@nadia this is so good!
One of the thing that I have to do here as part of my residency is a research / special project, is taking now the form of a series chapters around the word "immersive".
This word is widely used to describe a new form of theater, escape rooms, live action role play (LARP) but also VR experiences, rituals, gatherings...
Shamanic ritualism it seems to be originated in the Upper Paleolithic era, as the discovery of the Chauvet caves demonstrates (Stephenson Barry, Rituals a very short introduction) and "immersive" is one of the adjective used to describe it.
(further reading) W.Herzog did a very good job with his documentary about that https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kULwsoCEd3g
I've just meet Abraham Burickson from Odyssey works a collective that creates experiences for an audience of one, usually their pieces are very long, infiltration in their audience lives start as long as 6 months before the actual Odyssey (usually 2 to 7 days long performances).
Two things seems important in their practice, empathy and time.
Empathy, as you stated, is very important, on this regard they start with a week design session where they "immerse" themselves in the participant (is the name they give to the one selected to be the audience) live.
It's not like the movie "the game", where everything is made to push the participant on the verge of breaking his own beliefs, quite the opposite, they start asking themselves is there is a gift that they can create for the participant.
The second thing is time, the assumption that you need time to create the space for transformation to happens.
In this regard Abraham shared with me a story that is interesting:
when he was in his 20 he was researching the architecture of this native tribe in south america, it was a pretty rough tribe, some of their shamanistic rituals involve cannibalism.
After months living with them he asked and was allowed to perform one the ritual for entering the tribe as a young adult (a ritual of passage that is recurring in most of the ethnographer works of the last century).
This ritual consist in a walk in to the jungle (3 days), fasting and a final ascent of a steep creek by himself to reach the falls where the gods where waiting him.
Born in NYC he doesn't believe their god world it was there just because curiosity and willing of belonging, but, before leaving him by himself at the bottom of the creek, they say to him that if he had slipped during his ascents the gods will have killed him.
"What do I do If I slide then?"
"Don't do it!" and then they left.
At that moment, he was 90% sure that nothing will happens, but a 10% of his rationality was not so sure about it.
This is an example for another concept that we discuss and is the presence, for rituals to work, of stories embedded in the lives of participants, longterm storytelling, lifelong storytelling?
A platform of stories (believed or not) that is embedded in the individuals.
This is the foundation for religions too, of course, this is why religious education is so repetitive it is useful to create a resonance inside ourself for when something powerful happens.
I can go on forever!!
But yes, I will love to share more, maybe I will share also some chapters of the research, I was thinking about going to Stockholm from 5 to 8 and then Berlin (with @noemi we have the kickoff of the Trust in Play project) so before that I'm in!