit potency from earthly place to physical body. This is what Aborigines call ngurra.

 Spirituality depends on intensity of life in the land and when it declines so too does the spiritual potential and depth of humanity. Aborigines move across an almost imperceptible boundary between campsite and wilderness in the same way they move between the conscious and the unconscious—between the physical world and the eternal Dreaming. They accomplish these transits with the ease and joy of a walk in a wild country seething with life and meaning, or a dance in shadowed fire light vivified with mythology. 241

Time is the dynamic that drives all modern life as space becomes increasingly dead, fixed in architectural structures, quantified and imprisoned in the brittle boundaries of ownership. 241

For Aborigines, time is absorbed in the cycles of birth, growth, decline and renewal of the living creatures that inhabit a particular place. The eternal aspect of time, the Dreaming, is absorbed in the actuality of space and is identified with the untouched enduring formations of earth. 241

Aborigines move through space, while Westerners move through time.

For Aborigines the present moment and eternity have been physicalised as place. One is alive in the moment by being utterly grounded and centred in space.

Place is inseparable form the original activities that gave it form. Reliving those activities in performance makes place inseparable from meaning. All experience of place and country is culturalised. Relating to space in this way enables people to establish home or camp almost anywhere they may be with no sense of dislocation. Landscape is externalisation of cultural memory as well as the memory of tribal and mythic forebears.

In contrast, Western consciousness is trained to coexist with a mind split off from the body, oblivious to place and engrossed in concerns, fear, fantasies, generalities and other abstracted mental activities.

The Mind-Body-Nature Split

Our (whitefella) skin encapsulated egos are a most lonely and isolated centre of being. It gives rise to alienation, fear, and the need to either dominate or be led. 234

The concept of the free individual is similar to that of a modern economic system. Both place high value upon autonomous self-determined motivation and action, and the right to expand and better one’s own interests. A living cell with these characteristics would be diagnosed as cancerous.

Exaggerated individualism is inseparably linked to the excessive patterns of materialistic consumption and waste. The idea of an ecological revolution is implausible unless attitudes change toward individuality and the separative ego in Western psychology.233

The natural environment results from the sexual potencies of metaphysical beings and these potencies continue to vivify the creatures and processes of nature.

Songlines

Songlines that cross-cross the landscape flow as one’s own veins and arteries, the swampland the glands, the grass, our hair.

Connecting language groups throughout Australia was a circulation system called songlines. Directed by a complex unwritten calendar of ceremonies and rituals, people would move along these songlines and interact with people of other regions. Interactions were governed not by materialistic enterprise but by a quest for increased understanding of the mythic law of the land. 126

Each regional tribe had its own linguistic, social and ritual characteristics, but the entire continent shared a basic universal law and worldview. This universal culture was like the blood that unites all the functions and parts of a living organism.

During ceremonial trance, the elder painted his body with the symbols and locations of the water holes, the sacred sites, the center of animal increase, and all the distinct features of the Dreamtime landscape. This experience was not symbolism but part of a seep sense of identity—internalised mythic knowledge and its topographic maps of country. 237

The purpose of the mythic male journey is expansion of the seeker’s inner world; it has to do with the creased relatedness to clan, earth and Ancestors. The journey increases the boy’s knowledge of the inner structure of consciousness, to the spiritual life of nature. 189

The present ecological effort to re-establish a bond between human societies and the natural environment seems superficial compared to the Aboriginal deep identification with nature.

Cosmology of Seed Morphology

In Aboriginal cosmology the universal manifesting field is consciousness, which simply externalises or dreams the world of thoughts, forms, and matter. The Aborigines have built their initiatic culture entirely around this concept of revelation. Their language, way of life and ceremonies keep them ‘tunes’ to hear the stage that came before physical life. Maintaining this attunement allows the physical to resonate with the energy of its preceding state. 71

A seed vanishes and dies the moment it germinates, becoming externalised as a plant. At this moment its power springs form latency to action as the physical presence disappears.

The West has grown positively sick of looking at itself, and it is trying to catch a glimpse of some vague ‘otherness’, some potential alternative, some different reality previously hidden beyond the self-congratulatory mirrors of a stifled and windowless civilisation. 67 (Jamake Highwater, ed, The Primal Mind, 39)

The history of Judeo-Christian civilisation is associated with the colonialist pattern of expansion. In each stage of the growth of this multifaceted culture, the expansion barbarously eradicated what existed before. 55

Seed power: in the Aboriginal worldview, every meaningful activity, event, or life process that occurs at a particular place leaves behind a vibrational residue in the earth, as plants leave an image of themselves in seeds.

Every land formation and creature, by its very shape and behaviour, implies a hidden meaning; the form of a thing was itself an imprint of the metaphysical or ancestral consciousness that created it, as well as the universal energies that brought about its material manifestation.

The Dreamtime creation myths of the Aborigines guided them to see the physical world as a language, as a metamorphosis of invisible spiritual, psychological and ethical realms. In this way the Aboriginal involvement with the physical world includes and resonates with all other aspects of human experience.

The great ancestral beings were vast, unbounded, intangible, vibratory bodies, similar to field of energy. They created by drawing vibratory energy out of themselves and stabilising this energy and by specifying or naming—the inner name is the potency of the form or creature. The comparable image is the creation of sounds, words or songs from the vibration of breath. The dreamtime is how the world was sung into being.

As with creation, Aborigines conceive the passage of time and history not as a movement from past to future but as a passage from a subjective state to an objective expression. So we have to abandon the conventional abstraction of time and replace it with the movement of consciousness from dream to reality as a model that describes the universal activity of creation.

To define consciousness as a field of activity with the potential to create unlimited forms, comparisons, analogies and meanings is to approach the space perception of the Dreamtime. Meaning and information are an integral part of consciousness expressing itself as spatial order and arrangement. The spatial landscape is a perfect symbolic description of the psychic content of humans and of the ancestral forces that created the world. In ‘dreams’ objects and subject interpenetrate. There is no external space separate from the internal.

 

Once we have been deluded by imbalanced modes of perception or miscontructed language into believing that space is separate from consciousness and time is other than the rhythmic swing between the subjective and the objective, then we have lost sight of the reality of creation.

The phenomenal world is considered the dream of the ancestral beings. Neither the dream nor the phenomenal world is considered as illusion; rather together they constitute reality.

Absorption and re-emergence is the rhythm of the dance of universal copulation. It is a pattern that permeates all of existence: the fundamental particle emerges, dissolves, and re-emerges from the quantum field; the awakened state rhythmically dissolves and re-emerges from sleep and dream; the static rises and falls back into the ecstatic.

 

The rise of a single deity marks an important shift in the history of religion. The living Mother Earth, which had provided all was no longer worshipped but plowed and controlled. 56