Different ontologies of the Australian aboriginal dreamtime

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Ethnic and Tribal Religions
  3. » Different ontologies of the Australian aboriginal dreamtime

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Reply Fri 4 May, 2007 04:57 am
The australian aboriginal dreamtime is the time of creation -simliar to Genisis- . It was the period when life was created and the laws layed down. This dreamtime belief permeates evey aspect of the Australian aborigines life. There are very subtle differences amongst Australian aborigines in regard to metaphysical aspect and the structure of the universe or ontology of the dreamtime

Two books which deal with Aborignal metaphysical/ontological views regarding the metaphysics and ontology dreamtime are
1)The Australian Aboriginal dreamtime : an account of its history, cosmogenesis, cosmology and ontology

2) The religions of the pre-contact Victorian Aborigines

In the ethnographies a number of variations on 'Dreamtime' ontology appear. For some Aboriginal communities the 'Dreamtime' is: 1) a past reality [Tiwi, Wuradjeri, Jigalong], 2) at the same time a past reality and a concurrent reality with the present reality [Mardudjara, Murngin, Wailbiri, Ooldea, Warrabri]. For those communities where the 'Dreamtime' is at the same time a past reality and a concurrent reality with the present these are two variations: a) the concurrent reality is parallel with the present [Murngin, Wailbiri, Ooldea, Warrabri]. b) the concurrent reality is within the present reality [Murinbata, Mardudjara]. These variations on 'Dreamtime' metaphysics makes the posing of universalistic claims about 'Dreamtime' metaphysics tenuous.

The synthesizing of material highlights the fact that there is a wide range of variation amongst Aboriginal communities and anthropologists, in the way they conceptualise the'dreamtime'. By not realising this variation, a false universiality has been applied to the 'dreamtime', in regard to the finer metaphysical/ontological points; thus creating an order, or unity, [as if a consensus of opinion is held] about the 'dreamtime' within Aboriginal Australia.

For the Aborigines the world was not created ex nihilo. Rather, the pre‑existing ancestral spirits transformed a pre‑existing world of things and conditions into the structures they are today. These structures are fixed once‑and‑for‑all. They are immutable. This primordial period, called the 'Dreamtime', was the very foundation of life itself. In this period the ways of life, the law, the moral code were set down to be followed eternally. Because the structures that were laid down in the 'Dreamtime' are immutable, the 'Dreamtime' is "eternal"; the structures continue from the past to the present and into the future, i.e.: "the eternal 'Dreamtime'". The 'Dreamtime' the period of fashioning, organising and moulding an unordered world is the fount of the whole Aboriginal world view.

Throughout Aboriginal Australia before European contact there was no one religion. However, though there were different religions, certain similarities can be seen between them. Although there are certain apparent exceptions, in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, (i.e. the spirit beings Baiame, Bunjil, Darumulun and Nurelli)the Aborigines, as Stanner said, have "no gods just or unjust to adjudicate the world". What the Aborigines have are ancestral spirits; spirits which are either human, flora or fauna [or hybrids of] in form; and which do not have personal relationships with the Aborigines, with the exception of "clever men". There is no prayer or priesthood in Aboriginal society. There is no sharp distinction between the sacred and the secular, since the spirit world and human world interpenetrate. All aspects of the Aboriginal environment are affected by the power of the spirits. The very land itself is a kind of 'church'; it is a kind of theophany where the land contains the essence of the Ancestors, and is the work of the Ancestors. The whole land is a religious sanctuary, with special regions throughout it which have acquired special sacred status. The Aborigines regard themselves, whether as individuals, groups, categories, sexes or genetic stock, to be in mystical communion, via the sacred places, with certain totemic beings. In this regard the whole life of the Aborigine is a 'religious experience'. They are intimately connected with their whole environment which is pervaded by the supernatural, the result being that their experience of the whole environment is charged with numinous ambience.


  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » Ethnic and Tribal Religions
  3. » Different ontologies of the Australian aboriginal dreamtime
Copyright © 2023 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.02 seconds on 12/09/2023 at 02:20:26