“With your vision you see me sitting on a rock, but I am sitting on the body of my ancestor. The earth, his body, and my body are identical.”
“We have lost the cosmos. The again the cosmos became anathema to the Protestants after the Reformation. They substituted the non-vital universe of forces and mechanistic order, everything else became abstraction and the long, slow death of the human being set in.”
DH Lawrence, “The Kangaroo,” 1922
Only a few months ago, it was the worst summer Australia had ever experienced. Australia had 46 percent more land burned than the Amazon recently. Some 25.5 million acres. The size of the entire state of Virginia. Some 2,000 homes were lost. Yet the climate denial of its leaders, particularly those embedded with the coal industry, is unconscionable.
Though I cannot even begin to fathom the horror Australians experienced there, spending a few months at the bottom of the world changes one’s perspective of space, wilderness, time and the sheer evolutionary miracles of its fauna like quokkas, koalas, bilbis, wombats and kangaroos. Australia's parrot and bird life is miraculous. But the greatest colonial experiment in history, once the largest penal colony on Earth just went through hell on Earth. The fires should serve as a warning for the rest of us. Its leaders languish with coal in their soul for being in denial of climate realities and the greatest Earth changes Australia has experienced since humans first walked onto the continent.
The last Aboriginal nomad of the Simpson desert died in the 1960’s when going walkabout was still possible. To test one’s volition against the infernal heat of the aboriginal sun for Westerners is equivalent to madness. But it was in this central desert that one young Australian wanderer a few years before we arrived for the first time, set off on foot to find himself and God. His girlfriend abandoned him after a few days thinking he had indeed lost his mind. He was found by helicopter one month later severely dehydrated having lost a third of his weight. Supposedly he had found "God." The Australian government had just given a portion of the desert to it first inhabitants. But which legislators in the big city ever took the time to fathom the consciousness of its first inhabitants, they who honored the Dreamtime of the Creator beings, whose manifestations were the geologic ridges, plants and animals that mystify the wanderer when he or she first beholds the land and goes beyond the cities of Australia, and discovers that the great spaces, the Bungle Bungles, the rainforests of Queensland, the Barrier Reef — are not just geologic wonders but actual manifestations of primal consciousness itself. Not just biology, not just nature but totemic links to the oldest cosmology on earth.
This is why elders could not begin to understand why anyone would build a gigantic coal plant like the one proposed by the Indian Adani group for Queensland, only a few miles from the Barrier Reef, which has just undergone its third bleaching event in five years in the last few weeks. Will the ocean's greatest coral treasure finally collapse? All over Australia coal, gold, copper, phosphate are being shipped to Asia and the rest of the world.
Photo credit: Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson
To the Aboriginal way of inhabiting the world, space is consciousness. Its animals and plants are the conscious mind and the invisible space between beings the unconscious. The great furnace of the fires that Australia experienced and that its leaders still do not comprehend is not only due to a shattered climate but a willful ignorance of more than 60 millennia of deep cosmological thought. Aboriginal lands have been mined or swamped, such as the creation of Lake Argyle, where hunting grounds have been eliminated forever. How many birthplaces were submerged for this lake? How many birth trees uprooted? Can a government intent on the seductive power of money understand the attachment to such ground; soil whose value and being is based on the ontology of eons? What the locals call durge, the respect that one pays to a place, has no equivalent in the dominant languages of the world. Durge being the core essence of the planet.
With the recent fires in Australia, Wayrull, the power that resides in everything according to the Gagadju people near Kakadu, has been desecrated. Companies from Japan, Germany, South Korea, and the USA are still prospecting for uranium with no benefit to the Aboriginal people. Japan has reaped the benefits most. A few years later the arrogance and radioactive catastrophe of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan erupted into the sea. The arrogance of Australia's leaders betrays one of the oldest and most coherent world views in the history of humanity. As the world's cities are absorbing most of the planet's resources, a millennial old way of understanding reality is literally losing ground. Australia's citizens are facing upheaval and an uncertain future as never before.
Land and story are central to the Aboriginal people. Paintings of the great Creator being whose body was mist and whose voice was thunder still manifest the breathing conscience of life itself. As one elder explained, if the paintings were not repainted, the rains would no longer douse the plains. In the modern world of speed and efficiency, where the myths of creation are giving way to a rampant wave of construction and deconstruction in the name of progress, few young people cared enough to tend to the old ways and the paintings of their ancestors. "The world will die and everything in it," the elder warns.
Another elder, who was born under a rock escarpment, a fixture in Kakadu National Park, Big Bill Neidjie, pronounced a feeling about the essentials of existence that could have emanated from the very geologic formations where he was born. He said, "Tree, grass, star... working with you. In my body that tree. I'm telling you because Earth just like mother and father or brother of you. That tree same thing. Tree working when you sleep and dream. That star working for you." We listened to his every word as if each syllable were endowed with an answer to our hostage time, a response to the human predicament, as if each word were an oracle to a reality the modern age was deaf to, but desperately needed to hear.
The dreaming incarnate in Aboriginal Australia's spirit beings is a faculty that Western civilization had long ago forgotten. It was as if part of the Earth's very psyche were staring back at us. What would they say to our convulsive, resource devouring civilization led by visionless bureaucrats who denied the root cause of the flames engulfing a nation with no regard to the Butterfly Dreaming or Koala Dreaming? Whether the dominant society is able to recognize and respect the greater pattern of a profound understanding of Earth's telluric reality, is not an esthetic decision, it will determine whether or not life on earth will survive. The Aboriginal writer Mudrooroo wrote, "The world was ending and the time was one of chaos. Chaos manifested itself more and more and things would continue to get worse until chaos rules chaos, until Ria Warrarah reclaimed all of the Earth and mankind became extinct."
At some point the mechanistic order so beholden to the god of gold will realize that there is no event in the external world separate from the workings of our minds. No places mined, exploded and poisoned, no spaceships launched separate from who we are and our consciousness. The enormous inferno Australia experienced, like the inner circle of Hell, is a conflagration that is lapping at our feet. We cannot command Nature. The fires have shown that. But the revelations of Nature's extraordinary powers should force us into a profound humility, what this decade can offer, to return us to a perception we have long ago lost touch with and that is still embedded in the great body of Australia's outback and its Aboriginal people.
How we respond to the crisis of the heat and flames will determine the future of our species. The climate within the human mind has produced the climate without. We have entered the pyrocene and we need to act before it is too late. As one Aboriginal elder expressed, “Centuries ago you white people decided to go the way of science and technology, and they will destroy the planet. We only hope you realize this before it is too late.” –Gabriel Horn, “Contemplations of A Primal Mind,” 1996.
Photo credit: Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson
Learn more about Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson's work at their website.