Do the Rite Thing: Why Sacrifice is Key to Power and Fulfillment
Updated: Oct 23, 2020
Part I: Sacrifice is Power
As Robert Moore explored the depths of our psyches and the aspirations of our souls–with a particular emphasis on the masculine structures of the psyche–along the way, one of the inquiries that got his attention was into the meaning and function of sacrifice.
He got me thinking about it, too. Offering myself into it more consciously. More joyfully. With greater surrender. Not without challenge.
The story of my life has been scribbled all over with the question of what to focus on. What to bring in, what to leave out. Which threads to weave. Which thoughts to believe. Which ideas axe on the editing board.
Apparently, I've wanted to be, do, and have everything. But focusing on everything hasn't been so practical, or effective.
And I have digressed.
In traditional cultures, there was always a sense that something needed to be sacrificed. God (or the gods) seemed to demand it, else terrible things would happen: overwhelm by forces of nature, plague, pestilence, banishment to hell, demonic possession.
Our ancestors–as some contemporaries still do–made offerings of food, burned effigies, ran off scape goats, bled out animals, and even ritually murdered other human beings on altars.
Their religions often instructed them to give up presumably lower desires and behaviors in favor of higher ones, to humble themselves in prostration before deities. Some traditions even seemed to suggest one should sacrifice one's own ego.
Were our pre-modern ancestors just superstitious, primitive, and cruel? Or were they tapped into an aspect of reality that we rational people of the 21st century have lost contact with?
Could that loss account for the cheapening of life, love, and truth we witness in the (post)modern era? Or our mounting peril as we careen toward social and planetary destruction?
Could a lack of conscious sacrifice relate to the general state of emotional and psychological immaturity of humankind?
We may regard human and animal sacrifices of long ago as bizarre and barbaric, imagining we've evolved beyond this evil. But we would be overlooking that today on Earth vastly more souls are sacrificed in remote control warfare, corporate chess, eugenicist medicine, and organized, ritual child abuse.
Pawns are sacrificed on the left and right, by cover of night, by corporate rights, by the psychopathic blight that's overtaken industry and government.
But what are we sacrificing?
Is it possible that most of humanity has ended up as pawns on the chessboard, and offerings on the sacrificial altar, because we ourselves have lost touch with the value of sacrifice?
Do we somehow abandon life itself when we abandon this value?
Do we forego our own power, or the power that's available to us?
I submit that sacrifice is indeed about power. That one cannot have any agency or sovereignty without conscious sacrifice, nor be connected with divine will.
I offer that, if we are to create the world we wish to live in, we must learn to joyfully sacrifice, in utter surrender, and thusly restore the power that is our birthright.
We have a choice:
to keep on as we have been, allowing the karmic patterning of nature and our conditioned selves to drive us into total entropy;
or to step into a higher order of being, where we can return to the flow of unification, life affirmation, and unlimited creativity.
If sacrifice is so important, what does it even mean?
The Root of Sacrifice: Tapped into the Sacred
The idea of sacrifice runs so counter to modern sensibilities that the word alone may bring displeasure.
It’s associated with loss, ritualized murder...crucifixion. Giving up our pleasures, and our entitlements.
Nobody wants to sacrifice. Unless one understands its value.
Over time, sacrifice has meant an offering to a deity; something surrendered; or, to give up this for that.
These expressions are not incorrect, but let's go back to the roots, to disabuse sacrifice of its historical baggage and develop a new relationship with the idea.
Sacrificere is old French for 'making sacred,' or 'doing the sacred.'
We get the word sacred from the Latin sacra/sacrum, along with other forms referring to making something holy, or performance of a sacred ritual (always some form of sacrifice).
Sacrifice is an offering of something from the profane into the sacred realm.
A sacra is also a sacrificial vessel. That which holds and pours out one's offering.
Interestingly, these 'sacr-' words can also refer to something being cursed and detestable.
There's so much more color here than the vague idea we have about 'the sacred' and the 'holy' being that which is inviolably good and right.
The Sacred and the Profane
In Western culture, the word sacred has traditionally been used in contrast with the profane, which is the ordinary, material world; 3D reality.
The profane is the natural world, in contrast to the supernatural.
Nature is that which is automatic, conditioned, limited, karmic, following a predictable cause and effect pattern.
This is where we dwell 99% of the time, in automaticity, habit and addiction, scientific materialism, and unconscious victim-perpetrator roles.
The sacred, in contrast, is the field of infinite potential above and beyond nature. It is the supernature, the reality of unlimited possibility uncovered by quantum physics.
