This is a sweet conversation - lots of food for thought.
The definition Steve offers for ritual from the Maya Deren film certainly strikes a chord. There's a lot more to the dynamic between Maya Deren & Joseph Campbell (i'm continually amazed at JC's ever eclectic circle of friends - Maya Deren, Martha Graham, John Cage, etc.) that i'll come back to when i have more time, but that's a valid question:
Is Campbell cautioning Deren against going all the way on her hero's journey?
But that's going to take a little longer to formulate (and i'm up against a Practical Campbell
deadline), so i'll focus on what's already bubbling to the surface, triggered by a remark of Nandu's:
On 2007-02-03 10:50, nandu wrote:
People require some kind of spirituality to live; they require belief in something. Basically, they require myth, even if they call it by some other name.
Rituals are the doorway to myth. In fact in his two volume The Greek Myths Robert Graves argues that the rituals are myth ...
But then the question pops up: how did the rituals originate? Some inner craving must have driven these men to perform such elaborate rituals ...
Before we get to human sacrifice, let's deal with that inner craving. Campbell, in Primitive Mythology
, draws on Huizenga's classic Homo Ludens
("Man the Player") to suggest that ritual begins in play.
Following an example borrowed from Frobenius (the small child playing with spent matches who reacts to the "witch" - the burnt match - as if
it were real), Campbell expands on the thought:
This vivid, convincing example of a child's seizure by a witch in the act of play may be taken to represent an intense degree of the daemonic mythological experience. However, the attitude of mind represented by the game itself, before the seizure supervened, also belongs within the sphere of our subject. For, as J. Huizenga has pointed out in his brilliant study of the play element in culture, the whole point, at the beginning, is the fun of play, not the rapture of seizure. "In all the wild imaginings of mythology a fanciful spirit is playing," he writes, "on the borderline between jest and earnest." "As far as I know, ethnologists and anthropologists concur in the opinion that the mental attitude in which the great religious feasts of savages are celebrated and witnessed is not complete illusion. There is an underlying consciousness of things 'not being real.'" And he quotes, among others, R.R. Marett, who, in his chapter on "Primitive Credulity" in The Threshold of Religion, develops the idea that a certain element of "make-believe" is operative in all primitive religions. "The savage," wrote Marett, "is a good actor who can be quite absorbed in his role, like a child at play; and also, like a child, a good spectator who can be frightened to death by the roaring of something he knows perfectly well to be no 'real' lion.'
"By considering the whole sphere of so-called primitive culture as a play-sphere," Huizenga then suggests in conclusion, "we pave the way to a more direct and more general understanding of its peculiarities than any meticulous psychological or sociological analysis would allow." And I would concur wholeheartedly with this judgment, only adding that we should extend the consideration to the entire field of our present subject.
Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Vol. I: Primitive Mythology, p. 23
Campbell then applies the concept in a discussion of the Roman Catholic Mass.
So is ritual just a form of play?
Even child's play?
In the presentation that inaugurated the Eranos Round Tables in 1933, Heinrich Zimmer describes a sweet, fascinating ritual - the veneration of Jamburi
- a children's ritual among the Bengali. No adults have ever been involved in this ritual: "Adults are not permitted to be present; they do not even know when the children perform the rite, for this observance, like all others of its type, may have no nonparticipating spectators."
It's passed down among children, with those older initiating those younger. Participation in the ritual starts at age 5 or 6, and runs until age 10 or 11, and takes place during the coldest month of the year:
Secretly the children rise in the early morning hours, while it is still dark, before any animal is afoot or any bird has begun to sing. Each night they mold a fresh little figure of Jamburi, scarcely the size of a hand, from earth, the same earth in which they roll and play in the daytime. Every morning, when the rite is over, the figure is thrown away ... The little figure has neither arms nor legs; eyes and mouth are barely suggested. Around it the children form a pond, retained by an earth dike. Here the figure sits and the children bring it water, flowers, and holy grass. Meanwhile, they recite such lines as: "I bring thee water before the crow has drunk of it; I bring thee flowers before the bee has sucked them." At the same time, the story of Jamburi is told. The import of the observance is as follows: Jamburi has no feet and no hands, she has no proper mouth and no proper eyes, and yet she can accomplish and realize all things - for she has a will. And that is what we must learn from her.
Each day the rites become more intense; the inner process they are intended to provoke runs through the seven stages of the Yoga exercise, which is associated with the image of a god: from the contemplation of the material image to the substitution of its inner likeness, the contemplation of which no longer requires any outward contact; then from an inner contemplation of this image in which contemplator and image exist separately to a union of the two (samadhi), whereby the image is fulfilled in the devotee, who fuses with it and becomes one with it.
Zimmer describes how the child devotee follows this yogic process over the course of five years, until "the silent, rigid instructress, the little clod of earth, gives some part of her essence to the devoted pupil." He claims this observance teaches the one lesson every human must learn - to bear the inevitable:
The outcome of this ascending process is that Jamburi's little pupil assimilates what she can give him, that is, her essence. It becomes reality within him: his new reality, into which he has been transformed. Her essence has flowed into him and become his essential nature.
That's the power of a symbol to shape a life. But whence the origin of this mythic image - where does the symbol come from?
This would hardly be possible unless it were already in him in germ, one of the innumerable potentialities of his half-formed, but always formable and form-seeking, vital force, the shakti in him, for just as that infinite force, the shakti of the universal God, unfolds and permeates the macrocosm, his shakti governs the little world of his body, striving to assume manifold and forever renewed form.
Spins my brain! But then Zimmer uses this to launch into a discussion of how Yoga works:
As in the image of Jamburi, a little image serves as the center of the rite of offering and worship. But, at the same time, it serves to introduce the inner contemplation which little by little sates itself with the outward, sensory manifestation, until it is able to dispense with the concrete image. Then the outward cult ... is discontinued.
Between Campbell locating the origin or ritual in play, and the description of the above rite (unmediated by adults), much to ponder...
<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bodhi_Bliss on 2007-02-03 13:01 ]</font>