The Fallacy of Transcendence: The “Giving” of Sacrifice and the Patriarchal Ladder … Men Raise Themselves Upon the Bodies of the Murdered
— Which is Chapter 38 of Dance of the Seven Veils 1 by Michael Adzema
The Fallacy of Transcendence:
The “Giving” of Sacrifice and the Patriarchal Ladder … Men Raise Themselves Upon the Bodies of the Murdered
“…the meaning of the practice remains clear: In order to be a mover-shaker one must not be “weak” … one must be above ordinary feelings of empathy and compassion.”
“One needs to step upon the bodies and broken careers of others to attain the highest status is the thinking there. There are no molly-coddlers among the movers and shakers, no bleeding hearts. That is the dominant theme. Like the pigs and people slain in the ancient rites, with … each another rung higher on the ladder to transcendence, in the corporate milieu, each person passed, put below one, or thrown under the bus is another level higher on the Tower of Babel of corporate achievement … leading nowhere but to the grave.”
There are other falsehoods woven into the fabric of patriarchality with its ascension of the few at the expense of the most and its split of the personality into the part that benefits the higher ups and the part that is denigrated yet real.
Raising Oneself on High — “Transcendence”
This chapter was stimulated by what I was reading from the book Primitive Mythology (1969) by Joseph Campbell. He writes that “with this, I believe, we have our final clue to the ritual sacrifice of the royal tombs of Ur, as well as to the ‘fury for sacrifice’ that beset, at one time or another, every part of the archaic world in the various high periods of its numerous cultures. A magical power is gained according to the measure of one’s sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice is, of course, one’s self; yet the value even of this self is to be measured according to the orders of sacrifice accomplished during life and made by one’s survivors at one’s mortuary feast. The most potent supporting offering of this sort is another human being — one’s son, one’s slave, one’s prisoner of war. But the next in order is some beast that one has raised oneself and cared for as one’s own. Moreover, wherever such animal offerings are rendered, the beast is of a species mythologically associated with deity….
“The offered beast is a quantum of divine power, which, through its sacrifice, is integrated with the giver. The giver climbs, so to say, on the rungs of his sacrifice….”1
I think of the scene in the movie, Scrooged, with Bill Murray. He is talking to his brother:
James Cross (the brother): A little bit rough on her out there, weren’t you? You know what they say about treating people badly on the way up?
Frank Cross (the “Scrooge”): Yep. You get to treat them badly on the way down, too. It’s great! You get two chances to rough ‘em up!
Over Their Dead Bodies, He Will
Jokes aside, this points to the dominating theme of ladder-climbing in a corporate world … or advance in any hierarchical society: You get ahead by stepping upon the backs … and dead bodies … of others.
The passage from Joseph Campbell indicates how this idea of getting more power at the cost of others’ suffering — whether a “beast,” an enemy, a slave, a prisoner of war … or one’s own son — is rooted deeply in our cultural practices from the times of early civilization. Notice also that the more “immoral” the sacrifice — in other words, the greater the harm done to others — the higher the bump in status. Killing one’s son gives one a bigger jump in power than merely killing one’s pig. Don’t let that dastardly fact slide by you. This has implications!
So it is that in this way, through such practices and their reflections throughout culture, our “ritual” sacrifices of others takes the deep spiritual understanding of the sacrifice of the ego one must make to attain spiritual advancement … the relinquishing of pride, accomplishment, reward, even the ends of one’s efforts, surrendering them … and perverts that into the sacrifice of another to attain the same. No. It does not work. But it is what we have been acting out from time immemorial: Men seek to raise themselves upon the bodies of the murdered.
Furthermore, I want to point out how this dynamic of raising oneself by stepping on others is a distant relative to what we think we are accomplishing in war, unconsciously. Nations think they can elevate themselves standing upon the ruins and the mangled bodies of those of other nations. As if by destroying a country and killing its people one has acquired the released mana or spirit-power from the souls of all those dead.
