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Ritualization and Human Interiority

Authors Clemens Cavallin
ISBN 9788763537346
Publisher Museum Tusculanum Press
Place of publication Copenhagen
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Language en
Keywords ritual, interiority, interiorization, modernity
Subject categories History of Religions


Bringing the topics of human interiority and ritual together can at first glance appear as a strategy for establishing a basic theme of antagonism between the inner and the outer aspects of human actions. The main thesis of this study is, however, that although the depiction of interiorization and ritualization as opposing powers contains some elements of truth, the most vital aspects of their relationship are to be found in their dynamic interdependence. The basic account of ritualization takes as its point of departure the notion of abstract action in the ritual theory of Caroline Humphrey and James Laidlaw. The abstract quality of an action refers to the performance of a ritual as disconnected from its context, that the action is more directed toward its own performance than outside goals. This aspect of ritual action can also be connected with conceptual abstraction. According to the perspective on ritual action elaborated in this study, the particular efficacy of ritualized acts, persons, and artifacts is an effect of the fact that the abstraction achieved by ritualization provides a place for the performer in the world of ideal, abstract entities, allowing for a person to enter into relations with them. The potential for deritualization by interiorization, however, reaches its peak when the ritual act is performed in the interior, its goal is interior, and its efficacy is completely derived from interior principles. In this way, the ritual has no real relevance outside of the individual, the very opposite of hyper-ritualization. But the final link still attaching this interior ritual to intersubjective ritual norms is severed by individualism, when the individual takes it upon itself to decide when or how to perform the ritual—in which case the ritual commitment vanishes and deritualization moves toward its completion. And, in all this, it is difficult not to perceive a profile of modernity emerging which presses toward the interior in search of the really real and a secure foundation for knowledge, but becomes frustrated by the elusive nature of the hidden and subjective.

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