Book Review: Land of the Spirit? The Australian Religious Experience, by Muriel Porter

spiritedStarred Page By spirited, 21st Jan 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
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This article reviews a rather small book, but it says so very much.

The author of this book is an Australian journalist with an interest in religiousness. She trained as a church historian.

She asks the question here, "Is Australia today still a land of the Spirit?'

Read the book to get her answer to this question.

Australian Aboriginal’s spiritual beliefs

The author starts off by telling us that her title of this book was the name that was given to Australia, a long time ago, by a Portuguese sailor, "Land of the Spirit".

The Aboriginal culture was indeed one where sacredness, and respect of both the land, its animal, and human inhabitants were revered deeply, as being spiritually linked and intimately related.

The author begins her book with a brief history lesson about Australia.

The Aboriginals lived here for about 40, 000 years in a self-sustaining way.

They had ample food and water to eat. They were both stewards and protectors of the environment. Their numbers never expanded to such a degree that over-population would start to be a problem.

When the white people arrived, their numbers were estimated at being around 500,000, at most. Their population is a lot less than this now (at the time of the book's publication.) The author claims that this number was only around 200, 000 at the time of her writing of this book in 1990. The number has been steadily growing since then though.

The Australian bureau of statistics figures say that there was more than this though.

"The estimated resident Indigenous population of Australia at 30 June 1991 was 351,000 people. In 2006, there were 517,000 people, representing 2.5% of the total Australian population."

Australian Aboriginals recognise that there was an overall creator for the world, but they also pray to lesser deities too. They see these lesser deities as being depicted in a recognisable form within their landscape. Deities are generally of three types. Creation deities, Ancestral deities, or Totemic (An animal, plant, or natural object).

Photo credit: This photo is one owned by the author of this article

Missionaries: Saviours, or monsters?

The Australian Aboriginal's dreaming turns into their worst nightmare.

The introduction of un-known diseases, the forcible stealing of their hunting-grounds. The displacement of Aboriginals upset the whole balance of the tribal mentality, and their territorial divisions. Aboriginal women were abducted, kidnapped, and raped.

At first, the majority of new convicts coming to Australia were men.

The leaders of the Christian churches did little to help a race that was, "inferior, and that were destined to be replaced by their British conquerors."

Some Christian missionaries did try to convert the "heathens" though. They did some good. Without them, the whole Aboriginal race would have been entirely wiped out, as was the case in the island state of Tasmania.

The early years of settlement were extremely brutal ones for all concerned. This only changed later on as some of the convicts were eventually freed, and as free-settlers finally decided to come to Australia, and to try their luck in a new land.

Most of these settlers were hardened in more ways than one. Religion held little interest to them. The English were godless. It was actually the Irish convicts who tried to maintain the faith.

The Catholic faith was originally nearly all Irish, and this Irish character within the Catholic Church survived for another hundred years or more. It is only recently, that Priests have been coming here from India and Africa, and from other countries as well.

Photo credit for the photo used here:

"Preacher (3558380993)" by SeaDave from Fairlie, Scotland - PreacherUploaded by MaybeMaybeMaybe. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Australia: A Christian nation?

When Australia became a commonwealth in 1901, census figures revealed that 97 percent of the population referred to themselves as being Christians.

The churches within the states also mostly set themselves up then as being also federalised, so to speak. They became more connected together, instead of being more or less separated structures.

The writer claims that traditional church worship is still an alien experience for most Australians. The role of women in some of the churches has been widened, but there is still much scope for improvement here too.

Today, many Australians are trying to become more spiritual in their outlook though. Funnily enough, their spiritual values compare with those of the original inhabitants of the great land of Australia, the Aboriginals.

Love of the land that you live in always becomes eventually spiritual, because love itself is spiritual. God is love. Love is God.

The aboriginals were a deeply spiritual people, and when we also value the land as much as they did, we too will become more connected to our own religiousness then too, far more than which any secular teaching could ever create within us.

"Spirituality is meant to take us beyond our tribal identity into a domain of awareness that is more universal."

The above quote is from the well-known Indian-born spiritual figure, Deepak Chopra.

We perhaps can understand what he means here, but the way that the Australian Aboriginals lived their lives from their tribal identify was all that they ever needed. Their domain of awareness was truly a Universal one too.

Photo credit for this photo of "Uluru", previously known as "Ayer's rock."

"Ayers Rock1189" by Tourism NT - Image gallery Tourism NT. Licensed under Attribution via Wikimedia Commons -


Australian Aboriginals, Australian History, Australian Religious Experience, Book Reviews, Books Review, Religion, Religion In Australia, Religious Experience, Spiritual, Spirituality

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author avatar spirited
I have been interested in the spiritual fields for over thirty five years now. My writing is mostly in this area.

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author avatar Carol Roach
21st Jan 2015 (#)

well don't as a history buff, therapist and writer I love to learn about different cultures

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author avatar spirited
21st Jan 2015 (#)

thanks Carol, the Australian Aboriginal culture is perhaps one of the oldest still around.

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author avatar Carol Roach
21st Jan 2015 (#)

well don't as a history buff, therapist and writer I love to learn about different cultures

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author avatar Utah Jay
21st Jan 2015 (#)

Yes, I agree, we should go back to our ancient roots. I think we would all learn something.

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author avatar spirited
21st Jan 2015 (#)

thanks Utah Jay, yes we should not turn our backs on our roots. It would give us a stronger foundation in who we are today.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
26th Jan 2015 (#)

Aboriginals would have had their own awareness that could have been contaminated by imported beliefs alien to them and also forced on them. When a member of a family adopts to a new faith, it also causes division within a closed knit family and also the traditions they follow. I also believe those who lived and departed still cast a spell on our well being or otherwise. We should prove worthy of a life that satisfies them,learning from their mistakes since we continue from where they have left.

I believe how we love creation should override how we follow our various beliefs as we see now when those supposed to follow the same faith are at each other's throats. Love should prevail, but is under attack from blind beliefs. Thanks Spirited for this share - siva

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author avatar spirited
26th Jan 2015 (#)

"Love should prevail, but is under attack from blind beliefs."

Yes, I agree siva. Nobody who really loves could be blind like this and attack others.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
27th Jan 2015 (#)

Interesting post!

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author avatar spirited
27th Jan 2015 (#)

thanks Fern

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