Recognition And Change

The scientific work of Van Gennep , Hertz and Turner has come to solidify a kind of second wave movement of  exploratory anthropo-logical theory and their discoveries have extended implications for composite modern restructural theory in other related domains of inquiry as well. To read the information that has emerged through their work is to experience a context of perceptual modeling constructs that contains ‘a kind of relevance’ that has evolutionary and universal potential. The heart of their writings give insight into the nature of composite progressionalism and the phenomenon of ‘trans-generation’ as well as the spectra of human and cultural dynamics. This is true even though each writer comes to the subject of progressionalism and recognition from a different angle. We are thus given  ‘thought-model/constructs’ that allow for the possibility to sense fundamental points (qualities) of perceptual and/or affinity recognition as this phenomenon relates to ritual and symbolic change as well as the form-state components that gave those early theories meaning. To experience this information is to confront the fact of existence and time- and this is especially true as we move into the third millennium. As the spread of the modern era continues to exert its influence on the composite planet, we have come near the end of geographic human mapping – as an independent species and/or groups (ie. tribes) unto itself – and the research papers and recorded documentation of the early anthropologists will take on an added significance as the time period for discovering ‘non-modern’ cultures is drawing to a close. In looking at this area of anthropology we are able to learn a little more about the wonder of existence as well as ‘the mystery of our species’.

The writings of Van Gennep are consistent with the use of tripartite summation strategies that establish three points of identity as a internal component that reflect meaning ( and/or perceptual cons-ciousness) and the thrust of his writings seeks to establish what I term a tri-centric holistic ‘balance’ that gives insight into individual, group and symbolic experiences. This aspect of Van Gennep’s work is very exciting . In seeking to understand the ‘balance of components’ that underlie ritual ceremony, Van Gennep writes that the greatest focus (emphasis) that characterizes ritual funeral ceremonies is found in the transition period because this is the period where 1) the two burial funeral structure can be enacted 2) where the rights of living individuals are changed along with the diseased of their families and 3) this is the formal cycle ( time-space) where the most danger exist for both the individual and the composite community and 4) that the individual person matters and as such, that the concept of theory must involve a ‘balance of components’ not separate from the actual experience of the individual. In the first example, the two-burial funeral structure by definition comes with an extended time component and can last anywhere from seven days to several years. Van Gennep would find that the interim experience in between burials involves everything from the danger of the corpse ( on the physical and metaphysical level) as well as the building of leveled or raised coffins ( sometimes, open coffins – in trees even). In some examples his work reflects on the state of the diseased and it’s relationship to the community – and how every group has had to deal with fundamental rites of passage in time and space ( ie. life and death). In the transition cycle, the individual’s life is profoundly altered in a way that parallels the separation of the dead from the community. The actual extent of a given transition varies depending everything from one’s financial state to the emergence of group burial structures. The third example of Van Gennep focus touches on the meta-reality implications of the transition cycle. It is from this perspective that he seeks to understand the question of the soul and the concept of afterlife as viewed from a universal perspective. The dynamics of this aspect of his research would extend to envelope the question of what is death and what is cultural death. Van Gennep has a three dimensional way of viewing human involvement that might be of value in the search for ‘fusion-intergration’ constructs that hint of value. This aspect of his work cannot be overstressed, because at no point does he pretend to actually understand or ‘not-understand’ the resultant of his data from a two-demensional perspective. And even though his use of changing subject focuses can be somewhat unnerving, in the end I found his approach to be more interesting than the mono-focus academic treatises.

Robert Hertz’s work Death and the Right Hand is one of the genesis works that probes into the meta-reality and symbolic reality of death. The thrust of his work seeks to applie a tripartite structure that focused on the intermediary period of this phenomenon as it 1) involved the body of the deceased 2) his/her soul and 3) and the survivors of the experience. In the first example, Hertz’s proceeds to establish the spectra of this subject as it relates to the people in the Malay archchipelago before the mass exposure to European culture. In looking at the body of the diseased we given information about the various stages of preparations that all souls must go through – both spiritually and enacted in ritual preparation . To read this information is to learn of the seriousness of process because many cultures believe that until the final burial has been performed that the soul itself is in danger. The maze of customs in this one area scans the spectrum of possibilities: including the use of drinking the fluids of the dead body to the use of dynamic burial ceremonies that allow for group burial and the burning of the corpse on a giant pyre . In the second example Hertz’s writes of the dynamics of the mourning period ( the mourning of the soul, as well as the mourning of the living). Ritual dynamics in this context involve the use of feeding the disease (or bringing food to the grave of the diseased) . In the third example Hertz’s gives insight into the metaphysics (spirituality) of this subject. The soul is seen as part of a continuum of events that is consistent with the ‘ways of life’- as opposed to an end in itself, yet I do not mean to overgeneralize. The soul is seen as part of a cycle of ‘things’ – either in the sense of one having many lives or the concept of transformation into animals (or even the phenomenon of the soul in transition as a ‘state of being’). In Hertz’s work we are given an opportunity to better understand the interrelationship between death and the community- or the effects of death extending past the actual domain of the individual . His work helps us to see that the passing of an individual is perceived as a lost to the total community . Death in this context extends to reflect both social and political considerations that is not separate from the whole concept of identity and group interaction dynamics. The most interesting aspect to Hertz’s work in this area is the emergence of the ‘free zone’ of human behavior ( that suspends normal human relationships and embraces ‘the other’). The phenomenon of ‘free-space’ is a component of certain transitional changes ( ie. the death of a leader of king). In looking at this subject we are able to speculate on the concept of ‘social-order’.

