31 December, 2010

What should I do this year end? g f xavier

1.Make the last day best day of the year.
2.Thank all who came across in this year of life.

3.Pat one’s own back.
4.Smile at all persons and the things around.
5.Disorganize the room only to set new next year.
6.Leave the mobile phone uncharged.
7.Keep the fingers off from the keyboard.
8.Have a look at the nature.
9.Do not reflect.
10.Run a lap, draw a picture, read an article.
11.No alarm clock.
12.Ask God ‘Why me?’.

Kelly Clarkson The Last Day Of The Year Lyrics
What happened to the man who used to take me
straight into misery
I want you back and now I must admit it shames me
How could this be?

Tell me what's this desperation
'Cuz I don't recognize these chains
I think I made a bad mistake

'Cause once I ran away
I've loved you since the day
The day I broke your heart (heart heart heart heart)
It's more than I can take
I loved you since the day
The day we fell apart (part, part part part)
Now everything is coming under
'Cuz you were the chance I can't afford to waste
I loved you since the day
The day we fell apartt

I must admit the grass looks so much greener
On the other side
Since you left I notice now you're so much meaner
And it's something I think I like

Tell me what’s this desperation
'Cuz I don't recognize these chains
I think I made a bad mistake.
[- From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/k/kelly-clarkson-lyrics/the-last-day-of-the-year-lyrics.html -]

Nothing else to say to all my friends.

Vielen Dank………
شكرا لك………..
Je vous remercie………..
Jetzt Dank Ich Dir - Christina Stürmer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0EJflN1L5k)

29 December, 2010

Behind Alles Gute........... (g f xavier)

Alles Gute…..I hear this often and again as I venture into.  Is there anything called luck or chance? Dictionary.com depicts Luck as the force that seems to operate for good or evil in a person’s life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities.
To me luck is just a word found out to console one in an unwanted event or a word to downplay one’s capability of achieving something. The words luck and chance are the result of human ignorance. As I read elsewhere, “The rationalist feels the belief in luck is a result of poor reasoning or wishful thinking. To a rationalist, a believer in luck who asserts that something has influenced his or her luck commits the ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ logical fallacy”. 
(Not interested in going to the absurdness of trusting a bracelet, ring or chain for luck or fortune. These irrational thinking paved way centuries ahead to creating Goddess Fortuna and so on.)
I read in one of Dozy’s articles, “Chess is a game of cool calculation; luck has nothing to do with it”. There is a good calculation and effort behind what it happens. There is a reason behind anything and everything. There is a reason to score high and to be at the fag end. There is a reason to fall in love and to leave the one whom you love. For everything there is a situation, someone behind, our efforts, etc…
Buddhism would explain better. Buddhism teaches that whatever happens does so because of a cause or causes and not due to luck, chance or fate. In the words of Ven S Dhammika “Becoming sick, for example, has specific causes. One must come into contact with germs and one’s body must be weak enough for the germs to establish themselves. There is a definite relationship between the cause (germs and a weakened body) and the effect (sickness) because we know that germs attack the organisms and give rise to sickness.” There is nothing called luck in Christianity. Everything is from God,
My own experiences endorse the irrationality on the belief in luck, chance or fate. I always found a cause for what happened in life. My effort or my fault, someone or something, etc… My belief in God doesn’t allow me to say a pure rational stand denying Him. But nothing is on our way and nothing is destined. Create your own future and the way it should be. Use all the means for it, primarily God. Have the best fight against all odds. The chemistry is in you.

28 December, 2010

Gone are the days.........

Again another year gone……………….
That was a lukewarm year for me. Lot of things happened but almost nothing I did.
Year began waiting for the much hyped ‘fly away’ moment. So long and so long, many many questions from all quarters especially from ‘anybody’. Fabricated answers and cooked up explanations featured for 9 months.
Nothing productive I did. Almost all the New Year resolves remained broken and un-followed. Thrilling to see me glancing on all these and smiling away.
It feels to be the longest year in my life with trying times. Of course it is not new to be through trying times.
A Jain monk, looking at my palms, said that the life ahead is full of tough times. Nothing will come my way, but I need to grab it. Will yearn for every moment. Almost true…………
I try not to be blithe or naive. Still I say ‘no complaints’.
Be optimistic. There are so many elements that urge me to be optimistic and positive. Thanks to the circle of friends around the ‘given circle’. Thanks to the old school classmates with whom I am reknit. Thanks to the electronic friends whom I have never met in person. Thanks to my dreams over the grim realities. Thanks to everything that kept me living.
Sorry to endorse the statement “I live only because of the fear to end life on my own”.

