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Religion and society 3rd lecture: Initiation in Ancient and Modern Societies. Eliade 2.

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Presentation on theme: "Religion and society 3rd lecture: Initiation in Ancient and Modern Societies. Eliade 2."— Presentation transcript:

1 Religion and society 3rd lecture: Initiation in Ancient and Modern Societies. Eliade 2.

2 The world-view of the Ancient and the modern man The most important difference between the world-view of Ancient, pre-modern and modern, non-religious men is that the world of the former was organized by the sacred, and from the world of the modern man the sacred disappeared. The most important difference between the world-view of Ancient, pre-modern and modern, non-religious men is that the world of the former was organized by the sacred, and from the world of the modern man the sacred disappeared. A world which was organized by the sacred comprised centers in space, time, life (in everyday practical duties) and in society. A world which lacks for the sacred, that is to say: a secular world, does not know such centers. A world which was organized by the sacred comprised centers in space, time, life (in everyday practical duties) and in society. A world which lacks for the sacred, that is to say: a secular world, does not know such centers. In brief: the world of Ancient man is inhomogeneous. The world of the modern man is homogeneous. (World here = world-view). The homogeneous world is the world of natural sciences. It is an achievement of a long historical and cultural process. In brief: the world of Ancient man is inhomogeneous. The world of the modern man is homogeneous. (World here = world-view). The homogeneous world is the world of natural sciences. It is an achievement of a long historical and cultural process.

3 The concept of initiation For the Ancient man the procedures of initiations served to initiate members of the community into the sacred dimensions of the world. For the Ancient man the procedures of initiations served to initiate members of the community into the sacred dimensions of the world. „Initiation is a rite of passage ceremony marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components. In an extended sense it can also signify a transformation in which the initiate is 'reborn' into a new role. „Initiation is a rite of passage ceremony marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components. In an extended sense it can also signify a transformation in which the initiate is 'reborn' into a new role. Examples of initiation ceremonies might include Hindu diksha, Christian baptism or confirmation, Jewish bar or bat mitzvah, acceptance into a fraternal organization, secret society or religious order, or graduation from school or recruit training. Examples of initiation ceremonies might include Hindu diksha, Christian baptism or confirmation, Jewish bar or bat mitzvah, acceptance into a fraternal organization, secret society or religious order, or graduation from school or recruit training. A person taking the initiation ceremony in traditional rites, such as those depicted in these pictures, is called an initiate or initiand.” A person taking the initiation ceremony in traditional rites, such as those depicted in these pictures, is called an initiate or initiand.” Wikipedia, Initiation Wikipedia, Initiation Modern world still have the reminiscences of ancient ritual initiations, such as adult initiations, Gang initiations, initiations of a school, College or University, marriage. Modern world still have the reminiscences of ancient ritual initiations, such as adult initiations, Gang initiations, initiations of a school, College or University, marriage.

4 Spiritual initiation „A spiritual initiation rite normally implies a shepherding process where those who are at a higher level guide the initiate through a process of greater exposure of knowledge. This may include the revelation of secrets, hence the term secret society for such organizations, usually reserved for those at the higher level of understanding. One famous historical example is the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece, thought to go back to at least the Mycenaean period or "bronze age".” „A spiritual initiation rite normally implies a shepherding process where those who are at a higher level guide the initiate through a process of greater exposure of knowledge. This may include the revelation of secrets, hence the term secret society for such organizations, usually reserved for those at the higher level of understanding. One famous historical example is the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece, thought to go back to at least the Mycenaean period or "bronze age".” Wikipedia, Religious and other spiritual initiations Wikipedia, Religious and other spiritual initiations

