Monday, October 12, 2009

Unpacking Original Sin ~ Creation as Blessing

"God is the good and all things which proceed from him are good." (Hildegarde of Bingen)

"Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy." (Abraham Heschel)

"The doctrine of original sin is not found in any of the writings of the Old Testament. It is certainly not in chapters one to three of Genesis." (Herbert Haag)

"The concept of original sin is alien to Jewish tradition." (Elie Weisel)

"Beauty is all about us, but how many are blind to it! People take little pleasure in the natural and quiet and simple things of life." (Pablo Casals)

"I know well that heaven and earth and all creation are great, generous and beautiful and good .. God's goodness fills all his creatures and all his blessed works full, and endlessly overflows in them ... God is everything which is good, as I see it, and the goodness which everything has is God."

"As a rule, it was the pleasure-haters who become unjust." (W. H. Auden)


As an artist, I can say with emphatic adamance, that I am not indifferent to my art. It is a part of me, an expression of me, a reflection of me, and I have poured myself into it ... I take great delight in it, and I love to share it with others.

It's no different with God.

God is the Consummate Artist ... and He is not neutral nor indifferent to Creation, including us, the pinnacle of His Creation. God's love for Creation, including us, is unconditional love and the sending-forth of blessings, unceasingly. This spirituality of blessing is a spirituality of relationship.

Unfortunately, original blessing has not been taught in Christian spirituality ... we have preferred instead the fall/redemption theology, which has kept us from knowing, and experiencing, our rich inheritance of blessing. In fact, the fall/redemption teaching, with it's preoccupation of sin, guilt and self-examination, has actually diminished the meaning of salvation itself.

Blessing is the point of creation, and the point of the covenant with Israel ... and at the very beginning of that covenant, God promised to bless all families on earth, through the covenant made with Abraham. The Hebrew word for covenant is "beriyth, which is closely related to the words for creation (beriyah) and blessing (berakah). The notion of a covenant is about blessing ... a promise to bless and to return blessing for blessing.

So, with original blessing being the case, how did we get from that to the doctrine of "original sin", which has so permeated every nuance of Christianity...?

I'm glad you asked..!

Consider this: the Jewish people knew and studied Genesis for a thousand years prior to the emergence of Christians ... and yet they never read original sin into the text. The concept of original sin is wholly foreign and alien to the Jewish people, to their understanding, to their faith. And yet Christians claim to have based this doctrine on the Jewish text...!

Professor Herbert Haag (former president of the Catholic Bible Assn. in Germany) wrote:
The idea that Adam's descendants are automatically sinners because of the sin of their ancestor, and that they are already sinners when they enter the world, is foreign to Holy Scripture."


Of course it's apparent that we enter a broken and hurting world (due to the projections of generations of confused humans projecting their misperceptions into the world around them), but this "world" is not the planet itself -- this broken world is the collective mindset that assaults us. We don't enter this life already tainted, already sinful creatures ... we come forth as blessings. Anyone who has witnessed a human birth instinctively knows this.

Creation-based mystics have always begun their theology with a profound grasp of original blessing, and not of original sin ... listen here to Julian of Norwich: "God never began to love us. We have been know and loved from without beginning." And if you can allow yourself to meditate on the words of Ireneaus, "God became human in order that humans might become God."

Yes, we humans are born with an inherited disability (our egoic minds, our carnal nature) ... but his does not constitute us as objects of God's wrath (remember Paul's words, "you were enemies of God in your own minds.").

Here's the deal: NO one believed in original sin until Augustine entered the picture. Augustine developed the notion of original sin late in his life, and never personally considered it to be significant in his theology. However, original sin soon became the foundation-stone of Western Christianity, causing a chasm between religion and nature, creation, and the God of creation and blessing.

Augustine tried in vain to find support for original sin in scripture ... and in his insistence to discover it there, he actually mistranslated the Bible in order to prove his doctrine. He read Romans 5:12 ("Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned"), and changed the last portion to "in whom all men sinned."

From there, the Council of Trent justified and implemented the development of the doctrine of original sin.

Original blessing predates the teaching of original sin, and is far more biblical. Thus, it should be the foundation for theology and spirituality.

