Ceremony and Ritual
love ceremony and ritual. I have since early childhood,
when I dressed up in my grandmother's old frocks, and knelt, bowed,
danced and prayed before altars of pine forests outside our Frankfurt,
and ritual, for me, become the good life. They weave their way
effortlessly through the habits, actions and communications of
our daily lives. Sometimes what we do is so common that we don't
recognize it as a ritual or ceremony at all.
way we live our lives, our daily routines can also be called ceremony.
What is ceremony but the ritual by which we rise in the morning
to greet the day? Ritual can be found in the constancy and repeated
actions by which we approach everyday events in our lives, such
as brushing our teeth, eating breakfast, dressing, shopping, cooking,
house cleaning or washing the car. The way we celebrate birthdays
with cake and candles, or Thanksgiving with turkey, or Easter
with its Easter egg hunts are all forms of ritual. People from
the many cultures all over the world have a multiple of ways for
expressing ritual and ceremony through their customs, costumes,
dance, food or drink, musical instruments, festivals and so on.
few definitions of ritual and ceremony from the dictionaries will
give readers an opening into my article:
there is religion or spirituality there is ceremony or ritual,
as varied as the many expressions they encompass. In this fashion,
ritual and ceremony are used to serve, worship, honor or impress
the God, Goddess, Supreme Being, Guru, Saint, Guide or Master
to which it praises and supplicates. It is the expression by which
humans extol the attention of the deity that s/he calls upon.
and ritual are present in the earliest records in art, artifacts,
and garments worn by those keepers of holy places. Bowing, genuflecting,
hand motions, postures, vocal sounds, chants, beads, body movements,
incense burning, flutes, bells, chimes, symbols, altars, drums
are all used in calling up to the God(s) on high for assistance
in answering prayers and supplications.
in the simplest forms of meditation and prayer there is ritual
in how to sit or hold the hands, to place the tongue, direct the
eyes and breathe. All is ritual. All is part of the ceremony.
what does all this ritual or ceremony do for us?
it is not the Divine Spirit who needs us on our knees in supplication
for our prayers to be heard, or needs incense to draw him/her
nigh. In my understanding, we humans co-create our lives by setting
up our intentions and moving towards them. Suppose simply that
this is true.
can read that all things first begin in the etheric, as in an
idea or a thought. Once the thought is born, it then moves out
into the matter world in the form of an action. We speak our intention,
and as we do, we take on certain actions towards it. These actions
are in themselves forms of ritual by definition, be it writing
down a priority, or setting up plans, meetings, research, marketing,
etc. The intention begins to manifest itself outward into the
world the more we work it; it begins to realize itself. Is this
not what, in a sense, we ask for in prayer?
action allows us to begin to bring our desired goal into matter
and materialize it. The art of manifestation emerges first in
thought and them moves outward into the world of physical action
into verbiage or language. And so it is with art, music, poetry,
dance, jobs, housing, clothes, food, disease, etc.all things.
How we choose our lives to be, where we go, what we desire, what
we fear, and so on is all part of this creation. It first conceptualizes
itself in our imagination, then moves outward in the matter world.
happens with religious ceremony and its ritual is the same. Often
times, in practice, we forget the original intent and purpose
behind the ritual.
years ago in Hawaii I studied Huna, the ancient holistic system
of self-realization. I came across something which struck me as
very important and profound. These findings have since repeated
themselves in countless ways throughout many new and old thought
speaks of the three selves: the "higher," "middle," and "lower"
selvesnot too different from our "super-ego," "ego," and
"id," or "super-conscious," "conscious," and "unconscious" selves.
What Huna says is that the pathway to "higher self" is through
"lower self." If lower self is blocked or has belief limitations
and restrictions, then the object of our desire will manifest
itself in a limited or distorted fashion. In other words, I become
limited in my power or abilities to reach deity or the sacred,
according to my subconscious belief system. We can visualize and
affirm over and over and over again our desired outcome, but unless
we have opened up to the blocks (clogs) in our subconscious and
over come our resistances, we go nowhere but in a circle. We continue
to manifest the lack of our inner belief system.
the path in the subconscious or lower self is helped by ceremony
and ritual. They give us pathways, modalities through which we
can reach into the subconscious (id) in order to better communicate
with the super-conscious (godhead). They help us to work through
our limitations, distortions, and blocks by helping us feel in
tune and regenerated in a state of "divine grace" where our vision
is clear, and our potential able to at last manifest.
ceremony and ritual, we can let go of harboring the many egocentric,
judging voices within us, opening us up to surrender and forgiveness.
We ceremonially and ritually light candles, burn incense, bow,
sing, read scripture, repeat prayers, chants, mantras, affirmations,
over and over again to help us overcome our blocks (clogs) of
subconscious residue. All religion, in some form or another, asks
us to "let go and let God"; to let go of "ego knowing" and make
way for a higher source or wisdom to help us overcome our human,
"ego mind" limitations. Thus we are anointed with sacred water,
drink of wine, break bread, fast, receive piercings, flagellate,
isolate, retreat and renounce, humbling ourselves into becoming
deserving of receiving the goodness, and attention of our Deity.
peoples render themselves into states of total ecstasy through
long periods of dancing and chanting or the use of hallucinogens
to help them travel through time/space to the realms of the underworld
and over-world. Some Buddhist ceremonies are known to create raptures,
much like the Christian evangelical churches.
Shinto, a Japanese religion, the hands are clapped once or twice
when entering temple to let their God know they are coming. The
Sufis whirl (formally), as do their dervishes, to achieve higher
states of consciousness. In many religions such as Buddhism, Islam,
Hinduism, Zorastianism, Catholicism, etc., a chant, a name, a
prayer, a dialogue or a mantra are repeated over and over again
to permeate and re-orient the unconscious mind. There are rituals
to mourn the dead, to celebrate rights of passage, to anoint the
newborn, to celebrate the coming of age, to marry, to heal, to
exorcise, even to war and to kill. What is a military parade other
than "pomp and circumstance"? It is a wondrous demonstration of
ceremony and ritual at its attuned perfection.
bow in reverence to an altar representing the God, Master, Saint
or Guru of our passion. This helps the "ego" to at last acknowledge
something greater than itself and helps to open up our imagination
to the possibility of receiving guidance from Divine Source.
is said that Confucius believed his country was in moral decay
because of the lack of religious and personal ritual. Ritual was
thought to "preserve the harmony " between heaven and earth. Ceremony
and ritual help us to organize and crystallize our thoughts, intentions,
and focus to better draw them into the matter world and to give
them outward expression.
we unite with one another in ceremony and ritual, the life force
becomes greater than the individual, and this reassures us by
helping us feel that we are not alone, but rather that we are
an integral part of the fabric in the great tapestry of life.
is ceremony . . . life is ritual . . . life is a dance between