Thursday 12 January 2023

"The exclusion of love" - the worst possible sin

"I know it's off the point", Havard interjects, "but I'd like to ask Williams what he would regard as the worst possible sin?"

Williams answers without a moment's hesitation: "The exclusion of love."

Havard nods. 

From "Thursday evenings" (an imaginative recreation of a meeting, closely based on documentary sources) in The Inklings, by Humphrey Carpenter, 1979. 

For many years found Charles Williams's idea of the worst possible sin to be impressive - and yet also puzzling.

 (I later came-across the place where Williams gave this judgment, and from-which Carpenter derived the quotation; but unfortunately I have now forgotten where this was published.) 

Although for somewhat different reasons than Williams - I also regard "the exclusion of love" as a deep insight into sin, rooted in the ultimate nature of reality. 

For Christians; Love is - metaphysically speaking - the ultimate cause and reason for creation

Therefore, the exclusion of Love is the primary sin; because it rejects and opposes divine creation itself. 

This is important, because Men are easily distracted by more 'spectacular' and positive sins; but it is worth remembering that these are (in a sense) just a means to the end of the exclusion of Love. 

And also that the exclusion of Love may be at work - as a motivation, in the nature of Men or other Beings - even when spectacular sins are entirely absent. 

Many large and powerful aspects of modern life are a material embodiment of the exclusion of Love: such as bureaucracy in general, and social systems such as law, the economy, and mass media... 

The modern institution is a domain where procedures dominate. Love is excluded from operations ever-more-completely; and consequently an environment where (Love-less and Love-hating) cold, soulless, psychopathic, manipulative careerists thrive.  

And the worst of positive sins is probably spite; and that too can be seen as a consequence of the exclusion of Love. 

Where Love is present, spite can never work unopposed; but without Love, spite can become master


Francis Berger said...

Yes, this is crucial, and the observation about loveless and love-hating bureaucratic institutions is spot on.

On a bit of a side note - concerning polarity, I noted the following in one of my notebooks about a week or two ago, but I can't remember the source. Regardless, the excerpt expounds briefly upon Coldridge's idea of interpenetration within polarity. It took me a bit to wrap my head around it, but I think it offers a good explanation of knowing/love from the perspective of consciousness:

"In order to interpenetrate as polarity requires, and not just interlock, each of the two related subjects must give up its boundlessness and sacrifice a part of its own integrity in another's behalf . . .

The point or area of the surface of a given subject where it penetrates another subject, and in doing so, exercises its own outwardly directed power - the place at which it resists and pushes into another's substance - is also the very point or area of its own surface where it itself is pierced and entered, where it gives way to another's outwardly power."

Sorry for the question, but is that (mostly) congruent with what you have made out concerning polarity/love?

Bruce Charlton said...

@J - Could you please frame comments as making general points relevant to the post (albeit from a personal perspective) rather than being 'confessional' in nature.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - I Do mean the same as Coleridge, but his explanations of polarity (like the one you cite) are almost-impossibly difficult to visualize and understand - so much so, that they hardly count as 'explanation' at all.

I did grasp it, after a fair bit of hard work (and the help of Barfield's What Coleridge Thought) - but it was a process almost impossible to hold-onto - and couldn't be explained without being either over-abstract or misleading in its modelled simplification.

This is because Polarity is rooted in an abstract and non-dynamic (static) analysis (i.e. the way Coleridge divides up reality - in explaining polarity - does not itself take account of time and change) - even though C is trying to explain dynamic life (lived in time).

It is that old problem, Residual Unresolved Positivism. Coleridge has only partly overcome the metaphysical assumptions that he regards as mistaken, and (from habit, perhaps) keeps some of these assumptions that he should be rejecting, and thus falls back into ways of analysis that contradict where he is aiming-for.

After a while I gave up on trying to explain Colerdige's polarity, in favour of just taking Beings (alive, with agency, and some degree of consciousness) as the assumed basic starting point for analysis. Beings are implicitly 'in' time, because they are dynamic. This seems to be a much simpler, and true-er, description of what Coleridge was getting-at with polarity.

Phil said...

This is right in line w/ a notion formulated by Ann Barnhardt, a right wing Trad Catholic. She calls it "diabolical narcissism", which she defines as purging oneself of all charity. She has some articles on it plus a two hour video which I haven't seen. She's a bit extreme, but our culture of lies is now so pervasive that you almost have to be tetched to see through it. A lot of deep insights come now from people who are basically barking mad.
She's at

Bruce Charlton said...

@P - Yes, I know Ann Barnhardt's work.

What I was trying to get over here is that the worst sin is negative and oppositional - in line with the deep nature of evil itself.

Diabolical Narcissism sounds-like a positive sin - rooted in inappropriate or excessive *self*-love; but I think it is worth considering that it is the exclusion of love *altogether* that is the ultimate evil.

Epimetheus said...

You have unnatural good timing. I've been rewatching James Cameron's Avatar in bits and pieces, and mulling over the true historical phenomenon of white people abandoning their nation to go live with the native Americans. In the film, you have a situation where citizens of a cold yet omnipotent technological civilization are treating with animistic hunter-gatherer tribes, and some of them go over to the other side, including the protagonist Jake Sully.

I despise the story's promotion of ethnic/racial treason, but the Exclusion of Love explains why the whole concept has such appeal. To exclude love and show up to work while projecting a fake hologram of professionalism and avoiding all real connections gives a kind of overall power and efficiency to the society, but something irreplaceable is lost.

That being said, I've been in workplaces where the spiritual environment of male hunting bands held sway, men who were brothers to eachother, so there might be some possible fusion we haven't discovered yet, but - you guessed it - I left those workplaces when the Machine noticed us.

Francis Berger said...

@ Bruce - Yes, Beings in time as a starting point is more comprehensible, thus a truer approach to understanding polarity. Thanks!

ben said...

This 'Diabolical Narcissism' concept was important to my understanding of evil. If people are so insightful, can they be mad? Defence against the dark arts is not for the faint of heart. I think this 'Diabolical Narcissism' is getting at the same thing as 'witchhood', 'deliberate perversity', 'sorath'.

This modern type of evil is educative when it comes to evil generally:

-The essential equivalence of sexual/social (gut) perversity with perversity of orientation (chest) and thinking (brain).

-The essential equivalence of 'demonic' and 'human' evil; 'demons' being evil spirit-humans, some of them actually milder than some incarnate humans.

-The fact there's gratification in all forms of corruption (including forms of corruption traditionally considered to be one-sidedly painful). The implication being that modern people are actually gratified by something like despair; that it's not merely a by-product of other gratifying corruptions. People can engage in intentionally self-destructive/value-destructive behaviours in order to develop corruptions like guilt, envy, shame, despair, fear.

-A feedback-loop situation (that is actually sought by its participants for corruption-accumulation) of luciferics scandalising sorathics and vice versa e.g. a right-left dynamic, the purpose of which is the development of the respective forms of corruption that the members of each side are gratified in.

-And yes, the necessity of love for keeping out corruption! As well as all its other benefits.