max salmi, Kalahar, oil on board, influence of Aboriginal art, spacetime and Einstein, Schrödinger equation

Aboriginal Dreamtime and Erwin Schrödinger

Aboriginal Dreamtime for Erwin Schrödinger is not a phrase that we see indexed. But, perhaps it is time.

Sometimes described as the “founders” of humanity, the Aboriginal people of Australia keep fascinating us … Well, history rewrites itself with reliable frequency. Sadly, in the marketplace for indigenous art, native Aboriginal people have been victims of misrepresentations and scams. I mention that because it bothers me, and they (the Aboriginal people) deserve better in the global marketplace.

For example, last year, an Indonesian company was fined $2.3 million.  The firm, it was revealed, sold Indonesian products as Aboriginal (Australian) art. (You can read a report in The Guardian.) That is just one example. The victimization of Aboriginal people has been almost inevitable. As the world started to recognize the unique character and value in their culture and their art, it becomes a target. But it is sad, nevertheless, on many levels: humanitarian, legal, aesthetic.

Aboriginal history has also fostered a tradition of symbols and artifacts that contain more information than most modern people would guess. Something we can learn from, as a body of knowledge. And should pay attention to…

Hello. Welcome to the Dreamtime.

The Aboriginal “Dreamtime” refers to the domain of the ancestors. A creative source, the Dreamtime expresses itself in mythical and lyrical legend, as a dimension before the physical universe. The Dreamtime creates the physical universe we inhabit, as a product and trace.

Actually, it’s too bad that Erwin Schrödinger, the physicist and quantum theorist (d. 1961), isn’t party to today’s information about the Aboriginal people.

You know the scientist I mean, the “Schrödinger’s Cat” story, all that. A friend to Einstein, I believe he would be very interested. Mathematical equations … well of course he authored the Schrödinger equation back in the 1920s, with a huge impact on understanding the wave behavior of what we regular mortals think of as solid things.

There is much about the Dreamtime, in parallel to physics, in fact, that is like the “superposition” in the quantum plane. The superposition is little understood, inspiring, and confusing. But, it makes entanglement possible. And, it can be the source (essential component) of events in the physical world.

Or, as the famous poem says:

“Shine light on electrons – You’ll cause them to swerve.
The act of observing disturbs the observed -“

Later on, we might have said, “the act of observing CREATES the observed.”

The Spell of the Sensuous

Needless to say, the Dreamtime is ancient. It is the cosmic source. Tibetan Buddhism in its most primitive form, brings a parallel. Perhaps… Like in other “primitive” systems, creation and evolution emerge from it. Obviously, the Dreamtime is not constrained by linear coherence. — That is to say, time is a product of it but does not explain it.

If you are not familiar with Aboriginal content or mythology (as it might be called in the western world), the shortest way “in” might be to read David Abram‘s book The Spell of the Sensuous. It is extraordinary on several levels, and I rarely recommend books. This one I do recommend (Kindle and/or paperback versions):


No, not just another folk tale

Increasingly, there are people (like me) who think that Aboriginal narratives are more than “nice stories” from ancient days. Actually, I believe they bring scientific relevance to our researches on physics. Not to mention digital vocabulary, consciousness, linguistics. Time and legends about spacetime, how we fit in it, are subjects.

These days, astronomers are peering ever more closely toward the “Big Bang.” Aboriginal legends, intriguingly, contain imagery and symbols that summarize unknown parts of evolution. More simply,  the Dreamtime tells a story which then turns out to be the universe we live in.

(In the meantime, we just ran a story on an illustrated National Geographic book called 50 States, 5,000 Ideas. You can read it here.)

In other words, the imagery of Aboriginal stories is not only a cultural language. It is the geometry of the relationship between the Dreamtime and worldly time. And it defines the geometry, the glyphs, of the people. It is a language of symbols that are, in themselves, mathematical — similar to equations or compressed data-rich files. These equations describe the development of time, of temporal and physical experience.


Contemporary galleries:

The Booker-Lowe Gallery, Houston, TX

The Kate Owen Gallery, Rozelle, Australia


Note: © the painting imaged at the top of this article is in the collection of the author, all rights reserved. The work is by artist Max Salmi (Finland, 1931 – 1995).  Created in oil paint on panel, it’s called “Kalahar” (ref. the Kalahari Desert located in Southern Africa). It is a meditation, reminiscent of Aboriginal conceptions on distances, silence, spacetime, and perception.

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