Definition for Original Sin
While Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he gave an interview to Italian journalist, Vittorio Messori. During this interview, he said, “The inability to understand original sin and make it comprehensible is really one of the most serious problems of current theology and pastoring [emphasis SML].” Never has this statement rang more true than it does in today’s world. The Knowledge of Good & Evil is leading us to: 1) confuse chemical love with spiritual love; 2) to confuse chemical compassion with spiritual compassion; 3) to confuse what is beautiful with what is ugly, and; 4) to confuse apparent good with what is actually good. There is a Three-Part blog series that deals extensively with Original Sin, including The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Links to each follows:
Let me start by saying that I used to believe that this account in Scripture was symbolic. That it represented some sort of test symbolized by the fruit of the Tree. I have since changed my mind. The Tree, the apple, and the Garden are very true. This change came about because of a deeper understanding of what God means when we are told that, after eating of the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened. While concupiscence effects both body and soul, the eyes of Adam and Eve being opened refers to a physical, biological, sense-based consequence. It is fitting, therefore, that the test be one that involves the senses as well as the spiritual soul. Hence, the apple. This will become clear as we progress through this definition.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Tree) in the Garden does not refer to the soul’s knowledge of the Truth. After all, pre-fallen Adam and Eve were perfectly good. Their soul possessed perfect knowledge of the goodness of God. The Holy Spirit dwelled in their spiritual hearts as a direct result of the Father’s unceasing expressing creation through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Concerning a vision of Adam’s creation, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich wrote, “In the middle of his heart, I saw a sparkling halo of glory. In it was a tiny figure as if holding something in its hand. I think it symbolized the Third Person of the Godhead [the Holy Spirit].” Let us further expand on the significance and understanding of the Spirit’s presence in this vision.
Before the fall, Adam and Eve’s bodies were in perfect harmony with their souls, due to each one’s soul possessing complete dominion over its body (more on that later). The rational soul can do nothing concrete without its body. More precisely, the lower powers of the soul, following the desires of the upper powers of the soul, can do nothing without the body. As Pope Saint John Paul II (John Paul II) tells us, “The body...and it alone [emphasis SML] is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God.” The body speaks in the sense-able and meta-sense-able language of the body.
While the Holy Spirit does not express, it is nevertheless true that the Breath of the Spirit is the force/impulse behind all expressions within Love. It is for this reason that Pope Leo XIII tells us the Holy Spirit, who is Divine Goodness, is the ultimate cause of all things, including the completion of man’s salvation. The Holy Spirit does not do, but causes/prompts doings. Just as the Holy Spirit is not able to express, so, too, it is with our spiritual soul (inner heart). It too is spirit. Hildegard writes, “Our body is the concealing garment of our soul … and our soul could do nothing without the body.”
The Tree is inexorably tied to our sensual bodies. What does Eve say about this encounter with the serpent, the Tree, and its fruit? Scripture tells us, “The woman saw [SML] that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes [SML], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” In other words, Satan convinced her that goodness and wisdom could be obtained solely through the physical senses of the body. Why do I say solely? Because the purely cranial knowledge of this type of goodness and wisdom could only be achieved by an act of disobedience of God’s commandment to not eat the fruit of the tree. Unfortunately for mankind, the judgements of the physical body of fallen man are quite different from the soul’s spiritual judgement. This is why, after the fall, we characterize the flesh and the spirit as being at war with each other (Gal 5:17). In this definition, we are going to explore the only way our body (exclusive of the soul) has for determining what is good and what is bad. Let’s begin.
Immediately after Adam and Eve’s disobedience, Scripture tells us of the first sign of concupiscence: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked … the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:7-8). The phrase, “the eyes of both were opened” is meant to convey to us that a sense–based knowledge is going to begin coming into play in their lives. A knowledge that we, thankfully, did not possess before. That “something” was concupiscent knowledge of good and evil. No longer ordered to the soul, the body’s knowledge of good and evil became different from, and experienced differently, than the spirit’s judgement of what is good and what is evil. We will prove this later in this blog. We will demonstrate how the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is directly tied to our biological function, appropriately described as our eyes being opened.
Before going any further, let us define concupiscence. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, concupiscence is,
In its strict and specific acceptation, a desire [all emphasis SML] of the lower appetite contrary to reason. To understand how the sensuous and the rational appetite can be opposed, it should be borne in mind that their natural objects are altogether different. The object of the former is the gratification of the senses; the object of the latter is the good of the entire human nature and consists in the subordination of reason to God, its supreme good and ultimate end. But the lower appetite is of itself unrestrained, so as to pursue sensuous gratifications independently of the understanding and without regard to the good of the higher faculties.
