Transcendent Law

Immanent                      -                      Transcendent
Human                          -                      Gods
Temporary                     -                      Permanent

As the Pintupi see it, morally binding social consensus cannot be generated by human decision-making. Rather, consensus is maintained by common adherence to a shared, external, and autonomous code: The Dreaming.

What they call "the Law" is not something made by humans. Not the creation of any person or group, the Law is outside human control and cannot be the vehicle of any private interests or selfish pursuits. 

Those who cite The Dreaming as dictating a certain course of action are not perceived as making a personal statement of preference or desire, but rather as offering an impersonal, non-self-related precedent, divorcing themselves from any interest in the outcome. Thereby, they avoid "shame."

By following this course, one presents oneself as not trying to force others to submit to one's own will. All submit, instead, to the same transcendental moral imperative, before which humans are merely passive. Besides avoiding "embarrassment," this strategy also removes the decision from any quarrel or negotiation, from pleas for "compassion."

The Dreaming externalizes social facts into binding normative rules in a way that human consensus never can. It constitutes impersonal models for reality, to which everyone must submit: ground rules beyond negotiation. 

[Fred R. Myers]
Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self, p.125, 255

The principles to which the Pintupi look for guidance and which they manipulate in daily life are not seen as the creations of contemporary men and women. Consequently, current action is not understood as the result of human alliances, creations, and choices, but is seen as imposed by an embracing, cosmic order.

The Dreaming, then, can be reduced to its significant features, which constitute it as transcending the immediate and present. The concept dichotomizes the world into that which is yuti ("visible") and that which is tjukurrpa, where the latter lies outside human affairs and constitutes an enduring, primary reality.

This construction occurs in space, on the landscape, where it creates places with enduring identity and relationship to other sites.

[Fred R. Myers]
Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self, p.69

What sustains the social objectivity of norms that transcend immediate relations? One might argue that the importance of male initiation and male cult provides a way in which a man is reoriented to a greater value than his relatedness to kin—to The Dreaming.

Those who violate The Dreaming's Law, say the Pintupi, will be killed "without sorrow." Male initiation provides a mechanism for reorienting subjectivity, for assuring conformity to things of transcendental value, for ensuring that concerns beyond the immediate feelings of relatedness will prevail when vital moral issues are at stake.

The description of sacred objects, songs, and the like as "Law” emphasizes their obligatory power. In Pintupi theory, it appears, the binding power of Law over compassion comes from "sorrow"—itself the very expression of relatedness to others, just as in Freudian theory the superego derives from the id in order to oppose it. How else could Pintupi overcome the tendency to "compassion"?

Men are bound to the higher Law through the same considerations of relatedness and "sorrow" for the dead, and they deny "compassion" as agents of a higher authority and not of their own will. It is not an egotistic denial of relatedness but an acceding to the authority of the framework on which Pintupi society is based.

Thus, they are not responsible personally: The Dreaming is something outside of them to which they must conform.

[Fred R. Myers]
Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self, p.119

An individual is identified with his Dreaming. 

People are often referred to in terms stressing their identity to The Dreaming, that is, a man may be called “Emu Dreaming" or "Possum Dreaming." And just as others refer to figures in The Dreaming by kinship terms, people frequently discuss the events of their own Dreaming in the first person. 

In this sense, an individual is, from conception, identified with a Dreaming and through it to a place. 

As transformations of the same Dreaming, place and person share an identity of substance. That a person's identity is thus founded on something that is unchanging, not created by human beings, and absolutely distinctive, defines individuals to possess a degree of autonomy as part of who they are. 

In this theory of human substance, a part of each person is owed to no other person.

This belief is part of the ontology that perceives everything as having "become real" from The Dreaming. Indeed, the strongest claims of place identity are those that are clearly "from The Dreaming."

[Fred R. Myers]
Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self, p.131, 145

Pintupi will accept an elder's actions in sustaining the level of organization they call the Law as a form of “looking after.”

Such is clearly not the case for actions intended to sustain “the community." The authority of a "boss” does not include the right to create laws that impinge on other people's autonomy, but to mediate determinations that are already accepted.

No direct mechanism exists for objectifying political decisions into guiding principles. To do so would require removing from the actions of men their identification with subjective personal will, interest and responsibility. In the context of the Village Council, an acceptable resolution of hierarchy and equality is thus difficult to maintain.

The traditional Pintupi construction of authority accomplishes its resolution of hierarchy and autonomy outside the consciousness of actors.

The projection of artifacts of legitimate social consensus to a realm of being divorced from subjectivity - The Dreaming - enables these norms to be mediated to human society through the nurturance of senior males. Such norms are not perceived, consequently, as arbitrary injunctions placed on one's actions by the will of others […] The authority of seniors is thus not their "own idea" but rather a mediation of the transcendent authority of The Dreaming.

As with many undifferentiated societies, inequality is represented as deriving from powers exogenous to the social system. The "higher" level of society (in the Pintupi case, The Dreaming) is not understood by participants as a product of human activity, although it is human social action that reproduces it. Instead, the genuine ontological difference that the higher level presents to individual consciousness is articulated as the presence of a self-sufficient reality on which the realm of human life depends.

Village Council decisions and rules, contrastingly, lack this ontological resonance. Because council decisions are clearly perceived not as principles transcending time, but as human products, they lack legitimacy. Rarely do such decisions stand.

The problem is that the councillors are not mediating an authority that exists outside of themselves […] At one point, the Yayayi council agreed that alcoholic beverages would be prohibited in that settlement. One man's reaction was indicative of the issue: "It's only their idea," he insisted. "They are just men, like me."

[Fred R. Myers]
Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self, p.265-7

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