It is a Vigorous Exercise to Change Yourself.
Heart and Mind SERIES
As a child, a particularly vivid vision of animal sacrifice was presented in a sermon. Many members thought it was too vivid. As a 12 year old kid, I thought it was "pretty cool". The talk about the cutting of the knives and the gushing of the blood, and the collapse of the animating nature of the beast still is an indelible memory within me. The minister at that time, asked the question "Do we still do animal sacrifices today?" Of course this was a provocative spring time talk designed to shock and arouse interest.
His point was dramatically drawn because he wanted to encourage all within earshot that "animal sacrifices were still valid today." Of course this is old covenant / new covenant talk that has gone on for centuries, but his point was that our "animalistic" character traits need to be dealt with on the level of the sacrifices of old. That we need to consciously and thoughtfully realize that we need to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling".
Now 50 years later, I would like to elaborate on this idea.
Why We Don't Like This Image
It is difficult to see our negative traits animalistically in this soft and cuddly time of "putting up with" so many manifestations of errant, out of control, human behavior. First of all, let's say that the mercy we extend to others is different from the hard headed exacting nature of how we must deal with ourselves, inside our hearts. No one can change you except you. You can rail all day long about the obnoxious, noisy, self-involved jerk at your office, but not one hint from you is going to change that person unless, they start to see a light internally. And so you will "sacrifice the animal" in you when you want to. But still, we do not like this image! This is the Era of Sweet Self Esteem and Joyful Self Acceptance. This is not the era of kicking yourself in the rear unless it is on "Biggest Loser". When you think about it a little longer, you have to realize that we have been "kicking our own butts" all of our lives. It's just that we need to be more honest with ourselves when it comes to our "really hard traits".
What We Are After Is Joy and Happiness
Rabbi Berg, below speaks of our "selfish nature". When we note the arousal and dominance of our selfish nature, it should strike us as being so very distinctive. When we observe this part of our nature, it is easy to see how purging ourselves of aspects of this part of our nature will more naturally lead to the Joy and Happiness we seek.
"Happiness is created from within. We are the captains of our fate and the creators of our fulfillment. The more negative traits that we “sacrifice” within ourselves, the more we are able to manifest fulfillment. Today, go against one aspect of your selfish nature."
Rabbi Yehuda Berg
Feeling the Air From the Hot Nostrils and Grabbing Those Horns
Maintaining the negative parts of our nature is very burdensome. We cover for ourselves, we explain ourselves, we avoid apologizing for ourselves, or we actually do apologize for ourselves. We stumble, we fall, we irritate each other. We irritate ourselves. We live on the margins of fidelity, we border on criminality, we push the inherent violence that lives inside us. We do all those things that we know in our heart could really use some "animal sacrifice", and yet we avoid the effort because going in an handling that beast means you have to sit in the cage and gain psychic power over it. You have to stand in the excrement and slip and slide on it, and feel its blowing nostrils and stare in its large glassy soul less eyes. "Darn thing. It's not going to go easy".
Some time go to a ranch, farm or fair and stand next to one of those prize steers. Their powerful vitality will make you shiver. Our beings are filled with collected aeons of manifestations that take deliberate, stern and determined action. Joy and Happiness are the result. The flood of positive feelings and neurotransmitters that carry you after a wonderful physical experience such as exercise, or sex, or a loving reunion with family are the same kinds of feelings that will flood when you engage in your "animal sacrifices". You can see that this analogy is more that that. It is a clear parallel to the human psyche and the powerful act of living on a daily basis.
Aspects of our Selfish Nature - How Can You Know Whether You Are Engaged?
It's Gotta Be Positive
You must grab your tendency to over indulge, sit back in terminal laziness, argue like a demon, and hold on to its horns and make it look you in the eyes. Then you positively must declare to you yourself. "You are my favorite person. I want you to be better! You have to go down, and stay down. This, I am doing to make me more appealing, better and more noble."
It's Gotta Be Conscious
Consciousness is the hyper alert status you go on when you are in that cage, and you notice that you can be gouged by your selfish nature. You can't turn around and declare yourself victorious when the animal is really not sacrificed. Getting gouged in the kidney and dropping to your knees, you moan, turn around and stare at your beast. And the beast declares. "You are not really that conscious, man!"
It's Gotta Be Work
There is a woman at work who is always trying to be disputatious, or in more common parlance, "start a fight". If and when she ever decides to engage in her special act of "animal sacrifice", she will see how strenuous you have to be in wrestling down this opponent. Her selfish nature is a cancerous part of her lively talkative nature. As one friend put it, "She is a wonderful talkative woman, it's just that if her point does not prevail, she turns into a _____. Pure hardly won, inch by inch victory over a determined enemy is what is is. It is just plain old ditch digging work.
It's Gotta Be Painful
Well, it's you. You built it, your guarded it. You protected it and nurtured it so that you could somehow benefit lifetimes ago for your safety and comfort. Now you have decided that trait does not work anymore. But it is embedded. Your creative nature has interwoven this trait in an imaginative and powerful way. It you try to pull it out, you are going to hurt. And when you do hurt, that will be the time when your determination and will are tested. Pull a thorn from your flesh. Remember that feeling. It will be the way you feel a hundred times over when you really "sacrifice that animal flesh". The desire for joy and happiness, and your vision of the New You must be stronger than the pain.
You Must Work "Post Op"
Have you ever thought about, (forgive me for the blood and guts) what is was like after the "religious sacrifice" was over. If you have seen movies about the Mayans, you get a feeling. After the sacrifice is over, you have to clean the tissue, blood and muscular and all, from the scene, and washing heavily and pulling the carcase from the setting. If and when you engage in the process of trying to excise a painful characteristic from your personality, you will feel the need to "clean up", make pretty and create a plan for the future. That person, guy, gal that you want to be. Create a picture of that self. Feel inside how you want to feel outside.
William James, a philosopher and psychologist, once said, "The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives."
Create a positive inner attitude and develop a sense of a "new self" that is literally changing before your eyes. As you go through this process, the image of animal sacrifice will have greater power. You deliberately took what you considered to be an uglier version of yourself and improved it to a certain degree. As you improve, you will feel the liberating breezes of love and tolerance, not only for others, but at a deeper level - your very self.
It's Gotta Be "In Secret"
Yes, if you are trying to actually lose some of your "animal" weight, people will probably notice. But otherwise, don't let people know you are working on yourself. Don't wait for a complement. Act as if nothing is going on. Inner change is inimical to public praise. It's like asking the question: "Have I gotten more humble?" You see how that doesn't really work? What you are after is an inner report card that you give yourself. What you want is to think less and less of the "animal sacrifices" that you engaged in. What you want is to forget about those flared hot nostrils and the gouging horns. What you want is greater peace and a feeling that all the work was worth it. Christofer French was ordained in the early 70's. He is the Founder of SignofAstrology.com and a proponent of Syncretism, a New Way of Seeing Our Traditional Systems.