Critique and Non-Critique of Rituals

Is there an object of analysis for someone who studies rituals? We can't say it is a 'field' of research as without ritual there would be no society. Rituals are everywhere. Let's call someone who studies ritual an 'analyst', but let's also consider an actor, someone who can actually play a role through experience of a ritual - this would mean he simultaneously knows the logic of the ritual and to some extent, must be able to analyse it.

You must be able to understand the norms of the ritual and how it unfolds into a ceremony, an uncertain boundary becomes clear between actor and analyst. Not all analyses are equivalent - there appears to be an essential difference between someone who participates properly in a ritual and someone who analyses the ritual without aligning with it - tries to explain it - giving an account of principle and purpose. For the participant must also develop a critical position.

There are many roles and choices to be made, even the 'spectator', here the reader of this text - in the volume outside the volume - find themselves in a similar situation. We have to mark the difference between critiques and place non-critique in a place which would no longer be opposed to or even exterior to critique - they are fundamentally the same.

Ceremony is the most appropriate and the richest word to bring together all the aspects and traits of the event. A critical moment or crisis unfolds however when we propose (deliver, offer and give) a reader-analyst, who may be among us, this work for the purpose of objectivity. The crisis of familiar procedure, academic and editorial.

The problem is in proposing, or offering, 'we' (us, or me) ask for the possibility of intervening, that is of 'contributing' which means bringing a tribute, freely, in the post/book/text.

The ritual, as it unfolds, risks losing its automatic quality - not conforming to the analysts first hypothesis. There is a second. Which? At a certain place in the system, one of the elements ('I' surely, even if the 'I' is not always 'me') no longer knows what it should do. It knows it must do incompatible and contradictory things, counter to itself, risking paralysis in this double obligation. Going-against and going-along-with the desire of of the particpants, supposing they had one desire, does not the hypothesis lead on to suppose that there was a single desire common to all or that each had in themselves only one non-contradictory desire? One can imagine that one participant, even the master of ceremonies themselves, may somehow desire the failure of the ceremony.

More, or less secretly, it goes without saying, and that is why we must tell of the secret, not reveal it, and, with the example of this secret, pass judgement on the secret in general. What is a secret? Even if this post in no way corresponds to a secret ceremony, one may imagine that there is no ceremony, however public and exposed, even if it is the secret of a non-secret, or a secret which is a secret to no one.

  1. The first hypothesis - the ceremony would unfold normally
  2. The second hypothesis?

If we were only to obey a ritual rule, gestures of 'friendship' and politeness' would not be friendly or polite. This is supposed to be out of duty, one must not be friendly or polite out of duty. The proposition is against Kant. Would there be a duty to not to act out of duty? In what way would such a duty or counter duty indebt us? According to what? According to whom?

This is enough to give us vertigo, a hypothesis in the form of a question. Paralysis at the edge of an abyss. Doubtless it would be impolite to appear to be making a gesture, for example by responding to an invite, out of simple duty. It would also be impolite to respond to a friend out of duty, It would be no better to respond to an invitation or to a friend in conformity with duty.

The 'ought' of friendship, like that of politeness, must not be in the order of duty. As soon as it generalises a prescription of a single case - the gesture of friendship or politeness would be destroyed. It must not even take on the form of a rule, never mind a ritual rule.

It would be beaten by rules, or more precisely by norms.

Politeness and the sharp determination of this value relates to what enjoins to go beyond rules, norms and hence, ritual. This internal contradiction in the concept of politeness, is in all normative concepts, involves both rules and invention without rule. Its rule is that no one knows the rule, but is never bound by it. It is impolite to merely be polite out of politeness.

Here is a rule that one not act simply by conformity to the normative rule but not even by virtue of the said rule, out of respect for it.

What is at issue is the concept of duty. By speaking of responsibility in discourse, we are implying already that discourse itself must submit to the norms or to the law of which it speaks. A seemingly impossible implication, inescapable.


Let us proceed directly and without detour. One could and one should tackle a concept or a problem frontally, in a non-oblique way. There would be a concept and a problem, that is to say, something determinable by a knowing and which lies before you, there before you, in front of you, from which comes the necessity to approach from the front, facing toward, in a way which is at once direct, frontal and head on, what is before your eyes, your mouth, your hands and not behind your back, there, before you like an object pro-posed or posed in advance, a question to deal with, therefore quite as much a subject proposed, that is to say, surrendered and offered from the front, surely?

Problem also means in some respects, the excuse given to clear oneself of blame. It seems to designate a cover.

The classic metaphysical definition of responsibility is in ones own name and before the other, but one must take for another, in his place, in the name of the other or of oneself as the other, before another other, and an other of the other, namely the very undeniable of ethics.