5 Eliade concerning Initiation „It has been often said that one of the characteristics of the modern world is the disappearance of any meaningful rites of initiation. Of primary importance in traditional societies, in the modern Western world significant initiation is practically nonexistent. To be sure: the several Christian communities preserve, in varying degrees, vestiges of a mistery that is initiatory in structure. Baptism is an initiatory rite; ordination to the priesthood comprises an initiation. But it must not be forgotten that Christianity triumphed in the world and became a universal religion only because it detached itself from the climate of the Greco-Oriental mysteries and proclaimed itself a religion of Salvation accessible to all”. „It has been often said that one of the characteristics of the modern world is the disappearance of any meaningful rites of initiation. Of primary importance in traditional societies, in the modern Western world significant initiation is practically nonexistent. To be sure: the several Christian communities preserve, in varying degrees, vestiges of a mistery that is initiatory in structure. Baptism is an initiatory rite; ordination to the priesthood comprises an initiation. But it must not be forgotten that Christianity triumphed in the world and became a universal religion only because it detached itself from the climate of the Greco-Oriental mysteries and proclaimed itself a religion of Salvation accessible to all”. Eliade, „Rites and Symbols of Initiation: The Mysteries of Birth and Rebirth”, Spring Publications, 2009: ix. Eliade, „Rites and Symbols of Initiation: The Mysteries of Birth and Rebirth”, Spring Publications, 2009: ix.

6 Eliade on Initiation Mircea Eliade discussed initiation as a principal religious act by classical or traditional societies. He defined initiation as "a basic change in existential condition," which liberates man from profane time and history. "Initiation recapitulates the sacred history of the world. And through this recapitulation, the whole world is sanctified anew... [the initiand] can perceive the world as a sacred work, a creation of the Gods.„ Mircea Eliade discussed initiation as a principal religious act by classical or traditional societies. He defined initiation as "a basic change in existential condition," which liberates man from profane time and history. "Initiation recapitulates the sacred history of the world. And through this recapitulation, the whole world is sanctified anew... [the initiand] can perceive the world as a sacred work, a creation of the Gods.„ Wikipedia, Initiation, Eliade Wikipedia, Initiation, Eliade

7 Reasons for and functions of Initiation "this real valuation of ritual death finally led to conquest of the fear of real death." "this real valuation of ritual death finally led to conquest of the fear of real death." "[initiation's] function is to reveal the deep meaning of existence to the new generations and to help them assume the responsibility of being truly men and hence of participating in culture." "[initiation's] function is to reveal the deep meaning of existence to the new generations and to help them assume the responsibility of being truly men and hence of participating in culture." "it reveals a world open to the trans-human, a world that, in our philosophical terminology, we should call transcendental." "it reveals a world open to the trans-human, a world that, in our philosophical terminology, we should call transcendental." "to make [the initiand] open to spiritual values." "to make [the initiand] open to spiritual values."

8 Types of initiation Eliade differentiates between types of initiations in two ways: types and functions. Types Eliade differentiates between types of initiations in two ways: types and functions. Types 1. Puberty Rites- "collective rituals whose function is to effect the transition from childhood or adolescence to adulthood." They represent "above all the revelation of the sacred." 1. Puberty Rites- "collective rituals whose function is to effect the transition from childhood or adolescence to adulthood." They represent "above all the revelation of the sacred." 2. Entering into a Secret Society- 2. Entering into a Secret Society- 3. Mystical Vocation- "the vocation of a medicine man or a shaman." This is limited to the few who are "destined to participate in a more intense religious experience than is accessible to the rest of the community." 3. Mystical Vocation- "the vocation of a medicine man or a shaman." This is limited to the few who are "destined to participate in a more intense religious experience than is accessible to the rest of the community." These can be broken into two types. Functions These can be broken into two types. Functions puberty rites, "by virtue of which adolescents gain access to the sacred, to knowledge, and to sexuality-- by which, in short, they become human beings." puberty rites, "by virtue of which adolescents gain access to the sacred, to knowledge, and to sexuality-- by which, in short, they become human beings." specialized initiations, which certain individuals undergo in order to transcend their human condition and become protégés of the Supernatural Beings or even their equals." specialized initiations, which certain individuals undergo in order to transcend their human condition and become protégés of the Supernatural Beings or even their equals."

9 Psychological effects of initiations „Laboratory experiments in psychology have shown that severe initiations produce cognitive dissonance. Dissonance is then thought to produce feelings of strong group attraction among initiates after the experience, because they want to justify the effort used. Rewards during initiations have important consequences in that initiates who feel more rewarded express stronger group identity. As well as group attraction, initiations can also produce conformity among new members. Psychology experiments have also shown that initiations increase feelings of affiliation” „Laboratory experiments in psychology have shown that severe initiations produce cognitive dissonance. Dissonance is then thought to produce feelings of strong group attraction among initiates after the experience, because they want to justify the effort used. Rewards during initiations have important consequences in that initiates who feel more rewarded express stronger group identity. As well as group attraction, initiations can also produce conformity among new members. Psychology experiments have also shown that initiations increase feelings of affiliation” Wikipedia, Initiation Wikipedia, Initiation

