The focus of my thinking these days has been on Original Sin and how humans must live within its parameters, such as death, pain, emotions, and the ambiguity of choosing either good or bad behaviors that we think will make us satisfied. Saint Augustine also struggled with this concept and coined the famous catchphrase: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” How did humans end up with all these faults and failings of their human nature? What does Original Sin have to do with how I live out my commitment as a Lay Cistercian? Why must I struggle each day to reposition my center with the help of the Holy Spirit, lest I drift into dissonance? In another blog, I have written down what I actually do by way of habits to keep my equilibrium in the condition of Original Sin. I am not corrupt morally by nature but only by my choices. What God made is good. What I do may be good or bad, depending on my choices. All my choices have consequences that will be made public in the last judgment. St. Benedict’s Chapter 4 has one of his tools as:
41 Place your hope in God alone.
42 If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself,
43 but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.
44 Live in fear of judgment day
45 and have a great horror of hell.
Everything we do will be known to all. This is due, in my opinion, to the fact that our choices, whatever they may be, are part of the fabric of our existence and are who we are. “I am not you; you are not me; God is not you; you, most certainly, are not God,” is a quote I frequently use when I host a pity party for my past bad behavior. I live in a condition of corrupt behavior, one which presents to me both those behaviors that lead to my true self and those behaviors that cause me to embrace my false self due to Original Sin. Being in the warm embrace of the Lay Cistercian community, I am overshadowed not only by the Holy Spirit but by the same Holy Spirit who overshadows all my Lay Cistercian brothers and sisters. (Silence, Solitude, Prayer, Work, and Community) To combat the ever-present effects of Original Sin means the sin of Adam and Eve is forgiven by the Father, who chooses me to be an adopted son (daughter), but its effects are my challenge as I must from self to God. I use the Cistercian practices and charisms (charity, humility, obedience to the will of the Father through Christ, and those tools of good works suggested in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict). https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ ( See above)
If we are strong, each of us only lives seventy or eighty years (so says the Psalmist). We interact with the world as we experience it using our human reasoning and good or evil choices within that time frame. The problem with human experience is twofold: 1. What is right or wrong? and 2. Who determines what is right or wrong.
There are two options to choose good from bad for us. One choice is that we are the final person to determine what is good or bad (morally, spiritually, and every other way.) What is good depends on what I choose. Put another way, something is right or wrong because I choose it to be so. The second choice is that what is right or wrong comes from outside ourselves with a power greater than ourselves. Something is ultimately good or bad for us because God tells us so. Remember, each individual only lives seventh or eighty years, if lucky.
CORRUPTION IS THE NORMAL DEFAULT OF ALL REALITY
Let me share with you some of the thoughts from my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5) about living in a world with the effects of Original Sin.
Corruption takes place in three different universes with three different characteristics and outcomes.
THE CORRUPTION OF ALL MATTER AND ENERGY: Corruption in the physical universe –– Everything in the universe of matter, time, space, energy, and life has a beginning and an end. This is the default corruption of the normal. Don’t think of corruption as being morally corrupt. That comes in the next universe, the mental universe. This corruption is the dissonance of having a set beginning and end. Nothing exists forever, at least, in the physical and mental universes. They each have their own energy type, but only due to what is generated by nature. I am certainly not as powerful as Stephenson 2-18, a red hypergiant star about the size of Neptune’s orbit. Yet, this most powerful and largest of stars (that we know of) doesn’t know that it knows. I study this star to learn about who I am and where I am going. It does not have the energy to propel me from animality to rationality by itself. Stephenson 2:18 does not have the power to study who I am and receive the power to be the Father’s adopted son (daughter). What does that tell you?
This universe or dimension of reality is the one that we call home. In it is everything that is. All life on earth is part of this universe, including humans. We could not exist without the physical universe and its laws.
The physical universe and everything in it have a beginning and an end, including humans. Corruption means deterioration with defined limitations, chief among them being we must all die. Everything dies.
Original Sin means we live in a condition much like a piece of iron pipe exposed to oxygen. We rust.
No one, as yet, can stop this corruption from happening. The best we can do is slow it down.
Based on what we know, the most powerful objects in this universe are hypernovas, black holes, and neutron stars. We are certain to learn more about inner and outer space in the future.
