As far as I understand it the Aborigine Dream Time is at once a mythic representation of the origins of their culture, set in the ancient past, and a state of heightened being they can slip in to the present in which their actions take on a deeply spiritual meaning. In other words it is another kind of Time, very different from Linear. The Rainbow Snake created the landscape in the ancient days as he gouged out valleys and water holes, but he is still present as a mysterious force that shapes lives. Similarly the human exists at once in the Dream Time and in the present. At once in Eternity, and in Time.
Wally Camana in his book on Aboriginal Art says: ‘The Dreaming and the Dreamtime do not refer to the state of dreams and unreality, but rather to a state of reality beyond the mundane.’ James G. Cowen in The Elements of Aboriginal Tradition says: ‘The Dreaming embodies both an historical perspective and an account of First Causes. For it is in the activities of the ancestral beings in their various acts of world creation “outside time” that the Aborigine identifies with when it comes to determining how he should live’ (p. 23).
‘The Dreaming is, first and foremost, a metaphysical condition denoting the working of divine principles dressed up in the garb of totemic heroes. The myth is the expressive vehicle. Men identify with their Sky Heroes by way of ritual. The great ceremonies central to every tribe act as a channel by which Dreaming events are recalled, contemplated and acted upon in the life of the people’ (p. 24).
This is not the only time when reading about the Dreamtime of the Aborigines that I am reminded of the meaningfulness of our own beliefs, rituals and ceremonies. To the Aborigine the spirit of each child exists in the Dreaming before it actualizes in the world. In this instance I am reminded of Wordsworth’s poem:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
[From Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.]
The Dreaming is universal, though it has different names in different cultures – and it never means ‘dreaming’ in the ordinary sense of the word, but in the extraordinary sense. It ‘remakes’ our experience with significant symbolism into something more meaningful than we originally thought.
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 1
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 2
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 3
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 4
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 5
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 6