Sunday, November 29, 2015

The role of Ritual

In a discussion on religion, Ramarao Kanneganti said that I was ignoring the vrole of riual. Apparently, there are systematic studies and data on the topic. I jrecently came across this:
The role of ritual in the evolution of social complexity: Five predictions and a drum roll:
"DMR theory posits two clusters of features pertaining to collective ritual and social morphology in the world’s religious traditions (Whitehouse 1995, 2000, 2004, 2012). One cluster—the imagistic mode of religiosity—is characterized by low-frequency (i.e., rarely performed), high-arousal (typically painful or frightening) rituals and small but intensely cohesive communities. The other cluster—the doctrinal mode of religiosity—is characterized by high-frequency (i.e., routinized) low-arousal (often tedious and repetitive) rituals and large-scale, hierarchical, but more diffusely cohesive communities. The imagistic mode is thought to be adaptive for groups that need to stick together in the face of strong temptations to defect—for example, when engaging enemies on the battlefield or large prey on the hunting ground. The doctrinal mode is thought to be adaptive for groups seeking to pool small amounts of resource from individuals in a much larger population so as to create a large, centralised resource in the form of charitable donations, legacies, tax or tribute – for example, when competing coalitions are organized via categorical ties of caste, race, ethnicity, or belief. These contrasting patterns of ritual and group formation have been studied in a few select religious groups both past and present (e.g., Whitehouse & Laidlaw 2004; Whitehouse and Martin 2004; Whitehouse and McCauley 2005), as well as in military groups that may or may not subscribe to beliefs in supernatural agents or forces (e.g., Whitehouse and McQuinn 2012; Whitehouse 2013). In addition to analysis of case study material from social-cultural anthropology, history, and archaeology, evidence that imagistic and doctrinal modes constitute universal features of group formation comes from the analysis of approximately 100 variables pertaining to 645 rituals from 74 cultures (Atkinson and Whitehouse 2011). This early database, allowing synchronic comparison, generated a number of predictions that will be testable using a longitudinal dataset such as Seshat......Here, we lay out five initial predictions to be tested using Seshat. We also provide an alternative to each of our predictions together with competing rationales (Table 2)."


Santaraksita D said...

I think Frits Staal has some very interesting things to say about indic rituals over many articles. There's his famous book Rituals and Mantras: Rules Without Meaning (a shorter read is. One can find the associated documentary on youtube, which among other things documents an Agnicayana.

gaddeswarup said...

Thanks. I read a bit from Roberto Calaso but not the above.