The Australian Dreaming Project (ADP)

The ADP is the fundamental set of principles and practices for Medicine Ways and shamanism within Australian which has emerged from over 20 years of work in the Central Desert, specifically at the Hugh River, which informs the on-going life and development of the Spirit of the Earth Medicine Society.

ADP Project

It is creative in it's response to the experience of the desert at the heart of our country, generating a new mythology and correlated set of practices which is expected to grow and encompass the spectrum of human healing endeavours as well as our continuing drive to invent new and better ways to live: to be kind, understanding, intelligent and healing in our approach to all life in this world.

The Sources and Horizons

Certainly, one of the most powerful and important motifs in shamanic work is its ability to assist human beings to locate themselves in both the immediate social and biological as well as transcendent, spiritual, landscapes. In that location lies also the ability to navigate. Shamanism, minimally, concerns the ability to read the maps of human existence and to allow us then to discover the ways of navigating the terrain of life’s vicissitudes … its hopes and promises, despairing moments and failures, its sources of strengths and weaknesses. The maps are drawn from the accumulated experience and wisdom of navigators who have come before and who have created myths and associated practices as instructions, guides, and ontologies.

Those who hand on traditions know that the demand for human inventiveness, for creative adaptive abilities never ceases since the world changes beyond our reckoning and beyond our powers of direct intervention. Red Gum To map and navigate we need to draw upon the fullest range of human experience, the greatest scope of our embodied consciousness so that we never exhaust the possibilities for new and constructive horizons to be perceived and new paths to those horizons to be discovered and lived out.

We arrive in this world, as the product of evolution is not only biological, but also supra-biological, as the essences of our biological being are interactively modified in and through the environments in which we dwell. Our consciousness, likewise, is not encapsulated in our bodies; rather, it is a dynamic and changing domain which encompasses bodily presence and interaction with the environment: it is extended outward into the world and inward into our subjective being at the same time; it is about the self as seed and source of growth and self as social and cultural presence in interaction with other human beings; it is a virtual space as well as a domain of action, rich and complex, subtle and changing.

Shamanism within Australia has too often been appreciated and propagated as something which comes from somewhere else: not Australia. It is only in recent decades that there has been a recognition of the extraordinarily long history and sophistication of Aboriginal shamanism and spiritual beliefs and practices more generally. Despite this, the emphasis is still upon shamanism which is distinctively North or South American, occasionally Asian and African, but fundamentally not of here, not of Australia.

Now, if we wish to pursue Australian shamanism, then we are bound to acknowledge and respect Aboriginal culture. There is no escape from this. Their presence on this continent extends, as estimates would have it, from 40,000 to 100,000 years ago. Whatever the case, theirs shamanism is of primary significance in the life of this country, and especially for Aboriginal people whose culture has been largely destroyed and the remnants of which now become more precious and tied to their survival and growth. Their ways and traditions are inviolate and not available for plunder or trivial use.

For us to navigate in the world, informed by this country, we must find our own way shamanically. My shamanic mentor in the Eastern Iriquoian culture, enjoined me to find a vision for our country and not to slavishly reproduce Native American or any other form of cultural practice. This was just before I left the United States to return home many years ago. Initially, my teaching was strongly informed by Native American and other cultural traditions, but always the words of his mentor burned within me. And this has produced ADP. Gradually, SOTEMS have phased out other traditions as core practices and replaced them with those generated by our lives in Australia and the spirit of this place and people as a whole.

In essence, the ADP has grown gradually through the establishment of Ikon Institute and SOTEMS as sister organizations which complement each other in a vision of new ways of living, healing and culture-building in Australia which may reach out to the rest of the world some day. With respect to SOTEMS, this has meant the gradual weaning of Native American and other cultural materials from our practices and there being supplanted by myth-healing-culture-building practices which are generated here in this country. This is living the vision.


To make this real and palpable, a part of our everyday life, shamanic journeys had to be taken. These were of two kinds, and they continue on. First, there have been the journeys into other worlds of meaning and being which express the shamanic skill of utilizing states of consciousness for expanding horizons of knowledge, time and space, wisdom and creative abilities. Many times, I undertook such journeys to have other worlds and other beings speak about what would serve us … out of this has come the Dreaming Wheel, its totems and protocols, the sweat lodge ceremonies about his country and many other aspects of medicine ways practices. The other kind of journey has been to the centre of this country, to the desert. It has been our great good fortune to have access to land at the Hugh River, the second most ancient river, geologically speaking, in the world. In this arid, beautiful and spare country, we have been able to sojourn and conduct vision quests, shamanic training and conduct healing for those who choose to join us.

It is important to understand just what is happening here. Perhaps it is best comprehended in the simple statement: ‘We are in the country and the country is in us’. In this way, we grasp what is meant by my earlier statements about consciousness, horizons, maps and navigation. Once in this serene and vital place, it seeps into your bones, infuses your dreams, visits every moment of existence wherever one may be. Many who have come say that they simply stop in their daily routine and they are out in the desert again, eidetically real and not a pale or flimsy image. The wind blows and touches the cheek, the dust roils down the creek bed driven by the willy willy, the desert oaks call to us waking or sleeping, the dunes wait to enfold us.

The ADP grows in this soil. We go to this place, the vision grows, the shamanic practices are enriched, and the place returns with us into the Ant World … the world of large populations, mass media, the unconscious domain where we are so easily lost. Our quest is a classical shamanic quest: we go to the wilderness to be inspired, to move away from the Ant World so we can hear, see and understand anew and then return, refreshed, to our work, family and community lives with a spark which inoculates against forgetting the terrain and map we have discovered, the tools which we have to heal and help others, the ways in which we might, gradually, change ourselves and the world in tiny steps. We are not revolutionaries nor are we evangelists: we seek to change things by being and doing differently and well in the service of human development and the healing quest.

Dr Rafael Locke

National Director and founder of the Spirit of the Earth Medicine Society