Publication Year: 2011
In Sacrifice, René Girard interrogates the Brahmanas of Vedic India, exploring coincidences with mimetic theory that are too numerous and striking to be accidental. Even that which appears to be dissimilar fails to contradict mimetic theory, but instead corresponds to the minimum of illusion without which sacrifice becomes impossible.
The Bible reveals collective violence, similar to that which generates sacrifice everywhere, but instead of making victims guilty, the Bible and the Gospels reveal the persecutors of a single victim. Instead of elaborating myths, they tell the truth absolutely contrary to the archaic sense. Once exposed, the single victim mechanism can no longer function as the model for would-be sacrificers.
Recognizing that the Vedic tradition also converges on a revelation that discredits sacrifice, mimetic theory locates within sacrifice itself a paradoxical power of quiet reflection that leads, in the long run, to the eclipse of this institution which is violent but nevertheless fundamental to the development of human culture. Far from unduly privileging the Western tradition and awarding it a monopoly on the knowledge and repudiation of blood sacrifice, mimetic analysis recognizes comparable, but never truly identical, traits in the Vedic tradition.
Published by: Michigan State University Press
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Anthropological thought long saw blood sacrifice as a kind of enigma, one it endeavored to solve, but without success. It then told itself that sacrifice in general, sacrifice as such, perhaps does not exist. The hypothesis of a conceptual illusion is legitimate as a hypothesis, but during the second half of the twentieth century it hardened into a dogma all the more intolerant for believing itself triumphant over Western intolerance, over our intellectual imperialism. ...
Ch.1: Sacrifice in the Vedic Tradition
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After some hesitation, at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century anthropology turned resolutely to the study of individual cultures. Researchers began to take very seriously the differences between cultures, but without renouncing the great theoretical questions that presuppose the unity of man. They believed that beyond the archaic cults, each different from the others, there was the enigma of ...
Ch.2: The Founding Myths of Vedic Sacrifice
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In my first lecture, I spoke of the nearly obligatory prelude to sacrifice—the rivalries of the gods and demons in the Brahmanas, the great Vedic commentaries on sacrifice. These rivalries are the reciprocal imitations of desire. They are therefore mimetic in the sense given this term by mimetic theory and so, at the moment of paroxysm, these rivalries spontaneously engender the sacrifice that interrupts them. ...
Ch. 3: Sacrifice Revealed in the Biblical and Vedic Religions
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In my first two lectures, I found in the Brahmanas the phenomenon of the scapegoat, which is the basis for my theory of sacrifice. The phenomenon is sparked when mimetic rivalries reach their paroxysm and fasten suddenly on a single victim. The unanimous execration and destruction of a pseudo- enemy reconciles the community at the relatively modest cost of a single victim. The phenomenon is all the more valuable insofar as communities succeed in reproducing it using ...
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Page Count: 108
Publication Year: 2011