Frame of Reference - Index

Quartus Decimus Stele

Cannibalism - Human Sacrifice

1) "Now as they were eating Jesus took some bread, and when he had said the blessing, he broke (it) and giving (it) to the disciples, he said: "Take, eat, this is my body."

"And taking a cup, and giving thanks he gave it to them, saying: "Drink all of you from this, for this is my blood, (the blood) of the covenant which is to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (The Bible, Matthew 26:26-28)

It is this aspect of atonement that in the minds of believers makes the 2,000 year old ritual more than a metaphor, it (in combination with the crucifixion) is simply an example of human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism. Imagine an Aztec priest cutting open the captured victim on the alter and pouring the blood down the stairs to appease the gods. By drinking the blood of Jesus, Christians renew a covenant or promise that binds their god to accept them and dismiss their sins. In Luke and 1 Corinthians the words are slightly different: "This is my body which is given for you; do this as a memorial of me."

The idea of "memorial" has been extended to be much more literal when in each re-enactment: "The bread and the wine become the body and the blood of Christ." for the faithful. (Lucien Deiss, It's The Lord's Supper (Catholic), 1975) When do we begin to recognize this as a bizarre, savage anachronism?

2) "Etymologically, the word sacrifice comes from sacrum facere, 'to make something sacred.' It is related to consecrate, which goes a step further and means 'to make sacred by dedication to God.' In primitive animistic religions, sacrifice was believed to calm the aggressiveness of malefic spirits, who, once pacified, would leave humans alone... [Prayer is used for this now.]

"In the Assyro-Babylonian religions, there was a considerable variety of sacrifices: offerings of food or incense, libations and blood sacrifices. A victim was immolated so as to be delivered up to the devils tormenting a sinner or a sick person;... The Canaanites, whose sacrificial rites profoundly inspired Israel's, practiced human sacrifice... the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1-14) demanded seven of Saul's sons and "impaled them on the mountain before Yahweh" as a fertility rite... Judah and Edom besieged the king of Moab in Kir-hareseth, "he took his eldest son... and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall" (2 Kings 3:27). Eventually Israel copied the human sacrifices but Yahwistic orthodoxy rejected such practices as "abominations." This teaching is said to derive from the story of Abraham (Genesis 22) where god does not want to be honored by human sacrifice." (Lucien Deiss, It's The Lord's Supper, 1975)

3) "Jesus had a prehuman existence. He is called God's 'only-begotten Son' because Jehovah created him directly. God thereafter used Jesus to bring all other things into existence... No wonder Jehovah chose his only-begotten Son to serve a special purpose when mankind came under the condemnation of death! ...When pronouncing sentence on Adam, Eve, and Satan in the garden of Eden, God spoke of the future Rescuer as a 'seed.' This Seed, or offspring, would come to undo the terrible ills that Satan the Devil, 'the original serpent,' had brought about... The prophecy recorded at Daniel 9:24-26 foretold that the Messiah -- God's Anointed One -- would fulfill a great purpose... to make atonement for error... The prophecy explains that he would be 'cut off' or put to death... The apostle Paul summarized the principle in this way: 'Unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.' (Hebrews 9:22) ...Yes the Messiah had to die if mankind was to be saved..." (Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Knowledge, 1995) This barbaric literalism is not shared by all Christians, but it has been so for 'fundamentalists' for nearly 2000 years.

4) When Captain James Cook 'discovered' Hawaii, he found an industrious, monarchical people that practiced human sacrifice as part of a religious or political service. "Except for the unusual tower, the comparison between this heiau or temple and those of Tahiti was irresistible, and Cook and his companions, who had learned about human sacrifice in the Societies, were not really surprised when their guide showed them where the knaka kapus, the tabooed men or sacrificial victims, were buried outside the hut. On this spot they counted four knaka kapu graves, and they had already seen several other towers in the district, some much bigger than the one they were examining. Among the noble savages of Kauai, then, human sacrifice was common." (Gavan Daws, Shoal of Time, pg. 4, 1968)

5) The Jewish tradition of sacrifice is well described in the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you... Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!... Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God ... behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son." From this tradition, Jewish practice substituted animals in their ritual sacrifices. Even that has been dropped by most active Jewish sects.

