Click here to read an essay I wrote about the performance of liyan (feeling and intuition) on the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail. The essay is published in Issue 11 of the PAN: Philosophy Activism, Nature Journal.
Category Archives: Theory
In amongst all of my mussings over interstices and what dwells in-between the strands of the web I came across a statement by Latour (1996) about how actor-networks deny the existence of the inside/outside duality:
A network is all boundary without inside and outside. The only question one may ask is whether or not a connection is established between two elements… Literally, a network has no outside… The great economy of thinking allowed by the notion of network is that we are no longer obliged to fill in the space in between the connections… A network is a positive notion which does not need negativity to be understood. It has no shadow (p. 6).
Oh dear… I’m not sure that I totally agree with Latour on this one, unless the ether was conceptualised as being part of the network, i.e. that we drag what appears to be nothing and give it form in the web/network.
Latour, Bruno. “On Actor-Network Theory. A Few Clarifications Plus More Than a Few Complications.” Soziale Welt 47 (1996): 369-81. Print.
Traveling up the great chain of being toward the world soul, we may get in touch with things that precede any capability of verbalization, that seem to reach out for contact, that are learning to communicate in a language we can understand – Ralph Abraham
Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright: the Dancing Fairies
Something that has grown as an actor in my research is the word entity; it is a symbol of the more-than-human world, and all of things within, which we are being with when we are walking and dwelling with country. John Law (2004) uses the metaphors ‘impossible, or barely possible, unthinkable or almost unthinkable’ to try to describe slippery entities (but he never actually names them…). I imagine these tricky entities lurking in shadows, whispering to us in our dreams and showing themselves when we least expect them to. But are they really there: perhaps non-physical but autonomous in their existence? Or are they, as Jung suggests, mere projections of our own minds (Sheldrake, McKenna and Abraham 2001)? Does it matter? If we are to imagine an existence without the presence of entities, does it mean that we automatically inherent a disenchanted, mechanistic world? So entrenched is the atomistic and mechanistic view of the world, that it seems unimaginable that past western societies communed with all sorts of entities that now only inhabit our ‘fairy tale’ storybooks. Sheldrake, McKenna and Abraham (2001) question, what if ‘they/we’ (the collective consciousness that continues to perpetuate the modern scientific paradigm) got it wrong?
The eradication of spirit from the visible world has been a project prosecuted with great zeal throughout the rise of modern science. An admission that this project overlooked something as fundamental as a communicating intelligent agency co-present with is on this planet would be more than a dangerous admission of the failure of an intellectual method. It would pretty much seal the bankruptcy of that method (p. 94).
Our Western ancestors and some descendents would call the names of these entities: elves, fairies, sprites, genius and the like, but what about the things that we feel which lack physical form but still feel… sense… yet, grasp to comprehend… What do we name these things?
Walking the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail I see the physical form of country, and slowly I awaken to ‘seeing through feeling’ (Roe and Hoogland 1999), through my liyan, and ‘see’ the country in new light. I am attracted to things that seem to beckon me forth – trees, lagoons, sand dunes, the full moon – but they are tangible. Then there is the feeling in each place, the liyan of that place as Goolarabooloo might say. Is the feeling of each place a memory of the ritual and dwelling that has been performed there one generation after the next? As I write this I think of the ash from fires mounting up and being sucked back into the earth with the rains, then the cycle being repeated again and again. Perhaps the liyan of a place is an entity, a spirit dwelling there, anticipating and recognising us on our return. Sheldrake, McKenna and Abraham (2001) question too whether the morphic resonance (memory) of a place is like a spirit.
A few weeks ago I explored in conversation with a group of women our experiences with non-human entities. We shared stories about our experiences with old trees, stones, and places that called to us. Someone in the conversation brought up the idea that if we allow ourselves to listen to our intuitive sense, we are attracted to entities (trees of whatever they may be). We asked each other, what would it be like to embody attraction as a way of being? When I shared this conversation with another friend amongst tall trees in the tropics, it resonated with her deeply. She told me stories about the places she has been attracted to as a child, which she then journeyed to as an adult. I asked her, did she have a sense that these places had ‘called her’ to be with them so that they could teach her something? I makes me think about all the places I have felt called to, whether they be Gurambai, the creek near to where I live, Wamoon down south, or the lagoon at Ngunungkurrukun; are they pulling me towards them to reveal something, about themselves or about being with? And again I fall back into the words of Kombu Merri woman Mary Graham (2009) ‘the world reveals itself to us and to itself – we don’t “discover” anything,’ (p. 75).
‘Landscape is a mythopoetic field which acts on human beings from without, causing them to conform to ancient patterns and re-enact lives and movements of ancestral animals and other beings’ (p. 145).