10 Sacred History The myths of origins of a particular traditional community refer to a sort of sacred history. The members of the community in question lived in the shadow of this sacred history, which was for them the origin of space, time, life, world and even gods and deities. The myths of origin narrated the fundamental structure of the world, and they explained for the traditional man why he or she should live in such a way in which he or she actually lives. The myths of origins of a particular traditional community refer to a sort of sacred history. The members of the community in question lived in the shadow of this sacred history, which was for them the origin of space, time, life, world and even gods and deities. The myths of origin narrated the fundamental structure of the world, and they explained for the traditional man why he or she should live in such a way in which he or she actually lives.

11 Mythology, culture and language in traditional societies Karl Kerenyi quotes in his work concerning Ancient Greek mythology the case of Sir George Grey several times. Karl Kerenyi quotes in his work concerning Ancient Greek mythology the case of Sir George Grey several times. Sir George Grey was sent by the British Government to New Zealand in 1845 to administer the affairs of the Government there. Sir George Grey was sent by the British Government to New Zealand in 1845 to administer the affairs of the Government there. He was not able to communicate with the natives, not even by the help of translators. Soon he discovered that in order to understand the native people there, he had to learn their language too himself. He was not able to communicate with the natives, not even by the help of translators. Soon he discovered that in order to understand the native people there, he had to learn their language too himself. Many words, expressions and idiomatic turns in the native Polynesian language referred to ancient myths, tales and narratives of the community. In order to understand what were those people actually talking about, he had to learn their complete mythology. Many words, expressions and idiomatic turns in the native Polynesian language referred to ancient myths, tales and narratives of the community. In order to understand what were those people actually talking about, he had to learn their complete mythology.

12 Language and mythology After these studies and investigations, after learning the language of Polynesian native people properly, Sir George Grey published his book in 1855, under the title: „Polynesian mythology and ancient traditional history of the New Zealand race: as furnished by their priests and chiefs”. After these studies and investigations, after learning the language of Polynesian native people properly, Sir George Grey published his book in 1855, under the title: „Polynesian mythology and ancient traditional history of the New Zealand race: as furnished by their priests and chiefs”. We find that the language of a people contains the complete cultural and social history of the people in a condensed, sedimented form. We find that the language of a people contains the complete cultural and social history of the people in a condensed, sedimented form. To every natural language belongs a history, a culture, a mythology, a set of folk customs, rituals, rites, even a geography of the land of people in question. To every natural language belongs a history, a culture, a mythology, a set of folk customs, rituals, rites, even a geography of the land of people in question. In order to know the language, the culture of a people, we should also get acquainted with these layers of cultural memory and history. In order to know the language, the culture of a people, we should also get acquainted with these layers of cultural memory and history.

13 Circular and linear history in mythical view of world In Eliade’s opinion the circular conception of time and history is an essential characteristic of traditional, primitive, pre-modern societies. In Eliade’s opinion the circular conception of time and history is an essential characteristic of traditional, primitive, pre-modern societies. According to him the linear conception of history is the result of the eschatological and apocalyptical views of Western monotheistic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. According to him the linear conception of history is the result of the eschatological and apocalyptical views of Western monotheistic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Linear conception of history: an image of history according to which history takes the form of linear narrative with a peculiar form of development, so such a narrative which has a beginning, a central point or an axis and an end-point. Linear conception of history: an image of history according to which history takes the form of linear narrative with a peculiar form of development, so such a narrative which has a beginning, a central point or an axis and an end-point.

14 Exceptions In real there are no such rigid, inflexible and closed forms of views concerning history as Eliade thought. That is to say: there are exceptions of circular conceptions of history and time in traditional, pre- modern communities. In real there are no such rigid, inflexible and closed forms of views concerning history as Eliade thought. That is to say: there are exceptions of circular conceptions of history and time in traditional, pre- modern communities. There are also mixtures of linear and circular view of time and history in traditional societies, though in most of them the motive of circularitiy is indeed very characteristic and very strong. There are also mixtures of linear and circular view of time and history in traditional societies, though in most of them the motive of circularitiy is indeed very characteristic and very strong. Examples of exceptions: Ragnarök in Poetic and Prose Edda in Norse mythology. Buddhist Eschatology. Examples of exceptions: Ragnarök in Poetic and Prose Edda in Norse mythology. Buddhist Eschatology.

