A Middlebury College senior's essay on the ideology of change ringing
I came across a fascinating paper by Emma Stanford, apparently a senior at Middlebury College, who draws parallels between change ringing and other ideological developments in 17th-century England, especially "concepts of change and circularity" in science, theology, and literature.
Here's the website for her paper. And here's a choice quotation, to whet your interest:
The specific permutation performed depends on the guidance of the conductor, a ready analogue to “Jehovah, who makes Changes as he will.” Utter change is governed by systematic constancy, and although the individual ringers, and certainly any external listeners, may not be aware of the conductor’s specific plan—as humans are unable to “interpret God’s ‘end’ or ‘method’ by observing events”—that plan undeniably exists. The successful performance of long and complex peals is enough to demonstrate that.
The spiritual equivalent of a successful peal is the completion of the progress from Creation to Resurrection, which has not been witnessed by any man and therefore cannot be held up as evidence that it is possible. This uncertainty creates a gap in human faith, which became particularly problematic after the Reformation made individual faith the center of Christian virtue. That gap is mimetically filled by the performance of change-ringing.
Agree with Stanford's analysis or not, it's a great read.