It's the realm of shamans, priests, psychedelics, psychic phenomena, dreams, spirits, and every order of mystical experience.
It pervades the subconcious and superconscious, which we can bring our consciousness to.
It is, essentially, the unseen, larger intelligence and flow of life force.
It is in the realm of the sacred that divine will and, paradoxically, human will generate.
Where transformation–more than simple automatic change–is possible.
The sacred is neither good nor bad. It is life without limits.
Ironically, accessing it requires limits or boundaries being drawn in the profane. At least for some profane time.
Robert Moore defines sacred space as 'transformational space,' which is available wherever and whenever we create it, so long as we delimit the boundary and have the courage to step through the threshold into the unknown, into the vastness of infinite potential.
That which appears concrete in physical reality, or definite in thought form, can be transformed by making offerings into the sacred (supernatural/quantum) space, where all things are possible.
When we make a sacrificial offering into that unlimited reality, an exchange takes place.
Nature is given into the supernature, and the supernature flows into nature. The profane is de-conditioned and re-conditioned and the sacred is given the pleasure of creation.
We ourselves are the instrument conducting this bi-directional flow and exchange. We are the the intermediaries between realms.
When we imagine offering, submitting, or surrendering something with which we are perhaps desperately entangled, we may feel like we're losing a part of ourselves, which can be painful.
But it is more the thought and anticipation of loss that is painful as, if sacrifice is made in alignment with higher will and one's purpose, there is little to no pain or discomfort in the act itself.
Instead it comes with immense grace, joy, peace, and power, opening up the flow of life-force.
It appears to be immutable law in this reality that we cannot get without giving. That there is always an exchange.
We cannot create (something) without surrendering (something), and no thing can be transformed if it is not entered into the realm of limitless possibility, into the sacred.
The next question is...what is it for? What is sacrifice in service to?
What Sacrifice Serves
What one's sacrifice serves depends on what oneself serves.
And, by extension, what one intends, what one is called to, and calling forth.
Any sincere sacrifice will empower you, and therefore support and empower that which you serve, whether 'good' or 'evil,' life-giving or life-abusing.
It's no big secret that some very spiritually powerful people are sociopathic abusers. It's not 'all good' in the realms of power and sacrifice.
Service to Self Orientation
When our ancestors (and contemporaries) engaged in ritual human sacrifice, they were obtaining power for themselves by sacrificing the weak (or indefensible) in others.
This is the way of service to self. One sacrifices others for one's own gain. One grows in power, but it is never enough. There is a constant need for more. It's like a vacuum.
As much as this orientation sucks, it is nonetheless transformational: transforming the world in the direction of entropy, death, and destruction.
Service to Others Orientation
Inversely, in the way of service to others, one sacrifices of oneself, receives power or transformation in return, and uses that power to empower others.
This is the opposite of a vacuum, and the opposite of entropy. In this arrangement, life flourishes outward, propagating itself.
Service to others is not to be interpreted as martyrdom, nor a constant requirement of giving oneself up in order to be worthy of one's own love, or the love of others.
Rather, it is an orientation and, generally, it requires taking very good care of oneself, of one's vessel, so that one can be in one's highest capacity of service.
Sacrifice is Unavoidable
Whether we sacrifice others in service to self, sacrifice of ourselves in service to others, or are sacrificed in service to someone else's power trip, sacrifice is always taking place.
It is a constant exchange mediated between the sacred and the profane, and we participate in it all the time, consciously or not.
If we leave intentional sacrifice up to the shamans, priests, and occultist apex predators in business suits, eventually, it is us and our kin who are sacrificed.
However, when we understand sacrifice as a basic, unavoidable function of the flow of life and power–when we understand that something must be sacrificed–we may consciously choose our sacrifices, as well as our primary orientation of service to others or self.
Consciously making offerings to the realm of the sacred, we may vastly increase the power that flows through us, realign ourselves, and therefore increase our capacity to serve.
An increase in power can sound attractive to anyone, whatever their service orientation, and one may be tempted to throw themselves on the altar in whole. It's not necessarily wrong to do that...
But there's a problem. If one wants to make a generous offering, one must first be strong enough and prepared to hold a commensurate amount of power.
A large and sincere offering will be returned with a massive influx of power, which can break a weak or malformed vessel.
Trying to give away too much in order to get more, one can literally have a psychotic break, as we see with some practitioners of energy sublimation, or those who believe themselves to be the messiah but have little capacity to handle their own lives.
