The Regenesis Collective has been invited by the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) to participate in a series of online events which they are holding for Earth Laws month, this September.  To connect with this free event visit:


The Ontological Challenge

The Australian Government proudly claims that Australia’s First Nations cultures are the foundation of Australia’s culture; that Australia did not begin when Cook claimed the continent for the British Crown in 1770; nor when Phillip founded the first white settlement in January 1788; and nor with the proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia in September 1900. Instead we now acknowledge that Australia is home to the oldest living culture in the world, dating back more than 65,000 years, well into the last Ice Age. As the City of Blue Mountains where I live acknowledges, despite the massive adversity of colonial dispossession of the Dharug and Gungundurra people of the Blue Mountains, the story of their place in our midst is one of heroic resistance, survival, reawakening and reclamation of a rich inheritance and an unbroken and timeless connection to Ngurra (Country).

However we cannot understand and respect First Nations culture unless we crack the code of our separation from the possibility of a thoroughly animated world where the land, water, animals, birds and plants all have their own voices that can ‘speak’ to us in their own languages. This requires not only an epistemological transformation of our knowledge systems encoded in all our institutions, but an ontological revolution in how we understand our framing of reality. This is the journey that the non-Indigenous peoples of Australia must undertake, particularly those of us of a European cultural background who comprise more than 75 percent of our total national population.

Through the Regenesis Collective (, we are seeking to meet this challenge by telling the story of RE-GENESIS as a way out of our dark and catastrophic path of ecological and civilisational collapse. This dark path can be traced back to a foundational story of Western Culture in GENESIS, Old Testament, Verse 1.26—the dangerous idea that God made ‘man’ in his own image and gave him dominion over the Earth and all its lifeforms. From this commandment came the idea that only humans have souls/minds, and therefore, in the growing literal interpretation of religious doctrine, rather than a mystical reading, it gave ‘man’ the ‘right’ to control and exploit ‘brute’ nature for our benefit.

Many proponents of eco-spirituality from the Abrahamic traditions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, seek to interpret God’s command to give ‘man’ dominion over the Earth and all its life forms, as a command to have stewardship for the Earth as God’s creation. But while noble, this interpretation still leaves humans as ‘god-like’ — separate from, and over, all of creation—just now being the controlling, but loving parent (father).

It is the same sort of hubris that underpins the idea of ‘male headship’ in conservative Anglican Christianity, of the restrictions on women in conservative forms of Islam that takes its most extreme form in the Taliban of Afghanistan, and in the restrictive practices of ultra Orthodox Judaism. Of course this is not confined to Abrahamic cultures, but it is there where it most visibly survives into our modern times. The toxicity of this assumption of male authority of female fecundity, which parallels the assertion over Earth and all its life forms eventually led to the feminist revolt against patriarchy.

RE-GENESIS seeks to turn this Commandment on its head.  God did not make ‘man’ in his image.  Rather humans made ‘God’ in their image – the male patriarch. In the story of REGENESIS, ‘God’ is creation itself, beyond human authorship, expressed in the dynamic display of interlocking ecological systems that is the display of ‘mother’ Earth in all is fecundity and complexity, spinning in the vast solar system. This is the ancient LAW that the oral cultures of  our First Nations knowledge systems have honoured.

Through the ontological challenge of REGENESIS we can see that when feminism is merely aligned with Modernity’s hubris, it fails its mission to rescue us from patriarchy that sits astride the disenchantment of materialist rationalism.

The Materialist Legacy

The materialist science of Modernity that flows from Newton’s Principia Mathematica (1687) and its naturalist philosophy, and the various waves of our techno-industrial revolutions, since, further weaponised our alienation from nature through technological entrancement, based on what First Nations’ elder Mary Graham has called ‘extractivist logic’. ‘Mother’ Nature was not only disenchanted, to be controlled by ‘male’ human reason, but it was systematically ‘raped’ to satisfy human ‘need’ and ‘desires’.

As anthropologists Veronique Béguet and David Hufford of the University of Montreal remind us, for more than two centuries Western intellectuals, assuming spirit belief to be cultural fantasy, have worked hard at trying to explain the apparent presence of spirits in ancient and non-Western societies. But, given continued spirit encounters, the real problem is explaining the illusion of the absence of spirits in modernity.  This intellectual disenchantment project rests largely on the assertion that belief in spirits is not rational. Which turns out to be a delusion of rationality as defined in Western culture.

