Augustine describes it thus: “The soul died when it was left alone, by God, as a body will die when it is left by the soul.” The soul, which, religiously speaking is dead, has consequently lost its control over the body. And in the moment in which this happened, the other side of sin becomes actual. The beginning is pride, or turning to oneself, or hybris, separation from God and turning to oneself. The consequence is concupiscence, the infinite endless desire. The word concupiscentia , concupiscence, desire, libido, (in the forms in which modern psychology uses it) has two meanings in Augustine: the universal meaning, the turning towards the movable goods, those goods which change and disappear; but it has also a narrower sense, namely in the natural, sexual desire, which is accompanied by shame. This ambiguity of the term concupiscence has been repeated by the ambiguity of Freud’s term libido. It is the same situation in Augustine. Both terms are meant universally, the desire to fulfill one’s own being with the abundance of reality. And because of the predominant power of the sexual desire among all other desires, it has received, in both Augustine and Freud, the meaning of sexual desire, and out of this ambiguity innumerable consequences followed. From this followed, for instance in Freud, his puritanism, his depreciation of sex, his bourgeois suppression; and on the: other hand, the revelation of this situation. But he never found a solution to the problem – either suppressing or getting rid of it. And since you cannot get rid of it, according to Freud, you have the desire to death, the death-instinct, as he calls it, which is the necessary answer to the endlessness of desire. In Protestantism, as in all Catholicism first, the ambiguity of the term concupiscence had the ascetic consequences in all its different forms up to the most extreme and disgusting forms. The Reformers tried to reestablish the dignity of the sexual, but did it only in a limited way. They never completely followed through their own principles against the Roman church. Therefore, as every theologian can tell you who knows a little about the history of moral behavior and the history of ethical theory in Protestantism, in this point Christianity is very much uncertain and has produced no satisfactory answer to this question implied in human existence. This has something to do with the ambiguity of Augustine’s concept of concupiscentia.
The sin of Adam is original sin, for two reasons. We all inhabited.. potentially, in Adam, namely in his procreative power, and in this way we participated in his free decision and thus are guilty. This again is of course myth, and a very questionable myth.
Secondly, he introduced libido, desire, concupiscence, into the process of sexual generation, and this element was given by heredity to all the others. Everybody is born out of the evil of sexual desire. Original sin in everybody is, as in Adam, first of all spiritual sin, sin of the soul. But it is also bodily sm, and Augustine had great difficulties in uniting the spiritual character of sin in everybody with the heritage- character which comes from Adam.
In this way everybody belongs to a “mass of perdition,” to a unity of negativity, and the most striking consequence of this is that even the little infants who die early are lost. Since everybody, by hereditary sin, belongs to the mass of perdition, nobody is saved who is not saved by a special act of God. This is the most powerful emphasis on the unity of’ mankind in the tragedy of sin. He denies, in this way, most radically and almost in the sense of his Manichaean past, the freedom in the individual personality. The embracing unity makes us what we are. Now if we look at our modern research into depth psychology and depth sociology, we probably are able to understand better than our fathers did what Augustine means, namely the inescapable participation in human existence, in a social structure and in an individual psychological structure, whether we call it neurotic or something else; it is something which we can see better today. The question which is put before us, of course, is:” What about the participation of the individual in guilt ?, and there is no answer to this in the context of Augustine.