If one's sacra isn't well formed, and well exercised, it will not function well, and one may take on more than their vessel is capable of holding and channeling.
This brings us to a discussion of the ego. Which, rather than being the main thing to sacrifice, is itself the sacrificial vessel. The sacra.
Maturation, the Ego, Power, and Sacrifice
Let me paint a picture for you.
You are born. Floppy and helpless. You have no semblance of an ego. You know nothing of boundaries, nor anything of regulating power. You can't even control your own body.
You are in the most feminine, flowing state of being you'll ever be in your life. Receptive and soft, with minimal structure.
Your attention flows freely, absorbed in the vastness of everything. Intense emotional energies run through you entirely unregulated. You are dependent on others to regulate every aspect of your life.
As you grow, you develop more structure, which is masculine, and this includes the structure of your character, and your personality. You develop an identity, distinguishing yourself from other people, and ideas, behaviors, etc.
Your ego, as it develops, is what focuses your mind, behavior, and identity, by demarcating this from that, inside from out, me from other. It sets the boundaries of what you call 'I,' your personality.
Your ego is what keeps your consciousness from flooding out in every direction for all of eternity, or your attention being caught up in whatever inputs fly at you.
It focuses and regulates the flow of all of the psychic and emotional energies that run through you. The power that flows through you.
This ego structure, or vessel, matures through learning the power of sacrifice. Or choice.
Children learn that certain behaviors get them more of what they want and other behaviors less.
Here's the problem: Throughout childhood, as our ego vessels were developing, most of us had them broken repeatedly, by traumas large and small. By identity-based shaming, including the question: "what is wrong with you"? The assertion: "You are a bad boy/girl." The assault and introjection of cultural maladies of every kind.
Our identities are thus fractured and, as the saying goes: "as the twig is bent, the tree grows." If you split a branch, it will grow into two branches. If you split it multiple times, it will be a jumbled mess, weak and unable to fruit.
In their fragmentation, our egos and personalities have become overburdened with unnecessary complexity. Parts that don't know each other fight each other, doubt each other, act at cross-purposes.
And this is why we're disempowered.
A fractured vessel is leaky and cannot hold a high volume of power. It therefore cannot manage a large offering, or sacrifice. Sacrifice, for most of us, just happens unconsciously, automatically, as we sacrifice others and others sacrifice us.
But people who achieve what they wish in life, in a self-directed manner, have strong, clear, relatively simple, focused ego vessels, and they have consciously sacrificed throughout their life, continually increasing their ability to hold and regulate power.
They have chosen what to focus on, and what to have faith in.
When we see a person who easily gets inflated and deflated (I've been one of them), we may say, "that guy has a big ego!" But it's not really so much that his ego is oversized. It's that his ego is immature and malformed, and that he therefore does not regulate power well.
His or her cup/vessel/sacra is dysregulated, so they fall easily into egomania (mania/inflation/"I'm the shit") and ego destruction (depression/deflation/"I'm a piece of shit").
Again, the question is not whether one's ego is big, but whether it's strong, clear, and focused enough to hold and regulate the power that wants to flow through it.
One can rightfully develop a large ego cup, and use it in service, because a larger cup is able to hold and regulate more power. Power flows in and out of it with ease.
If our egos are fractured, and our personalities fragmented, oh yes, we need healing, and strengthening.
Sacrifice can help with that. Immensely.
One could say that sacrifice is the only way to transform a broken and leaky vessel into one that holds and regulates power wisely, gracefully, in service.
It could be said that all legitimate healing methods involve a sacrifice. Even if it is a sacrifice of doubt for faith, or overwhelm for equanimity.
Conscious sacrifice is a way to take responsibility for ourselves. To grow ourselves up. And to get connected with an intelligence higher than our own.
It's a way to cleanse, clarify, and build our cups, so that we are capable of ever greater sacrifices, and thus ever greater power and service.
I will show you how, to the best of my ability.
I'm still learning.
Part II: The Process of Conscious Sacrifice
As I said before, sacrifice is happening constantly, as our attention bounces from this to that, gets sucked by social media and shitty relationship dynamics... As we choose to do something kind for someone, or choose to lie, cheat, steal, etc.
In every case, something is being sacrificed, and power is constantly being mediated between the seen and unseen realms.
At some point, you may become conscious of this in some way, recognizing that you are not enjoying the power dynamics in your life, or that you can improve them.
That perhaps you feel like a victim, or you're disappointed in yourself. Something's not right.
Something may call to you, saying "hey, you know, if you sacrificed this, you may get that."
