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..:: Sacrifice ::..

By

Alan Schneider

 

            Sacrifice may be defined as the voluntary release of something of perceived lesser good for the sake of affirming or securing a perceived greater good. Life is filled with minor sacrifices – the loss of a weekend’s recreation for service to a worthy cause, forestalling a vacation trip to work additional hours during the busy season on the job, deferring the purchase of a desirable item to provide for the children’s dental work – all are examples of varying degrees of sacrifice that many of us make, or have made, along the way in life. 

            Of course, there are much greater degrees of sacrifice that dedicated individuals make in response to their belief systems. We regularly hear of those who lose life and limb in the process of saving others in evidently selfless actions that offered them no apparent benefit whatsoever. What motivates such individuals in their actions on behalf of others? How is their perception of reality different from the more self-motivated among us who would not take such great risks for their fellow human beings?

            The performance of sacrificial acts is as old as humanity itself. Although such events have become less common with the advance of civilization, animal sacrifice of various different varieties still occurs in many parts of the modern world. In ancient times, people sometimes burned a portion of their crops as an offering to the Deities that were presumed to have an interest in such tribute. The practice of burning also extended to animals – sheep and lambs were frequently the objects of burnt offerings in antiquity. Let us briefly examine the theoretical implications of such admittedly brutal, and outwardly irrational, practices. 

            In the distant origins of consciousness, when even the Neanderthal man was not yet present in the proto-human domain, our nonetheless humanoid ancestors found themselves surrounded daily by all manner of terrifying and perplexing phenomena. They might be attacked and eaten by the many ferocious predators of the time. They were subject to the continuous onslaughts of nature manifest by a planet still covered with active volcanoes and subject to many natural disasters. Diseases could, and did, crop up apparently out of nowhere and took the lives slowly, or perhaps mercifully quickly, of entire clans and kinship groups. Enemies rose up against each other with the primitive weapons of those days – literally sticks, bones, and stones – and caused more death and destruction. Females and their offspring frequently died in childbirth as well. In a word, life itself was short and brutal.  

            To the earliest dimly sentient primate beings on this planet, the ability to practice and experience any extent of causality amid the chaos of life was a supreme opportunity. The successful hunting and gathering cultures that represent the first economies of history – of prehistory, really – must have been acutely interested in any causal relationships that could be determined in the course of daily existence, because that meant increased odds of survival for the individual and the clan. As evolution progressed, so did the perception of causal relationships, first from simple motor actions (throwing rocks at animals and enemies to incapacitate them), and then onward to observations about the weather and climate (humid air as the precursor of rain), and ultimately to generalizations about the identities of the major elements of existence. To the primitive mind, the animals and plants in the environment exhibited conscious characteristics comparable to that mind itself. The dawn of mentality was anthropomorphic – the earliest sentience saw the whole world as a reflection of itself, and its fundamentally self-oriented motivations.  

            This trend in mental development eventually culminated in suppositions about meta-causal conditions – the prospect that even nature itself was sentient and motivated by essentially the same drives as early hominids – food, shelter, mating, defense. The beginning of the motivation for ritual sacrifice is found at this stage of the causal relationship assessment – if a given natural process wanted what the hominids wanted, and didn’t get it, this could well be the underlying explanation of the apparently wrathful outbursts seen so frequently in nature, and in life. At some point it occurred to early sentient hominids to give something back to the natural world. This may have been something as simple as tossing part of a recently killed animal to a menacing predator that appeared on the scene, with the result that the predator was at least temporarily placated. It is a short, simple causal step from such an event to erecting an effigy of the predator in question, and then offering some or all of another kill to it as a symbolic placation of all such predators, and then another short step to offering such placation to any presumed natural sentience of concern. Storms, floods, wildfires, and even death itself became objects of such practices, and sacrifice was born.

