Mystics look to the past..part four
paper 89 (Urantia Book)
Sacrifices & Cannilbalism
4. Origins of Sacrifice
89:4.1 (977.3) Sacrifice as a part of religious devotions, like many other worshipful rituals, did not have a simple and single origin. The tendency to bow down before power and to prostrate oneself in worshipful adoration in the presence of mystery is foreshadowed in the fawning of the dog before its master. It is but one step from the impulse of worship to the act of sacrifice. Primitive man gauged the value of his sacrifice by the pain which he suffered. When the idea of sacrifice first attached itself to religious ceremonial, no offering was contemplated which was not productive of pain. The first sacrifices were such acts as plucking hair, cutting the flesh, mutilations, knocking out teeth, and cutting off fingers. As civilization advanced, these crude concepts of sacrifice were elevated to the level of the rituals of self-abnegation, asceticism, fasting, deprivation, and the later Christian doctrine of sanctification through sorrow, suffering, and the mortification of the flesh.
89:4.2 (977.4) Early in the evolution of religion there existed two conceptions of the sacrifice: the idea of the gift sacrifice, which connoted the attitude of thanksgiving, and the debt sacrifice, which embraced the idea of redemption. Later there developed the notion of substitution.
89:4.3 (977.5) Man still later conceived that his sacrifice of whatever nature might function as a message bearer to the gods; it might be as a sweet savor in the nostrils of deity. This brought incense and other aesthetic features of sacrificial rituals which developed into sacrificial feasting, in time becoming increasingly elaborate and ornate.
89:4.5 (978.2) The earliest idea of the sacrifice was that of a neutrality assessment levied by ancestral spirits; only later did the idea of atonement develop. As man got away from the notion of the evolutionary origin of the race, as the traditions of the days of the Planetary Prince and the sojourn of Adam filtered down through time, the concept of sin and of original sin became widespread, so that sacrifice for accidental and personal sin evolved into the doctrine of sacrifice for the atonement of racial sin. The atonement of the sacrifice was a blanket insurance device which covered even the resentment and jealousy of an unknown god.
89:4.6 (978.3) Surrounded by so many sensitive spirits and grasping gods, primitive man was face to face with such a host of creditor deities that it required all the priests, ritual, and sacrifices throughout an entire lifetime to get him out of spiritual debt. The doctrine of original sin, or racial guilt, started every person out in serious debt to the spirit powers.
89:4.7 (978.4) Gifts and bribes are given to men; but when tendered to the gods, they are described as being dedicated, made sacred, or are called sacrifices. Renunciation was the negative form of propitiation; sacrifice became the positive form. The act of propitiation included praise, glorification, flattery, and even entertainment. And it is the remnants of these positive practices of the olden propitiation cult that constitute the modern forms of divine worship. Present-day forms of worship are simply the ritualization of these ancient sacrificial techniques of positive propitiation.
89:4.8 (978.5) Animal sacrifice meant much more to primitive man than it could ever mean to modern races. These barbarians regarded the animals as their actual and near kin. As time passed, man became shrewd in his sacrificing, ceasing to offer up his work animals. At first he sacrificed the best of everything, including his domesticated animals.
89:4.9 (978.6) It was no empty boast that a certain Egyptian ruler made when he stated that he had sacrificed: 113,433 slaves, 493,386 head of cattle, 88 boats, 2,756 golden images, 331,702 jars of honey and oil, 228,380 jars of wine, 680,714 geese, 6,744,428 loaves of bread, and 5,740,352 sacks of corn. And in order to do this he must needs have sorely taxed his toiling subjects. *
89:4.10 (978.7) Sheer necessity eventually drove these semisavages to eat the material part of their sacrifices, the gods having enjoyed the soul thereof. And this custom found justification under the pretense of the ancient sacred meal, a communion service according to modern usage.
