The Last Superstition – Roberto Calasso

What is the last superstition in human culture?

Author, editor, literary critic, and man of letters Roberto Calasso muses….“man has a surplus of energy which he has to dispose of. That surplus is simply life. There is no life without a surplus. Whatever one does with that surplus, that decides the shape of a culture, of life, of a mind. There were certain cultures that decided they had to offer it in some way. It is not clear to whom, why, and how, but that was the idea. There are other cultures, like ours, where all this is considered entirely useless and obsolete.


In the secular world, sacrifice shouldn’t have any meaning at all. At the same time, you realize that it does, because the word has remained very much in use. In discussions of the economy, analysts speak all the time of sacrifices, without realizing what is inside the word. Even in psychological terms, sacrifice is the most usual word. It is considered illegal—for instance, if one celebrated a sacrificial ritual in the middle of London or New York, he would do something illegal, he would be put in jail. Sacrifice is connected to destruction—that is an important thing and the most mysterious one. Why, in order to offer something, you must destroy it.

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