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The Archetype of Sacrifice: Regulating Divine Energy

Sacrificial rites have been performed by humans for as long as history can reveal, perhaps longer. Our earliest ancestors understood, or intuited, the reciprocal nature of life, and did their best to "appease the gods" in an attempt to bring harmony, balance, and alignment to their own lives and to their communities. The idea of "sacrifice" is something that can be studied in length by anthropologists, psychologists, philosophers, mystics, and more, and each might have their own opinion about the purpose of such a thing. Understanding the true symbolic meaning of sacrifice is the purpose of this discussion, so as to eliminate confusion around this word and to take away any negative connotations shrouding these primal rites due to the modern world's misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

To begin with we must acknowledge a set of basic assumptions. These assumptions are derived mostly from the revelatory work of Carl Jung and his contemporaries, but are also based on personal experience and years of exposure to various spiritual traditions, including and especially

Yoga & Tantra. The common theme woven through all of these different schools of thought is that there are forces beyond the ego, and that our wellbeing is dependent on our relationship with them. That leads us to:

#1) The Ego is not the center of the Universe.

  • This first assumption is the basis for spiritual work, of which sacrifice is a part. In order to move beyond the ego, to produce real transformation in the psyche, we must see that the ego is NOT the center, and that there are forces greater than the ego which give us life.

#2) The forces beyond us are trying to get us to do things

  • The second assumption helps us begin to see that these "greater forces" want something from us. In a way, we are indebted to "them" and, if we are wise enough, we might try to get into conversation to figure out what "they" want. You can think of these forces as Laws of Nature to help you align with this concept.

#3) IF we appropriately honor and offer respect to their wishes, we can enter into a life of alignment with the Great Beyond

  • This final assumption sets the stage for understanding how to come into greater alignment between ourselves and ALL of life.

Now this pattern and set of assumptions can be applied to any spiritual tradition or religious path. This is a fundamental, psychological framework for understanding how to enter into communion with the Divine. Whichever name we choose to call it -- Laws of Nature, God, life, the Universe -- the pattern is the same. Something is bigger than the ego and wants the ego to cooperate with it. When the ego doesn't cooperate, bad things happen. Religion is an attempt to help us contain and channel these powerful energies in a benevolent way, as are other spiritual traditions and ways. Somehow we can intuit this.

By entering into communion with the Great Other we find ways to resource ourselves on a spiritual level for the demands of life. It may be useful to remember that thousands of years ago, this aspect of life was essential. In the modern world we don't have so much need for this, but that doesn't mean it is not to our detriment. For example, we no longer need to do rain dances to bring the water that our crops need to feed our people; we have miles of structured irrigation that somehow magically sources water (hint: it's comin' from somewhere!). Due to technology we have advanced so far and so far that we have lost the "higher" technology of our primitive people -- the technology of Spirit and magick.

Much of what we see in regards to ritual technology is related to this. Humans set up elaborate formulas and methods to stage their entry into Sacred Space. They perform ritual bathing, purification rites, fasting, vision quests, ceremonies of all types, etc all with the intention to get them ready for contact with the Divine. Through these processes we learn how to step out of the ordinary world of duality and into the realm of Spirit in order to receive the instructions, insight, guidance, and protection for the work ahead. We are all tasked with the crucial mission of establishing order in our lives. "Establishing order" means that we contend with the forces that want to destroy us and we successfully build a life in the middle of a chaotic world. Only now the "forces that want to destroy us" are no longer sabertooth tigers, or a crop-killing drought. Instead, these "forces" manifest in different ways, but are nonetheless present in our lives.

The purpose of ritual is to re-create the steps of Creation. The word "ritual" comes from a Sanskrit word, rta, which means "cosmic order". Engaging is a sort of play with the Divine, we create our rituals based on the elaborate journey to the "Center beyond the center". We engage in a magickal process to encounter the forces beyond the ego, and in doing so we move away from the "I" as center and towards the Great One. From our contact with the Great One, we can step back into the Source of Creation. The wellspring of life and renewal. This journey is, in a way, retracing our steps back from the maya (projected illusion) of life and towards the One True Reality. If and when we do this successfully, we will have untangled the knots of projection coming from our ego and opened up a channel for the Divine Energy to flow through us once more. When we are entangled in our perceptions, there is no room for Creation, as we are bound by "the created" (and "the created" is bound by us, interestingly).

Sacrificial rites are a process by which we consciously offer these entanglements BACK to the Source. We let go of things we don't want to let go of and thereby CREATE room for something new to emerge. We can see this happening in our lives in so many ways. The simplest of examples here illustrates the point: when I say "no" to something, I am opening a door to a "yes". By saying "no" I will have "sacrificed" that opportunity being presented. Sometimes I don't even know the outcome beyond the "no", but by establishing myself in the no I am opening myself to something else. We must remember that this is life. Whether I know it or not, I am sacrificing my energy all of the time. When I get conscious about how, why, or for what, I am sacrificing, I can start to develop the vision I have for my life. The clearer my vision, the easier it is to do the sacrificing. This is not something that comes out of the ego, for the ego will present to us all sorts of half-baked wishes and desires. No, I believe that the VISION we have for life comes directly from the Creator, and subsequently we engage in a mutual, reciprocal process to assist the Creator in Its Divine task.

The result is that we live in alignment with the forces beyond the ego, and in doing so we get all of our needs met. Not just physical, but our spiritual, psychological, and emotional needs as well; because we are responding to life from all dimensions, not merely the dimensions that we see with our eyes or taste with our tongues. The important thing to realize here is that we are greater than we think we are, but only because we have a direct and intimate connection to That Which is Greater. All of us.

The entire system of Tantra teaches this -- it teaches us about the building blocks of reality and how to sufficiently purify ourselves to enter into a real communion with the Great Beyond. Yoga is the methodology of unification between ego and Self. Primitive spiritual technologies and ritual processes did this as well, in their own way using their own language, but the result is the same. Religion is making great attempts to do so, but we are missing the symbolic and mystical understanding about how to make the processes effective.

Ask yourself -- "how am I sacrificing today? And to what or for what am I sacrificing?"

You may receive some answers. Pay attention.


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