Primitive Belief in Sacrifice

Where did the idea originate that the creative force that is personified as “God” required a sacrifice to save the world from the consequences of its imperfections?  Sacrifice is a pivotal turning point in the biblical tale of Abraham being told by God to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac.  And the whole focus of Christianity is upon the same superstition that man’s redemption can be achieved only at the expense of some innocent victim.  As a result of this “find-a-victim” approach many of the world’s cultures have blatantly victimized each other for thousands of years because of the immoral assertion that God demands victims.

It has always been held to be irreverent to ask such questions of priest-invented tales that were made-up by them to explain the unknown principles at work as creation.  However, the concept that God or the gods demanded sacrifices to receive his/their favoritism can be reliably traced back to the dark and dangerous environment of prehistory man.

In the ethnological phases in humankind’s development—the food gathering, small game hunting, agricultural and pottery phases—the framework of all life was thought by early man to be a spiritual universe.  The eventual discovery of how to extract metals from ores and creating useful objects from the metals abruptly altered man’s concept of how human force shaped the elements to become diverse creations.  The implied muscularity necessary for creation seemed to deny the previous belief that all life was created in and issued from a Great Mother, and the result was that the idea of a reflexively produced creation changed into an understanding that all within the universe was due to procreation.  Metal working required labor; ores had to be mined, metals extracted, and more labor was necessary to create useful objects from those metals.  Such work was rarely accomplished without significant pain, and even loss of blood often occurred in the process.  From this metallurgy work arose the themes of ritual union, blood sacrifice, immolation or self-immolation; and sacrifice was assessed as a condition of creation.  This, in turn, introduced the idea that life can only be engendered from another life that has been immolated.  The stage was then set where the process of creation or fabrication was deemed inconceivable without previous sacrifice.  This notion evolved to the point that when important buildings were built, victims were sacrificed so the “life” essence or “soul” of the victim would be transferred to the building itself.  In priestly theory the building then became the victim’s body.

The bulk of man’s beliefs from the Iron Age onward carried their theme that Creation is the result of sacrifice.  The precept was that life can be put into that which has been created only by giving to it one’s own life essences (blood, tears, sweat, semen, etc.).  From these concepts that sacrifice of life’s essence is necessary to instill the power of life there emerged the ideas of the sexualization of the mineral kingdom and vegetable kingdom.  In connection with this symbolism, the  mines that the men worked for ores were compared to the uterus and the ores were compared to embryos; it was the male entering that brought life out of belly of Earth.  From metal working there thus arose the widespread conception of the cosmic reality as also sexually oriented.  In some mining-centered cultures ores were classified as either male or female.  Those ores that were black and hard taken from the surface were classified as male, and ores that were soft and reddish extracted from inside mines were regarded as female.  That was a somewhat elastic means of classification, for neither the color nor firmness of ores always bestowed the decisive factor of the ore’s “sexual” evaluation.  This awareness of vague sexual characteristics brought recognition that a wide range in sexual orientation exists naturally throughout the cosmos. 

The premise of sacrifice was also a feature at the time of smelting—a mythico-ritual theme was generally practiced and accented the belief that a mystical union occurred between a human and the metals.  To ensure the “marriage” (civil union?) of metals in the smelting process it was thought that a living being must animate the process, and the prime way to accomplish this was by the transference of life—meaning a sacrifice.  From this perceived divine means of creating new manifestations from sacrifices offered up in primitive man’s furnaces new values would also be manufactured—values such as the sacrifice of Jesus to be transmuted into Christ for the salvation of the world. 

Man’s technologies have advanced beyond the need for immolation of human victims, but the superstitions are still intact in man’s faith systems and cloud our lives.

2 Responses to “Primitive Belief in Sacrifice”

  1. Interesting post, and I’ve often wondered this myself. Could you cite where you got this information?

    The answer as to why each specific religion thinks sacrifice is necessary can only be answered from within each religion. From within Christianity, for example, the consequence of sin (which is a separation from the divinity) = death. Why is this? The divinity by its very nature is life everlasting, and anything that is not of this nature or connected to it, is the absence of that, death. Again, from within the Christian view point, man has separated himself from the divinity, and therefor death ensues. The “sacrifice” is God Himself, laying his own being in human form to take on that penalty (the paradox here is great, and I by no means can explain this) for mankind. God bridged the gap between the divine and man in the form of a person, Jesus. Now in Him, Jesus, Christians view the gap between the divine and God as closed, and thus Life eternal can be received.

    So as short as I can say it:
    Sin = separation from the divine = death
    Man has sinned, and will die
    God has bridged the gap between man and Himself by taking on humanity in Jesus.
    With the gap between God and man closed in the person of Christ, man can receive life again.

    This is all from within the Christian perspective, and not exactly the hoo-doo voo-doo of blood sacrifice to an all powerful being in the sky that many people might think is primitive. It’s all a matter of logical consequences given the make-up of the world, and paradox in the will of the divine.

  2. […] Primitive Belief &#1110&#1495 Sacrifice « Time Frames &#1072&#1495&#1281 Taboo Data Blog […]

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