The Secret of Sacrifice.

Carry me, carry me.

We’d been dropped by chopper onto the edges of a firefight in deep brush with orders to set up an ambush along the most likely escape route from the main punchup 800 yards further up a narrow valley.

Carry me, carry me.

We were feeling bullish,

in the mood.

Only, the Ops room doesn’t always get it right.

Information can be sketchy….

and that day they had missed a piece of the jigsaw in the shape of a lone RPD gunner safely ensconced somewhere up on one of the granite ‘kopjes’ that lay in a great semi circle around us, ancient hills worn to the bone.

And he was there first.

As soon as the gunship was out of sight he raked us with automatic fire.

Carry me, carry me.

D—- was caught out in the open. He went down screaming. I had a low boulder to flatten myself behind 10 yards to his right. D—- was totally exposed. On his back now, broken arms flopping over his chest, trying to push himself to safety with his heels.

He wasn’t going to make it.

Carry me, carry me.

I was a gunner myself…big ‘ol MAG 762, way heavier and clumsier than the weapon currently making short work of us. I put it down on its bipod and went across to where D—– lay bleeding. The ground beneath my feet erupted with gunfire, just like in the movies. Dust everywhere. Crack and thump blurred into a roar of sound. When they are very close they go… zzzip. ZZzzipp. ZZzipppp.

Carry me, carry me.

I grabbed D—- and swung him over my shoulder. By now it was more Chinese New Year than Fourth of July. He was a small guy. Only seventeen the day before. Light as a feather.

Bookies would have given me slim odds on coming out unscathed. Had the even bet played out there would have been a short ceremony, some fluttering ribbon, bowed heads; my Commanding Officer would have spoken movingly about the ultimate sacrifice. Shots would have been fired over the coffin.

‘Greater love hath no man…’

Which is nice an’ all…

but that was not my experience.

I wasn’t risking my life for his at all.

Hell, I hardly knew the guy.

The important thing was that my life was not at risk at all.

I was already dead.

And I was good with that.

So there was no fear to overcome. No laudable gesture made above and beyond the call of Duty. No trait worth pinning a medal on.

Au contraire…

Because being dead already meant that the ten yards to D—-‘s blood soaked frame was the closest I’d ever come to religious experience.

Which was new…

My purpose was not to engage the enemy.

It was to fight and die.

To throw myself gloriously into the arms of Death.

And so I was entirely calm. I was one with my purpose. Calm enveloped me, ran through my veins like cool silk.

I was going home.

Carry me, carry me.

And so you see PTSD is not just about the shock of blood and guts. It is also about the confusion that you are still alive, that your mission is incomplete and that the liquid calm is felt in absence like an exiled lover.

A contemporary idiom for this phenomenon is the lead character Walter White from the hugely successful TV hit ‘Breaking Bad’, whose entire purpose is self-sacrifice, who feels he’s lived too long and whose response to his cancer being in remission is, ‘Why me?’

Macro lens. In ancient times people made sacrifices to their Gods, acts of propitiation and atonement…

“The ritual acts of man are an answer and a reaction to the action of God upon man”. CG Jung

carry me, carry me.

It seems that our own culture has less need of such things, or that we have risen above such heathen nonsense..


that we have no need to participate in such foolishness..

not consciously anyway.

and a timeless tradition just… evaporated in the light of reason..

at least that’s how it seems.

Carry me, carry me.

until the gnostic gospels surfaced at Nag Hammadi and cast the kind of light on millenial events that prompted the Church to rebury many of them in the bowels of the Vatican as fast as they surfaced.

Lines like these from the apocryphal book of Thomas….

”if you bring out what is inside you then what is inside you will save you. If you do not bring out what is inside you will kill you.” Gospel of Thomas.

These lines are like plague virus to religious authorities. They obviate the need for church and place the responsibility for redemption firmly back in our own hands….

But its the gospel of Judas that is the platinum shocker. Jesus says..

”Truly [I] say to you, Judas… you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me. Already your horn has been raised, your wrath has been kindled, your star has shone brightly, and your heart has [been hardened…][11]



So, no betrayal or dying so that others might live or atoning for the sins of Humanity. And its not the authenticity of the document that counts as much as the vehemence of Church denounciation, the lip quivering…


So what is it that is so worth hiding for 2000 years?

on pain of…

well, whatever makes folk bury stuff in a hurry.

We know very well that in the psychology of the individual what we resist persists and that denied material manifests symptomatically. So too, whatever is cast out of the Collective Psyche will manifest in some form of mass compulsion instead.

If we consider the new twist given by Judas to the whole question of what might be meant by the ‘Immitation of Christ’ we might also reflect on what’s happened to the tradition of sacrifice in Western tradition.

Try to chuck it out and it will just go underground.

You are the sacrifice.

You don’t appease Yahweh just by obeying. Something has to be given. Something valuable, something to be made sacred. The brightest and the best. Like the protagonists from the movie, ”Chariots of Fire” going as one ‘over the top’ of their battle trenches and running gracefully towards the enemy machine guns..

already dead.

Carry me, carry me.

