Tag Archives: Scapegoat

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part Four: The Goat that Escapes

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Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Tommaso Cassai Masaccio

Before I embark upon the story of the second goat within the Scapegoat archetype or complex, I would like to briefly revisit the first one – the goat that dies. When I wrote about it here, I used a highly sensitive example that could easily have caused offence to all those involved in the events I described. I offer my sincere apologies to anyone who felt uncomfortable with it as a result. What I was attempting to do – albeit badly – was raise awareness of the very powerful spiritual component within unfolding events. Nevertheless, I would invite readers to explore some of the strikingly beautiful creative responses from the community directly affected that I have reblogged here, here and here.

From within a community that was feeling undervalued and attacked, have emerged poets and dreamers, volunteering time and effort to enable the sacred aspects needed to ensure that two women’s deaths did not pass unnoticed or dishonoured. It would have been a very hard heart indeed that remained unmoved by the response of both the police nationally and the city of Greater Manchester to the funerals of PC’s Hughes and Bone. If ever there was an example of ‘sacrifice as pharmakon’ or healing agent, this was surely it. It serves as a reminder of our best in the face of the worst humanity can sink to. It is important to remember that, within the ancient ritual, the souls of the sacrificed are rewarded with immediate union with god. For those who remain behind, such events are the reminder and memory of what is finest within us, the human face of the divine spirit within, which are not just measured by our living but by our dying as well. For the community as a whole, all failings on my part have been more than compensated for by the work of those more closely involved. In this instance, I am very grateful for their corrections to my mistakes.

Nevertheless, my exploration of the scapegoat is not yet complete. We still have the second goat to study – the one who is exiled. Given the examples I have been using for this series, it is interesting to note that Andrew Mitchell, instigator of “GateGate”, appears to have exiled himself from the political debates of his party’s conference. This has greater significance because his constituency is in Birmingham, where the Conservative Party conference is being held. It would seem as if he has become an exiled goat – a mild example of what happens to a sin carrier for the community.

The exiled goat is the most familiar aspect of the scapegoat ritual in modern times and our personal response to its emergence says far more about us than we might feel comfortable with. In a world whose perceptions are dualistic, this is the issue of ‘right’ (the high priest) and ‘wrong’ (the exiled goat). When this kind of separation is occurs within a community, it is inevitable that we will be applying such divisions to our own internal selves too. We make judgmental decisions about which bits of us are acceptable or not. Many of us exile aspects of our personalities we dislike to our unconscious in our attempts to fit it with our society. We fool ourselves into believing that the problem of sin is somehow ‘out there’ by failing to acknowledge or respect our own dark side. It is worth remembering that within an ego-level psyche, when we occupy our own personal moral high-ground, whatever we may think or feel about others, is almost certainly something within ourselves too. This is why we know it so well when we point our fingers at others and can recognise it for what it is. We are talking about our true selves when our ego becomes ‘high priest’. The only time this may not hold true is at a social conscience level. This is where we can openly acknowledge both our dark and light aspects whilst working in the interests of our wider community – these are the kinds of ‘special’ aspects of difference associated with the scapegoated exile.

Where the sacrificed goat speaks to ‘unholy’ divisions within the community, the exiled goat speaks to our attitude towards ‘difference’ both personally and collectively. There is always going to be a quality of difference within each one of us simply because we all have the potential to be unique individuals. This quality of individual difference means that, regardless of how we try, at some point we are all likely to have an experience of becoming the exiled goat.

There are many reasons why an individual might find themselves in the role of the exiled goat. Within the archetypes we find the voluntary (Jesus) and involuntary (Orestes); sinners (Oedipus) and innocents (Orpheus); and we find those for whom this is a vocation – the sin-eaters, like the Aztec goddess, Tlazolteutl. In all cases, the individual involved will be marked out by some personal difference, identified by the collective as ‘undesirable’, about which the ‘exile’ can do little or nothing because it is who they are. These are the vital differences within us, within the archetype, that are capable of carrying the sins of an entire community – the exiled goat doesn’t bear its own sins alone into the wilderness, it carries everyone’s.  There is something about these differences that are ‘bigger’ than the individual and capable of bearing far more than just the guilt of personal ‘transgression’.

