Friday, February 02, 2007

The Meaning Behind The Title of this Blog

I first came across the term altjiranga mitjina when I was doing some research for a comic book project. The project never came to completion (actually it did, but without me...I was doing some work for Sam Kieth on The Maxx but he ended up going with another writer), but the term stuck in my mind. The term comes from the Australian Aboriginals. My first definition of it was fairly straight forward...the timeless dimension of dreams. A world where reality and dreams lived together.

When I was out knocking on editor's doors looking for work those years ago I always thought a writer had a distinct disadvantage. An artist has his portfolio and can show it to an editor on the spot and the editor can look at the artwork and at least get an idea if he likes the artist or not. With writers it's a little harder, most editors don't have the time to sit there and read a script while at a convention. So I created my own portfolio, where I highlighted published work I had done, with brief synopsis of new work. I printed this all up and bound it with the title of altjirana mitjina.

This all is to serve as background, to let everyone know that this term has been around with me for a long time now. Since than I've done a little more research on the term and the definition is a little more complex than it seemed at first.

The Australian Aboriginal cosomology is centered on The Dreaming. It has been referred to as "everywhen" to articulate its timelessness. For the aboriginals the waking world is just one type of experienced reality. To them dreaming and The Dreaming are not the same thing. The Dreaming is a state of reality.

To the aboriginals altjiranga mitjina refers to the time outside time that exists in dreams. This is also a time in which their ancestors live.

The term altjeringa is used to describe the dream times in which their mythical ancestors lived. Altjira means dream, altjirmamma is to dream, and altjirerinja is dreaming.

Altjiranaga mitjina
is the eternal ones from the dream or the eternal people who come in dreams.

To the aboriginals there is no difference between the time of their ancestors and the time which they themselves dream.

From THE NATURE OF ARCHANGELS by Bruce Kirchoff:

the Aranda people of Australia use the term altjiranga mitjina to refer to the time-outside-time that exists in dreams and which, to the Aranda, is also the time in which their ancestors live.[7] To the Aranda there is no difference between the time of their ancestors and the time during which they themselves dream. The term altjiranga mitjina, and the culture that surrounds it, implies a very different relationship to the world than we experience based on our Western objectifying consciousness. To credit the concept of altjiranga mitjina with power and reality the Aranda must approach the world from a different state of consciousness than we do. Our normal daytime consciousness allows us to form theories about dreams and dreaming, but we do not, without having developed higher awareness, experience our ancestors as present among us in a kind of time-outside-time. On the other hand, the more dream-like consciousness of altjiranga mitjina does not lend itself to the perception of enduring objects. Dream objects appear and disappear from the dream world in a way that is not possible for objects in the world of our normal daytime consciousness. The objects and the state of consciousness that engender them exist as components of a self-supporting system. Physical objects only have their characteristic externality because they take their genesis from a state of consciousness that creates externality. In this context it is significant that the aboriginal peoples of Australia created few enduring objects. This lack of artifacts is compatible with the hypothesis that these peoples cultivated a dream-like state of consciousness.
He continues:
From these considerations we see that though a state of consciousness that allows us to perceive an external world is necessary for the creation of that world, it is not sufficient for this task. Reality is a social construction, not an individual one. The creation and shaping of consciousness in communities reinforces certain parts of our experience at the expense of others. The experiences that are reinforced grow in our experience, while those that find little or no reinforcement decline. The reinforcement of certain parts of experience shapes our states of consciousness because of the intimate relationship between consciousness its contents. As we change the content of our consciousness, we also change conscious states. Turning our attention to dreams put us in one state of consciousness. Giving attention to physical objects puts us in another. As community processes draw our attention to one or the other aspect of our experience, they influence our state of consciousness. A community that accepts the reality of the time-outside-time of altjiranga mitjina engenders a state of consciousness that allows the experience of altjiranga mitjina. Altjiranga mitjina is thus both an experience held by the members of a certain community, and the state of consciousness out of which this experience is possible. In the same way, a physical object is both an element of our experience, and the state of consciousness out of which the object is constructed.
And finally Howard Rheingold describes as thus:

The dreamtime isn't confined to our sleeping hours. If you have ever been in an automobile accident, you are familiar with the kind of time distortion in which you seem to be moving in slow motion and your awareness expands to take in many details in a short period of time. People who have rushed into burning buildings or who have pulled wounded comrades out of dangers in combat also know about the altjiranga mitjina.
After reading all this you might still be asking what it really means. I'm not trying to be confusing here, but it is a confusing word. It's hard to give an exact definition to this word, the aboriginals language doesn't exactly translate to ours. Basically they seem the world of here and now and the dreamtime as the same. To them the dreamtime is a real concept where they exist and can talk to their ancestors. To them them it's a timeless dimension of dreams. Which is where I think we came in.

Oh, and how to pronounce it?

It's allt-jeer-ON-gah mit-JEE-nah.


Travis said...

Wow. That's really cool. I've been meaning to google the phrase. Thanks for the info.

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