Monday, March 12, 2012

Ancient Rituals Are Reenacted in Modern Rock Concerts

Mythology, in ancient times, was in many ways the psychic glue that held cultures together. It gave them identity, and endowed their people with a sense of spiritual community. It's hard for any of us who're alive today to really envision what life under a functioning and life-giving mythology was like. The spiritual communion of the West has received some grievous blows, most notably during the Industrial Revolution and in the years since. But our psyches and souls instinctively need - and gravitate towards - the nourishing symbols and archetypes of myth. This is the reason why so many of the motifs of ancient rites find their echo in the rituals (particularly among the young) of the modern day. One prominent example is rock concerts.
The Greek playwrights believed that the greater the suffering depicted onstage within their tragedies, the greater the emotional catharsis their audience would experience. In the modern age, we've long pursued a love affair with tormented artists - gifted and doomed - amongst our painters, poets, writers and musicians. Onstage at a rock concert, the existential struggles of the performer are played out for all to see. And perhaps we unconsciously expect the self-destruction that so often occurs as a culmination. It is the fulfillment of the age-old fate of the tragic hero.
Modern music has revived many of the symbols and story arcs that lay at the heart of ancient rituals. This is especially true of Heavy Metal and its extreme subgenres. Here we often find lyrical content replete with magic, the supernatural, the demonic and the angelic. This can all be seen as an attempt the demarcate the bounds of our reality. How high can man rise - and how far can he fall?
It's interesting to note, too, that loud and aggressive music often attracts boys nowadays during the same period of life that served as the prime initiatory moment in old tribal cultures: adolescence. The raucous sounds of rock's various genres have always served to outrage and alienate the older generations. This, too, bears resemblance to tribal initiations where a young boy would be forcibly separated from his parents (particularly the mother), immersed in the lore and mythology of the tribe, and then reintroduced to the community with a new identity and name. Nowadays, no one comes to abduct the young from the nest, so kids often use music to achieve the same outcome, keeping the older generation bewildered and distanced while they struggle for their own sense of identity.
Our overly rationalistic culture has divorced us from our primal roots. Rock music is the sound of instinct and primacy reasserting itself. And rock concerts, at their best, signify both the invocation and the celebration of those forces. They are as close as young people can typically come to the life-giving sacred rites of ancient times.
Seth Mullins blogs about the untapped potentials of the human mind and soul: http://frontiersofconsciousness.blogspot.com
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