The recovery of ritual power

An excerpt from chapter 1 of the forthcoming book Remaking the Planet Through Conversation by Carl H. Flygt

The Recovery of Ritual Power: Goethean Conversation and the Jewish Mystical Tradition

Jewish Mysticism
The Jewish tradition is built around scripture of a very special sort. It is a scripture taken to be the inspired and holy word of God himself, having come into this world by way of the hand and mouth of Moses, the greatest of the Hebrew prophets. The texts of Torah are not something that merely speaks about God. Torah is God speaking. For devout Jews, the texts of the Torah are not merely texts about the world. They literally are the world. Jewish scholars and devotees have worked for centuries to understand this linkage between God and the world, and their methods deserve to be understood.

Imagine a small group of men in tenth century Provence or Spain, aware of their otherness and political vulnerability, gathered reverently and in some kind of physiological unison around a hieroglyphic scroll in a room dimly lit by a few candles. They do not simply imagine the holy world that the Bible imagines; what they imagine, by way of their individual physiologies and the conversational  linkage among them, is in fact in the room with them, and they all know it quite directly. They live, albeit momentarily, in a world constituted by the will and the imagination. Its features are as real and as evident to each of them as the real and evident sense-based features of the little room itself and of the world outside. The Torah creates the world they now inhabit, and it is a better world.

This is the beginning of Kabbalah.

Goethean Conversation
Something similar to the achievement of the mystical Jewish Kabbalists can be achieved in the positivist western philosophical-scientific tradition, we think, by means of Goethean conversation. Participants prepared by personal study and concentration exercises gather with circumspect and deliberate movements, with prepared ideas, with significant inner soul strength and flexibility and with a sense of momentous and holy dread, in a familiar and well-lit room accented by artistic forms and colors.

These mystics or post-mystics work not from God’s law and God’s word codified abstrusely in scripture but from a demonstrated inner sense of the universal moral law, of Christ’s injunction to love God with the whole heart and to love the neighbor as the self. Accordingly they refrain scrupulously and verifiably from making superficial, disruptive and inartful utterances and gestures and focus instead on a shining, revelatory and clairvoyantly reported text, linking in time through some sort of causal chain to events and objects in the local terrestrial cosmos.

Their performances are digitally and biometrically recorded, which they and others examine post facto. They cooperate in this clean, well-lit room to build a tangible, outer imaginative world in speech, color and physical vibration that springs out of the deep, local cosmic past and that extends into the deep, local cosmic future. As angels and even as gods they take up precise positions, even actual coordinates, in the hyper-dimensional world that the text communicates and they work together further to explore, to instantiate and to organize that world.

Torah World, Goethean World
The Torah world of the early Kabbalah contains something of God in every individual word, letter and part of letter in the text. Everything there reveals God at some level because it is God speaking. Everything there has meaning and reference in that world, a meaning that has been teased out by earnest and sincere scholarship over the past 1000 years, in the absence of the Temple ritual since the beginning of the Diaspora. What does God want to communicate to us by putting these words together in this exact way? How do we make of ourselves and of Israel a perfect sacrifice to God?

The Goethean world is constructed by the self-movements, radiations and microgestures of free-willed human beings. It is a vibrational terrestrial matrix, issuing from the core of living, thinking, self-disclosing human beings, filled with clairvoyant potential and relief. Everything there reveals the cosmos because the human beings present issue from the cosmos itself. Everything there is an appendage of the cosmos, issuing from and developed over inordinate phases, past and future, of cosmic evolution. What does the cosmos require of us now, at this stage in its unfolding?

Gematria and Geometry
For the Jewish mystics the words and letters of the Torah scroll have not only a semantic significance but a numerical significance. The word of God is filled with gematria, with combinatorics, with astronomical and seasonal calculations that show man how to live in a world of flocks, fields and recently, in hostile kingdoms and cities. The attitude of calculation and anticipation comes to inform the Jewish worldview, and it produces exceptional figures in philosophy, politics, finance and natural science.

For the Goetheanists, the expressions and gestures in their formal conversations, the cosmic forces in their gardens and livestock, the world symbolism in their architecture, sculpture and eurythmy have a geometrical significance, not merely a moral one. The terrestrial world and its cosmic womb is filled with Hellenic forms and expression of perfect beauty, and human beings are bound and committed to it by the law and necessity of their personal freedom. The attitude of love and kindness comes to inform the planetary worldview, and it produces angels living and visible among its human citizens.

Recovery of Ritual Power
It should be emphasized that these mystical social modes, both Kabbalist and modern positivist, are a type of ritual. Ritual throughout the history of complex society has always been the fulcrum of social power, from the oracle bones of Shang China to the hymn rituals of Brahminic India to the fire rites of Persia, from the Pharaonic cults of Egypt and the animal sacrifices of Chaldea and Judea to the Catholic Mass and Islamic schedules of prayer in the Middle Ages.

Secular society in the 21st century has largely abandoned the life of ritual power, and we think we know both at what cost and why. Ritual and cosmic power have been overpowered and lost because conversation, today a highly degenerate ritual, is not understood objectively; ritual and cosmic power, and their soul-nourishing qualities, can be recovered on a universal, history-transforming basis because an empirical and theory-based study and practice of conversation is possible.