6) "Your madness goes so far as to say that Jews are scattered because our fathers condemned to death Him whom you worship. O ye pious tigers, ye fanatical panthers, who... have no better way of supporting your sect than by executioners, can you not see that it was only the Romans who condemned Him? Jews had not at that time the right to inflict death; we were governed by Quirinus, Varus, Pilate. No Crucifixion was ever practiced among us. Not a single trace of that form of punishment is to be found. Stop punishing a whole nation for an event for which it cannot be responsible. Would it be just to burn the Pope and all the Monsignori in Rome because the first Romans ravished the Sabines and pillaged the Samnites? Amen." (Voltaire, Sermon du Rabin Akib.)

7) "Mitochondrial DNA is particularly suited to peering back through the generations in order to glimpse the course of evolution. And since [this fingerprint] of DNA is inherited through the maternal line, it eventually leads to a single ancestral female... If genetic mixing between modern and archaic sapiens had occurred, some people would have mitochondrial DNA very different from the average, indicating its ancient origin. So far, with more than 4,000 people from around the world having been tested, no such ancient mitochondrial DNA has been found. All the mitochondrial DNA types from modern populations that have been examined appear to be of recent origin. The implication is that modern newcomers completely replaced ancient populations -- the process having begun in Africa 150,000 years ago and then having spread through Eurasia over the next 100,000 years." (Richard Leakey, The Origin of Humankind, 1994) This implies that the fittest of the Genus may have survived by feeding off the less well suited.

8) Among the Canaanites human sacrifices were offered, and Abraham (assuming the story is based on a real person), though with inner torment, must have supposed that his dedication to God required this sacrifice. (I recall hearing this story as a child in Sunday School and being completely horrified and revolted -- too close for comfort.) God seemed thus to cut off the only genetic thread on which the future blessings and salvation depended. But events demonstrated that God does not take pleasure in human sacrifice. There is a colossal Canaanite altar in the very old city of Megiddo which has not been used recently. (Good thing.)

9) Agamemnon of Greek myth, was king of Mycenae, or Argos and in Homer, commander-in-chief of the Greek expedition against Troy. He had a son, Orestes and three daughters, Chrysothemis, Laodice (Electra) and Iphianassa (Iphigenia). The epic "Cypria" is the earliest evidence of the sacrifice of Agamemnon's daughter Iphigenia. Her sacrifice was ordered by Calchas to appease the god Artemis, but she was saved by substitution of her body for a deer and made immortal by Artemis. This sacrifice story varies, and may have been the cause of hatred of Clytemnestra who killed her husband Agamemnon; subsequently avenged by Orestes. Greek gods had a complicated and murderous existence in myth.

10) "One of the most vital and fascinating of these [new developments in England c.1440 AD] was a growing interest in meditation on the passion. This was a phenomenon that found expression in the adoption of a new cult, the cult of the Five Wounds of Jesus, a cult fervently propagated and cherished through the rich and ubiquitous imagery of the Image of Pity in which Christ was depicted raising himself up in his tomb, his wounds still fresh... Lavish indulgences, with promises of remission from the pains of purgatory, were granted to those saying the correct prayers before such an image... Meditation on the 'streams of blood' flowing from the wounds not only centered belief on the Real Presence of the Eucharist but also on its redemptive power and its social meaning... Wakefield Master, has Christ say to the souls assembled on the day of Judgment:

Here may ye see my wounds wide
that I suffered for your misdeeds
Through heart, head, foot, hand and side
Not for my guilt but for your need
Behold both back, body and side
How dearly I bought your brother-hood,
These bitter pains I would endure
To buy you bliss thus would I bleed...
All this I suffered for thy sake;
Say, man, what suffered thou for me?
Each wound offered protection against particular sins, the side wound, because of its closeness to Christ's heart, having especial salvatory power. " (Henrietta Leyser, Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval England, 1997)

