Ritual Knowledge Is Transmitted in Aboriginal Religion Essay

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¶ … ritual knowledge is transmitted in Aboriginal religion.

One of the difficulties with discussing how ritual knowledge is transmitted in Aboriginal religion is the fact that few Aborigines have discussed the process in a scholarly context. Instead, outside observers have attempted to discuss the process, and, in doing so, have oftentimes failed to understand significant portions of Aboriginal religion. A stark example of this arises when one considers the seeming contrast that exists in the works of Kaberry and Warner; the male's perspective suggests that women play an insignificant role in religion and the transmission of religious tradition, while the female's perspective reveals that women play a dynamic and essential role in the religion, and, therefore, in the transmission of knowledge. This seeming dichotomy serves as a reminder that outside observers, no matter how determined and thorough, will only see glimpses of another culture's religious practices.

One way that ritual knowledge is transmitted in the Aboriginal religion is through the use of creation stories. Creation stories are stories that explain how mankind came to be, but they are more than stories of origin; they also help explain the appropriate role that humans play in the universe. "Creation stories are not told lightly. People earn the right to be told a story, and not everyone knows everything about the story. Stories are layered with meanings restricted according to considerations of age, gender, kinship, place in family, place of birth, residence, marriage and individual traits, aptitude, interests, talents, and disposition" (Jupp 2009, p.70). In other words, at least in regards to creation stories, the transmission of ritual knowledge is tailored to individuals, with not all people being deemed worthy of sharing some of this knowledge. Moreover, it is holistic cultural experience, so that knowledge is only truly transmitted if a number of different actors are involved.

Aboriginal society also has totemic aspects, in which aspects of their religion are represented in objects. The objects, themselves, are not necessarily sacred, but they represent something sacred. "This item is the ritual property of one clan only. Once the design is put on the object it is transformed, no longer profane, but set apart and not to be seen by women and young people. It is the emblem that symbolizes the solidarity and oneness of the clan. When clan members worship the totem, they worship the clan. There are no gods, only humans" (Jupp 2009, p.75). Furthermore, it is not only totems that allow for a symbolic, artistic representation of ritual in society. Different art forms, including dance and painting, have been used as ways of transmitting this ritual knowledge, not only through generations of the Aboriginal people, but, in recent times, also to members of the outside world.

One of the more important concepts in Aboriginal religion is the concept of the Dreaming, and much of the transmission of ritual behavior and norms is focused on this idea of the Dreaming. However, the concept of the Dreaming is one that has the potential of marginalizing Aboriginal beliefs and is not one that Aboriginal people use in their transmissions of ritual. "The use of 'Dreaming' to gloss ancestral activity has proved useful for scholars of Aboriginal religions and Aboriginal peoples themselves, but caution is required. Recent debate has probed the authenticity and politics of the translation of the Arrernte concept. The term has the potential to homogenise diverse beliefs and practices across the continent, to lock Aboriginal religions into an unchanging world and to suggest that their religions are the stuff of myth and fiction" (Jupp 2009, p.79). As such, it should not be considered way in which Aboriginal people transmit their own ritual beliefs. Instead, it must be recognized that religion and ritual are part of daily life. "Religion underlies all actions, expressions, and interpretations, for women and for men, in daily and ceremonial life, both public and secret" (Rose 1987, p.257).

What issues are raised by the way in which authority and power is played out in the Catholic Church for Catholics around the world.

It is impossible to look at the Catholic Church without examining the ideas of power and authority because of the hierarchical and patriarchal structure of the Catholic Church. Within that context, the idea of power in the Catholic Church looks purely like a manmade phenomenon, so that any exertion of power is seen, if not as an abuse, at least as an area of potential abuse. However, it is important to keep in mind that for the millions and millions of devout Catholics around the world, the Catholic Church is the single means of establishing a relationship with God. Therefore, the power that is associated with the Church is not an illegitimate man-made source of power, but a divine source of power. This relationship, which is seen as valid to Catholics and invalid to most non-Catholics, is at the heart of most of the issues that are raised by the way in which power and authority is played out in the Catholic Church for Catholics around the world.

It is important to keep in mind that while power has the potential of being exploited, not all uses of power are illegitimate or exploitative. Rollo May posits that there are five types of power: exploitative, manipulative, competitive, nutrients, and integrative (McBrien 1982, p.39). When used in a nutrient or integrative manner, power can be very helpful to those to whom it is applied. However, one of the issues with the Church is that, because of a patriarchal structure that is focused on hierarchical relationships, even good intentions are often carried out in nutrient rather than integrative means, which perpetuates the idea of a superior-inferior people within relationships in the Church.

There are two components to the idea of power in the Church that are sometimes forgotten by the leadership of the Church. First, the Church is not a top-down community, even if it is organized in a hierarchical structure. "Because the Church is the whole People of God, authority and power reside in the community as a whole, although exercised in various ways, by various persons, for the good of the whole"(McBrien 1982, p.42). Furthermore, the Church is a voluntary community (McBrien 1982, p.42). Taken together, these components suggest that the Church should be responsive to the concerns of the community and reflect changing moral and ethical concerns that reflect the growth of the community, as a whole. In many ways, the Catholic Church has lagged behind other organizations in its willingness to recognize and embrace societal change because of a top-down structure that fails to recognize the legitimacy of the entire body of Catholics.

One of the issues surrounding power in the Church is how that power is acquired. Any power in the Church should be related to the will of the people in the community of the Church. However, in many ways, the power in the Church is exercised to benefit the Church, rather than the members. McBrien's work was published before the extent of sexual abuse by priests against Catholic children was fully understood, but the idea of the Church protecting people that it placed in positions of power vis-a-vis the laity in the Church is a dramatic example of the potential corruption of power in the Church.

Write a summary in a few paragraphs of some key aspects of Islam making use of the following terms in a context which makes it clear that you understand their meaning: Umma, hijra, sunna, hadith, Quran, salat, hajj, shiaa, sharia, ulema.

Islam is one an Abrahamic religion that shares many aspects with the two other Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Christianity. However, there are aspects of Islam that are distinctly Islamic and reflect, not only religious ideals, but also cultural ideals that have become inseparable from the religions for thousands of Muslims. Complicating this is the fact that there are multiple ways for Muslims to practice Islam, so that devout Muslims can, and quite frequently do, disagree on what it is to be Muslim, both historically and in a modern contextual setting.

Umma or ummah refers to the "universal community of Muslims" (Hassan 2008, p.44). However, there is no real universal community of Muslims. Instead, there is a sharp division among Muslims which can be likened to the division between Catholics and Protestants in the Christian Church; both claim the appropriate relationship with Allah/God through their religious practices, and, especially for extremists in each tradition, suggest that the others are not even legitimately Muslim. These two large branches are the Shi'ah and the Sunnis. Within these two branches are people who range through different levels of orthodoxy. The idea that there may be different levels of Islam is reflected in the Ulema. "One of the telltale signs of this reformation is the changes in the status of the Ulema as the Muslim world modernized" (Sedgewick 2006, p.36). The Ulema is a group of Muslim scholars, and changes in this class reflect changes in the groups of Muslims underneath… [END OF PREVIEW]

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