The anthropologist, Gregory Bateson (Steps to An Ecology of Mind, 1972) has drawn attention to the limits of ‘purposive rationality’ which sees but one arc of the total story.  Buddhist philosophy calls this the limitations of conceptual thinking/mind, which falls into dualism of self-other and binary logic through the process of reification, transforming what are fluid processes into frozen ‘things’.  The whole purpose of Buddhist meditative training of the mind is to escape this trap and to recognise the open primordial dimension of wisdom awareness that recognises, experientially, the indivisible union of appearance and its empty essence.  For Bateson, this is the dimension of total systems ecological awareness, which he thinks best describes the idea of wisdom. Bateson also points to the importance of the world of art and poetry, where we are able to move beyond the limitations of mere purposive consciousness, moving into the experience of liminal ways of knowing.  As the philosopher, Blaise Pascal famously noted, “the heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”

As Hufford notes a major element of the disenchantment process is the ironic alliance of western religion, beginning with the Protestant Reformation, and the sceptical materialism of the Enlightenment, against traditional spirit belief. This strange collaboration of opposing forces set the table for anthropology and other academic disciplines to erect powerful defences against the ubiquitous presence of the enchanted world, and worked against the mystical tradition within religion.

Extractivist Logic

Extractivist logic underpins the modern idea of ‘productivity’ as that which will deliver us ever increasing materialist prosperity. The Australian Productivity Commission defines productivity as a measure of the rate at which output of goods and services are produced per unit of input (labour, capital, raw materials, etc.). It is calculated as the ratio of the quantity of output produced to some measure of the quantity of inputs used. . . Put simply, the more goods and services a society can produce with a given set of inputs, the greater the material standard of living of that society, in terms of how this affects ordinary citizens on a day‑to‑day basis.

This is now the great project of Australia’s transition from a coal, iron ore, and agricultural exporter to a ‘renewable energy superpower’ as an answer to the climate crises threatening the viability of many human settlements on Earth in the face of floods, droughts and ocean inundation.  But this vision merely continues our obsession with consumption-economics as the recipe of human prosperity and ‘happiness’ and fails to face our profound spiritual alienation from nature and all its life forms, including our own humanity as part of this.  It is no wonder there is an epidemic of mental illness that stalks the modern world.


REGENESIS counters Modernity’s trajectory with our new/ancient story rooted in the ‘relationist logic’ of Caring for Country embodied in First Nations knowledge systems. This knowledge has been kept alive by the arts in the songlines as a living, breathing presence in the land. This ancient story is now the foundation of the modern story of REGENESIS, informed by the wisdom of total ecological systems awareness in every cell of our being, knowing and praxis in all its multiple meanings and expressions. It is the story, which must now shape our future, as we learn how to listen to the voices of the Earth—the trees, waters, wind, insects, birds, animals and creatures of the ocean who all speak in their own languages.

REGENESIS requires us to see ourselves as intrinsically, both materially and spiritually, as part of the natural world, a small part of a total complex ecological system of interconnecting cycles, which lie beyond the domain of human control. It draws our attention to the idea of LAW in Australia’s First Nations cultures, a law that is embedded in ecological awareness and held in sacred trust by the Elders through knowledge systems that remind us that we co-become WITH nature, and we experience this through our intimate relationship with totemic ancestral beings embedded in landscape that pulses with their vibratory presence. This is the legacy and promise of the ancient Songlines (Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly, Songlines: The Power and the Promise, 2020) where past, present and future are contemporaneous.

This is how we will fulfil a commitment to acknowledge, address and eliminate the inherent colonial perspectives and behaviours formed within generations of non-Aboriginal Australians in interacting with Traditional Owners and First Nations people, wherever we live, and commencing a journey towards local de-colonising attitudes, policy, processes and practices. This is the commitment of the Blue Mountains City Council in its Commitment Pledge: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. In Dharug language: Barraandjii, Yaguu, Barraabuuguu, and in Gundungurra language: Burraandii, Yanguu, Burraanduu.

