Rituals of Passage
At about 9:35 minutes Joyce makes a remark regarding this somewhat simplistically dualistic right/left brain paradigm people have been putting so much stock in, particularly as a deterministic explanation for behavior, which often gets translated into a kind of sexist mode, like men are left brained and women are right brained. It’s really what I’ve been trying to caution against whenever I hear it being used that way. I think what she’s saying is that achieving a balance along with those special characteristics each hemisphere apparently has built into them through the magic of our DNA is beyond simplistic and deterministic explanations. At least that’s been my own way of seeing it, though I’m also aware I may be caught subjectively trying to read too much of my own inner vision into what she’s saying here, but I suspect I’m not, because I’ve seen this happen with too many people now, and it just makes sense to me when I broaden my vision in the different ways she’s talking about.
I suspect that her clunk on the head that sent her down the long dark tunnel to the light actually helped break her mind loose from the scientific paradigm she’d trapped herself in all those years. Visions do that. Visions often come within a ritual process. Incidentally, a ‘ritual’ process can come as a kind of accident, like her clunk on the head; or it can come spontaneously as part of what happens to someone in life, like being thrown into chaos and turmoil for any of a huge variety of reasons that most without guidance will respond to with fear; or it can occur in a very sacredly developed and guided way, as it often did in some indigenous cultures. Sometimes this is referred to as a Rite of Passage. Gail Sheehy found the magic fountain of ideas with this concept and made her life’s work as a writer on this topic. So I use the term ‘ritual’ cautiously here.
The ritual/vision process has been found to have three distinct phases. The first phase involves detachment from the norms one has learned and has naturally come to believe to be the true way of the world. Not surprisingly, this is often a practice that creative people consciously learn to do for themselves in order to invoke a creative state of mind. Then comes a period of liminality, which is like a death, but also a threshold with the sense of beginning a new process where all the old beliefs and their associations are suspended, and it is in this state where one experiences something like expansion of imagination and a potential for visions. Then follows a renewal with a rebuilding phase and a welcoming back into normality, such as it may be, of a given society.
That’s very likely why indigenous cultures, where this ritual process has been observed over and over, will tend to put so much stock in encouraging vision quests as part of the maturation process.
Applied to what we call modern society — where the closest standardized and accepted practice resembling one of these rituals might be a military boot camp, where we allow, in some cases even honor, the military institution when it takes our young, malleable children with all sorts of beautiful humane potential and turns them into a mindless, order-taking robots — perhaps it’s also an even deeper, subliminal urge behind all these sporadic efforts, often considered a kind of deviancy, towards using drugs like LSD, marijuana, and even alcohol.
What I see taking place all around me are sporadic occurrences of a somewhat blind but still valiant struggling for individual freedom going on in our mechanistically violent, and ever violating, mass mind controlling and manipulating modern cultures. These cultures have evolved over about a ten thousand year institutionalizing process to come to favor a form of societal organizing that has institutionally combined a systematic repression of a full range of humane potential in just about every corner of what people like to consider “civilized” cultures. These social practices systematically deprive us all of practicing — and sharing — on a daily basis all these amazing human characteristics people like Joyce Hawkins, a trained professional biophysicist, keep discovering are missing.
I think the result is we’ve made humanity into a kind of mindless disease expanding like a virus on this planet.