The history and vicissitudes of the interpretations of ritual by both religionists and scientists clearly is one of the most fascinating stories in the annals of Western science and religion. Indeed, a rather formidable argument could be advanced that the history of secularization in Western culture can be read as a history of the decline and devaluing of ritual process. Depreciation of seemingly irrational ritual practices of course formed one important cornerstone of the cultural transformation which found expression in both Renaissance and Reformation. The movement toward emphasis on autonomy as a psychocultural value, later to come to maturity in the Enlightenment, led to an increasing de-emphasis of the ways in which consciousness is embedded in a biosocial matrix. The archaisms of ritual behavior in both religion and magic were correctly perceived as carrying with them assumptions about human nature that were deeply at odds with the embryonic modern view of the nature of human selfhood, which was gathering strength among cultural and scientific elites. Ritual behaviors, first dismissed as popery, came to be viewed as mere superstition which human progress would erase once the obscurantist forces of religion could be forced to release their hold on the human spirit. …
Robert L. Moore is professor of psychology and religion, Chicago Theological Seminary. He cochaired the Symposium on Ritual in Human Adaptation and wrote The Context section of this Introduction. Ralph Wendell Burhoe is professor emeritus of theology and science, Meadville/Lombard Theological School. He was a member of the Symposium planning committee and authored this Introductions section on New Knowledge and Questions. Philip J. Hefner is professor of systematic theology, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He cochaired the Symposium and summarized it in the Commentary section of this Introduction.
Recent work in cerebral neurology should be used to fashion a new synthesis with anthropological studies. Beginning with Paul D. MacLeans model of the triune brain, we explore Ralph Wendell Burhoes question whether creative processes result from a coadaptation, perhaps in ritual itself, of genetic and cultural information. Then we examine the division of labor between right and left cerebral hemispheres and its implications for the notions of play and ludic recombination. Intimately related to ritual, play may function in the social construction of reality analogous to mutation and variation in organic evolution. Finally, we consider how our picture of brain functioning accords with some distinctive features of the religious systems dominant in human cultures.
Victor Turner is the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903.
The Myth-Ritual Complex: A Biogenetic Structural Analysis by Eugene G. dAquili
The structuring and transformation of myth is presented as a function of a number of brain operators. Each operator is understood to represent specifically evolved neural tissue primarily of the neocortex of the brain. Mythmaking as well as other cognitive processes is seen as a behavior arising from the evolution and integration of certain parts of the brain. Human ceremonial ritual is likewise understood as the culmination of a long phylogenetic evolutionary process, and a neural model is presented to explain its properties. Finally, the mechanism by which ritual is used to resolve the antinomies of myth structure is explored.
Eugene G. dAquili, M.D. is associate professor of clinical psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, University and Woodland Avenues, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104.
Ritual and Self-Esteem in Victor Turner and Heinz Kohut by Volney P. Gay
This paper uses Victor Turners recent discussion of liminal and liminoid forms of communitas to criticize psychoanalytic praxis, both theory and therapy. In so doing it argues that Turners distinction can be sharpened by assimilating it to the Marxist concept of commoditization. Heinz Kohuts analysis of narcissism can be supplemented by considering how self-esteem, like other forms of behavior, is ritualized, particularly in the mother-child matrix. We can account for the recent increase in narcissistic disorders, in part, by noting how liminal forms of communitas have given way to liminoid forms. Liminoid forms of communitas, like that established in the analytic relationship, secure self-esteem less adequately than do liminal forms.
Volney P. Gay is associate professor of religious studies, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37235.
Contemporary Psychotherapy as Ritual Process: An Initial Reconnaissance by Robert L. Moore
Instead of attempting to reduce rituals of healing to so-called primitive psychotherapy this essay raises the question of whether contemporary psychotherapies might not fruitfully be viewed as ritual processes through which a small segment of modern society receives ritual leadership in times of crisis. Selected phenomena in contemporary psychotherapeutic practice are analyzed in an attempt to discern the ritual processes which are manifest in them. It is concluded that most modalities of contemporary psychotherapy manifest elements of ritualized submission, containment, and enactment.
Robert L. Moore is professor of psychology and religion at the Chicago Theological Seminary, 5757 South University, Chicago, Illinois 60637, and is currently chairman of the religion and social sciences section of the American Academy of Religion.
Theology, Deconstruction, and Ritual Process by Charles E. Winquist
Victor Turners comparative symbology provides a description of liminality, marginality, and liminoid genres that can be usefully applied to positioning theology in a theory of practice, determining its social location, and assessing its future meaning. This paper argues not only that theological marginality is a result of the secularization of culture but also that the breach with theologys publics reflects a more significant internal breach that is essential to theology as a liminoid form of public reflexivity. The paper draws from deconstructionist philosophy and defines the interpretive task of theology as a deconstructionist hermeneutic.
Charles E. Winquist is professor of religious studies at California State University, Chico, 95929.
Ritual cannot be interpreted by a root metaphor of evolution, without reducing rituals necessary intention. We must rather understand ritual as humanizing revolution. We have therefore two questions. First, What part does ritual have in human reckoning with reality? Second, What part does ritual have in the step to the specifically human? To the first question, the answer is proposed: ritual is that embodiment of our discourse with God and one another, by which we are made available and vulnerable to reality. To the second question, the answer is proposed: as embodied prayer, ritual is the complement to that address of God which posits our ontologically specific humanity. Parodying Aristotle, we may say that we are the sacrificing animals.
Robert W. Jenson is professor of systematic theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 17325.
Victor Turners Theory of Ritual by Robert A. Segal
Like Clifford Geertz and Mary Douglas, Victor Turner considers religion the key to culture and ritual the key to religion. Like them as well, he interprets religion the way believers purportedly do: as beliefs, as beliefs about the cosmos, yet as cosmic beliefs compatible with modern science. Ritual serves to express those cosmic beliefs—not for the scientific purpose of explaining or controlling the cosmos but for the existential purpose of giving human beings a place in it. Ritual serves simultaneously to express beliefs about society—not only for the functionalist purpose of keeping human beings in their social place but also for the existential purpose of giving them a social place.
Robert A. Segal is a lecturer in the Western Culture Program, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305.
The Spectrum of Ritual by Eugene G. dAquili, Charles D. Laughlin, Jr., and John McManus, reviewed by Felicitas D. Goodman