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The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Pieter Paul Rubens (c. 1615)
Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516): The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things
John Martin: The Great Day of His Wrath, oil painting on canvas (1851–1853)
Dante and Virgil in Hell, William Bouguereau (1850)

Sin (Greekἁμαρτία hamartia "to miss a goal", synonymous with Hebrewחֵטְא chet "sin, guilt" used in the Old Testament; Latinpeccatum, derived from the Indo-European: *ped "to walk, fall, stumble", cf. Latinpes "foot"), through which man imposes karmic guilt on himself, is a consequence of the Fall of Man caused by the Luciferic temptation, through which man, burdened with the original sin, was thrust into the sensual world and thereby increasingly withdrawn from the direct guidance of the gods. On the one hand, this opened the gate to freedom for man, through which he can bring his actions in thoughts, words and deeds into harmony with the will of the spiritual world by his own free decision and thereby enrich it through his individual contribution; on the other hand, if he, tempted by Lucifer and Ahriman, directs his egoistic desires towards the sensual world, he can also miss his spiritual goal of development and thereby fall into sin.

Sins are momentary transgressions which have their seat in the astral body, while vices as permanent bad habits work in the etheric body. The well-known "Seven Deadly Sins" (see the painting by Hieronymus Bosch on the right) are in fact Seven Deadly Vices to which man can fall prey.

Forgiveness of Sins and Karma

Main article: Forgiveness of Sins

A sin that has been committed always has an effect on the sinner. He thereby damages his soul and is burdened with karma, which later demands compensation that only he can provide. Minor sins can be atoned for in the same earthly life or can be wiped away after death in the Kamaloka. More serious transgressions can only be expiated in later incarnations. The human being is thus forced into the process of reincarnation, which, however, also opens up the possibility of gradually developing an independent self in repeated earthly lives. However, sins do not only have individual consequences for the sinner himself, but they also leave objective traces in the world, which cannot be completely erased by man himself. For this he needs the help of the Christ, who by grace through his sacrificial act on Golgotha took upon himself the "Sins of the World", i.e. the objective consequences of human transgressions, and in particular is also willing to take the burden of original sin from human beings. This is the true meaning of the forgiveness of sins, which, however, in no way relieves man from bearing the karmic consequences of his actions. If the Christ were not willing to take the sins of the world upon Himself, the karma of human beings would indeed be approximately balanced at the end of the earth's evolution, "but the earth would not be ready to evolve over to Jupiter and all earth humanity would be there without a dwelling place..." (Lit.:GA 155, p. 176ff)

Sins and Vices

Main article: Vice

To be distinguished from sin are vices. Whereas sins are momentary, individual transgressions that take effect in the astral body when a person falls prey to a momentary temptation, vices live in the etheric body as permanent, regularly recurring bad habits. In the etheric body also works the guilt, which man loads upon himself as a consequence of sin. What man destroys in his astral body as a result of sin, he himself must make up for in the course of karmic events. However, he cannot redeem the guilt in his etheric body on his own, but for this he also needs the grace of the Christ, as was already described above for the objective consequences of our misdeeds, which are inscribed in the world ether. Through his grace, the Christ also takes from humanity the burden of original sin, which works as original guilt in the etheric body of every human being.

The egoism implanted in the human astral body by Lucifer is the common root of all sin. Of the two basic forces of the soul world, sympathy and antipathy, the latter predominates in the state of sin, whereby man closes himself off from the outer soul world and closes himself egoistically within himself. In the Fall of Man, however, the whole of earthly nature was also entangled and thereby first condensed into solid matter. In the final analysis, matter is nothing other than concentrated sin. (Lit.:GA 266c, p. 110ff)

Consciousness of sin

Consciousness of sin is a central theme of all Abrahamic religions, but is understood with different nuances in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In Judaism and Islam, sin consists primarily in the transgression of specific divine commandments. Here, sin is a transgression against divine law that can only be redeemed by divine punishment or divine forgiveness. In Christianity, turning away from God is the actual sin, which can be forgiven by divine grace if the person turns back to God through repentance. From the common perspective of Judaism and Christianity, man, regardless of his personal guilt, is burdened with original sin through the Fall and is thus already in a state of sin from birth. Islam, on the other hand, rejects the concept of original sin; every human being is born innocent and pure and remains so until he willingly sins against God.

See also


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.