“Deeper than consciousness . . . is the longing to give love and a willingness to give it sacrificially. The child’s response to the mother’s face is a unique gift to the mother even if the mother knows the three-month-old child will respond to a cardboard face on a wooden stick. The gift, in a primal form, is the gift of sacrificial love because it celebrates or calls forth from the mother the repressed longing in her for the face that will not go away. Her response to the smiling child is implicitly a religious one, and the child’s unwitting gift of grace is a sacrificial one. . . . Speaking ontogenetically, before the emergence of the ego and the decentering of the psyche, a child’s sacrificial love is not a death-ridden thing; rather, it is a matter of drawing the other one into the Presence of God. However, as an adult, such caring is dangerous business. To re-present the Presence of God is after all the point of witnessing (martureo, ”˜to witness’) and martyrdom, but if the recipient of the witness is locked into an ego-structured existence, witnessing to the Presence of God becomes a much bloodier matter, and the usual meaning of sacrificial love emerges. It is the untransformed ego that is the bearer of alienation from the face of God and the repressive preserver of guilt and shame. As the psyche’s own primary response to victimization, the ego reenacts its origins, making victims of birds, animals, people, and God, all in a perverse attempt at self-preservation.
“Combining the primal level with the ego level, it seems that a child’s innocence provokes both religious longing and a sense of condemnation or judgment. Hence, a profound motivation for child sacrifice in some primitive cults would be expiation for distance from God and extinction of the innocent accuser or the accusation always implicit in innocence. The archetypal significance of the slaughter of infants in association with the birth of an infant God may, similarly, have roots in fundamentally ambivalent religious motivations engendered by the underlying defensive structure of the ego. If the infant is God as in the birth of Christ, then the others who are slain become scapegoats; they take on themselves the negative side of the ambivalence engendered by the appearance of innocence that is divine.”
–James E. Loder, The Transforming Moment, 2nd ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard, 1989), p. 177