Yet, again, that is not true. One would be hard pressed to find a war that did not take more economically and in resources to wage than was acquired, even if won. Although, as we see with the Gulf Wars made for the benefit of oil tycoons, it is ever attempted. The idea that energy interests would be able to set up Western control of the oil of the Middle East region was the driving force behind those wars. Though it was anything but a noble goal, still, that is what was thought and attempted. And, like the delusions of other wars — look to Hitler’s wars and his delusions of grandeur as another example — we see how poorly that worked out.
The Patriarchal Fallacy of “Sacrifice”
Why has the distinction in ritual and history between sacrifice and murder not been seen before? Well, look back to the passage I quoted at the start of this chapter of Campbell from his Primitive Mythology. Now notice how Campbell follows a patriarchal habit in his describing this process: He sees things from the perspective of the patriarchs, the authorities, the higher ups, the ones who would pass along the narrative of such events to others…. Over and again Campbell uses the words sacrifice and offerings. But sacrifice of what? He says the ultimate sacrifice is of self, yet he puts that in the same category of “sacrifices” of “another human being — one’s son, one’s slave, one’s prisoner of war.”
What is the patriarch sacrificing then? This is not sacrifice, this is murder. This is not an “offering” of something owned, rather it is a taking, and using, of something to which one has no right. And these underlings and “properties” are used as substitutes for, and indirect ways of avoiding, the “sacrifice of self.” These higher ups are not “sacrificing” their underlings, they are using them. A ruler’s sacrifice of a slave, a prisoner of war, a woman, a child, anyone other than oneself is employing them as tools in one’s ego agenda and are no more a “sacrifice” than are soldiers one sends into war to be killed for one’s ends, or flour used in the making of one’s bread. You don’t go saying you are going to “sacrifice your flour” ‘cause you want to make a cake. You say you are going to use it. “Use it up,” maybe. But use it.
Sacrifice implies some sort of personal loss involved in the process. As a child I might have sacrificed the eating of sweets or of meat during Lent. This meant that I accepted a little suffering in forgoing the pleasant thing for an end beyond it. On the other hand, one is not “sacrificing” one’s money when one purchases a car, a meal in a restaurant, an iPad. One uses one’s money that way. Yet this “fallacy of the sacrifice” is rooted firmly in Western culture. And all because Western culture emanates out of the desires of those at the peak of the pyramid.
We see a clear and early example of this in The Bible where we have a story about an Abraham and an Isaac and a “sacrifice” that supposedly Abraham was told to make of his son, Isaac. In all my sixty-seven years of life I have never heard this story depicted in terms where the perspective of Isaac is seen and this is noted to be a murder of the son and the mere use of the son for the ends, supposedly spiritual, of the father. Never is it seen as the brutal transaction it is, the payment of son for favor with Jehovah. We see here how deeply the use and abuse of underlings is ever and again seen as some inconvenience to the one doing the abuse. “This is going to hurt you more than it hurts me” comes to mind. Which is what a parent might say during an act of corporal punishment, beating or spanking, of his or her child. Or, “Oh, poor Abraham, he might lose his son,” in the biblical example. Sorry, but as for myself, I refuse to empathize with homicidal maniacs.
This is no different from war profiteers and their lackeys in government detailing the events and experiences of war from the detached perspective, protective of their sensibilities and benefiting their interests, which leaves out of consideration the losses of the soldiers and civilians who are killed or have their lives destroyed. No, they are mere “collateral damage” in their ends, and the war is seen in “strategic” terms where one uses one’s power in various ways to outwit the enemy. We say “pawns are sacrificed” when in actuality this displays a detached and unfeeling perspective. No. Pawns are killed, in war. They sacrifice their lives; the ones who order their deaths are not losing the lives of their underlings, for they never had them. They had and controlled their bodies, and those bodies are used in war and the other agendas of the wealthy that are carried out by folks other than themselves.
Yet this is not seen. Campbell certainly does not see it. In any of the many books on mythology I have read of his he never once notices that the murder of another is another category than a sacrifice of something of one’s self. He never sees the distinction between transactions, involving the gaining and losing of items, and actual sacrifice, where one forgoes some desired experience or personal attainment for a higher end — meaning benefiting something beyond oneself … or some others, people “beyond oneself.” Such is the degree to which patriarchality and the hidden agendas of those higher in the hierarchy are woven into the fabric of Western culture and history so as to be invisible … right up to the current time!
