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General objectives of the SMREE,
W. Gerard Poole, Ph.D., Director.

Theoretical Concepts in Various Stages of Development

                                      Music/ritual ~ ritual/ritual system

Intra-cultural rather than cross-cultural.


Even Catholic ritual must be treated this way- each region is a culture, Catholicism is cross-cultural, but each regional ritual system must be understood on its own.


  1. The collection of cross-cultural myths created mega myths (one might read: mega-narratives) about the meaning of myths

  2. But the solution came eventually with Frazer’s realization- the primacy of ritual

  3. However, it was ignored.

  4. The fundamental issue is: what is the basis of human culture as we know it?

  5. With the primacy of myth came the primacy of language- this trend has increased, with language theories dominating the humanities and with that domination a steady drive towards increased theoretical abstractions regarding human behavior culminating in the ultimate farce; reality as text.

  6. The intellectual bankruptcy statement is: Postmodernism.

    1. A term has great political traction, but little to no scientific traction whatsoever.

  7. What could be more convenient for all the tenured Marxist professors who would have the world of “intellectuals” duped into thinking that reality is merely the product of  propaganda machines driven by competing elites? (such as the ones operating in our university system maybe?).

  8. “Multicultural” is merely a code term for the attempt by the Marxist elite in our universities to create a unified, controlled, single voiced, opposition to Western capitalist globalization while they in turn continue to pursue and construct their own Marxist globalization project.

The myth/ritual relationship occurs intra-culturally, not cross-culturally. Transference is a secondary consideration which cannot be understood using cross-cultural comparisons. The encounter of cultures, and if there is a convergence, a syncretism, must be understood as a ground/up process if we consider ritual to be the foundation, or top/down if we consider myth to be the foundation.

However, since we have many historical instances of cultural encounters, examining which of the two, myth (language/representation/administrative bureaucracy), or ritual (experience/culture, structured, behavior patterns), have dominated social integration programs and which of the two approaches have had the most success should give us a clearer idea as to the parameters within which the limits of the role of language and discourse in realistically changing and construction human behavior can be established.

At stake is the fundamental question of experience and representation. What is the real function of language and symbols in creating socio-cultural reality versus individuation through communally established structured behaviors and embodied aesthetics (ritual systems)?

One central, if not the central, site for grounding this argument in a biological/phenomenological context, is the question of the role of the emotions, not only in consciousness, but in their intimate relationship to many kinds of ritual processes, and the possible role of the emotions in the evolution of the intellect.

There is emerging within the study of ritual, that an intimate relation exists between strucrured sound (music), structured behaviors (ritual), and structured emotions.

Ultimately any discussion concerning the relationships between the emotions, the intellect, and consciousness, must be a discussion about evolution.

It is at this nexus, the possible evolutionary relationships between the emotions and human consciousness, that considerations of the role of music and ritual in the cultivation of the emotions may play a very significant, if not decisive, role. Understanding the possible role of music and ritual would have implications not only at the socio-cultural level, but also at the foundational evolutionary level.

What might have been the role, if any, of music and ritual in the transitional evolutionary phase between late hominids and early humans?

Furthermore, how might music and ritual have continued to play a fundamental role in human cultural evolution?

Music is prior to language……just as ritual is prior to myth; but what kind of ritual and what kind of music are we really talking about?

What kinds of rituals drive language (create mythological content), and which rituals are driven by mythological content?

Which rituals function as myths, as discursive based behaviors, and which rituals create the basis for discourse?

My theoretical model for traditional ritual systems, that I call the Ritual Spiral, seeks to address the above issue.

The second issue of course is: what is it that is being experienced and what is it that is being represented within a traditional ritual system?

The religious experience is a very primal experience- similar to that of music and sex.

For the purposes of this paper, I am going to equate the varieties of religious experiences with the varieties of emotions found within the human emotional spectrum.

But at the center, is a phenomenon we often call, as a general term, the Ecstatic Experience.

I am not equating any specific kind of religious experience directly to any specific emotion, but rather I am linking the deliberate process of emotional cultivation with the deliberate processes and techniques for inducing religious experiences, or ecstatic experiences.

According to the tenets of Biogenetic Structuralism (Laughlin and …………, and Neurophenomenology d’Aquili and …) there are two fundamental paths through which to generate some variety of Ecstatic experience: sensory overload, and sensory deprivation.

In general, sensory overload rituals tend to be communal, while sensory deprivation practices tend to be undertaken by individuals.