23 December, 2010

A Christmas wish. (from g f xavier)

A Christmas and New Year wish from G.F.
Why to wish?
People feed on words, live by words, would fall apart without them.
We almost never see reality. What we see is a reflection of it, in the form of words and concepts, which we then proceed to take for reality.
Christmas is the time when God makes a descent upon men.
 One Christmas day a father was helping his children to build a snowman. A plane was passing over head and the smallest child gazing at it said, “Daddy how do people climb up into the sky to get into planes?”
“They don’t, Child”, replied the father. “The planes come down out of the sky to collect the people.”
This little anecdote captures the message of Christmas. We don’t have to go up into the sky to find God; he came down on earth to find us. This is Christmas.

May this Christmas be an especially happy one for you, filled with every happiness and lots of good things, too, the kind that will bring good luck, success and prosperity in everything that you do, in the New Year too.

I have a poem for you.
All of yester year in behind us
So the past with sobs and sighs.
Walking, we tread the virgin year.
Year of our ‘life’
Year of all ‘yes’
Year of ‘triumphs’.
So I never gaze behind
Not to be a pillar of salt.

            I am reminded of the words of Susan longacra “Reach for the stars even if you have to stand on the cactus”. We have nothing to look back only to become pillars of salt. We aim at prospects and not retrospect.

Let us make a prayer together “O come, Emmanuel, God’s presence among us, our king, our Judge, our source of strength, after all these years we marvel that you have been born into our world. Give us eyes to see you and a heart to welcome you with deep love and gratitude. The distance between you and us be measured by the distance of us with the service to God’s poor. Remind that Jesus is our first love and that anything else is secondary. Let 2011 be a year in which our life becomes a brighter reflection of who you are.

Ring out the old, Ring in the new, ring, happy bells, across the snow; the year in gang, let his go, ring out the false, ring in the true.

22 December, 2010

History of the ground (part V of the Grand Mosque of Damascus)

For more than 3000 years before umayyaden dynasty was the ground of Damascus mosque a sacred ground for various groups. Damascus is known to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. There is no knowledge about how Damascus was in the third millennium BC. The documented history of the city starts in the second millennium BC, in the Amorite period, when Damascus became the capital of a small Aramaean principality. The spot where the mosque now stands was a temple of Hadad in the Aramaean era. They built the temple in 1000 BC to God Hadad Ramman, the god of thunderstorm and rain. The Aramaean presence was attested by the discovery of a sphinx, excavated in the north-east corner of mosque.

A huge Temple of Jupiter was built over the Aramean Temple by the Romans in the 1st century AD. The temple was made on a raised rectangular platform with square corners on all four sides. With the break-up of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, Syria became a part of the eastern province of the Byzantine Empire. It was during the 4th century that the temple became a church. The temple was broken and a church was built and was dedicated to John the Baptist. The Muslim took over the Damascus in 636. However, it did not affect the church. Under the Umayyad caliph Al-Walid I the church was demolished and between 706 and 715 the current mosque built in its place. The building today is shared by both the Christians and Muslim Pilgrims.

(Temple of Jupiter: Just in front of the Mausoleum of Saladin is a small archaeological garden, where a few of the columns and some masonry from the Roman Temple of Jupiter, which was later replaced by the Umayyad Mosque, have been preserved. The western gateway to the temple can also be seen at the entrance to Souq al-Hamidiyya.)

(A sphinx is a mythological creature that is depicted as a recumbent feline with a human head. It has its origins in sculpted figures of lionesses with female human. The sphinx is also used to represent some gods with the use of heads other than human)

18 December, 2010

Umayyad Caliphs (661-750) (part IV of the Grand Mosque of Damascus)

Umayyad Caliphs (661-750)
  • Muawiyah I ibn Abu Sufyan (661-680)
  • Yazid I ibn Muawiyah (680-683)
  • Muawiya II ibn Yazid (683-684)
  • Marwan I (684-685)
  • Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (685-705)
  • al-Walid I ibn Abd al-Malik (705-715)
  • Suleiman ibn Abd al-Malik (715-717)
  • Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (717-720)
  • Yazid II ibn Abd al-Malik (720-724)
  • Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (724-743)
  • al-Walid II ibn Abd al-Malik (743-744)
  • Yazid III ibn Abd al-Malik (744)
  • Ibrahim ibn Abd al-Malik (744)
  • Marwan II (744-750)
The Umayyads did manage to achieve a high degree of stability, particularly after 'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan succeeded to the caliphate in 685. Under his rule and that of the four sons who succeeded him, the dynasty at Damascus reached the zenith of its power and glory. He is also known as ‘father of kings’. During his time the greatly remembered buildings such as the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the lovely country palaces in the deserts of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq were constructed.