You see, maybe, how this again is the solar way? How it is about separating oneself from life, its events, so as to better manage it? Better manage it in a way more fitting to one’s ego, and thereby to one’s “betters” in society with whom that ego is geared to be complicit? How it involves turning from Reality, like Perseus does Medusa, and seeing It instead in the reflected analytical images appearing upon one’s “shield,” which is metaphorical for one’s defenses? One’s defensive self? What Janov called the unreal self.
Slaying Maidens, Sacrificing Pigs
This idea of supposed “sacrifice” of another for the benefit of oneself is related to the idea of transcendence. In the practice that Campbell describes — where pigs or maidens or slaves are sacrificed … killed … for the attainment of the one seeking power — at the end of the ritual, the one for whom it is being conducted is raised on a platform, high above the others. He actually resides on that rostrum for as long as thirty days, as if marking his territory. Looking up to him there, god knows he must be better than us, huh? This practice symbolizes being raised to the heavens. It means the person, at the cost of the lives of the others, has attained god-like status and power.
I ask, how is that example of the murder of others so as to attain higher status any different from someone gunning down another as the ticket, the initiation, into gang membership, which we hear goes on in the big cities. It might equally be alike to advancement in the Mafia. Is a gang member “sacrificing” or is he murdering his victim for his ends? You see how we slant and phrase these things differently depending upon whether we are talking about someone above us — who we don’t want to offend — or someone below us?
Yet this is not science, social science, scholarship, or even very good research. For to frame the injustices of the world in words protecting perpetrators is not only to protect barbaric people by covering up their deeds with euphemisms, it is also simply not true in its being an accurate representation of the event: For it covers up as much or more than it reveals. How is it good scholarship to relay a few facts that are set in a frame that gives of them meanings one would not otherwise … opposite meanings, even?
Indeed such erstwhile scholarly description only assists the ruthless in their own many efforts at self-congratulation for their nefarious deeds and their own tendencies to deflect any criticism of themselves through references to their own privileged status and through compliments on their own, ahem, “nobility” in the performance of them all. Notice in previous chapters how this same kind of distortion has been done by anthropologists as a matter of course when it comes to brutal rites of passage. Compare also how it is similar, by taking the peculiar perspective of the perpetrator in describing the event, to the complaints of brutalizing parents decrying the inconvenience of having to “discipline” their children. Is that any different from going along with brutal and murdering rulers in their claims that in taking and murdering the lives of others it is themselves who are making a “sacrifice” … who are “offering” something? To equate such trivial inconveniences of corporal punishment of one’s child or murderous theft of another’s life with “sacrifice” distorts, covers up, and is sycophantic to brutal daddies and psychopathic homicidal rulers everywhere.
Whereas, it doesn’t take an academic to see the truth of the Abraham story, it would be more clearly seen by a child. It doesn’t take an anthropologist to see the intention of the elders in patriarchal societies and their use of its members for their advance. Instead, ask the downtrodden initiands themselves. Remember that this is how we were able to see through to the actual intentions of the Navajo rite of passage, the Kinaalda. In Chapter 26, “Blessingways?” I pointed out how its actual profile was revealed when one of the girls was asked about her experience during it, and she related a bit of resigned complaint— “Well, if you’re cheerful … [about] what you got to do….” and so on.
The Vampire Analogy
This idea of higher, god-like status being attained upon the bodies of the slain is related also to the idea I discussed above of the power supposedly contained within the bodies of powerful personalities, which, as mentioned, is reflected in our cults of celebrity and the glory of kings and tyrants. Here it is thought that in a powerful person’s, usually a man’s, controlling of more people — that is, taking their energies and orchestrating them — one has power within one’s own body, much like in the primitive instance one was raised on a platform.
One increases in power to the extent one diminishes the lives of others.
We see how in criminal groups that mana, that charisma is related to the ruthlessness of a person’s dealings. Again, one achieves not just higher status, a higher platform closer to the “gods” standing upon the bodies of the slain; but one ingests or appropriates the life force of the people one has caused to be murdered, as well as one balloons oneself out in power from the amount of joy, happiness, and pleasure one subtracts from one’s subjects — by controlling their lives to one’s own ends, not theirs.