The scope of Hertz’s writings connect into many different levels of human perception and motivation. The phenomenon of transition in his work opens to touch into the inner world of his research subjects- and the end results of his work is amazing . He writes that the nature of a given transition is perceived throughout the culture as a composite event not separate from cosmic law. Hertz’s writes that in the ‘so-called primitive’ cultures in his focus, that misfortune and impurity are viewed as one and the same ( and can be experienced ‘in a formal way’)- (‘outcasts’)(!). This is a holistic viewpoint that doesn’t separate ‘the changing winds’ of life. Hertz’s also gives us insight into the actual care that goes into taking care of the dead- expressed in careful wrapping of the bodies, the shire time spent dealing with the ritual needs of the diseased, as well as how death is totally integrated into the composite culture. To read this information is to experience a very different understanding of life and death from a modern western sensibility ( and yet, there are aspects to the American experience that I find have real significance- like the drive in funeral home in the movie we saw in class). Still, the work of Robert Hertz gives us an opportunity to experience the dynamics of death viewed from a focused perspective ( as opposed to the writings of Van Gennep, which are ‘trans-idiomatic’). Hertz gets right down to the specifics by limiting the focus of his inquiry.

The writings of Turner seek to extend the formal construct of Van Gennep into the internal world of the ‘actual community’ and ritual symbols. The basic focus of his work seeks to recognize internal points of identity inside of rites of transition: the phenomenon of liminality as it relates to the concept of 1) separation 2) margin and 3) reaggregation . Turner’s work seeks to help us understand what happens in the ritulization of rites of passages- what this phenomenon means to the transition cycle that the living go through . The range of the first example can involve separation of a hierarchy of individuals, starting with those individuals most close to the diseased and extending to engulf the whole family ( or tribe). Turner writes of the separation of the individual from a ritual degradation perspective, (ie. promotion/excommunication and/or demotions), he also looks at this subject from a social perspective that gives insight into class differences and/or blood lines. The extended implications of Turner’s work looks at the role of ritual to keep the status quo in place ( and in making this connection Turner has also extended the time-scheme implications of Van Gennep model). In looking at this particulars Turner is really looking at social structure and human interaction dynamics. His work seeks to emphasis the inter-relationship between a given culture and its internal constituent communities. Mr. Turner is really looking to applies Van Gennep’s construct into the next dimension of reality- that being, actual modernity – and the concept of ‘storage bends’ of symbolic information I believe is one of the most relevant ideas in this time period.

The writings of Turner can be viewed as a real signal into the challenge of the next time cycle. I feel he has isolated one of the most profound tendencies of the non- western ( classical Western) ‘affinity-alignments’. His recognition of ‘the empty vessel’ as the main candidate for divine knowledge pushes my button in every way. The thrust of his work reflects on the very need for ritual structures- as a idea that brought pre-literate communities together for social and ‘open time’ experiences – as opposed to work time, which was the prevalent mode. In his concept of margins, Turner writes of the forms of separation as it applies to priests in society or the faternalty of monks. Separation to the margins of society as part of the ritualization of identity through speciality ( extending to include the expansion of trade symbols and masonry). The concept of liminality extends to include the phenomenon of poverty in pursuit of spiritual dynamics and the marginality of spiritual and magic people ( including musicians). Turner goes on to examine the role of crisis as a motivating factor towards liminality and the development of ritual symbols. This is a viewpoint into the psychology of interaction experiences. The concept of liminality in this context gives insight into the consideration of community trust and the ‘form of relationships’. The heart of this subject reflects on the considerat-ion of human motivation and trust .

As America moves towards the third millennium it will be important to reexamine our cultural attitudes and hopes as we prepare to enter into the fresh symbolic (ritual) time space parameter of the ‘new’ future. The writings of Van Gennep, Hersh and Turner all seek to build revalent ‘bridges of information’ that can serve as a beginning towards the establishment of a dynamic and positive universal perceptual model. Even with the obvious cultural slights, it is clear that all three gentlemen were honestly trying to better understand our composite species, and in the end the overall scope of their efforts must be respected and considered. To experience the writings of Van Gennep, Hersh and Turner is to encounter a sensitivity that ‘is not always present’ when western archaeologist encounters the ‘world group’. One can almost sense a deliberate decision on the part of the writers to treat the subjects (people) of their respective area topics respectful. The combined effect of their work establishes a dynamic ‘thought process’ that will have relevance for many years to come.