Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Why be moral, pt. 2: the economy of “salvation” inspected

Now the odd thing about choosing otherwise, that is, choosing to be immoral, or out of synch with the tenets of universal law, is that, although it is a choice that arises from the freedom of the will, it leads to the ultimate curtailment of the freedom of the will, and so is a choice against the self. The choice to be immoral, that is, the choice to exercise your freedom in a manner that generates imbalance, in a manner that attempts to control instead of allow, in a manner that deliberately intends ill and attracts negativity, or in a manner that yields to unconscious processes that for which we are ultimately responsible, such a kind of choice generates in the universe wrongs that need to be righted, imbalances that need to be corrected, and thought forms that need to be discharged of their energy.

Those wrongs, imbalances, and thought forms which you cause, whether consciously or unconsciously, have their effects upon others, to be sure, and ultimately, they play themselves out upon you directly. I am responsible for the legacy which is generated in the wake of my thoughts and actions, and the very structure of the universe will call me to ultimately face the effects which I cause. Everything that happens in the dark will be brought to light; everything whispered in secret will be made known.

Now at this point, many a christian at least by name will step in and say “Gil! That’s why Jesus came! We are such awful sinners, rotten to the core through our inheritance from Adam, that there’s just no way we can pay back what we owe! We are rightly deserving of eternal fire, and nothing more, but by the blood of Jesus we are washed clean! He who was innocent and owed nothing has paid our debt through his sacrifice on the cross and set us free! Acknowledge him as your Lord and Savior and be born again, and you too can be saved, for everyone is indebted, and only through such an allegiance can you overcome the burden laid upon you by the unrighteousness of Adam, and your own sins as well.” If you have ever been on a college campus for more than a day or two, or travelled south of the Mason-Dixon line, watched late night preachers, flipped radio stations, or read Cur Deus Homo by “St.” Anselm, you have heard this argument. Admittedly the Catholic Church upped the anti on this formula a bit by piling on some sacramental obligations and submission to the authority of the Church embodied in the pontiff who assumes the consecrated role of bona fide mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit on earth, but the initial bit holds for Catholics as well.

Tiresome as the “economy of salvation” may seem for jaded New Agers, apostates, Hollywood, and heretics in general, this basic formula is held near and dear by a very large chunk of the planetary consciousness, and deserves a going over from the perspective I have been developing with you for the last month or so. There are truths layered in the formula, and with a little digging it is possible to find some overlap, as opposed to a knee jerk dismissal of the belief system of nearly two billion people, or instant submission to an altar call, neither of which seem like appealing options to me.

For starters, it is pretty much an obvious point for everybody except the most naive idealists that indeed “all men have sinnned.” (You’ll have to consult Phillis Schaffley about whether its true for woman as well. I’m assuming that the equality of men and women would logically extend to their propensity to sin as well!) Now we could quibble about what counts as a sin till the cow jumps over the moon, but I am partial to the etymological roots of the Greek word “hamartia,” which in English translations is rendered “sin.” In classical Greek, an older form of the language predating the Koine or common Greek of the New Testament, hamartia is a term from archery meaning “off mark,” or “a miss.” So everyone should agree that at least etymologically speaking, to sin means “to miss the mark.” The levels of culpability you choose to layer into that mix will depend on a lot of things, like whether you missed by accident or on purpose, whether you missed over and over again or just once, whether the shot was really important or not too important, and whether you consider it appropriate to slather blame and guilt on top of a miss, or whether you prefer the road of introspection, conscious responsibility, and practice, practice, practice.

Another point for quibbling always arises around babies, who obviously aren’t culpable for their actions in the way that an adult is, due to sheer developmental limitations: you can’t miss the mark if you can’t even pick up the bow and arrow! However, many find themselves cringing when they hear christians-by-name going off in all seriousness about how babies can be damned to hell, or maybe limbo, or perhaps just an eternity watching The Home Shopping Network without a telephone. I know I spent plenty of (uninformed) time pondering this mystery as a youth, thankful that I was baptized straight out of the starting block (though this somehow failed to relieve my perpetual feelings of guilt). It always seemed to me like a raw deal that on top of being gypped by a short life, a baby who died without benefit of baptism would be excluded from the heavenly banquet.

While I personally find such a conclusion downright sick, misanthropic, and disconnected from any possible sense of “a loving and righteous G--,” I am keen to point out what is true in this part of the formula: all have missed the mark, in the big picture. Now the reason I believe that and the reason why a christian-by-name believes that may be utterly different, but I must acknowledge the place of convergence nonetheless. As mentioned above, for the christian-by-name, the concept of original sin holds the children of Adam stained from birth by his culpabilty for betraying the rules of the garden. Basically, babies inherent original sin sort of like a genetic disease, and Jesus is the cure.

Now my mytho-history may or may not be more rooted in fact than that mytho-history, but I find mine more palatable. As mentioned in an earlier post, I hold that our consciousness predates our coming in to form, and that our coming in to a physical human form is a choice, a choice chosen in co-creative intention with the will of the source of all. I also believe that we show up here as works-in-progress, and as such we come to this school with a bookbag full of projects to work on: phobias to overcome, defensives to let down, fears to relinquish, loves to blossom, and so on. We show up needing work from the get go! In this very real sense, we have all “missed the mark.” We are in archery class, after all, because we need practice. If we were all expert marksmen before the fact, we wouldn’t need to come at all.

I will continue this tommorrow!


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