Aboriginal religious experience
"Aboriginal spirituality is defined as at the core of Aboriginal being, their very identity. It gives meaning to all aspects of life including relationships with one another and the environment. All objects are living and share the same soul and spirit as Aboriginals. There is a kinship with the environment. Aboriginal spirituality can be expressed visually, musically and ceremonially." (Grant, 2004)
Part of the Australians Together journey of listening, learning and living in respectful relationship with one another involves seeking to understand Indigenous spirituality, which is fundamental to many Indigenous people’s identity and worldview.
Someone with extensive knowledge of this topic is Indigenous elder, Graham Paulson. Graham is the first ordained Indigenous Baptist pastor in Australia, and now has over 50 years of ministry experience in remote, rural and urban contexts. Drawing on his experience and his deep knowledge of Indigenous Australian cultures, Graham Paulson explains several core aspects of Indigenous spirituality.
1. Aboriginal Spirituality is Animistic
In an animistic world every thing is interconnected, people, plants and animals, landforms and celestial bodies are part of a larger reality. In this world, nothing is inanimate, everything is alive; animals, plants, and natural forces, all are energised by a spirit. As such, humans are on an equal footing with nature; are part of nature and are morally obligated to treat animals, plants and landforms with respect. In this world, the invisible and the visible pulse with the same life and the sacred is not separated from the secular, they are interconnected and interactive.
But also in this world, the unseen spiritual forces are stronger and hold sway over all nature. A healthy respect for the power of spirit forces is learned from early childhood, particularly in relation to religious or social taboos. These spiritual forces are believed to have the power to make rain, foster natural growth, assist in hunting and food gathering and even to the finding of spouses or partners. It is also believed that they have the power to act against the wishes of people if the correct ceremonies and/or rituals are not practised or observed. And it is believed that crossing the boundaries of social taboos will also incur their wrath.
2. Aboriginal Spirituality is a Cosmogony
Cosmogony is a theory or story of the origin of the universe Aboriginal cosmogony begins at the ‘Dreamtime’. This is the time before the world was shaped the way we know it to be now. Hidden in the sky, in the sea and under the surface of the earth are dreamtime heroes, also called creation ancestors, who are part human, in terms of their emotions and intellect, part animal bird or reptile, in terms of their physical shape, and part super-human in terms of their power and their creative ability. At some point in the dreaming they emerged from their hidden worlds and as a result of their actions and inter-actions they shaped the world as we have it today.