This single sentence is so rich with meaning and immediately resonated with multiple threads of my research… country speaking to us and through us… each place has its own feeling (liyan) which makes it right for doing certain things (including avoidance)… Bugarregarra as a dreaming/process of co-creation imbues places with this liyan (perhaps it could even be described as a kind of affordance for doing certain things).
How do interpret or understand Tacey’s statement about landscape, or Country, as a mythopoetic field?
Beyond the materiality of Country or place, there is a larger field (not seen but sensed), from which stories emerge. These stories might just be there, lingering, waiting to be spoken; perhaps spontaneously, or maybe through a felt sense of a word whispered to us in a time of deep listening. The emergence of stories from a field that is inextricably interwoven with place, that is place, tells a bigger story about how storytelling binds people and place… we emerge together through stories. This is a vastly different conception of stories and storytelling as compared to egoic authorship.
I am reminded too of a post I wrote a few months ago about memory in nature/place and Rupert Sheldrake’s work on morphic resonance:
‘Perhaps the ‘memory’ in a place, which may have been created through repeated ritual practice in that place, acts like an intention of how beings should interact with place and each other in situ. Maybe morphic resonance is like an affordance of place…’
“In this lecture at Schumacher College (29/1/14), Rupert Sheldrake shows how the “scientific worldview” is moribund; the sciences are being constricted by assumptions that have hardened into dogmas. But science itself is now transcending the materialist philosophy, and pointing toward a new sense of a living world. The cosmos is no longer like a machine running down; it is more like a developing organism with an inherent memory, and so is our planet, Gaia. These new paradigm shifts in the sciences shed a new light on spiritual practices like pilgrimage, ritual, prayer and meditation.” Darlington TV
There were many moments whilst watching this talk by Sheldrake that I was jumping up and down in my chair at the parallels between his research and my own. I am not a scientist and feel very challenged by materialist views of ‘reality’, particularly when there is little or no space to acknowledge things that lack a materiality, like life force. Things that Sheldrake spoke about which resonated most deeply with me relate to intention, resonance and sacred places.
With regard to intention, he speaks about our minds reaching out and touching that which we are paying attention to. He uses his research with pet dogs and their owners and other experiments between friends calling each other randomly, to try and demonstrate telepathic and intentional connections that exist between beings (humans and inter-species). Each of these experiments was small, contained and replicated many times. I have my own questions around intentions and what influence they might have in shaping our own and collective realities. Though the stuff of my research is not so much isolated to pet dogs, their owners and telephones – the scope feels a lot bigger! So how do I write about the individual and collective intentions that are expressed on country by people who are sharing their stories? How are these intentions being manifested on a physical plane?
The existence and making of sacred places, whether they be trees or constructions (e.g. churches, obelisques, temples), was another topic which Sheldrake dwelt upon. He spoke about the potential for tall structures to create conduits between the cosmos and the earth, mainly through their ability to channel lightning. I was very interested in Sheldrake’s dialogue on this, but it was his next discussion topic, morphic resonance, which shed more light on the meaning of sacred places for me.
For the last few weeks I have been wondering about the collective walking of the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail and whether this has ritualistic or ceremonial qualities. This country has been walked for a very long time (if we want to look at time as something linear) and is inscribed with meaning through Bugarregarra (dreaming, creation); and then countless other meanings since colonisation and in the new emerging ways that people are relating to that country. But when people collectively walk the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail, particularly if there is an intention to connect with Indigenous custodians, are we re-enacting a creation story/Bugarregarra? Sheldrake introduces his theory of morphic resonance (memory in nature/place) to suggest that in the practice of rituals, ‘… the present participants will resonate with morphic resonance with those who’ve done the ritual before.’ A community of people who practice a ritual extends beyond the here and now and includes ancestors: ‘… a literal collapse of time of presence and the past, connecting those performing the ritual with those who’ve done it in the past.’
Perhaps the ‘memory’ in a place, which may have been created through repeated ritual practice in that place, acts like an intention of how beings should interact with place and each other in situ. Maybe morphic resonance is like an affordance of place [James J. Gibson described affordance as all “action possibilities” latent in the environment (Gibson, J.J. (1977), The Theory of Affordances. In Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing, [Ed] Shaw, R. and Bransford, J.)]. When I am camping at Murdudun north of Quandong Point, I always feel like I should rest there. It is a very nurturing place in country which resonates with a strong female presence/energy. Yet each place in country feels different; Goolarabooloo people might say that each place has its own liyan (feeling… but this translation of liyan is completely inadequate as there is so much which is sensed that cannot easily be articulated into language).
I see words like intention, dreaming/creation, liyan, morphic resonance, sacred and ritual swirling around above me in a figure of 8, their connections between one another and their meanings slowly becoming more solid, more visible.