It could be something evil, telling you to sacrifice your conscience and somebody else's agency, so that you can get power or reward. That's always an option, if one favors service to self.
But the call may be something more in alignment with your heart, and your service to others aspirations.
It may say, "you know, if you offered 10 minutes of your time in prayer or meditation every day, you'd become more powerful and effective in offering the service you wish to in the world."
That's a sacrifice.
Or, "you know, if you sacrificed the cookies late at night, offered that habit up to the divine, you'd probably feel more energetic in the morning, allowing you to better serve the people in your network."
"If you sacrificed your negative thinking, maybe you’d be more focused on your aspirations, and be happier and more productive. Not to mention, enjoying better relationships."
So you hear the call. Now what do you do about it?
Do the Rite Thing
You've heard a call from beyond, from the superconscious or subconscious, and now you must bring your consciousness to the thing you're offering for transformation.
As I alluded to before, sacred space (transformational space) is accessed through ritual, or rites, and the bounds of ritual space are what delimit the profane from the sacred.
To create ritual space, you can set up an altar, or create a circle of stones.
You can hold a sanctified object that indicates you're stepping into sacred space. You can repeat a mantra, stare at a mandala, or simply draw an image in your mind.
However you do it, the sacred and profane must be consciously delimited. You must be able to sense and step across the threshold, and be able to stay there to hold space for and witness the transformation beginning to take place.
You will feel that something has changed. You will sense the greater reality. You may feel any variety of intense emotions, or not. You may be filled with a new energy, and feel a transformation beginning to take place.
Center yourself. Be present to all that is. Sense your unity with all of creation, and the infinite potential there in the sacred.
And here, you make your offering, humbly, courageously, with surrender, and conviction.
"I submit this thing, this part of me, this idea, this behavior... I offer it wholeheartedly. I give it over to the sacred for transformation."
You can hold in your mind the image of what you really want, what you're creating, what you are called to, and feel the reality of it being fully alive within the infinite intelligence, in the mind of the supernature.
Be resolute in surrendering to this transformation, but don't force it.
Just trust that what is aligned for you will come through in exchange for what you have offered, and recognize that you have initiated a process, which may require further sacrifice, and further faith.
Small sacrifices can be fruitful, and there is no shame in a small offering, but we cannot expect quick fixes or maximal effect for minimal effort.
You will likely continually be called to greater sacrifices, as your cup grows stronger and your capacity to regulate power grows.
Do you really need a ritual?
Now that I've suggested you do some form of ritual, and because ritual, for modernized, domesticated people has become an easily dismissible, quaint vestige of a primitive past, let's compare a couple pointers from two Daoist texts with different perspectives.
First, the Hua hu Ching (an ancient teaching, modernly interpreted), suggests that one needs ritual, discipline, and structure, in order to attain "total awareness and whole enlightenment." Forget about those two terms and focus on the suggestion that discipline and practice are required to get what you want.
"Don't think you can attain total awareness and whole enlightenment without proper discipline and practice. This is egomania. Appropriate rituals channel your emotions and life energy toward the light. Without the discipline to practice them, you will tumble constantly backward into darkness." –Hua hu Ching: The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu, Brian Browne Walker
In other words, one needs to keep returning to the discipline (doing something productive despite whatever resistance) and structure of ritual in oder not to continually fall back into automaticity.
A contemporary Daoist text, however, suggests that one may not need ritual.
"We do not need elaborate ritual. All we need is a simple and natural turning within." –Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao
I would say that both are true, and yet the first is the starting point, the training ground. How one builds one's cup, before one has internalized it.
Just as one needs first to develop a strong ego (with strong boundaries) before one's ego can become flexible and lightweight, before one can surrender even it; just as one needs to learn scales on the piano before they can freely improvise; one needs rituals and practices to delimit boundaries, to learn the intervals between states of being.
Some people, well-intentioned, will tell you that they don't need a formal meditation or prayer practice because they are constantly meditating or praying. This is likely only true for someone who already had a long-standing, disciplined practice. One who has not is more likely caught in some degree of egomania, and will soon become deflated.
Deng Ming-Dao elaborates:
When one is mature spiritually, one no longer needs the structure of ritual or formal meditations. This is not to say that structure was unnecessary, for without it one could not stand at this vantage point. But once one attains a level where one has completely internalized the lessons of structure, one can freely improvise in fresh and valid forms. –Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao
Point being, you may not always need a formalized ritual. Maybe sometimes you need it and sometimes you don't.
But there is value in engaging in ritual, in making clear that you're stepping into the sacred when you cross the threshold into your ritual space.