Before we can understand original sin, we must first understand original justice. John Paul II dealt with this subject extensively in the Theology of the Body. I, however, will be looking at original sin and its consequences in the context of The Science & Theology of Salt in Scripture. Pope Pius XII wrote, “The worship rendered by the Church to God must be, in its entirety, interior as well as exterior. It is exterior because the nature of man as a composite of body and soul requires it to be so. ... Every impulse of the human heart, besides, expresses itself naturally through the senses; and the worship of God, being the concern not merely of individuals but of the whole community of mankind, must therefore be social as well.”
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Now we have it on the authority of Scripture that ‘God made man right’ (Eccles. 7:30), which rightness, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei, xiv, 11), consists in the perfect subjection of the body [i.e., salt / dust of DNA] to the soul." Aquinas goes on to show the role that supernatural grace played in our state of original justice. He writes, “Subjection of the body to the soul and of the lower powers to reason, was not from nature; otherwise it would have remained after sin … Hence it is clear that also the primitive subjection by virtue of which reason was subject to God, was not a merely natural gift, but a supernatural endowment of grace.” The body is meant by God’s design to be fully and harmoniously subject to the soul. As an example, we cite St. Catherine of Siena. She tells us that at our resurrection on Judgment Day, our bodies will be “imprinted” with the fruits of the sufferings and labors endured by the body in partnership with the inner heart in the practice of virtue. This imprinted ornamentation, so to speak, will not occur through the power of the body, but through the power of the soul, as it was prior to the fall. This makes sense in light of the philosophical understanding that the soul is the substantial form of the body. To help us understand the soul, body, and form concept, think of a hand and glove. The hand represents the spiritual soul and the leather glove represents the body. Without the hand inside of it, the glove has no form. The matter of the body remains, but it is without form. The sin was of disobedience to God’s command. Consequently, the body became disobedient to the desires of the inner heart.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost supernatural grace. Therefore, they forfeit the perfect subjection of the body to the soul. Consequently, human DNA started to function in the same way that it does in any other animal — sensual appetites and all. The bodies of sensual animals’ function under the same guiding principle that is now at work in our fallen bodies, i.e., what pleases the senses is judged as being good and what displeases the senses is bad. The salt of DNA of fallen man functions in such a way as to reward and encourage behavior/experiences that feel good, and to punish behavior/experiences that feel bad. Were it not for this fact of nature, all animals would die out. This is a perfect design — for animals, but not for man who is a composite of body and rational soul. The sensual appetites of animals and the actions that proceed from those appetites are morally neutral. They are good for animals with sensual souls and, in some cases, also good for man. A lion that kills his offspring is not ‘bad,’ he is just following the biological impulses of his animal nature. Contrary to what modern society tries to foist upon us, man is not simply an animal.
In response to stimuli received through the five senses of the body, the salt of DNA produces hormones (hormones are only one of very many types of proteins produced by DNA). For example, we know that Adam and Eve experienced shame because of the self–realization (brought on by the unmitigated expression of hormones) that they were naked (arguably, lust and stress were probably at play at the same time). Likely, they were also afraid. Most, if not all, of the physical consequences of concupiscence are either directly or indirectly attributable to the production of hormones. As opposed to the spirit, the body seeks a type of happiness that translates into that which is pleasing to the senses; when satisfied, our DNA produces sensual rewards so powerful they can be accurately described as addictive. The body tries to bring the soul over to its way of thinking, so to speak, by offering hormonal rewards that can be very persuasive.
Let us take a closer look at the role of hormones in concupiscence. Can we show a direct link between original sin and hormones? I believe we can. Unlike most other proteins, the biological sciences tell us that hormones are carried to their target cells via the bloodstream. Informed by God, Hildegard tells us that after Adam’s sin, man’s blood carried within itself: 1) sweet, but deadly, poison, i.e., hormones; 2) shameful and turbulent acts, thus increasing the body’s appetite for those very crimes carried in the blood, i.e., slavery to sin; and, 3) impure filth which changed Adam’s blood into a liquid of pollution.
All hormones are produced and secreted in response to sensual stimuli resulting from their eyes being opened. Both shame (the first sign of their eyes being opened) and stress are associated with, among others, the production of the hormone cortisol. Lust of the flesh and, what I refer to as biological (so-called) love, are completely different from spiritual love (a distinction greatly misunderstood in today’s godless culture). Both are associated with multiple hormones, e.g., dopamine, testosterone, oxytocin, and vasopressin. Fear is associated with the “fight or flight” hormone, adrenalin. Other physical consequences of concupiscence are pain in childbirth, hunger, greed, avarice, etc.
