Author Topic: The Truth from Bo S site  (Read 2689 times)

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Offline Monkey

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The Truth from Bo S site
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2011, 09:56:55 AM »
 
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THIS IS THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH SO HELP ME THE W.S.O., INC. (AND THEIR FINE ATTORNEYS) ABOUT THE BIRTH OF THE FREE BASIC TEXT BETTER KNOWN AS THE 'BABY BLUE.'

I know, I know, some of you have probably heard and innocently believed one of the different rumors and lies that have been floating around for years about who was responsible for first printing the Free Basic Text, better known in some circles as the dastardly 'Baby Blue.' But, where did it really happen? Why was it really done? Who did it? What are the REAL facts?

Most of those who think they know, think that is was all done by Grateful Dave, may he rest in peace. After all, wasn't it Grateful Dave who was actually sued in Federal Court by our own World Service Office, Inc and their fine attorneys? WSO Inc. actually misspent thousands upon unknown thousands of our 'dollars in the basket', without even attempting to obtain the Fellowships' conscience, in order to try to prove in court (how spiritual!) that our Basic Text and indeed all of our Literature and intellectual property really belonged to them, the World Service Office, Inc., by virtue of copyright. Those who continue to try to govern us arbitrarily instead of serving us keep insisting that it does not belong to us, the N.A. Fellowship at large. However, the members who wrote our literature always intended that it would always be freely ours, we know because they told us.

Those same 'dollars in the basket' which you and I donated to help carry the message to the suffering addict, were also misused by the WSO, Inc. in a Fellowship wide, slanderous propaganda campaign against Grateful Dave and his 'gang of evil cohorts' accusing all those involved in printing and giving away free N.A. Literature of high treason against N.A. and of attempting to destroy our beloved World Service Office, Inc. by taking away their well earned profits! But that is another story. Maybe someday, someone will write a detailed account of that exercise in fear, manipulation and control (WSO, Inc. at its best!).

We also remember with great sadness the time when the main speaker at our World Convention in Portland stood right on that podium and spewing arrogance and hatred slandered and berated Big Lou P., God rest his soul, intimating that it was Big Lou who was the evil force behind the Free Basic Text and the attempted destruction of WSO, Inc. And so it goes on and on, many other dedicated members all over the country received threatening letters from the WSO, Inc. and their lawyers warning them to cease and desist or they would all face litigation.

Well, as one who was there and involved at the time I can tell you that the way this whole thing really began was as follows. There were some totally committed and very well informed members in the South Dade Area of the then Florida Region (soon to become the liberated South Florida Region) who were fervently looking for some kind of Spiritual solution to the problems that had surfaced at the time with relation to the purity of message content, quality and most of all, the cost of our literature.

On the one hand the Fourth and Fifth Edition fiasco was still very fresh in our minds. Just in case you have never heard about this important part in our history, about 9 years ago the WSO, Inc. had printed and distributed to the unsuspecting Fellowship, the 'gutted' Fourth Edition of the Basic Text. Then, even after they got caught red handed and forced to stop by the Fellowship at large, and exhibiting a large measure of their customary arrogance, they still refused to follow the Fellowship's desire to return to the last approved edition, the Third Revised.

Instead, they went ahead and rammed the Fifth Edition through the WSC without sending it back to the Fellowship for the input and review process which would have been the only sane course of action to follow under those questionable circumstances. They then slapped a five year moratorium on the Basic Text so that the Fellowship could not force them to also throw out the Fifth Edition like they had the Fourth.

At the same time, more and more of the home groups in our Area and as it became apparent afterwards, many other areas and regions were suffering financially due to the exorbitantly inflated prices that were being charged for all our literature by the Florida Regional Service Office Incorporated and the World Service Office, Incorporated. The only way our areas and regions could pay for the services that helped carry our message was to generate funds artificially through merchandise sales and fundraising dances, picnics, conventions, etc. The Spiritual Principle of the Seventh Tradition wsa being strangulated by the ignorance and greed that the corporations we had formed were exhibiting. The over ruling priority ws the survival of the corporations, Spiritual Principles be damned. The welfare of the suffering addict and the N.A. Groups be damned! The Corporation MUST survive at all costs. We had created a monster and the disease was using that monster to destroy us! The tail was wagging the dog! We had had enough of money, property and prestige! It was time to take action!

It is a well known fact that for services to be most effective they must be provided as close to the need as possible. If a group can provide a particular service, then as area has no business being involved. If as area can better provide a service, then a region should not be involved, etc., etc. And yet, here was the least important service body, the WSO, Inc. which sits at the very bottom of our inverted pyramid structure draining every last resource from the groups, areas and regions, and therefore the World Service Conference. In this very senario, the proper and logical fund flow of the Seventh Tradition, from member to group, group to area, area to region and only then, from the region on to the WSC, gets totally distorted. What to do? How to make sure that anyone who could not afford to pay the 4 or 5 hundred percent profit (and even more in some cases) for OUR OWN literature could still be able to have access to it.

As one possible solution to our problem and armed with the sincere knowledge that our N.A. literature (up to that point) had been written freely by addicts for addicts and that it belongs and will always belong freely to any N.A. member and to no-one else, and that no corporation, especiallyone we had created ourselves had the right to rape us at will, a couple of members of that group (I was one of them, so you are getting this story first hand, this is not hearsay or propaganda) decided to take the bull by the horns and try to reduce our costs as much as possible so that we could continue to support our services based on the Spiritual foundation of generosity and self-support.

Because our God always gives us what we need, it just so happened that another home group members was working at a print shop at the time, so we took a Basic Text, tore off page by page, pasted it back up and made a master (without the stories) so that we could print is as inexpensively as possible. We used the Third Edition Revised because that we the last Edition that had actually been circulated throughout the whole Fellowship for approval. The Fourth and Fifth Editions were never even seen or approved by the Fellowhsip. And so we did it, printed it, the first 'Baby Blue' ever to see the light of day - did so about nine years ago right here in Miami, Florida.

We experimented widely, tried different methods of binding, varied designs and wordings on the cover itself: "FREE BASIC TEXT", "SUPPORT YOUR HOME GROUP", "FELLOWSHIP APPROVED", etc. We also tried different colors on the cover: white, light brown, and various shades of blue until we settled on "Baby Blue".

Once we had a book we were happy with, we started printing as many Free Basic Texts as we could with our very limited resources and giving them away for FREE. We gave them to the prison system and to state and county run treatment centers, detoxes, etc. One area gave some to each of their groups at area service and we started giving them away individually, one on one to all newcomers or to anyone who wanted and needed one.

The idea started to catch fire and very soon other individual members, groups and even areas started printing their own Free Basic Texts and other N.A. literature too: information pamphlets, white books, Grey Forms, etc., etc.

