Due to the sensitivity of this particular subject and the example used, I sought feedback from those likely to be most affected. It was, quite rightly, pointed out that there is a danger in suggesting that the murders of PC’s Bone and Hughes were somehow ‘necessary’. This is not, nor ever has been, my intention in writing about the psychological and spiritual implications of the scapegoat archetype. My concerns reside with the possible consequences of unconsciously ‘acting out’ this archetypal energy, given the highly destructive power this can have on both individuals and communities in a very literal way. It is a global human pattern of behaviour actively at work in the world at the present time. The purpose of my exploration is to heighten our awareness of these dangers as well as highlighting the creative and healing potentials available to all of us when we become ‘awake’ to how we are personally affected by this archetype.
There was no ‘need’ for PC Hughes and Bone to die such appalling deaths. There is a desperate need to ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain.
To recap briefly, in the ancient Hebraic ritual of atonement, two goats were required to in order to successfully reconcile the community with God. (See “The Archetypal Scapegoat” Parts One and Two) This piece explores the role of the first goat; the blood sacrifice. Bearing in mind that the scapegoat archetype exists within the collective human psyche, it is important to remember that the ‘ritual’ can be enacted as sacred or profane at both conscious and unconscious levels.
To begin with the sacred, we need to understand that both scapegoats – the sacrifice and the exile – are not ‘dirty’ or ‘bad’. They are holy – each goat is an agent of atonement; a vessel for collective sins by which the community reconciles with the Divine – to become “at-one” with God. The sacrificed goat serves as a ‘sin-offering’ to placate the angry god for the ‘uncleanness’ of the community. In the ritual, the blood of the first goat cleanses and makes sacred the sanctuary, tabernacle and altar which have been befouled by transgressions and sins of the people. The remains of this sin-offering were regarded at unclean and were burned outside the community.
Whilst, to modern secular minds, this might appear ancient and barbaric, it is nevertheless true that the ritual served a very important purpose because it cleansed the community of its psychic rubbish by openly acknowledging human faults and failings and taking steps to redress the balance from the worst we are capable of to the best. The sin-offering of the blood sacrifice was to atone with the Divine. Because this is an archetype within the human psyche, this cyclical pattern turns up in the history of many cultures and the blood sacrifice is not always an animal. We use humans too!
To understand why communities would enact such a ritual, it is important to realise the psychological components inherent within it. In Western culture, the greatest value within humanity resides within individual. Elsewhere the importance of the individual can be subsumed into the importance of the collective – the value is seen as belonging to the people as a whole, not to the individual themselves. To be selected as the blood sacrifice was regarded as an honour. To be chosen meant that, instead of merely being an ordinary part of the greater whole, the individual became a healing agent whose reward for their sacrifice was immediate union with God. The chosen one accepted the role because it meant they were sanctified as individuals, their sacrifice contributing to the reconciliation of the community as a whole with that deemed as sacred. They were never downtrodden tyrannised victims but honoured, holy volunteers whose gift of personal life enabled their community to survive. It is the ultimate sacrifice for the collective good, whether this is part of a cyclical cleansing or occurs as the result of some special crisis when the community realises it has lost its connection with the Divine.
In a secular, solar-focussed culture, the scapegoat archetype exists within both the individual and the collective psyche. None of us are ‘perfect’ and humanity wobbles between the best we can aspire to and the worst we are capable of. The archetype emerges during crises where we become severed from the best as a result of ‘sin’ or that which violates the essence of the sacred. Some rituals may result from ‘natural’ causes like famine or disaster but the pattern, as a psychological complex that compels us into the blood sacrifice, will always have its origins in human sin. What counts as ‘sin’ varies from culture to culture but, when the imbalance is experienced, we look for the necessary sacrifice required to redress the problem either consciously or unconsciously. We become ‘blood-thirsty’ priests, individually or collectively. It is important to remember that without the sacred aspect of the scapegoat ritual, the complex compels us into the ‘blood-bath’.
The initial creative impulse for this series came as the result of the murders of two unarmed police constables in Manchester, UK. Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone were sent on what appeared to be a routine call, only to encounter a gunman who opened fire upon them with both bullets and a grenade. If these events are seen from a purely secular perspective, their untimely deaths might have little value and we could lose the sacred potentials inherent within the situation. If, however, the sacred element is seen and recognised for what it is, their deaths have the potential to act as a ‘pharmakon’, or healing agent, for a community that has lost its connection to the Divine-within. Bear in mind that the scapegoat is an archetype, not a religion – we need look to the spirit-within both the individuals and the community involved in order to grasp the concept at its deeper level of meaning. Whilst this event may have ramifications for UK society as a whole, the elements of the blood sacrifice are most obvious within the policing community.
The sacred element is already present within UK policing because each new constable is required to swear an Oath before they are permitted to work for and on behalf of the wider community. This is a collective requirement that imposes personal sacrifices upon each individual and sets the standards of behaviour necessary to discharge their public responsibilities. In terms of policing, the deepest sacred value belongs within the community, not the individual and is designed to protect that community from harm through prevention or ‘cure’. The Office of Constable is therefore already a ‘pharmakon’ or healing agent for society – it is already sanctified.
In this instance, the scapegoat archetype or complex was triggered into existence by a special kind of crisis where the community itself had become so ‘unclean’ or sinful that the people had become disconnected from the sacred. Sadly, we do not have to look very far to see how that disconnection has and continues to occur within the UK police community. Whilst it is impossible to know what was going on in the mind of the perpetrator responsible, within the archetype itself both women meet the ritual requirements for a blood sacrifice. They were ‘chosen’ to answer a ‘shout’ and, by their oath, they had already accepted the possibility that they might find themselves in the role of sacrifice for the greater good of the community. From the wider understanding of the archetype, they became vessels for collective sin and the means by which the community reconnected with the sacred or divine. They became holy agents of atonement. Within this sacred dimension, to be chosen is an honour and the personal reward for accepting it means that their ‘souls’ or ‘essence’ go directly into the embrace of the Divine. Additionally, they become a ‘vessel’ for collective sin by which the community itself atones and reconciles with the Divine.
Given the close proximity in time that connects their deaths with the public exposure of corruption within the police, it is evident that the sacred element of the blood sacrifice has successfully impacted upon the collective psyche within the UK community. For the police themselves, levels of personal self-examination have been heightened as the word ‘vocation’ starts to be associated with the work itself. Although there are secular financial disputes between police and society, some constables are awakening to the realisation that they are called to this work simply because of who they are – a vocation contains a sacred quality that speaks to the best within us. Additionally, when officers were subsequently subject to aggression and verbal abuse by a member of government, the general public response was to support the police. I have to wonder if the public’s response would have been the same without the blood sacrifice of Nicola and Fiona, especially in the light of the contents of Hillsborough Report.
As a shaman, it is impossible not to notice the very close timing or synchronicity between the public exposure of ancient sins of the past (Hillsborough), a blood sacrifice and a subsequent ‘test’ to establish the veracity and sanctity of the sacrifice. However, the archetypal ritual/psychological complex of the scapegoat is not over. There is a second goat – the goat that escapes. This goat will be the focus of my next piece.
Nevertheless, given that the funerals of the two police constables are only a few days away, it is my hope that this piece contributes to and deepens the sanctity of these services, not just for the police but for the UK as a whole. We are all going to need this sacred energy if we are to find our way through the problems besetting us and we will need a ‘cleansed’ and sanctified police to help us to do this fairly.