15 Ragnarök „Brothers will fight „Brothers will fight and kill each other, sisters' children will defile kinship. It is harsh in the world, whoredom rife —an axe age, a sword age —shields are riven— a wind age, a wolf age— before the world goes headlong. No man will have mercy on another.” Note: it was found in a 13th Century compilation of the Edda, so some researchers claim that it is the result of Christian influence. Note: it was found in a 13th Century compilation of the Edda, so some researchers claim that it is the result of Christian influence.

16 Buddhist Eschatology „Buddha described his teachings disappearing five thousand years from when he preached them, corresponding approximately to the year At this time, knowledge of dharma will be lost as well. The last of his relics will be gathered in Bodh Gaya and cremated. There will be a new era in which the next Buddha Maitreya will appear, but it will be preceded by the degeneration of human society. This will be a period of greed, lust, poverty, ill will, violence, murder, impiety, physical weakness, sexual depravity and societal collapse, and even the Buddha himself will be forgotten” „Buddha described his teachings disappearing five thousand years from when he preached them, corresponding approximately to the year At this time, knowledge of dharma will be lost as well. The last of his relics will be gathered in Bodh Gaya and cremated. There will be a new era in which the next Buddha Maitreya will appear, but it will be preceded by the degeneration of human society. This will be a period of greed, lust, poverty, ill will, violence, murder, impiety, physical weakness, sexual depravity and societal collapse, and even the Buddha himself will be forgotten” Wikipedia, Buddhist eschatology Wikipedia, Buddhist eschatology

17 Buddhist Eschatology 2. The earliest mention of Maitreya is in the Cakavatti (Sihanada) Sutta in Digha Nikaya 26 of the Pali Canon. In it, Gautama Buddha predicted that his teachings of dharma would be forgotten after 5,000 years. The earliest mention of Maitreya is in the Cakavatti (Sihanada) Sutta in Digha Nikaya 26 of the Pali Canon. In it, Gautama Buddha predicted that his teachings of dharma would be forgotten after 5,000 years. „At that period, brethren, there will arise in the world an Exalted One named Maitreya, Fully Awakened, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy, with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpas- sed as a guide to mortals willing to be led, a teacher for gods and men, an Exalted One, a Buddha, even as I am now. He, by himself, will thoroughly know and see, as it were face to face, this universe, with Its worlds of the spirits, Its Brahmas and Its Maras, and Its world of recluses and Brahmins, of princes and peoples, even as I now, by myself, thoroughly know and see them” „At that period, brethren, there will arise in the world an Exalted One named Maitreya, Fully Awakened, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy, with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpas- sed as a guide to mortals willing to be led, a teacher for gods and men, an Exalted One, a Buddha, even as I am now. He, by himself, will thoroughly know and see, as it were face to face, this universe, with Its worlds of the spirits, Its Brahmas and Its Maras, and Its world of recluses and Brahmins, of princes and peoples, even as I now, by myself, thoroughly know and see them” Digha Nikaya, 26. Digha Nikaya, 26.

18 Initiation as existential transformation For traditional, Ancient societies, initiation was a form of ritual death and rebirth. For traditional, Ancient societies, initiation was a form of ritual death and rebirth. The event of biological birth (which, on its own turn, had a sacred character too) must be proceeded by a sacred death and sacred birth (rebirth): in puberty rites: a death to the childhood and the birth in the adulthood. The event of biological birth (which, on its own turn, had a sacred character too) must be proceeded by a sacred death and sacred birth (rebirth): in puberty rites: a death to the childhood and the birth in the adulthood. Rites of initiation meant entering into the domain of sacred or the domain of the transcendent. For this reason the rite was 1. either usually (almost always) lead by a spiritual leader, by a person who was already initiated into this transcendent domain, so he or she could show the way into this domain, 2. or by a transcendent, supernatural being himself or herself – by a spirit or a deity. Rites of initiation meant entering into the domain of sacred or the domain of the transcendent. For this reason the rite was 1. either usually (almost always) lead by a spiritual leader, by a person who was already initiated into this transcendent domain, so he or she could show the way into this domain, 2. or by a transcendent, supernatural being himself or herself – by a spirit or a deity. Example: the initiation of Jacob by an angel in the Bible. Example: the initiation of Jacob by an angel in the Bible.

