The edition of Webster’s Dictionary that rests on my offline shelf defines ritual:
- The form for conducting a ceremony
- A ceremony or body of ceremonies
- A procedure repeated customarily or automatically
Daily rituals; the things we do as a habit without even thinking of them as being ritualistic.
A body of rituals we do not create; rituals that are experienced spontaneously, as a gift from the universe.
In the story ” Body Ritual Among the Nacirema “, Horace Minor pretends to be an anthropologist who travels back in time to uncover the secret rites of Americans. ( Nacirema spelled backwards )
The bathroom is described as a ” shrine “, with the medicine cabinet described as
a box or chest which is built into the wall. In this chest are kept the many charms and magical potions without which no native believes he could live. These preparations are secured from a variety of specialized practitioners. The most powerful of these are the medicine men, whose assistance must be rewarded with substantial gifts.
However, the medicine men do not provide the curative potions for their clients, but decide what the ingredients should be and then write them down in an ancient and secret language. This writing is understood only by the medicine men and by the herbalists who, for another gift, provide the required charm.
This week, the universe chose to deliver two stories by Franz Kafka as required reading for an online course, for which I am to write a paper. I read the stories quickly, again noticing the most important lessons of the tales related to different definitions of the word ” ritual “, and drafted up this version of the upcoming assignment ( if you’re in the same class, please don’t cut and paste. do your own work):
Ritual, as expressed in Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” (1915) and “A Country Doctor” (1919), may represent different aspects of relationship. Although both stories are very dreamlike and surreal, the realities of family and work are present and in full force. In “The Metamorphosis”, a salesman is transformed into a repugnant creature who cannot work nor provide for his family.
The family, in denial, continues to go through daily ritual behaviors as if nothing had happened. Members of the family continue to serve him food, to entertain guests, and to perform music on a violin. These family rituals do not change the long term situation; they only serve to provide a temporary continuum; a short-term response to what turns out to be a permanent transformation. Neither do these rituals help in any meaningful way.
The family is so attached to its rituals that none of them get close enough to reality to be effective in problem-solving. When rituals are clung to in an urgent situation, instead of trying to get help from a counselor, a job coach, or other appropriate professional, this is when ritual becomes meaningless.
In a real emergency, this dreamlike state of ritual behaviour can be dangerous, and the tragic end of the story bears this out. There are times to break out of the fantasy world of ritual, and realize when someone needs help. These are time to ask: what type of assistance does this person need? Does he or she need a counselor? A doctor? More education? Additional resources?
This brings me to the second story, “A Country Doctor”, which is also about ritual. This time, the rituals are not second-nature family rituals on autopilot in an urgent situation. This ritual is not created by people; instead it is a type of initiation ritual which the universe brings to a new doctor, whose dreamlike state could be induced by long hours and urgent situations.
After a series of events which underscore the associations of being a doctor with injury and clients who provide for services, the doctor lies in the same bed as the client, who is seriously injured. The doctor then rises from the bed, feeling as if he has failed the client, and then feels the client has betrayed him.
This story describes an initiation into the medical profession; a point in time where the doctor is so empathetic with the client, that he has not yet learned to separate himself from the client; nor has the doctor separated himself from his own healing energies which enter the client’s bed, and create a feeling of betrayal. The story is complete as the ritual is complete.
The story does not describe the transformation which will naturally take place in the future, when the doctor learns to separate himself from his clients and his healing energies. Despite feelings of failure and betrayal, it is clear the client is indeed healing and will recover. After the ritual, the doctor will begin the transformation into a true professional.
I have experienced the transformation from intern to professional in my first career. For this reason, in my work as an intuitive consultant, for which I have received credentials as a metaphysician, I provide the standard disclaimer: For entertainment purposes. No refunds. I do not diagnose, prescribe, or treat any medical condition. You must be 18 years of age or older.
However; this is not just a simple disclaimer. An intuitive consultant is not presently licensed through any official government regulation board of which I am aware, and when performed by a person who is not a professional counselor, providing services as an intuitive is purely entertainment. Whether it works, whether the predictions come true, whether it seems to help a person or not, an intuitive consultation is entertainment, and entertainment only.
Does this mean that an intuitive consultation does not have power? Hardly … and let me explain: As a comparison, let’s take the salary of the highest paid counselor, and match it against the highest paid entertainer. Who makes more money? Whose work has more power? Oprah Winfrey did not become one of the highest paid women in the world because she is a professional counselor. She became wealthy as an entertainer. Believe me, entertainment helps. Sometimes, it helps a lot.
There are many times when clients confess private information to me through the phone, or typing in chat. Sometimes I hear and see client problems which are more serious than I can deal with as an entertainer, and I have to say ” stop right there.” There are, honestly, some things that entertainment can’t do. And, as we would have wished happened in Kafka’s ” Metamorphosis “, sometimes I need to drop the ritual of going through a consultation and let my client seek and receive professional help.
In other ways ( although I’m certainly no doctor ! ) my work as an intuitive is more like the second Kafka story. Like the dream sequence, there were numerous unplanned initiation rituals in my intuitive learning process … I remember going through a phase when certain cards would appear over and over, regardless of how thoroughly the deck was shuffled.
Breaking through the law of averages is something that many, many practitioners have experienced, as a sort of ritual initiation granted by the universe.
Aside from unplanned ritual initiations granted by the universe, there are also rituals that I choose to do. Many of these rituals have become habit, like the first Kafka story. For instance, asking the first name and birth-date for everyone involved in an issue. Why? Well, my standard explanation is that the birth dates help reveal hidden correspondences within the readings. It is very true, that individual correspondences are the main reason for this practice … but that’s not the whole story.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: when I first became available online as a professional intuitive consultant, I would receive call after call from people asking me the same, identical question; each client often using the exact same working as each other. It was truly surreal.
The strangest thing about these sessions was that the clients’ issues mirrored my own issues; things I was pondering my my own life, sometimes juxtaposing with my personal reality in a totally freaky way. Like any ethical professional, I was honest and gave answers that came up during the session.
I got great feedback, and was informed as predictions came to pass. The only problem is, I was helping my clients resolve the same kinds of issues that continue to be unresolved in my own life. Talk about feeling betrayed … I could really relate to how Kafka’s ” Country Doctor ” felt.
Just like my clients, I too needed regular work, more money, a better love life, and good advice for how to achieve those goals … the how, when, where, who, why and as many details as a genuine intuitive consultation may provide at any particular moment in time for any specific issue or series of issues.
Well, after some time of going through this little ritual of asking for names and birthdates, this dreamlike phase came to an end … clients began to become more comfortable discussing a variety of topics, the session results are even better now than they were before, and when my clients leave feedback, their comments make me smile. And, yes, I’m seeing a five-star rating these days.
Sometimes the universe gives us rituals and initiations. We pass from our past through the present ritual and then go through whatever learning phase we need to get to the future on the other side. Then, looking back at that spontaneous ritual, we can really appreciate a transition we never expected, never wrote nor starred in, and certainly never directed.
Like many people, I recognize and relate to the symbolism and feelings of the country doctor whose story is all about experience of ritual initiation designed by and gifted from the universe. With this knowledge, we become aware that the doctor in the story really did help the client, and the doctor will soon discover ritual methods to separate personal from professional healing energies, and create that essential boundary of protection.
On the future path, after the universe has bestowed this ritual gift to the budding ” country doctor “, the universe will receive a truly fine professional in return for those energies.