This is my working outline for the manuscript I’m calling “The Molten Chalice,” formerly “The Poetics of LIturgy.” The title change became necessary when the concept left the rather conventional assumptions of my unfinished Doctor of Ministry degree at Meadville/Lombard Theological School. (I accepted a Master of Divinity and left.) Because of recent theoretical developments in the study of human experience, especially memory, identity, sensory processing, and shifts in consciousness such as dissociation, the issue has become something that precedes any definitions of “religion,” thereby evading the dogmatic and institutional attempts to capture and prescribe liturgy, but without excluding any one culture’s understanding of what is true and proper.
This approach does not prescribe, though it might diagnose. One could easily use it to invent liturgies -- structured events that change consciousness -- maybe intended for the new emerging world-view that is revealed by scientific advances in fields that study the origin of life or the extent of the universe. It is easier to rationally consider these changes than to internalize the emotions they can stir up: feelings of loneliness, vulnerability, and raw fear. But sometimes joy and release. Liturgy could help. I suggest that we must shift from individual performance as the key to salvation in order to move to participation as fulfillment, not just in human life but in all being. We are a dance and should glory in it.
But what keeps us from dispersing into a fog of madness, a frenzy of destruction? That’s the chalice. The hotter the fire, the stronger the chalice must be. (The crucible in a bronze foundry is made of graphite, the material of pencil lead.) If the chalice breaks, there is local damage, then dispersal.
Come to that, what protects the liturgist? The short honest answer is “nothing.” What helps is having done the task of one’s own internal sorting, very much like Clinical Pastoral Education http://www.acpe.edu/ ; a secure and stable community; quiet and solitude -- sometimes these things vary for individuals. Mentors. A good education helps, not necessarily academic. Be prepared to take a hammering or to accidentally cause great harm. (Or to WANT to.) Do not expect fame and fortune. Do not expect a free ride. Expect to be hurt. It is an intimacy with all the hazards.
The ancient and definitive formation of a shaman is through destruction (being melted down) and reconstruction (casting). Death, replacement of bones with quartz, ability to revisit the place where the dead are, ability to keep one’s seat on a winged horse. This is the huge shadow on the wall behind ministers and doctors.
More practically, the liturgist must have a good understanding of the existing structure of the consciousness of the individual or community, a strong ability to summon and manage the necessary resources, and a clear goal of where to move the consciousness of the people involved. Where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there.
MANAGEMENT OF CONSCIOUSNESS
The subject is how to manage a time art that deeply affects consciousness, not an historical or aesthetic ceremony, though the latter can approach that and should not be excluded.
How sensory information codes memory
Memory is identity
WHY MOLTEN CHALICE?
The UU connection (include Abraxas?)
The relationship between container & contained (start with first one-celled life)
What can contain the Dionysian?
The limits of where I will go in this manuscript.
The role of the classical: Greek myth and theatre.
FOR WHOM IS THIS THEORY MEANT?
Anyone designing an event meant to shift consciousness who wants to take that beyond the conventional routine.
IMMANENT v. TRANSCENDENT
Transcendent sees sacred power coming from the outside, some superhuman source, and immanent sees it as welling up from inside being-itself, especially “nature.” They do not cancel each other.
THE DARK SIDE
No morality to consciousness itself, though the latter contains the former and will shape it.
Forbidden imagery can come from the culture or from personal experience.
Evil is human. The cosmos is neither good nor evil -- simply IS.
ENTHEOGENS & disciplines of pain, deprivation
LITURGY AS HEALING
THE SHAMAN: ECSTATIC DISSOCIATION
The Shaman is a liturgist, but the liturgist might not be a Shaman. The difference is what consciousness is shifted and to what extent.
The accidental Shaman: what if some deep consciousness breaks through ?
THE OLD RABBINICAL STORY OF THE CLEARING
Sex, birth, death, shedding/transformation, bonding are natural processes that can be aborted by interruption. If they are incomplete, they can be troublesome.
THE BRAINSPACE WORK FLOOR (Flame)
The clearing in the forest, the kindling, the story
Gendlin’s focusing with imagery
Surfacing what is subconscious
APPROACH AND LEAVING: the nature of the limen
Alone or together
Trying to stay
Leaving too soon
Erasing by submerging in the unconscious, the “trash” of the brain
Obsession/repetition as attempts to solve
THE BASIC TENSION
Dilation of the spirit: the worst (confession) and the best (pardon)
Dimensions of the loom: from me-sized to the universal
ARC AND BEATS
Mimesis: is every mimesis pornographic? This is a new idea I’ve just encountered in the environmental movement. It is almost Islamic, the idea that any depiction of God diminishes Him and likewise any depiction of anything at all is a diminishment, just as pornography diminishes sexual experience by removing intimacy.
“Arc and beats” are narrative vocabulary.
PLATE TECTONICS OF CONCEPTS: human universals
Cultural control of venue and experience
SENSE MEMORY AS PROCESS
Sight: possibly a force for evolution
Sound: some say it’s the last sense to leave
Smell: direct access to the brain
Touch: the infant’s love
Taste: the lover’s nourishment
Movement: dance and gesture
Posture: one’s stance toward life
MATERIAL CULTURES AND ECOLOGIES
Weather, food, clothing, family members, shelter, tools
Community: UU In-gathering at Leadership School
Kinds of ceremonies: Blackfeet Bundles, Horn Society, Healing, Place, Vision Quest
Classical mass: Dom Gregory Dix
The Unmoved Mover: Marriage to a dead groom
Primal: Cassowary imagery in New Guinea
Ordeal: Andes cannibalism