Its a tragedy of course,


but no-one asks,

‘what are they doing exactly?’

and try to make sense of it.

… sacrifices of light..

for the Dark face of God.

Mega macro lens. The problem with a system built upon the polarisation of good and evil is not just the issue of shadow projections onto a suitably handy enemy. Without all kinds of internal dialogue there isn’t a strong enough ego structure to stick in the throat of unfolding archetypal drama, let alone those now relegated to Vaudeville.

Which means we give ourselves far too much credit with the idea that the ontological security of ancient traditions has been a worthwhile loss for the boon of ego development. Ego is still a rare beast and mostly what we mean by ‘egotistical’ is someone with only one functioning corner of themselves rather than four, who has run up a flag to boot and whose puffed up sense of self is easily overun by archetypal forces.

Carry me, carry me.

This single standpoint is fragile, vulnerable, open to being swamped by archetypal contents, particularily those split off and denied by God, the divine feminine, the dark brother, rapturously self-immolating Dionysus/Attis who, given the revelations of Judas, are cultural variants of the god/man Jesus.

When these suppressed aspects of the Collective join forces, instead of Christendom doing what it says on the tin, we have a distorted deification of Mater instead, the cult of consummerism, the devouring of time and the destruction of individuality.

Its not just on the battlefield that life is sacrificed for the sake of propitiating the apocryphal face of Yahweh. The living out of merely collective ideals, becoming slaves to the dollar, mortgaging ourselves to the hilt, sacrificing ourselves to a narcissistic partner, starving ouselves to skin and bone or feeding addiction; all these things are also acts of self-immolation commensurate with the story, embeded deep in our psyches, of the self-dismembering god.

Carry me, carry me.

Without a strong ego the narcissistic child of Christendom..

”becomes collectivised from within.. he becomes (identified with) an archetype. The greater the identification with the youthful god the less individual he is and yet he feels so special.” ML von Franz.

Childhood deprived of the Great Mother, drycleaned of the less than salubrious sides of the Gods, has the same effect as parents who keep themselves apart from their kids, who have dark secrets and prefer rosier versions of the truth.

The kids are raised deprived of real contact..

with the sacred feminine, the dark masculine…

and so act out their ancient stories and throw themselves on millenial pyres instead.

”We are dominated by whatever it is with which we are unconsciously identified.” C. Schwartz.

Imagine then, the state of mind of those first proponents of martial self-sacrifice, the Crusaders, who cantered about the Holy Land for Centuries with this prayer on their lips..

“Hearken we beseech Thee, O Lord, to our prayers, and deign to bless with the right hand of Thy Majesty this sword with which They servant desires to be girded that it may be the terror and dread of all….” Oath of the Crusaders


there is a hidden clause in any contract that allows you to charge a five foot steel spike with divine power..

that’s right…

No-one is going home.

Seen to by Phillip (the fair) of France who happily burned 3,000 of them at the stake..

but they were on the same side…

That’s how it works….

Carry me, carry me.

The ancient Greeks had a better sense of  things in this respect because the symbol of self-sacrifice was consciously recognised. You could talk about it in a way that wouldn’t get you killed.

And so it turns out that Ares/Dionysus, gods of War and Chaos, are more readily propitiated when you admit that they are in the room. The impulse to sacrifice oneself to a cause can find more constructive expression. In fact these forces could even be invoked for peace…

“Ares, stay furious contests, and avenging strife, whose works with woe embitter human life; to lovely Kyrpis [Aphrodite] and to Lyaios [Dionysos] yield, for arms exchange the labours of the field;  encourage peace, to gentle works inclined,  and give abundance, with benignant mind.” Orphic fragment.

The problem is not the fact of Chaos or Self-destructive impulses but of the degree to which they are allowed conscious and therefore safe expression.

Ecstatically throwing yourself at the enemies’ bayonets is just one of a number of ways you can go. There are options. You can also live out someone else’s idea of what life should look like.

if you want.

Or devote yourself to the sacred task of being the family scapegoat.

if you like.

But sacrifice can also be expressed through service to the community, a parent’s devotion to a child, heeding an unexpected opportunity that was not part of the official plan…letting creativity have its way with you, giving up how life has to be.

but best of all is the self-sacrifice that offers up the unrealised cloth-head we once thought it so fine to be. To be chastened by it. To see our pride in how evolved we are as just one more piece of spiritual materialism, to witness the breast beating loner in his/her beflagged corner with some compassion, and to realise that if there is to be peace in the world then we must begin with the zealot within.

Carry me, carry me.


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Psychotherapist/writer/artist/ author of, 'Going Mad to Stay Sane', a psychology of self-destructiveness, about to come into its third edition. Soon to be printed for the first time, 'Abundant Delicious.. the Secret and the Mystery', described by activist Satish Kumar as, ' A Tao of the Soul'. This book documents the archetypal country through which the process of individuation occurs and looks at the trials and tribulations we might expect on the way. In the meantime..... Narcissisim is the issue of our age. This blog looks at how it operates, how it can damage and how we may still fruit despite it.

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