The major advancements/accomplishments of the Umayyad Dynasty are the following:
1. The capital of Islam moves to Damascus, Syria
2. Expansion of Islam touched the regions of India, China, North Africa, and Spain
3. Arabic is the official language of the Empire
4. Arabian currency is used about the Empire
5. Roads are built
6. Postal routes are created.

Under 'Abd al-Malik, the Umayyads expanded Islamic power still further. To the east they extended their influence into Transoxania, an area north of the Oxus River in today's Soviet Union, and went on to reach the borders of China. To the west, they took North Africa, in a continuation of the campaign led by 'Uqbah ibn Nafi' who founded the city of Kairouan - in what is now Tunisia - and from there rode all the way to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
The greatest Umayyad builder Al Walid, son of Abd-al- Malik enlarged and beautified the great mosque of Makkah, rebuilt that of madinah, erected in Syria a number of schools and places of worship. He was perhaps the first ruler in medieval times to build hospitals for persons with chronic diseaces. But his greatest achievement was the conversion in Damascus of the site of the Cathedral of St.john the Baptist into a Mosque. The Umayyad mosque is still considered the fourth holiest sanctuary of Islam, after three harams of makkah, al-madinah and Jerusalem.

15 December, 2010

Umayyad dynasty. (part III of the Grand Mosque of Damascus)

The period concerning us is 661 – 750. But before going directly to this period it will be worthwhile to know in short the history of Islam empires till Umayyad.
After the death of Mohammed Islam was ruled by four men called the Rightly Guided Caliphs or the righteous Caliphs. It was after the murder of the last of these Caliphs that Islam started to move in various directions
After the prophet Mohammed, the next Caliph was Abu Bakar (Mohammed's Father-in-law) (573-634) the next was Umar (634-644), Uthman (644-656), and the last Rightly Guided Caliph Ali (Mohammed's Son-in-law) (656-661).
The death of Ali split Islam into two directions, the son of Ali, Husayn guided Muslims under the premise that the leader of Islam must be a blood descendent of Ali, who was Mohammed's family. These people are seen today as Shiite Muslims. The other leader was Mu'awiyah, he was the first leader of the Umayyad Dynasty (661-750). According to Philip Khuri Hitti, scholar of Islam, Mu'awiyah’s Islam was considered of convenience rather than conviction.  These people are called Sunni because they believe any Muslim can lead the faith.
Mayyad dynasty ist he first great Muslim dynasty, who were not closely related to Mohammed, to rule the Empire of the Caliphate (ad 661–750). Umayyad rule was divided between two branches of the family: the Sufyānid (reigned 661–684), descendants of Abū Sufyān, and the Marwanid (reigned 684–750), Marwān I and his successors. 

08 December, 2010

Grand Mosque of Damascus (Part 1)

“Inhabitants of Damascus, four things give you a marked superiority over the rest of the world; your climate, your water, your fruits and your baths. To these I wanted to add a fifth, this mosque.” al-Walid I ibn Abd-al-Malik.

The Ummayad Mosque, also known as the Grand Mosque of Damascus (Arabic: جامع بني أمية الكب, transl. dschami bani umayyat-ul-kabiir), is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. Located in one of the holiest sites in the old city of Damascus, it is of great architectural importance. It is thought that the mosque had the largest golden mosaic in the world. In 1893 a fire damaged the mosque and many mosaics were lost. There is a shrine containing the body of St. John the Baptist. Also the head of Husayn ibn Ali, Mohamed’s grandson, is kept in this mosque. In 2001 Pope John Paul II visited the mosque, primarily to visit the relics of John the Baptist. It was the first time a pope paid a visit to a mosque. My attempt here is to study the history, religious and structural significance of the mosque. I fully depended on the books and articles, also not forgetting the fact of the bulk amount of pictures and information received from Internet. The outcome may not be perfectly scientific but the whole amount of information and study, I owe to the authors and books mentioned at the end of the write up.

