I wanted to look at the subject of Ritual. Is there any point to it? Can it bring value to our lives as Naturalistic Pantheists? Ritual is a major part of most religions, but the question is why?
I would like to suggest that there are three reasons why ritual is important, whether or not we believe in anything supernatural about it – it reminds us to stop and be aware of the world around us, it has an effect on us internally and it helps us to connect to something bigger than ourselves.
How many of us think about all the plants and animals around us when we walk down the street? How many of us eat a meal without thinking about the fact that something had to die so that we could eat and live? Many of the spiritual practices of the worlds religions have at their core, the practice of Mindfulness. They call to us to take time out, amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, to forget the baggage and distractions, and to stop, to be, to focus, to listen. They call us to be mindful and aware of the world around us, to be aware of other people and of nature. They put the important things in life at the centre of our attention – the sacred things, and give us the chance to focus on them.
Ritual is a powerful tool. It effects us in a way that mere intellectual thought and debate never can – it taps into our psyche in a very strong way because it allows us to experience something. Experience can have a very powerful influence on our thinking and behaviour and is a key factor in forming who we become. The ritual experience can change us at a deep level, it can help us to form and ingrain habits and to build character so that we can become the type of people we wish to be.
There is something “more” to life, there is something “bigger than ourselves”. That thing is nature, it is the universe. Through ritual we can come to realise that, to realise that there is more to life than “my ego.” Ritual helps to teach us to be humble, to be reverent and respectful and to celebrate life. It teaches us that we are just one part of a greater and awesome whole. And it can help us connect to that whole, to honour our relationship with it, in a way we couldn’t do otherwise.
This article first appeared at Naturalistic Pantheist Musings.
NaturalPantheist: A former Christian, I now see myself as a Naturalistic Pantheist with an interest in Druidry.
My blog is at naturalpantheist.wordpress.com
Check out NaturalPantheist’s other posts:
Ancient philosophy meets Darwin: Can science offer a way of life? by B. T. Newberg
Hidden spirits, by Bryan Beard
A tropical rainforest ontology: In search of a non-reductive naturalism, by John Halstead
How shall we humans use this wonderful power we call intention?
To what should I aspire? by Thomas Schenk
Appearing Sunday, October 6th, 2013
Ritual doesn’t have to be part of any particular religion in and of itself. It is, however, a collection of symbols across the full range of our senses, that can be used to condition the mind for a desired state.
I use ritual like an intricate lock where the performance of the thing brings me to a mental place that I don’t have to work for, I can simply unlock and go there, each motion, set of words, smells and other triggers acting like tumblers lining up.
I don’t see it much different than the experience that smokers trying to quit have in holding a slender object between their fingers, putting it up to their lips, and holding it like a cigarette in order to help satiate the mind with actions that communicate addiction relief.
Thanks for the article!
>I use ritual like an intricate lock where the performance of the thing brings me to a mental place that I don’t have to work for, I can simply unlock and go there, each motion, set of words, smells and other triggers acting like tumblers lining up.
Good analogy, Chris. I think Eliphas Levi used a similar “tumblers of the mind” metaphor, and though he wasn’t naturalistic so far as I know, I think the metaphor works especially well for naturalistic understandings of ritual.
Reblogged this on She Who Is.
Reblogged this on Pagan at Heart.
A wonderful and concise account. This is the kind of thing that brought me back to Paganism – realising that naturalistic ritual was not only possible, but perfectly viable and powerful.
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I’m more of a LHP guy, so I’ll agree to disagree on the 3rd point. The connection is with myself. Yes, we are part of the universe, but our being, by mere fact that we exist and partake in life, is a testament to the power of the individual. This should be celebrated as much as those unseen forces that shape our lives because that’s where the process begins (I want to be better) rather than (diety X wants me to be better)
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