To date, many other variations of the "Baby Blue" Free Basic Text have been and some are still being produced: "The Colorado Resentment Baby Red", "London Lime Baby Green", "Georgia Baby Peach." I have seen and have in my archives right now Free Basic Texts with Yellow covers, Purple covers, Brown covers, White covers, and I am sure there are some others around that I have never seen. There was even a home group called O.D.O.P. in the South Broward Area, South Florida Region, that produced a Fifth Edition of the Free Basic Text with a white cover. They also printed their own Information Pamphlets. There is also a "Baby Grey" available to all.

Well, there you have it, there is a lot more to this story but here at least, for the first time in print, are the real circumstances that necessitated the creation of the Free Basic Text "Baby Blue."

Please always remember that WE are N.A. and that WE own the literature. It is our legacy from the addicts who wrote it for us. Any one of us can, at any time, reproduce it for our own use and no corporation can stop us!

- from a member in South Florida

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Copyright © 1997 Beaux Art - Updated 11/11/97
The Power and Limitations of Belief
     God speaks to us and through us.  Or, there is no God.  We are
powerful beings, little lower than the angels.  Or, we are weak, sinful
beings, prisoners of our pasts, our genetics, our upbringing, perhaps our
destiny.

      All of these statements are merely beliefs.  While some of them
appeal to us more than others, and while those who hold them tend to assume
them as universal truths, they are only self-evident to those who believe
in them.  Since they depend upon other beliefs for evidence, which
themselves are not provable as axioms or laws of creation, the assumption
that everyone (or at least all the "right kind of people") shares these
beliefs is dangerous and unfounded.

     Many people who pride themselves on a rigorous mental discipline and a
vigorous intellect would be surprised if they really knew how many of their
assumptions about reality are supported by belief rather than fact.  We
humans seem to have an innate mental function which uses beliefs to model
the universe in our minds, and provides framework assumptions that help us
make sense of the unexpected or unfamiliar.  Our beliefs provide a
"temporary peg" on which to hang our reality, or to rationalize those
inconsistencies that defy our concept of reality.

     This is not to say that all beliefs are wrong; far from it.  Good
beliefs have made humane and successful societies and lives possible.
Believing in such principles as justice, equality, mercy, liberty,
responsibility, the brotherhood of man, our duty to a stewardship of
nature, etc. are signs of a healthy conscience that might permit humanity
to survive.  One might say that these beliefs can co-exist with most other
beliefs, such as religious or political views -- though not always.  For
instance, if people believe in the imminent end of history and this world,
they might consider things like preserving nature to be irrelevant.

     If human history teaches us anything, it's that human beings are
capable of believing anything.  People have believed that sacrificing
virgins or even their own children might appease the gods and guarantee a
good harvest.  They have believed that certain ethnic groups were evil,
damned, the spawn of the devil.  They have believed beautiful and wonderful
things; but they have also believed that their deities had called upon them
to do evil and heinous things.  They have believed in devils that acted
like gods and gods that acted like devils.

     Beliefs can be astonishingly powerful.  They can alter brain
chemistry.  A woman who believes that a pot of coffee is actually decaf can
drink three cups and fall asleep.  A man in a state of shock can perform
feats of superhuman strength because, for a few moments, he doesn't realize
that he can't.  People in a church service or rally can raise energy that
is palpable and unmistakable even to a non-believer.  Yet these are powers
of the mind; they can do surprising things, though they don't alter the
laws of chemistry or physics.

     Though the spiritual sense seems to be universal to humans, what
people think they see when they use their spiritual sense depends very much
on their beliefs.  (For example, the near-death experience seems utterly
similar around the world; but the deity one sees in the white light at the
end of the tunnel is a product of one's culture.)  Even people who theore-
tically subscribe to the same theology may see their god in very different
ways, (e.g. one angry, one caring,) depending on their own character,
temper and personal belief systems.  The human race is capable of adopting
whatever beliefs appeal to them, and then making a "false god" of those
beliefs.  It is as though human minds were like movie projectors, capable
of projecting a god-concept into the sky, and then worshiping or praying to
their own projection!

     In addition to their spiritual yearning, people also have a
subconscious mind.  It isn't usually apparent to them, because it operates
below the level of consciousness.  It stores our memories, beliefs, life
programs.  Like a computer, it has vast storage capacity but no ability to
judge or discern; that is left to the conscious, critical, rational mind.
The subconscious uncritically carries all our assumptions, prejudices,
myths, archetypes, and childhood tapes about the nature of social and
cosmic reality.  While at any time the ideas deposited in the subconscious
could be reprogrammed through hypnosis, meditation, religious and/or
spiritual experiences, psychedelic drugs, or high-energy therapeutic or
envisioning techniques, most folks just don't like to change very much.
They don't want to.  Most people love their beliefs and assumptions, and
most importantly they believe that their beliefs are true.  And they feel
threatened or insulted by the suggestion that their beliefs might be false,
or might not really be serving them well.  People can be so attached to a
belief that they'll hold on to it, even when it's killing them.

     Back in 1990, I attended a group hypnosis for smoking cessation.  The
hypnotist told us that we all use self-hypnosis every day.  We are always
reprogramming our subconscious; we are always giving our subconscious mind
suggestions; we're just most of us not very good at it.  He said, "You've
been telling yourself, 'Ah, I'd love to quit smoking -- but I don't think I
can; it's too hard, I feel weak, impotent, etc.'  And your subconscious
believes everything you tell it!  The reason I make a living doing this is,
I know the right suggestions."

     He used an induction designed for deep relaxation and heightened
receptivity and awareness; and offered those ideas, suggestions and beliefs
that would work practically to reprogram the mind toward non-smoking.  I
had one uncomfortable day, but I never smoked again.  I was able to absorb
new beliefs that made recovery possible.  Most of all, I stopped believing
that I was a hopeless smoker.

     I know a man who proudly insists that he doesn't believe in anything.
Yet he must believe that he is a hopeless smoker, because he won't stop.
He is certain that he can't.  He won't even fly, because that would mean
not being able to smoke.  Rarely have I witnessed such a deeply-held
belief!

     Having shared beliefs (or at least presuming that others share one's
beliefs) can have even greater reinforcing power than individual beliefs.
People seem to have a security need in "belonging."  Knowing that one is
part of a special group, and accepted as a full member, is very gratifying
to most humans.  While all groups will have certain shared values in
common, (such as the shared beliefs in freedom and the rule of law in a
constitutional democracy,) some groups depend entirely for their existence
on shared beliefs.  This is particularly true of religious groups, because
their predicates or axioms of belief are not directly or scientifically
provable.  To "buy the whole package," so to speak, one must suspend
disbelief and squelch any rational misgivings about inconsistencies or
mystic assumptions that might underpin the belief system.

     The big advantage for many members in doing so is that you get to be
"saved," or some similar rewarding idea; in many such belief systems, the
delicious sense of belonging to an exclusive club is augmented by the
belief that those who do not share it are "damned," or some similar
punishing idea.  So not only are those "in the know" favored by God, but
also those who are "dwelling in darkness" are deprived of that favor.  This
gives rise to such absurdities as the kindly old fundamentalist lady
opining, "Wasn't Mr. Gandhi a wonderful person?  Isn't it a shame that he's
burning in hell?"

