Ritual can trap our attention better than anything I can think of. But it also demands a very high price. That high price is morbidity; and morbidity could have the heaviest liens and mortgages on our awareness. ~ The Power of Silence
Don Juan said, in The Fire from Within, that rituals are necessary at one time in every warrior’s life but only for purposes of luring one’s first attention away from the power of self-absorption, which keeps his assemblage point rigidly fixed. The obsessive entanglement of the first attention in self-absorption or reason is a powerful binding force, and ritual behavior, because it is repetitive, forces the first attention to free some energy from watching the inventory, as a consequence of which the assemblage point loses its rigidity.
The downside of ritual, however, is that it can trap the attention and over time the assemblage point becomes fixated on the ritual instead of seeing the ritual as, perhaps, a means of shifting the assemblage point. As a result, the ritual becomes empty and meaningless and freedom is further hindered as a result of the amount of energy spent performing the habitual ritual.
In The Power of Silence, Don Juan goes on to say, Man has a dark side. It’s called stupidity. In the same measure that ritual forced the average man to construct huge churches that were monuments to self-importance, ritual also forced sorcerers to construct edifices of morbidity and obsession. As a result, it is the duty of every nagual to guide awareness so it will fly toward the abstract, free of liens and mortgages.
When people become aware of the fact that their personal truth is no longer aligned with their prior belief structure, they often adopt new belief systems that appear to be fundamentally different from what they’ve experienced in the past. They may become fixated on their new beliefs while maintaining that they have acquired liberation as a means of their new practice or habit. Church-goers may exchange the dogmatic practice of genuflecting and kneeling and singing routine songs for reciting age-old mantras or performing ancient incantations that sometimes include a strict sequence of actions. No matter what form the ritual takes, it will be nothing more than a distraction that prevents one from ultimately breaking free of the mold of man; an illusion that impedes ones progress towards freedom.
In any case, one will find that their new belief systems were simply adaptations for their old beliefs. John Lash says, Radical belief-change goes beyond shedding particular beliefs or exchanging one belief for another. Radical change involves a deep shift in the way beliefs are viewed, rather than a mere shift in belief.
This radical change is an enormous shift of the assemblage point. The culmination of this shift is when the warrior has the opportunity to become an absolute observer in the midst of habitual behavior and see through the illusory construct of those beliefs. And in that moment, she will laugh and laugh; not as an affront to those still enmeshed in their rituals but out of relief that she has broken free of it and can see the folly of those ways!
Beliefs are tools for social conditioning, rather than expressions of inner realization or universal truth.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” John Lash rephrases it saying, “The unexamined belief is not worth holding.” Don Juan said, “Never dwell on past events except in reference. To emphasize them would mean to take away from the importance of what’s taking place now. A warrior cannot possibly afford to do that.”