...Sacrifice is the fundamental psychological effect that builds all human culture because it is a removal of now for future payoff -whether in wealth or food or song recall or reliable shelter or present-day enjoyment of princesses. This is cosmologically huge and rarely observed among non-human persons. It is reasonable to posit that just this delayed gratification was part of the first extradimensional exchange with whatever appeared at the Campfire’s Edge. It seems to me one of the things we would all want individually squared away in our heads is whether/how 'sacrifice' to external entities is either quantitatively or qualitatively different to the emergence of delayed gratification in one's own developmental psychology.

Because there is a lot to play for: The Easter motif explores the ultimate today/tomorrow payoff which -performed correctly- leads to immortal life. Little wonder that it is traditionally preceded by a long period of fasting. Taking an unlicensed psychoanalytic approach, we could say it also maps to the appearance of ‘delayed gratification’ in childhood development. And it turns out mastery of delayed gratification is among the best -if not the best- predictor of future success...


Some more on Sacrifice from Roberto Calasso:


I think it is also central for you. Why is sacrifice so important?


Maybe it’s simply because sacrifice brings us into dealings with the unknown. In the act of sacrifice, you establish a relation with something that you recognize as enigmatic and powerful. Our collective psyche seems to have lost touch with it, although science is providing countless motives for being overwhelmed by the unknown. The unknown itself is in our own mind as well—our mind is in its largest part totally unknown to us. Therefore, it is not only a relation to the exterior world, it is a relation to ourselves. We establish a connection with the unknown through the act of giving something and, paradoxically, the act of destroying something. That is what is behind sacrifice. What you offer and what you destroy, it is that surplus which is life itself.


Descartes speaks of man as “maître et possesseur de la nature.”


Well, you find that notion already in Genesis. But that has its own consequence—guilt. Guilt lies at the root of sacrifice. Sacrifice is not a way to avoid guilt or to excuse guilt, it is a repetition of guilt. In a sense, it’s a reinforcement of guilt. The first guilt is the very fact of making things disappear. Killing is only one of the ways of achieving that. Eating is another.

These actions are all very closely connected and they reach very far back into prehistory. They have gone on for hundreds of thousands of years and have thus left their traces in our minds. You can take them into account or ignore them. Our world attempts to ignore them, it considers all of these things as very remote. In my books, I try to unearth them.


Lost Pilgrim
"The Easter motif explores the ultimate today/tomorrow payoff which -performed correctly- leads to immortal life"
I don't think most people, Christian or otherwise, would understand this connection. The crucifixion is supposed to be about Christ's love for us - the sacrifice to end all guilt and thereby to end all sacrifices. His only payoff was the possibilities it opened up for us. Calasso has also invented a new first sin, the original being the attainment of "knowledge of good and evil" and his being "making things disappear" (goodness knows why anybody should feel guilty about that!) I don't believe that appeasing God or the gods with animal sacrifices has anything to do with real guilt either, only fear.

Ascetisism is a different issue and can have powerful effects which I believe relate to causing an intense focus on the aim of the particular sacrifice. (here I am referring to real sacrifice i.e. letting go of something that belongs to you - not taking a life that belongs to something else) Colin Wilson in "New Pathways In Psychology" (and maybe Abraham Maslow himself) believed that focus was the key to why some people regularly have "peak experiences"