There is value in creating an outward representation of the structure that you will eventually internalize.
It's up to you, but...I would err on the side of using ritual and not assuming you don't need it.
Personally, I resisted it for a long time, and my results reflected that.
What to Offer?
Now... Again, don't fall into the trap of thinking you need to sacrifice yourself in some kind of abusive power dynamic, that you must be a martyr, or that you need to sacrifice your individuality or personality to make other people happy or comfortable, or to be some image of imagined perfection. No, no...
To make aligned offerings and therefore receive the power and transformation needed to do your service, you need to be strong, and you need to be you.
If you offer yourself consciously, it is to the sacred. Not to some karmic, profane power game.
You are not to give your power away to forces that serve only themselves. Instead, you can choose to direct the power that flows through you in true service to others.
Sacrifice Your Weakness
Ultimately, anything and everything can be offered into the sacred for transformation.
But, If you are like the vast majority of people, broken and not terribly adept at regulating power, I suggest that you first focus on sacrificing your weakness, in every form it takes. As much as it may argue for itself.
Again, the stronger your cup is, the more you can both offer and receive.
This is no different from suggesting you sacrifice your infantilism, in order to become an interdependent adult.
If you look at who and what is typically sacrificed in both human and animal sacrifices, or even as lions hunt gazelle, it is typically the weak. The young. Those with defects. They who are not strong.
Many mother animals, as incomprehensible as it is to us, will abandon weak or injured offspring, for the good of the rest of her young, and for the good of her species. If she did not, she would be sacrificing everyone but the weak one.
It seems clear to me that, if we do not have the will to sacrifice our own weakness–gradually, consciously, and intentionally–we will unintentionally sacrifice others.
We'll unconsciously take advantage of others' weakness, and participate in the karmic course of entropy taking place in the natural world.
But, by sacrificing our own weakness into the sacred, we gain power, and we are better equipped to empower others.
Therefore, I encourage you first to sacrifice your weakness.
Sacrifice your distraction, your discouragement, your excuses, your entitlement, your reactivity...
Your pettiness, dishonesty, addictions...
Offer every crack and malformation in your cup, one by one, and allow them to be transformed.
Offer everything that dysregulates you and destroys your focus, destroys your peace of mind, your clarity.
This is how you cleanse your vessel and increase its capacity.
When your cup is full of power, you will certainly offer it all back in to the sacred (it doesn't belong to you in the first place), and can thus participate in a beautiful, increasingly fluid exchange of life-giving power.
But, if you are imbalanced toward weakness, and fragmented like a pane of shattered glass, as most of us are, please my friend, sacrifice your weakness first.
Vomit out the darkness that has invaded you, so that you can take in nourishment.
By no means does this mean you flog or berate yourself for having weaknesses. Not at all. We all weaknesses. Hold and sacrifice them with compassion, with love for yourself.
Offer them joyfully, humbly, sincerely, and with confidence.
And you don't have to sacrifice everything just yet. You get to be human. Growing up and bridging the sacred and the profane is a gradual process.
Start where you can. Be practical.
But wake up every day thinking less of what you can get and more what you can give.
Less of what you're entitled to, and more what you are creating.
There is a part of yijing (I Ching, the Chinese classic), which talks about a family who only has a small offering to give on the sacrificial day, while their wealthy neighbor produces a much grander, more ornate sacrifice. But the sage advises that the small offering, being all one can give, is no less meaningful.
I suggested in the beginning of this post, as was intuited by our ancestors, that perhaps something terrible would happen if we do not sacrifice...?
Which Way Do We Go?
Nature, or the great karmic (automatic) forces in 3D reality, is moving toward entropy. Greater and greater complexity, greater division and destruction.
Everything is being sliced into ever tinier bits, life disconnected from life, and we are approaching the apex of this motion.
We're fragmented into species, tribes, families, individuals, innumerable sub-personalities, and now discrete data points tracked by artificial intelligence.
And this is just nature, in her disintegrating motion. It's not bad or wrong. It is interesting.
But this motion toward division will change, or reverse at some point.
For many of us–those who are called to create the new world–that point is nigh, or now.
Stepping into the sacred, i.e. making/doing sacrifice, allows us to step outside of and above the automatic unfolding, bringing higher will back into the picture.
The will to create anew.
The conscious choice.
This, or that?
If you are consciously a creator, what will you give up for your creation?
Think about it. It could be all kinds of things.
And again...I suggest you give up your weakness.
That you sacrifice pettiness in exchange for greatness.