A Tectonic Tango
From its beginning the Universe is a psychic
as well as a physical reality.
The transformation of stone from planetary crust to becoming a marble statue of the biblical David or a ceramic symbol of Earthly Mother has fascinated me. What to make of consciousness prior to and following that time and space when a human hand first picks up stone to use as a tool. Is it the work of consciousness manifesting first as human, then later as works of art, or could it be something different, whereby a cosmic consciousness manifests as stone, then art, then as human? ‘Stone Makes Us Human’ is my own particular spin on human consciousness.
Once upon a pre-time there was a great and silent mystery out of which came the rhythmic sound of cosmic consciousness, since then we have been dancing to it non stop for eons of space-time, from one geological era to the next, like any creative planet might given the right systemic solar circumstances. At some earlier point in space-time we were just a twinkle in the eye of a cosmic supernova and the next thing we know our larger Galactic-self is giving birth to yet another brand new Solar-self that constantly manifests in whatever new form we can dream up. Hence our insatiable urge to be and desire to express our differentiated unique-Self, for better and for worse in one cosmic form or another, from our larger Galactic-self of black holes and spiralling solar systems all the way down into the deeper layers of our relatively small unique-Self, we manifest cosmic consciousness in a stupendous variety of breathtaking form.
Let’s explore one such manifestation as it unfolds within the creativity of our Planetary-self, let’s consider the way we created our original stone art. Around the outer layers of our hot molten Planetary-self we move over time to the tune of a groovy kind of tectonic tango, an ongoing dance that expresses the power of a living planet with an insatiable urge to be, and no doubt to impress our closest admirer the Moon. Our great dance continues to create the highs and lows of mountains and valleys that come and go over eons of such slow groovy movement. It took a lot of time and practice before our body cooled down enough and became firm and flexible enough to both contain our hot molten urges and the vast amount of water that was yet to fall and fill our dimples and flow on down into and cool the valleys and crevices of our deeper more secretive places.
Long before we created human eyes to see, contemplate and be in awe of such wonderful images, our early Earth-self produced the first and most exquisite artwork. We did this by transforming our earlier more malleable bits and pieces of flora and fauna into fossilised images, over literally billions of years we replicated images of our dead and decaying ancestors, by imprinting their forms into a mud that eventually solidified and transformed itself to become our first and hence oldest form of Earth-self expression.
When roaming pebble beaches and riverbeds in search of planet Earth’s original artwork, I found it a good time to contemplate what a revelatory and lasting impression stone fossils might have had on an evolving human consciousness. I imagine stone fossils as the planet’s earliest form of symbolic expression and as having a strong enough impression on the psyche of the first humans to have initiated a brand new phase of human evolution that eventually took us beyond the constraints of natural selection and on into our present evolutionary phase referred to as conscious choice.
Receiving the photons of fossilised images that were billions of years in the making and yet still present themselves with such clarity and intricate detail was for me a shattering, mind altering experience. As a child growing up in my Welsh hometown of Penarth one of my chores was to break up the bigger lumps of coal in our coal shed. I like to think that not all of the sparkling coal dust that got sprinkled throughout my hair and went down into my lungs did me harm. I remember feeling and gawking at pieces of coal and wondering about their origins among ancient life forms within a mysterious world of dense swampy rainforests. I grew up smelling the smoke and being warmed by the remains of our ancient Earth-self.
What a sorry state of affairs it is when we restrict our thinking of fossils to that of being a source of fuel for our energy hungry Human-self. Nowadays I try deliberately shifting my consciousness by using a piece of Lithgow coal and a small glass marble to contemplate and experience something out of the ordinary. I use these props to remember what it is like being part of an outer crusty skin with a hot molten centre at the very core of which there is a small spherical place about the same size as the glass marble in my hand, I contemplate albeit for a brief ‘spell’ actually being the very core of my Galactic, Solar, Earth, unique-Self.
Look what I found Robert.
my mother Dilys
My unique-Self seeks to remember the time when my mother Dilys first showed me a fossil on the beach at Penarth, the Old South Wales town she grew me up in. I often search for a more detailed memory of those moments when she held such ancient art work with the same hands that held me when we exchanged our first gaze. I try to remember those times when her face started to shape and fine tune the neuronal ensembles behind my own face, when her face started to literally mold my unique Self-consciousness, an impression that will remain imbedded on me throughout my breathtaking form.