11) "In 1390... the Catholics of Seville being excited by the eloquence of a great preacher... attacked the Jews' quarter, and murdered 4,000 Jews... About a year later, similar scenes took place at Valencia, Cordova, Burgos, Toledo, Barcelona... the Inquisition was established [and] numbers of converted Jews were massacred. Others, who had been baptized during past explosions of popular fury, fled to the Moors, to practice their religious rites, and at last, after a desperate resistance, were captured and burnt alive." (W.E.H. Lecky, Rationalism in Europe, chapter 6, 1865)

"Would you believe that as the flames were consuming these innocent victims, the inquisitors... were chanting our prayers? These pitiless monsters invoked the God of mercy and kindness and pardon while committing the most atrocious, barbarous crime, acting in a way which demons in their rage would not use against brother demons." (Voltaire, Sermon du Rabin Akib')

12) One active archeological study is exposing the gruesome history of Ashkelon, along the Mediterranean coast of Israel. This is a story of religious struggles and callous disregard for the value of human life. Civilization there dates back 5,500 years, with many different controlling societies, one upon the other. Canaanites may have been the first to make Ashkelon a major center of trade in this well fortified city prior to 1300 BC. The Philistines seem to have taken over from them around 1175 BC, controlling the fortifications for 600 years. The Babylonian King, Nebuchadrezzar destroyed Ashkelon in 604 BC to eliminate potential allies of Egypt. When the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians, they encouraged settlement by residents of Tyre, a coastal city located in what is today Lebanon. In 295 BC the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy I destroyed the thriving city. The Greeks influenced the area for a while until Roman rule was established in 37 BC. Romans built many villas, baths, ornate fountains, grand colonnades, theaters and large bacilicas. The small green onion known as a scallion took its name from the City's Roman name, Ascalon.

"Excavation of an ancient sewer under the bathhouse revealed... the fragile bones of more than a hundred infants. The newborns had been thrown into the gutter, along with animal bones, pottery shards, and a few coins... We know that infanticide was widely practiced by the ancient Greeks and Romans. It was regarded as the parents' right if they didn't want a child. Usually they killed girls... here 74% were male... the researchers speculate that these infants were the unwanted offspring of courtesans serving the bathhouse. The proprietor or courtesans might well have reared some children to pursue the same profession; the excess would have been killed and discarded... there was probably more demand for women." (Rick Gore, National Geographic, January, 2001)

Ashkelon was conquered by Muslim soldiers in 640 AD. During the 120 year period of the Crusades, Ashkelon was the scene of many battles and changing occupations. In 1191 AD the Muslim resident, Saladin destroyed and burned the city to prevent it from becoming a Christian stronghold, which occurred anyway. Egypt's Mamluk rulers destroyed the city again in 1270, for the final time. Today nearly 100,000 people live near the ruins, many immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia. Ashkelon's tradition as a melting pot and host city is once again thriving, and one can only hope that the tradition of death and destruction caused by theocratic governments may have come to an end.

13) "The Moche inhabited a series of river valleys along the arid coastal plain of northern Peru from about 100-800 AD. Through farming and fishing, they supported a dense population and highly stratified society that constructed irrigation canals, pyramids, palaces, and temples... the Moche left a vivid artistic record of their activities in beautiful ceramic vessels, elaborately woven textiles, colorful murals, and wondrous objects of gold, silver, and copper." Their tombs had been looted by Spaniards and subsequently by black-market diggers for many years before the discovery in 1997 of an undisturbed tomb containing a wealth of information and relics.

"The man in Tomb 2 was buried with an exquisite ceramic bat, a headdress decorated with gilded copper bats and a bat nose ornament of solid gold. Bats were highly symbolic to the Moche, often appearing in depictions of human sacrifice and ritual blood drinking... His grave goods were far more valuable than those of the men buried nearby, suggesting that he wielded enormous power. The items included numerous ceramics, gold and silver nose ornaments, and 18 headdresses -- 16 of which were made in a style found at no other Moche site... in addition to grave goods, each contained a young woman and the head or body of a llama... The young female attendant, likely sacrificed, 15 years old." (Christopher B. Donnan, "National Geographic", March 2001) This blood drinking, as grotesque as it seems today reveers the mystery of life.