     When even the saintliest people have no place in heaven because they
failed to agree with you, you are playing God, or telling God what to do.
While everyone is entitled to the God-concept (or lack of one) of their
choice, it seems that theologies do more than divide people.  They seem to
provide ways to dehumanize people.  After all, if somebody isn't "saved,"
why would you believe anything else they say?  And if you believe that you
are the chosen and they are the disposable, what's to stop you from using
them as pawns in your own little game?  Just this approach is shown by some
American fundamentalists who are supporting Israel -- but whose real agenda
is to have Israel fight the battle of Armageddon in the upcoming "end
times."  If Israel has to be sacrificed, that's just the "unfortunate price
to be paid to fulfill prophecy."  Never mind whether they share a belief in
that prophecy, or would rather live in peace than act or die in someone
else's end-of-the-world fantasy.

     Just in this century, people have believed in nazism, communism,
fascism, and some other very destructive isms.  Their fervor has been every
bit as absolute as any religionist's, but their rapaciousness is usually
not constrained as much, due to lack of a "religious moral code."  All
"true believers" are capable of heinous and inhuman acts, because they can
pretend that their victims are less than human.  Whether they shift their
responsibility to following orders, or the good of the collective, or the
fatherland, the clergy or God, people in the grip of a flawed belief system
will justify any enormity through the distorted lens of their beliefs.

     The main reason people are so easily manipulated by flawed belief
systems is that they are not on the lookout.  Most people have too little
experience in history, psychology, theology, philosophy, logic, meditative
disciplines and self-study to understand their susceptibility to "belief
control," let alone want to change it.  It frequently surprises newly-
minted psychologists and clergymen just how dead-set people can get in
their beliefs, and just how resistant to change they can be.  Not only do
people love their beliefs, but they love to be swept away by them!  It is a
socially-approved way of "living in fantasyland."  The Hamas suicide bomber
of unarmed shoppers not only knows that his village will celebrate his
sacrifice, and his cohorts will approve of his suicide and murder -- he
also has convinced himself utterly that his bloodthirsty deed has guaran-
teed him an immediate entry to heaven!  This is not the result of godly
faith, but of twisted belief.  In an environment where rigid and fanatical
beliefs are approved of, the most rigid and extreme believers set the pace.
     While common parlance doesn't make a clear distinction between
"belief" and "faith," such a distinction is sorely needed.  One could say
that "belief" is a grasping-place, a temporary hold on an invisible
handrail through shifting reality; while "faith" is a deep knowing and
alignment with a primary spiritual Force.  Some call this force God, or the
Tao, or Brahman, or the All.  It seems less important what you call it,
than that you call ON it.  Simple faith is an active act of alignment with
an unseen but deeply experienced universal power.  Belief is a series of
ideas designed to explain that power.  Faith is more a reliance on or
surrender to spirit; belief is more a game of "name it and you can have
it."  (As though having the most accurate description of God might somehow
best qualify you to know God.)  Faith empowers the soul; belief gives away
one's power of self-determination to a projection of the mind.  Faith is
built upon love, wisdom, awareness and courage.  Belief is built upon the
suspension of disbelief.  The faithful keep the faith by living upright
lives; believers defend their beliefs by defeating or at least demonizing
non-believers.  (You can already see the need for two divergent words; some
people have been called "defenders of the faith" due to their skill at
murdering infidels.)

     This distinction puts "belief" at the service of religion, and "faith"
at the service of spirituality.  Religion (from L. "ligare," to bind, same
root as ligament or ligature) is a thread of beliefs which bind together
the common values of a community.  Rather than beat up your neighbor over
what he believes, you can band together and clobber the neighboring village
over their wrong beliefs!  (And meanwhile swipe their cattle, gold and
wives.)  Great religions do become more than mere mythologies or cults,
because they begin to enable a more universal moral code and spiritual
sensibility; but religions are constructed for conformity, not self-
discovery.  At best, they define the half-way mark between superstition and
spirituality.  They marry grand belief systems with processes for inducing
thrilling hypnotic states.  They can take you to the threshold of a
spiritual awakening, but they can't carry you through.

     Genuine spirituality can be found among some adherents to religious
faiths.  But it is not dependent upon those faiths.  Religious training is
like a baby bird learning to fly.  Once the bird finds the power in
himself, he takes off and soars, and no further training is needed.  It
seems that many people find security at staying in the nest, so they remain
grounded even if they know how to fly.

     Spirituality can be likened to the metamorphosis of a butterfly.
Rather than look for more food outside oneself, the spiritual seeker turns
inward, brings the nagging and insistent mind to a stop, and seeks to
change inside.  When he discovers the presence of the universal power
within, and allows it to change him from a narrow selfish person to a
beautiful, loving and radiant being, he breaks out of the confining shell
and becomes an object of amazement and joy to those who see him fly.

     Spirituality does not depend on one set of beliefs; indeed, to become
spiritually liberated often depends much more on unlearning what one has
learned.  In particular, it seems to require the shedding of useless
beliefs.  Artificial separations and distinctions, old hates and
resentments, self-limiting and self-destructive concepts, and worn-out
childish neuroses, all have to go.  The spiritual seeker has to become
willing to forego the old and comfortable, if he is to find the awakening
and liberation he seeks.  Often, though not always, this requires the
shedding of the skin of old religion.

     Sadly, religion per se has no interest in the liberation of souls IN
THIS WORLD.  Though they might have a hard time admitting it, most
religions depend upon the dependence of the followers.  They possess both
the disease and the cure; they offer salvation, just "later."  They do not
grow or become rich from people finding their own illumination or their own
path to God; they prosper by getting their adherents to depend on a
priesthood to pass on their third- or fourth-hand revelation.  Like any
bureaucracy, a religious hierarchy eventually develops a life and momentum
of its own, a raison-d'etre of its own, and a survival instinct of its own.
It will try to suppress any activity that threatens its existence -- and
that includes liberation spirituality.  And it will develop a whole system
of beliefs, shared earnestly as vital parts of the theology, to explain why
liberation spirituality outside the religion is sinful and dangerous!

     You'll see a few people within those religions who have found their
liberation, regardless of the strictures of their hierarchy.  They are the
ones with a light on in their eyes, with beautiful smiles, uncomplicated
and unselfish lives, a friendly, wise and quiet demeanor, a good heart, and
a kind word for everybody.  They have learned the intrinsic value of
spiritual awakening, and their lives act it out through love, wisdom,
gentleness, justice, mercy and humility.  Just as "spiritual principles are
never in conflict," neither are spiritual people.  Spiritually-awake people
have more in common with spiritually-awake people of other religions than
with spiritually-asleep people of their own religion.  They will honor the
light regardless of how it got there.  It becomes less necessary for
their words to praise God -- because their deeds do so far more eloquently.
In some contexts, these are the "recognized saints" in a religion; more
often, they are the outcasts and heretics.  They tend to preach awakening
rather than obedience, and love rather than conformity.  Such people can be
regarded as dangerous by insecure church fathers.

