In medieval Europe, a man about to be made into a vassal (generally a knight) of a feudal lord went through a special rite. It will seem familiar to you. He knelt on the floor and placed his hands together, with the fingertips pointing at his lord, who would then clasp his own hands around them. At this point in history, as with the pre-Christian tribes of Europe, Christians prayed with their arms open, and up, in a kind of wide V-shape — which reminded the latter group of Christ on the cross. It was only later that, influenced by the rite of making a vassal, Christians adopted the posture of kneeling and placing the hands together when praying.
Continue reading “Body Language, Ritual, And Self-Development”
“Violence,” says Rene Girard, “is the heart and secret soul of the sacred.” This is perhaps a shocking statement, and one that flies in the face of the modern tendency to sugar coat certain religions, and to equate spirituality with peace, quiet, and love of humanity.
Girard makes the above statement in his Violence and The Sacred, in which he explores the history of human sacrifice, in particular, as a social phenomenon that binds the community together, and that is both “a sacred obligation” and “a sort of criminal activity.” Although often being treated as an honored guest, or even as a son, during the period leading up to his murder, it is the outsider (often a captive from an enemy tribe) that is usually sacrificed.
Here, in contrast, we will look at violence, the sacred, and the insider, i.e., the member of the tribe. In other words, we will explore violence as an aspect of initiation, especially into manhood or into full membership of the cult or fraternity. Continue reading “Spirituality And Ritual Violence: An Explanation”
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth [of what he thinks],” says Oscar Wilde in his Epigrams: Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young. This is not strictly true. What Wilde really speaks of is not the mask (which has been a part of ritual and theater since ancient time) but, rather, anonymity.
Today we see the most obvious example of this online, with those individuals who, using fake names and cartoon avatars, post the kind of derogatory and inflammatory comments on social media and blogs that they would never say in person.
Yet, anonymity and society are partly the same thing. Those who are attacked are usually those who do not conform in dress, taste in music, beliefs, or opinions.
People often appear to be swept up in whatever is the latest “thing,” buying and wearing the latest fashion as it reaches a certain level of popularity, and ditching as it begins to lose popularity. The same applies, of course, to other aspects of society: cars, technology, cuisine, and even politics and social opinions. To be as fashionable as possible (whether in style or opinions) is contradictory: it is, in a sense, to make a display of conforming. It is, like fame itself, a kind of public anonymity in terms of the real self. Continue reading “The Mask of The Higher Self”