human sacrifice (allusion to Abraham)

George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Wed Apr 22 19:34:51 EDT 1998


I have to agree with Mary Storm and Lars Martin Fosse that there are in
fact clear vestiges of sacrificial thinking in both Judaism and
Christianity.

But in response to N. Ganesan's post, I would go one step further, and
suggest that there are traces of sacrificial thinking in Buddhism and
Jainism too. The difference, more or less great depending on your point of
view, is that the sacrificial violence in Buddhism and Jainism is
self-directed, rather than directed at a surrogate victim.

Coincidentally, there has been a thread on "self-sacrificing Buddhas" on
the RISA list recently.

As for Vedic, I think that this tradition offers a clearer picture of
sacrificial logic than any tradition that I myself am aware of. This is not
to say that Vedic is more sacrificial than other traditions. Rather, it was
more determined to preserve a memory of the old sacrificial paradigm, in
spite of any moral reservations that individuals may have had [and they did
have some].

I'm convinced that familiarity with Vedic is crucial for an understanding
of this kind of "logic", which goes back well beyond Indo-European
traditions, perhaps deep into neolithic prehistory.

In my view, the problem of sacrifice is not a problem belonging to this
race or that one, this religion or that one. It is a pan-species problem
that persists, everywhere, even today.

[Clearly I have been influenced here by the theories of Girard and Burkert,
but I sincerely believe that I have a strong advantage over these scholars,
insofar as I have access to Vedic.]

Best wishes,

George Thompson



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