The word “sin” comes from the Greek word Hamartia which means “missing the mark,” a term from the art of archery. We miss the mark when, instead of aiming for the source of true happiness, the Divine Presence, we pursue what Thomas Keating refers to as our “programs for happiness” that will ultimately deplete or harm us spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, intellectually and even physically. Missing the mark is a normal part of human evolution and awakening, especially in the context of life as school. As consciousness and intention awaken in us, we grow in awareness of all the ways we are asleep.
“What does missing the mark actually involve? It presupposes a target, and the center of the target, which is called the bull’s eye. … The purpose of the art of archery is to hit the target every time, or to get as close to doing so as possible. … What would be the proper response to missing the bull’s-eye if you were an apprentice? Obviously, try again. … That is all you have to do. … It is a skill to be learned gradually, and it is learned by adjusting the body, the nerves, the muscles, and the tension of the string and its relation to the arrow. … The right effort goes into the preparation and the skills to be attained. Once they are attained, the archer scarcely has to look at the bull’s eye. … In other words, to allow the divine energy to work through us through the preparation that has been done through many, many failures. We are not relying on our own skill to do this, but on becoming an instrument at one with the divine action that is manifesting in this particular skill. Only now the skill is in the service of others and responding to the events of life, whether eating, sleeping, drinking, walking, working, thinking, talking, playing. In the spiritual journey, purity of intention and the love of God enable us to hit the target in each of our daily activities, effortlessly.”
-Thomas Keating, “Sin,” Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ
“[A] man who acts only from Truth, from doctrine, from ritual, sins … [that is] misses the whole idea of the teaching about inner evolution, about re-birth, about regeneration. He misses the whole point of the Gospels. Consider for a moment all those who, historically, have acted from Truth without goodness. Consider religious history … When Good comes first, a man acts from mercy and grace. Then he is made whole. When he is whole, he no longer misses the mark. When Jesus is parting from the man whom he has healed [at the Pool of Bethesda], he says to him: ‘Behold, thou are made whole; sin no more.'”
-Maurice Nicoll, The New Man