I just started episode one of “Warriors” – a new show that looks at warrior cultures. Episode one is on the Mayan culture of central and south america. Mayans used to go into their temples, cut their penises and let the blood flow on the altars. If this sounds bloody or ‘uncivilized’ to you, maybe it is. But think of it in terms of sacrifice.
Western religion, especially Christianity, is also completely wrapped up in ideas of blood sacrifice, martyrdom, scapegoat, etc (only Jesus willingly went to his death)… and we think this kind of noble act trumps all others. Yet, we go to church and are only expected to tithe – usually 10% (but I’ll bet the vast majority of Western religious folks don’t tithe even that much of their incomes). Magic, religion and ritual spirituality are all about letting go. Giving control to God. Asking for help/releasing the strings. A powerful act of self-sacrifice can help ‘cinch the deal’ (as in blood-treaties); or at least make the experience more profound (pain increases our senses and awareness).
There is frankly no comparison at all, in my mind, to going to church and singing and tossing a few dollars into the collection plate (then drinking coffee with friends and going off home to watch TV), and spending a day climbing several thousands steps and then cutting your penis to offer your blood and yourself to God. What demonstrates more devotion and belief? Which is more likely to get God’s attention?
If you’re like me… you probably don’t want to mutilate your genitals. I’d very strongly rather not. However, in principle, ‘giving till it hurts’ is a very wise method of self-actualization. Try meditating or standing still until you can’t take it anymore, or fasting for as long as you can, or giving away the money you’ve been saving to buy yourself a very important (yet ultimately wasteful) new car, TV or toy.