Theoconceptualism’s Next Step — Canon and Ritual
This is an exploration. How do we pull the idea of Theoconceptualism together into a concrete form?
Once a canon has been selected then it can be built off from, expanded and adapted. It’s important that the local congregation would have control over it, but most likely a new location would pull from an existing one to begin with. The distributed power structure is important because it allows the whole system to adapt and change according to local needs of the society and culture. We also want to avoid extreme change, so there would be limits on this. Such as a representational board needing a majority vote to add a text and a super-majority vote to remove a text, and only allowing 1 change a year. Or something like that.
Joseph Campbell talks about the four functions of mythology: to decide an affirming or withdrawing attitude toward the mystery of life, to represent the cosmos, to integrate the individual into society, and to teach one how to live life. Some things to keep in mind.
The selected canon would lend itself to the rituals. The rituals bring the myth to life. They can’t have an impact unless they cause physiological reactivity, unless you feel them. To a certain extent you can do that in a text, but you also need the speech, the play, the statue, the painting, and the ritual. The ritual may be the most important because you are really involved. It truly brings the myth to life in the present. Mircea Eliade talks about this as something approximating time travel, or jumping dimensions of reality.
Let’s take Adam and Eve, just the basic form. We have Eden, paradise itself. Then we have temptation from the serpent about the forbidden fruit which reveals knowledge. Finally, banishment. We could also include the Christian mythology of the creation of man and woman. Let’s skip that though. How would we bring any of this to life? And, should we?
First, in this type of story we have a single God, in direct contact with people, personified, separate from the created world but in it, with animals and such as inferior to mankind. All of that is going to influence and shape the person’s approach to the world. Is this a good foundation to approach the world from? Maybe.
This could be an initiation ritual in this way. What if you have the person stand before a symbolic tree of knowledge. They are told not to take the fruit. A tempter tells them to take the fruit. They take the fruit and take a bite. They are told to leave and do so.
We can obviously work on it, but… meh. The basic idea isn’t as engaging as I thought it might be. Also, there’s an issue because you have such a difference between the man’s and the woman’s role.
Let’s look at Cain and Able. They both make different sacrifices. God doesn’t like Cain’s. Cain is angry and beats Able over the head with a rock. Cain is cursed.
You could have symbolic sacrifices of animal versus plant. A representation of blessing upon Able. Maybe something like a wreath or crown on the head, or a neckless. The enactment of the murder is pretty straightforward. The cursing of Cain could be painting a symbol upon the skin in some form.
These are frustratingly not very fulfilling. I’ll have to keep thinking about those. Maybe I’m too close to the Christian myths.
Let’s take a look at the Prometheus cycle. Prometheus was the Titan that formed man from water and dirt. After his brother Epimetheus gave away all of the gifts they had for animals there was none left for man. Prometheus stole fire from Olympus and gave it to man. Also, Pandora was brought to Olympus and given a box of gifts. She couldn’t resist opening it and all of the gifts escaped except for hope. Prometheus was chained to a rock and tortured by having an eagle eat out his liver over and over and over, forever. All he had to do to be free was apologize to Zeus, but he wouldn’t. Also, Prometheus had foresight, so he saw all of this coming and accepted it. Later, Hercules eventually freed him.
I think these will work well. Dirt and water mixed into mud. Cover the person in mud to show the creation of man. You can include women in this, although the story can be told differently. (There is also a flood story here and mankind ends up being recreated from rocks, but I’m ignoring that for now.) For men you can have a ritual where they are given sacred fire. For women you can have one where they are given a sacred box endowed with ever-present hope. The basic ideas seem to work.
There is a lot to think about here. That’s enough to get the ideas flowing for now. It’s important that the potential works are open. For instance, the house selection ceremony from “Harry Potter” is easy to see as worthy of consideration.
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