The Idea of Sin
Printed in The Beacon February 1936 and January 2002
By The Tibetan
THE QUESTION is often asked, What is Sin? The subject is too vast for me to answer fully but I can and will give a series of definitions of it, for when a matter is defined, those whose minds are functioning have therein that on which they can ponder.
First, I would seek to point out that sin is an individual matter, and might be defined as that line of action, or of thought, which evokes in a man that reaction in which the voice of conscience speaks and leads him to defend that action argumentatively. This line of action will differ for each human being. It is curious that, no matter how speciously a man may argue to himself, he is never in any real doubt as to whether an action is right or wrong. You will note that I have said when the voice of conscience speaks. If it is entirely silent it is due to one of two causes:The man has for a long time gone against his inner monitor and now it has lapsed into complete silence; or else, he is active through complete ignorance, and cannot be judged then as can his more evolved brother. Few, however, would care to put themselves into this category.
Sin is the submerging of the Soul in one or another of the sheaths in such a way that the life of that sheath is paramount and negates the Soul life. Let me illustrate:It is possible to give such emphasis to the emotional nature that the life of the Soul (whose nature is wisdom and love) is completely stultified. Worry, fear, self-pity, irritation and other difficulties of the emotional body may have so potent a hold that it is not possible for the Soul to make its presence felt. Acquiescence in such a state of affairs is sin for the man who is thus swayed but who aspires to the Soul life. Submergence of the consciousness in the life of the flesh, and the identification of the Soul with the animal life is sin for the man who should have outgrown such a state of affairs. Let it not be forgotten that there is a stage in the evolution of the man when the emphasis is rightly placed on the animal nature, and the physical body should receive the paramount attention of the vital force, but this is a period that lies far back in the history of the race, and few men these days would relish the statement that they were atavistic and reverting to early stages in the racial past.
Sin, therefore, concerns those states of consciousness which we have outgrown; it is the refusal to go forward into higher states of consciousness; and above all it is (as we have seen) the conscious identification of the mans whole mental interest with the form side of life. Sin, therefore, is a retrogressive or a static condition, but in order to be sin, the condition must be recognized and then persisted in.
Sin is also the doing of those things from purely selfish interests which bring suffering to those we have in our immediate surroundings, or to the group with which we may be affiliated. When a man pursues his own way, panders to his own desires and insists on following a line of conduct which causes distress to the least of Gods little ones he is a sinner, no matter how he may argue otherwise. His searching for arguments to justify his conduct, or his affirming the narrowness of the point of view of others are but indications of that state.
I deal not here with the sins that we make for others by expecting them to live up to our self-imposed standard, or to the laws which we formulate, in selfish self-protection. Sin only becomes sin when the assent of a mans conscience is denied to any line of action, and when he has to lull it to sleep with specious argument.
Any action that breaks the law of love is sin, for the law of love is the Keynote of the life of the Soul, and when it is broken the discordant note of the personality form is entering in. The man is not living as a Soul but as a body. This is not sinful, needless to say, if the man is at the stage where the growth of the form life is desirable. It only becomes a sin when the man has capacity for the Soul life, when he aspires and has his high moments of endeavor. Then all that hinders the Soul life, shuts out the vision of truth, that impedes the journey on the path of return, and that strengthens the personality, can be called sin. All actions that are carried forward on the mental, emotional or physical planes which hurt anyone, which damage the group life and which hold back others from peace and attainment must be regarded as wrong. The physical appetites, emotional conditions and intellectual pursuits, when followed from selfish motive or from weakness, are sinful, for the Soul is the prisoner of the form.
When, however, the Soul dominates the form life, then the mind and intellect are used with understanding; the emotions are controlled, selfishness in any form (and are not all worries and irritations fundamentally selfish?) negated; then the physical body is regarded as the agent and expression of the Soul on the physical plane, and its appetites and tendencies are complied with just in so far as they tend to make the physical body a more efficient instrument. Then the flagellations of the saint and the excesses of asceticism are regarded as wrong equally with the pandering to the flesh of the sensuous man or hedonist.
Controlled action on all planes is the ideal, and this must be based on right motive, unselfish purpose and the good of the group.
Sin is therefore identification with the form life when there is capacity for Soul consciousness, and righteousness (as the prophets of old called it) is the steady turning of thought and life towards the Soul, leading to those activities which nurture the group life. [-]