So what might we look for as ‘different’ enough to be able to bear the weight of collective ‘sin’ of scapegoating? The following are common markers:-

Royalty

Amongst archetypal scapegoats, many are royal in some form or another. It’s a difference that marks the individual out as special or ‘above’ the commons.  In a psychological setting, this can be termed ‘grandiosity’ when viewed negatively or it might be an emerging of social conscience within an individual desiring to give to the greater ‘good’ of the community. To act on such beliefs inevitably sets an individual apart from the collective in the same way as royalty is perceived as ‘outside’ the general whole. Both archetypal and historical examples exist of the royal sacrifice and/or exile deemed to be necessary for greater social good. This is difference as specialness.

 Physical Differences

Many archetypal scapegoats have physical differences that mark them out as ‘special’. For example, the name Oedipus actually means ‘swollen foot’ which, in addition to his royalty, marks him out as dissimilar. Others, like Jesus during the crucifixion, are maimed. Scapegoats may be ugly or deformed in some way and this particular aspect comes into very clear focus when we consider how the scapegoat complex plays out at the collective level. People of physical ‘otherness’ often become targets of collective persecution.

 Foreign

Many individuals who find themselves scapegoated, either in archetype or reality, are perceived as foreign in their difference or specialness. This applies to equally to groups if ‘difference’ within a greater society and it is not hard to name examples who have experienced this, whether it be Jews of the past or Muslims in the present.

 Magical

Within the archetype, individuals may be perceived as having magical powers. For example, Orpheus’s music was regarded as so exquisitely beautiful it caused trees and stones to weep. Jesus could heal the blind and raise the dead. A scapegoat may have a mysterious talent that can be perceived as a gift in a stable environment but which transforms into a threat during a crisis. When the community faces a catastrophe, such individuals may find themselves blamed and hunted down for the same talents, skills or gifts previously regarded as blessings.

 “Mad”

This feature of scapegoating comes from psychological differences where individual perception is seen to be so different from the norm as to be regarded as madness. This is the role of holy fool who is, in some cultures, regarded as sacred and the madness as ‘god-inflicted’. Sometimes the individual may be genuinely insane; at other times, they may simply be guilty of holding a different viewpoint from that of the scapegoating collective.

Outlaw

“The scapegoat in myth may also be an outlaw whose crime has turned the wrath of the gods against the community. The scapegoat is the one who has committed, or is believed to have committed, the murder, the theft, the rape, the breach of social taboos. But the motive behind the crime is never simple…

The crimes of this kind of scapegoat figure are different from ordinary garden variety crimes. These crimes challenge some universal authority, breaking collective law yet at the same time fulfilling a secret collective need. The scapegoat may enact the crime which all of us long to commit, which on the most profound level is the crime of individuality. The mythic outlaw is often an individual who defies the stagnant or unjust rules of society or the gods, and he or she is punished by those laws at the same time as being secretly admired and envied by the very people who have invoked the punishment.”

(From “The Dark of the Soul” by Liz Greene: CPA Press 2003; ISBN: 978-1-900869-28-7)

 

These are the qualities likely to be found within those who are individually ‘marked out’ for attention when scapegoating moves within both the collective conscious and unconscious. When it erupts as a collective social complex, this ‘marking’ takes on the ominous destructiveness of ethnic or other ‘special’ cleansing. This form of scapegoating becomes the sacrificing/exiling of entire groups which, unfortunately, has become all too familiar. Groups likely to be subject to scapegoating persecution frequently fall into the following categories: race; religion; class; sexuality; gender; and “non-human”, like animals or the environment. We can begin to get a sense of what community values are by looking at those who are sacrificed or exiled. For example, if a society routinely scapegoats black people, Muslims, the differently-abled, the poor, the mad, non-heterosexuals, women and nature, these provide very precise measures of what it does value. Using recent examples, it’s possible to perceive the outline of the offended god demanding appeasement as probably white, maybe Christian, physically perfect, rich, ‘sane’, misogynistic, heterosexually male and disconnected from nature.  As humans, we are inevitably going to fall short of such measures which means, especially within the scapegoat complex, that as one ‘difference’ is sacrificed or exiled, other individual differences emerge to be subject to the same. The complex morphs into wholesale collective xenophobic attrition capable of exterminating whole communities and peoples.

