In terms of innate potentiality, we are a totally depraved species. I have little trouble admitting as much. There is not a single one of us incapable given the right confluence of circumstances of unspeakable evil, both inadvertent and intentional.
The foreground of consciousness is like an iceberg floating on a sea of unknowing. What we know we know and what we think we think is a vanishingly small part of the whole scope of those predetermined and cultured drives, shaped or instinctive inhibitions, preconceptions, prejudices, preoccupations, and predicated impulses that lie buried beneath the surface of a world that we wholly hallucinate into mental existence.
Our will is as much a psychological deceit as it an experiential reality. What constitutes our thoughts is no thing of solidity or fixity but a river that never ceases in its movement, each thought an independent flash of existence, a reimpression of an impression of an impression of an impression run through a predictive perceptual engine on a crude sense scaffold encrusted with accretions, such that what we experience is the product of processes that preexist the moment, the very instant of sense, the very point of conscious thought.
What our minds design to ignore is an amassment near limitlessly greater than what ever passes into our awareness. In those unknown shadows lies the capacity for so many things we cannot even begin to imagine. We are totally depraved insofar as we are irretrievably of our own powers incapable of banishing finally these demons of portent potency.
That it is difficult to accept this is not difficult to understand, for it elicits a great existential dread and paralyzing fear of our dark and cavernous unknowns. The very mechanisms which contain the powers to conceive this truth about ourselves are always urgently attempting to submerge these considerations of their own integrity. It is the making of madness and despair.
Without the pretense of hope, a dogged belief in belief, an acceptance of graces and benevolences and saving acts beyond all powers and principalities, most especially those that move within all of us, unknown to us, acting upon us without consent, without mandate.
Something, Someone who transcends our inner void of horrors and enters into it and harrows it and liberates it from the encrippling paralysis of knowledge, not its content but the faculty itself. I happen to believe that the entity that fulfills that wholly imagined role is Jesus Christ, the second person of the undivided Trinity. I don’t expect others to believe in this myth, this myth which I hold fast is the Myth made true, made real.
Hume said that we “suppose two distinct species of men, the good and the bad. But the greatest part of mankind float betwixt vice and virtue.” At the surface, at the level of consciousness, we are neither good nor bad, neither moral nor immoral, neither virtuous nor vicious. We are an entanglement of both suspended in ocean of possibilities and probabilities, so much of that being entirely random and totalizingly outside of our control. But we are depraved in nature, fallen outside of the bounds of perfect goodness and full knowledge. And that is something that we must reckon with, that we must try to accept.
If the events of the past week, if the events of the past fifty years, if the events of the past four hundred years teach us anything, it is that human beings do not move ever and necessarily forward from goodness to greater goodness. There is no moral arc on which path we are ever trodding. If our history tells us anything, it is that of our own powers we are ever subject to the same essential possibilities, that who we think we are is never the whole or even the larger part of the story, and that we will float between virtue and vice, sometimes collectively achieving an abundance of one over the other, sometimes merely experiencing an abundance of one over a great and hidden sin, sometimes activating the worst parts of us in horrific and far-reaching and transgenerational crimes.
But the moral universe that we live in is the always now. There is no before and there is no after. This is always the decisive act, the transformative event in this moment and at this moment alone.
Let us try to be kind, let us try to be compassionate, and let us try to accept the brokenness of all of us by acknowledging the brokenness within each of us.