For those that have stumbled upon my blog in the past, you may have read my first literary journey post. In this particular post I want to share aspects of what ritual means to me. My basis for this exploration stems from Peter Brook’s book on theatre, The Empty Space.
The Holy Space and Ritual
I want to start by defining what ritual means to me. In simple words, it is about the invisible made visible. In other words, a series of patterns, rhythms or shapes that manifest an idea, an energy, a divine connection or an intent. It is a transformative space where numerous things can play out. Much like theatre. Just as Shakespeare’s Jaques expounds upon in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Much along the same vein, all life is performance. We perform when we dress and go out into the world, we dress ourselves depending on where we are going, we act in a certain way depending on who’s around, we develop personas with which to face the world, the outside, pain, stress, happiness, etc. I am not saying we are never truly ourselves that is an exegesis for another place and time. What I am getting at is setting up the ground for what I am going to share from Brook’s book. Wherever the word theatre appeared, I have occasionally exchanged for ritual.
The clown began to list all the unobtainable foods and the squeals of excitement were gradually replaced by a hush- a hush that settled into a deep and true theatrical silence. An image was being make real, in answer to the need for something that was not there.
Ritual is conjuring.
Ritual was responding to a hunger. What, however, was this hunger? Was it a hunger for the invisible, was it a hunger for a reality deeper than the fullest form of everyday life- or was it a hunger for the missing things of life, a hunger, in fact, for buffers against reality?
When entering ritual for a specific purpose, the purpose or aim should be defined.
It is the ceremony in all its meanings that should have dictated the shape of the ritual, as it did when all the great mosques and cathedrals and temples were built. The outer form can only take on real authority if the ceremony has equal authority.
Ritual is about contextualizing our inner world, bringing about a desired intent. Even if the desired intent is simple such as preparing a cup of coffee a certain way at a certain time.
It is only when a ritual comes to our own level that we become qualified to deal in it.
It is about bringing the holy, the magic, the ethereal down to our level.
Ritual is a holy theatre in which the blazing centre speaks through those forms closest to it. A theatre working like the plague, by intoxication, by infection, by analogy, by magic. An invisible idea is rightly shown.
It can be transformative, revolutionary, daring, full of virility and change. Inspiring and contagious.
We know that the world of appearance is a crust- under the crust is the boiling matter we see if we peer into a volcano. How can we tap into that energy?
Ritual should be re-evaluated and reformulating to keep it from getting stale. It should frame within it our desired intent, our current mood, our current energy levels, our willingness and our current knowledge base.
In speaking of Artaud, a french dramatist:
What he wanted in his search for a holiness was absolute: he wanted a theatre that would be a hallowed place: he wanted that theatre served by a band of dedicated actors and director who would create out of their own natures an unending succession of violent stage images, bringing about such powerful immediate explosions of human matter that no one would ever again revert to a theatre of anecdote and talk. Artaud maintained that only in the theatre could we liberate ourselves form the recognizable forms i which we live our daily lives.
I know I throw in a couple more ‘shoulds’ than I should, I am by no means setting up a standard for what ritual is or should be. I am merely sharing what I have found has resonated with me in helping contextualize ritual and the holy space. Peter Brook’s book on theatre revolutionized my perspective and I wasn’t even reading it in search of anything to do with ritual and the sacred space. I was merely reading it in relation to theatre and the purpose of theatre. Yet I found that in many ways the person invoking or setting up ritual space is much like an actor, that is gearing up to portray a character, channeling the necessary energy in order to convey a desired intent to the audience. In the case of ritual within magic and the sacred space, the person at the center is both the actor and the audience, while simultaneously invoking the divine as audience.