…traditional mass ritual gatherings that took place at sites such as Stonehenge, which included dances, trances, and ecstatic rituals that produce exhaustion and altered states, and still take place worldwide, may have a purposeful physiological effect, that of resetting or synchronizing a groups’ circadian rhythms (and/or other electromagnetic and hormonal functions) to changes in the sun/earth environment throughout the year. These effects most likely continue today during festivals that bring together millions who benefit from “getting in sync” with the masses, through music (and unfortunately drugs) – and the earth-solar environment.
The following is from “Expanding Inward” – a group I know nothing about and selected randomly from search (ecstatic ritual). It is a fairly articulate description of a panhuman activity: edited for essential concepts with a few comments that are not meant to “attack” or delegitimize ritual events, but to “connect” them to the “big picture” of animal experience and behavior)
Ecstatic Ritual: Becoming Present to Connection
This post was written by Laurie Dietrich
What We Do
Communities ritualize their values. What a group chooses to give energy, focus and attention to—and “energized, focused attention” could certainly describe ritual behavior—those choices tell you a lot about the group’s beliefs. For us, ritual is an opportunity to connect by stepping into… the sacred lives in our bodies, our voices and our interactions. The sacred is present when we connect to something larger than ourselves—be that community, divinity, or our own expanded sense of self…honoring everyone’s right to choose their own relationship with the deeper mysteries. Our rituals are often a mixture of song, movement, rhythm and sacred play that serve to invoke individual connection, while celebrating the opportunity to share that connection within a community of fellow seekers.
We practice an ecstatic, Earth-based ritual tradition. Ecstasy means to enter into sacred space with your entire body. It is “presence in the present”—being completely attuned to the moment. Earth-based means life-based.
The elements themselves are constantly changing, adapting, and shifting form as they come into contact with one another. In turn, our ritual style is constantly changing, adapting, and shifting form as it comes into contact with new people and new ideas. One thing that remains the same is our commitment to shared power within a community context.
Why We Do It
…one of the roots of the word “ritual” is a Sanskrit word that means both “art” and “order… human beings are pattern-recognition machines. But we humans are compelled beyond simple recognition and response—we are compelled to make meaning. To impose order on the world and our experience of it.
The marriage of this most fundamental characteristic of humanity—the need for order— with perhaps the other most fundamental characteristic of humanity—the drive to express ourselves artistically—results in an art form that is uniquely human: Ritual. (Not uniquely human – animal behavior is crammed full of rituals, both innate and learned)
Human beings express themselves ritualistically for many reasons. Some of the oldest and most basic are tied to strong emotions…
Inclusive ritual structures actually help build safe (even if temporary) communities that become containers in which to do some very challenging personal work.
For many of us, few things are as charged as the way we relate with others. Our relationship patterns carry all of our old stories about ourselves. In ecstatic ritual, within that safe container, we can challenge those stories. We use…ecstatic, fully-embodied ritual as a multi-sensorial prayer that allows us to lay new patterns in our souls. (One of the pitfalls of “speedy transformation” is the tendency for change to be ephemeral)
Energy: Presence in the Present
If ritual is a multi-sensorial prayer, then we should aspire to pray with all of our senses. Our goal is to create a space that allows everyone participating to give themselves to the ritual experience not only on an intellectual level, but on a physical and emotional level as well. The purpose of ecstatic ritual is to get us in touch with an innate sense of life and lifeforce. One of the ways we reach that point is by building lifeforce energy, as well as increasing our capacity to hold and move it.
Comment: “Energy” is one of those words that has both exact definition, and murky metaphysical “something-ness”
Note the inability to “pin down” energy as a distinct and fundamental aspect of the universe, and the specific manifestation of energy in “living things”.
