I was reading a lot about human bonding. Not of the sexual or parent/child relationship kind, but the kind of bonding that knits together communities or even can bring in strangers.
And I began to see something really riveted me--this tradition, which is just about universal in human cultures, of festivities and ecstatic rituals, always involving certain ingredients. One would be music and dance. Feasting would be the second, which could include drinking. And third, costuming, masking, face paint, body paint. You could have a procession with this. You can have drama. You can have comic episodes or performances.
What do you think people get out of these ecstatic rituals? Why do we need them?
So it has an evolutionary role.
It's also the chance for individuals to shine--you know, show talents that might not mean much in ordinary life. If you are a super dancer or if you have a great costume or you're a great musician, maybe you're just a peasant in the rest of your life, but these festivities are a time when you are a star.
What about the spiritual aspect?
Emile Durkheim, the famous early 20th century sociologist, even ventured to say that all religions originated in these ecstatic rituals. That's where you have a glimpse of the transcendent.
And, of course, you can have very exciting communal festivities and things. You could get very excited about the Super Bowl, for example, and paint your face and jump around with other people and do the wave, feast on beer and hot dogs--but nobody would expect to go into an altered state or to commune with any deities in a football stadium!
But when it is expected and part of what's culturally acceptable, as in existing ecstatic religions like Voodoo, that would be a source of actual prestige to you, that you were able to go into a trance state, which you would then come back and declare as having involved this connection with a deity or spirit.
Did early Christianity have this kind of ecstatic ritual?
I was surprised to learn that there weren't even pews in Catholic churches until, I think, the 15th century or so. But in the late Middle Ages you start hearing the church fathers and the hierarchy continually complaining about the custom of dancing in churches.