Thursday, 26 May 2016

William Arkle on Original Sin

Excerpted from A Geography of Consciousness by William Arkle (1974)

Chapter 3 - The Self

It must be expected at the preliminary part of our evolution will be full of mistakes concerning values and identities for the reason that we simply do not as yet possess the understanding to cope with the situation.

The result of these mistakes will be some form of pain and suffering and this seems inevitable unless some direct conditioning was supervision is received. This raises the most fundamental point which concerns are autonomy.

Commonsense and intelligence tells as that are real value lies in a separate unique identity, even if this is still only at the stage of potentiality. If the scheme of things was not concerned with this individuality, then the ordering of the human world would be much simpler for we would all be puppets or automatons and do precisely as we were ordered.

If God of the absolute cause did not choose this way, then it is either because our uniqueness is important to him; or because he enjoys our suffering which is the result of our autonomy. The latter proposition cannot be held seriously.

Our intelligence and actually assumes that the attitude we have towards our own physical world, families and children, is not just a chance for fire, but stems from some supreme attitude on the part of our creator. It can be imagined, therefore, that our relationship and value is to our absolute parents something like that of our children to ourselves, but since that occurs at a much higher level, it must be more ideal and detached from space/time considerations.

The process suggested, whereby responsive abilities are built into identity at the absolute level, which can be called the true self, will enable us to understand and accept more easily the concept of sin.

Whether we admit it or not, the sensation of sin affects us all profoundly and if we are to accept the teaching of original sin which the Western churches give out then we are in danger of putting ourselves in a very wrong and a negative position.

The process of learning by mistakes, which in science and engineering is called the process of trial and error, is confused with the notion of sin and wickedness. This presupposes that we are either put into the world as perfect beings who should know better; or we are put into the world by a sadistic God who knows we are in perfect but who punishes us for being so.

In the first case there would seem little point in going through the process if there is nothing to learn. In the second case one is confronted with a dichotomy which is so absurd that it could only be the result of human aberration.

Instead of the teaching of original sin, it might be well to substitute the teaching of original fallibility. The difference between fallibility and sin is that the first is expected to be indicated by suffering imposed by our surroundings, but the second is expected to be indicated by suffering imposed by God.

Obviously the two are liable to be confused and if the second is chosen, the person concerned is it a most difficult and hopeless position, for he is confronted with a divine example on a cosmic scale of his own immature understanding and development. We cling to the idea that God is concerned with us as individuals who are responsible for their own actions; and yet we also cling to the idea that we are not perfect but are in the process of attaining perfection. Yet we cannot bring ourselves to conceive of the fact that we were born with shortcomings instead of sense.

This idea of sin is perhaps applicable to those of us who deliberately repeat actions which we know are wrong, and which we know will harm other people, and which we are in a position to prevent. But if we have reached the stage of knowing and action is wrong it may not be realised how it is harmful to others and even if so, we may not be in a position to prevent it.

If on the other hand we do something harmful and wrong because we know no better and are unable to respond with absolute awareness to the situation, we can hardly be blamed and we would certainly not have opened ourselves to something akin to divine wrath.

The main trouble with the idea of original sin is that it consciously or unconsciously causes us to associate the very core of our being with something rotten, and this is something in turn unavoidably associated with the act of creation on the part of God. Since the core of our being is where our absolute potentialities lie and sense and since this highest and truest part of our nature is the source and mainspring of our effort and 'salvation', the idea of original sin replaces that part of our nature which should be looked for look to for the solution of all our problems, with some negative and evil presence.

If this doctrine is seen from such a point of view, it becomes apparent that instead of influencing us to become humble and repentant and aware of a natural shortcomings. All the teaching of original sin does is to make us bitterly aware of the unjust and hostile attitude of the source of being. Since it is realised now that the unconscious and deeper consciousness of our nature as a profound and overriding effect on all our conscious deliberations; and since it is also discovered that this unconscious part of our nature has a very strong sense of justice, right and wrong, sin and punishment, virtue and reward; one can see that this fundamental conditioning aspect of our awareness is thrown into a hopeless and distorted state by prevalent religious ideas.

Until the idea of sin is replaced by the idea of shortcoming, we will be destroying effectively the very purpose of religious and spiritual effort, which is to become trustful-of and acquainted-with, first of all the divine qualities of God, and secondarily the divine qualities of our own real nature. It is quite obvious why God is described as forgiving our sins before we commit them; it is because he realises only too clearly that we must continually make such mistakes before we can be of any value to him or to ourselves.

It is not God who has suggested to us the idea of original sin and the necessity of being punished for the results of such sin, it is our own superstitious and unintelligent interpretation of the world around us that has led to this state of affairs. It is our own lack of forgiveness and our own inability to feel responsible for our actions and efforts that have led us to this point of view.


Nathaniel said...

Does William Arkle have an explanation for the meaning of the Garden of Eden and The Fall story? I wondered if it was the same as the Mormon.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nathaniel - Arkle's ideas fit extremely well with Mormon understanding - for me they provide a completion that I need - but I see no sign that he knew anything of distinctive Mormon theology. He never provided an account of the Garden of Eden that I have seen - indeed, there is no theological or scriptural detail.