Friday, December 14, 2007

Primitive Sacred's Ad Hoc Priests & Imams

COUNTERTERRORISM REPORTS that members of the Fort Dix Plot are attempting to “radicalize” other inmates. This, from a Girardian point of view, would be seen as an effort to proselytize for the primitive Sacred; that is, help others feel the rush and thrill of the false transcendence exuded by pointing a finger at a certifiable "bad guy" -- here in the form of the evil infidel entity known as the United States -- believing it is the will of the deity. If it IS the will of the deity, it would indeed be unfaithful to do otherwise. See how it works?

Such ad hoc priests, or imams as the case may be, are filled with self-righteousness, certainty, and gravitas availed these days only by the Sacred devoid of influence by the Gospel. It happens either in arenas of human experience where the Gospel never has had influence, like that of Islam, or where formerly influenced areas -- like the secular West -- have given up, gone to seed, "gone native" to pre-Christian influence.

Islam is a highly structured system that allows for the primitive Sacred to work surreptitiously using its jargon and devotional practices to laud such ad hoc priests of the primitive Sacred. Neo-pagan resurgence in the formerly Gospel-influenced West has no such structure and devotional practices. Therefore, such ad hoc priests find it easy to direct these loose-cannon Sacred impulses into their pre-existent Islamic forms and formalities. It is, nonetheless, the primitive Sacred's hallmark need to victimize that is the tell-tale feature to note.

Does this mean Islam is, ipso facto, part and parcel with the primitive Sacred? I have argued in the past that it is. Period. End of story. I am no longer so certain that it is. But until the spirit that drives the biblical faiths of Judaism and Christianity convinces and convicts Muslims to confront this predilection for violent exercise of the primitive Sacred within its ranks, it does not matter one way or the other. It remains a deadly foe to all that is true, good, and beautiful in the world just like the primitive Sacred. And men of goodwill must stand up against its violent and satanic ways.


Scott D said...


You're getting better at describing the appeal of the primitive sacred. Perhaps in this case I could imagine the conversation in the jail and feel the pull of the thrill of accusation.

Any reason for your new agnosticism re: Islam's essence and capacity to be affected by biblical truths? I'm trying to recall how other major heresies were addressed, such as the Cathars. New techniques of reason, new battles in the university, some centralization of power. Any more you could share?

Athos said...

Any reason for your new agnosticism re: Islam's essence and capacity to be affected by biblical truths?

Thanks for the compliment, Scott. Bailie says occasionally that merely by being a member of any culture entitles one to see and hear the structural innocence of that culture's victim de rigueur if the health of its sacrificial mechanism is in need of revitalization. When it functions well (so to speak, of course), it only takes one or a few victims to do so. But when it is failing, as the Mesoamericans' sacrificial mechanism began to, it takes either (a) more victims or (b) more prestigious victims: genocide or regicide.

This is why Hamerton-Kelly calls the origins of democracy, for example, based on the "death of kings."

The horrors of the Holocaust, and the concomitant Nazi rush to try to cover them, shows how poorly its regenerative efforts were.

The 60's in America with the assassinations of JFK, MLKJr, BK all are indications of a failed cultural sacrificial mechanism (with its concomitant dionysian crescendo of "Sexual Liberation" so-called).

The neo-pagan resurgence in the failing West continues with its abortuaries housing the most silent victims. And, yes, one could argue that the sheer desire to increase Islam's bloody borders numerically show that if Islam is indeed part and parcel with the primitive Sacred, its sacrificial center is not holding well either.

In any case, the biblical spirit to move away from human sacrifice, from the aqedah through the Catholic understanding of God's complete vindication of the wrong claim of bloodthirstiness in the cross and resurrection of Christ. It is a bloodthirsty universal humanity, if the anthropological record is true, that demanded human sacrifice. Find where this unique movement of the biblical influence is at work, and one finds where God is continuing to draw people from the primitive Sacred. Find where people - even within Christianity - who are being drawn toward human sacrifice, and one sees the recrudescence away from this biblical spirit.

Jon D. Levenson's The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son – The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity [Yale, 1993] is still a benchmark study (non-Girardian so far as I know) in biblical studies.

As far as dealing with Islam as a heresy of both J. and C., some like Belloc and our pal Mark Gordon say it is nearly impossible to work with. Until its religionists can see their victim as human instead of "pig" or "dog", it is doubtful things can or will change.

Scott D said...

I find most evocative from what you wrote your description of the biblical tradition drawing people away from the Primitive sacred. Perhaps I think in spatial terms so that sense of movement or "draw" creates some spark.

Your reminder of Baile's description of a sacrifical system losing its power reminds me what's at stake. The fact that we're living in the shadow of the gospels (hmm, i like that phrase) causes us all sorts of problems and dangers, both from our dangerous re-sacralizations and from an inability to assess cultures untouched/less touched by true biblical thought. I have forgotten this context when you speak of the twin battlefronts. I feel like I'm catching up to your conclusions by more deeply feeling your premises.

Saw Wicker Man late last night and found it VERY POWERFUL. Knew nothing about it but that you'd mentioned its strong Girardian themes. Being somewhat fluent, I was able to see the "twist" early -- that Nicholas Cage character would be the more prestigious sacrifice. The echoes of his screams in the woman's head at the end (when she's picking up a new sperm donor) suggest the voice of the innocent may yet emerge though repressed.

I've browsed the Levenson study. It's on my shelf. From what I know of him, you'd get along. He's feisty and funny. In class he often mocks the opinions of the overwhelmingly liberal/ progressive students at Harvard Divinity. My PETA activist friend thought he was hilarious.

I like Hammerton's Kelly's democractic "sacrifice." Can you offer an essay or book where I can read more on this.

Athos said...

Scott, Hamerton-Kellys only available published book, The Gospel and the Sacred: Poetics of Violence in Mark, is getting rare; I'd snatch one if I were you. His website has some very good essays and sermons, as well as a vitae of note.

Try the original Wicker Man sometime. I haven't seen the remake, but the former is breathtaking its depiction of the neo-pagan...and you'll see more of Britt Ekland than is good for a male heart. Much better than I limned in The Dionysus Mandate.