Is the emphasis on a rational grasp of reality destroying the creativity and insight that come from dreams and myth?
The indigenous peoples of Australia have fantastic Creation myths, peppered by archetypes and universal stories that have been given local color and significance. These people are not only keeping alive a sacred tradition, they are living it. Because of the particular qualities of that tradition, known as the Dreamtime, they have an extremely unique relationship to their land and to the creative spirit.
The Dreamtime existed in the beginning, a place of unbridled creativity and surprises unhampered by logical reality. It was from this place that creation sprung and souls took the form of humans, animals and plants. This is a very intelligent way of dealing with that which is valuable and yet not literal. It acknowledges that there is much humans cannot explain about our origins and allows conscious reality to partner with subconscious experience and intuition. Inherent in this partnership is the recognition that the world of the Dreamtime is present concurrently with what we like to call the “real world” and that creation is not finished. Whenever creativity surfaces in any medium, this is the creative spirit moving and making things new, inviting humans to be a part of the process.
If you were traveling in the Australian outback you might be surprised to see indigenous people touching up ancient rock paintings, perhaps even adding to them. What others might see as sacrilegious, disrespectful or careless is to them a loving process of extending creativity into the future and allowing the insights of the creative spirit to guide them into new understanding. For them, this is a far more important thing than preserving the work of a particular artist or group. Art, like creation, is not static and dead, but ever changing.
Painting the Wandjina, or spirit beings, the alien like figures pictured above, requires special permission from tribal leaders in consultation with the spirits. Very few artists are allowed to do so and only with utmost reverence. Taboos like this have caused some division in the community recently, not unlike those in that have surfaced in other religions, between those seeking to honor the old ways and those pursuing the creative spirit within themselves.
Particular tribes identify with totem animals from their region, experiencing Crocodile Dreaming, Kangaroo Dreaming, Bandicoot Dreaming or one of many others.
They may use patterns that they see on animals and plants to decorate their artwork, as well as defining their own symbols. Their awareness of these patterns reveals a keen scientific eye as well as a sense of magic and awe in the world around them. They truly operate in two spheres.
Indigenous Australians have long believed that the soul exists in the Dreamtime before the life of the individual begins and continues to exist there when the life of the individual ends. The time spent on earth is only a short part of the journey and is rather like an actor playing a part. In becoming flesh, the soul accepts limitations that are not binding in the Dreamtime. In dreams and in creative moments, the individual can feel the connection to his larger soul and experiences synchronicity between the Dreamtime and reality. What a beautifully poetic way to understand the creative process and life itself.
You can watch and hear the story of Waatji Pulyeri, the Blue Wren, a story from the Dreamtime, here on Synkroniciti.