19 Cosmos as a world of rituals In Eliade’s interpretation the world of the Ancient man had two fundamentally separated domains: a cosmic and a chaotic part. In Eliade’s interpretation the world of the Ancient man had two fundamentally separated domains: a cosmic and a chaotic part. Cosmos (Greek: world) was an essentially articulated, familiar, well-known domain. The world for the Ancient man appeared as an essentially structured, articulated familiar world. It was being. Cosmos (Greek: world) was an essentially articulated, familiar, well-known domain. The world for the Ancient man appeared as an essentially structured, articulated familiar world. It was being. Chaos (Greek: abyss, rupture) – on the contrary – was just the opposite of world. It was an unknown domain beyond the world, it was unarticulated, unstructured, messy, ungraspable domain. It was strictly speaking non-being. Chaos (Greek: abyss, rupture) – on the contrary – was just the opposite of world. It was an unknown domain beyond the world, it was unarticulated, unstructured, messy, ungraspable domain. It was strictly speaking non-being. Rituals, rites, initiations as cultural codes formed the familiar world of traditional man. The world outside or beyond these cultural codes was a sort of other-world. Rituals, rites, initiations as cultural codes formed the familiar world of traditional man. The world outside or beyond these cultural codes was a sort of other-world.

20 Manifestation of ethnocentrism in Ancient rituals and rites „Ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one's own culture. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and subdivisions serve to define each ethnicity's unique cultural identity. Ethnocentrism may be overt or subtle, and while it is considered a natural proclivity of human psychology, it has developed a generally negative connotation.” „Ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one's own culture. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and subdivisions serve to define each ethnicity's unique cultural identity. Ethnocentrism may be overt or subtle, and while it is considered a natural proclivity of human psychology, it has developed a generally negative connotation.” The place of inhabitation of the traditional community in question was the center of the world. The rules of rites, rituals, initiations and everyday praxis were the rules and laws of the world itself. A domain which was unbounded by these rules and law did not even count as world for traditional communities. The members of the community, of the group counted as members of mankind, everybody else – who did not share the cultural codes, the symbols, the myths, etc. – counted as subhumans, „uncivilized”, barbaric people – or even demonic creatures. The place of inhabitation of the traditional community in question was the center of the world. The rules of rites, rituals, initiations and everyday praxis were the rules and laws of the world itself. A domain which was unbounded by these rules and law did not even count as world for traditional communities. The members of the community, of the group counted as members of mankind, everybody else – who did not share the cultural codes, the symbols, the myths, etc. – counted as subhumans, „uncivilized”, barbaric people – or even demonic creatures.

21 Reinhart Koselleck and The Historical-Political Semantics of Asymmetric Counterconcepts The historian Reinhart Koselleck called „counterconcepts” those cultural codes by which cultures, communities, religions and peoples defined themselved in opposition with (every) other cultures, religions, peoples, etc. The historian Reinhart Koselleck called „counterconcepts” those cultural codes by which cultures, communities, religions and peoples defined themselved in opposition with (every) other cultures, religions, peoples, etc. It is a cultural manifestation of ethnocentrism (which – on its own turn – has biological, evolutionary roots). We are the good, the morally superior beings in the world – everybody else outside our group in a way or another inferior in comparison with us. I have an „automatic”, initial sympathy concerning the members of my group, and have a latent, implicit mistrust, aversion concerning outsiders. It is a cultural manifestation of ethnocentrism (which – on its own turn – has biological, evolutionary roots). We are the good, the morally superior beings in the world – everybody else outside our group in a way or another inferior in comparison with us. I have an „automatic”, initial sympathy concerning the members of my group, and have a latent, implicit mistrust, aversion concerning outsiders. Koselleck’s examples: Greek-Barbarian, Roman-Barbarian, Christian-Pagan, Orthodox-Heretic, Proletarian-Bourgeois, etc. Koselleck’s examples: Greek-Barbarian, Roman-Barbarian, Christian-Pagan, Orthodox-Heretic, Proletarian-Bourgeois, etc.


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