Book Review: The Aboriginal Gift Spirituality for a Nation

By Joy Connor
Retired Diocese of Parramatta priest Fr Eugene Stockton. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

The Aboriginal Gift Spirituality for a Nation by Eugene Stockton

Available from Blue Mountain Education and Research Trust

In The Aboriginal Gift, Eugene Stockton uses a treasure trove of conversations and observations from his long connection with First Nations people in the Blue Mountains, Western Sydney and Central Australia and his solid academic research to explore a spirituality he sees as closer to the mind of the semitic people of scripture than to modern western capitalism. The biggest gift however is his observations of the impact of integrating this way of being into a spirituality for Australians at this time of ecological crisis.

Eugene points out that “The starting point of and foundation of Aboriginal traditional religion is creation. Although the stories and emphasis vary greatly from region to region, the general order of the founding drama, common to all can be told. It is a cosmology, an account or theory, (In mythological form) of how what was created became an ordered system. To be more precise, how the universe became a moral system (p40).

The purpose of ceremony was not to worship the ancestral beings or to placate or petition them .. but to participate in the original creative acts, ensuring their continuation into the present for the continuing well-being of the world” (p50). Ceremonies are … what life is about, a living within the myth (acting out the deeper meaning of life) or the common Pauline expression of “being in Christ. “

While much has been lost to First Nations people living in urban areas, much still remains in the connection creation, to the land, to families, to caring for one another and to mutual support and hospitality whatever the cost.

As Eddie Kneebone, A elder from Victoria pointed out

“Aboriginal spirituality is the belief and the feeling within yourself that allows you to become part of the whole environment around you … not the built environment but the natural environment … Birth, life and death are all part of it and you welcome each.

Aboriginal spirituality is the belief that all objects are living and share the same soul or spirit that Aboriginals share. Therefore, all Aboriginals have a kinship with the environment. The soul or spirit is common -only the shape is different but no less important (p77.)”

The centrality of creation and land to a person’s actual being for First Nations people is in stark contrast to a capitalistic world view of a resource to be used for individual or corporate use. Eugene quotes David Mowaljari who says “land and mountains and spring water – the heart of sacred sites is really our body. Graders bulldozers are pressing down on our body liver, kidney bleeding. The graders are scraping the skin off our flesh (p80).

Within Aboriginal spirituality “Life itself and in itself is sacred in the sense of being an ineffable miracle. Whereas Western concepts of religion contrast the sacred and the profane, the natural and the supernatural, there is no basis for such distinction for Aboriginal religious thought, as everything is alive and therefore everything is sacred … living itself is religion (p73).”


A book well worth reading

Joy Connor

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