chapter  3
14 Pages

Escaping Desire: Christianity, Gnosticism and Buddhism

By the time of the early Christian ascetics, mutability has become

savage; now, inextricably bound up with sin, it is the active agent of

death, which is now located firmly i n s i d e desire.

A secular repudiation of the Christian idea of sin has resulted in a

secular misunderstanding of it, and a failure to realize the extent to

which the psychology of sin, far from being cast off with the religion

which invented it, still informs contemporary culture. The underlying

significance of sin in Western culture is a paradoxical one: the concept

of sin becomes culturally prominent as human beings begin to take

responsibility for what they cannot, as well as what they can, control;

there is a sense in which the idea of sin, even at its most abject, is

hubristic. When the innocent submit to guilt and remorse, they can

strangely empower and energize themselves through the very abjection

which is also the expression of their impotence.