A ritual cure for neurosis

David Sheihan Hunter Lindez, BFA, MFA, MSM

The power of language to shape or constitute bodily experience, necessitates the anthropological investigation and analysis of the nuances of subcultures such as Freemasonry and especially where it is practiced within the confines of ethnically insulated communities, thus differentiating itself via subtle nuances of ethnographic and cultural influences upon its practices.  Still, no matter how many interviews are held, conversations transcribed and rituals read or even more especially experienced within the context of the fully entrenched researcher, it still becomes impossible to betray the actual secrets of such entities.  These hybrid traditions and initiatory lodges, convey a gnosis to their recipients, which language, no matter how eloquent, fails to convey.  But, science is becoming increasingly helpful as a tool to measure what is taking place during ritual.

Dr. Newberg and D'Aquili used high-tech imaging devices to peer into the brains of meditating Buddhists and Franciscan nuns. As the data and brain photographs flowed in, the researchers began to find solid evidence that the mystical experiences of the subjects "were not the result of some fabrication, or simple wishful thinking, but were associated instead with a series of observable neurological events," explains Newberg. "In other words, mystical experience is biologically, observably, and scientifically real.... Gradually, we shaped a hypothesis that suggests that spiritual experience, at its very root, is intimately interwoven with human biology.”

Ritual or liturgy, Newberg and d’Aquili write, is performed in order to solve a problem presented to the verbal, analytic part of the mind/brain. The problem may be that of discerning between good and evil, life over death, or the disparity between God and humanity. These are not abstract concerns solely; they are lived out all the time in our lives, and they produce anxiety, unrest and dissatisfaction. . .

Ritual behaviors bring about a simultaneous discharge of both the arousal and quiescent systems. The result is not only a feeling of “union with a greater force or power but also an awareness that death is not to be feared and a sense of harmony of the individual with the universe.”