Friday, November 25, 2011

"HEROES OF 'BALARNIA'" Jeff Phillips & Liesbet Verstraeten on Flinders Island Tasmania


In July of 2011 we returned to ‘Balarnia’, a remote property on the north-west coast of Flinders Island, which is about half-way between Tasmania and Victoria. Our friend Arni ‘Balarni’ Erikson has lived here since 1985. We spent about six weeks there in the summer of 2009, and had greatly looked forward to returning, and hopefully being there long enough to grow some of our own vegetables. This time we were able to stay just about four months, every day of which we got up around 5:30am, worked harder than we’ve ever worked in our lives doing landscaping, gardening, carpentry, and several kinds of artistic projects, exploring the wild beauty of the island, and getting more deeply in tune with the “heart of the Earth” and the dream-time ancestors than ever before. And we were eating broccoli, silver-beet, pipe onions, parsnips, carrots, beet-root and assorted salads that we had grown!

Our times at Arni’s have been inspired and inspiring from many sources, from the sheer undisrupted power of the land to the presence and guidance of the ancestors, to the whales and dolphins. And at the human level, knowledge and awareness of several people (real people, dating from the ‘good old days’ when people were people) whose lives, work and message we felt to be testaments of profound significance with respect to existing as human beings, to what it means to be “people.” We think of them as our “heroes of ‘Balarnia.’

During our visit in 2009 I found an old copy of the first edition of Rachel Carson’s legendary book Silent Spring, from 1963. I’d been aware of her message and influence for decades but had never read the book in toto; primed from intensive environmental activism in New Zealand in previous months centered around the use of dangerous pesticides like 1080, I recognized her revelations as genuine ‘prophecy’ of the global toxicity which is the legacy of our generation. Because of her love of life and nature, in particular, her connection with the sea, as well as her warnings of devastation from chemical poisoning and our retreat into ‘artificial reality’, Carson became our first “hero of ‘Balarnia.’ Our film “The Chronicles of Balarnia” was dedicated to her.

After becoming familiar with Arni’s on-going construction methodology, we began to sense a connection with Friedrich Hundertwasser, the Austrian/Kiwi painter/architect/eco-philosopher whose “Dr. Seuss apartment buildings” enliven western European city-scapes, as well as with fellow Tasmanian Bill Mollison, who founded ‘permaculture’, a paradigm of landscape and garden design based on principles of ecological, agricultural and horticultural harmony. Liesbet and I decided that ‘Balarnia’ was an example of ‘semi-permaculture’, in that everything worked together pretty well, yet according to Arni himself, the buildings are not meant to be there in a hundred years.

During our visit this year several more people became “heroes” as well due to the power of our connection with their stories and contributions, which we are able to share largely through the media of books and films. One of the very first things we did upon arriving at ‘Balarnia’ this time was to construct a stone medicine wheel. This one, our eighth (our first was at ‘Balarnia’ in 2009, in a different location), entered a new dimension with the addition of a Djed pillar in the centre. My dear friend Moira Timms, author of Beyond Prophecies and Predictions, has translated Egyptian hieroglyphics for me over the years and educated me concerning the essence of the positive spiritual aspect of ancient Egyptian cosmology.

Oglala-Lakota medicine man Black Elk inspired us deeply with his vision of the “mending of the sacred hoop” and the insidious “wasichu” mentality; writer/anarchist Edward Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire, inspired us equally with his journals of life in the southwest “red rock” desert of North America, his acerbic philosophy and witty diatribes targeting consumer society, “industrial tourism” and “civilization” as a whole.

Another connection we felt was with Findhorn, originally an alternative “spiritual” community founded in northern Scotland, where Dorothy MacLean learned to communicate harmoniously with the local “nature devas”, or so the story goes, setting the stage for miraculous feats of horticulture, like 40 pound cabbages and 8 foot holly-hocks and delphiniums.

British writer/philosopher Olaf Stapledon, author of Star-maker, took us on the largest-scale and most highly imaginative cosmic journeys that the English language has yet been capable of; his visions of “stellar” or “galactic” intelligence ring of reality far more than they do of fancy, especially as we glimpsed the ‘Hunab Ku’, the Mayan name for the centre of our galaxy, at the zenith as dusk drew near on winter nights.

We have to thank our friends Peter and Rosie for taking us to the William Ricketts Sanctuary in the Dandenongs, east of Melbourne, after we arrived in Australia in June. I’d heard of his work for many years but had never been there. He was a visionary sculptor who spent many years living with aboriginal peoples in the central desert. In his later years he lived in what was to become a bird sanctuary, and created dozens of life-size three-dimensional representations of real aboriginal people blending with or emerging from rocks, plants, tree, the Earth herself. Liesbet and I were blown away at the power and beauty of his work, and at the living presence of the people he sculpted. He was a deeply spiritual person whose goal was to make the (predominantly racist) Australian people keenly aware of who the aborigines truly are as the “real people.”

In my mind William Ricketts was very much of a modern-day William Blake, who was an Irish visionary poet/painter/engraver and political activist who never acceded to the “Crown” and voluntarily lived on the edge of poverty on the fringe of ‘society.’ Blake was hardly recognized in his time but today is regarded as one of the pre-eminent forces of English literature. He saw through the illusions of church and state, and believed that true art was not possible if money was involved.

Moira Timms is a very dear friend living in Oregon now, and I got to meet Bill Mollison once about ten years ago; they both have at least one painted rock of mine.

Our other “heroes” have crossed the great divide into alternity, as we all do sooner or later. We extend our thanks to all these very special people for what they accomplished during the nano-second of cosmic time we call a “life” and for leaving legacies of what being human can truly mean.