Here's what I'm seeing: the sin behind all sins is dualism. The belief of separatism. The result being object/subject relationships ... divisions and walls in our relationships. Take any sin, whether robbery, war, stealing, rape ... and you will see an action of treating another as an object outside oneself. Boil it down to its base essence. What you will see at the root of any sin is *dualism*. Dualism (seeing any power other than God), and Separation (seeing ourselves and others as separate from God, from each other), is the root of all which we call "sin".

According to Gandhi (who loved and followed Jesus far better than most Christians do), all sins are manifestations of himsa - the basic sin - the only sin, which is the sin of separateness. He said, "he who conquers this sin conquers all others."

When we know we are One with God, and one with each other, internal and external conflict ceases. The darkness of our own thinking is absorbed the Light of God.

So, what's been the result of Christianity's obsession with "original sin"...?

- We have odd views of sexuality. Augustine believed that all sex, whether for pleasure or procreating, was sinful, as one "lost control" in sexual expression (yeah, so who created the orgasm...?).

- We do not trust ourselves, our bodies, the creation itself ... as we see them all as "tainted" and "depraved" ("we can't trust our hearts, our thoughts, our feelings, for we're wicked and deceived").

- We teach our children that they are "blotches on God's creation", since they are born already tainted ("that little newborn may look innocent, but he's already corrupt and depraved").

- We do not trust human nature, and we are not easily compassionate ("they probably deserve what they're suffering -- they probably asked for it").

- We view each other with suspicion ... rather than giving the benefit of the doubt, or expecting the best in others.

- We have a jaded acceptance of injustice, and a callousness towards human suffering ("well, they're depraved, separated from God, and likely going to hell ... what difference if they suffer in this life?").

- We are suspicious of pleasure ... if we enjoy a thing, we figure it's likely sinful (the question, "did you take pleasure in it?" was asked in Catholic confession, to determine whether the penitent had sinned...).

- A preoccupation with original sin, with guilt and shame, is a tool of political power. It empowers those who build empires, institutions, governments, kingdoms ... it fuels slavery, patriarchal society, and wars. It divides and conquers, separating thoughts from feelings, body from spirit, politics against personal needs, people against the planet/animals/nature... and male against female.

What would we gain by embracing instead a theology of original blessing?

- A redemption of sexuality, in which love and desire are holy, and a reflection of God's act of Creation. A celebration of life, and infused with the very Presence of God (who invented sex to bless us).

- Trust in the inherent goodness of all that God has created ... the cosmos, the planet, nature, animals, plants, food, resources, and humanity.

- Trust in the workings of our own bodies ... awesomely and wondrously made ... strong and capable, reflecting the very image of God.

- A reclaiming of pleasure ... for ecstasy is the experience of God. Relearning how to savor, to more appreciate the gifts we have (rather than compulsively purchasing and consuming). The source of all authentic pleasure is God. Why must ecstasy be moderated...? Aren't blessings meant to be overflowing...?

- An emergence of compassion ... no longer settling for injustices, but speaking and acting out on behalf of those being harmed. No longer attacking those who see differently, but accepting them. No longer reacting "eye for an eye", but seeing the other as confused and in need of compassion.

- An emergence of hope, genuine pride, and trust... as we would see ourselves as God does, and rise to His perspective.

- We will hear and heed the Voice of God within, rather than trusting those who hem us in with rules from without.

- We would be more motivated by love, than by fear ... able to more freely make connections with others, thus bringing healing and salvation (from the lies that enslave us).

I see that we have a choice (once again) ... as for me, I am abandoning the lie of "original sin" and fully embracing the Spirit-affirmed foundation of "original blessing."

May it transform me from the inside out, and may it be contagious to all who cross my path...!

Shalom, Dena

12 comments:

cwtpmom said...

Adam fell that men/women might be.
The doctrine of the Fall is a prime example of how satan's influence can twist something that's good and fundamentally beautiful into something dark. I had to read your post a couple of times to really get what it was saying. I think the Mormon version of fall & redemption just may well be why Mormons always wear a smile :)

"And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient" (Moses 5:10-11).

Adam and Eve expressed their gratitude for the blessings that came as a result of the Fall:

"Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.

Adam knew the Plan of Redemption. He knew that Christ would redeem him from the fall, and that because of the fall, and the atonement, he would be resurrected after death, and once again see God in the flesh, meaning in a tangible real body, not just a body of spirit.

