Ever wondered: What is up with original sin? Why is it a thing? Where does the whole notion come from? And why does it (seemingly) have so much power over us as a species?
It’s that last question that I’ve really been pondering lately. Let’s take a look, shall we?
No discussion of original sin would be complete without a little sex.
So I’ll start with a sex story of my own, because it’s what got me thinking about all this in the first place.
Once, at the age of thirteen, I engaged in a bout of unconsummated fumbling with a boy I liked. Immediately afterward I was hit from within, by an out-of-the-blue, ton-of-bricks avalanche of internal propaganda—an entire Old Testament firmament of crushing judgment and dire consequences:
I’ve destroyed the covenant between me and God. I’m supposed to not do stuff like this until after I’m married. And now God has washed his hands of me forever. I’m cast out of heaven and it serves me right.
(Wait—I’ve destroyed the what? Between me and God?)
All of this threw me for a loop, because none of it lined up with my own beliefs about God, or (mainly) the lack thereof. And nobody in my family or religious community had ever yet spoken to me of sex before marriage—presumably because they’d never dreamed a thirteen year old might try to engage in it.
But even if they had…this was the I am woman, hear me roar 1970s we’re talking about. The idea that women (but not men) were commanded to save themselves for marriage, was not a concept that I embraced. Like, at all.
So where did all this internalized bullshit come from?
I never did arrive at a satisfactory answer. It took me a few years to fully unpick all of this societally conditioned, religiously propagandized nonsense. And then many more years after that, to embrace a foundation of belief that better reflected my own knowings about life, and the divine.
The origin of original sin
I looked it up. Unsurprisingly, like so many things Biblical, its beginnings are somewhat woolly and a bit controversial. Everybody has their own ideas and interpretations of what it means and where it comes from. But most scholars agree it’s not part of the original teachings.
Most say it arrived in the 4th century with Augustine, who at the time belonged to an influential (and not entirely Christian) religious sect. Around this same time, the Romans were making a regular habit of sweeping all competing sects into Roman Catholicism by order of law. Bless.
Anyway, human nature being what it is, all these other sectarians brought their own ideas with them, some of which—like original sin—became woven into the general tapestry of Catholicism.
Ok fine. Whatever. Personally, I think it goes back much, much farther than that. But having said that, I will point out here that I am no religious scholar. (Which will surely come as no shock to you.)
So behold my largely unsubstantiated ponderings on this subject…and then take or leave them as you will.
The pre-origin of original sin
Everyone agrees original sin seems to start with Adam and Eve, even though the teaching we recognize as such, only showed up thousands of years after that (possibly historical?) event.
But it seems to me, that as long as Judeo-Christian religion has existed, there’s always been the idea that humans are unfit, and ought, at the very least, to wear a head covering to protect us from God’s brilliant spotlight glare. Or maybe it’s to spare God from having to look directly at us grubby beings.
But apparently not all of us, at all times. Which is kind of interesting.
Girls are dirty for other reasons having to do with menstrual blood. But when it comes to head protection, boys are supposed to cover their heads from the get-go, but girls only need to do it (as far as I’m aware) after they marry: After they start touching boy parts, in other words.
So is all of this, once again, about the dirtiness of sex?
Augustine himself was purported to be tormented by his own ongoing preoccupation with lust. So his widely adopted theory was that souls are created immaculate, but the dirty act of sexual creation makes a human being automatically unclean, and therefore cast out by God.
Seems a little harsh, but ok.
Other interpretations of the Adam and Eve story leave out the sex. They simply say the hapless couple disobeyed a direct order from God, and therefore are not only cast out of paradise themselves as punishment, but all their children forevermore are cast out, too.
One serious mistake (the very first one, as far as I know), and all of their descendants have to pay for it forever?
If you’ve never read the Bible cover to cover (as I definitely haven’t) you might want to read God is Disappointed in You, by Mark Russell. It’s an eye opening account of what’s actually in the Bible. He summarizes each chapter accurately (and entertainingly), in modern English, while leaving out all of the tiresome who-begat-whos and whatnot.
It faithfully includes all the seriously appalling stuff you never learned in Sunday school—Seriously. Appalling.—plus there are New Yorker cartoons scattered throughout.
But however entertaining and educational it may be, I confess I only made it halfway through the Old Testament before I quit—more than a little bit disturbed and feeling like I needed a good strong shower afterward.
So one can’t help wondering about the actual genesis (if you’ll pardon the pun) of all this stuff. Because, in my own knowing, original sin and many of these other assorted shenanigans are the opposite of true.
A brief reminder of what TRUE is…
TRUE is: You are so pristinely, divinely perfect, that no stain could ever even touch you—much less leave its mark to be passed down through the generations to all your descendants throughout time.
(And yet, something IS there, seemingly encoded in your DNA. More on that shortly.)
TRUE is: Only infinite divine love rules this universe. And divine love never plays favorites. Never judges or condemns. Does not need to be worshipped, and is not something separate from your own eternally divine self.
