I have often, among people in our culture, heard the ancient practice of human sacrifice deemed horrific: the product of people closer to animals than the civilized beings we are now. But the truth is, we're still doing it today.
In The Scapegoat Complex, the second book from Sylvia Brinton Perera, Jungian Analyst and C.G. Jung professor, we see it is so. The practice of Scapegoating, or sacrificing a being as a symbol of casting out sin, has not been left behind. Rather it has evolved along with our species into a more sophisticated, less conspicuous, perhaps far more dangerous practice. Rather than carrying out acknowledged rituals among and for the public, we have begun subconsciously attaching our shadows to those we then hold far from us, thus cleansing ourselves of the sin. We may worship different gods these days, and in some different ways, but the act of ridding is still alive and still hurts many of those among us.
Perera, as a practitioner, is largely concerned with the act of scapegoating within the family framework. She uses plenty of case notes to keep her writing vivid and describes some interesting modes of healing. At the heart of the solution, as with all therapy, is understanding. Of course with scapegoating, this solution is particularly challenging, and important, because the entire point of scapegoating is the refusal to understand - to in a way, attach the painful side of truth to a person or being other than oneself rather than to try to understand the truth at all.
" There are several ways of treating anomalies. Negatively we can ignore, just not perceive, or perceiving we can condemn. Positively we can deliberately confront the anomaly and try to create a new pattern of reality in which it has a place" (32).
Perera writes a readable and convincing book on a topic we speak little about. Relevant today, certainly, and probably far into the future, I see it as a point of reference for all kinds of conflicts within as well as without the family structure; in politics certainly, in education, publishing, and our social lives.
As always, the hope is to evolve. We stopped with the pyramids and the sacrificing of the virgins and all that, maybe for this unconscious business it's just a matter of time. Or maybe we'll revert, I could see that happening. Coming next fall to FOX: it's Sacrifice, the hot new reality show where one contestant wins a million dollars and then is offered up to the volcano god, still in their bikini. Imagine just the sponsorship dollars alone.