            As civilization developed, sacrifice and sacrificial practice developed. The earliest sacrificial modes were blood and burnt offerings. It is quite probable that proto-humans saw blood and other bodily fluids in the same light as the other elements of the world around them – imbued with sentient presence. The general presence of blood in the animals of the zoological continuum, amid expressions of general diversity, must have provoked the supposition at some point that the blood of the creature carried and expressed its essence as sentience in the natural world, and that offering that blood in a sacrificial context (by everything from drinking it, to bathing in it, to pouring it on the ground – thereby offering it to all of nature in general) could influence the behavior of all similar sentience. As genuinely human, albeit still very primitive, beings emerged on the earth, and the cranial capacity of those beings continued to increase, the notion that natural entities predominated not only in the earth, but in the air and water as well, became prevalent. How was one to placate the air entities?  By sending the sacrificial essence into the air through burning, of course. Hence the burnt offering came into practice. 

            At what juncture the natural “entities” became Gods is lost in the precession of prehistory. Early humans must have eventually perceived the eternal and powerful nature of the conditions surrounding them, and this in contrast to their own vulnerability and mortality, and concluded that they were evidently subordinate beings in every respect. Thus humbled, a fresh round of placation became the norm, and elaborate rituals of placation took place with regularity in antiquity. All of these were essentially sacrificial in character – actions undertaken to achieve a causal relationship that would not otherwise have occurred.  If nothing else, a sacrifice of time and energy was involved! Included were seasonal fertility rites associated with the crop cycle, monthly lunar and solar rites, and endless Deific placations for every purpose imaginable. 

            Ultimately, human sacrifice entered into this picture. What greater gift of placation could be offered to one’s chosen Deity than the fully sentient form of another human being?  This pointedly barbaric activity persisted throughout the ages once its utility as a means of eliminating the “undesirable” elements in society was clearly recognized by whatever power elite held sway at the moment. In relatively recent history, the salient example of this practice is undoubtedly the story of the Crucifixion of Christ. Although this was a clearly politically motivated case, the spiritual ramifications of the event are more than worthy of comment in the SEARCHLIGHT.  

            From the perspective of the materialist on the Physical Plane, the Crucifixion is a matter of causal priority. Christ was becoming very popular in the Hebrew society of the time in the Holy Land. This popularity was a cause of minor concern for the merciless occupying Roman presence, and a source of major concern for the Hebrew officials entrusted by the Romans to help control the general population.  At the behest of those officials, Christ was arrested with little or no real justification, brought before Pilot for a perfunctory hearing, then handed over to the Hebrews for disposition of His “case” by Herod. Herod handed down the death penalty, which was dispensed by crucifixion. What happened thereafter is the matter of spiritual significance. To the materialist, Christ died then and there as a result of His injuries sustained on the Cross, but His followers continued to advocate His teachings, eventually giving rise to Christianity, despite the following decades of persecution at the hands of the Roman state, among others. 

            From the perspective of Ascension Theory, however, the matter is estimated very differently. The question of Christ’s literal existence (and there are those who doubt or flatly deny that Jesus of Nazareth ever lived at all) is less significant than the ultimate meaning of the Crucifixion as a spiritual symbol. Let us examine this event from the highest possible perspective – that of God.  

            All human beings are essentially cursed with the threat of oblivion through mortality. This threat is the defining condition of all existence, whether we know it, or admit to it, or not. It hangs over the heads of believer and nonbeliever alike. It must be confronted and assimilated somehow by the living for life to be bearable at all, let alone productive and meaningful. It is one, if not the primary task of spirituality, faith, and certainly all forms of organized religion, to answer the question of death, and what may come to consciousness thereafter. No one has ever scientifically verifiably returned from the extended cessation of life (although there are many accounts of short-term cessation in near-death experiences) to give us answers to this question, psychic accounts throughout history notwithstanding – we are asked to certify the testimony of these individuals on faith, not evidential proof. The reader has even been asked to at least grant serious consideration to this writer’s accounts of his own Ascension experiences in the spirit of faith, and will be asked to do so again now. 

