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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Know Thyself - Know Peace

"While the purpose of making restitution to others is paramount, it is equally necessary that we extricate from an examination of our personal relations every bit of information about ourselves and our fundamental difficulties that we can. Since defective relations with other human beings have nearly always been the immediate cause of our woes, including our alcoholism no field of investigation could yield more satisfying and valuable rewards than this one. Calm, thoughtful reflection upon personal relations can deepen our insight. We can go far beyond those things which were superficially wrong with us, to see those flaws which were basic, flaws which sometimes were responsible for the whole pattern of our lives. Thoroughness, we have found, will pay - and pay handsomely."
-- The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 80 --

The essential problem of the alcoholic addict, is his or her identification with a seemingly separate sense of "self" (i.e., the human "ego"). Over and over in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous we read various iterations of the simple fact that "selfishness, self-centeredness . . . is the root of our problem." As "actors" in the drama of life we find that we have been, like so-called "normal folks," quite egocentric.

In active addiction the alcoholic addict essentially drinks and or uses drugs to get out of his or her "self." Thus, in recovery he or she must find means - spiritual means, at that - to find real and lasting relief from the "punishing inner dialogue" of the "ego" (i.e., relief from the separated "self"), a sense of relief that seemed to come so readily, if temporarily, from booze or drugs while they still worked for us.

We do not, as too many are mistakenly told, first make amends to ourselves in order to achieve this. Rather, we make a list of all those we have harmed in order to make amends to them, wherever and whenever possible. It is in making restitution to these people that we overcome the resentments, remorse and regrets that feed the inner dialogue of "self." With this accomplished, we can more deeply and easily see how the desires and fears that fueled such resentments, remorse and regrets distorted our character. "Calm, thoughtful reflection upon personal relations" will, indeed, "deepen our insight" into these underlying flaws.

Over the entrance to the Temple of the Oracle of Delphi, the most sacred site in Ancient Egypt, were chiselled the words "Know Thyself." Since "self" in its many different guises is the root cause of our problems, this ages-old advice remains apt.

We see in constructing our resentments list how the actions of others have impinged on our physical security, emotional security, personal relationships and sex relations. We have seen how such impingements on our basic desires have engendered great fears. And, we have also taken stock of the role we played in the events that led to such resentments.

Making restitution for our wrongful actions leaves us free to work on the self-centered fears and selfish desires that have warped our character. We come to know our lower "selves" and in knowingly turning our lives over to the care of a Power greater than our lower "selves" - i.e., to the "God of our own understanding" - we come to know a deeper Self beyond the ego. It is in that knowledge that we come to know our own inner divinity, that we come to know that we have never actually been separated from others or from God, and that we come to know peace.

To "Know Thyself" is, thus, in essence, to experience God-consciousness and to know God. And, in reestablishing and improving our conscious contact with "the God of our own understanding" we are, in effect, "reborn."

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