Having identified those individuals or groups likely to carry the scapegoat archetype when a community experiences a crisis, it is vital to look at what sins are being exiled.

“The reason the goat is exiled is not because the community doesn’t like goats. It is because the community has offended God, and the exile is carrying that which has caused offence. This goat bears not only the pain of alienation from the community, but also the pain of alienation from its spiritual source.” (ibid)

 In addition, it is important is to explore how the individual exile responds to their situation. Some may choose to reject the exiling community:

“The exiled goat may… turn its back on the collective. The anger may be too great, and personal pride may also be involved. The exiled goat may say, “I don’t need them anyway. In fact, I am going to do everything in my power to sabotage and destroy the collective which has rejected me…” The exiled goat can become an anarchist and a revolutionary. It is the lone gunman, the social outcast who consciously chooses the role of outlaw. In its most extreme form, it is Charles Manson, who gleefully accepts the projection of the collective shadow and says, “Since you will condemn me whatever I am or do, I may as well do what I have been accused of, and justify your condemnation of me.” That response provides a form of power and a feeling of being special, and this can compensate for the humiliation of rejection. Such exiled goats are necessary to a community which is unconscious of its own sins, because they carry the collective shadow.” (ibid)

This is the realm of the terrorist whom having, either individually or collectively, experienced the terrors of rejection and exile, returns to visit this shadow upon the community who perpetrated the expulsion. This is particularly true when the ‘unconscious’ high priest mercilessly heaps communal sins upon individuals or groups who are subsequently destroyed or exiled through blame, thereby avoiding conscious responsibility for their own sins. It creates a vicious circle. As the ‘sin’ is hidden within the unconsciousness of the community itself, no amount of projection,  sacrifice or exile can resolve the ‘loss of connection to the divine’ and the failure requires more ‘high priests’ to relentlessly seek out new victims to blame. The ultimate result leads to an ‘empty world’ as one difference after another is sacrificed on the altar of this insatiable, blood-thirsty ‘god’ until the whole community is dead. Sadly, we do not need to look far for real-life examples of this being acted out in the world at the present time.

There are other choices available to an exiled scapegoat. They might refuse revenge but reject the community by choosing to remain in exile. A third option is the role of pharmakon – the exiled goat as healer. This is the goat who not only who escapes death thereby becoming ‘the one who lives’, albeit in exile, it is also the goat who returns from the wilderness seeking to win back the acceptance of the rejecting community through service to others.

It is this particular scapegoat, ‘the one who returns’, which is the subject of my next piece.

The Archetypal Scapegoat – 1

The Archetypal Scapegoat – 2

The Archetypal Scapegoat – 3

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part Two: Behold the High Priest

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High Priest Offering a Sacrifice of a Goat
(illustration from Henry Davenport Northrop. Treasures of the Bible. International Pub. Co., 1894.)

 

In “The Archetypal Scapegoat Part One” I explored evidence suggesting that the archetype of the Scapegoat was at work in Britain at the moment and the processes invoked when this occurs. This piece is the first step into the detail of the archetype as a whole and how it expresses itself in human terms.

 

The Scapegoat Archetype emerges during times of disruption and change, where those values we thought established and permanent suddenly fall apart and tumble us into confusion and uncertainty. It is a collective as well as a personal experience and is evoked as result of splitting that which was previously a ‘wholeness’ that served the community. Something ‘vital’ has failed and the community is suddenly unstable, vulnerable and endangered.

 

Instability forms a natural part of life but it also triggers terrible anxiety within the human collective. Suddenly, life is no longer ‘safe’ and our very survival is threatened. This survival may be our very life itself or it may be those things we rely upon to keep us safe. When this occurs, we reach out for that which might re-establish safety. It is within this frightening confusion that the Scapegoat archetype emerges. We look to remove the source of instability from within ourselves or our community through both sacrifice and expulsion.

