Thirty two people from Manningham Uniting Church were privileged to hear Dr Jim Poulter, Secretary of Reconciliation Manningham, speak to us recently about Aboriginal spirituality.
I, for one, am really pleased that Jim dispelled an Australian history myth, that Indigenous people had no God, did not worship any deity in any way and were therefore ripe for conversion to Christianity by missionaries.
As mentioned before, Christianity is about 1,700 years old, Judaism is around 3,000 years old, give or take a bit but Aboriginal spirituality, because of its commonality across Australia, must be more than 65,000 years old. How amazing is that! God, the mystery, the Creator of the earth and all creatures on the earth, was known to Aboriginal people through their dreamtime stories and cultural practice for much more than 65,000 years. Well beyond human memory. In the words of the hymn, ‘God was in this place, but we never knew.’
What is perhaps more interesting to me, is that so many Christians today, who have rejected outdated fourth century Christian dogma and doctrine, (for example the Nicene Creed) are rediscovering for themselves a spirituality that has many aspects in common with Aboriginal spirituality. Jesus, after all, was a ‘spirit person’.
Jim spoke to us about the Creation story, common to all tribes. Like our own creation myth, ‘In the beginning, the world and the whole universe was created in the imagination of (God) the Spirit of All Life and the laws of nature were also created in this dreaming so that the world was complete in itself.’
Not much different to ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.’
Next, God, ‘the Great Spirit sent life into the dream to make it real and the Secret of Dreaming was given to mankind so that the Dream would be sustained. Consciousness and free will were therefore given to mankind so that we would have responsibility for the earth and all that happened, whether good or bad.’ (Not dissimilar to the myth of Adam and Eve and the requirement to care for the earth.)
‘The Basic Tenets of Wanjinist religion, – the world’s oldest faith’, is included for us to really think about. This was compiled by Uncle Reg Blow and Jim Poulter. Remember that this spirituality was revealed by God/The Great Spirit to an ancient people, over 65,000 years ago. Look for similarities and differences with your own understanding of the relationship between God and humankind.
‘Aboriginal Spirituality’ was the second talk by Jim, in the Learning and Discipleship Portfolio’s Building Bridges With First Peoples Program. We will be planning more inspirational talks in the future. The more we know about our First Peoples, the more we want to know about the real history of Aboriginal settlement in this country; their farming practices that sustained them in good years and bad and the way they cared for the land.
If you would like a full copy of Jim’s talk, please contact Ruth at The Hub.