RITUAL – Huxley’s ‘Proper Studies’
The craving for ritual and ceremony is strong and widespread. How strong and how widely spread is shown by the eagerness with which men and women who have no religion, or a puritanical religion without ritual, will seize at any opportunity to participate in ceremonies of whatever kind. The Ku-Klux-Klan would never have achieved its post-War success if it had stuck to plain clothes and committee meetings. Messrs. Simmons and Clark, the resuscitators of that remarkable body, understood their public. They insisted on strange nocturnal ceremonies at which fancy-dress should not be optional but compulsory. Membership went up by leaps and bounds. The Klan had an object: its ritual was symbolical of something. But to a rite starved multitude, significance is apparently superfluous. The popularity of community singing has shown that the rite, as such, is what the public wants. So long as it is impressive and arouses an emotion, the rite is good in itself. It does not much matter what it signifies. The ceremony of community singing lacks all philosophical significance, it has no connection with any system of ideas. It is simply itself and nothing more.
The traditional rituals of religion and daily life have largely vanished out of the world. But their disappearance has caused regret. Whenever people have a chance they try to satisfy their hunger for ceremonial, even though the rite with which they appease it be entirely meaningless.