  1. Emotional excitation is almost always a conspicuous component of the sensory overload techniques.

  2. Mapping the brainwaves of people undergoing musical experiences and emotional experiences result in images that are very similar to those of people undergoing religious experiences (although most tests have been conducted using sensory deprivation techniques displayed by life-long meditators).

  3. The religious experience activates the nervous system to a peak capacity.

  4. Only deep musical and erotic experiences do the same and this is primarily due to the fact that they arouse the emotional brain.

  5. This may account for why so many experiential rituals (though not all) are heavily invested in music and/or eroticism.

  6. Likewise, the use of intoxicants and hallucinogenic, have also been deployed both in communal and solitary rituals for millennia.

I am suggesting in this argument, that emotional cultivation is rooted in basic impulses and behaviors that acted as a critical interface between instinctive behaviors and the many variations of deliberately cultivated human behaviors we now take for granted, structured behaviors that are now fundamental characteristics of the present day homo sapien.

Emotional behaviors (structured emotions) such as:



The issue of language and music comes into play at this point. Language can only be the product of a fully developed intellect that emerged as a modeling function- a capacity to make internal artificial systems of symbols within the mind (symbolic thought) to account for and predict experiences related to the internal operations occurring within the organism itself; to model the environment; and to model the interactions and exchanged between the two. The sum total of this evolutionary modeling process is abstract symbolic thought.


Myths are primal examples of human symbolic thought. For this reason their study has provided much of the basic milestones in anthropological work and theory.

At stake has been an ongoing argument that seeks to understand the role of myth in the evolution of human culture.

 But an indispensable corollary to that discussion is the potential role of ritual.

Myth is symbolic thought- but symbolic thought about what? Are they attempts to make sense, to make reasonable, our experiences of the environment? Are they consciously devised explanations or unconscious utterances?

And what are rituals? Rituals are formalized behaviors, but to what end? Are rituals nothing more that enactments of mythological constructs, that is, are they merely symbolic behaviors that outside of their mythological context have no real value?

 Or are myths the reflective condensation, linguistic and imagistic formulas, intended to encapsulate ritual experiences and then pass that knowledge to future generations?

Even if we argue that music and ritual have exhausted their evolutionary value by providing the basis for the emergence of language, we still have not answered the question as to how that evolutionary process took place.

If we don’t know how that evolutionary process took place, how can we know what the present value of music and ritual might really be?

I would argue that the key towards answering both those questions lies in the evolution of the emotions.

Is there a deep evolutionary link between music, ritual and the emotions?

If there is, then there is also a profound role between music, rituals, the emotions, and consciousness.

The one experience that has a great deal of experiential and performative overlap with all four phenomenon, and that also shares a great deal of neurobiological data with : music, emotional arousal, eroticism, and ritual practices, is the religious experience itself.


I would propose the following basic relationship as a tentative working hypothesis:

               Representation/experience ~ Myth/ritual

The analogy suggests the following: to the degree that our representations of reality determine our experiences of reality, is analogous to the degree that rituals are attempts to formalize and make real, or experiential, mythological constructs. Conversely, to the degree that our internal models of reality are responses, and attempts, to model our experiences, is to the degree that myths are attempts to capture and/or reflect upon ritual experiences.

Another way to represent these relationships and one that makes it even more relevant to our present academic climate would be:

Discourse/experience ~ myth/ritual

Magnitudes of Probability, assessment and evaluation, expectations and resolutions, are basic processes of all organisms. Humans process information and make assessments as to probable expectations in the environment. Animals do this as well. These processes are all chemical at base but their degree  of abstraction can be modeled in terms of semiotics, at least at the more abstract levels.


And furthermore:

                                                   myth/ritual ~ language /music

====These relationships, I argue, do not present us with an either/or question. I would argue these analogical relationships represent what is a seamless semiotic flow that constitutes the basic processes of experience and representation, a process that must occur continually for there to be any sense of a self-conscious human being to start with.

The flow of continuous exchanges within the human organism, and between the human organism and the environment, in its totality constitutes one seamless flow of exchanges- reality.

However if we consider individual consciousness, we can consider it as a kind of semiotic “Turbulence” created by differentials within the physical and semiotic flow exchanges that are continuously occurring within the human organism, between the organism and the environment, and within the total environment in general.====

In a sense when we refer to an individual state of consciousness, we can consider each state to be an aggregate rate of exchange, within a practically infinite flow of varying rates of exchange.

The quality and degree of consciousness may be considered to be the result of the differentials between these rates of exchange.

An organism with little semiotic “turbulence”, little or no differentiation between its own internal rates of exchange, or between the sum total of its internal rates of exchange (its individual domain) and its exchanges with the environment (domain of the operational environment) would not experience its own existence- it not be self-conscious.