     More often, people who seek meaning beyond mere "acceptable beliefs"
become discouraged by religion.  Rightly, their idealism is offended by the
hypocrisy and heartlessness of many clerical pronouncements and the
mindlessness of many true believers.  But rather than piercing through,
they stop; they end the search for spirit, relegating the whole subject to
the realm of delusions and ghost stories.  They come to believe that
"there's nothing there."  So they throw the baby out with the bath-water!
They conclude that if churches are not spiritual, then there is no
spirituality; all faith is merely superstition.

     They may become convinced that their atheism or agnosticism is a
product of rational thought; but since one can no more use logic or science
to prove the NON-existence of God than to prove his existence, their
construction of reality is as much a system of beliefs as the religionists'
is.  And they develop exactly the same "tricks of mind" as the religionist
does, to exalt the evidence that supports their view, and belittle the
evidence that contradicts it.  They become "devout believers in the non-
existence of God."  "And don't try to confuse me with the facts!"

     So often, people who profess atheism "lost faith," not because they
came upon a convincing proof of God's non-existence -- but rather because
they had been hurt or offended.  My father "lost his faith" when his father
was too busy running the business to come to his bar mitzvah service, when
two years earlier his older brother had been given a big party.  It's a
shame that this happened; kids are sensitive and can be so easily hurt and
depressed by parents' insensitivity.  But that doesn't mean God was to
blame.  Just as I do not blame God for religion, likewise I do not blame
God for the ungodly behavior of people.  As anonymous once pointed out,
"It is sickly faith that is shaken because some frail human goes wrong."

     When faith is not exercised, it withers.  One who angrily believes
that God no longer cares, may decide they no longer care to try to contact
God.  The longer the spiritual sense goes unused, the more it becomes a
memory rather than a present reality.  As anonymous also said, "Faith is
like a muscle, and prayer is the exercise that helps it grow."  And also,
"When you cease to use faith, you lose it."  When people start to believe
that the universe is cold and indifferent, they may see no use in
exercising their faith, and soon it becomes irrelevant.
     There are also those who refuse to be limited to religious
enthrallment, but who DON'T throw out the baby with the bath-water.  They
open-mindedly look behind the mirror of religion to see if something is
really there... and take their first few tenuous steps into a wider world
-- one where anything is possible, where some connection to the infinite is
available deep within oneself, and where the goal of raising one's
consciousness and enhancing one's awareness become more important than
proving points or pleasing others.  When discovering the nature of reality
becomes a mystery to be experienced, rather than a puzzle to be solved, the
seeker drops out of old forms and restrictions, and seeks to know God as he
seeks to know himself -- fearlessly searching wherever the quest leads him.

     The only defense against beliefs and their powers of enslavement is a
RIGOROUSLY, VIGILANTLY OPEN MIND.  Rather than rush to categorize,
alphabetize, explain and dismiss, we need to learn how to suspend BOTH
belief AND disbelief.  Just as a child observes the world with fascination
and wonder without drawing conclusions, so does a truly open mind observe
phenomena, behaviors and experiences without having to make sophisticated
analyses.  If God decides to speak to such an open mind in his dreams, then
such a mind will merely consider the information without judging it -- and
without either naming it Jesus or Buddha, or blaming it on an undigested
corned-beef sandwich.  An open mind is more apt to describe things as
"interesting or uninteresting," rather than "right or wrong."  An open mind
is bold enough to follow a train of thought or an experience wherever it
might lead, rather than smash it like a bug as soon as it smells of
unorthodoxy.  An open mind, though, ought not be amoral; i.e. it should
be constrained by the principle of harmlessness.  When our explorations
risk endangering the lives and welfare of others or ourselves, this ought
to be sufficient proof that such experiments are a dead end.  Harmfulness
ought to be seen as ipso facto evidence of a wrong belief.

     Interestingly, this is of direct concern to recovering addicts.  The
addict mentality is quite non-conformist.  There is actually a lot of
daring in someone who risks altering their consciousness.  Those of us who
experimented with mind-altering drugs in the aid of self-discovery may have
parted company with the limited beliefs and attitudes of society.  But we
did not know when to stop.  We kept chasing that high even when there was
no more revelation and transformation.  We had begun chasing a false
belief: that drug experiences were the road itself, rather than merely the
road sign.  In defense of that false belief, we ignored the signs of
harmfulness, which only made the experience more painful and desperate.
And the more we defended false beliefs that led to our harm and
degradation, the more the inconsistency drove us crazy.

     More than the average mind, the addict mind tends to be obsessive.  An
idea becomes more than a mere belief; it becomes a justification to cling
to.  Addicts also tend to be superstitious and ritualistic, and chronic
drug use deranges the clarity of the thought process.  Addicts can be vague
about cause-and-effect relationships; which is why it comes as a bombshell
revelation when you tell them, "If you don't pick up the first drug, you
won't get high."  (Non-addict says, "Duh."  Addict says, "Wow!)

     Addicts have often been rebels, and many are education drop-outs.  Not
having minds well-trained in the scientific method, it is not a given that
they will understand the principle of open-mindedness without some
carefully-guided mental training.  Writing the steps has often been fairly
compared to doing some mental exercises that will profitably pass the time
while their brains calm down.  What will really change their lives,
however, is an introduction to a new way of thinking and a new system of
beliefs -- hopefully leading to a calming of the mind and a process of
awakening and faith that depend less and less on beliefs.

     The self-destructive experience of addicts is reminiscent of the self-
denying or self-punishing antics of some monks and fakirs, who mortify the
flesh in the odd belief that this will bring them closer to God.  Going
back to the first premise, i.e. that people will believe ANYTHING, addicts
are capable of contorting their belief systems to serve the disease of
addiction.  This may include the belief that they are beyond help, that
they deserve punishment, that life is too hard to bear without sedation and
anesthesia, that life favors the "squares" but is against them, etc.  (Or
that, if they DON'T take the drug they will go mad -- when in actuality, it
would be madness to continue to use.)

     The "addict's sufficient bottom" seems to be the jarring experience
that provides a moment of clarity, that opens the mind and allows new
information in.  Whether the addict continues to fearlessly pursue open-
mindedness as an ideal depends on how seriously they take the program of
recovery, and how much they credit themselves with the ability to follow
it.  All too often, addicts merely settle into a different orthodoxy.
     Some sponsors are delighted when their sponsees slavishly adopt all
the sponsor's beliefs wholesale.  Taking on a sponsor's beliefs is proof of
mimicry, not of recovery.  While I hope I have given my sponsees some good
ideas, I hope to God that they don't mindlessly parrot what I share with
them.  It is a far greater pleasure to me that they develop an open-minded
and nimble intelligence that is able to think for themselves.

     Going through the motions of stepwork may at least keep an addict
clean; but without applying rigorous open-mindedness it is unlikely to
result in a spiritual awakening, and the liberation from addictive beliefs
and ideas that are so damaging to an addict's progress.  In clean-time,
many addicts remain "control freaks."  They continue to be afraid not to
seem to be in control at all times, lest someone take their freedom away.
I call this the "myth of competency," a false belief grounded in deep
insecurity.  We do not always need to know what we're doing!  However, we
do need to know how to ask for help rather than pretend that we're cool.