 

At its deepest levels, the Scapegoat Ritual is sacred. It is about our relationship with ‘God’ and therefore, in human terms, requires a representative. Within the ‘primitive’ feelings aroused by threats to our survival, there is a sense that the community has ‘sinned’ and some form of atonement is necessary to heal the apparent rift. The vehicle for the solution is provided by the role of the High Priest and the purpose of the ritual is to realign the community with an offended God. The word ‘priest’ derives from the word ‘pontifex’, meaning ‘to bridge or to be a bridge’ between the sacred and secular. The priest, king or judge mediates between God and the community saying “this is what God wants from you” and the Scapegoat ritual forms part of the framework that renews the community through the ritual cleansing of sins. The Scapegoat archetype represents a cyclical recognition that something within us, both individually and collectively, is not ‘fit’ to be ‘at-one’ with the Deity; that somehow the community has offended ‘God’ and some sacrifice is required.

 

The vital essence of the ritual is that all aspects are sacred and therefore of great worth. This includes the priest, the sacrifice and the exile, all of whom contribute to the cleansing and healing of the community as a whole in order to realign it to the divine. If the divine quality is absent, what occurs instead is an incredibly destructive psychological pathology that affects both individuals and community alike. The split is not healed but heightened. When this occurs, we are not dealing with priests but persecutors and the sacrifices become victims.

 

Whilst the example of Andrew Mitchell at the Downing Street gate was the initial inspiration for this series of blogs, that event actually forms part of a far larger problem whose roots disappear back into history. If I were to look for a deeper cause for the appearance of the Scapegoat, I would probably look to the continuing collapse of the British economy. When an accustomed economy – which could be seen as the sharing out of resources – collapses, it is inevitable that community will feel that its survival is threatened. Individuals will experience deep feelings of shared helplessness, rage, fear, wrongness, anger, shame, guilt, madness together with a desire for perfection, rightness and redemption. In Britain, the economic high priests prescribed austerity (sacrifice) for the community which apparently seems to have resulted in a form of economic exile for those outside the world of high finance. The ‘priests’ have driven out those who do not ‘belong’ through economic persecution of the community as a whole up to and including human sacrifice, despite clear evidence that alternatives can be proven to exist elsewhere. This is part of the backdrop to GateGate.

 

“Within all of us is the capacity to turn our inner scapegoat into a persecutor, even if it is only a snide remark about someone we deem to be inferior to ourselves”

(From “The Dark of the Soul” by Liz Greene: CPA Press 2003; ISBN: 978-1-900869-28-7)

 

When the sacred is missing from the scapegoating dynamic, we are in the realm of human pathology. The three roles remain but they sink into unhealthy versions of the persecutor, victim and rescuer. Because the dynamic represents a whole, each role is fluid and people shift from one to another depending upon the circumstances. None of us are exempt from this. When we identify with the persecutor, we are declaring that we know the difference between right and wrong. The inherent assumption is, because we can discern this difference, we are empowered to act upon our knowledge. The persecutor claims the moral high ground of ‘rightness’ and persecutes those they perceive as having violated this. It is a grandiose position that self-righteously claims the power to punish the violators. We are all subject to this, including me.

 

From personal experience, this persecutor is triggered by my own moral or ethical value system or ‘god’. When I see a clear transgression, I become outraged. It is an immediate and primitive reaction where I am wholly right and the ‘sinner’ is wholly wrong and I can be just as unpleasant as Andrew Mitchell is alleged to have been. The only thing that can interrupt this compulsion – for a compulsion it surely is – is to become conscious of it. There are a number of ways this can occur; for example, an input of facts can assist. In GateGate, I found the law itself to be helpful because, for the most part, healthy law is created by cool minds informed by warm hearts whereas my internal avenging persecutor is undoubtedly has a hothead and no heart for my victim. Another failsafe is to realise that my own behaviour now falls outside my own standards for moral or ethical behaviour. We are all capable of such transgressions when caught up in the complex of the persecutor-victim and we can only rescue ourselves, and our community, by becoming aware of it. Without doubt, we are all at our worst when we become self-righteous and claim the moral high-ground in order to visit calamity upon others. Becoming conscious of these aspects of self is our only means of redemption from such compulsions because the moment we acknowledge them, we shift the emphasis from the secular to the sacred. Redemption can only ever belong to the sacred because it requires us to forgive others as well as ourselves. Once that shift has been made, we open up the potential for creative solutions to the ethical and moral issues at the source of the problem. We deflate our over-inflated egos and begin to identify with the helpless victim, the scapegoat, within as well as the high priest seeking to heal the rift between values and human behaviour.

