The Arandan Religious Myth
More Than Allegory by Bernardo Kastrup
The Arandan believe that Karora, the creator, dreamed the world up in his sleep. As he lay in darkness on the ground, a kind of tree grew from his head all the way to the heavens, its roots planted on Karora’s head. The thoughts, wishes and desires in his head then became real as Karora dreamed them: animals and men sprung from his navel and armpits.
Eventually, when the sun rose, Karora awoke. As he stood up, he left a hole on the ground in the place where he had lain asleep. This hole then became the Ilbalintja Soak, a sacred place for the Arandan, which connects their daily life with the transcendence of their deity. Now awake, Karora lost his magical powers and, to his own surprise, met the animals and men that he had dreamed into existence the previous night. He even cooked and ate some of the animals for, without his magical powers, he felt hungry. Over a series of subsequent nights, Karora again fell asleep and dreamed more creatures into existence, coming in contact with them upon awakening the next morning.
All of this supposedly took place around the Ilbalintja Soak, a location integral to Arandan life. The animals that sprouted from Karora’s dreaming body are animals the Arandan see every day. The myth thus endows their very environment and its inhabitants with transcendence. Their whole existence is colored by the myth. It gives their lives meaning.
One way to look upon the Arandan myth is to take it literally and then proceed to dismiss it as absurd. Another way is to try and look beyond the words, taking the images of the myth as evocative symbols that point to deeper and ineffable intuitions. An extensive analysis of the Arandan myth is beyond the scope or purposes of this book, but it is useful to highlight a few salient aspects.
Clearly, the myth evokes the notion that the world is a mental creation of a deity who dreams it into existence while lacking lucidity. In the stupor of the dream, this deity has the magical power of bringing things forth into existence; the freedom unique to the imagination to concoct images without being bound by logic, resource constraints, ordinary causality or consistency. In other words, during his dream the deity doesn’t know what is supposed to be impossible and, therefore, nothing is impossible. However, he can also enter the dream, as it were, by waking up in it. When this happens, the deity gains the ability to self-reflect but loses his magical powers, for he is now a participant in his own dream, subject to its constraints and internal logic like the rest of his creation. In other words, by waking up he becomes aware of, and subject to, what is supposedly impossible. Yet, it is this act of waking up inside the dream that gives his creation concreteness and solidity, for only now creation is experienced in the state of lucid self-reflection that fixes it in place, as opposed to the ever-flowing slumber of sleep.
The idea built into this religious myth is sophisticated and striking. Karora can find himself in two different mental states: one lacking lucidity, which is linked to the unconstrained freedom to imagine things into existence; and a self-reflective state linked to becoming subject to self-imposed constraints. Upon waking up inside his own dream, Karora even has to find food, cook and eat! There seems to be a trade-off between lucidity and unconstrained creative freedom; they don’t come together.
I will leave it to you to consult your own intuition and determine what—if any—ring of truth and significance this myth might have. Be it as it may, the Arandan are not alone in their sophisticated intuitions…
Bernardo Kastrup has a Ph.D. in computer engineering with specializations in artificial intelligence and reconfigurable computing. He has worked as a scientist in some of the world’s foremost research laboratories, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories (where the “Casimir Effect” of Quantum Field Theory was discovered). Bernardo has authored many scientific papers and philosophy books. His three most recent books are: More Than Allegory, Brief Peeks Beyond and Why Materialism Is Baloney. He has also been an entrepreneur and founder of a successful high-tech start-up. Next to a managerial position in the high-tech industry, Bernardo maintains a philosophy blog, a video interview series, and continues to develop his ideas about the nature of reality. He has lived and worked in four different countries across continents, currently residing in the Netherlands.
More Than Allegory – On religious myth, truth and belief is published by Iff Books, ISBN: 978-1-78535-287-4 (Paperback) £12.99 $21.95