Sin:   Symptom of Separation

Leaving the Garden   Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Now let’s look at “The Fall,” as we usually refer to the pivotal event described in Genesis 3. The Fall is not simply something that happened in one historical moment to one archetypal couple, Adam and Eve. It happens in all moments and lives. It is the shape of creation. It sets the plot line.

After Adam and Eve took their identity as separate from their Source, “the eyes of both of them were opened” to a split universe of suspicion, subterfuge, doubt, and alienation (Genesis 3:7). And “they realized that they were naked.” This is indeed the lie and the “fall” from original grace and innocence. Teachers of prayer call this the “subject-object split” where most humans live their whole lives.

This happens to each of us whenever we stand over and against Reality, apart and analytical, and can no longer know things by affinity, likeness, or natural connection (“love”), but we merely know things as objects out there and apart from us. Then we are no longer in the garden, or even part of the garden, but we “eat” the garden like a possession. It is this alienation that all religion is trying to overcome.

The split begins in all human beings quite early, and for abused or neglected children even earlier. By the age of seven most have “left the garden” and have begun to live largely in their minds—looking over at the garden. Before that time, we exist in unitive consciousness, when “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30), or my mother and I are one, as we enjoy in the first months of life.

Enneagram teacher Russ Hudson describes the inevitable split:

At the root of our ego patterns is a profound suffering caused by our alienation from ourselves and from God—from our direct sense and experience of the Divine, moment by moment. We learn how this suffering drives us to do many things we would not choose to do, and to not do many things we would choose to do [see Romans 7:15]. In this sense, it is telling us that, without presence and awareness, we transgress against our own heart, our own truth, often without realizing that this is what we are doing. [1]

That’s why I often say we are not punished for our sins; we are punished by our sins.

Hudson further clarifies this by explaining the roots of the word “sin”:

The Greek word hamartia was most often translated as “sin” in the New Testament. But this word did not imply transgression in the sense of breaking a rule or defying an authority. It meant “to miss the mark” as in an arrow that misses its target. Hamartia is the way we lose balance and “self forget”—the way we fall away from the direct experience of Divine Grace. . . . Our ego then becomes a way of covering up this suffering rather than addressing it. [2]


Gateway to Silence:
I am hidden in the love and mercy of God.


[1] Russ Hudson, “Transgression and the Enneagram,” Oneing, vol. 2, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), 70. For additional resources on the Enneagram, see
[2] Ibid., 72.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 39-40.

Mixed Blessings  Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The humiliation that you and I carry and that most people refuse to accept is that we humans are a mass of contradictions. We are first of all a blessing, but everyone knows we are also a mixed blessing. Some called this quality of human existence the state of “original sin,” a term and doctrine that many do not like. Maybe original “shame” would have described it better. All I know is that most humans have a sense of being inadequate or even broken. Yet shame is inferiority projected by others. It is never inherent.

For most humans, it often feels like there is a tragic flaw somewhere near our core. Greek and Shakespearean drama attest to this, as does Paul in heart-wrenching fashion (see Romans 7:14-25). And who of us have not had days when we feel worthless and miserable? We do all we can to cover it up or overcome it.

Unfortunately, the word “sin” in our vocabulary implies culpability or personal fault. In fact, the precise meaning of original sin is that we are not personally culpable for it, but it was somehow passed on to us and all people share in it. The supposed “doctrine” of original sin was actually meant to be a consolation; because if we know our own self as a mixed blessing, and that each of us is filled with contradictions and is a mystery to self, then we won’t pretend that we can totally eliminate or even hide all that we consider unworthy or inferior within. This provides a program for human humility. As Jesus said in the parable of the weeds and the wheat, we can even “let them both grow together until the harvest” (Matthew 13:30). Let God decide what is truly good and what is really bad, because even our judgments are infected with “original sin.”

It seems all God wants are useable instruments who will carry the mystery, the weight of glory and the burden of sin simultaneously, who can bear the darkness and the light, who can hold the paradox of incarnation—flesh and spirit, human and divine, joy and suffering—at the same time, just as Jesus did.

Jesus himself says, “God alone is good” (Mark 10:18), implying all else is merely a partial good. Such a text gives humans an honest, wonderful, but non ego-inflating agenda. There is no appeal to the ego here, only to our deep, deep need and desire for union—with our own selves and with God. And, remember, union is a very different goal than private perfection. 

