Ceremonial and Ritual in the Daily Routine Talk
Prepared for Arcane School Conference NYC April 27, 2013
I’m the red one.
The following is a talk I gave at the recent Arcane School Conference in NYC – here’s a link to see the video of the event including some great talks by some amazing world servers who converged this past weekend.
In thinking about ceremony and ritual, we are apt to imagine the elaborate undertakings of the Catholic Church or of Masonic practice, and indeed those are ceremonies and rituals. However, when we shift our focus to consider ceremony and ritual in the daily routine, we find a much more simple application of the same idea.
In Esoteric Psychology I, we are told that “No one on earth can evade ritual or ceremonial, for the rising and the setting the sun imposes a ritual, the cyclic passing of the years, the potent movements of the great centers of population, etc… all of these impose a rhythm upon humanity.” P. 365.
These daily rituals observed in the movements of the heavens are the essence of what ceremony really is – the establishing of rhythm in our lives.
Rhythm – now there’s a fascinating subject. It is said that the original drummers were women. Indeed the very word “meter” is derived from the word “mater,” related to “mother.” Why? The ancients noted the obvious effects the cycle of the moon manifested on the female body in the form of the monthly menses. Only right and natural that women should be appointed the keepers of time as drummers.
This whole theme of ceremony and ritual can be easily applied to music in many ways. For one, rhythm is an inherent part of both music and ceremony. It has been said that music is nothing more than making order of time. When you consider the progression of one note to the next in sequential order, melody applied to a specific rhythm, it is easy to see how this can be seen as true.
Also in Esoteric Psychology I is the statement on page 331 that the “development of sattva or rhythm within the human kingdom…. Is really harmonious response to vibration, and leads to the integration of the unity in the whole and to the production of that “understanding” which will enable the man to eliminate all barriers in his consciousness.”
Wow. That’s a heavy statement. So, when we impose rhythm upon our daily lives, we are actually bringing ourselves into harmony. With what? With this impressing vibration – whether is that of the Soul, of the group, the Monad, etc.
The whole notion of being in harmony with something implies a group consciousness. Going back to the music analogy, when something is in harmony, by definition there must be more than one thing happening. Sometimes in a spiritual context, one is tempted to think of “being in harmony” as a state of being balanced within ones self, and it is good and desirable state, indeed. However, is it not also possible, given the musical analogy at hand, that something more and greater is implied by this harmonizing action. In music, one note alone has nothing with which to harmonize. As soon as we add another note to the mix, we’ve got the possibility for harmony (or discord – but we’re talking about harmony here). One note alone can’t do any of that. It sits there and contemplates its aloneness and is contented to be a singular expression of tone. There can be no melody, no movement, no rhythm, nothing but note.
Now, when we add another note to the mix, then we’ve got something. Suddenly, we have melody, movement, action. We have relationship, rhythm, and tonality – the experience of how the notes work together. When the two or more notes are sounded in unison, then we have harmony – this thing to which the passage refers, this “harmonious response to vibration that leads to integration.”
Integration with what?
We have just discussed the fourth ray and its particular influence on the human fabric. Though artists and musicians fall on every ray, the 4th ray is often seen as the ray of the artist because of the keynote of conflict inherent in its manifestation.
There are many reasons for this – and many correspondences that can be explored, namely, for the purpose of our discussion, the imposition of conflict – harmony through conflict to be specific upon the environment.
Music is all about tension and resolution. Without it, the music is static and non-dynamic. Tension is the musical equivalent of conflict – to be exact, the interlude between dissonance and resolution– between harmony and discord – and here in music we see harmony through conflict practically applied.
The fourth ray is also a clearing house – the half way point in the rays, the equivalent function the solar plexus plays in dividing the centers in the body between the lower triangle and the upper correspondences.
Fourth ray individuals, a great many of them artists of various disciplines, serve as the clearing house for humanity – displaying their working through of conflict and the resulting harmony when consonance is achieved to their fellow man.
What is the goal of all this? What is the purpose our daily lives achieve? It has been said that the goal before us on the spiritual path is to reconcile the pairs of opposites so that the underlying unity can be discovered.
When we consider the ceremony and rituals present in our daily routine, be they complex as in the organized pageantry our military displays or simple as the rhythm of our own heartbeats, we become aware of the cyclic nature of our environment. In this act of paying attention, of presence, of mindfulness we recognize the sacred element of all the phenomenal appearances we encounter, and the act of consciously recognizing the divine in all we encounter brings an added element to our journey.
When we think about this concept applied to the topic at hand “ceremony and ritual in the daily routine” we see the significance that rhythm plays in all of this.
For many of us on the Path, the establishing of a daily routine is a chore. It is in this conflict that we truly get to the bottom of the thread that connects this whole topic.
As aspirants, we subject ourselves to a series of integrations followed by a harmonizing with the overriding influence of the Soul. It is dealing with the resulting, for some of us frequent, bouts of rebellion waged by the personality which causes us to feel imposed upon by this tyrant of a thing – the Soul. Yet, we subject ourselves, willingly of course, to the reality of this conflict between our desire to achieve integration and synthesis with the Soul and Higher correspondences while our selfish little personalities whine and moan and resist falling into line – coming into rhythm – abandoning the world of duality for a realization of unity.
Nothing causes such an outcry of indignation in the neophyte (especially those of an artistic disposition ) than the notion that one ought to have a daily routine.
We want routine, we desire it – and we know that a daily routine would be best for everyone involved. But oh the pain! Oh the conflict – the constant internal (and at times external) complaints of the stubborn, prideful, matter laden personality and its burdensome physical – emotional –mental triplicty to drag around!
But what is daily routine really getting at? Maybe by looking closely at the underlying significance of such a thing, can we as aspirants on or approaching the path of discipleship, find the will, in addition to the desire (which is already present) to accomplish this miraculous feat of self discipline.
Discipline – disciple.
The daily routine speaks of rhythm. Arcane School students are all mindful of this need to make our meditations regular – preferably at the time of the sunrise. There are scientific reasons for this guideline – namely the natural facility of balanced and equally opened nadises at that early hour, but there are other reasons for the aspirant to adopt a regular routine of meditation and waking activity.
For one, as we just described, order is the natural expression of the divine will. Chaos is the opposite of order, which is why the ancients viewed Chaos as evil. So, any implementation of order we can affect upon ourselves is all the better for achieving our group purpose of fitting ourselves for service.
Remember – rhythm has in it the seeds of harmony. So in essence, imposing rhythm on ones own life (through this act of will and sacrifice – at least as the personality sees it) is bringing oneself into harmony. And how can we be in harmony as a single human expression? We can’t! Not without realizing that we are but a brightly colored spoke in the great wheel of humanity. We must recognize our place within the whole, and realize that we are indeed all One.
As we prepare to break into groups, we should recognize that each of us plays a vital role in the fabric of humanity, and through our group consciousness, we can entrain ourselves to work in unison for the greater good of the whole.
Recognizing the sacred all around us, being mindful of the cycles and rhythms in our environment, and celebrating these in the form of ceremony and ritual is really a celebration of each of us – of our unity through diversity, and of our common source and destination as pilgrims on the path of discipleship.