The hunter has paid for his kill, by his excellence, his effort, his diligence in training and attention, his dedication and focus. Nevertheless it is the god who has given the kill to the hunter, by putting the prey in his way. In the excellence of the hunter and of his works is the way; the prey he finds in that way is from the god, and gratuitous, nowise earned. The hunter does not make the prey, after all, and cannot. All he can do is fit himself to the gift of it. He therefore stands in ontological debt to his divine benefactor (sometimes personified in and as the prey itself, often understood as an avatar or totem of the god). So the duteous, righteous hunter, who would that his own ways continued prosperous, is not proud, but rather gives back his kill to the god who sent it his way in the first place. Along with the effort he has expended in the hunt, and the excellence of his hunting (learned – earned – by arduous training to the mastery of his art), the sacrifice is partial payment for the hunter’s ontological debt.
It goes deeper. Like all his fellows, the hunter knows well and in his bones that he stands in irreparable debt to the god not just for the kill but for his own very being – and with it his capacity to pursue his way – which he cannot himself procure. As the hunter cannot create his prey, nor can he create himself. Everything, then, is owed to the god. So at the root and uttermost limit of sacrifice, the righteous man dedicates the whole of his own life and work to the god, and stands ready to make of himself the sacrifice, to the god and for his people, his flock.
Such is the signification of giving the first fruits to the god, the fruits that, as first, are most certain, most needed, best and most likely to prosper the clan through the coming seasons. The dedication of the first fruits to the god is the effectual dedication of the whole future life of the people. The whole people give themselves in offering and sacrifice to the god, and with that offering they too become the property of the god, members of his household entitled to a place at his table, and fellow heirs of his kingdom. So each citizen howsoever vile participates in royalty, and finds his humble life ennobled, and worthy, its humdrum perplexities and persecutions caught up in a vast and indeed cosmic enterprise.
When the hunter sacrifices his kill it is no longer his own, but belongs to the god. He gives it to the priest who is the angel of the god, to the king who is the head of the people, and of whose body they are all members. He gives it to his Lord – the loafward – who supervises the ritual, sees to the just distribution of the goods of the god, and administers justice among the people according to his holy laws, deciding who shall be banished from the common feast, who shall be welcome, and what honors – including portions – will be given to each.
When the hunter gives his kill to the god in the person of his vicar the priest, he is relieved of the jealousy he might otherwise have felt toward his fellows at sharing it with them directly. The food is no longer his, but belongs to the god. Why should he worry that the god shares his own food his whole flock? Is not all the food of the people derived from the god? Has not the hunter been himself nourished from his infancy at that common board supplied by the sacrifices of the people? To give the food of new life to his people is what the god does; it is his very nature. How resent it?
By the same token, the hunter’s offering relieves his fellows of the envy they might otherwise have felt toward him, and removes any temptation to covet his kill, or to act on those feelings and kill him.
So sacrifice procures peace. By way of the sacrificial offering that *all* the people are obliged to make, each in due proportion to his own wealth – even if it is only tuppence – the people all give to the lord of the clan, and he assumes, the power over them to judge and render justice – obviating the danger to the clan of falling into irresolvable disagreements over the rightful distribution of food, chattels, offices, powers, goods, and kills, into insatiable feud, vendetta, discord, violence, dissolution, chaos.
No sort of property is ever unencumbered by an obligation to provide an offering for sacrifice. The first born of every womb must be sacrificed; the first fruits of the harvest must be sacrificed; corvée labor must be given each year as the due of ownership, and in proportion to the value of what is owned. Only thus is ownership rendered legitimate by the authority of the god, and through his royal vicar of the whole people. As legitimately owned under the mandate of Heaven, property may not be alienated without due process of sacred law.
Sacrifice then is ritualized sharing; ritualized love. It is the operation by which society is manufactured and reproduced from one day to the next.
The offering to the god earns a return to the donor. The consecration of the sacrificial offering confers its holiness upon him, for it is his own substance that has been given and consecrated. But when there is no god involved in the transaction, what was once a devoted offering in sacrifice becomes mere taxation of property – a coerced and aleatory taking, to which the merely secular sovereign has no title given ontologically in cosmic justice, so that the taking is at bottom only adventitious, and therefore incorrigibly wrong. Who makes sacrifice completes the transaction feeling cleansed, redeemed and sanctified, welcomed in the world and among his people by his god – which is to say, loved, and valued, honored and ennobled. But the taxpayer feels only that he has been ripped off; compared to the cost of the taking, the returns of taxation to the taxpayer are attenuated and threadbare, indeed too often only notional; so all men revile the publican, including – perhaps especially – the publican himself.
Unlike sacrifice, then, taxation does not salve resentment, on any part, but stokes it. The basic economic rite of civic life in a secular society engenders civil strife. It may fester long subficially, but it must eventually find outward expression, as all things do.
The same goes for any of the rules that enable social coordination. Where none of them are understood as deriving from and coherent with the sacred order that binds together the cosmos, none of them are at all endowed with inherent awful authority. They lose the sacred character of law. All are then more or less unjust, unjustified, only conventional, at bottom capricious, thus somehow tendentious, mere instruments of domination, and so more or less intolerable infringements upon the license of the untrammeled individual will. Mere regulation stirs resentment, and insubordination: transgression, perversion, criminality, revolution.
Thus in secular society you get class warfare; you get institutionalized, interminable feud, ritualized in reiterated profane scapegoating that through immolations of people or their property temporarily – i.e., vainly – quiets resentments. Social discourse then gradually devolves into a constant disputation, for in compensating for any one injustice, each such taking and destruction inflicts another. New scapegoats are therefore ever needed, and as each victim class is extirpated, new outcastes must be discovered among those that remain. In order to discern them, the rules of ritual cleanliness must develop ever more rococo refinements (viz., “privilege,” “microaggressions”), so that someone can be found who has broken them, who is thus demonstrably unclean, and who may therefore be destroyed with a clear conscience. As feud ramifies and the classes splinter, the limit of discord is reached at Hobbesian war between classes consisting each of one person. Each one fights with all others for his rights and privileges. Thus it is that the revolution always eats its young. There is then nevermore any justice, or peace.
Where no altar is found, there no civilization can long exist.