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Ritual. An introduction.

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Pickstock, CJC 


One notable recurring trope is that of the ellipsis, borne especially of an awareness, when studying forms and theories of ritual, of human finitude. The essays in this volume seem to circle around this gap, finding it almost everywhere, as if every mundane hollow betokened that apparent interval between the human being and God: the gap between one human being and others (Bergem, Williams, Richman), ritual and subjectivity (Manzon), presence and absence (Aspray), the gap within meaning that is wrought by ‘the absurd’, of the ‘as if’ (Wolff); the rift between neutrality and emotion (Richman), between ritual form and human experience (Williams, Richman), between matter and spirit, between selfhood and one’s realization of vulnerability in wholeness (Smith). These wide-ranging topics thematise the hybridity of human nature – part-beast, part-God; part matter, part mind; part-fallen, part-saved; part-dispersed, part-unified; and the human being’s need for, and ambivalence towards ritual rehabilitation or re-alignment, against the tide of time’s vicissitudes. Many of the essays return to the human contrivance of adventitious pretence, of an ‘as if’, through the artefactions of play, irony or spectacle, through which she throws a bridge over the ellipses of her finitude. This ‘as if’ suggests to us that ritual is primordial, that a form of imitation or copying takes the lead over innovation, that such audacious proffering of a version of reality through enactment, is the initiative through which human action ceases to be merely human; that vaunting a path which is half-invented and half-received, is our human originality and creativity; that copying is our authentic human idiom.



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International Journal of Philosophy and Theology

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Taylor & Francis

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