Thursday, August 18, 2011

On Sacrifice

Sacrifice is the practice of developing the habit of giving without expectation of immediate reward, and cultivating faith in the larger generalized reciprocity of the universe. It requires a leap beyond our fear of scarcity, our miserliness in the face of uncertain yields, in order to let go of a little of what we find precious so that it may be shared. Sacrifice cultivates the discipline of sharing. It does not require that we give up everything, but it does require that we give.

Some people mistake sacrifice as commerce with the Gods, a purchasing of their favors, a kind of bribery of the divine. Such philistine niggardliness exposes how far we are from the full generosity the Gods encourage and the poets admire. Instead, the more we are willing to risk generosity, the richer a life we will discover in the passion of our being. Because we are surrounded by miserliness, we must give, as an example, and as a discipline to our own stinginess, but because we are surrounded by miserliness, we are not required to give up unto those who would exploit us. We are not asked to exhaust ourselves, but yield the extra fruits of our fertility, the natural interest of our full development.

As soon as Gullveig had sown the human soil with the thorny seeds of greed, urging the few to enrich themselves at the expense of the many, and inspiring the many to therefore be sparing with their purse for fear of robbery, a distortion in the complete picture of fruition the Gods envisioned for humanity occurred. This distortion required physicians of the soul, and to this end, Heimdall was sent to establish the priesthood, which developed religion as a set of disciplines meant to counter the distortions and cultivate the fruits. Properly understood, religion, as the endowment of Heimdall through the legendary patriarchs, is the weeding and seeding of the human soul that allows, over time, for the Gods' original plan to begin to triumph. One of those tools of discipline is sacrifice, whereby sharing is encouraged.

Heimdall developed the productive forces of humanity that had lain dormant beneath the fear of scarcity and the narrow outlook that blinds the soul to the possibilities of evolution by cultivating horticulture, husbandry, and industry in the form of diverse craftsmanship. By demonstrating new possibilities of production, the anxiety over scarcity that motivates selfish greed could be challenged. Thus, one of religion's mandates is that we develop our powers to their fullness, for without full capacity, there can be no full generosity.

Heimdall cultivated the vanguard of humanity, its avante-guard front-line in the evolutionary advance, and took these bold pioneers into the fields of responsibility and generosity, and made them trustees of the commonwealth of the tribe, who would ensure fair and equitable redistribution of the wealth yielded by sacrifice in common feasts and celebrations, which would feed material hungers and satisfy spiritual strivings in the encouragement and affirmation of bolder deeds. These feasts of responsibility and festschriften of endowment became the central religious rites of the folk, whereby the festive and the aspirational, the noble and the base, the material and the spiritual, the individual and the collective, were all fused into a dialectic unity of experience. These feasts were the universities and training grounds for a higher stage of evolution, that encouraged in babysteps the progress towards greater generosity, communal empowerment, and collective development of individual powers.

Sacrifice, to the fullest extent of that generosity which will not impoverish us, is the engine that drives and supplies the potluck of the communal feast. Within the context of this feast, sacrifice allows an equalization of disparities in fertility and development of craft, because each gives as they are able, and each receives, in turn, as they need. All contribute what they can, but those who have more, give more. The host of the feast collects this voluntary but customary (and therefore traditionally expected and pressured) tribute, and ensures the felicity of the guests.

The sacrifice goes beyond a potluck in the libations, which, from an atheist standpoint represent pure waste of brewers' labor and drinkers' sup, to spill out onto the ground, yet this fraction of surplus represents a defiant act of faith against apparent scarcity, in order to boast a modest generosity towards the world itself, and the other wights who inhabit it with us. In this act, we go beyond generosity towards our own human community, and extend ourselves towards the other broods of Mother Earth, from the fairy folk of the elves and shimmering land wights, whom the normal eye cannot even see, to the diverse creatures, flora and fauna, all of whom with us are her children. Since the brag occurs within this context, we can see that our ancestors dared to assert the development of the individual within the larger expanses of human and even ecological community. In such ways, the narrow selfishness sometimes necessary to survive, but which overexaggerated limits our horizons, can be transcended, and eventually outgrown.

Through the example of these communal feasts and open-hearted giving, enacted season after season, slowly, over time, we become more saturated in the spirit of the Gods and less choked by the thorny tares of Gullveig. In other words, through practice, the spirit of the Gods is enabled to surpass rhetoric and declamation, and infuse our actions and relationships. Sacrifice is thus defying the Gullveig within to please the Gods within and without.


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