Friday, June 13, 2008

PART TWO: The Moth in the Flame, A Center in Chaotic Fires of Addiction

[Note: the following section is a rough draft I will be continually working on. Read it as rough notations/thoughts/expressions. I will write more re: a heroin addicted client's dream and Kristeva in the coming month.
The above photograph I took in one of the oldest churches in the New World, located in Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala, Mexico, it was built by Cortez. ]

Orientation = Presence,
Questioning As Sacrament

I read a few years back and cannot now locate the source from which I read it that "more than food, clothing, sex and shelter humans crave orientation." This is the function of a cosmology (by the way, a medicine wheel is a cosmology, an organizing of the chaos), a view of everything -- it orients us, locates us in being and time inwardly and outwardly. Reiterations: Having orientation, experiencing location, one is consciously present. Orienting is presensing. Presense is an experience of cosmology, of orientation, and location. One is present with self and the cosmos.

Laurens van der Post in his excellent biography of Carl Jung says that stone age people and the primordial mind/cosmology and tradition they lived within is essentially a lived experience of being known by and within the universe. The universe is a thou, "They (the stone age people) gave out [a feeling]of utterly belonging to life and time and nature...I found that even though they themselves may not know much, they had no doubt of being fully known wherever they went." (pg. 102, Jung and the Story of Our Time, Laurens van der Post). This "being known" locates the ancient ones at all times as present in a living universe. That experience covers the spectrum of primitive agonies and and unspeakable terrors to ecstatic union and communion with the Force in all things in ongoing unfolding manifestations. Recent photographs in the world media of uncontacted groups of Amazonian indigenous peoples reveal the photograph by photograph an orientation, a cosmology. Two men photographed were painted red while a third was painted black. This coloring is symbolic, analogical, and cosmological revelatory of the primal mind/primordial tradition Vander Post speaks of. One can only imagine what these men made of the aircraft noisily hovering and circling above them. Arrows strung, spears at ready, these warriors of the forests stood their ground, defended their territory of which another cancerous, disconnected linear cosmology of greed and "subduing" of nature encroaches upon them with weapons, guns, saws, bulldozers, diseases.

To underscore the supreme value of orientation and cosmology-as-orientation as an innate function in the human organism, Henri Corbin, the late mystic and scholar of Islamic mysticism, writes in his book, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism:
"Orientation is a primary phenomenon of our presense in the world. A human presense has the property of spatializing a world around it, and htis phenomenon implies a certain relationship of man witht he world, his world, this relationship being determined by the very mode of his presense in the world. The four cardinal points, east and west, north and south, are not things encountered by this presense, but directions which express its sense, man's acclimatization to his world, his familiarity with it. To have this sense is to orient oneself in the world. The ideal lines that run from east to west, from north to south form a system of a priori (prior to) spatial evidences without which there would be neither geographic nor anthropological orientation. And indeed, the constrast between Eastern man and Western man, between Nordic man and Southern man, regulate our ideological and characterological classifications..."Orientation in time" refers to the different ways in which man experiences his presense on earth, and the continuity of this presense within a kind of history, and the questionj as whether this history has a sense, and if so, what sense?" (pgs. 1 & 2) -- Henri Corbin, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, Omega Publications, Inc., 1978.
How Do You Stand Within These Realms
There is a body-oriented psychotherapy called Hakomi. The word, hakomi is a Hopi Native American term which means, "How do you stand within these realms." This question is the question of orientation, evokes exploration, discovery and experience of cosmology. Cosmology is a conscious activity of making the unconscious conscious, making conscious those "taken-for-granted" beliefs about the nature of reality. This has been and is an ancient and ongoing undertaking such that our most cherished and fundatmental assumptions, presuppostitions, beliefs have become mostly unconscious and unexamined "sacred cows" out of which we live and "shape" our lives and our view of life. Questioning our presuppostitions, examining those mostly unconscious fundaments upon which we stand under/under-stand is therefore one of the most sacred, sacremental acts of human consciousness. Questions, such as the one in the Hopi Hakomi, continually unfold us and the world anew. Most primordial traditions, those of the people of the first light of human cosciousness, and the languages evolved therefrom are characterized as dynamic, verb-based articulations of the ongoing "sizzling and fizzing" continuously creating nature of perception and reality, languages which evoke and demonstrate movement, process, change, interconnection and pattern. For instance, and I take this from Michael Ortiz Hill's Blues Song at the Edge of Chaos, page 8, the Navajo language conveys "a universe which is interwoven or, more accurately, interweaving. Nothing is static. Beauty is in the making of beauty."

