“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”
My son recently turned eight and I decided it was time to knight him. No, seriously. So much of the studying of culture and mythology that I’ve been immersed in has brought the deep loss of rites of passage to my attention. With so much early developmental mind mapping coming from technology and television, I’m doing as much as I can to introduce ancient and classical myths orally and experientially. I would like birthdays in my family to be symbolically marked by more than a stack of material gifts. This year, largely inspired by my own personal commitment to re-education in myth and meaning, I broke tradition to initiate a new tradition.
To be clear, I myself am not a knight of any official capacity whatsoever. Not many are after all. So, what made me feel able to perform such a ceremony? Well, I’m his damn father for starters. Secondly, I realized on the day, if not me, who else? The answer was obvious. The inspiration was sudden and came on the back of a week of my own contemplation of the loss of Rite of Passage rituals in our contemporary culture. Continue reading “Rekindling an Archetype: DIY Knighting”