I ask because, following a recent visit to the theatre to watch Dr Faustus- an excellent version put on by Off Topic Theatre- I started to ponder how virtuous today’s society really is. As such, this is the first of a series of blogs looking at the seven deadly sins. Take heed, dear reader, as you may score more highly than you think you will.
Faustus was an ordinary man, said to be “base of stock”, with an insatiable appetite for knowledge. With this knowledge came position and also boredom, coupled with what I would term a superiority complex, which made him look down on his knowledge and desire something more edgy.
He took a fancy to the dark arts, with a particular fascination for necromancy. With the support of a magician, a witch-crafter and a bad angel, Faustus believed he could summon the devil and indeed tried, but it was the devil’s servant who appeared.
With the help of this servant, Faustus made a contract with the devil, signed in blood. The contract gave Faustus 24 years of life on earth with the power of magic bestowed upon him. At the end of this 24 years, Faustus was to give his soul to the devil for whatever eternity the devil deemed suitable.
The devil even entertained Faustus with the personification of the seven deadly sins, a warning of what was to come for him at the end of his contract, but Faustus, heady with his newfound abilities, just laughed, seeing them as folly instead of the warnings they were.
Faustus, giddy with power, spent his years wasting it, despite having entered into the contract with the attitude that he could do anything. Yes, it gave him great fame, but he used the power for pranks rather than to do anything worthwhile.
It was only when his contract term was up that Faustus realised what he had done and tried to repent, but it was far too late for that and his soul was dragged off to hell. A contract is a contract, after all.
My synopsis of the play is that “the grass isn’t always greener”.
Wanting more than you have and being prepared to do anything to get it, isn’t a new philosophy as Faustus has shown us, but is the risk of your soul being condemned to hell as scary a prospect as it used to be, when the church was able to wield such threats and beat you into obedience?
How many of you have betrayed a friend, lied on a CV or slept with someone you shouldn’t….all to get what you wanted? Be honest. Is this not the modern day version of selling your soul?
To do any of the above, you will have committed one or more of the seven deadly sins. Sorry, dear reader, but it’s true.
The seven deadly sins, capital vices or mortal sins are pride, greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, envy and wrath, and were immortalised in the iconic film 7, with Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey.
They represent abusive or excessive versions of a person’s natural tendencies. For example, gluttony abuses your desire to eat.
The Catholic Church used to use the deadly sins to try and stop a person’s inclination towards evil, focusing on pride and greed, as these were seen as the sins that underlie all others. Why? When you understand what pride and greed really represent, you will understand, dear reader.
In Dante’s Purgatory, penitents are depicted being group according to the worst capital sin that they committed in life. Being a multiple sinner, clearly is also not a new phenomenon!
The sins can be grouped into three categories, and over the next few months, we’ll be looking at each of these categories in turn:
- Lustful Appetite – gluttony, lust and greed
- Irascibility – wrath
- Mind Corruption – sloth, pride and envy.
Dante describes all the sins, except sloth, as perverse or corrupt versions of love for something. Lust, gluttony and greed represent excessive or disordered love of good things. Wrath, envy and pride are seen as a perverted kind of love, which is directed at causing harm to someone. Sloth, on the other hand, is seen by Dante as a deficiency of love.
In the seven deadly sins, we find seven different ways of eternal damnation and death. Take a look at the list, dear reader, and ponder your life so far. I challenge any one of you not to have committed at least one sin from each grouping.
Wondering what your punishment in purgatory will be? From next month you’ll start to find out, so be prepared, for all the desires of your heart may end up being the downfall of your soul.
May fear protect you when the darkness comes.
Til next time.