Sacrifice is a universal experience. We would say it is archetypal, meaning it is one of the patterns of behavior we human beings are subject to. The root words for sacrifice mean “to make sacred,” which prompts me to ask just what is it that is made sacred? And what does it mean that something is made sacred? In our modern world sacrifice is one of those experiences, like death, that we don’t like to encounter, yet it is a reality of life. To run away from sacrifice is to run away from life. In a paradoxical sense, to run away from death is also to run away from life. Our Judeo-Christian creation myth, as told in Genesis, is about sacrifice. To become conscious, that is, to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, has as a consequence to be evicted from the garden of Eden where all our needs are met, where there is no separation anxiety, no work, no cares. The eviction describes the universal experience of emergence from childhood into knowing. Every step into a higher state of consciousness requires sacrifice, something must be left behind, new responsibilities taken up, a deeper and richer adaptation to reality achieved. Is it our very lives and the work that we do with human hands that we make sacred in this way? And if so, just what does that mean?
Sacrifice as a Theme in Psychotherapy
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