Well, I delayed this post because I was chasing a literary reference, and I’m not prepared to read all of Karen Armstrong to find it.
At least I think it was Karen Armstrong (in The Great Transformation) who said that, back before the
Bronze Axial Age, sin didn’t really mean evil conduct or have much to do with morality at all. It really meant “anything that got between you and the experience of divine power” – or, in more concrete terms, “anything that spoiled the ritual.” Offering a badly prepared sacrifice was a sin; killing somebody was a good reason to run you out of town.
In the old Levitical holiness code, “uncleanness,” including such ordinary events as menstruation, wet dreams and childbirth, had to be atoned for ritually. Now, I was taught to include hyssop in many uncrossing and cleansing tricks, because of the strong Biblical association with cleansing. Note the reasons given for cleansing with hyssop: mildew, a death in the house. Uncleanness, once removed from the sufferer, transferred itself to the priest, who was unclean only until sunset.
In short, these common occurrences were “disturbances in the force,” if you will, which required a trained expert (a priest); not the same thing as cackling narcissistic evil, not at all.
And yet the Holiness Code of Leviticus includes “Love your fellow as yourself.”
There is more, much more, to be said about it, but I haven’t digested it all yet. More later, I promise.