04 December, 2010

Does god exist?

I found this video worthwhile and hope it provokes us to think a little bit.
I got this from Suzan Simpson when she posted it in Facebook.
I thought it necessary to upload it im my blog.
Some times we are carried away by certain realities and we substutute God for these mere realities.

27 November, 2010

A glimpse of Jesus and Francis in him. (g f xavier)

Who will be the ambassador of the Catholic Church in the future Kerala?

Even before her death in 1996, Mother Teresa was widely known as a "living saint" in India.  No one in Kerala will agitate if Bobby Jose capuchin is a depicted as the next living saint in Kerala. More than his words, more than his admonitions, more than his comforting style, he attempted to live the way of life he was called into. He is not a miracle worker and a magician but who is based on the very reality of human existence. He is a spiritual master and in Indian terms ‘Guru’. More than imaginations he valued life on earth. The people described as saints in The Bible were however still very much human. They were called, they were holy, and they were extremely dedicated (both in terms of attitude, and in the sense of being set apart), but they were still real people, far from perfect. Saints never stopped being normal people - fishermen, farmers, doctors, teachers, carpenters. The "little people" of the congregations were as much saints as the most famous and prominent ones such as Peter and Paul.

So, in this sense, he is a holy man very much in the line of Bible. He is just proving that the sainthood begins at the birth of a person, or the responsibility to live as a saint begins with the birth. A saint is not born when he dies and canonized by authorities. God has already scripted him into his book of the legends for the people in next centuries to ponder on the meaning of life. With his way of life he belongs to the rare Species of Francis of Assisi, Bonaventure, Felix of Cantalice, Giles of Assisi, Maximillian Kolbe, Clare of Assisi, Joseph of Cupertino, etc… He is the future torch bearer of the catholic life, saintly life. He is defining with his own life the other meaning of Catholicism, the other meaning of ‘life’. His words are the true sign of the Divine presence within us.

In a time when the Kerala church approaches everything diplomatically and politically to hold on its influence among the folk, he chose to be a silent observer sculpting himself to be a question mark, by his simple way of challenging himself to live Christ Jesus. He has grown beyond rites, churches, denominations, castes, sects and religions. He is a holy person ‘vox Populi’. (Beginning with the early Christian martyrs in the first century, holy persons were chosen by popular acclaim. Legends of their lives were spread through word of mouth. Their stories evolved into some wonderfully fantastic tales, probably arising from our intellectual, moral, and spiritual need for heroes. They fed the hungry, clothed the naked, healed the sick, and defended the defenseless).

To all my friends who read these from different parts of the world speak with him and you will feel strong in inner guidance. If you sense darkness inside your heart, look at him and sense the light of God. Feel how your wounds melt in Christ. Begin a journey of love. If the 2.9% Christians in India are known to the whole world through Mother Teresa of Kolkata, in the future the Kerala Catholics will be known through Bobby Jose capuchin. He is the next Padre Pio. He lives Christ in the way of Francis of Assisi. God molded himself as the living saint.

"Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunder peals, crying, "Hallelujah! For The Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure" - for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are true words of God." (Revelation 19:6-9 RSV)

(This is written in appreciation to his spirituality and way of life. I have not attempted to criticize his philosophy and literature. More than his well-known books and ever appreciated homilies and classes, I would consider his life as basis for what is written above. What is scripted is my very personal opinion as I knew him for the last 20 years and I had an opportunity to live with him in the same community for a considerable period of time.)

The link given below leads to one of his speeches in his mother tongue 'Malayalam'.

22 November, 2010

Summary and Crits. (A short description about an athropologist and Religionswissenscaftler) Part 9.


