Through a Jungian Lens

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Rituals and Community

with 6 comments

Freshmen at C.I.T. - building discipline and a sense of team and family

The new students have arrived at the campus and like all new students everywhere in China, the first weeks are spent in a form of military training. Chinese students arrive at the university with the idea that they are the centre of the universe, they are doted upon by parents and grandparents and do little for themselves other than the obligatory school work.  At university they are placed into a group of forty to sixty young adults and are expected to perform as a team, to learn as a team, to put the team first. It’s an interesting process to watch, to see them learning how to march in a coordinated fashion, to respond as a group to a command and to build new friendships that will last a lifetime.  Coming from single-child families they finally get to have brothers or sisters. This is a ritual that shifts the individual from childhood to young adulthood.

Rituals to mark transitional points in one’s life. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I first wondered about transitions in terms of the masculine, the transition for boy to man, a transition that seems to be barely identifiable in the modern western world. But, as I began to think more about it, I wondered about the whole idea of ritual outside of the boundaries of the masculine. A quick search on the Internet soon proved to me that there still are a lot of rituals left in our modern world.

A ritual is a well-defined sequence of words and actions designed to focus attention, establish significance, and achieve a beneficial result. Although some people think we have lost our sense of ritual, modern society makes use of many rituals to mark the beginning of significant events (baby showers, grand openings, ship launchings); the ending of life, or ways of life (funerals, bachelor parties, happy hours); the completion of important tasks or performances (graduation ceremonies, toasting successful negotiations, applause); the transition of one state or time period to another (birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, religious ceremonies like baptism/bar mitzvah/confirmation) and the making of connections (marriage ceremonies, church services, flirting).” (King, “Rituals and Modern Society“)

After reading and considering what King has had to say, I have to admit that there are rituals in our modern society.  But, at the same time, King’s words leave me unsatisfied as there seems to be a lot missing, unsaid.  So, the search continued.

When I consider the decline of ritual as an element . . . I come to the conclusion that the erosion of community life is a very important factor. We have learned from Durkheim (1912) that religion, especially through its rituals, fulfills an integrative role in society. From Erikson we learned that rituals originate in the mother-child relationship; that, later on, in the community in which a person lives, rituals disclose and hold fast the “hallowed presencec”, the binding mystery of the community. Thus, without community there is no ritual and there are no rituals without a community. Where the community withers, as in our modern society, rituals decline.” (Heimbrock, Current Studies on Rituals, page 53)

Yes, this is what I felt was missing, and this is what the initiation of the freshmen students at the university was providing for my students – community, a binding together. The rituals that build and nourish communities, the communities that build and nourish rituals for the cohesiveness of the community.  I wonder after reading these words why there is a growing sense of dissociation in the world, a sense of loneliness while in large crowds. As a school principal I saw too many lonely students, too many youth who were excluded and in their exclusion, bullied.  Now, I see that the school didn’t provide rituals that built a sense of community.

There is too much here for one post.  I need more time to think and to find questions that need to be asked, as a man and as a human.

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6 Responses

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  1. We need rituals, to mark the end of one stage of life and into a new one. Rituals are vital to become members of The Tribe.
    All life long we struggle with how much Tribe we want and how much Self.
    Say, are there any rituals to Self, besides analysis?

    Urspo

    September 19, 2011 at 10:50 am

    • “are there any rituals to Self, besides analysis?” Good question, dear doctor Urspo. I think that the question has a pointer to the answer. First, I will say “yes” to the question before now saying why this answer. In Jungian psychology there is a differentiation between “self” and “Self” as you know. The capitalized “Self” is the spiritual, whole self that includes everything that all cultures claim as gods and/or goddesses. However, when one approaches this spiritual centre via a Jungian Lens, one looks within rather than without. Any ritual that is religious in nature, religious in the broadest sense of the word, can honour that spiritual centre. For example, my ritual of blogging. Another example would be consciously setting aside time and place for engagement with the “Self” through active imagination. Yet another example is the ritual of recording one’s dream in a dream journal. In responding here, I see the need to write a blog post about ritual and the “Self” so that I can be much clearer to my “self” about ritual and individuation. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

      rgl

      September 19, 2011 at 12:18 pm

  2. How often does “routine” become confused with “ritual?” My sense of things is that ritual needs to be done in a sacred space. Keep in mind, however, we can create our own sacred space when we need to. Ritual, like dream and myth, have become distorted terms these days.

    John Ferric

    September 19, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    • I don’t think routine ever becomes ritual if one starts with routine. For a routine to be a ritual, it must be embedded in “spiritual” or as you put it, something done in a sacred space. I hesitate to say that doing something routine in a sacred space is a ritual as many routines in sacred spaces (churches) miss out on actually being rituals because the performers of the routines lack the “spiritual” centre of themselves in the process.

      rgl

      September 20, 2011 at 6:37 am

  3. Yes Robert,
    Weddings which used to be rituals have become more theater, as have military funerals. What seems to be missing is soul. People seem soulless these days. Where does soul go when it goes?

    John Ferric

    September 20, 2011 at 9:47 am

  4. Thank you John,
    In the past we talked about Hypes.
    The Key Word that I could not find then is now supplied by you.
    In Hypes SOUL is missing.

    Opa Bear

    September 21, 2011 at 9:47 pm


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