     In spirituality, psychology, recovery and service, the most unwelcome
messenger is often the one who ends up saving your skin.  That is, if you
were open-minded enough to listen.  Lots of times the unpopular geek who
got up and proclaimed that "the emperor has no clothes" got booed off the
stage.  The fixed ideas and beliefs of those who "believe that they are in
control" often are the ones that most endanger their own recovery, serenity
and sanity.  We are liberated not by getting others to agree with us, but
by admitting our powerlessness and getting help.

     Service dramas are merely the most obvious stages where an addict's
inner struggle with addiction is acted out.  Believing that we are right,
or powerful, or important, or victimized, righteous, all-knowing or
helpless, are common delusions of addicts; in service they are seen in
cinerama.  It is so easy to become sidetracked by the belief that it's "us
vs. them," when usually it's really "us vs. the disease."  Addiction is
certainly more than a series of false beliefs; but it depends on many false
beliefs to give it power.  A few years in service often strips away the
delusion that it was someone or something outside of oneself that was the
cause of all one's problems or the source of all one's solutions.  As one
wise soul pointed out, "If I am not the problem, then there is no
solution."

     Lincoln said, "People are just about as happy as they have a mind to
be."  We largely choose our mental landscape, and we color it with the
appropriate emotions.  Eventually, once all the false leads have been
tracked down and dismissed, the open mind discovers and concludes a scary
but very liberating truth: that we have a choice what to believe or not to
believe.  That revelation puts back in our own lap the decisions of life or
death, self-preservation or self-destruction, balance or extremism, harmony
or chaos.  Our mental state is very much the product of what we choose to
believe.  Those beliefs have become so deeply habitual that we come to
think of them as automatic, given, a part of our very nature.  Indeed,
those beliefs can so easily take on a life of their own, that they can seem
to fear their own destruction, and defend themselves against our efforts to
remove them.

     Real spirituality, real open-mindedness, real recovery, seem to
require a certain ruthlessness with our own beliefs, preconceptions and
preferences.  If we are to be free, we have to root out limiting and narrow
ideas, no matter how tightly their tendrils have wrapped themselves around
our neurons.  Whether we hope that a loving higher power, or the resiliency
of the human mind, will carry us safely through our rigorous search for the
truth, we can be fairly safely reassured that we don't have to attempt the
journey alone.

     Just as misery loves company, so does boldness!  Standing up to seek
the light reveals that many others are on the same path.  They may not
reach all the same conclusions, but at least they are asking themselves
many of the same right questions.  In particular, they have decided to stop
permitting sorrow, fear, anger, worry and closed-mindedness from deciding
their agenda.  Their minds are creaking open slowly, and they are
experiencing wonder, delight, imagination and hope.  They may not know what
or who reality is, but they have decided that the search is beginning
rather than ending; and that the search is worthwhile.

  They have become willing to put themselves out on a limb, and found the
courage to cross that invisible bridge of faith -- even if it means parting
with their fearful and limited beliefs.  They discover that "believing is
seeing" -- that opening to a possibility lets them perceive an alternate
reality that was closed to them when they were closed to it.

     Rather than trying to define all the attributes of God, or develop a
convincing list of justifications for non-belief, they seek out "whatever's
there," and "if there's a God, let me experience your presence and
understand your purpose for me."  Ultimately, the seeker becomes a finder.
No longer worried about what to believe, he is able to act on what he
knows.  "I work for God; God works for me."

     Sure, that's only a belief.  But in the lives of people who hold that
belief, miracles happen.

-- David H., Miami, Fla. 2/3/98
 
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Webmaster
Copyright © 2008  Bo Sewell 
Updated November 24, 2008
521 W. Bay Street #12 - Jacksonville, FL 32202

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The Power and Limitations of Belief
     God speaks to us and through us.  Or, there is no God.  We are
powerful beings, little lower than the angels.  Or, we are weak, sinful
beings, prisoners of our pasts, our genetics, our upbringing, perhaps our
destiny.

      All of these statements are merely beliefs.  While some of them
appeal to us more than others, and while those who hold them tend to assume
them as universal truths, they are only self-evident to those who believe
in them.  Since they depend upon other beliefs for evidence, which
themselves are not provable as axioms or laws of creation, the assumption
that everyone (or at least all the "right kind of people") shares these
beliefs is dangerous and unfounded.

     Many people who pride themselves on a rigorous mental discipline and a
vigorous intellect would be surprised if they really knew how many of their
assumptions about reality are supported by belief rather than fact.  We
humans seem to have an innate mental function which uses beliefs to model
the universe in our minds, and provides framework assumptions that help us
make sense of the unexpected or unfamiliar.  Our beliefs provide a
"temporary peg" on which to hang our reality, or to rationalize those
inconsistencies that defy our concept of reality.

     This is not to say that all beliefs are wrong; far from it.  Good
beliefs have made humane and successful societies and lives possible.
Believing in such principles as justice, equality, mercy, liberty,
responsibility, the brotherhood of man, our duty to a stewardship of
nature, etc. are signs of a healthy conscience that might permit humanity
to survive.  One might say that these beliefs can co-exist with most other
beliefs, such as religious or political views -- though not always.  For
instance, if people believe in the imminent end of history and this world,
they might consider things like preserving nature to be irrelevant.

     If human history teaches us anything, it's that human beings are
capable of believing anything.  People have believed that sacrificing
virgins or even their own children might appease the gods and guarantee a
good harvest.  They have believed that certain ethnic groups were evil,
damned, the spawn of the devil.  They have believed beautiful and wonderful
things; but they have also believed that their deities had called upon them
to do evil and heinous things.  They have believed in devils that acted
like gods and gods that acted like devils.

     Beliefs can be astonishingly powerful.  They can alter brain
chemistry.  A woman who believes that a pot of coffee is actually decaf can
drink three cups and fall asleep.  A man in a state of shock can perform
feats of superhuman strength because, for a few moments, he doesn't realize
that he can't.  People in a church service or rally can raise energy that
is palpable and unmistakable even to a non-believer.  Yet these are powers
of the mind; they can do surprising things, though they don't alter the
laws of chemistry or physics.

     Though the spiritual sense seems to be universal to humans, what
people think they see when they use their spiritual sense depends very much
on their beliefs.  (For example, the near-death experience seems utterly
similar around the world; but the deity one sees in the white light at the
end of the tunnel is a product of one's culture.)  Even people who theore-
tically subscribe to the same theology may see their god in very different
ways, (e.g. one angry, one caring,) depending on their own character,
temper and personal belief systems.  The human race is capable of adopting
whatever beliefs appeal to them, and then making a "false god" of those
beliefs.  It is as though human minds were like movie projectors, capable
of projecting a god-concept into the sky, and then worshiping or praying to
their own projection!

