Sunday 14 October 2018
Magic and ritual and beyond
I have come to believe that the evolutionary developmental-unfolding of human consciousness is working against ritual - such that ritual has lost much of its interest, effectiveness and prestige.
Insofar as we do have rituals in modernity; they are done badly, because they are more like propaganda - at any rate, they do not provide spiritual attunement.
Of course, we might work for the restoration of traditional ritual - and that does have a role; but I think ritual never can again become the centre of a good life; as it was for so many in the past.
This decline is for bad reasons - such as cynicism, self-conscious embarrassment and short attention span - as well as for potentially good reasons such as theosis; but either way it seems we must increasingly seek outside of ritual.
Ritual can be seen as a way of focusing and attuning attention to attain a more predictable spiritual result - ritual is therefore intrinsically narrow; and intrinsically likely to fall into ineffectiveness, either from incompetence on one side, or habituation on the other.
Rituals can create a narrow strength and at the same time create new vulnerabilities - precisely because of this narrowness, and because of one ritual being vulnerable to another. This is known among ascetic monastics: intense monastic practices may increase spirituality in a relatively predictable and focused way; but they also open the practitioner to demonic 'attacks' to which normal people are almost immune. This is why ascetic practices are done under supervision and by apprenticeship - and even then, the precautions don't always work and the seeker falls into the damning state of spiritual pride.
My vision of the future is one in which the process of theosis is broader and more creative; and perhaps takes itself more lightly rather than trying to achieve divinisation 'by assault'. as among ascetic monastics. An awareness of the inevitability of error - trial and error, and the necessity for frequent repentance; a recognition that success will be infrequent and short-lived, but vitally important nonetheless... such an attitude seems appropriate.
Where then does strength and courage come from? From the actuality of direct relationships with the divine (e.g. Heavenly Father, Son, Holy Ghost) and with angelic helpers - and from solid intuitive affirmations of personal revelations.
What about when the questions and challenges arrive too thick and fast for such slow and careful methods to cope-with? Well, then we can discover (by the above means) general strategies for dealing with classes of problems - the mass media, propaganda, educational systems, law etc.
We are in a transitional phase - as usual; and rituals may still have an important role; but they probably ought not to be at the centre and making-up the core of a modern Christian religious life.