Gateway to Silence:
I am hidden in the love and mercy of God.


Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 33-36.

Being Your True Self   Monday, August 21, 2017

It would be absurd to suggest that someone go into a room she is already in! —Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) [1]

“Sin” primarily describes a state of living outside of union, when the part poses as the Whole. It’s the loss of any experience of who you are in God, of what many call your soul. That “who” is nothing you can earn or obtain; that room is nothing you can build. Why? Because you already live within it, as St. Teresa says.

The full biblical revelation is about awakening, not accomplishing. In this it is quite similar to ancient Hinduism and later Buddhism and Sufi Islam. The spiritual journey is about realization, not perfection. You cannot get there, you can only be there. But for some reason, that foundational Being-in-God is too hard to believe, too good to be true. Only the humble can receive it because it affirms more about God than it does about us. The ego does not like that.

The ego makes life all about achievement and attainment. As long as your egoic self acts as your primary guide, religion becomes a worthiness contest in which everybody loses or gives up. Many, if not most people, never even try the spiritual journey when they see that they can’t live up to today’s culturally created performance principles. I see this especially in the males of the human species. Rather than lose, they do not try at all.

Yet union with God is really about awareness and realignment. It is a Copernican revolution of the mind and heart—conversion. (Sixteenth-century Copernicus made the shocking claim that the Earth revolves around the sun, not vice-versa!) Following conversion, that deep and wondrous inner knowing, a whole new set of behaviors and lifestyle will surely emerge. It is not that if I am moral, then I will be loved by God; rather, I must first come to experience God’s love, and then I will—almost naturally—be moral. To continue the Copernican metaphor, now the sun is central and we draw our energy from its light.

Before conversion, we view sin as any kind of moral mistake; afterward, sin is a mistake about who you are and whose you are. In that sense, only the false self can and will sin. The false self only lies because it somehow is a lie. The True Self is consciousness itself. The false self lives in unconsciousness, and we do evil only when we are unconscious. Jesus naturally forgave those who were killing him, because they literally “do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Most people are not sinners; they are just ignorant. 

Gateway to Silence:
I am hidden in the love and mercy of God.


[1] Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, trans. Mirabai Starr (Riverhead Books: 2004), 38.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 27-29; and
Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 51.

Hidden with Christ in God   Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Judeo-Christian creation story says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God: “Let us create humanity in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves” (Genesis 1:26). The true human identity must build on this foundational goodness, a true identity “hidden in the love and mercy of God,” as Thomas Merton once put it. [1] “Image” is our objective identity as children of God and “likeness” is our degree of personal appropriation of that very identity. We need both, although many Christians were not told about the first and gave exclusive emphasis to the second. Largely ineffective moralism has thus dominated most organized religion—without any grounding or power from core identity.

To become who we were created to be, we must each get our own “who” right! Who am I? Where do I objectively abide? Where do I come from? Is my DNA divine or not?

The great illusion that we must all overcome is that of separateness. Religion’s primary task is to communicate union, to reconnect people to their original identity “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Throughout much of the Bible “sin” is perceived as an objective state and “sinners” as a class of people. God’s clear and specific job description is to undo separation: “My dear people, we are already the children of God; it is only what is in the future that has not yet been revealed, and then all we know is that we shall be like God” (1 John 3:2). Jesus is The Great Reconnector—by modeling his own objective connection with God and telling us to do the same.

The word “sin” as we now use it is very problematic. It shames, but it does not enlighten or invite, which means it does not really help or change people except perhaps at the level of conformity. Most of us associate “sin” with personal naughty behaviors and individual moral unworthiness (i.e., as a personal fault more than a foundational illusion). I am not denying that if you have the foundational illusion, you will certainly operate in a very selfish and sinful way—because that small self is now all that you have!

What most people call “sin” is more the symptom of sin, not the delusional state itself! It is this common state of believed or chosen autonomy from God and others that must be addressed. Our primary and self-destructive illusion is that we are separate and alone. This is the true basis, motivation, and loneliness that leads to all “sin.” 

Gateway to Silence:
I am hidden in the love and mercy of God.


[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (Abbey of Gethsemani: 1961), 35.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 27-29.


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