Similar, this is, to what I said in Prodigal Human, that the monuments of civilization, reaching for the sky — the pyramids, the castles, the skylines of cities — equals the amount of suffering added to that society, of folks doing things they did not want to do and were forced to in their construction. Just that here we see that the glory, the personal mana or mojo, of the powerful is extracted from the happiness that would otherwise have been enjoyed by their subordinates. Simple example, the more powerful slaveholder is seen to be the one who is the most oppressive of the most people — the one who has removed, or destroyed, the most joy or life from others; the one who has been the greatest of them all in being a “kitty-drowner, butterfly-masher.”
This is why we attribute power and “leadership abilities” to those most ruthless. For power, at its base, means the ability to get people to do what you want, not what they want, and not allowing them any choice in the matter. Hardly conducive to their happiness. So, men raise themselves in power on the backs of others’ unhappiness and suffering, as well as their murdered bodies. “You get two chances to rough ‘em up!”
The Tower of Babel
How is any of this different from the Tower of Babel of mythology which was another instance where folks tried to raise themselves up to the heavens? It is said that people of the distant, mythical past tried to build a tower to reach to God. They failed, because they ended up fighting with each other, for they had different designs, and this was the origin of humans’ many languages. Still, in this way, they thought spiritual power could be attained by material achievement.
Historically we see this in Calvinism, where it is thought that wealth and fortune in this life is an indicator of favor with God. Don’t tell that to the naked, wandering mystic in India, however. Or, actually, have some of the powerful in America who subscribe to such a Calvinistic belief have a sit-down with one of them. We’d all benefit.
“Transcendence” as Ego Attainment Not Spiritual Attainment
What this analysis is telling us is that this supposed “transcendence” or advance at the cost of others’ lives or sufferings, while it might “work” in a this-worldly sense of power — though at what cost, that also (“what does it merit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” and all) — is nevertheless hardly a spiritual attainment. It is an external substitute for the inner relinquishing of Ego pursuits on the path of greater re-union with the Divine, with one’s higher Self. It is Ego attainment, not spiritual attainment.
It is Ego glorified — like all corporate climbers, tyrants, kings, and elites — at the cost of all those below. This is true regardless how you spin it in theological or mythological jargon, how high you raise your tyrants on platforms above the people, how much you empathize with the “hard work” of the ogre oligarch, or how many times you frame the brutality of the higher-ups as an “inconvenience” or a “sacrifice” to them, or how much gold you surround and colorful vestments you attire them.
So, the secret of higher ups?
It’s a lie.
There is no secret of those higher in status.
The Secret of “the Holy”
This also relates to spiritual and religious beliefs about the “mastery” of self, which includes a killing of passion, a detachment from the senses. You see this with priests and monks, with New Age adepts and ascetic supposed “mystics,” with the fervently religious of all ages, with self-flagellating Catholics and self-martyring mothers. This is the equivalent of the killing of the animal within oneself, the body, the biological.
While one might think that to be a great thing, one should remember that the body, with its feelings, is the seat of empathy, compassion, the feeling of unity with others. It is the seat of love. To kill those feelings — Spock-style — is the same kind of repression and killing of feelings that tyrants, Trumps, and corporate yuppies do for the achievement of their this-worldly ends.
Spiritual or secular, the same mistake is made: Nature is killed, rather than ego. And ego is advanced at the cost of Nature, at the cost of feeling, at the cost of real spiritual advancement and greater expansion of love, feeling, compassion, and unity with all and the larger Self or God.
So, the secret of “the holy”?
It’s a lie.
There is no secret of “the holy.”
The Killing of the Body — Repression
Abraham and Isaac
We see this acted out in the Abraham-Isaac myth, too. For when Abraham is blocked from killing his son, he kills a ram instead. This symbolizes that when we do not sacrifice others, we still sacrifice Nature; and we sacrifice the Nature inside us, our body and its feelings.
