The Seven Sins

Seven holy paths to hell

- Lyrics in Iron Maiden’s "Moonchild" song -

It might be surprising to learn that, despite the thin line that separates them, self-confidence is commonly encouraged while pride is one of the human seven deadly sins. Besides this belief of oneself to be better or more important than others, the desire for something that is not yours or the unwillingness to do any work is all deemed to be among the most serious evils inside the human souls.

The list of seven deadly sins introduced in the 6th century AD by Pope Gregory the Great consists of gluttony, lust, greed, pride, sloth, wrath and envy. This concept dates back to the works of Evagrius Ponticus, a 4th century monk, in which eight evil thoughts of human was listed in Greek. Each of these deadly sins corresponds to an opposite, forming the seven holy virtues (which are sometimes called the contrary virtues). The seven holy virtues in parallel order to their corresponding sins are temperance, chastity, charity, humility, diligence, patience and kindness.

The seven deadly sins are part of Christian ethics regarding the evil vices. Also referred to as the cardinal sins or the capital vices, they have been the Christian guidelines for the moral path to follow, the sinful behaviours to abstain from and the terrors awaiting any wrong doers. According to the Catholic Church belief, sins can be classified into two categories, one of the relatively minor venial sins and one of the more serious mortal sins. The mortal sins are believed to violate the vital principles within ourselves, such as charity, and the performers of such sins shall therefore deserve eternal damnation. Depending on the circumstances, a "deadly sin" can be venial or mortal, but all of them are seen as "capital" or the origin of other sins.

As early as the 14th century, these seven deadly sins have been frequently used as a theme for songs, artworks, movies etc. This has helped spread the Catholic consciousness of the wrongful actions throughout the world. Among the various artworks on this topic, Hieronymus Bosch’s "The Seven Sins and the Four Last Rites" (1480) received the most attention. Actually painted on a wooden table top with a round composition, the painting requires viewers to look down upon it and gaze at it from all sides. Besides the middle circle depicting all the seven deadly sins are the four possible points of condemnation or salvation in the four corners: confession of a dying man, the Last Judgement, Hell, and Heaven. Yet, the most haunting feature of this work is that, looking at a distance, its composition forms a great eye that stares straight back at us. It symbolizes the eye of God, who watches our every single action and knows just when you fall into sin. As a strong reminder of this belief, there is also a Latin inscription written at the centre of the eye that reads "Cave, cave dues videt", meaning:

Beware, beware, God is watching you.

@Kevin La