     In addition to their spiritual yearning, people also have a
subconscious mind.  It isn't usually apparent to them, because it operates
below the level of consciousness.  It stores our memories, beliefs, life
programs.  Like a computer, it has vast storage capacity but no ability to
judge or discern; that is left to the conscious, critical, rational mind.
The subconscious uncritically carries all our assumptions, prejudices,
myths, archetypes, and childhood tapes about the nature of social and
cosmic reality.  While at any time the ideas deposited in the subconscious
could be reprogrammed through hypnosis, meditation, religious and/or
spiritual experiences, psychedelic drugs, or high-energy therapeutic or
envisioning techniques, most folks just don't like to change very much.
They don't want to.  Most people love their beliefs and assumptions, and
most importantly they believe that their beliefs are true.  And they feel
threatened or insulted by the suggestion that their beliefs might be false,
or might not really be serving them well.  People can be so attached to a
belief that they'll hold on to it, even when it's killing them.

     Back in 1990, I attended a group hypnosis for smoking cessation.  The
hypnotist told us that we all use self-hypnosis every day.  We are always
reprogramming our subconscious; we are always giving our subconscious mind
suggestions; we're just most of us not very good at it.  He said, "You've
been telling yourself, 'Ah, I'd love to quit smoking -- but I don't think I
can; it's too hard, I feel weak, impotent, etc.'  And your subconscious
believes everything you tell it!  The reason I make a living doing this is,
I know the right suggestions."

     He used an induction designed for deep relaxation and heightened
receptivity and awareness; and offered those ideas, suggestions and beliefs
that would work practically to reprogram the mind toward non-smoking.  I
had one uncomfortable day, but I never smoked again.  I was able to absorb
new beliefs that made recovery possible.  Most of all, I stopped believing
that I was a hopeless smoker.

     I know a man who proudly insists that he doesn't believe in anything.
Yet he must believe that he is a hopeless smoker, because he won't stop.
He is certain that he can't.  He won't even fly, because that would mean
not being able to smoke.  Rarely have I witnessed such a deeply-held
belief!

     Having shared beliefs (or at least presuming that others share one's
beliefs) can have even greater reinforcing power than individual beliefs.
People seem to have a security need in "belonging."  Knowing that one is
part of a special group, and accepted as a full member, is very gratifying
to most humans.  While all groups will have certain shared values in
common, (such as the shared beliefs in freedom and the rule of law in a
constitutional democracy,) some groups depend entirely for their existence
on shared beliefs.  This is particularly true of religious groups, because
their predicates or axioms of belief are not directly or scientifically
provable.  To "buy the whole package," so to speak, one must suspend
disbelief and squelch any rational misgivings about inconsistencies or
mystic assumptions that might underpin the belief system.

     The big advantage for many members in doing so is that you get to be
"saved," or some similar rewarding idea; in many such belief systems, the
delicious sense of belonging to an exclusive club is augmented by the
belief that those who do not share it are "damned," or some similar
punishing idea.  So not only are those "in the know" favored by God, but
also those who are "dwelling in darkness" are deprived of that favor.  This
gives rise to such absurdities as the kindly old fundamentalist lady
opining, "Wasn't Mr. Gandhi a wonderful person?  Isn't it a shame that he's
burning in hell?"

     When even the saintliest people have no place in heaven because they
failed to agree with you, you are playing God, or telling God what to do.
While everyone is entitled to the God-concept (or lack of one) of their
choice, it seems that theologies do more than divide people.  They seem to
provide ways to dehumanize people.  After all, if somebody isn't "saved,"
why would you believe anything else they say?  And if you believe that you
are the chosen and they are the disposable, what's to stop you from using
them as pawns in your own little game?  Just this approach is shown by some
American fundamentalists who are supporting Israel -- but whose real agenda
is to have Israel fight the battle of Armageddon in the upcoming "end
times."  If Israel has to be sacrificed, that's just the "unfortunate price
to be paid to fulfill prophecy."  Never mind whether they share a belief in
that prophecy, or would rather live in peace than act or die in someone
else's end-of-the-world fantasy.

     Just in this century, people have believed in nazism, communism,
fascism, and some other very destructive isms.  Their fervor has been every
bit as absolute as any religionist's, but their rapaciousness is usually
not constrained as much, due to lack of a "religious moral code."  All
"true believers" are capable of heinous and inhuman acts, because they can
pretend that their victims are less than human.  Whether they shift their
responsibility to following orders, or the good of the collective, or the
fatherland, the clergy or God, people in the grip of a flawed belief system
will justify any enormity through the distorted lens of their beliefs.

     The main reason people are so easily manipulated by flawed belief
systems is that they are not on the lookout.  Most people have too little
experience in history, psychology, theology, philosophy, logic, meditative
disciplines and self-study to understand their susceptibility to "belief
control," let alone want to change it.  It frequently surprises newly-
minted psychologists and clergymen just how dead-set people can get in
their beliefs, and just how resistant to change they can be.  Not only do
people love their beliefs, but they love to be swept away by them!  It is a
socially-approved way of "living in fantasyland."  The Hamas suicide bomber
of unarmed shoppers not only knows that his village will celebrate his
sacrifice, and his cohorts will approve of his suicide and murder -- he
also has convinced himself utterly that his bloodthirsty deed has guaran-
teed him an immediate entry to heaven!  This is not the result of godly
faith, but of twisted belief.  In an environment where rigid and fanatical
beliefs are approved of, the most rigid and extreme believers set the pace.
     While common parlance doesn't make a clear distinction between
"belief" and "faith," such a distinction is sorely needed.  One could say
that "belief" is a grasping-place, a temporary hold on an invisible
handrail through shifting reality; while "faith" is a deep knowing and
alignment with a primary spiritual Force.  Some call this force God, or the
Tao, or Brahman, or the All.  It seems less important what you call it,
than that you call ON it.  Simple faith is an active act of alignment with
an unseen but deeply experienced universal power.  Belief is a series of
ideas designed to explain that power.  Faith is more a reliance on or
surrender to spirit; belief is more a game of "name it and you can have
it."  (As though having the most accurate description of God might somehow
best qualify you to know God.)  Faith empowers the soul; belief gives away
one's power of self-determination to a projection of the mind.  Faith is
built upon love, wisdom, awareness and courage.  Belief is built upon the
suspension of disbelief.  The faithful keep the faith by living upright
lives; believers defend their beliefs by defeating or at least demonizing
non-believers.  (You can already see the need for two divergent words; some
people have been called "defenders of the faith" due to their skill at
murdering infidels.)

     This distinction puts "belief" at the service of religion, and "faith"
at the service of spirituality.  Religion (from L. "ligare," to bind, same
root as ligament or ligature) is a thread of beliefs which bind together
the common values of a community.  Rather than beat up your neighbor over
what he believes, you can band together and clobber the neighboring village
over their wrong beliefs!  (And meanwhile swipe their cattle, gold and
wives.)  Great religions do become more than mere mythologies or cults,
because they begin to enable a more universal moral code and spiritual
sensibility; but religions are constructed for conformity, not self-
discovery.  At best, they define the half-way mark between superstition and
spirituality.  They marry grand belief systems with processes for inducing
thrilling hypnotic states.  They can take you to the threshold of a
spiritual awakening, but they can't carry you through.