I do hope through your study you can be guided to a true understanding of what original sin isn't, and what actually happened with what is called, "the fall", but unless you're willing to crack open some of Joseph Smith's revelations, you likely won't, because that truth is not found anywhere else. Although I have to admit what you wrote here, was indeed unpacking some of the old belief and opening yourself to the new :)

I usually read your blogs, and find them creative and interesting. It's like, an adventure, to see what is going on in Dena's mind today.

I know you would rather have the kind of response like you get from Sue or Mystic, where you teach and they actually listen and learn. I can't say I don't learn from you. What you share finds depth and enlarges space, and makes me examine more closely my belief, but my belief is my standard, because it is sure and solid. There are just things that I know are true, like the Book of Mormon....the more I study about it, how it was written, all the details, the more I know it is of God. Then, if the Book of Mormon is of God, Joseph Smith is a true Prophet, and what he taught about the fall and redemption, and about temples and ordinances for the living and the dead, and how families are eternal, but have to be linked through ordinances, it's all true.
All of creation is a blessing. "If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

"And [Adam and Eve] would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

"But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

"And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall" (2 Nephi 2:22–26; see also 2 Nephi 2:19–21, 27).

The Plan of Redemption is Creation's most wonderful blessing.

MysticBrit said...

Lawksamercy! That's what I am then - a Creation-based mystic! Oh goody:)

Yup, 'sin' is indeed the result of us getting the strange idea that we're 'separate' from God and each other. When we realise the truth of that, 'sin' becomes a meaningless concept.

cwtpmom - I think you have the relationships wrong round here. Dena isn't teaching anyone, just sharing where she is and listening to everyone who comments. She always admits that she hasn't 'arrived'. I am at more or less exactly the same place as she is, and we have a rich exchange of 'spirit things'. There is no hierarchy here, just soul journey sharing:)

I must admit to not understanding what you're trying to say, except that you seem to be very certain that what you say is true. I feel that to be a dangerous place to be. But that's just me;)

May we all be led into All Truth.

Amen?:)

graham old said...

Hey Dena,

(I've not been following what you've written so far on this, so ignore me if this is redundant.)

Have you read Matthew Fox on the question of Original Goodness? I think you'd enjoy it.

cwtpmom said...

MysticBrit, What? You can't admit you can be taught by anyone? Now, that is what I call dangerous :)

All kidding aside, I join in your wish that we all might be led into all truth.

I can't imagine me living in a world where I couldn't know the difference between truth and error. I prefer to feel grounded securely to truth without worry or doubt. You choose to not understand, and because of that, I have to be okay with it. My problem is that I can't be okay with it, but, as I said, that's my problem, not yours. ;) If what I write comes across as being too sure that it's true, maybe it is...but you have just as much right to discernment as do I.

Dena said...

cwtpmom - bonus points for tenacity, my friend...! ;)

I'm after truth - Truth. To the degree that Joseph Smith has stumbled onto Truth, to that degree I share it with him, with anyone. But to the degree that you see the goal for me to enter into yet another religion-of-man, I cannot receive that offering.

I find it no surprise that JS would've discovered and shared some Truth ... but I also see that he, like all men, elaborated and manufactured, and embelished that discovery ... for his own agenda. It's what we humans do, with our own egos.

I don't intend to bash your religion, even as I question all religions, even as I desire to learn from all religions. But I desire to transcend the limitations of all religions, to find the Truth that is transcendant.

I think Harry put it well ... this is not about me "teaching" -- for none of us has any need for a human teacher, for there is One Teacher - the Spirit in and as us all.

I'm sharing as a journal of my journey ... and it's interactive because life is, because that's how I learn, in allowing, and desiring, that others show me what I cannot see, that others remind me of what I've forgotten ...

But, this isn't the place for anything smacking of "there is only one right way to see/think/believe, and thou shalt convert."

The Spirit has drawn me out of religion, all religion ... so that I can learn of the Spirit, and not of man. When you share of the Spirit (rather than of the religious teachings of man), it resonates, and I love the connection. But when you share of the absolute-rightness of your religion, it falls flat before me ... it doesn't match with what the Spirit is showing me ... and I must follow that One.

Share from your heart ... find those things we have in common ... those are the things which build bridges and bring joy.

Shalom, Dena

Dena said...

Graham! You honor me with your presence!