For those interested in further exploration of this I refer you to Benjamin Lee Whorf's always cosmology shifting, question-raising book, Language, Thought and Reality. In reading this (along with Michael Ortiz Hill's pamphlet mentioned above) one will undergo a reorientation away from final received knowledge into knowing as an ongoing study, activity, and ecstasy. One discovers that it is questions and not answers which continually orient one toward an archetypal "true North," an inner "galactic center," which is conscious questioning, research and, equally important, insearch (see James Hillman's early work, Insearch: Psychology and Religion for an accessible, inspiring promotion for "thinking on the edge, searching in the frontiers of psyche" as orienting toward ongoing creativity and revelation regarding orienting and locating oneself and the world as a living breathing "making of beauty." Beauty in the Hopi/Navaho cosmology means "balance." If one is unbalanced one is disoriented. Thus the prayer Navajo prayer, "Before me beauty. Behind me beauty. Inside me beauth. Both sides and all around me beauty. I begin in beauty. I proceed in beauty. I am ending ongoingly in beauty," reveals a cosmology of balancing awareness and forces and the walking in this awareness.

Ideas Matter, Root Images, Presuppositions

Most of our cosmologies, and myths and religions are cosmologies, are attempts to characterize, understand and apprehend/grasp ultimate questions such as "why is there something instead of nothing," "from whence did/do we come?" and "to what individual and collective purpose?" Cosmology is an attempt to develop a view of everything (including nothing!). If cosmology as a term is frightening or offputting Marcus Borg, author and religious scholar, has a helpful and more readily accessible term which may assist in grasping the scope of the venture of uncovering one's personal cosmology:

"Ideas matter. One would only expect an academic to say this, so let me add at once that some ideas do not matter very much. But some do, deeply affecting our lives. Of the ideas that do affect us, perhaps none does so as much as the root images of reality which lie deep in our psyches. A root image is a fundamental image of how reality is, our most basic 'picture' of reality. Perhaps most often called a 'world-view', it consists of our most taken-for-granted assumptions about what is possible. It is an idea ( mental construct) of immense power. Very importantly, a root image not only provides a model of reality, but also shapes our perception and our thinking, operating almost unconsciously within us as a dim background affecting all of our seeing and thinkning. A root image thus functions as both an image and a lens: it is a picture of reality which becomes a lens through which we see reality...Operating within us at the level of the imagination, a level deeper than the discursive intellect, root images of reality involve the imaging or intuiting of a whole Gestalt in light of which everything else is seen." (pgs. 31 & 43) -- Marcus Borg, "Root Images and the Way We See", Fragments of Infinity, Essays in Religion and Philosophy, Ed. Arvind Sharma, Prism Press, 1991

The term root image forms a literal visual image of roots and is less abstract than the words "cosmology" and "world-view." In the conservative Calvinistic Christian theology I was educated in as a young man the word used then and now in apologetics courses (apologetics is an academic study which prepares an intellectual "defense of the Christian faith) the word used, and it's a good one, for root image is presupposition. One can discover and examine and question one's presuppositions, those "taken-for-granted" assumptions/suppositions and see how they, indeed, do become "a lens though which we see reality." Everyone has a cosmology, a world-view, root images and if Socrates the ancient Greek philosopher is correct, and I think that he is, "the unexamined life [and it's root images] is not worth living."

