Ritual

A set of resources compiled and written to support the Scaling the Heights one day workshop on Saturday November 12th at Upton Magna, Shropshire.

Just to give you an idea of what’s here… There’s quite a bit!

We start off with some definitions.

There’s a paper where I’ve reflected on and recorded some of the reading I’ve done as I’ve explored the idea of ritual, and its possible relevance to clinical and educational work. That’s the one called “Some thoughts…”

Then there’s a piece by the controversial anthropologist Chris Knights, which was originally an introduction to a collection of essays entitled Ritual and the Origins of Symbolism, and published in 1994. This one really captures how ritual is a fundamental part of the human experience. It’s called “Why Ritual?”

Next up is a short excerpt from an important essay by Marshall Marinker, in which he looks at how some interactions between doctors and patients are more a ritual than anything else. It’s called “Consultation as Ritual”.

Kate Gathercole shared a paper exploring the question “Why do people, the world over, seem compelled to engage in ritual practices?”.

Then there’s a piece form an English teacher in Port Washington, New York State, on the subject of Fairy Tales.

Then a piece from Steven Kotler’s blog where he explores the biological function of ritual.

And then a description of some Tibetan rites.

Next is a short BMJ piece from a GP from South Africa, describing what he has called the Talisman Effect – the ritual use of vitamins and the like in providing protection from illness.

Then some more definitions around the idea of what is, and what is not, a ritual, from Michael Davis (a novelist from Texas).

Then another piece from me, documenting some reading and reflections on the concept of “liminality”. For me, this has been a crucial element of the whole exploration of Ritual.

And then a piece from the BBC website on Shinto, the set of practices from Japan dating back to the 8th Century.

There were a couple of YouTube clips with relevance to ritual – firstly a clip from the movie The Aviator, then a film of a Japanese tea ceremony. However, I’m afraid in the years since we ran the day these have both been taken down for copyright reasons…

And staying in the East, there follows an in depth discussion of the way Ritual can connect us to something beyond, perhaps to the Cosmic. This is a paper by David Frawley, who writes about the spiritual and healing traditions of India. As he says: “In the true sense, ritual means right action, and any action done rightly, with wisdom and compassion, is a ritual.”

And another perspective on the question “Why Ritual?” comes from a paper from the Cambridge Archaeological Journal. We only have the abstract here, but it seems to be looking at the evolutionary advantage of ritual, and notes “Ritual behaviour requiring focused attention and the inhibition of pre-potent responses places demands on areas of the brain known to be associated with working memory. And therefore larger working-memory capacity was very likely a characteristic of these more ritually-capable hominins.”

Coming back to the medical sphere, Steve Walter shared a wonderful TED talk from Abraham Verghese, who is a writer and physician from Stanford, USA. In it he describes the importance of the ritual of physical examination and its transformative power. This link is called “The Ritual of Touch”. Kevin Ilsley refers to a publication by Abraham Verghese is his paper (see below).

And while we’re with TED – Michael Dawson found a wonderful talk by anthropologist Wade Davis, who muses on the worldwide web of belief and ritual that makes us human.

Kevin Ilsley has shared a reflective piece which offers a summary and commentary on Helman’s writing on ritual.

And here below, is the flyer for the event.

Ritual flyer