14) Imagination Refrain: How do you grasp a new inspiration that captures your imagination?
The day passes in a charm of languid vapors and lazy bird songs.
As Sun rotates around my center, it teases my dreaming.
The warmth of the air diffuses my stiffness and caresses me.
When will this burden pass? A common refrain from injured souls.

Refrain: How do you grasp a new inspiration that captures your imagination?
I walk in a daze, confused not by circumstances but by the past.
Where is the thread of that ancient dream of youth -- misguided?
The charm of the day is an hallucination that passes with Sundown
And leaves me again listless facing alone the vacant future.

Refrain: How do you grasp a new inspiration that captures your imagination?
The pleasure of the day is artifice and begs the questions of the past.
The faces of loves lost and gone mix in a pastiche -- a blur of colors.
A vision of my own limitations overcomes my steps -- turning grace to clumsy.
I look around for references and find the trees and grass --

Refrain: How do you grasp a new inspiration that captures your imagination?
The flowers answer my claim of wisdom with their sarcastic stares.
I see the irony in the hollow wind that moves the flags nowhere.
The songs of the passing cars mock my inept artless life -- so crude.
But if I destroy that animal its wild nature will go with the pilot.

Refrain: How do you grasp a new inspiration that captures your imagination?
If I languish in self-pity I become a victim of the times,
A sacrifice of the material world for the glory of indulgence.
I must resist this possibility by leading my mind into new challenges.
I must win over the forces of evil that benefit from my destruction.

15) "Non-violence cannot be taught to a person who fears to die and has no power of resistance... a man who, when faced by danger, behaves like a mouse, is rightly called a coward. He harbors violence and hatred in his heart and would kill his enemy if he could without hurting himself. He is a stranger to non-violence... Whilst I may not actually help anyone to retaliate; I must not let a coward seek shelter behind non-violence so called. Not knowing the stuff of which non-violence is made, many have honestly believed that running away from danger every time was a virtue compared to offering resistance, especially when it was fraught with danger to one's life. As a teacher of non-violence I must, so far as it is possible for me, guard against such an unmanly belief." (M. K. Gandhi, All Men are Brothers, 1960) In other words, there are times when brave violence is required! Even though it leads to death.

16) The history of War is made by soldiers who died for desperate and noble causes for which they believed it was justifiable to sacrifice their lives (on both sides of the battle). Is this ultimate, noble, deliberate sacrifice of any one of these obedient soldiers any less than the presumed sacrifice made by Jesus? or any other Saint? or righteous martyr in the cause of just civil-disobedience (whether violent or non-violent)? Should we create a religion to commemorate these sacrifices that won our social freedom and created political democracy? What would we eat to replicate the pain and gore? K rations? Hard-tac? Venison jerky? Kim chi?

17) "The following year a defiant Henry severed all ties with Rome and was made supreme head of the Church of England. Mary, considered illegitimate, never saw her mother again, as Catherine was forced to spend her last years isolated from public life.

"Over the next 13 years, some who refused to acknowledge Henry as head of the church or who still accepted the authority of the pope were put to death. Henry died in 1547 and was succeeded by nine-year-old Edward, his only legitimate son, by the third of his six wives. [The first, Catherine, having been divorced.] Edward and his advisers attempted to make England Protestant. Roman Catholics were persecuted for practicing their religion... in 1553, Edward died of tuberculosis... Mary was considered the rightful successor and became queen of England... Mary determined to make the country Roman Catholic again... Reconciliation with Rome, in turn, prompted a new wave of persecution against Protestants... Many who refused to accept the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church were burned alive at the stake... over the next three years and nine months until Mary's death, at least 277 persons were burned at the stake in England.