If the semiotic “grinding” between rates of exchange fall below a certain threshold, there is no self-consciousness, and to the degree that there is an increase between the domains of exchanges (the internal and the environmental) there arises an increased sense of self-awareness.

The question of whether or not consciousness in an illusion or “trick” of the blind forces of nature is not a useful question. To say a tornado is an “illusion”, even unto itself, makes no sense. Its reality is self-evident. However to say that it has an existence outside of the weather is obviously a nonsensical statement as well.

The larger questions of consciousness in general do not really concern us at this point. What is of immediate interest is the relationship between the internal generated models of reality that guide humans through their environment, and their experience of that environment.=======

The question is one of degree: to what degree do our models of reality influence our experience of reality, and to what degree do our experiences of reality drive the constructions of our models?

Obviously both processes are occurring simultaneously at all times as dynamics relations within a single process. Each aspect of the dynamic influences and occurs in tandem with the other.

And finally we must also consider the effect of the collective or socio-cultural environment.


To what degree do the collective socio-cultural exchanges between a particular individual, the individual and society, and that particular society within its operational environment; affect the experiences of each individual and the collective experiences of that society as a whole?

The above formulas bring into focus, through symbolic representations themselves, the relationships under consideration but they do not solve the question.


The generation and proliferation of emotional states through musical emotional rituals may have provided early humans with basic categories of experience that in turn generated categories of thought and classification that were themselves a result of the cultivation of a spectrum of emotional modes. In terms of overall states of mind, states that have inherent within them, as a basis for their being, a particular motivational focus,  an internal rationalization, and that contribute towards the generation of specific behavioral patterns, we might want to call these emotional modes, “modes of being”.

Mode of being versus emotional state versus state of mind


Emotions are strategies not just reflexes


Those emotions that have traditional music and ritual modalities associated with them, are more likely to be recent emotions in terms of evolution?

What about “greed”; is that an emotion?

I would argue that the spectrum of emotional modes that humans now possess, were originally the result of cultivated behaviors, and those basic behaviors were themselves directly related to the cycles of nature and to human life cycles- but our present emotional spectrum is also the product of the inescapable relationship between the two: cultivated behaviors and life-cycle experiences that continue to interact through experiential and cultural processes.

What has been now acknowledged by anthropologists and neurobiologists, is that human have a wide spectrum of emotions that form the basis of our self-consciousness.

It is the interactions between these emotional differentials, between their different rates of exchange- (how they process experience as information)- the cycles within the human individual, the human life cycle, the socio-cultural cycles, and the environmental cycles, that has produced the quality and degree of self-awareness among humans via the expansion of our emotional spectrum.

 I would argue that the most fundamental institutional system for generating, regulating, and institutionalizing, these biological and cultural processes, are the ritual systems. And I would further argue, that these ritual systems, in countless human cultures, aare what underlay all “traditional” human societies.

Traditional societies are based on ritual systems and ritual systems are fundamentally grounded upon the sacred; they are always fundamentally religious.

Since these ritual systems are fundamentally grounded, without exception, in the "varieties of the religious experience"- can we then propose that they are primarily also grounded in the cultivation of emotional modes or states?

If we claim that all states of consciousness are in fact emotional states, then it would follow. But this requires further studies. At this time, I am making that claim only as a preliminary thesis.

So if we claim that consciousness itself, is in fact, a product of our emotional spectrum, and if ritual systems are fundamentally structured behaviors having to do with the cultivation of the emotions, then we must consider the obvious: that traditional ritual systems are fundamentally systems that have served as vehicles through which to cultivate human consciousness.

Does this seem to be the case? Are not all religions concerned with the cultivation of a higher consciousness, or at the very least in the communication some degree of "communion with the divine" (higher consciousness, and from there, the conscious cultivation of a way of life?

From this position I am arguing that our ritual systems were fundamental to not only the development of our uniquely human emotional composition, but to the development of our uniquely human quality of self-consciousness.

I am not referring here to the “basic emotions” as defined by neurobiologists such as ……………………………………………………………………, but the many nuanced emotional elaborations that constitute perhaps a lesser portion a far greater portion of the overall span of the emotional spectrum, and that also constitute the emotional states most humans are in a sense “possessed” by, more of the time in day to day living experiences.

Emotions of aesthetic assessment are more complex and have a greater degree of intellectual flexibility that the more “basic” emotions.

Terrifying fear is rarely experienced by most humans, just as is overwhelming rage, mindless lust, or murderous aggression.

