a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path. -- Psalms 119:105
In the mundane world it is not always obvious why knowledge about the inner nature of man is of material benefit. The struggle for existence -- making a living, dealing with disease, death, adversities of myriad forms -- overwhelms and disheartens, making philosophical discussion seem redundant. Yet for eons the wise and brave have all attributed their strength to inner qualities, many stating that they are not unique; the solution to all ills being imbedded in the heart of all things, not least within the heart of mankind. Understanding our potential as humans with a divine aspect slumbering within -- like the Sleeping Beauty just waiting to be kissed into action -- gives us courage and direction to tackle the thorny task of changing ourselves.
The twelve step program of Alcoholics Anonymous requires recognition of a divinity in life. Since there is no dogmatic interpretation as to how the divinity should be perceived, each recovering addict must accept the reality of his/her own "divinity," whether as God or, in a more abstract form, as an ever-present influence to be relied on totally, a guide, support, and comforter, giving courage and strength -- especially in the battle against addiction, a disease of relapse.
For a friend this step caused a great problem. Having decided that a white-bearded God was unacceptable, no alternative seemed to be apparent. During a discussion on this point several issues presented themselves as to the nature of addiction, and I was asked what I thought about it all. My reply was personal.
We discussed choice: the fact that to choose there had to be more than one point of view. That we had more than one voice in our head, one suggesting we take this course of action, the other telling us not to, and a third -- the "doer," ourself -- having to decide which course to take, thus proving that we are more complex than just being "me." Accepting this, we then examined the quality of the "voices" and agreed that one was more self-expedient, the other more impersonal and wiser.
The division of ourselves as not just a body enfolding the self (the doer) was thus established. To expand on this, we discussed the sevenfold nature of sentient beings: the fact that we had a body, a mold or model body keeping the material form in shape, vitality, a desire principle impelling us to action, a mind where all external and internal information is processed, a purer, more sublime part, where thoughts of altruism and love seemed to come from and, finally, divinity, the true spiritual core and source of life itself.
This was quite logical to my friend and the reality of a living divinity within everything was no longer as problematical as before. This did not, however, solve the burning question my friend now had as to why addiction caused such aberrated behavior; after all, if we had a divine aspect within, what had happened to it? I suggested that sometimes we put a heavy muffler between the doer and the voice of our better self, the divine influence. Further, it seemed to me, alcohol and drugs corrupt our ability to function in the higher, more spiritual part of our nature. To support this fact I pointed out what addiction had done to my friend and all the other patients in the rehabilitation center -- what depths of despair and degradation had preceded this latest trip to the hospital.
Again this made perfect sense to my friend, yet a final hurdle remained: if all this was true, good and well, but why should the effort be made to conquer the addiction? We both knew that addiction is a disease of relapse and that it would take a lifetime of effort and commitment to remain "clean and sober." Throughout life, in times of stress, recourse to the support of other recovering addicts might be needed -- so why try? My friend had previously become acquainted with the concept of reincarnation, so it was easy to enlarge on the subject -- that everything, smallest particle to largest galaxy, was an evolving conscious entity. We are travelers through time and space, alternating periods of rest and activity allowing internal growth to take place, with experience to be gained, garnered, and stored in the folds of each entity.
The "wiser" voice from the example we had used earlier was now seen to be partly knowledge gained through experience (perhaps better known as our conscience), as well as intuitional promptings from our indwelling divinity. Because we are the receptacle for all our thoughts and actions, the quality of what we do is clearly very important. Since we will never be able to leave ourselves behind, not tackling a problem now only means that we will have to overcome it tomorrow or the next day -- even if the next day comes in another life.
We had talked a long time and the diagram I had drawn of the sevenfold nature lay on the table -- divinity at the head. Between the divine aspects and the mind I had drawn a line to illustrate the clouding that had taken place during the phases of addiction -- in effect showing how the inner god had been shut out of the heart. For a while we studied the drawing, then a light I had not seen before was kindled in my friend's eyes and I was vehemently asked: "Why haven't I been told this before? I need to know!"
Postscript: Happily, rehabilitation continues and life for my friend is cherished in a new and meaningful way.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1994; copyright © 1994 Theosophical University Press)