Relative to the functioning of the fallen body, the partial list of hormones above provides us with a rudimentary understanding of the meaning of the good and evil that has been brought upon us by the eating of the fruit of the Tree in the center of the Garden. As an example of this newly acquired knowledge, as it relates to fallen man, we can cite the hormones discussed above, some of which can be a strong incentive to bring about physical/biological love. Biological “love” can, over time, lead to the development of true spiritual love followed by marriage. This is good. It gives the sensual being the drive to enter into the sacramental nuptial union, which in turn leads to the fulfillment of God’s very first positive command: be fruitful and multiply. However, it can also lead to evil. When biological love, and its associated drives, decline (all hormonal drives over time require higher levels of excitement to maintain the same level of physical/chemical “high”). This can lead to the false belief that one has fallen out of love when, in actuality, it was only biological/chemical love all along. It was not true spiritual love. This love–lust dichotomy can then lead to a multitude of sinful responses.
All hormones are good — for sensual animal creatures. Unfortunately, for rational man they can also lead us to gain concupiscent knowledge of evil. The same hormones that provided strong motivation to initiate the early stages of a relationship that could then transition into a relationship of true spiritual love, can also induce us to lust after the flesh. In turn, lustful temptation can strengthen perverse appetites for, and addictions to, deviant sexual behavior. Another example of this good and evil knowledge is the hunger hormone, ghrelin. It produces feelings of hunger that incentivize us to eat. This, of course, is good if we do not wish to die. However, when combined with any of the reward hormones, it can lead to the compulsive sin of gluttony.
How strong is the power of hormones to enslave us? Is your willpower strong enough to overpower the urges created by ghrelin? If you truly seek the answer, try not eating anything for a day; a week; a month. How about for forty days? How about those hormones leading to addictions? How hard is it for a smoker to stop smoking? For an alcoholic to stop drinking? For a drug addict to stop taking drugs? For a sex addict to give up that lustful and perverse activity? All of the aforementioned addictions are the result of hormones. If we give in to those chemically–induced temptations, the functioning of our salt of DNA will change such that the truth of Jesus’ words will ring true. He tells us, "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin" (Jn. 8:34). In an Applied Sciences way, Jesus is warning us of the deleterious side effects of the biological interaction between hormones, cell receptors, etc. God revealed to St. Hildegard: when we engage in vice, we actually nourish our flesh, i.e., make it stronger, but not in a good way.
A quick note. Some might be confused by the fact that Jesus suffered from hunger in the desert (Mt. 4:2, Lk. 4:2) and yet, at the same time, we know that he was not born with original sin. Aquinas explains this apparent contradiction thusly, “the penalties, such as hunger, thirst, death, and the like, which we suffer sensibly in this life flow from original sin. And hence Christ, in order to satisfy fully for original sin, wished to suffer sensible pain, that He might consume death and the like in Himself.” Put another way, because Jesus’ body was completely subject to his human soul. He did not inherit original sin and, therefore, his soul possessed the power to will and allow his body to experience some of the consequences of original sin; this without having sinned himself. This is why St. Paul writes, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), p. 79-80.
 Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations, as recorded in the Journals of Clemens Brentano, arranged and edited by Carl E Schmoger CSSR, Vol 1 of 4, pp. 6-8.
 John Paul II, in his general audience of February 20, 1980, “ Man Enters the World as a Subject of Truth and Love,” Theology of the Body, Libreria Editrice Vaticana (Third Millennium Media L.L.C., The Faith Database L.L.C., 2008), n. 4.
 CCC, n. 687.
 Pope Leo XIII, Divinum Illud Munus, (Third Millennium Media L.L.C., The Faith Database L.L.C., 2008), n. 3.
 Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works: With Letters and Song. All rights reserved. http://www.Innertraditions.com Reprinted with permission of publisher. Kindle Locations 2548-2552.
 John Ming, "Concupiscence,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 4. (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908), (accessed July 24, 2020) <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04208a.htm>.
 Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, November 20, 1947, n. 23.
 Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 99.
 St. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, trans. Suzanne Noffke, O.P (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980), 86.
 Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 76.
 Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 95, a. 1.
 Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias, trans. Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (New York: Paulist Press, 1990), 113.
 Ibid., 417.
 Ibid., 257-258.
 Lewis, Michael, and Douglas Ramsay. “Cortisol response to embarrassment and shame.” Child development vol. 73,4 (2002): 1034-45. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00455.
 Wendy Zukerman, “Stress Gives Reef Fish Wonky Ears,” http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2009/04/27/2553465.htm: ABC Science, April 27, 2009 (accessed 04/27/2009).
 Dr. Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself, (New York, NY, Penguin Books, 2007), 114.
 Hormone Health Network, “Hormones and Health,” Endocrine Society, http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/what-do-hormones-do, January 1, 2008 (accessed May 29, 2008).
 Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself, 119.
 Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, Q. 1, Art. 4.
 Hildegard, Scivias, 269.