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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Spirituality: Addiction as a false spiritual quest?

Recently, I read Theodore Dalrymple's book, Romancing Opiates (2006), which offers a look at the real roots of addiction. He notes,
Man is the only creature capable of self-destruction , and only man decides in full consciousness to do what is bad, even fatal, for him. Freud’s death wish may be mere speculation, an abstract construct conjured from air, but no one with the slightest acquaintance with the human race could possibly conclude that human beings always pursue their own best interest by means of rational calculation. The primrose path to perdition never ceases to attract...
That, of course, is precisely why we will never understand ourselves if we try to use apes or computers as models. Picture a chimpanzee deciding "I am no good at being an ape and I feel I must end it all," and you will see what I mean. In any event, he goes on to say,
... to conceive of opiate addiction as a disease seems, after my experience with thousands of drug addicts, to me to miss the fundamental point about it: that it is a moral or spiritual condition that will never yield to medical treatment, so called.
This is a very literate way of explaining a situation often explained - as Dalrymple says - by recovered addicts in a much simpler way: "I just didn't want to live that way any more." In my view, that is a form of spiritual experience - to discover that one need not live "that way" any more.

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