His works deals with a lot of notions and ideas. As I have already explained, here i may try to bring everything together. So the main notion is his ritual process. He had developed a unique ritual approach stressing the processual nature of ritual among the Ndembu and of ritual activity in complex societies. „I have used the term "anti-structure,"...to describe both liminality and what I have called "communitas." I meant by it not a structural reversal...but the liberation of human capacities of cognition, affect, volition, creativity, etc., from the normative constraints incumbent upon occupying a sequence of social statuses“(From Ritual to Theater). He is for the transformation of the society or the betterment of the society. Society (societas) seems to be a process rather than a thing--a dialectical process with successive phases of structure and communitas. There would seem to be--if one can use such a controversial term--a human "need" to participate in both modalities. Persons starved of one in their functional day-to-day activities seek it in ritual liminality. The structurally inferior aspire to symbolic structural superiority in ritual; the structurally superior aspire to symbolic communitas and undergo penance to achieve it (based on his book ‘The ritual process’) Turner believes that individuals deprived of either structure or communitas will seek to fill their needs through rituals that provide them with either structure, in the case of those that are structurally inferior, or communitas, in the case of those that are structurally superior.


Turner’s schema provides a social revolution through ritual, which draws both from his Marxist past and his Christian present. His structure anti-structure ritual process is dialectic in nature. Theoretically provocative discussions on Turner are very rare. Victor Turner is primarily an anthropologist. His concrete data regarding ritual comes from his fieldwork with the Ndembu. Turner's theoretical approach is reliant on the work of Arnold van Gennep, who developed the idea of liminality in his own work. Turner used ideas, like communitas and liminality to organize his thoughts and to assist in understanding the ritual behavior of the tribe he studied. Turner's work is also influenced by structuralists, such as Levi-Strauss, and by sociologists of religion, such as Emile Durkheim.
 Turner has often been praised for the careful detail in his accounts of ritual among the Ndembu. Turner has been widely acclaimed for his views on the processual nature of ritual, and his identification of the liminal phase in ritual was an important innovation in the anthropological study of religion and ritual. Turner has been praised for the ethnographic richness of his ritual analyses and for his theoretical innovations, but he cannot be applauded as a great systematizer. Turner's failure to treat his ideas systematically is evident from the multitude of labels with which his work has been characterized: It has been called "situational analysis" (Collins 1976), "symbolic action theory" (Holmes 1977), "the semantics of symbolism" (Gilsenan 1967), "comparative symbology" (Grimes 1976; Turner 1974b), "anti-structural social anthropology" (Blast 1985), and "processual symbolic analysis" (Arbuckle 1986; Keyes 1976; Moore 1984; Saler 1979).
Turner's most valuable contributions remain his conceptual apparatus, his distinct analytical mode of ritual analysis, and his application thereof in his Ndembu research. This last accomplishment is a major strength of his work. He was not a theorist for theory’s sake. 

}Axel, Michaels (Hrsg.,1997): Klassiker der Religionswissenschaft, München: Beck.

}Ashley, Kathleen M (ed.1990): Victor Turner and the construction of Cultural Criticism, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
}Turner, Victor (1957): Schism and continuity in an African society ,Oxford: Berg.
}Turner, Victor (1969): The ritual process, Structure ans anti-structure, NY: Aldine publishing company.
}Turner, Victor (1974):Dramas, fields and metaphors, Ithaca and London: Cornell university press.

20 November, 2010

Relation between ritual and religion. (A short description about an athropologist and Religionswissenscaftler) Part 8.

Turner regarded that there is in ritual an essential element of religious belief. The religious component in ritual was essential for Turner. We see that for Turner ritual is religious, and religion involves both social experiences in ritualistic activity and a systematic corpus of beliefs "which have for their object invisible and intangible beings or powers which a human group recognizes as superior, on which it depends" (Victor Turner in ‘From ritual to theatre: The human seriousness of play’). Ritual is inspired by a religious belief in supernatural beings or powers.

 Religion in Turner's work refers to both belief (religion as thought) and practice (religion as ritual action). The component of practice or action is clearly demonstrated by Turner's focus on detailed analyses of ritual performances. The component of religious belief and its significance in ritual, however, are less well developed in Turner's writings.

The religion is above any secular form of thought since by religious belief in supernatural beings and its powers; its nature is different from the worldly or better inner-worldly forms of knowledge. The references are made to the supernatural or ‘really real’ and they are independent from man made arrangements.  In this way, it can be said that religion is not just like any other system of ideas and does have supreme ontological value, but only for the subjects involved in religious rituals. Religion, referring to the supernatural, is more than "theory," but only in the eye of the believer.

18 November, 2010

The process of ritual. Victor Witter Turner (A short description about an athropologist and Religionswissenscaftler) Part 7.

"Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in ‘Rites de Passage’," is his first essay discussing the processual form of ritual. He developed further his processual view on ritual. Very early in 1955, he already suggested that the temporal structure of rituals of rebellion, as described by Gluckman (1954), might shed light on the capacity of rituals to transfer a rebellious affect to the official social order. In Arnold von Gennep’s ‘Rites de Passage’, he found a basis to further develop the ritual analysis. Ritual itself is processual in form.
Arnold von Gennep argued that all rites of passage share similar features, including:
1.    Period of segregation from previous way of life (preliminary phase);
2.    State of transition from one status to another (liminal phase); and
3.    Process of introduction to the new social status and the new way of life (postliminal phase).
Van Gennep regarded rites of passage as essentially necessary for the normal and healthy life of society. He believed that rites of passage preserve social stability by releasing the pressure built up in individuals through giving them new social status and new roles.

On the background of his field study among Ndembu of Zambia, Turner presented the processual view of ritual with a distinction between life-crisis rituals and rituals of affliction. Life-crisis rituals refer to that class of rituals which mark the transition of one phase in the development of a person to another phase. Such phases are important points in the physical or social development of the ritual subject, such as birth, puberty, or death. Rituals of affliction, on the other hand, are performed for individuals who are considered to have been affected or bound by the spirits of deceased relatives whom they have forgotten or neglected.

Then he proceeded further in explaining the notion of field. To this distinction he owes to Kurt Lewin’s field theory. Turner in ‘The forest of symbols: Aspects of Ndembu ritual Ithaca’, distinguished the social from the cultural field in which rituals take place. The social field (or action-field) refers to the groups, relationships, and social-structural organizational principles of the society in which the rituals are performed.  In Ndembu society, the social field is dominated by the contradiction between matrilineal descent and virilocality. In the cultural field, ritual symbols are regarded as clusters of abstract meanings. Turner distinguished four components in Ndembu religion.
1.    A belief in the existence of a high god (Nzambi) who has created the world but does not interfere with worldly human activities
2.    A belief in the existence of ancestor spirits or "shades" who may afflict the Ndembu
3.    A belief in the intrinsic efficacy of certain animal and vegetable substances
      4. A belief in the destructive power of female witches and male sorcerers.

16 November, 2010

Ritual and Symbols. Victor Witter Turner (A short description about an athropologist and Religionswissenscaftler) Part 6.

Victor Turner altered the way ritual is viewed, by emphasizing its role as an agent of social change rather than an agent for conserving the status quo. Turner spent his career exploring rituals. He focused on how to understand the transmission of cultural symbols from generation to generation, and the changes in rituals that reflected social change. He argued that rituals are constructed of symbols. “Rituals are storehouses of meaningful symbols by which information is revealed and regarded as authoritative, as dealing with the crucial values of the community. (Victor Turner in ‘the ritual process: Structure and anti-structure’) In his own words “ a symbol is the smallest unit of ritual which still retains the specific properties of ritual behavior; it is a "storage unit" filled with a vast amount of information”.
There are three levels of meaning of symbols. He explains this in his book ‘The forest of symbols: Aspects of Ndembu ritual Ithaca’. The exegetical meaning is obtained by "questioning indigenous informants about observed ritual behavior". Exegesis can also be derived through the analysis of myths, through the fragmentary interpretations of separate rituals or ritual stages, and through written or verbally uttered doctrines and dogmas. The operational meaning comes from observing what is done with the symbol, the structure and composition of the group that handles the symbol and the affective qualities of the handling of the symbol. The operational meaning also enquires that why some people are absent at the performance of ritual.. The positional meaning of a symbol derives from its relationship to other symbols in a totality. It reveals the symbol’s hidden meanings.
Turner inferred the properties of symbols from three levels or fields of meaning: the exegetical, operational, and positional meanings of ritual symbols. The three major empirical properties of dominant symbols are (1) condensation, polysemy, or multivocality, when one single dominant symbol represents many different things and actions; (2) unification of disparate significata, where the significata (the underlying meanings of the symbol) are interconnected by virtue of their common analogous qualities, or by association in fact or thought; and (3) polarization of meaning or bipolarity, in which dominant symbols possess two distinct poles of meaning; at the ideological or normative pole.

14 November, 2010

"liminality" and "communitas". Victor Witter Turner (A short description about an athropologist and Religionswissenscaftler) Part 5.