However, nuanced variants of these emotions are experienced rather commonly, and interestingly, the greater amount of our day to day experiences are constituted by the culturally cultivated emotional states that I will referring to. Furthermore, these cultivated emotional states are, more often than not, induced as forms of entertainment, but I will argue that “traditionally” many of these states were first cultivated within sacred ritual activities. 

The enormous amount of time modern humans spend listening to music alone, and having their emotions “played” upon is just one glaring example.

Mourning the dead is a studied, cultivated strategy- not just a reflex to death and loss.

The possibility of the  social construction of emotional variations and nuances from the basic instinctive reaction and angst of loss, in the interest of class and power relations has been sufficiently covered by authors such as……………………………………………. However, these arguments are not really convincing for a number of reasons.

[One of the basic pillars of Marxist thought is that all human consciousness is a socio-political process, a socio-political act. The “work” that that gives rise to self-consciousness is a political process, a process expressed in the differentials between classes. Nonetheless, when Marxists consider the process of emergent consciousness in its totality, they claim that the processes that give rise to a state of individual consciousness, and the processes that give rise to the political State, are considered as being the same.]

But the second pillar of Marist thought is that the domination and manipulation of the elites are what condition the individual states of consciousness with the political State itself.

The third pillar:  Revolution

The intellectual redundancy of Marxist thought and of Marxist intellectual circles.

Social thought, social consciousness is actually the most superficial of conscious states. Social identity, or “passport” identity is the most superficial category of identity and sense of self.

Once a Marxist revolution is attained, establishing what is to be a Marxist state becomes very problematic.

The corralling of an entire population into the narrow confines of an intellectual description of the self requires such an enormous expenditure of energy on the part of the elites that, besides the incredible brutality they must usually resort to, these efforts rather rapidly exhaust the resources of the sate itself.

One key nexus for this exhaustion of resources occurs within the critical arena of human resources. The state finds it increasingly necessary to pull more people into the state apparatus in direct proportion to the inevitable gap that emerges between what the State promised the people they would experience, and what the people actually began to experience. The State reaction to this discontent is increased surveillance. But where is this increase in surveillance to come from? From the same population experiencing the discrepancies between the State narrative (mythology) and their lived experience. The structured experiences give rise to narratives (structured myths) that are in direct opposition to the social myths constructed by the Sate. At some threshold, the numbers within the surveillance overwhelms the surveilled population, the non-producers overwhelm the producers. The collapse becomes inevitable.

There is an analogy within dying religions such as Catholicism in Europe. When the narratives (mythological content) is increasingly unsupported by ritual experiences, a living ritual system, the mythological narratives lose relevancy. Fewer and fewer people breath life into the myths because they no longer have any experiential basis with the origins of those myths.

The methodologies and arguments, within social constructivism, are circular and they produce no new evidence because they don’t require any evidence in the first place.

Any social construction of the emotions pre-supposes a rather complex hierarchical society, with a well established elite who are manipulating the people around them in order to maintain their positions of privilege. This argument presupposes a stage in which the emotional spectrum has to have already been thoroughly developed.

There are as many manifestations as there are individuals to the emotion of jealousy. Many of the most elaborate, complex, strategies ever devised by a human have been devised by a jealous human.

Eventually abstracted arts and sciences will “brake off” from ritual systems to become their own disciplines and social institutions. Nonetheless, in traditional societies, these “break-away” institutions do not detach completely from the ritual system that gave rise to them, rather they continue to develop, in the abstract, what the rituals experienced in the concrete as “sacred”.

For instance….

That the abstract musical cosmologies of many cultures gave rise to astrology and astronomy are just one good, and early, example.

A cycle or spectrum of emotional states constitutes a spectrum of states of mind, a spectrum of modes of consciousness- different states that by their own inherent relative differentials contrast with one another and as a by-product contribute towards an increased sense of self, or self awareness.

Levi-Srauss attributed emergent consciousness in humans to the structural elements of language and located the basic building blocks in the contrast between the sounds, and then the meaning, of words. At the root of his structuralism is the consciousness of oppositional dyads. However, these dyads are, according to Levi-Strauss, linguistically determined.

This is untennalble.

Contrasting emotional modes, culturally cultivated but built upon holistic experiences is far more robust and avoids the endless convergence into minute oppositional dyads. Levi Srauss would have to argue for an intellect evolving independently of the emotions and for that same intellect to have been the seat of consciousness. The fundamental premise is simply false.

As the neurobiologist Anton Damasio amply demonstrated,and I restated in my dissertation:

 "...there is no intellect operating within an emotional vacuum..."