 

The persecutor is identified with collective authority, collective values and collective tastes; with whatever constitutes the highest values (the sacred) of both society and the individuals that make up that society. There is a psychological security in such values that only becomes apparent when they are threatened. When they become rigid and tyrannical, it creates a disastrous split within the community which, if unexamined, can result in the worst excesses of scapegoating humanity is capable of and the damage is inflicted by the unconscious persecutor in each and every one of us.

 

“If a nation is comprised of deeply unconscious individuals, that nation with enact… in very literal and compulsive ways. If a national has a certain percentage of relatively conscious individuals, the outcome is not so predictable. None of us, as individuals, can instantly affect world events, and we may all become victims of a collective eruption. But if our values, beliefs and actions are formulated from a place of individual consciousness rather than a place of mass unconsciousness, we do ultimately affect the future, and we can discover specific areas in our lives where we can do something constructive – even if our children and grandchildren, rather than we ourselves, are the beneficiaries of our efforts.” (ibid)

 

The shifting of roles within this fluid dynamic – where we can all become high priests, sacrifices and exiles; persecutors, victims and rescuers – needs to be understood in order to be able to grasp how the complex affects us. To do this, we have to understand next role; the sacrifice. This will be the subject of the next piece.

 

 

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part One: The Collective versus Andrew Mitchell

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Anyone following recent UK news will be aware of #GateGate and those who aren’t can simply search the name “Andrew Mitchell – UK MP” to find out more. What people may find, if they do take the trouble to look, is that the story is darkening into forms of ‘character assassination’. This might well be expected, given that the police officers involved appear to have been abandoned by their Chief Constable, Bernard Hogan-Howe, which carries the implication that they may have been lying about the events they recorded. For some reason, the police have been deemed unworthy of defence, whereas Mitchell’s ‘sin’ is seen as ‘forgiveable’.

For anyone with an interest in how mythic or archetypal patterns impact upon the collective human psychology, what is occurring is starting to look like a classic case of scapegoating. Before everyone leaps onto the ‘blame game’ bandwagon and starts tossing the word about in the hope of strengthening their own argument, it might be useful to understand how this archetypal pattern actually works. Any failure on our part to do this is liable to have very serious implications for everyone – when the spectre of collective scapegoating appears, everyone is in danger.

Whilst the most familiar scapegoat ritual can be found in the Hebraic book of Leviticus, it is important to remember that the Scapegoat is an archetype – a human pattern found in most cultures. It is a model of behaviour within the human collective as a whole, not just the Hebrew, and it tells the tale of what happens when communities are polarised into ‘us and them’. At this point, it becomes a psychological ‘complex’. But let’s start with the ritual itself and, because it has been written down, the information is drawn from Leviticus.

The Scapegoat Ritual

“The Hebraic image of the scapegoat is connected with the ritual of atonement. This extremely ancient ritual involved two goats. Every year, on the Day of Atonement, one goat was dedicated to Yahweh and was killed as a sin-offering, so that its blood might cleanse and make sacred the sanctuary, tabernacle and altar. In Leviticus 16:16 we are told that the blood of this goat placated the angry god and atoned for the “uncleanness” of the people, “for their transgressions and for all their sins”. The goats’ remains were treated as unclean and were burned outside the boundaries of the community. The other goat was expelled from the community and was dedicated to Azazel, a chthonic god who was later considered to be a fallen angel. Over this goat’s head, the high priest confessed all the transgressions of the people, laying them to the goat’s charge. The living goat was then taken away and sent out into the wilderness. Leviticus 16:22 tells us, “And the goat will bear all their faults away with it to a desert place.” The blood of the sacrificed goat thus atones and purifies, while the wandering exiled goat removes the taint of guilt. As sin-bearer, it carries the confessed evils away from the community – or, in psychological terms, away from the collective consciousness. The “scape” in “scapegoat”, by the way, is a contraction of the word “escape”: the goat who escapes.”