Finally, we must thank our biggest 'Balarnia' hero of all, Arni Erikson himself! THANKS ARNI for being one of the most wonderful people we know, for having us at your very special place, and for giving us the freedom to do whatever we wanted...SUCH a unique opportunity to go crazy with honour of the freedom to create, independent thought and Mother Earth.

For more information on our human “heroes of ‘Balarnia’” check out:


"Contemplating the teeming life of the shore, we have an uneasy sense of the communication of some universal truth that lies just beyond our grasp. What is the message signalled by the hordes of diatoms, flashing their microscopic lights in the night sea?"

"The most alarming of all man's assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world—the very nature of its life."

Rachel Carson experience video (1 of 6)


“A tree can be cut in five minutes, but needs years to grow. That’s the difference between technocratic destruction and ecological evolution.”

“It is madness to part of a merciless competition running amok straight into a fatal illusion into the deadlock of economic growth. Our technical achievement must match our creative responsibility; we are far behind, unfortunately. We cannot think as fast as we use more and more dangerous tools. Genetic engineering violates the laws of nature in complete ignorance of the function of beauty, in all manifestations of creation. This short-sighted contempt of the beauty and inter-woven variety triggers the suicide of humanity. Because the so-called unnecessary beauty is essential for the survial of this Earth. Little to nothing is done to counteract the visual pollution which is the most dangerous of all pollutions, because it kills the soul. As we are now reaching the limits of growth, only decentralization, reflection, and slowing down in harmony with nature can save us. If you reach an abyss, only a step back can save you.”



"...the greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter."

"Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple"

“. . . every society that grows extensive lawns could produce all its food on the same area, using the same resources, and . . . world famine could be totally relieved if we devoted the same resources of lawn culture to food culture in poor areas. These facts are before us. Thus, we can look at lawns, like double garages and large guard dogs, [and Humvees and SUVs] as a badge of willful waste, conspicuous consumption, and lack of care for the earth or its people."

“Order is found in things working beneficially together. It is not the forced condition of neatness, tidiness, and straightness, all of which are, in design or energy terms, disordered. True order may lie in apparent confusion . . Thus the seemingly-wild and naturally-functioning garden of a New Guinea villager is beautifully ordered and in harmony, while the clipped lawns and pruned roses of the pseudo-aristocrat are nature in wild disarray. Neatness, tidiness, uniformity, and straightness signify an energy-maintained disorder in natural systems.”



“…the seven seals are allegorical to each of the seven chakras (energy centers, like valves between the etheric and physical bodies, which are related to the endrocrine system) of the human body. With the opening of each seal comes “revelation” and the opportunity to be purified and transformed by the particular energies released. The more successful we are in handling and transmuting within ourselves (i.e., within each chakra) the intense surge of purifying energy released by the opening of each seal, the less necessary it is for these releases to manifest in the external world as chaos and catastrophe.”


“Later I learned too that Pahuska [General Custer] had found there much of the yellow metal that makes the Washichu crazy; and that is what made the bad trouble, just as it did before, when the hundred were wiped out. Our people knew there was yellow metal in little chunks up there; but they did not bother with it, because it was not good for anything." "And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father."


“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”

“A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.”

“The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyong reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see.”

“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear-the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break....I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.”



Dorothy Maclean on the Vedic Kingdom

"In 1962 Peter and Eileen Caddy, their three children and friend Dorothy Maclean were unemployed and living in a caravan park near the seaside village of Findhorn, Scotland. They decided to make ends meet by planting vegetables - no easy feat with dry sandy soil, and a cold and windswept location that enjoyed only twenty-six inches of rain a year.

Then Dorothy discovered she could contact the nature spirits or devas. They instructed her how to make the most of the poor soil, and over time sixty-five different vegetables, forty-two herbs and twenty-one types of fruit flourished in this soil. The forty pound cabbages, eight foot high delphiniums, and roses that bloomed in the snow, attracted horticultural experts near and far, and the internationally acclaimed spiritual community of Findhorn was born. When IBM research scientist Marcel Vogel visited Findhorn he commented, ‘This garden isn’t growing from the soil, only in the soil. The plants are fed by the consciousness of the community.



“There is much in this vision that will remind you of your mystics; yet between them and us there is far more difference than similarity, in respect both of the matter and the manner of our thought. For while they are confident that the cosmos is perfect, we are sure only that it is very beautiful. While they pass to their conclusion without the aid of intellect, we have used that staff every step of the way. Thus, even when in respect of conclusions we agree with your mystics rather than your plodding intellectuals, in respect of method we applaud most your intellectuals; for they scorned to deceive themselves with comfortable fantasies.” ― Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men


Excerpts from books


"In this unique environment of the Divine and that we call Australia, I understand my true self, translating the vision of a Holy Mountain back into the language of the Spirit. This is achieved through myself only as a conscious willing instrument of the higher, Spirit in communion with wild life and every kingdom of nature as the Aboriginal people of Australia knew it."

"I have lived with the Aboriginal people of Central Australia and became deeply impressed by the truth that the Aboriginal people had mastered a way of life. This life, based on the systems of totems, perfectly equates man with his environment. The blundering entrance of the white man into their delicately balanced system began the ruin not only of the Aboriginal people, but also their culture."

"The Aboriginal people moved and lived in this living voice, through the achievement of harmonious co-existence with a total wild life Spiritual meaning. This is successful through the principal of differentiation Australia wide."




“I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare; my business is to create.”

“Where any view of money exists, art cannot be carried on.”

“A Poet a Painter a Musician an Architect, the Man
Or Woman who is not one of these is not a Christian You must leave Fathers & Mothers & Houses & Lands if they stand in the way of Art”


"Every human being...they must have a dream, you know?"