God is not to be worshipped with sacrifices and blood; for what pleasure can He have in the slaughter of the innocent? But with a pure mind, a good and honest purpose, Temples are not to be built for Him with stones piled on high; God is to be consecrated in the breast of each.
All spilling of blood operated ceremonially is abominable and impious, and since the death of Adonhiram 2 the Society of true Adepts has a horror of blood — Ecclesia abhorret à sanguine.
The death sentence of Iphigenia by Agamemnon, her own father, epitomises the human condition. Though wholly allegorical, her sacrifice will never be forgotten as horrifying crimes of humanity against humanity are being carried out to this day — remorselessly and unashamedly. In one of the most affecting descriptions of Iphigenia’s demise, Lucretius points at the link between superstition and wickedness:
Raised by the hands of men, she was led trembling to the altar. Not for her the sacrament of marriage and the loud chant of Hymen. It was her fate in the very hour of marriage to fall a sinless victim to a sinful rite, slaughtered to her greater grief by a father’s hand, so that a fleet might sail under happy auspices. Such are the heights of wickedness to which men are driven by superstition.
Iphigenia’s betrayal has been immortalised by Æschylus, Euripides, Racine, Gluck, Goethe. Her story is also telling of the extent that the coarse exterior of ancient legends has obscured occult truths. Read esoterically, her sacrifice is typical of Ancient World’s Heroes and Heroines:
Bacon understood well that Achilles, Agamemnon, Ulysses, Castor and Pollux, Helen, Iphigenia, Œdipus, Phædra, etc., are somewhat more than they appear to be, and that their virtues or their vices, their heroic actions, even their crimes, celebrated by poetry, contain a profound meaning wherein lie buried the mysteries of religion and the secrets of philosophy.
Blavatsky points out that “the ancient Trojans and their ancestors were pure Aryans” 2 and hints that the inconsistent accounts of Iphigenia’s legend are connected with the Rig-Veda. 3 Neither Iliad, the Ramayana of the West,4 nor Odyssey mention her ordeal.
Sacrifice proper is unselfish love of humanity in person and in secret
Charity cannot be delegated to surrogates, any more than Avatars can vicariously atone for our sins. In a material world material help is always needed, but the altruism of tax-exempt donations or charity by proxy and the philanthropy of Theosophy are miles apart:
. . . Altruism must be founded on the rock of knowledge of the universals, and devotion to the Law of which they are the manifested aspects. If there is danger in head learning, if there are risks involved in the lower devotion to which reference has been made, so also there is a peculiar glamour which the life of charity and service throws on the Soul. Altruism engendered by the lower mind and energised by the lower devotion is not true altruism. Activities of the lower mind vitalise our personal nature — not always and necessarily evil — and they impel us to actions which under the impacts of civilization very often become philanthropic and altruistic. The mind free from attacks of kama is energised by the compassionate reason or Buddhi, and thus wedded is ensouled by the Self of Creative-Power, which is the true doer of deeds. Then comes into manifestation the higher altruism in which charity is just and not merely kind, altruism which enables man to discard the crutch of dependence and to stand on his own feet in self-trust. From this it will be seen how all three powers of the Spirit must work conjointly if spirit-life is to prevail.
True sacrifice is self-sacrifice. It spells the end of false individuality, or personality, Man’s most precious possession. A pledge to give up one’s self to Self and other selves will gradually subdue personal desires-thoughts (kama-manas), unfetter the mind from the bonds of matter, and allow humaneness to spring from the heart. And if there is no self to pamper and gratify there can be no self-interest in the outcome either.
“Self-sacrifice of life is incidental and not premeditated” says Bhagavan Das. 1 Premeditation, impatience, resentment, or even self-examination of motive during the course of some merciful action, suggest that such action is far from impersonal: it is either an attempt to please (or at least not to displease) self, or a gesture to appease a guilty conscience.
Otherwise, silent is charity’s voice:
The charity that hastens to proclaim its good deeds, ceases to be charity, and is only pride and ostentation.
And invisible is charity’s hand:
True charity opens her purse strings with an invisible hand and:
“Finishing its act, exists no more . . . ”
It shuns Fame, and is never ostentatious.
Beginners should be aware of such pitfalls from the outset. The very entity they plan to sacrifice is bound to provide plausible excuses for its reprieve and a scapegoat to be slaughtered instead or, worse, a fellow human being.
It is befitting to end this section with the thoughts of Porphyry who in his Abstinence from Animal Food traces selfishness and cruelty to those who defile the holy altar with blood and gorge themselves on flesh. Small wonder that humanity is being visited by disaster, distress, and all sorts of new diseases — physical and mental:
It seems that the period is of immense antiquity, from which a nation the most learned of all others 5 as Theophrastus says, and who inhabit the most sacred region made by the Nile, began first, from the vestal hearth, to sacrifice to the celestial Gods, not myrrh, or cassia, nor the first-fruits of things mingled with the crocus of frankincense; for these were assumed many generations afterwards, in consequence of error gradually increasing, when men, wanting the necessaries of life, offered, with great labour and many tears, some drops of these, as firstfruits to the Gods. Hence, they did not at first sacrifice these, but grass, which, as certain soft wool of prolific nature, they plucked with their hands. For the earth produced trees prior to animals; and long before trees grass, which germinates annually. Hence, gathering the blades and roots, and all the germs of this herb, they committed them to the flames, as a sacrifice to the visible celestial Gods, to whom they paid immortal honour through fire. For to these, also, we preserve in temples an immortal fire, because it is especially most similar to these divinities. But from the exhalation or smoke (εκ δε της θυμιασεως) of things produced in the earth, they called the offerings θυμιατηρια, thumiateria; to sacrifice, they called θυειν, thuein, and the sacrifices, θυσιαι, thusiai; all which, as if unfolding the error which was afterwards introduced, we not rightly interpret; since we call the worship of the Gods through the immolation of animal thusia. But so careful were the ancients not to transgress this custom, that against those who, neglecting the pristine, introduced novel modes of sacrificing, they employed execrations, and therefore they now denominate the substances which are used for fumigations αρωματα, aromata, i.e., aromatics, [or things of an execrable nature.]
This mode, however, of offering first-fruits in sacrifices, having, at length, proceeded to great illegality, the assumption of immolations, most dire and full of cruelty, was introduced; so that it would seem that the execrations, which were formerly uttered against us, have now received their consummation, in consequence of men slaughtering animals, and defiling altars with blood; and this commenced from that period in which mankind tasted of blood, through having experienced the evils of famine and war. Divinity, therefore, as Theophrastus says, being indignant, appears to have inflicted a punishment adapted to the crime. Hence some men became atheists; but others, in consequence of forming erroneous conceptions of a divine nature, may be more justly called κακοφρονες, kakophrones, than κακοθεοι, kakotheoi, 2 because they think that the Gods are depraved, and in no respect naturally more excellent than we are. Thus, therefore, some were seen to live without sacrificing anything, and without offering the first-fruits of their possessions to the Gods; but others sacrificed improperly, and made use of illegal oblations.
. . . When friendship and a proper sense of the duties pertaining to kindred natures, was possessed by all men, no one slaughtered any living being, in consequence of thinking that other animals were allied to him. But when strife, and tumult, every kind of contention, and the principle of war, invaded mankind, then, for the first time, no one in reality spared any one of his kindred natures.4 . . . Being filled with animal diet, we have arrived at this manifold illegality in our life by slaughtering animals, and using them for food. For neither it is proper that the altars of the Gods should be defiled with murder, nor that food of this kind should be touched by men, as neither is it fit that men should eat one another;
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