human sacrifice and death penalty

Erik Hoogcarspel jehms at GLOBALXS.NL
Fri Apr 24 20:02:40 UTC 1998

Op vrijdag, 24-apr-98 schreef Georg von Simson:

GvS> Jean Fezas wrote (I give only a part of his message):
GvS> >Manu (VIII.317) already tells us that "Men who, after having committed sins
GvS> >have been punished by kings go to heaven without being stained, just like
GvS> > good men having accomplished good actions"... See how rAma uses this
GvS> > zloka to justify the murder of vAlin, in Ram. 4.18.
GvS> >rAjabhir dhRta-daNDAs tu kRtvA pApAni mAnavAH /
GvS> >nirmalAH svargam Ayanti santaH sukRtino yathA //
GvS> >
GvS> About this topic see now a major article written by Albrecht Wezler: "Der
GvS> Tod als Mittel der Entsuehnung (gemaess dem DharmazAstra)", in: G.
GvS> Oberhammer (ed.): Im Tod gewinnt der Mensch sein Selbst. Wien: Verlag der
GvS> oesterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1995 (= Oest. Ak. d. Wiss.,
GvS> Phil.-hist. Kl., Sb. 624), p. 97-140.

1) A sacrificial ritual is much more 'civilised' than a sacrifice, because it's a symbolic act that doesn't require the actual signifiers, only the signifieds. In many tantric rituals human sacrifice is therefore performed by substitutes, e.g. most sadhus have to organise their own funeral and burn a puppet with their old name, buddhist monks offer their hair.

2) In a Catholic Mass Christ is ritually sacrificed again and again, it is a ritual reactualisation of the first sacrifice of God's own son that God appaerently needed in order to appease His Sense of Jusitice.

3) Wezler's point: the punishment as a cleansing ritual for the criminal and/or society could lead to another interesting point of view: the burning of witches and protestants in Western history (you don't have to read Gaston Bachelard's 'Psychoanalasis of Fire' to realise that fire is a powerfull ritual cleansing device), and I wonder if there's not a strong component of ritual sacrifice in the death penalty (is the electric chair not a modern equivalent of an altar for Yama?) 



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