Sunday, July 18, 2010

Murder, Sacrifice, and Punishment

I had a thought the other day. It was mostly a joke, an odd joke, that I repeated to several people. But, as often happens with jokes, it popped up again outside, and in a more serious context. Comedy masks and tragedy masks.

It goes like this. It is inevitable that we will all die. Murder is, in essence, the act of taking personal control of time, of speeding it up. A killer is a time lord.

The truth is, this idea actually mirrors many primitive ideas on the subject.
The habit of killing bad criminals by hanging them on trees is a very archaic one. It was originally practiced as a sacrifice: Germans in older days, for instance, hanged prisoners as sacrifices to the God Wotan. ... In Christianity you meet this archetypal idea in the form of the crucifixion of the Christ, and in the area of Asia Minor, Attis was suspended from a fir tree. We have to ask what lies behind the idea of killing an enemy not as social revenge or in judgement, but by the more archaic form of a sacrifice to the gods. I think that there is a much deeper and more meaningful idea than that of just punishment. If one has to fight against demonic evil in a human being, what strikes one most is that if people are outstandingly destructive, not just through the small mistakes of laziness and cheating, etc. which take place with every human being, but if they are seriously destructive, one's immediate reaction is that it is inhuman, ... and concomitantly so "divine," that one is overwhelmed. ... We use the word "inhuman" but one could equally well say "demonic" or "divine." (Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales, von Franz.) 
The linguistic linkage between devil, demon, and devi, divinity, is one I've already prattled on about here. The central point is that a criminal has essentially embodied - or has been possessed - by something outside of the human, or at least social, sphere. They must then be returned to their source, to divinity, through the methods most fitting of such a union. The myths of Gods and heroes being dismembered, hung, and so on are of course numerous. To name a few: Wotan, Orpheus, Attis, and of course Jesus.

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