This is only marginally better than killing one’s children. It is still about ego expanding itself upon the bodies of the slain … even if the slain is one’s own compassionate, loving empathetic self … or an animal. And in the sacrifice of the ram, do you not see that, as a symbol of Nature — the life besides ourselves on Earth, of our planetmates — it is saying that from the beginnings of history, our advance was made upon the destruction of the other beings on Earth?
Essentially, we have psychologically been raising ourselves upon “transcendent” platforms built of the death of Nature since civilization began. We continue, as we eat hamburgers and drive our automobiles while species go extinct by the hundreds of thousands and even millions. Are we “sacrificing” these planetmates? We hardly feel any loss when eating meat or cruising about town. No. The planetmate has done the sacrificing; the Earth is doing the sacrificing. It is experiencing a loss. Their loss is our gain and not our sacrifice. So, indeed the opposite is true.
If all the above does not make my point, consider: Would you say that America and the Bush administration “sacrificed” Iraq in its pursuit of oil profits? If you would, how presumptuous? And perhaps you should ask an Iraqi citizen if they feel the same? Would you say that Western civilization was bought with the “sacrifice” of the lives of indigenous peoples? Same thing. Ask them. Oh, that’s right, you can’t, we killed them. As always, we fail to see this issue clearly when looking only through the lenses of the dominators, the oppressors; we ignore the voices of the oppressed.
You don’t think that a repression of the body and its passions is a killing of empathy? How do you think they are able to get men to march to the tune of others’ commands and murder upon their direction? Every skein of empathy and compassion must be slain inside soldiers first before they can kill others. Just like when we first began killing planetmates, we were able to murder other humans. When we first began killing our conscience, our empathy — stoically repressing our bodies and its feelings … including any guilt come of the hurting of other beings — we were only then able to kill others.
So, the secret of warriors?
It’s a lie.
There is no secret of warriors.
Mafia, Gangs, Cartels, and Other “Secret Men’s Societies” of Our Times
These practices are acted out in all kinds of men’s societies — fraternity groups, mafias, gangs, cartels, and secret societies.
It is said of those wealthy elite who attend the annual Bohemian Grove ceremonies in the Russian River countryside of California that at one point an infant is killed, symbolically. Obviously, this demonstrates our unconscious knowledge that we have neonatal pain pushing us. Yet the answer in masculine rituals, as shown here, is to repress and kill it. Although that — much like their wars and monetary policies — also fails, as one’s primal pain whack-a-mole emerges in another place.
But more obviously the ritual of symbolically murdering an infant represents slaying the feelings of weakness, the “softness” in oneself, the dependency, nurturing qualities, one’s compassion, the relational qualities, the … horror of horrors … “feminine.” Most importantly, it is a way of desensitizing oneself to the oppression, murder, and suffering of others, especially underlings. For if one can kill a baby, without remorse, that is considered a sign of advancement in cultures of masculinity. And such coldness comes in handy for what these wealthy will do in their stations of power.
Now, some conspiratorial psycho-jobs say it is an actual baby that is used. But then these same folks think there is sexual predation, carried out by the elite, going on in pizza shops. They prefer to think that, to find objects to hate and direct their discomforts, instead of looking at their own prurient desires for their very own children. So the practice at Bohemian Grove is done, apparently. But it is carried out with a child substitute like a doll, from what I understand. It is bad enough, what this practice means. We do not need to cover it over with our own repressed pain from childhood, which only blocks it out with a wall of conspiratorial stupidity, which causes most other folks then to look away.
However, the meaning of the practice remains clear: In order to be a mover-shaker one must not be “weak” … one must be above ordinary feelings of empathy and compassion. I understand a similar practice is enacted at the secret initiation rites of university societies such as “Skull and Bones,” which America’s “esteemed” president George W. Bush participated in.
The Corporate Ladder
The most prevalent example, however, is that of the corporate world, to which the quote from Scrooged pointed. One needs to step upon the bodies and broken careers of others to attain the highest status is the thinking there. There are no molly-coddlers among the movers and shakers, no bleeding hearts. That is the dominant theme, exactly like the pigs and people slain in the ancient rites, with, as Campbell pointed out, each murder another rung higher on the ladder to transcendence. In the corporate milieu, each person passed, put below one, “voted off the island,” or thrown under the bus is another level higher on the Tower of Babel of corporate achievement … leading nowhere but to the grave.