(From “The Dark of the Soul” by Liz Greene: CPA Press 2003; ISBN: 978-1-900869-28-7)

With knowledge of the disputed ‘facts’ and the undisputed emotions swirling around, the connections between GateGate and the scapegoat complex begin to become self-evident. For example, one party to the events – represented by the police officers involved – had recently experienced the psychological impact of the murder of two officers in cold blood. With the very deepest of respects to the Spirits of both Nicola Bone and Fiona Hughes, this looks like a blood sacrifice to me. When we refer to the ritual, the blood sacrifice “was killed as a sin-offering, so that its blood might cleanse and make sacred the sanctuary, tabernacle and altar”. I have no idea whether this might be true in this particular case and it is inappropriate to explore such a possibility here because the whole matter is now subjudice. Nevertheless, there are cases elsewhere that show perpetrators of such murders exhibiting this belief of their roles very clearly.

Bearing in mind that the ritual is involved with community atonement, we might wonder what transgressions or sins the police could have committed in the collective ‘mind’ to warrant such a sacrifice. Regrettably, we don’t have to look very far for a potential collective reason. Given that within the ritual, there are two goats, the sacrifice and the exile, the very close timing of GateGate and the increasing public pressure for Andrew Mitchell’s resignation, dismissal or departure from government fits the pattern of the exiled sin-bearer. Someone needs to carry the sins into the wilderness so the collective can be properly cleansed and everyone ‘can forget about it’ until the next atonement is required. The problem is that all this is occurring in a secular setting. That these elements of the scapegoating are now apparent within UK politics does not bode well for the people of Britain as a whole.

This exploration of the Scapegoat dynamic aims to bring as much information about what we may all be dealing with into the collective consciousness. When we are aware of the dynamic in both ourselves and our community, we create opportunities for making different choices in how we tackle the problem. A refusal of awareness is extremely dangerous for everyone concerned. Without respecting the sacred aspect, the ritual deteriorates into the worst manifestations of both individual and collective persecutor/victim dynamic. I am deeply grateful to Liz Greene for clarifying this so clearly:

“All the characters within the dynamic of any complex are secretly interchangeable. They are all part of a unity and are inseparable. A society or an individual, in order to preserve stability, must repress, exclude, limit or expel those elements which constitute a threat to that stability. The rebellious, outlaw, “different”, inferior element – the scapegoat element – is part of the same entity as the persecutor…

The scapegoat complex always involves shadow projection. Whatever we deem to be sinful, wicked or inferior within ourselves or society, we tend to project on someone “outside”. The religious context of the ancient scapegoat ritual required the community to be conscious of its shadow, and the sacrificial goat, rather than carrying the shadow projection of the group, was a consciously chosen symbol meant to enact in ritual form the need for collective expiation. But the scapegoat complex as we see it exhibited in ordinary life has lost this connection with communal responsibility to God. The scapegoat, whether an individual or a group, is not a consciously chosen symbol, but is perceived as sinful, wicked or inferior because she or he carries the projection of the unconscious and unacceptable aspects of the persecutor. And the persecutor, in turn, carries the unconscious aggression and power-drive of the individual who is identified with the scapegoat who feels unable to fight back. That is why, in individual terms, they always find each other.

The issue with all complexes is how much we identify with them. Everyone has complexes and so does every collective. And it is possible that the scapegoat pattern, when it is not compulsive, may take quite a different form and generate many positive and creative expressions, not least in the helping and healing professions.  But unconscious identification turns a complex into a compulsion and, in turn, into fate…

When scapegoating occurs on a collective level, it is absurd to talk about individual responsibility or individual identification with a pattern. When great eruptions occur, the individual is subsumed and may be scapegoated whether or not there is any individual predisposition for it… Such events, like the Holocaust, are part of an unleashing of a collective process of scapegoating and we are not individually culpable. Yet, ultimately, as a collective, we all carry the responsibility.” (ibid)

If there is any accuracy to my concerns about a collective outbreak of British scapegoating, it becomes vital that as many of the affected individuals become aware of how the complex operates within their own personal psyche. Awareness is unlikely to affect the immediate impact of the complex which, from my own experience, can be visceral and compulsive; what it does offer is the capacity to reflect upon our own reactions in order to compensate for our personal failings. It brings the roles of persecutor and scapegoat into perspective where we can balance both the rational and irrational within ourselves. The greater the number of conscious individuals within the collective, the greater the opportunity the same collective has to avoid further repetitions of collective insanity or so the theory goes.

In Part Two, I will explore the role of the High Priest or persecutor which has a particularly compulsive quality, especially when we are faced with what appears to be the sins of others.