I have had a revelation. It came to me out of nowhere really, as I was in the shower. I was thinking about a play called 'Equus' that is all about ritual, and it made me think about ritualistic practices in general.
About two years ago I was having a discussion about ritual with a former friend of mine. We have contrasting views as to its validity. At the time, I could not understand why one would resort to a ritual in order to explore the emotional self. I asked her what the purpose was of pretending, instead of dealing with the issue directly. She was rather offended, (understandably so, I think) and cried out, 'It's NOT pretending!'
I finally understand what she means. Ritual is performance art. It is as valid as any other art form. In the same way I can reach my Self through figurative language, through poetry, and through theatre, others can reach their inner self through ritual. I used to be unable to comprehend how it was possible to reach the self through a ritual that was created by another, and that because its structure was constructed by a foreign entity it could not possibly lead the individual onto the path towards self-realization. But it's just like literature... or looking at a painting. The creative process comes not from the literal construction of the artwork, but through an internal interpretation. It is a structure erected for the communication with the divine, but it is only a structure. It is the responsibility of the individual to make that communication.
I get it. I finally get it.