Aboriginal Dreamtime and the Return of the Sacred

It was my privilege to sponsor an Australian Creation Spirituality Workshop at LaTrobe University in Melbourne in 1990.  It was an exciting week, several hundred people were in attendance including as I recall the attorney general of the country (who was a woman).  I brought faculty from our American program with me including M. C. Richards who taught an art as meditation class on clay which I attended and enjoyed deeply. 

“Uluru at Sunset” Photo by Weyf on Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

It turned out that she fell in love with the Australian outback and returned to journey it a year or two later.  She was so taken by Uluru Rock that she took up painting at the age of seventy in response.  Her first three paintings were of that sacred site which we visited together.  Joanna Macy also accompanied us on that trip.

In planning the event I told the Australian organizer, a graduate of our master’s program in creation spirituality, to be sure to invite indigenous teachers.  So she reached out to Eddie Kneebone who was an Aboriginal artist and peacemaker in his homeland of Australia and he taught a course on Aboriginal teachings during the week along with a woman Aboriginal leader. 

Eddie “Kookaburra” Kneebone with his painting “Bones of Contention.” Photographer unknown; photo from his page on the Aboriginal memorial site aboriginalvictoria.vic.gov.au

At the end of the week I invited all the faculty to speak about their experience and I will never forget what happened when Eddie and his co-teacher stood up.  When Eddie started to speak he expressed great gratitude for the event and his role in it.  Then he said: “This is the first time in my life white people have asked me to teach them.”  And he started to cry.  In front of the entire gathering.

What an amazing moment!  It’s bad enough that the colonialists have invaded peoples’ lands and tried to snuff out their culture while extracting goods from the earth—but not to have ever invited them to teach about their culture?  And the wisdom it held?  (Probably the oldest tribe in the world.)  

I was deeply moved and angry at what this represents in terms of colonialist arrogance. 

Thomas Aquinas back in the Middle Ages taught that “Revelation has been made to many pagans” and “The old pagan virtues were from God.”  And here we are in the late twentieth century still committed to remaining ignorant of the wisdom of tribal peoples?

“‘Uncle Bob’ Randall explain(s) how the connectedness of every living thing to every other living thing is not just an idea but a way of living.” Video from the article “What is Aboriginal spirituality?” on CreativeSpirits.info.

Following our program Eddie was interviewed and shared these thoughts about the Dreamtime and Creation Spirituality. 

QUESTION: What aspects of CS are you most comfortable with?  What aspect seems to tie in best with the Dreamtime?

Eddie: The aspect of being at one with the universe—not just the little piece of land that we stand on, not simply the environment around us, nor the country that we live in—but the universe.  It is included in our lives.  It is a part of us. 

Notice how thoroughly he sees himself and all of us imbued by the cosmos, part of the cosmos, in league with the cosmos.  Not rugged individualism!  Not humans against the world.  Not humans apart from nature.  But the universe as part of us and we part of it.

For Eddie Kneebone’s interview see Matthew Fox and Catherine Hammond, eds., Creation Spirituality & The Dreamtime (Millennium Books), 1991), 93.

For Thomas Aquinas on pagans, see Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, 71-78.

Banner image: Eddie Kneebone, ‘Bones of Contention (Panel 6)’ (detail), 2005, acrylic on canvas. Photo by Ben Eyles Wodonga TAFE.

Queries for Contemplation

How many opportunities have you taken to listen at the feet of aboriginal or indigenous teachers?  What wisdom transpired for you?  How make this wisdom more available to more people?

Recommended Reading

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

Your Music Your Way Summit

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