"Historian Carolly Erickson describes a typical scene: 'All too often the wood for the fire was green, or the rushes were too soggy to burn quickly. The bags of gunpowder tied to the victims to shorten their agony failed to ignite, or else maimed them without killing them.' The victims were not gagged, and so 'their screams and prayers were audible often until the very moment of death'... many so-called Christians continue to rape and slaughter those of other religions [and themselves in Ireland for example]. Such intolerance does not please God. Indeed, Jesus Christ, the one who perfectly reflects God's personality, declared: 'By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves' (John 13:35)." ("Awake!" April 8, 2000)

18) The best religions celebrate the mystery in life and nature in many different ways. "That was what Eucharist is. This Sacrament is a celebration of the mystery of life and death and the movement between those two extremes. The Mormons make it a mundane event by taking the mystery out of it. They practice Sacrament but they explain it as analogy or allegory. It was not even as elegant as a metaphor. The Mormon Sacrament is a symbol for the Last Supper and a renewal of a commitment. It is too reasonable, a simile, therefore mundane and trivial.

"For the Catholics, there is an explicit mystery. They celebrate and glorify the mystery of infinity as it pertains to the mystery of Christ. If you believe you are eating flesh it must make your blood chill with excitement each time you sense the emotional connection. It must be even better for some Protestants because each member can also drink blood, as wine, instead of having the priest do it for them. Mormons use white bread and water and diluted the celebration of mystery with a too practical, coarse simile. It is the difference between poetry and prose, and they didn't know the difference!

"Once examined with objective dispatch, the Mormon Sacrament [Communion] and Eucharist can be seen as sublimation's of prurient, even cannibalistic urges in humanity. Some American Indian warriors cut out the hearts of their slain enemies. They ate the flesh and blood both to honor their victims and gain his strength. [Possibly to take away his humanity and make it easier to kill him.] The more evolved religions, such as Buddhism, have given up on such cannibalistic rituals. The infrequent occurrence of cannibalism in society is regarded as criminal and likely insane practice. But the sublimated cannibalism, the symbolic form embodied in the Communion, is regarded as a sublime mystery. It is considered the highest form of what it means to be human. Ridiculous! We need to get beyond that." (IJ, Jack and Lucky, 1993)

19) There are still in the 21st century a strong group of religionists who accept the human sacrifice of Jesus the Christ as having been essential for their salvation. The idea of the original sin stems from the alleged transgressions of Adam and Eve as they were presumably caste out of the Garden of Eden. "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;...and you shall eat the plants of the field." (The Bible, Genesis, Chapter 3) Throw me into the briar patch! (Aesop's fable) Adam became a farmer, what's so bad about that?

But from this, sexuality became something evil, "...conjugal love is poisoned by the danger of selfishness... death is henceforward an ineluctable fate [of man]... sin is the loss of friendship with God, that is, of grace..." [and Jesus must suffer and die to overcome that loss of grace.] (La Storia Della Salvezza Nell'Antico Testamento, Istituto S. Gaetano, 1969)

20) "The fundamentalists came along and published little books called The Fundamentals in the early part of the twentieth century, in which they said they were not going to let the modernists tell them that there wasn't really a bodily resurrection of Jesus. They believed in the virgin birth. They believed in the deity of Christ. They believed in His coming return. They believed in the inspired, authoritative Word of God. And they believed in Christ's substitutionary death on the cross. [Human Sacrifice]" (Charles Colson, Searching for God in America, 1996) This is a very primitive religion, no matter how sophisticated the language used to present it.

21) During the last 4 million years Earth's magnetic field has reversed itself no less than nine times at odd intervals. This kind of indecision has always plagued individual leaders of tribes and societies. Human sacrifice was often intended to help with this decision process, or secure the cooperation of gods in the success of decisions, once made. The activity of Earth's plates causing volcanoes and earthquakes, is very destructive to human life, not unlike the practices of cannibalism.