            From the perspective of the Divine Light of Consciousness, the Crucifixion takes on an entirely different, in fact diametrically opposed, meaning to that of the sensory materialist.  From God’s perspective, this material life, and the physical body, are the combined workshop of Karma, nothing more. The condition which is served and supported on the Physical Plane is that of limitation in all conceivable senses of the term. This includes all suffering, ignorance, and death. The Soul requires exposure to this condition as a portion of its ongoing spiritual development. When the requisite quantity and quality of exposure has been completed, the Soul progresses to the next stage of its cosmic experience on the subsequent planes of expression, as determined by God.  

            The body and the senses tend to blind us to the presence of the Soul, and God. This is also part of the experience of limitation previously mentioned. God is aware of our plight in the material form, and cares deeply about our Soul, and the abusive condition that it must pass through in life while entrained in the body. This life can be thought of as the most remote condition from that of God’s. He is all Love and Light, and surrounded by Love and Light – we are surrounded by suffering, limitation, and spiritual blindness. Yet, because we experience sentient awareness, we also potentially have  experience of the Soul, and are all God’s children for that reason. At the great existential distance from the Divine Source seen on the material plane, one could say that God has literally become fragmented, and we are those fragments.  

            Because God wants us back in His Light, he continues to call out to us in many ways – through the words of the Prophets, through synchronicities, through miracles, through visions, and though the voice of the conscience – His most direct personal expression, even though a subtle one, to be sure. And, under the most extreme conditions of suffering on this plane, he calls out to us through the actions of the Avatars – His embodied messengers sent to cleanse the world and reassert the Light. Christ was one such Being of Deliverance sent by God. He was a Contractor of Salvation, appearing in the dark times of the Roman occupation of the known world. Here is the meaning of His contract, offered to humanity.

          To God, the Crucifixion of Jesus was necessary as the mark of His Word made flesh in the physical form of Christ. Our circumstances had become so negative that this was the only way to reach us in those times. The entire world had become submerged in cruelty, sadism, corruption, and barbarism under materialistic Roman rule. The spoken words of Christ (known to Christianity as the Gospel of the New Testament) were the guide book of Divine Consciousness offered to humanity, and the Crucifixion was literally God’s signature placed at the conclusion of that guide book! Since Jesus was God expressed in the flesh, the blood shed on the Cross was God’s blood – He literally signed the guide book in His own blood as an indication of how much He cared about our suffering. The body of the Avatar was fastened to the ancient symbol of communication – the Cross – where two paths, in this case the Divine consciousness and the material consciousness, intersect each other, as the Sign of the Contract being offered to humanity. Since these events were bound to be effaced by the passage of time in this most turbulent and chaotic plane, a weekly ritual was given by the Avatar to His followers at the Last Supper – Communion – the ingestion of bread and wine, the symbolic Body and Blood of the Christ, to be taken into our physical form as our certification – our personal signature – on the New Contract with God. 

            The question of whether there actually was a physically sustained personal consciousness known as “Jesus of Nazareth” is incidental to the symbolic message of the New Testament – that the body of Christ expresses God’s presence here on the material plane. There certainly was an Avatar of Christ physically present at the time of the origin of the New Testament who made a profound impression on the Disciples (who clearly did exist), an impression that resulted in four separate accounts – the Gospels – of the Life of that Avatar, and His teachings for the human race. The complete Gospel survives as the living embodiment of the New Contract of Salvation offered to the collective Soul of humanity by God. If we accept the primary role of symbols in human consciousness as the building blocks of perception, and of archetypal symbols in particular, then the Crucifixion Archetype is one of the most powerful counteractants to mortality in perception, and the Blood of Christ is the essence of that statement. So it is that the most ancient ritual of sacrifice has evolved through the eons of time to its current manifestation seen in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The Blood of this Sacrifice stands as one of the most, if not the most, powerful archetypal processes at work in consciousness – a Sacrifice of God, signed by God, for the Salvation of the human Spirit.

                                           - With Love, Alan -

                                   (CR2007, Alan Schneider)

 

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