I like to contemplate the intensity and significance of such moments on my early human consciousness, on how my mother might have felt at the time. My musings reveal a place and time that was just right for me to receive such impressive planetary symbols, there and then among the pebbles of what was rapidly becoming my ‘cynefin’, my home town childhood playground. Hence my belief that it was fossils that began making me human through moments of playful interaction made all the more real by the facial expressions of motherhood and such exquisite natural stone-art. I was a child within the realm of my Earthly mothers, of the Goddess and it was my place and time for being initiated into receiving stone consciousness and thereby becoming human, becoming my unique-Self.
For years I was at home on the beach of Penarth, skipping over the dark wet rocks at low tide, foraging in the small pools for crabs, popping bubbles of wet rubbery seaweed between my fingers, closely examining shells and anything that remotely resembled a fossil.
Fossils were hard to find and usually popped onto my eyeballs when I was least expecting them. I spent hours roaming along the beaches of Penarth and Lavernock, sometimes having to scramble up the cliffs to avoid being cut off by the incoming tide. I reflect on my rudimentary calculating the distance I could cover as the river Severn tides rushed in as my first practical exercise in strategic thinking. If I timed it right I only had to run along the edge of the sloping retainer wall to cover the last few hundred yards to the promenade, then a short celebratory dance on the yacht club jetty, letting the waves flap up between the rafters and splash my shoes before running home to 9 Station Road for some food and sleep. Sometimes my arrival home met with a hiding, especially if I had been sprung for wagging school, again.
I recall how frustrating it was finding well defined fossils in stones that were simply too heavy to lift let alone carry home. One had to just sit, gawk and finger them for a while and maybe work out how to find them again on a future visit. This was easier planned than done on a beach that had two thirty (vertical) foot tides a day, even the big stones got moved around a lot.
Being receptive to and allowing myself to be much impressed by fossils in this way created in me a unique-Self that enabled me – albeit many decades later, to receive stone images as symbolic of a macro-phase cosmic consciousness. My present day receptivity of stone images as symbols of cosmic consciousness is as much about the way fossils were first introduced to me by my mother Dilys as it was about their own exquisite way of presenting themselves as one among millions of other pebbles on Penarth beach. While I don’t much like the idea of being remembered as someone who had rocks in his head, I have no objections at all to being remembered as someone whose unique-Self consciousness was molded and cultivated by motherhood and stone fossils.
William Ricketts’ Sanctuary
From this holy mountain Australia shall
express and project into the world a
renewal of life.
About three decades after my first induction into stone consciousness among the pebbles and fossils of Penarth beach, I received my first images and insight into the human consciousness of indigenous Australians through the art-work of William Ricketts at his sanctuary on Mount Dandenong Victoria. For the artist himself his place was a “Holy Mountain”, to those of us who’s job it was to occasionally help him to move stones and trees around and keep his sanctuary functioning, it was a strange and somewhat mysterious place run by an eccentric old man. I recall having a bit more of an interest in William and his work than most of my colleagues who tended to regard him as a bit of a nuisance. My more careful reflection of working with William at his sanctuary was of him being an elder artist of considerable talent and worthy as such of due respect.
Be that as it may, on my more recent contemplation of the artist and his work I suspect he meant much more to me than that because I also recall my more private and intense moments under the ceramic gaze of a male indigenous elder with his small finger missing, and an almost life size indigenous female image called “Earthly Mother”.
Although throughout many years of my career in conservation work I did not fully appreciate it, I now believe I must have been receiving William’s carefully crafted images of indigenous Australia within my deepest levels of unique-Self consciousness. William evidently took great care to accurately portray the faces of his many indigenous friends in Central Australia. He evidently spent a lot of time getting to know and draw the faces of his indigenous friends. Contemplating his ceramic portrayal of them within his holy mountain one can sense the quality of his relationship with the people and their ‘country’.
I now regard my more private experiences on William Rickett’s holy mountain as a very significant part of preparing me to receive for myself – albeit nearly a decade later, the same indigenous human consciousness and ‘country’ that so inspired William’s sense of place and art work. I will often reflect on the significance to me of William’s images and storying of indigenous Australia, it was an important gateway for me and I look forward to remembering his unique-Self when I next see his totem, the lyrebird – which will probably be while wandering along Springwood creek some fine day.
A Whitefella’s Sacred Site
The hero here is a sombre black hill frowning above a
wilderness of mulga and saltbush.