Yes ... I'm currently reading Fox's "Original Blessing" ... which is the very inspiration for this current blog-sharing feast.

Or ... is there another book of his, entitled "Original Goodnes"...? I have his "Cosmic Christ" on my reading-radar.

Shalom, Dena

MysticBrit said...

cwtpmom - I understand where you're coming from, but for myself I don't feel any need to be right about anything. I don't think my being loved by Love Himself is dependent on my being right, or on anything at all. Love can do nothing but love, with no condition whatsoever. Otherwise He would cease to be Love and vanish in a puff of existentialist smoke:)

I don't worry whether I'm right or not, when I know I'm loved. I prefer rather to think in terms of what works for the greater good than in terms of right or wrong (concepts which can change like the wind), and if I find myself involved in something which obviously isn't working then I (eventually!) stop doing it and try something else. I am continually growing, maturing, evolving into a 'better version' of 'me', and that is allways Good.

It's good to have you along in this Truth-Seeking business!

Harry

Bob Harkema said...

Speaking as someone who was recently likened to "as a cancerous spleen", what you wrote is some pretty good stuff. Thank you for articulating something that I have been thinking about for some time now.

cwtpmom said...

Pardon me for quoting all those scriptures on your blog Dena. Was there something there that you found particularly offensive?

Harry, lest we forget, Love is a verb....Obedience is where it's at. The spirit guide which I know, guides me to truth, and also shows me the areas I need to improve myself. Oh, you said that too! I think it's called "repentance" - - that process by which you said, "growing, evolving, maturing into a better version of me". Hate to admit that I'm on the decline, entering into my "failing" years, but on the other hand, in one area I'm fantasticly pure.

The more we learn, the more we know we don't know. With all the truth that is here, we're only just barely scratching the surface. If you want to discuss it someplace, what do you consider basic? Foundational for me is:
Understanding the nature of God
Understanding the nature and destiny of the Family
Understanding the Fall and the Atonement

If you prefer to live under the umbrella of love and not care about your own base, which I'm sure you don't really, that just tells me you don't value understanding.

Prov. 9: 10
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

I don't mean to be a bother. I'm all about thinking, understanding, and wisdom, AND Love :)

Dena said...

Bob! O Thou of a Shiny Spleen...!

LOL, you handled that slight so very well! Bravo! Sometimes I forget that my Love-colored glasses are perched on top of my head ... but I notice I can always put them over my eyes, and then respond to what I see.

(this, truly, is dying to the egoic self, who yearns to defend, protect, and even lash out, no?)

Good choice, my friend.

And glad that my meandering blatherings are resonating for you...!

Shalom, Dena

Dena said...

Cwptmom -

No offense was intended ... I simply do not accept "my religion is the one right way" approach ... it's something I've shed.

I'm glad the LDS church is working for you ... and you, like all of us, must walk in the Light you've received. But I find that I enjoy this journey more, and learn more, when I allow myself to enjoy the Light that's communal and in common with all ... rather than to insist upon and promote that which divides.

You may want to explore why it's not "ok" with you for others to not receive what you offer.

If Mark gives me a gift I cannot use, that does not fit me ... I can honor and appreciate his heart, in wanting to bless me, even as I have to return the gift.

You offer your best gift of your religion, of what you believe in the LDS teachings. I accept that your heart is to bless, to share what has blessed you. And so, I'm honored by your intention, your offering ... even as I must kindly not accept a gift that simply doesn't fit me.

YOU, however, I accept, and celebrate as my friend. In no way do I reject you.

And yes, indeedy, I have learned much from you, and I do treasure you.

Shalom, Dena

MysticBrit said...

cwtpmom - Again, I see that you are definitely a Truth Seeker, and as such can never be 'a bother':)

My creed, if I have one now, is summed up as well as I can by 'God is Love'. And yes, Love is definitely a verb as well as a noun. God's 'Doing' flows from His 'Being', and the two are One.

I am 'made in God's Image', which to me means that I am in reality a unique expression of infinitely-faceted Love, and allways have been. When I live fully in that reality I am also One in my Being and Doing.

And this can make my soul sing for Joy:D

Neither do I reject you in any way, but I must live by the Life and Light I find springing up from my very centre, where God Is, and then become that Light and Life for all around me.

I find that when I get this right, Life Just Works.

Peace, and joy in the journey, my friend,

Harry