When I speak to you of all this divinity stuff, by the way, I’m describing my experience of my own universe, which is made of love: In my world, you are unmistakably divine, and love is the obvious substructure of all things.
At those times when truth is luminously present for me, it permeates and enlivens my entire mind/body/energetic field. There are no gray areas of interpretation; the truth is wholly true.
And yet, somebody else may be fully and legitimately convinced of the opposite. How can that be? In their universe, direct, first-hand experience has perhaps shown them that humanity is irredeemable. And in their world, “God-fearing” is a major compliment to say about someone.
A theory of infinite possibility
How do we reconcile this mystery? I suspect the answer lies in our own infinite divinity.
Here’s my theory:
Our core beliefs are shaped by others, right? Many of whom may have various control agendas: School, religion, family, government—to name but a few.
But perhaps, as each one of us makes the (conscious and unconscious) decisions in life, to embrace those core beliefs…that’s when our limitless divine power automatically kicks in.
And then you yourself, can’t help but fashion your own individual universe out of those fundamental core ideas: A customized universe of you, that conforms perfectly to those underlying “rules” that you’ve set for it.
In other words, I regularly experience your divinity and mine, because I’ve embraced that possibility: It’s now a core belief.
And so (with a big dose of mystery and grace) I have somehow unwittingly fashioned a universe for myself in which our shared divinity is 100% true—even though I myself don’t yet experience it that way 100% of the time.
Do you see?
Bottom line is: We are limitless. We can create anything, and make it so. For better and worse.
(And perhaps some of those with control agendas know this. It’s much easier to float a suggestion, and then sit back and let us do the dirty work, of making it real for ourselves. Right? No heavy lifting needed.)
So maybe there are customized universes where divine love is not true. At least not until the divine human in question gets a grip on their own core beliefs, and does some serious housecleaning. At which point, the substructure of all things (AKA divine love) can finally make itself known to them.
Because the truth is still eternally true. Y’know? That doesn’t change, no matter what’s going on in our individual universe. The creations we make, are what determines how (or if) we can experience those eternal truths. But it can’t ever negate those truths. It can’t even touch them.
Which brings us to…
Your DNA and your divinity
Anyone with a serious spiritual practice has likely hit the wall a few times, when the invitation has presented itself to fall headlong into the arms of divine love. Or into the void. Or into pure awareness. Whatever your flavor of spiritual practice, you get what I’m talking about.
Suddenly innate terror arises, and (even if we’re willing) we find ourselves unable to go any farther. Right? Because all the way down on a cellular level, the infinite is utterly terrifying to us, as long as we’re certain we are unworthy of it.
It’s that core bullshit that’s encoded in the DNA. That’s where original sin burrows in deep, and makes its home. So original sin’s most grievous knock-on effect, it seems, is to keep us all in a perpetual state of divinity interruptus.
But here’s the thing. What’s festering in our DNA is NOT original sin itself, because that would be impossible. And absurd. And actually quite laughable. In a tragically non-funny way.
What’s programmed into our DNA is the BELIEF in original sin. The corrosive idea that we are fundamentally and forever flawed.
But you know what?
Beliefs are just beliefs. They can be changed in the blink of an eye.
If you believe they can.
So…explore the following question with me, if you will:
What if there is nothing wrong with you?
We’re talking way deep down. Bone deep, DNA deep, and beyond even that. What if there’s never been anything wrong about you?
(No doubt there is much interior eye-rolling going on; much egoic scowling and scuffling of feet; much yes, of course, BUT…)
Even despite all this…can we entertain the question anyway?
Here is an 11 minute meditation I’ve recorded for you. Like all such audios I currently do, this one includes breathing divine love, as a vehicle of exploration. Have a listen and breathe along, if you’d like.
In other news…
A short report on Mondays at 8
It’s surprisingly fun! Slightly clunky, but one gets the hang of it, and the conversations are delicious. This week we talked mainly about the arts, writing, and the nature of creativity. (And a little bit about original sin and the contents of this newsletter.)
Last week it was everything from social shyness, to Chinese astrology, to the luminous intelligence of the natural world, and our innate ability to communicate with it. Some lovely heart opening moments there, and a few bona fide sparkles of spiritual insight.
If ever you’re craving a low key gathering with others of like hearts, this is it.
And on that note I’ll end here, with (as always) much appreciation for the incredible divine being that you are. Don’t let any interior bullies tell you otherwise. Or exterior ones, for that matter.
Til next time,
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Hi Carrie .. It really is pure silly when you think about it!! I grew up with it, was paralysed by it at times and now it all just makes me laugh , it’s pure nonsense .. listening to you reading I realised how much I’ve let go of and released from myself .. thank you !!
Thanks for let’s talk original sin :)
Who was it? when talking about sex said ‘if it doesn’t feel dirty you’re not doing it properly’.
In ACIM, the original separation from god/source or the ‘seeming separation’ from god/source (the tiny mad idea), results in massive unconscious guilt which somehow or other will find expression in the bodily/human condition.
Is there a correlation between original sin and the above?