The laws of nature are based on the interaction of matter, gases, chemistry, gravity, and much more.
CORRUPTION IN THE MENTAL UNIVERSE: Corruption of human nature and the individual mind— The mental universe is where only humans live (my hypothesis). As far as we know, humans are the only species that knows that it knows. Animals don’t know that they don’t know. Human reasoning and choice are the two components that distinguish us from other types of life, even though we share some of the elements of being together. This is the next level of progressive natural engineering, which happens naturally,
As our race began to accumulate knowledge of what is good or evil, they did so within the context of a corrupt infrastructure. Everything deteriorates, our individual human personae corrupt, but knowledge is passed on to another. So, when I look around at the parameters of my life, the world, I see physical corruption and corruption of ideas as they are measured against me and other persons or groups of persons. This idea can resonate with who we are intended to be as a species (our purpose, our destiny) or dissonance with our intended progression. Where do we get the questions and answers to determine our eventual end? It can only come from inside us or outside of us. In the mental universe, there is only the power to live until you die, to somehow sift through all those philosophies and psychologies of what our purpose is and what is the meaning of life. We have the unique ability to reason for a reason. To uncover the mysteries of being and the purpose of why I wake up at this particular time in time and space and look around me, I ask six questions to help me sort out the chaff from the wheat. I have collected the answers to these questions from my awareness of the purpose of life? These answers come from the spiritual universe. The mental and the physical universes do not possess the energy to answer these questions correctly and to allow me to execute them as God intended. This is what I call The Divine Equation. These six questions are:
Having the correct questions and then answering them with the only answers will produce enough energy to move us to the next level of our collective maturation as a species.
This is a totally different paradigm than the physical universe but totally dependent on it for its existence. It is the universe of the mind.
Humans alone have the ability to reason and choose what is right for them. This is the universe of the human species and begins a new universe. However, like physical nature, human nature evolves from beginning to ending. Humans die.
Each human lives for a period of time from birth until they die, usually seventy or eighty years, if they are lucky. Some humans die sooner than others because of accidents, illness, murder, war, or other aberrations of the normal lifespan.
Humans are susceptible to strong behaviors with choices that can be noble or destructive of themselves or others. The choice is the key quality of humans that enables them to move forward with learning what is good or evil.
Corruption of the mind occurs when humans choose those options that cause them to revert to the physical universe and go against their nature.
The human heart (symbol of love and nobility) embraces what it thinks is good, even bad or evil.
The knowledge of what is good or evil is left to each individual. Individuals can decide whether society’s norms are good or bad for them.
This universe has no power of its own, except the power of the interrogatories, which they can pass on to the next generation. The interrogatories are answers that only humans can ask (who, what, when, where, why). The answers come from human knowledge, wisdom, scientific inquiry, philosophical discourse, and the luxury of time.
Where we get our information determines the scope of our reality. We can either get our information from within, where we are the final arbiter of what is good or bad, or use the information from someone with more insight and a more comprehensive appreciation of reality.
Scientific inquiry and philosophical discourse both presuppose that two universes contain reality, the physical one we can see and measure and the mental universe, which allows us to make conclusions about the purpose of life, based on the languages of mathematics and chemist, to name only a few.
It would be a grave mistake to think or hold that the mental universe is bad or somehow evil. The evil in the world comes from and through humans. We all have experienced the goodness and nobility in the human heart; we have no doubt felt the chill of real evil in persons. Evil exists only in humans, not in nature, and even then, not all activities are wrong for humans to hold because they do not have the energy to propel us to the next level of our evolution.
Who determines what is evil if each individual has the right to choose what is good for them and what is not? Society certainly creates laws based on political expediency. Monarchies dictate laws and are at the mercy of the lawgiver. Who gives us the big picture, which means who knows the intended or unintended consequences of our choices not just now, but hundreds of years in the future? I don’t know of any who lives more than seventy or eighty years, so it must be the consecutive linking of ideas from one generation to another. Even that tradition is flawed.
There is an answer to this, the answers to the six proofs of the Divine Equation, which I have stated above. Where I get those answers depends on this next level of evolution, that of the Spiritual Universe.