We must go further, in the degree to which responsibility not only fails to weaken but on the contrary arises in a structure which is itself supplementary. It would be the duty above all 'not to do it' the 'duty above all not to' approach from the front the pro-positional form of the response, but even within the 'question' form of thought or language.

The non-response

Clearly, it will be possible to say, and it will be true, that non-response is a response. One always has, one always must have, a right not to respond, this liberty belongs to responsibility itself, that is, to liberty that one believes must also be associated with it.

Take an example. What example? This one.

If I respond to an invitation which is made to me to respond to a text collected here, which do me the honour or the kindness of taking an interest in certain earlier threads on the forum, am I not going to be heaping up errors and therefore conduct myself in an irresponsible way - by taking on false responsibilities? What faults?

  1. I find it normal to subscribe and act as if I found myself at ease in a strange place. As if we are sitting at a table with 12 people who were speaking on the whole about 'me' or addressing themselves to 'me'. 'I' who am both 12th insofar as I am part of a group, one among others, yet being thus split or redoubled, the 13th insofar as I am not one example among others in the series of the 12. What if I supposed I could respond to all of them? I could begin by replying? Thus disregading the scholarly and singular strategy of each of the 11 or 12 discourses? Speaking last? In introduction and conclusion, in 12th and 13th place am I not treating them like disciples? This is not the Last Supper!
  2. If I did respond I would put myself in the situation of someone who felt capable of responding, 'he has an answer for everything', he takes himself up to be answering each of us, each question, each objection or criticism; he does not see that each of the texts gathered here has its force, its logic, its singular strategy, that it would be necessary to reread everything. More reasons for not responding.
  3. From 1 and 2 we can glimpse that a certain non-response can attest to this politeness (without rules) of which we spoke above, and finaly to respect for others, that is to say, also to an exigency of responsibilty. Let's wait and see, perhaps pride and self-satisfaction, the elementary confidence which it would take to answer when a good education teaches children that they must not answer back when grown-ups speak to them. No criticism, not to ask them questions.
  4. The respondant presumes that he can respond to the other and before the other because first of all he is able to answer for himself and for all he has been able to do, say or write. This would presume one knew all that one could do or say, or write. All the more reason not to respond. One cannot, one ought not to respond with nothing. The ought and the can are here strangely co-implicated. Perhaps. Let us wait and see.
Continuing these four preceding arguments, I would avoid errors, erros of politeness, moral errors, by not responding elliptically.

If I took heed of all the reasons not to respond, I decided not to respond, then I would run into even worse risks! Which ones?

  1. It looks like I am not taking anyone seriously, that I have an inadmissible ingratitude, culpable indifference.
  2. To exploit the 'good' reasons' for not-responding to make use of silence strategically. Polite silence can become the most insolent weapon and the most deadly irony. Sheilded from criticism, yet feeling incapable of responding to the other and answering for oneself does not one undermine, the concept of responsibility, which is actually the very essence of the socius?
  3. Justifying one's non-response by all these arguments, one can still refer to rules. Nothing could be more immoral and more impolite.
  4. Two contradictory faults appear: claim to mastery or to an overview, and the becoming-work of art - where serious, thoughtful discussion is expected!
So, what are we to do?!

It's impossible to respond here! It is impossible to respond to this question about the response! The logic is too overwhelming. It's Aporia.

No question. No response. No reponsibility. Let us say that there is a secret here. There is something secret.

We speak of a secret without content, without content separable from its performative experience and tracing, no uttering, or propositional argumentation.

Let us say therefore: There is something secret. It would not be a matter of an artistic or technical secret reserved for someone - or for several.

There is something secret. It would not be a question of a secret as a representation dissimulated by a conscious subject, nor the content of a unconscious representation, some secret motive.

There is something secret. The being-there of the secret belongs no more to the private than to the public. It is not a deprived interiority that one would have to reveal, announce, confess, that is, to which one would have to respond by accounting for it. It's not like a military secret that can be solved, if it can be solved, it is no longer a secret - it is only a problem.

There is something secret. It concerns neither that into which a revealed religion initiates us nor that which it reveals, namely a mastery of the passion, nor a learned ignorance, nor the content of an esoteric doctrine. The secret is not mystical.

There is something secret. But it does not conceal itself. Certainly, one could speak this secret in different names, whether one finds them or gives them to it. Moreover, this happens at every instant. It remains secret under other names and it is irreducible to the very name which makes it secret.

There is something secret. One can always speak about it, that is not enough to disrupt it. It remains silent, it will remain a secret. It does not say 'I, the secret'. Whether one respects it or not, the secret remians there impassively, at a distance, out of reach.

There is no longer time nor place.

Without liking philosophy for its own sake, I like something about it, and which above all cannot be reduced to some aesthetic quality, to some source of formal pleasure, this would be in place of the secret. In place of an absolute secret. There would be the passion. There is no passion without secret, this very secret, indeed no secret without this passion.

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