The heroine is Mother Earth.
At the time I was driving West from Menindee and I didn’t think too deeply about my response for several days, but when I first drove over the hill that landed Broken Hill’s Line of Lode onto my eyeballs, it must have stirred up many a stored image of Wales and Uluru. The mine shafts with their huge pulley wheels reminiscent of so many towns in my Old South Wales, and that massive slagheap an appearance of ugliness, I couldn’t help but contrast with my memory of Uluru. It was only a matter of weeks before I was comparing the significance of Uluru for Anangu with that of the Line of Lode to uspiranpa – us ‘whitefellas’.
As well as being borne into a nation of proud miners 55 years ago in Cymru (Wales), I was also greatly inspired by the landscape of outback Australia, particularly while living with the Anangu of Central Australia at Mutitjulu a small community at the foot of Uluru. I am also a self confessed megalithomaniac, in simpler words I have an intense interest in large rock and stone formations, particularly those that show evidence of having been imbued with human culture.
Within months of arriving at Menindee and making regular visits to Broken Hill I was perceiving it too as a cultural landscape, as a fitting monument to the evolution of humankind and the ascent of modern civilization. One way or another throughout the ages we have imbued our chosen and settled landscapes with our preferred ways of being, with our culture.
Indigenous custodians of land, sea and waters must have interacted with many such places throughout the ages, all of which have had a major influence on the evolution of humankind and the unfolding of our cultures and societies. Ancient cultures used such places to show deep, whole of community respect for the life sustaining resources provided by their ancestors, the land, sea and waterscapes. People did this at sacred sites through law, initiation ceremonies, through celebration and song, through dance and shared stories of their creators and ancestral beings.
Acknowledging the universal value of cultural landscapes can play a critical part in the coming together of different cultures. Fortunately since the beginning of civilization, many artists, poets, philosophers, writers, teachers, scientists and their enchanted admirers, have helped communities worldwide to cultivate respect for and to celebrate their cultural landscapes.
Industrial age mining communities such as Broken Hill and Pontypridd – Cymru (my home town during my teenage years) have inherited their own whole of community respect and way of interacting with their cultural landscapes. Until recently and still at Broken Hill, these communities did this deep underground, at their churches, on their rugby fields, in their choirs, in their Town Halls and through their trade unions. Moreover, mining communities like these interacted with their cultural landscape in a very physical as well as spiritual way, often with plenty of fire in their belly. The wealth and technology that has come from mining communities and the comforts now enjoyed by communities throughout the modern world is testimony to the universal significance of these mining communities and their cultural landscapes.
If the depth at which a miner who never returns to the surface is buried can be perceived as a measure of the extent to which they have imbued their landscape with human being and sacrifice, then surely we can and should regard their burial sites as being among our most sacred of sacred sites. At Broken Hill – birth place of BHP mining, at least 770 miners made the ultimate sacrifice on the alter of an ascending modern civilization and to this day, much of them remains buried deep within their cultural landscape. All nations, races and cultures have their icons, symbols, sacred sites and monuments to help communities show respect for their ancestors and to celebrate their preferred way of being, their sense of place and belonging.
For my late father Jimmy Wales – Cymru was such a place – Cynefin.
Prior to European invasion, Australia was made up of hundreds of indigenous nations with their own language, law, sacred sites, symbols, ceremony and shared stories. Since European invasion and settlement, many non indigenous people have chosen to make Australia our home, we too must never forget to show respect for our ancestors and to celebrate our preferred way of being. I know this to be true for me because I was firmly reminded of it by indigenous male elders at Uluru, whom I also regard as being among the greatest custodians and presenters of their cultural landscape, they very cleverly re-ignited the fire in my Welsh belly.
Firstly it was my Welsh boyhood, then my belated Australian adolescence among the Anangu traditional owners of Uluru and now my Australian ‘whitefella’ manhood that tells me it is not in the best interest of an emerging multi cultural Australia for an indigenous icon with the power to transform a nation such that Uluru is to be standing alone. Uluru is capable of providing unlimited creative energy to black and white Australia from deep within its Gaian source of origin. However, it is my firm belief that if Australia is to be able to symbolically mine the transformative energy of Uluru there needs to be a corresponding contemporary non indigenous icon that is capable of generating a similar level of creative energy among non indigenous Australians.