     Genuine spirituality can be found among some adherents to religious
faiths.  But it is not dependent upon those faiths.  Religious training is
like a baby bird learning to fly.  Once the bird finds the power in
himself, he takes off and soars, and no further training is needed.  It
seems that many people find security at staying in the nest, so they remain
grounded even if they know how to fly.

     Spirituality can be likened to the metamorphosis of a butterfly.
Rather than look for more food outside oneself, the spiritual seeker turns
inward, brings the nagging and insistent mind to a stop, and seeks to
change inside.  When he discovers the presence of the universal power
within, and allows it to change him from a narrow selfish person to a
beautiful, loving and radiant being, he breaks out of the confining shell
and becomes an object of amazement and joy to those who see him fly.

     Spirituality does not depend on one set of beliefs; indeed, to become
spiritually liberated often depends much more on unlearning what one has
learned.  In particular, it seems to require the shedding of useless
beliefs.  Artificial separations and distinctions, old hates and
resentments, self-limiting and self-destructive concepts, and worn-out
childish neuroses, all have to go.  The spiritual seeker has to become
willing to forego the old and comfortable, if he is to find the awakening
and liberation he seeks.  Often, though not always, this requires the
shedding of the skin of old religion.

     Sadly, religion per se has no interest in the liberation of souls IN
THIS WORLD.  Though they might have a hard time admitting it, most
religions depend upon the dependence of the followers.  They possess both
the disease and the cure; they offer salvation, just "later."  They do not
grow or become rich from people finding their own illumination or their own
path to God; they prosper by getting their adherents to depend on a
priesthood to pass on their third- or fourth-hand revelation.  Like any
bureaucracy, a religious hierarchy eventually develops a life and momentum
of its own, a raison-d'etre of its own, and a survival instinct of its own.
It will try to suppress any activity that threatens its existence -- and
that includes liberation spirituality.  And it will develop a whole system
of beliefs, shared earnestly as vital parts of the theology, to explain why
liberation spirituality outside the religion is sinful and dangerous!

     You'll see a few people within those religions who have found their
liberation, regardless of the strictures of their hierarchy.  They are the
ones with a light on in their eyes, with beautiful smiles, uncomplicated
and unselfish lives, a friendly, wise and quiet demeanor, a good heart, and
a kind word for everybody.  They have learned the intrinsic value of
spiritual awakening, and their lives act it out through love, wisdom,
gentleness, justice, mercy and humility.  Just as "spiritual principles are
never in conflict," neither are spiritual people.  Spiritually-awake people
have more in common with spiritually-awake people of other religions than
with spiritually-asleep people of their own religion.  They will honor the
light regardless of how it got there.  It becomes less necessary for
their words to praise God -- because their deeds do so far more eloquently.
In some contexts, these are the "recognized saints" in a religion; more
often, they are the outcasts and heretics.  They tend to preach awakening
rather than obedience, and love rather than conformity.  Such people can be
regarded as dangerous by insecure church fathers.

     More often, people who seek meaning beyond mere "acceptable beliefs"
become discouraged by religion.  Rightly, their idealism is offended by the
hypocrisy and heartlessness of many clerical pronouncements and the
mindlessness of many true believers.  But rather than piercing through,
they stop; they end the search for spirit, relegating the whole subject to
the realm of delusions and ghost stories.  They come to believe that
"there's nothing there."  So they throw the baby out with the bath-water!
They conclude that if churches are not spiritual, then there is no
spirituality; all faith is merely superstition.

     They may become convinced that their atheism or agnosticism is a
product of rational thought; but since one can no more use logic or science
to prove the NON-existence of God than to prove his existence, their
construction of reality is as much a system of beliefs as the religionists'
is.  And they develop exactly the same "tricks of mind" as the religionist
does, to exalt the evidence that supports their view, and belittle the
evidence that contradicts it.  They become "devout believers in the non-
existence of God."  "And don't try to confuse me with the facts!"

     So often, people who profess atheism "lost faith," not because they
came upon a convincing proof of God's non-existence -- but rather because
they had been hurt or offended.  My father "lost his faith" when his father
was too busy running the business to come to his bar mitzvah service, when
two years earlier his older brother had been given a big party.  It's a
shame that this happened; kids are sensitive and can be so easily hurt and
depressed by parents' insensitivity.  But that doesn't mean God was to
blame.  Just as I do not blame God for religion, likewise I do not blame
God for the ungodly behavior of people.  As anonymous once pointed out,
"It is sickly faith that is shaken because some frail human goes wrong."

     When faith is not exercised, it withers.  One who angrily believes
that God no longer cares, may decide they no longer care to try to contact
God.  The longer the spiritual sense goes unused, the more it becomes a
memory rather than a present reality.  As anonymous also said, "Faith is
like a muscle, and prayer is the exercise that helps it grow."  And also,
"When you cease to use faith, you lose it."  When people start to believe
that the universe is cold and indifferent, they may see no use in
exercising their faith, and soon it becomes irrelevant.
     There are also those who refuse to be limited to religious
enthrallment, but who DON'T throw out the baby with the bath-water.  They
open-mindedly look behind the mirror of religion to see if something is
really there... and take their first few tenuous steps into a wider world
-- one where anything is possible, where some connection to the infinite is
available deep within oneself, and where the goal of raising one's
consciousness and enhancing one's awareness become more important than
proving points or pleasing others.  When discovering the nature of reality
becomes a mystery to be experienced, rather than a puzzle to be solved, the
seeker drops out of old forms and restrictions, and seeks to know God as he
seeks to know himself -- fearlessly searching wherever the quest leads him.

     The only defense against beliefs and their powers of enslavement is a
RIGOROUSLY, VIGILANTLY OPEN MIND.  Rather than rush to categorize,
alphabetize, explain and dismiss, we need to learn how to suspend BOTH
belief AND disbelief.  Just as a child observes the world with fascination
and wonder without drawing conclusions, so does a truly open mind observe
phenomena, behaviors and experiences without having to make sophisticated
analyses.  If God decides to speak to such an open mind in his dreams, then
such a mind will merely consider the information without judging it -- and
without either naming it Jesus or Buddha, or blaming it on an undigested
corned-beef sandwich.  An open mind is more apt to describe things as
"interesting or uninteresting," rather than "right or wrong."  An open mind
is bold enough to follow a train of thought or an experience wherever it
might lead, rather than smash it like a bug as soon as it smells of
unorthodoxy.  An open mind, though, ought not be amoral; i.e. it should
be constrained by the principle of harmlessness.  When our explorations
risk endangering the lives and welfare of others or ourselves, this ought
to be sufficient proof that such experiments are a dead end.  Harmfulness
ought to be seen as ipso facto evidence of a wrong belief.