Energy can be difficult to define, since we all experience it differently. (Or do we interpret the same physiology differently due to personal traits, social experience and cultural requirements?) Perhaps the best way to describe it is as a physical sensation of expansion and heightened awareness. (What does this actually describe? These are “interpretation words”) Think of how your body might respond when you hear a particularly beautiful piece of music. If the hairs on your arms stand on end and a shiver goes up your spine, that’s one manifestation of energy. (Adrenalin – the fight, flight or fight chemical; a reaction shared with all mammals) The euphoria you might feel after exercising or dancing is another. (Release of oxytocin – a hormonal state) Entering into an ecstatic ritual experience is to become intensely present to the energy around and within you. The goal is not to lose a sense of self, but rather to become absolutely present to your mind, body and spirit. (A “natural” response to threat; the “time stands still” phenomenon when one’s life is in real danger – animal attack, accident, crime, natural disaster and “induced” through ritual stress – self-abuse, bloodletting, dangerous behavior, exhaustion, drugs)
Comment: “Ecstatic” and other ritual states are NATURAL physical states which are induced by means of sensory stimulation, hormonal production, and “triggering” of innate instinctive responses that are part of our evolutionary inheritance as ANIMALS.
Although, technically, ecstatic ritual means the entire ritual, people generally equate ecstatic energy with the part of ritual, often near the end, when we sing a chant, usually accompanied by drums. At that point, several things happen. We sing the same words over and over—and if the chant is effective, the entire group begins to breathe in unison. The rhythm of the drums forms a collective pulse which both cradles and drives the vitality of the group. Our bodies begin to move in time to the beat. Whether the movements are small and delicate or large and bold, they add to the energetic experience. Lifeforce rises, and if we open our eyes and engage with the rest of the people in the circle who are experiencing the moment in their own way, then some pretty incredible things begin to happen. (Or are they experiencing the phenomena in the SAME WAY – as instinct? That’s the truly important “connection”)
We sing, move, and drum together in order to shake up old, stuck patterns. (Or to reinforce very ancient evolutionary patterns that long predate “sociocultural” prescriptive behaviors?) That energy moves the pieces of the pattern around so that we can examine them in new ways. We can feel new possibilities. Energy opens us up. It begs us to step into a moment of what if. What if I could be more present to life unfolding? What if I could be more present to intimacy? What if I could more consistently stand in my values? To be in ecstatic space requires presence in the present moment. When we embrace it, we can make magic happen.
Trance: Presence freed from Time
Another way we make magic happen in ritual is through the use of trance techniques… (When cognitive “real world” explanations are absent, all phenomena have a magic source and quality)
Comment: I suggest that “behavior” which is labeled as “pathologic” in Asperger children and adults, is a trance state in which we are supremely focused on objects and topics – patterns and connections – that are “outside social limits”. We exist mostly in that “timeless space” described as sacred, because we are intuitive visual thinkers.
…trance techniques are based, in part, on the particular belief that we each have, within us, an innate wisdom that will offer us our own answers, if we will open up and listen. (Definitely an Asperger essential belief)
Trance is like a waking dream—a lucid dream— in which we can slip easily forward and backward in time, shaping our experience and engaging with it in a very real, multi-sensorial way. Another tool for crafting new, healthy, inspiring patterns, and laying them in our souls. (Popularly referred to as rewiring our brains)
There are many reasons to do ritual. To offer devotion. To celebrate abundance. To mark transitions. Even, sometimes, in some traditions and cultures, to atone and appease. One of the main reasons we do ritual is to become present to connection. Connection with ourselves. Connection with the sacred as we understand it. To take the power to shape our reality into our own hands… and to use it wisely.
Social forces – in the form of religion (and in the supposedly secular West, a “socio-behavioral” priesthood) condemn Asperger “rituals” while promoting their own aggressive, brutal pan-human control of “behavior” through tyrannical labeling of “unwanted behaviors” as pathologies. Why? Because the social hierarchy cannot tolerate competition or interference by NATURAL ANIMAL instincts – which threaten its “magic power” over human beings.
Written by River Roberts & Laurie Dietrich, originally published in Between the Worlds: A Journal of Myth, Magic & Community This post was written by Laurie Dietrich
Ritual effects are the result of “agony / ecstasy” physiology.