A perpetually static “state” of mind, that is, a state of mind that consisted of one continuous emotional cast would, I suggest, not evolve to a state of self-awareness. The perception of the “self”, I would argue, is perceived only because it moves through a cycle of emotional states, each contrating and moving in cyclic differentials from each other. Conversely, this also suggests that if a conscious human being were, through some kind of pathology, to become fixated within one single emotional mode, that human would eventually lose its self-awareness.

Emotions generating their own biological expressions, is an observable fact. That the ritually cultivated emotional nuances would generate abstract representations- symbols- is at the very least worthy of serious consideration.

But that the intellect could arise as a means to model itself is a circular argument: the intellect is a modeling device. Saying that it evolved as a means to model experience goes without saying but says nothing about how it evolved, and from what.

The emotions are self-representative by their very nature- the intellect is not. The intellect is about something else- it is a symbolic operation to begin with. The intellect is a capacity for symbolic thought. But where did this capacity come from, and how did symbolic thought arise?


Calculation is closely related to, or even the same thing as, assessment, or evaluation.

The aesthetic emotions are emotions are assessment. They assess their own state, much like basic emotions express their own state.

Calculation plays a very subtle and critical role as fundamental components of these kinds of emotions.

However, basic emotions such as jealousy and fear are equally the products of an assessment and followed by a strategic response to particular conditions- whether they be social and/or environmental.

Expanded brain “capacity” then, must be a result of emotional expansion, or emotional proliferation.

Furthermore, subtle calculations, or intellectual processes, must themselves be the aggregate results of a spectrum of emotional modes that structure, or channel the intellect (or what appears to be a separate functional category called the intellect) into specific strategies of thought (thought processes).

Emotional proliferation can account for expanded brain capacity as well as for the emergence of a sharper, more expansive, intellect, while at the same time it can account for an emergent, expanded self-consciousness.

The intellect is a tool and a product of the emotions. Its power is dependent upon its motivation- for it has no motivation in and of itself. It has no conscious quality.

The calculation of balance among bipedal humans is an unconscious process- it is a chemical process of stimulus, evaluation, and response. There are no abstract aspects to this process.

Abstraction, or symbolic thought, represents something outside itself. It was created by something else. I would argue that brain capacity and symbolic thought emerged as products of emotional proliferation and structuring.



Furthermore, and this is an important factor when considering how emotional states contribute to self-consciousness in terms of an ongoing evolutionary process; emotional states are themselves continually changing to some degree, and I will address a specific mechanism for how this might have come about through ritual practices, practices that seem to be universally inherent within all ritual systems. [The Chaotic emotion].

The cycle of emotional states constitutes a rate of change within the individual. This rate of change (or rates of change) I would suggest at the very least contribute greatly to our sense of self, if they in fact are not the very bed out of which arise our sense of self.

The calendar of rituals underlying a particular cultural system is also a semiotic in itself that constitutes a cycle and rate of change withn the culture at large. The ritual system provides a system of behaviors and corresponding states of mind in the form of a cycle of emotional states.

To say that “contemplative” states, or intellectual states, are not emotional is becoming increasingly difficult to defend. It would appear that there are no states of consciousness that operate within an emotional vacuum.

Ritual systems, by processing emotional states, or emotional modes, are actually processing the ground that supports a continuing, expanding, consciousness within each individual and for the cultural group as a whole. It does this primarily by cultivating a spectrum of emotional states at differing experiential degrees. At the most abstract degree, the emotions themselves are not experienced at all but merely represented through symbols and symbolic acts.

Emotional experiences (to include contemplative experiences) and their representations, that is the representation of what was experienced, is a process of experience and representation.

In view of what has been discussed above, throughout this article when the term “emotional state” is used, it is not to be understood as in opposition to a rational, intellectual, state, but rather as a complete biological state that includes within its configuration an intellectual and logical component that is arguably as intellectual and as logical as any other possible state.


Music/ritual x ~ ritual x/ritual system


By proposing a theoretical connection between the emotions, the religious experience, music, and ritual

Once we place the variety of religious experiences at the center of human ritual systems, and so for all practical purposes at the center of traditional culture, then many aspects of human behavior and thought make sense.

Specifically, the spectrum of emotional sates and the role they have played in generating the arts through human ritual.

El Rocio is just one possible example.

I would like to continue the argument in this article by focusing on the musical/ritual metamorphosis relationship that I am calling the Theory of Music and Ritual Semiotic Congruency.


I would welcome any comments or suggestions from readers while I continue with this work in progress.

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