Rituals as a Part of Everyday Human Action

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motivations seem uniquely realistic (Geertz 1993 [1966] cited by Deeley 2004). The study of rituals and ritual actions contributes to an understanding of how and why symbolic culture affects behavior and cognition in religious contexts, and relates to mind, brain physiology, and the development, maintenance, and transmission of beliefs in general.Emile Durkheim, a French pioneer in the fields of anthropology and sociology, and author of The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life saw religion as a means of social cohesion where rituals strengthen the bonds attaching the individual to the society… (Bomar et al. 1999, citing Durkheim 1915). But what constitutes a ritual? Anthropologists express diverse opinions, and interdisciplinary discussions involving theologians, philosophers, cognitive scientists, and others create an even more complex picture.The performance of a complex sequence of symbolic acts is one definition suggested by Victor Turner (1967, 1979, cited by Borman et al. 1999). McGuire (1992) adds the dimension of a sense of awe and wonder that accompanies ritual acts and Kertzer (1988) refines further with the aspect of formalized, structured sequences carried out at specific times and places (Coleman Collins 2000).A hallmark event in the history of the study of the ritual was organized in the mid-1960s by Julian Huxley who brought together influential people like R.D. Laing, Erik Erikson, Edmund Leach, Victor Turner, Desmond Morris, Konrad Lorenz, Myers Fortes, and N. Tinbergen to discuss the topic. Huxley (1966) came up with a formal ethological definition of ritual as an adaptive formalization or canalization of emotionally motivated behavior under the pressure of natural selection specifying the functions of ritual as promoting better, less ambiguous signals for communication, more stimulation and release of behavior patterns in others, reducing intra-specific damage and serving sexual and social bonding behavior (Grimes, 2003).