04 Februari 2009

Religion as Non-structural System in Societas

A discussion of religion always appeals attention and is never on-going discourse. Religion is not only as doctrine (sacred) but also as experience of humanity (profane).

One of interesting contributions about religion is given by Victor Turner —an anthropologist who was born in Glasgow, Scotland 1920-1983— who studied religious phenomena of primitive and modern society in social and cultural dimensions. But he didn’t see social and cultural phenomenon an sich, he went beyond cultural interpretation of religious phenomena. His approaches of Ndembu’s people of northwestern Zambia produced greatest work of anthropology. In his views, society is dynamic social process that its phenomena can be analyzed as “social drama” containing infraction, crisis, regressive action, and reintegration phases. The rites, however, play central roles. So, according to Turner this context creates liminality’s concept.

The liminality (and communitas) concept is central core of his studies developed from rites de passage’s Arnold van Gennep. Van Gennep himself defined rites de passage as “rites which accompany every change of place, state, social position and age.” Liminality comes from limen, signifying “thereshold” in Latin. Liminality also defined as neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial. This concept of liminality then was applied by Turner not only in rituals but also in analyzing society, because of its rich nature of liminality, this concept gave a perspective of social life, first, in liminality man has a first experience as human. Second, liminality was in formative reflexity. Third, liminality then creates a concept of community.

Liminality, in reality, is a phase in which man is in undifferenences, that is, “antistruktur” experience. These experiences could be found in phase of liminality used by van Gennep and Turner did, that is: separation, margin, and, aggregation or incorporation. This third phase, finally, will shape a community.

Term, “community” came from Latin; communitas usually means as ‘alliance’. Here community must be understood as a way of social relation for real and direct inter-personal relationship. Community encountered by ritual subject, in fact, was different from situation and daily condition. Inter-personal relationships in the daily life took a place in a structure, whereas relationships in community came through anti-structure. Community was not seen as top-down structure, as reality of real inter-personal relationship transcendentally. As being believed by Turner, that community is not merely instinctual energy but that community essentially is human, and mode-of-being-in-the-world. So, the community actually deals with awareness and willing.

Through Above Turner’s descriptions, it is clear that liminality is process in which finally Turner will shape good community. This is same as being encountered by Muhammad (in Islam) when he was pointed by God (Allah SWT) to be become a leader and guider for Arab peoples on the time, where before institutionalizing the religion, he, first of all, experienced liminality in himself, that is, when he received the first revelation as prophet. There was a phase of transition from man to become a great leader and then finally he has a phase of reagregation, where he had to go back his community (ummah).

One thing must be paid a attention, that Turner’s concept really is a afford to recognize self within liminality . This is same as what Muhammad has done when he was in a grave Hero (a place in which he received first revelation), where he really experienced ambiguity himself. And what was done by prophet Muhammad actually dealed with the condition of Arabs for the time, so that he must encounter a process of liminality.

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