The most important contribution Turner made to the field of anthropology is his work on liminality and communitas. The term ‘liminality’ is not found in any of the available dictionaries to me. I need to further my search some time later. But it is found that the word ‘liminality’ is derived from the Latin “limen,” which means “threshold”—that is, the bottom part of a doorway that must be crossed when entering a building. Victor Turner owes to Arnold van Genepp’s rites de passage for the notion and word ‘liminality’.
Turner noted that in "liminality," the transitional state between two phases, individuals were "betwixt and between"—they did not belong to the society that they previously were a part of, and they were not yet re-incorporated into that society. Turner first formulated his theory of liminality in the late 1960s, and it continued to be a central theme in his work until his death in 1983. Liminality is an ambiguous period characterized by humility, seclusion, tests, sexual ambiguity, and "communitas". It is the condition of being midpoint between status sequences, a no longer not yet status. Liminal individuals have nothing, in Turner’s words, “no status, insignia, secular clothing, rank, and kinship position, nothing to demarcate them structurally from their fellows”.
The "communitas" is an unstructured community where all members are equal. Turner introduces this idea as the state of hippies in Western society, and then compares occurrences of communitas in other tribal communities. Communitas is characterized by spontaneity, rather than goals and decisions. Communitas exists between periods of structure, and is revealed in liminality.
Turner conceived of communitas as an intense community spirit, the feeling of great social equality, solidarity, and togetherness. It is characteristic of people experiencing liminality together. Communitas is an acute point of community. It takes community to the next level and allows the whole of the community to share a common experience, usually through a rite of passage. This brings everyone onto an equal level—even if people are higher in positions, they were lower at one point and know what that means.
 Turner distinguished three types of communitas in society: (1) existential or spontaneous communitas, which is free from all structural demands and is fully spontaneous and immediate; (2) normative communitas, which is organized into a social system; and (3) ideological communitas, which refers to utopian models of societies based on existential communitas and is also situated within the structural realm. The types of communitas are phases, not permanent conditions. If we take for example the "hippie" movement in the late 60s, following the communitas scheme, its development can be outlined as having started with the spontaneous communitas which occurs in "happenings" such as rock concerts, experiments with drug-use. With these happenings a union of followers was normatively organized, with their own places and times where communitas could be experienced on the margins of the society at large. Eventually complete ideologies were developed to promote, ideally for all members of the society, the type of ‘communitas’ the hippies experienced. In the end, however (as was the case with the hippie movement), the fate of any type of communitas is inevitably a "decline and fall into structure and law", after which a new form of communitas may rise again. (Based on the books of Victor turner, The Ritual process and Dramas, fields and metaphors: Symbolic action in human society)

13 November, 2010

The notion of ‘Social drama’. Victor Witter Turner (A short description about an athropologist and Religionswissenscaftler) Part 4.

Social drama is defined by Turner (1985: 196), as “an eruption from the level surface of ongoing social life, with its interactions, transactions, reciprocities, and its customs making for regular, orderly sequences of behavior.” Social drama, says Turner, is defined as aharmonic or disharmonic social process, arising in conflict situations. There exist conflicts in a society. People are divided among themselves and because of the imaginative power, or in the terms of Victor Turner, imaginative fire within the people give rise to social drama.  A society is defined by Turner as a set of interactive processes that are punctuated by situations of conflict, with intervals between them.

During his fieldwork among the Ndembu (December 1950 to February 1952, and May 1953 to June 1954), Turner discovered two very much existing principles in Ndembu society: matrilineal descent and virilocality. There was a high rate of divorce among Ndembu and it caused a high rate of residential mobility. Because of this there exist no strong affiliations between the villages and also because of a strong political unity, inter-village disputes frequently take place. As a result, Ndembu society is characterized by many conflicts both within (because of long lineages) and between the villages. Turner introduced the notion of social drama as a device to look beneath the surface of social regularities into the hidden contradictions and eruptions of conflict in the Ndembu social structure. He explains that in a processual form and thus Turner’s social drama theory has four phases of public action:
1.    Breach: A breach of regular norm-governed social relationships between persons or groups of a social unit.
2.    Crisis:  a crisis or extension of the breach, unless the conflict can be sealed off quickly.
3.    Redressive action: It ranges from personal advice and informal mediation or arbitration to formal juridical and legal machinery, and to resolve certain kinds of crisis or legitimate other modes of resolution, to the performance of public ritual.
4.  Reintegration: It is the reintegration of the disturbed social group or social recognition of an
      irreparable breach or schism.