Oh my poor friend John. He is in dismay about his disease. Nosooner had he admitted to being an alcoholic than his sex addiction jumped up and amplified itself until he had to admit he was like them (the sex addicts) too. He is fit to be tied about how everything is getting worse. And forget about his gambling issues, the food/sugar factor and the fear of appearing stupid. What is a fellow supposed to do with such a pleonasma of dis-eases?
Health is the amount of disease we can transform: holistic health becomes a function of holistic disease. In the realm of the spirit, everything is always connected to its opposite.
We would like to fit our disease into the existing models of good science and common sense but the essence of our disease is not a well behaved phenomenon. Spiritual disease is essentially excessive and inherently transgressive. It exceeds our psycho-physical, mind/body, dualistic models of life and it transgresses all our simplistic codes of rational behavior and moral ideals. In its cunning, baffling and powerful way, our disease will actually use our fixation on ideals to create pathways that lead us deeper and deeper into insanity, like an anorexic’s pursuit of her ideal weight or a love addicts pursuit of the perfect relationship. In light of this we might be able to hear Nietzsche’s proposal that morality itself might turn out to be the danger of dangers, and that ultimately all our highest values must devaluate themselves. Our disease is profoundly a-rational, and we are officially looking to be restored to sanity.
Spiritual dis-ease is a hydra! It has many necks with many faces—but it has only one source: resentment! What could this mean?
“Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more (of us) than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” ~ Bill Wilson
“Resentment is the narcotic we cannot help desiring to deaden pain of any kind.” ~ Nietzsche
Pain is the touchstone of all spiritual growth. Why are we not lining up to touch the stone?
“with (us), whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit.” ~ Bill Wilson
“For that man be delivered from resentment: that is the bridge to the highest hope for me, and a rainbow after long storms.” ~ Nietzsche
What did this man Nietzsche know about resentment that he made it definitive of humanity so far, and virtually defined his misunderstood ‘overman’ as who we could become if we got beyond our resentfulness?
“The desire (of resentment) is to deaden a tormenting secret pain and to drive it out of consciousness, at least for the moment, and for that one requires an affect, as savage an affect as possible, and in order to excite that–any pretext at all.”
“We tear open our oldest wounds, we bleed from long healed scars, we make evil doers out of our friends, wives, children and whoever else stands closest to us…I suffer—someone must be to blame!” ~ Nietzsche
The philosophers tell us our disease is an expression of freedom.
When Kierkegaard wrote his masterwork on spiritual disease, The Sickness Unto Death,he declared that the disease was universal and that we simply couldn’t heal without the aid of a higher power. I don’t know if we can stand to hear such talk. We want to get better. Most of us certainly cannot hear him when, after describing the disease psychologically in terms of despair, he goes on to repeat his analysis again in more rigorously spiritual terms, using the word ‘sin’. We just cannot get our ears or our minds around such talk. We can hardly get our eyes to look at the words. We have deemed the words archaic and old fashioned. Perhaps we could simply re-deem the word ‘sin’ by returning it to its rootedness in the the verb ‘to be’ where it is especially related to the way of being considered ‘soothful’ i.e. truthful. Sin is a way of being.
sin (n.) Old English synn “moral wrongdoing, offense against God, misdeed,” from Proto-Germanic *sundjo (cf. Old Saxon sundia, Old Frisian sende, Middle Dutch sonde, GermanSünde “sin, transgression, trespass, offense”), probably ultimately “true” (cf. Gothicsonjis, Old Norse sannr “true”), from PIE *es-ont-, prp. of root *es- “to be” (see is).
Today we are no longer sinners, today we have ‘issues’.
“This is how it is, spiritually understood, with us human beings. We have a suspicion about ourselves; we gradually become conscious that we are not sober.” What did this man Kierkegaard know about spirit that allowed him to say this in 1850, in a piece titled,On Becoming Sober?
We debate about the ‘disease concept’, insisting on making the whole thing acceptable in terms of natural science. Nowadays one quotes ‘brain science’ like the very oracle itself. Brain science says there is no free will. Brain science says….well, what does brain science not say? ‘Neuro-‘ has become a prefix. Now we have neuro-philosophy and neuro-epistemology alongside neuroscience and, believe it or not there is even a powerful lobby for neuro-phenomenology. I’m sure someone has already coined the neologism neuro-politics. What can not be usurped with a prefix and a hyphen?
But what is a self respecting addict to do? Neuroscience has said there is no such thing as addiction even as it multiplies the symptoms and strains to write a DSM-V to determine which symptoms are officially fundable and prescribable. Spiritual disease, if there is such a thing, will have to be articulated in terms of the neural-correlate of consciousness, a very hard problem for the neuro-philosophers and neuroscientists. After all, physically, there are really only neurons firing. Addiction is probably like the color red or the sound of a trumpet, a subjective something or other that doesn’t really exist, like a sunset or a symphony, or a nightmare.
But my friend John cannot help going to massage parlors and eating sugar and worrying about going to hell for his behavior. He really loves his wife but does not have the nerve to tell her what he does because it will prove he doesn’t love her. No happy ending there.
(Originally Posted March 19, 2013)