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Center for Action and Contemplation

Leaving the Garden and the Split of Unitive Consciousness

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sin: Symptom of Separation

Leaving the Garden
Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Now let’s look at “The Fall,” as we usually refer to the pivotal event described in Genesis 3. The Fall is not simply something that happened in one historical moment to one archetypal couple, Adam and Eve. It happens in all moments and lives. It is the shape of creation. It sets the plot line.

After Adam and Eve took their identity as separate from their Source, “the eyes of both of them were opened” to a split universe of suspicion, subterfuge, doubt, and alienation (Genesis 3:7). And “they realized that they were naked.” This is indeed the lie and the “fall” from original grace and innocence. Teachers of prayer call this the “subject-object split” where most humans live their whole lives.

This happens to each of us whenever we stand over and against Reality, apart and analytical, and can no longer know things by affinity, likeness, or natural connection (“love”), but we merely know things as objects out there and apart from us. Then we are no longer in the garden, or even part of the garden, but we “eat” the garden like a possession. It is this alienation that all religion is trying to overcome.

The split begins in all human beings quite early, and for abused or neglected children even earlier. By the age of seven most have “left the garden” and have begun to live largely in their minds—looking over at the garden. Before that time, we exist in unitive consciousness, when “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30), or my mother and I are one, as we enjoy in the first months of life.

Enneagram teacher Russ Hudson describes the inevitable split:

At the root of our ego patterns is a profound suffering caused by our alienation from ourselves and from God—from our direct sense and experience of the Divine, moment by moment. We learn how this suffering drives us to do many things we would not choose to do, and to not do many things we would choose to do [see Romans 7:15]. In this sense, it is telling us that, without presence and awareness, we transgress against our own heart, our own truth, often without realizing that this is what we are doing. [1]

That’s why I often say we are not punished for our sins; we are punished by our sins.

Hudson further clarifies this by explaining the roots of the word “sin”:

The Greek word hamartia was most often translated as “sin” in the New Testament. But this word did not imply transgression in the sense of breaking a rule or defying an authority. It meant “to miss the mark” as in an arrow that misses its target. Hamartia is the way we lose balance and “self forget”—the way we fall away from the direct experience of Divine Grace. . . . Our ego then becomes a way of covering up this suffering rather than addressing it. [2]

Gateway to Silence:
I am hidden in the love and mercy of God.

[1] Russ Hudson, “Transgression and the Enneagram,” Oneing, vol. 2, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), 70. For additional resources on the Enneagram, see

[2] Ibid., 72.


Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 39-40.

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