89:5.1 (978.8) Modern ideas of early cannibalism are entirely wrong; it was a part of the mores of early society. While cannibalism is traditionally horrible to modern civilization, it was a part of the social and religious structure of primitive society. Group interests dictated the practice of cannibalism. It grew up through the urge of necessity and persisted because of the slavery of superstition and ignorance. It was a social, economic, religious, and military custom.
89:5.2 (979.1) Early man was a cannibal; he enjoyed human flesh, and therefore he offered it as a food gift to the spirits and his primitive gods. Since ghost spirits were merely modified men, and since food was man’s greatest need, then food must likewise be a spirit’s greatest need.
89:5.3 (979.2) Cannibalism was once well-nigh universal among the evolving races. The Sangiks were all cannibalistic, but originally the Andonites were not, nor were the Nodites and Adamites; neither were the Andites until after they had become grossly admixed with the evolutionary races.
89:5.4 (979.3) The taste for human flesh grows. Having been started through hunger, friendship, revenge, or religious ritual, the eating of human flesh goes on to habitual cannibalism. Man-eating has arisen through food scarcity, though this has seldom been the underlying reason. The Eskimos and early Andonites, however, seldom were cannibalistic except in times of famine. The red men, especially in Central America, were cannibals. It was once a general practice for primitive mothers to kill and eat their own children in order to renew the strength lost in childbearing, and in Queensland the first child is still frequently thus killed and devoured. In recent times cannibalism has been deliberately resorted to by many African tribes as a war measure, a sort of frightfulness with which to terrorize their neighbors.
89:5.5 (979.4) Some cannibalism resulted from the degeneration of once superior stocks, but it was mostly prevalent among the evolutionary races. Man-eating came on at a time when men experienced intense and bitter emotions regarding their enemies. Eating human flesh became part of a solemn ceremony of revenge; it was believed that an enemy’s ghost could, in this way, be destroyed or fused with that of the eater. It was once a widespread belief that wizards attained their powers by eating human flesh.
89:5.6 (979.5) Certain groups of man-eaters would consume only members of their own tribes, a pseudospiritual inbreeding which was supposed to accentuate tribal solidarity. But they also ate enemies for revenge with the idea of appropriating their strength. It was considered an honor to the soul of a friend or fellow tribesman if his body were eaten, while it was no more than just punishment to an enemy thus to devour him. The savage mind made no pretensions to being consistent.
89:5.7 (979.6) Among some tribes aged parents would seek to be eaten by their children; among others it was customary to refrain from eating near relations; their bodies were sold or exchanged for those of strangers. There was considerable commerce in women and children who had been fattened for slaughter. When disease or war failed to control population, the surplus was unceremoniously eaten.
89:5.9 (979.8) 1. It sometimes became a communal ceremony, the assumption of collective responsibility for inflicting the death penalty upon a fellow tribesman. The blood guilt ceases to be a crime when participated in by all, by society. The last of cannibalism in Asia was this eating of executed criminals.
89:5.11 (979.10) 3. Eventually it progressed to the point where only certain parts or organs of the body were eaten, those parts supposed to contain the soul or portions of the spirit. Blood drinking became common, and it was customary to mix the “edible” parts of the body with medicines.
89:5.14 (980.3) 6. Then it became taboo among the higher tribes. The taboo on man-eating originated in Dalamatia and slowly spread over the world. The Nodites encouraged cremation as a means of combating cannibalism since it was once a common practice to dig up buried bodies and eat them.
89:5.15 (980.4) 7. Human sacrifice sounded the death knell of cannibalism. Human flesh having become the food of superior men, the chiefs, it was eventually reserved for the still more superior spirits; and thus the offering of human sacrifices effectively put a stop to cannibalism, except among the lowest tribes. When human sacrifice was fully established, man-eating became taboo; human flesh was food only for the gods; man could eat only a small ceremonial bit, a sacrament.
89:5.16 (980.5) Finally animal substitutes came into general use for sacrificial purposes, and even among the more backward tribes dog-eating greatly reduced man-eating. The dog was the first domesticated animal and was held in high esteem both as such and as food.