REGENESIS is a Revolutionary Paradigm Shift

As Thomas Kuhn famously pointed out in his ground breaking book, The Structure of the Scientific Revolution (1962), a paradigm includes a diverse set of elements — conceptual schemes, research techniques, bodies of accepted data and theory, and embedded criteria and processes for the validation of results. Paradigms are not subject to testing or justification; in fact, empirical procedures are embedded within paradigms. Paradigms are in some ways incommensurable (competing and irreconcilable accounts of reality). Kuhn alluded to gestalt psychology to capture the idea that a paradigm structures our perceptions of the world. There are no crucial experiments — instead, anomalies accumulate and eventually the advocates of an old paradigm die out and leave the field to practitioners of a new paradigm.

REGENESIS requires an ontological evolution that marries the ancient with insights of the sciences of ecology—a revolutionary paradigm shift away from the long trajectory of Western culture and its privileging of humans over all other life forms, a viewpoint that was exported to the rest of the world through the guns and commerce of imperialism right through to contemporary global capitalism and its many oligarchic and so-called free market forms.

Instead REGENESIS requires us to look back to the ancient wisdom of total ecological systems awareness that is embedded in the remaining oral cultures of First Nations peoples who survived the onslaught of Modernity and all its presumptions. This must now be married with the insights of the contemporary sciences of complexity, of climate science, of ecological science, of regenerative agriculture, to reconfigure how we can, as humans, live sustainably with the rest of creation.  This is the great project that now awaits us if we are to provide a path out of the darkness for our children and their children.

The Australian Earth Laws Alliance through their various projects such as GreenPrints is doing this work, along with other such groups all around the world.  They are the green shoots growing in the cracks of the concrete of the old order that is crumbling in the face of the voices of Mother Earth, despite all the old techno-industrial order’s hubris and fantasies of escape to Mars or transformation into a new cyber-humanity.



BARBARA LEPANI – Barbara is a sociologist of technological futures, writer, and cultural change advocate, with lived cross-cultural experiences. She is also a long-term student-practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism and author of Tulkus, Tertons Turmoil: East Tibet 1855-1955, and Call of the Dakini: A Memoir of a Life Lived. Barbara is the president of Blue Mountains Creative Arts Network and co-ordinator of the Regenesis Collective and its various multi-arts regenesis projects. She is a key force behind the recently formed Arts & Culture Alliance Blue Mountains, and supporter of the Blue Mountains Planetary Health Initiative and the regenerative agriculture movement.

HENRYK TOPOLNICKI – Henryk is a sculptor with over 25 years experience producing public artworks in metal, stone, wood and a variety of reclaimed materials. He is currently developing an extensive sculpture garden set in the rugged landscape of the Monkey Creek Escarpment near the famous Garden of Stones, which was heavily impacted by the Black Summer fires of 2019-2020. With his partner Merren French, Henryk also runs a commercial art gallery in the Monkey Creek art precinct at Dargan just east of Lithgow, featuring works by local artists and artisans.

SEAN O’KEEFFE – Sean is a multi-disciplinary artist who works across a range of media including video, painting and site-specific sculpture that responds to the Blue Mountains environment. His meditation on hope, which points to the breathtaking dimension of the human spirit and its efforts, suffuses his artistic sensibility and responses to time and the environment. As a filmmaker, Sean has worked extensively with young people teaching and producing many award-winning films.

JANELLE RANDALL-COURT – Janelle is a Bundjalung arts worker and practising artist who lives in the Blue Mountains. She has a long history of works that re-imagine our relationship with domestic waste through art, as part of her First Nation’s commitment to Caring for Country. She has co-produced a documentary featuring local Gundungurra Elder, Aunty Carol Cooper, featured in her work with Barbara Lepani on REIMAGINE, a waste to art project with funding support from Wentworth Health, Nepean Primary Health Network. The final part of this project till link this work to REGENESIS whereby participants will co-create their own regenesis journey through their different art works.

MELISSA CHAMBERS— Melissa is an artist living and practising in the Blue Mountains. Her work ‘Art-i-fact Being’ won the prize for the best artwork in REGENESIS, an anthology of poetry, short stories and artworks produced by Rosey Ravelston Books and Publishing in partnership with the Blue Mountains Creative Arts Network for the 2022 Winter Magic Festival Revival. Together with her poem, ‘Lungs of the World’, Melissa’s art practice speaks directly to the search for a regenerative philosophy of living through her work as a permaculture educator and her engagement with the Blue Mountains Planetary Health Initiative.