(Continued from yesterday’s post.)
At this point I want to challenge Damasio’s term “the autobiographical self” and rename it “the identified self” in order to make room for a couple more layers of consciousness, including the one with “graphic” in it. When the Identified Internal Self comes up against an Object, or objects or the generalized external universe, the process of sensory definition and necessary reaction begins. Many images form in the mind, some unconscious and some conscious. Some of them may be urgent and all of them will be emotionally indexed or charged. If this input is strong enough to overflow, one form of “excretion” might be to create sensory objects such as paintings, dance, sculpture or music. (Art is shit, art is exhalation, art is exfoliation.) Singing is at this level until it has words. Then it goes to another level.
Involving speech means using memory to manage the symbolism of sound-objects. When writing evolves, there is yet another level, which is marking down symbolism of sound-objects. Now there’s a technological advance in memory because one can make notes. These steps are evolutionary, perhaps a discovered use of pre-existing capacities or perhaps enabled by a mutation. Remember that EVERY evolutionary stage of emotion and experience must be in operation. Maybe those who work in “rationality” and mathematics don’t think emotion is there, but it’s only suppressed. The focus has excluded it, which may or may not be useful. In the context of liturgy, the exclusion is impossible. It will make the liturgy dead.
By the time one gets to the level of religious singing, especially what is nearly chanting or merely sounds without words, maybe with percussion, then the liturgy is changed in a different way because this is usually shared in a “holding community.” It is a participation: a performance with no onlookers. A group ritual.
By contrast if there is oral language performed by one or several people with others as audience, it is likely to be in story-telling, structured as poetry, and as such it will draw on the mythic confabulations. Now we’re evolved to Greek drama. Later this material can be frozen by rationality into dogma.
When liturgy gets to the level of printed words (the Book) it is changed again because now some of the energy of spontaneity and individuality is moved to prescriptions, rules, and authorities. Suppression becomes as important as expression. When liturgy is written, there are implications about societies, judgments from outside the “holding community”, about what art does when it becomes a source of income, about what religion is when it has become an institution, a building, a hierarchy, a governing authority with the power to torture and kill, an exemption from secular authority. Now there are letters, treaties, recorded laws, tablets brought down off of mountains. Religious wars. This is the chalice that will melt and set the fire free in a holocaust.
The pattern of liturgy I’m suggesting is not centered on print, not as Bible nor as the words to hymns nor as dogma and especially not on theology as a rational, argued, library-spawning enterprise. I’m not attacking those things: I’m going around them, under them, previous to them. What the people seek as spirituality, the experience of relationship to the universe, is not on the literary level of brain activity but rather much deeper, at least in the sense of identity, probably clear back to the proto-self, seeking survival through homeostasis, which is the maintenance of those conditions that support life. Shelter, confidence, joy, the dance of the sea anemone bringing in sustenance, the oceanic feeling in the sea of the universe. Belonging.