Magnetometer studies of the ocean floor show ribbons of strong and weakly magnetized areas parallel with the mid-ocean ridges. The rate of formation of these ridges of lava indicates the rate of spreading of the continent plates and coincides with the reversals of Earth's magnetic 'north.' The earthquakes along the mid-ocean ridge show that Earth's outer shell, some sixty miles thick at its deepest, is cracked like a giant eggshell. It is fractured into many huge slabs, as many as twenty plates exist. The plates drift about rubbing and chafing, sub-ducting, up-lifting and sliding one edge below the other. Proving, if such proof were necessary, the fragile nature of human life. And disproving, if any further proof were necessary, that Man can be sacred, and that sacrificing a human life can control nature; we are only a temporary creation of Earth--not the other way around.

22) How about the total destruction of Earth? We take for granted how robust our lives are, when somewhere in the world, earthquakes, floods, heat, cold and disease are claiming hundreds of lives every day. 49,000 years ago, 40 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona, a 300,000 tons (originally thought to be 5,000 tons) of iron-nickel meteorite came, most likely from the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, and smashed into the already barren desert area. "The collision released energy equal to 20 million tons of TNT making a crater as deep as a 60-story building." according to Dr. David J. Roddy, U.S. Geological Survey. There are nearly 200 known impact craters by 2001, the largest at Chicxulub, Yucatan peninsula, presumed to be responsible for killing dinosaurs 65 million years ago. (see Primus Stele: Heavens - Universe, verse 31)

Dr. Roddy would like to see an ambitious program of tracking -- and if possible, destroying objects that get too close. "It's not a question of if Earth will be impacted in the future. It's a question of when." Man will soon have the technology to do this, but we don't have the social skills to protect life on Earth or prevent over population. Is this an inadvertent, unintended survival mechanism for Homo sapiens: flood Earth with inhabitants, so that when a catastrophe comes, at least a few will somehow remain alive?

23) In the early stages of human development, cannibalism was probably universal. It would have been difficult to distinguish between the enemies of the clan, whether beast or humanoid. The practical survival of the fittest probably led to the supremacy of Homo sapien over other lower orders, such as Homo erectus, even Cro-magnum. Now that we have lost the practice, we have developed what seems a natural repulsion or bias against cannibalism. We often frown on euthanasia and assisted suicide, but fail to institute universal health care, so our relationship with other humans is often ambiguous. Much of our technology, cigarettes and chemical additives to food, are hazardous to Man. Some people fear genetically modified organisms, GMO's, from the same point of view; what we don't know can hurt us. This is a long way from cannibalism, but not completely removed from human sacrifice.

Cannibalism survived very sparsely in the 20th century. In the 21st century the only relic may be in the Christian religion along with other contributions to society such as the basis for the calendar. (Celebrating the birth of the pure human sacrificial Jesus.) The Eucharist, the drinking of the blood and eating of the flesh of Christ Jesus, is related subliminally to the original instinct for survival and preservation of the species. The connection to ancient practices by the Jews of animal and human sacrifice is a more direct connection. Enlisting the aide of a god to help survive, thrive and prosper, to bless us, is not far removed from the original, primitive cannibalism rituals and the active practice of human sacrifice found among the ancient people inhabiting the valleys in the Andes mountains, for example. (Frozen remains of several such sacrifices have been located high on the peaks.)

24) Cannibalism in various forms has been identified among such sophisticated cultures as the Irish, the Iberians, the Picts and the eleventh-century Danes. In the Upper Congo living men, women and children were bought and sold as articles of food. The lucky ones were sold in the commerce of slavery.

If one were to embrace or develop from scratch an enlightened religion, it would seem that choosing such a primitive practice as a ritual human sacrifice would be anachronistic today. And thus, Christianity must rank as a truly primitive religion in comparison to Buddhism or Sorastrianism which do not endorse cannibalism. There is a popular movement to expand vegetarian diets, some of this is associated with religious beliefs. Some Hindu sects have preached vegetarian diets for thousands of years, and have thereby created exquisite cuisine based on pulses, legumes and other sources of protein. Possibly these religions are to be considered -- on a continuum of sophistication -- more advanced and salutary than Christianity as we search for concepts for this new, man-made, modern religion. (But, why bother, says the Atheist.)

On to Quintus Decimus Stele - Religions