THE CORRUPTION OF THE SPIRIT: The condition of Original Sin. Original Sin is the default condition found in that great archetypal story of Genesis that goes to the core of what humanity is and what we need to do to reach our intended evolution as a species and as individuals. Humans make choices that make them morally corrupt. We did not do a good job at making choices, so Israel was selected to be the chosen people to know authentic or non-authentic existence in the Old Testament.
I keep asking myself why it is so difficult to just keep myself centered on Christ and then forget about it until I get to automatic heaven. My answers over the years have been that, although I have been adopted by the Father as an adopted son (daughter), I must nevertheless continue to struggle each day to appreciate seek God, lest my resolve weakens. I don’t learn what it means to take up my cross DAILY and follow Christ. This is my unique cross, the sum of my life, both achievements and those defeats to my good intentions. I am the sum of the choices that I have made. What influences my choices is the Holy Spirit, but all of this is within the context of the corruption of the physical and mental but also perhaps the spiritual universe itself. I keep asking Christ to have mercy on me, a sinner. I am a sinner because I make new choices and run the gauntlet of good and evil thoughts each day. Corruption of the physical and mental universes permeates my choices. The corruption of the Spirit means that the Spirit is not corrupt. Still, because I live in the physical universe and thus am subject to its laws, the choices in the spiritual universe are inexorably bound together.
The Lay Cistercian spirituality, based on Cistercian Way, which is rooted in the Rule of St. Benedict, which is, in turn, grounded in Scripture and the Traditions that come down to us from Christ, are the tools that I use to fight against the condition of the corruption of the Spirit that permeates my humanity. Trying to do God’s will is my mantra. Over and over, to practice contemplative prayer through Lectio Divina, The Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, the Rosary, Reading from Sacred Scripture, the Liturgy of the Word.
The physical universe (our ground of existing) and the mental universe (our ability to reflect on what is around us and discover the next level of our evolution) lead to the third element, in reality, a universe of the spirit. This is the ultimate reality because it created the other two universes and is why we have reason and the ability to choose. This universe is one where you have to choose to get into it, and once in it, you have to struggle to stay there until you die.
This universe has a beginning (Baptism and Confirmation) but no end. There is corruption in this universe, but it has to do with taking up your cross daily (whatever comes your way) and transforming it to good.
Those who enter this universe by invitation and commitment will not die. It is the adoption of each person as son or daughter of the Father. Knowledge of good or evil plays into this universe because of free choice. If one chooses not to be an adopted son of the Father (and knows the implications of their decision), then Jesus will look you straight in the eye and say to you, “Why did you not pick up on the people I sent to you to show you how to “love others, as I loved you?”
Heaven is God’s playground. If you die and want to play there, you must play by God’s rules. You practice these rules on earth by loving God with your whole heart, your whole mind, and your whole strength, and your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37)
The Kingdom of Heaven on earth is not corrupt, but it overlaps with the physical and mental universes because you need space and time to learn the meaning of the Divine Equation. While you are in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, before you die and get your report card, you are subject to the corruption of the spirit (your spirit).
As a Lay Cistercian or even a contemplative monk or nun, there is the martyrdom of living out a meaningful meaningless set of practices and charisms to move you from the World to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Corruption of the spirit is the temptation of Satan to seduce you into thinking that He (Satan) has the kingdom, the power, and the glory, and not God, who seems to be passive and just there.
“If you are so spiritual, why don’t you feel it and be more powerful in the eyes of your peers?”
“Nobody knows what you do when you pray, so just fake it.”
“Sexual urges and desires are a natural part of being human. Don’t be a phony to your nature and deny yourself what could make you happy.”
“What you do in prayer and contemplation won’t change a thing in the world.”
“Repetition and practice of Lectio Divina are boring and a waste of your valuable time.”
THE REAL BATTLE FOR THE SOULS OF THE FAITH
This corruption of physical and mental universes comes from the natural progression or evolution of matter, energy, time, and space. With the introduction of the human species, the only life form to be lifted up to a higher level of human reason and free choice, A radical change occurred in the fabric of what went before. Now, dissonance comes into a universe that abided by the law of nature. The term we use for this occurrence is Original Sin, based on the biblical narrative of the origins of human nature and why its acts are sometimes at odds with a perfect human concept (Genesis 2-3). Human nature is not evil but exists in a flawed CONDITION that is inherited by each person of the species.