True Reconciliation between black and white Australia could now do with another cultural icon, one that is capable of matching and being symbolically reconciled with Uluru on the summit of this nation’s cultural high ground. The Line of Lode at Broken Hill having yielded so much of itself to feed the seemingly insatiable appetite of a modern, multicultural civilization, together with its monument to those miners who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf and its present day custodians, could be perceived by both black and white Australia as such a suitable icon, a whitefella’s sacred site.
I believe, however that something beyond the sensorily-observable environment exists in a place WHICH CAN BE SIGNIFICANTLY ALTERED BY THE HUMAN’S EXPERIENCES, THOUGHTS AND SPIRITUAL PRACTICES (I.E., THEIR MODES OF BEING). That is by experiencing a place as ‘sacred’, that place becomes more sacred on a level way beyond its physical and social construction. .. In this way we allow the conquered Australian land to remake the conquerors without appropriating the Aboriginal people’s spirituality and cosmology. Elizabeth, A. B. SE paper p 71.
“Bob’s admiration for Anangu takes a somewhat different direction from that of the other Piranpa I spoke to”.
Stanley Breeden, ULURU 1994, p.183
Nowadays I occasionally enjoy musing on how my childhood gawking across the River Severn out toward the Steepholms might just have something to do with the pleasure I experienced some decades later when my eyeballs first received a close up image of Uluru.
During my first visit to Penarth after a twenty six year absence and equipped with my trusty old Carl Zeiss binoculars, I deliberately chose a good vantage point on the cliff-top above Penarth beach. After a general scanning of the coastal vista before me I found myself focussing on the Steepholms and just dwelling on the image of it for some time before the penny dropped. I had long since regarded my binoculars as something special because they enabled me to capture so many fascinating close up in my face images of Uluru and Kata-Tjuta. On this occasion I might have been wondering if my binoculars had somehow stored an image of Uluru as I often viewed it from the sunset car park area, such was its similarity with the Steepholms profile I was now looking at. I have no doubt that with the right dawn or dusk lighting and angle one could produce photographs of both Uluru and the Steepholms that would make it difficult to tell them apart and that would present them as being in a unique relationship, which of course they are within the context of an Earth-self stone consciousness.
Such musing has me appreciating more and more the power of image on our image-ination. I am attracted to the idea that on my first close up view of Uluru my brain made an immediate and pleasant link to an earlier similarly impressive image-experience of the Steepholms that had been filed away since childhood.
Stone consciousness is eventually made manifest in genetic memory and hence shapes our human consciousness in a way that is even more primordial than the consciousness shaping of water, soil, plants, fire and animals, all of which emerges over eons of time following the erosion and re-formation of our outer crusty stone like skin. On receiving the image of Uluru in Central Australia or for that matter the Grand Canyon in America or the Steepholms offshore from Penarth, or just a small piece of crystal held in the palm of a hand, our body-mind responds to it by receiving it at all levels of consciousness. I suspect our inherent genetic memory of stone consciousness makes this response biologically inevitable
All our stories were and still are contained in the stone consciousness of our Earth-self, there are no means of conscious self reflection that were not already held within the potential of our hardening outer skin as we cooled down from the cosmic violence and excitement of being born into and borne by our Solar-self.
Our manifestation of stone consciousness is expressed in our stone statues ancient and modern, in our pottery, in the design of our buildings and not least in the way our minds are changed by revelatory images and symbols of stone consciousness such as Stonehenge, natures carvings on the sacred northern face of Uluru or the intricate marble and ceramic sculptures of artists like Michelangelo and William Ricketts.
During the final years of my visit to Anangu ‘country’ I received ngayuku puli tjukur(pa)– My Story Stone. After several years and many visits to its resting place within the sacred north face of Uluru, I became sensitive enough to receive it and celebrate it in an embodied way, it was the beginning of my most creative personal journey. Among many other important things, My Story Stone released me from many decades of entrapment in ordinary, selfless states of consciousness.
I imagine My Story Stone was shaken from its place of origin at a time when our Earth-self, was rumbling from deep within Gaia’s great southern belly, probably in response to some powerful cosmic consciousness making itself manifest in the form of internal pressure and external earthquakes. Since then it has rested precariously on just two of it’s shortest diagonally opposite edges exposing itself to be observed felt and received through each of its six faces. It is a large stone, far too heavy for any human to lift and it has become my primary symbol of stone consciousness containing as it does for me an infinite number of stories about what helps to make us human.
Taffy Seaborne, Samhain 2007.