     Interestingly, this is of direct concern to recovering addicts.  The
addict mentality is quite non-conformist.  There is actually a lot of
daring in someone who risks altering their consciousness.  Those of us who
experimented with mind-altering drugs in the aid of self-discovery may have
parted company with the limited beliefs and attitudes of society.  But we
did not know when to stop.  We kept chasing that high even when there was
no more revelation and transformation.  We had begun chasing a false
belief: that drug experiences were the road itself, rather than merely the
road sign.  In defense of that false belief, we ignored the signs of
harmfulness, which only made the experience more painful and desperate.
And the more we defended false beliefs that led to our harm and
degradation, the more the inconsistency drove us crazy.

     More than the average mind, the addict mind tends to be obsessive.  An
idea becomes more than a mere belief; it becomes a justification to cling
to.  Addicts also tend to be superstitious and ritualistic, and chronic
drug use deranges the clarity of the thought process.  Addicts can be vague
about cause-and-effect relationships; which is why it comes as a bombshell
revelation when you tell them, "If you don't pick up the first drug, you
won't get high."  (Non-addict says, "Duh."  Addict says, "Wow!)

     Addicts have often been rebels, and many are education drop-outs.  Not
having minds well-trained in the scientific method, it is not a given that
they will understand the principle of open-mindedness without some
carefully-guided mental training.  Writing the steps has often been fairly
compared to doing some mental exercises that will profitably pass the time
while their brains calm down.  What will really change their lives,
however, is an introduction to a new way of thinking and a new system of
beliefs -- hopefully leading to a calming of the mind and a process of
awakening and faith that depend less and less on beliefs.

     The self-destructive experience of addicts is reminiscent of the self-
denying or self-punishing antics of some monks and fakirs, who mortify the
flesh in the odd belief that this will bring them closer to God.  Going
back to the first premise, i.e. that people will believe ANYTHING, addicts
are capable of contorting their belief systems to serve the disease of
addiction.  This may include the belief that they are beyond help, that
they deserve punishment, that life is too hard to bear without sedation and
anesthesia, that life favors the "squares" but is against them, etc.  (Or
that, if they DON'T take the drug they will go mad -- when in actuality, it
would be madness to continue to use.)

     The "addict's sufficient bottom" seems to be the jarring experience
that provides a moment of clarity, that opens the mind and allows new
information in.  Whether the addict continues to fearlessly pursue open-
mindedness as an ideal depends on how seriously they take the program of
recovery, and how much they credit themselves with the ability to follow
it.  All too often, addicts merely settle into a different orthodoxy.
     Some sponsors are delighted when their sponsees slavishly adopt all
the sponsor's beliefs wholesale.  Taking on a sponsor's beliefs is proof of
mimicry, not of recovery.  While I hope I have given my sponsees some good
ideas, I hope to God that they don't mindlessly parrot what I share with
them.  It is a far greater pleasure to me that they develop an open-minded
and nimble intelligence that is able to think for themselves.

     Going through the motions of stepwork may at least keep an addict
clean; but without applying rigorous open-mindedness it is unlikely to
result in a spiritual awakening, and the liberation from addictive beliefs
and ideas that are so damaging to an addict's progress.  In clean-time,
many addicts remain "control freaks."  They continue to be afraid not to
seem to be in control at all times, lest someone take their freedom away.
I call this the "myth of competency," a false belief grounded in deep
insecurity.  We do not always need to know what we're doing!  However, we
do need to know how to ask for help rather than pretend that we're cool.

     In spirituality, psychology, recovery and service, the most unwelcome
messenger is often the one who ends up saving your skin.  That is, if you
were open-minded enough to listen.  Lots of times the unpopular geek who
got up and proclaimed that "the emperor has no clothes" got booed off the
stage.  The fixed ideas and beliefs of those who "believe that they are in
control" often are the ones that most endanger their own recovery, serenity
and sanity.  We are liberated not by getting others to agree with us, but
by admitting our powerlessness and getting help.

     Service dramas are merely the most obvious stages where an addict's
inner struggle with addiction is acted out.  Believing that we are right,
or powerful, or important, or victimized, righteous, all-knowing or
helpless, are common delusions of addicts; in service they are seen in
cinerama.  It is so easy to become sidetracked by the belief that it's "us
vs. them," when usually it's really "us vs. the disease."  Addiction is
certainly more than a series of false beliefs; but it depends on many false
beliefs to give it power.  A few years in service often strips away the
delusion that it was someone or something outside of oneself that was the
cause of all one's problems or the source of all one's solutions.  As one
wise soul pointed out, "If I am not the problem, then there is no
solution."

     Lincoln said, "People are just about as happy as they have a mind to
be."  We largely choose our mental landscape, and we color it with the
appropriate emotions.  Eventually, once all the false leads have been
tracked down and dismissed, the open mind discovers and concludes a scary
but very liberating truth: that we have a choice what to believe or not to
believe.  That revelation puts back in our own lap the decisions of life or
death, self-preservation or self-destruction, balance or extremism, harmony
or chaos.  Our mental state is very much the product of what we choose to
believe.  Those beliefs have become so deeply habitual that we come to
think of them as automatic, given, a part of our very nature.  Indeed,
those beliefs can so easily take on a life of their own, that they can seem
to fear their own destruction, and defend themselves against our efforts to
remove them.

     Real spirituality, real open-mindedness, real recovery, seem to
require a certain ruthlessness with our own beliefs, preconceptions and
preferences.  If we are to be free, we have to root out limiting and narrow
ideas, no matter how tightly their tendrils have wrapped themselves around
our neurons.  Whether we hope that a loving higher power, or the resiliency
of the human mind, will carry us safely through our rigorous search for the
truth, we can be fairly safely reassured that we don't have to attempt the
journey alone.

     Just as misery loves company, so does boldness!  Standing up to seek
the light reveals that many others are on the same path.  They may not
reach all the same conclusions, but at least they are asking themselves
many of the same right questions.  In particular, they have decided to stop
permitting sorrow, fear, anger, worry and closed-mindedness from deciding
their agenda.  Their minds are creaking open slowly, and they are
experiencing wonder, delight, imagination and hope.  They may not know what
or who reality is, but they have decided that the search is beginning
rather than ending; and that the search is worthwhile.

  They have become willing to put themselves out on a limb, and found the
courage to cross that invisible bridge of faith -- even if it means parting
with their fearful and limited beliefs.  They discover that "believing is
seeing" -- that opening to a possibility lets them perceive an alternate
reality that was closed to them when they were closed to it.

     Rather than trying to define all the attributes of God, or develop a
convincing list of justifications for non-belief, they seek out "whatever's
there," and "if there's a God, let me experience your presence and
understand your purpose for me."  Ultimately, the seeker becomes a finder.
No longer worried about what to believe, he is able to act on what he
knows.  "I work for God; God works for me."

     Sure, that's only a belief.  But in the lives of people who hold that
belief, miracles happen.

-- David H., Miami, Fla. 2/3/98
 
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