Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Beyond sacrifice in the Bible

From our article on the verb זבח (zabah), meaning to slaughter or sacrifice:

The act of sacrificing animals is very common in the Bible as well as in classical cultures at large, but it's often overlooked how profound a concept sacrifice really is. Sacrifice has two main functions, and these reflect almost perfectly the greatest command and the second one that is equal to the first (Matthew 22:36-40):

(1) Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul and mind

When humans were hunter-gatherers, survival depended largely on the clan's ability to stick together, to have clan members diversify and specialize, and thus form a sort of super-organism. The quintessential human ability to use language actually developed from a universal proto-language called syntax (discussed in Genesis 11:1) not as a tool to convey data, but as a tool to forge and strengthen bonds — meaning that small-talk is language's main function; laughter and music probably stem from similar considerations, see our article on the verb צחק (sahaq).

Formal religion too appears to have arisen mainly as a tool to keep the clan together; a shared devotion to an entity which was not only imagined to protect the group from an outside perspective but which also strengthened bonds between clan members from within. In effect, a clan's deity was the clan; its spirit was the clan's spirit, its culture and its life.

The acquisition and preparation of food was obviously a main occupation of the clan, and sharing this food with the clan members effectively was equal to sharing this food with the deity. Cultural evolution may have forged formal and complicated rites, but the idea remained the same. (1 Corinthians 9:13, 10:18-22).

(2) You shall love your neighbor as yourself

Equally important to forging a clan's internal bond is its collective understanding of the general operating principles of creation, and its local role on the grander stage — or in other words: that a clan understands that its internal integrity is as important and of the same essence as its external integrity. A clan's internal symbiosis is as important as the harmony of creation at large: the whole of creation is a super-clan and the local clan fits the super-clan the way one person fits the local clan.

There's nothing wrong with a good theory, but buzz-words like "competition" and "survival of the fittest" are not the main driving principles of the biosphere. If they were, we would have had a winner by now. This winner creature would have eaten all the others and hence ended bio-diversity, while at the same time find a way to halt the hallowed mutations to prevent diversity from emerging again — it's a self-contradicting scenario.

Variety makes all the difference

In stead, the biosphere is endowed with all sorts of mechanisms that promote and preserve diversity at all costs. If one particular creature becomes too populous, its food will automatically run out, multiple predator populations will increase, and even viruses and such will slay with greater efficiency too much cloning or near-cloning (that's what caused the famous 19th century famine in Ireland).

Sacrificial rituals are secondarily designed to express and instill gratitude and acknowledgement towards the sacrifice. The sacrifice sustains the sacrificer, and the sacrificer in turn becomes a sacrifice. This sounds like a lot of wasting, but that's only because that's what the word sacrifice has come to mean to us. The word sacrifice comes from the same Latin root as does the word sacred. Sacrificing something doesn't mean to do away with it, but to sanctify it; to utilize it into the great circle of life. Sacrifice means sanctify and has the same effect as love. The biosphere is an ongoing cycle of servitude; death is not the enemy but a worthless and unapplied and unshared life is (Matthew 10:39).

It's tempting to project human feelings of individuality upon the biosphere, but our human feelings may be delusional rather than natural. Like a tree that is eager to give up its fruits for the benefit of its customers as much as its own, so is a large herd of animals or school of fish designed to give up some of its members. The herd-mind consists of all the minds of all the animals together, and is much more dominant than one individual mind. That may seem unfair, but our own human mind is in fact the mini-minds of all our cells combined, like a choir of a trillion voices. Our separate cells die and are replaced every few months, and none of them objects as long as the total continues.

To almost every human individual, the wish to matter to others is far stronger than the wish to overwhelm them. Asking someone for help benefits both; you don't have to go it alone and the other feels valuable. This basic driver of social evolution is based on the primary operating principle of life on the collective biosphere scale, and even explains the death and resurrection of the Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be nice.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...