Some people will not realize that there is a battle at all. If you only live in two universes (physical and mental), you won’t be aware of another dimension, one you must choose to enter, designed to prepare you to accept responsibility for your role as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. This dual universe concept we call The World, based on Galatians 5. In fairness, not everyone in The World is evil nor without the nobility of their species. It is the condition of which I speak, not the dividual nature which has been wounded.
Baptism is so important that all the other sacramental moments are there to sustain it as each individual from child to adult moves from two universes to three universes, the destiny of their race, and their personal fulfillment. Baptism is a sign that God’s signature is on your forehead, the cross.
This cross-over from two universes to that of accepting our adoption and acting according to God’s rules for us, not our own, happens in the context of ordinary, everyday routines and patterns of behavior we adopt. The individual is critical here because it houses free will and the reason needed to accept the invitation of God to move to this next level of human evolution, one that demands a choice. The Christ Principle (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior) loved us so much that he became our nature, with all that it implies except sin so that we could learn how to love in such a way that we could inherit what God had intended for us in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3). It is no coincidence that Jesus the Messiah became one of us to teach us how to survive the corruption of the physical and mental universes and open to us the possibility of living forever, a characteristic of the Kingdom of Heaven. But, there is a problem. Humans don’t have the energy to lift us up to the next level of our evolution. Only some of this makes sense with the knowledge and experiences around us. God has a problem, too. How can God communicate what lies in store for those who love Him with mere human language that only uses the stories and dreams of those who desire to be one with an entity they can only approach through the corruption of matter and energy? The Christ Principle showed us what to do, how to do it, and ten did it as an example for us to follow.
The battlefield in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth militates against the corruption of the physical and mental universes, which seeks to encroach on the only thing it can control with the assent of the individual, human choice. If you picture yourself standing on the battlefield of each day going through whatever comes your way, this is why you struggle with putting Jesus into your heart EACH DAY and why yesterday’s battle is not today’s opportunity to claim your inheritance as a son (daughter) of the Father.
The Spiritual Universe is the playground of God and is not corrupt. At Baptism, it overshadows you, just as the Holy Spirit did with the Blessed Mary, Mother of God. The problem is you still live in the physical and mental universes, which are corrupt by default, called the effects of Original Sin. Individuals are susceptible to being seduced by the forces of darkness to deny that God has the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Baptism takes away the sin, but the effects remain, and so does the lion roaming the earth, seeking whom He may devour.
Practically speaking, my Lay Cistercian journey begins with my profession of promises to live in such a way that I am aware each day that Christ offers His presence to me in ways I can choose to be present. The Corruption of the Spirit (my spirit) means, like St. Paul, I don’t always do what I say I will do. Even with my sins forgiven, I must seek God’s mercy each day, not because I am a great sinner, but because I need the Holy Spirit to help me battle against the corruption of everyday living, thinking that all of this is so much cotton candy and that my prayers are not efficacious (I love that word).
Because I live in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, yet my body must be consistent with the corruption of the physical and mental universes, the Christ Principle is the sign that what might seem folly for the gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews is actually the key to my fulfilling my evolution as a human being.
Because I live in the physical and mental universes, I am bound by the corruption of Matter and Mind. Because of Baptism and my free choice of Jesus Christ as Son of God, Messiah, I have dual citizenship, one as a human being until I die, and the second as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father awaiting the fulfillment of my destiny as a human being, to live with the one I love Forever.
Corruption does not mean that the physical universe and mental universes are morally evil, as the Manicheans heresy taught, but everything has a beginning and an end.
St. Paul comments on this condition of corruption when he says in Romans 7: “14We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin.j15What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.16Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good.17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.18For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The will is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.k19For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.20Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”
I relish the time I have to be with Jesus through the energy of the Holy Spirit. I look forward to being with the One who has emptied Himself for my sake and asked me to do the same for others as He did for me. I am grateful beyond my ability to express it and excited in the depths of my upper room that Jesus came to me and asked me to put my hands in the place of his side and to feel the holes left by the nails. I am joyful beyond human experience to be called by the Father to be his adopted son (daughter) in a condition where there is no corruption, only resonance with all reality, my playground for all eternity with those I love and those who love me.