Friday, June 18, 2010

The First Step: Surrender (continued)

After re-reading the previous post on this topic, I've begun to think the key might be in this paragraph:
"As soon as I regained my ability to think, I went carefully over that evening in Washington. Not only had I been off guard, I had made no fight whatever against the first drink. This time I had not thought of the consequences at all. I had commenced to drink as carelessly as thought the cocktails were ginger ale. I now remembered what my alcoholic friends had told me, how they prophesied that if I had an alcoholic mind, the time and place would come I would drink again. They had said that though I did raise a defense, it would one day give way before some trivial reason for having a drink. Well, just that did happen and more, for what I had learned of alcoholism did not occur to me at all. I knew from that moment that I had an alcoholic mind. I saw that will power and self- knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots. I had never been able to understand people who said that a problem had them hopelessly defeated. I knew then. It was the crushing blow.

I bolded what seem to me to be the important sentences in the paragraph above. And these sentences reminded me just now of something else that Rowan Williams has written - here, in his 1998 response to John Spong's "12 Theses." He's referring here to Spong's Thesis #6: "The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed." Williams writes:
The cross as sacrifice? God knows, there are barbaric ways of putting this; but as a complex and apparently inescapable metaphor (which, in the Bible, is about far more than propitiation) it has always said something sobering about the fact that human liberation doesn’t come cheap, that the degree of human self-delusion is so colossal as to involve ’some total gain or loss’ (in the words of Auden’s poem about Bonhoeffer) in the task of overcoming it. And that human beings compulsively deceive themselves about who and what they are is a belief to which Darwinism is completely immaterial.

Again I'm bolding the key section.

And surely Rowan Williams means to say that the "colossal degree of human self-delusion" is across-the-board and universal - and so the First Step really can and does apply to non-alcoholics? That "strange mental blank spots" exist in every human mind? It must be true; it seems completely clear to me that this is a fact. This is why people get (and need) therapy, after all: they cannot see themselves and their motivations clearly. It must be literally impossible to do so, given the "blank spots" we all have when it comes to our earliest years - years which are formative and during which we build up formidable defenses and psychic armor in our attempts to deal with the world we inherit. We also have "blank spots" simply because we grew up in this kind of family, and not that kind, and so think this sort of thing is "normal" and that sort isn't. Right?

Does anybody know any theologians who've written things along these lines? I'm interested in where Rowan Williams gets his notion of the "colossal degree of human self-delusion." Is it from simple observation? Could be, surely! Or is there a Christian theologian/psychologist out there someplace who's actually researched this sort of thing?

I'd be grateful for any leads in this area - but I think I'm satisfied that at least part of Step 1 does indeed contain a "universal principle" and can translate outside of A.A. (No doubt I'll have second thoughts about this shortly, but it's good to come to a conclusion now and then! And then I can get on to Step 2....)

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