So, the secret of the tough and emotionless?
It’s a lie.
There is no secret of the ruthless.
The Slaying of the Feminine
The Repression of Self and Feeling
The point is there is a repression of self and feeling built into the foundations of patriarchy. This suppression of feeling is the equivalent of the killing of the biological, the Nature, inside of humans … symbolized by Abraham killing a ram; and in other cultures, an animal of some sort.
Since women are associated with Nature, this brings about the suppression, even murder, of women throughout history. It is most definitely related to the rampant misogyny, witch-burnings, women-hating, and domestic violence we have seen in patriarchal cultures: For the message is the same, kill the body, kill the feelings, murder the “feminine” within oneself, slay one’s weakness, one’s softness … and inevitably despise, hate, … even murder and rape the symbols of such feelings outside — women.
The Murder of Nature
And all that is allowed in service to this higher good of transcendence, of being above the body and Nature…. Regardless the end result of that war on, repression of, and despising of Nature is currently leading to the end of all such bodies today — apocalypse … the end of all human bodies, humanicide.
We see this attitude blatantly in reactionary types in these times. With all the machismo they can muster, such conservatives boast, in the face of Earth apocalypse, “Hey, we’ll beat it till the wheels fall off!” Thinking this way, they, like Donald Trump, will deem it a good idea to outlaw the ideas and science of climate change and to put at the head of the department to protect the environment, the EPA, someone who does not believe there is an environmental problem and wants to squeeze of the Earth’s resources all that can be of riches, as long as we are able.
Similarly, their counterparts on the lower level — their masculinizing, macho, and sycophantic underlings — defy our problems buying gas-guzzling Humvees and ridiculing environmentalists as “tree-huggers.” The worst of them, Tea-Baggers and such, have been known to go around driving semis with exhausts made to be super polluting as their way of giving a middle finger salute to our bleeding heart, liberal … “feminine” … efforts to save ecosystems and lives. Including theirs, don’t you know.
The Murder of Everything
So the murder of Self, of body, of individuality — acted out in patriarchal cultures since the dawn of civilization and with roots in primitive psychological urges to better oneself, not upon one’s own efforts, but upon the suffering of others — has led to the imminent murder of everything. This is perhaps the part of this male dynamic, manifesting most prominently in patriarchies, that is most relevant to our environmental collapse. For apocalypse is rooted in the male, in a patriarchy, being forced to be insensitive, coerced into repressing the feelings of his body, taught to be unemotional, stoic, and cold; along with the outward destructions that emanate from this … the murder (“sacrifice”) of animals, women, their children, and ultimately the world of Nature, which is the world of life outside the patriarchy and its “secrets.”
Yet it does not have to be that way. Pulling back the Veil of cultural identity manifesting as patriarchal obeisance we find the resources to live and love, as well as to know. With that in mind, we continue. Turning from the patriarchal mode of domination and ignorance, the question arises as to what mode to apply to life instead. How to live, what to do with one’s life, who to be, along with the kind of knowledge one needs to make the most out of one’s life and to fulfill oneself — these are what we look at next.
— from Chapter 38, titled “The Fallacy of Transcendence: The “Giving” of Sacrifice and the Patriarchal Ladder … Men Raise Themselves Upon the Bodies of the Murdered”
— of *Dance of the Seven Veils I: Primal/Identity Psychology, Mythology, and Your Real Self* by Michael Adzema, as of December 2017, now available in print and kindle/e-book versions at Amazon at
Click for a free downloadable copy of this excerpt from Dance of the Seven Veils I, with my compliments.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michael Adzema. Video below … interviewed by Michael Harrell
— Related: See also other published versions of these ideas….
*Dance of the Seven Veils I* (2017).
At Amazon at
*The Secret Life of Stones: Matter, Divinity, and the Path of Ecstasy* (2016).
*Falls from Grace: The Devolution and Revolution of Consciousness* (2014).
*Apocalypse NO: Apocalypse or Earth Rebirth and the Emerging Perinatal Unconscious* (2013).
*Culture War, Class War: Occupy Generations and the Rise and Fall of “Obvious Truths”* (2013).
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