What Has Cosmology To Do Withy Addiction?
Abjection Leads To Ejection, Injection, Projection of the self/Self

I have taken the time and space above to discus cosmology as an essential element of human consciousness. Consciousness is orientation. As practicioners of various kinds, social workers, psychotherapists, ministers, pastoral counselors, addictions counselors, body workers, healers, astrologers, psychoanalysts, 12-step sponsors and sponsees we deal daily with people who are disoriented by addictions which at first began either consciously or unconsciously as attempts at orientation/reorientation away from environmental impingments, disruptions, faults, defaults and failures. When one has steeped in any one or all of these one is in a state of abjection. This abjection becomes a way of life, an inner orientation, which, I propose for addicts of all kinds, borrowing from one method of addiction, leads to ejection and injection. Julia Kristeva has written extensively about abjection in her book, Powers of Horror, An Essay On Abjection (1982). To understand what she means by abjection I quote extensively from an article by Inna Semetsky (click here for the entire article):

"abjection n. 1. the condition of being servile, wretched, or contemptible. 2. the act of humiliating. 3. Mycol. the ejection of spores by a fungus.abject adj. 1. utterly hopeless, miserable, humiliating, or wretched: abject poverty. 2. contemptible; despicable; base-spirited: an abject coward. 3. shamelessly servile; slavish. 4. Obs. cast aside.

The meaning of abjection, as described by Kristeva in her "Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection" (1982), is "one of those violent, dark revolts of being, directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an exorbitant outside or inside, ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable" (1982: 1).

We experience abjection as a spontaneous reaction that may manifest in a form of unspeakable horror, often expressed at a physical level as uncontrollable vomiting, when faced with a breakdown in meaning caused by the generic loss of a habitual distinction. When the distinction – it being between subject and object, self and other, life and death -- – is destroyed, then the abjection takes its place. Abjection preserves what existed at the archaic level of pre-objectal relationship, as Kristeva puts it, within the extreme violence as a condition of a body becoming separated from another body so as to be! Corpse serves as a primary example, traumatically reminding us of our own finitude and materiality; but so does Auschwitz as a symbol of a particularly destructive, violent, and immoral event. Kristeva, describing abjection, uses the infinitive 'to fall', cadere in French, hence cadaver, the corpse:

"[M]y body extricates itself, as being alive, from that border. Such wastes drop so that I might live, until, from loss to loss, nothing remains in me and my entire body falls beyond the limit – cadere, cadaver. If dung signifies the other side of the border, the place where I am not and which permits me to be, the corpse, the most sickening of wastes, is a border that has encroached upon everything. ... 'I' is expelled" (1982: pp.3-4).The corpse indicates the breakdown of the distinction between subject and object, that is, a loss of the crucial factor in establishing self-identity: it therefore exemplifies the concept of abjection." [End Semetsky quote]

This "destruction of distinction" is disorientation. The addict attempts to eject himself as the "bad abject" along with the bad objects (parents/caretakers/group/society) who cast him aside, make wretched, contemptible, dispicable, lower than low. He does so by injection by which I mean addictions of all kinds. There is a simultaneous attempt to eject the negative, unlovable "I-self" in the addictive act that when eradicated, evacuated may be filled by an "I" which reunites with "I" and an archetypal reconnecting Other which reorients one toward life and not death alone. Death cannot be ejected but life can be injected and injested to such an extent that one is projected/propelled/impelled toward that "I" who evolves creatively with the Life/Death force into more meaningful struggle/play in life.

[In Part Three I'll publish an account of a single consultation with a heroin addict fresh from rehab and seeking support in recovery. I have asked my Learning For Life Group colleagues to write and "dream" around a repetitive dream the client reported during the consult and publish their work with their permission. I have also asked another colleague who works as an addictions counselor to also work the dream. He has agreed to do so].

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