Ritual as technology to create healthy communities; and to liberate the creative impulse.
Ritual is the grand mnemonic, a highly sophisticated technology. Aside from it’s observable operative effects, a system of rituals and its underlying philosophy is an infrastructure to explore and transmit a huge amount of information. When we engage with these systems we share and expand upon philosophical and spiritual ontologies; scientific discoveries; physical and psychological techniques for optimum well-being; and the demonstrative effects of the arts on our consciousness. Unfortunately, over time we have misunderstood their significance and — possibly due to their inherent power — they have been utilised for unsavoury political reasons as a means to control and manipulate the populace.
However, ritual also has the power to unite communities around lifelong enquiries and experiences. Hence the use of repetition. A consistent system of repetitive ritual is not so much about marking cyclical time as opposed to revealing the constants within a cycle of change. It is therefore not only a means of attaining something but a means of escaping existing narratives in order to contemplate a point of authenticity where the limits of embodied consciousness are deconstructed.
As a shared experience, ritual forms can serve to highlight our similarities and create meaningful lasting relationships. It can also provide non commercial outlets for the arts, stimulating creative cross pollination and making their practice more accessible within increasingly demanding daily routines. This is significant given the current research regarding the benefits of the practice of the arts in relation to mental health — and in the context of subverting the tendency of cyclical homogenisation of creative expression through mass media.
Ritual creates participatory ceremony instead of spectacle. Unlike digital media or the printed word, successful ritual is dependant upon visceral simultaneous physical and mental participation. In combination with symbolic acts and trance inducing use of the arts, movement and language, we can shift focus from the visible, rational and material to that which is only felt. When people are united from a point of such direct participation and authenticity, we dissolve the borders that exist between ourselves and each other. This promotes compassion, collaboration and liberation from imposed roles and structures that no longer serve us. It also provides support, personal enhancement and coping strategies for individual self development as we progress through life.
We also experience how prescribed form and action can contain, direct and effect our physical, emotional and psychological faculties to produce altered states of consciousness. Altered states allow us to make internal changes through external devices and escape the confines of our personal narratives to access inner resources and restore ourselves. This applies on a singular or collective level. When both the unconscious and the conscious mind are simultaneously involved in this process, these changes become operative, hence the prevalence of trance induction invariably present within ritual or ceremony. When we work ritual, ritual also works on us.