Ritual and the TAZ


Espousing a theory of poetic social liberation, Hakim Bey (1995) takes up Victor Turner’s idea of ritual events as means of freeing people from the constraints of normality. Bey's theory of "Temporary Autonomous Zones" (TAZ) describe ‘moments when normally domesticated space is liberated for a limited time for festive and subversive "moments of happiness" .’

The Permanent Autonomous Zone (PAZ) extends this notion into temporal and spatial fixity. This is liberation from the ‘Grid of Alienation’, the ‘Consensus’ against which such moments seek a restoration of human contact. In this context, Bey speaks of the ‘poetique’ (a "way of making") and a ‘politique’ (a "way of living together"). The PAZ provides a venue for the TAZ network, the festivals which bring renewal and ongoing liberation and energy. The PAZ is not limited to spatial locations, but can be non-local, like a ‘weird religion’ or a rebel art movement. It is a ‘free space that extends into free time’.

The essence of the PAZ must be the long-drawn-out intensification of the joys - and risks - of the TAZ. And the intensification of the PAZ will be Utopia Now (Bey, 1995; p32).
However, given the tendency of differential power relations to reformulate themselves and perpetuate power imbalances even after liminal events, it may be that Bey’s PAZ are ultimately unachievable. In this case we will have to be content with a succession of TAZ moments, where we are but temporarily liberated from systemic stasis.

One way of bringing about a PAZ could be by means of a global event, specifically aimed at creating a TAZ environment where a fusion between phenomenal and noumenal is achieved. A global event such as this would reconstitute humanity through the fusion of the spiritual and the technological. This is the idea behind The Party at the End of Time, a global linkage of rave parties at a specific, significant point in time. That there is a need for this is expressed by popular icons such as the singer Levannah of the '90s South African music group Qcumber Zoo.

Man has lost touch with his spirituality and there’s a definite movement to recover that ground. I don’t believe that we have done everything there is to do and that the world is sliding into degeneracy. If enough people believe, there’s a point of critical mass that tips the scales. It can only make the world a better place to live.

The reconstitution of human spirituality in the post-modern world entails both abandoning the dogmas of traditional religions, as well as recovering the sense of connectedness with the natural world which characterised ancient religions or forms of spirituality. This would be what James Hillman (1995) terms ‘re-awakening the sense of soul in the world’, in order to address a problem identified by deep ecology, that

human arrogance, greed and alienation from Nature are destroying our planet, and until we heal our spiritual alienation from the Earth, no long-term solutions are possible.
In order to address the problematics of the early Twenty First Century, we need to remake not only our world, but ourselves as well. As a species, humankind is undergoing rapid processes of change, which alter our global society’s relationship to what Eric Jantsch terms the ‘stability boundary’ of the whole dynamic system. In this state of flux, stasis is difficult to maintain due to the fluctuating conditions which contribute towards this chaos boundary. Bifurcations or points of departure for the future of the total dynamic system are potentialised by the unstable conditions at the system’s periphery, that frontier of change which constantly challenges society’s ability to conserve the rate of change.

One positive or encouraging fact to emerge from chaos theory in recent times is the notion that small changes to a dynamic system can have large consequences (the so-called ‘butterfly effect’). If we wish to affect the outcome of social and economic tendencies in the long term, in other words if we wish our present self-organizing human system to transcend itself, we must work ceaselessly towards this goal.

The principle which orders chaotic or dynamic systems is that of iteration, repeatedly feeding the outcome of the social equation back into itself. This principle indicates how countercultural tendencies, for example revolutionary movements, can sweep to power despite the odds stacked in favour of the status quo. The type of liminal communicative events cited above must be continually created and repeated, in order for the transcendence embodied within them to become translated into the everyday phenomenal world. The site of struggle on our planet has moved into the realm of consciousness we must create ourselves anew through actualizing the potentials of Mind if we want to be free.


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