Distracting Rituals


Anthropologist James Frazer claimed that myth emerges out of ritual during the evolution of religions. In his twelve volumes of The Golden Bough Frazer argues that man progresses from the rituals based on magic, through belief in deities, to science. Believing natural law, man guesses he can influence nature by correctly applying this law: “In magic man depends on his own strength to meet the difficulties and dangers that beset him on every side. He believes in a certain established order of nature on which he can surely count, and which he can manipulate for his own ends.”

However, the natural law man imagines—magic—does not work. When he sees that his pretended natural law is false, man gives up the idea of a knowable natural law and “throws himself humbly on the mercy of certain great invisible beings behind the veil of nature, to whom he now ascribes all those far-reaching powers which he once arrogated to himself.” In other words, when man loses his belief in magic, he justifies his formerly magical rituals by saying that they honor mythical beings. Thus ritual precedes myth—”myth changes while custom remains constant; men continue to do what their fathers did before them, though the reasons on which their fathers acted have been long forgotten. The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.”

There are countless rituals, rituals being the only means of face-to-face communication between humans. Any ritual, whatever its intent, is composed of certain sounds and/or certain signs performed in a certain sequence. Any deviation from that certain sequence violates the ritual and disrupts the trade. Trading cannot occur without certain rituals on the part of both traders. Of the three kinds of rituals practiced for thousands of years—magical, practical, defensive—the latter, the defensive ritual, is the least understood. The reason defensive rituals are not understood is that they are not intended to be understood. Their intent is puzzlement. Witnessing a person acting-as-if having been, say, invaded by alien influences can only puzzle the witness. And so it is with all defensive role-players—Stranger, Zealot, Invalid, Striker, Mourner, Worrier, Cheater, Vandal, Binger, Derelict, Checker, Ruminator, Fugitive—ritually acting-as-if helplessly invaded, sacrificed, sick, tired, sorry, scared, unscrupulous, malicious, reckless, perverse, programmed, spellbound, or derailed. While magical and practical rituals make sense to witnesses, defensive rituals confront witnesses with total nonsense and therefore total puzzlement.

About Keirsey

Dr. David Mark Keirsey is a scientist that is interested in how and why the world works. The first half of his professional career was as a Computer Scientist, specializing in Artificial Intelligence. Notably, he was part of a team who created the software for the first operation of an autonomous cross-country robotic vehicle. In the current latter part of his career, he has broaden his interest to include all of science, mathematics, computation, and the history and future of the world. His plan is to write at least three books, two of which are tentatively called Mathematics Itself and Existence Itself. The third is a book on Leadership. Currently he is part of a web-based company, Keirsey.com to develop interactive team and human personality tools based on his father's best-selling work on human temperament. He is a Architect Rational in temperament.
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4 Responses to Distracting Rituals

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