The word 'addict' literally means 'to speak toward' (Latin: ad=toward, diction=to speak).
The idea seems to be that an addict is one who constantly and chronically speaks 'YES' toward the object of his or her mental obsession.
- An alcohol addict speaks his chronic 'yes' toward alcohol.
- A gambling addict speaks her 'yes' toward gambling.
- A sex addict speaks his 'yes' toward sex.
- A religion addict speaks her 'yes' toward some ideological system.
LESS DAMAGING ADDICTIONSIn that sense then, all of us little human egos, at any given moment are addicted, or inclined to something as primary. Granted, some of the objects of addiction (we speak yes toward) are more damaging than others, like alcohol, drugs and romance. These cause lots of pain and get our attention much more quickly. Those addicted to (speaking yes toward) less damaging objects, like a nice narrow minded religion, a successful time-consuming job, pointless shopping or mind occupying technology, are typically not even aware of their addictions. So I see all humans in the same camp - addicted to something at any given moment. The aim of life is to experience these addictive objects as intriguing, pleasurable, boring, disappointing and finally empty. Then we get to move on to the next addiction and phase of life toward higher awareness.
Human existence then becomes a process of necessary and normal addictions, moving us from stage to stage, or from one ego identity to another, and another and another as we progress toward what Jung called Individuation or the Higher Self. Thus, I see all people in the same process with various addictions (what we speak yes toward); some are addicted to food, to work, to love, to sex, to drugs, to children, to education, to money, to fame, to every possible experience on the planet.
NECESSARY EGO STAGESThese are universal, archetypal and necessary stages we get to desire madly and experience as we move toward the Higher Self. Some of us are addicted to things that wreak greater pain and havoc, causing us to 'grow' or abolish an old ego-identity more quickly and dramatically than those addicted to more moderate objects, like work or success. Various cultures exalt certain "addictions" while devaluing others. The Greeks valued sexual freedom and Euro-Americans do not; the Greeks devalued arrogance and Americans thrive on it; Roman and Hindu religions valued intoxication as a means to commune with the gods, Euro-Americans, Muslims and Buddhists see stimulants as detriments to spiritual communion.
The bottom line, as I see it, is that we all get to move from addiction to addiction in the cosmic candy shop, each time optimistically thinking that each will satisfy the sweet tooth. And we are meant to enjoy these addictive treats, until they do damage to us and others, and they always will since the goal is to move from one ego identity to the next on our way toward Individuation.
Jesus taught something like this in Mark 4:26-29:
"Jesus also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself (automatic in Greek) the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the scythe to it, because the harvest has come."
The trip to the kingdom (individuation) always involves moving from an ego-seed, to ego-sprout, to ego-stalk, to a mature ego-kernel, and lastly the ego-harvest. The various selves we all get to experience mature for a few years, acquire an identity, reputation, education, persona, secrets, beliefs, etc...then it wanes and withers, finally being harvested. That particular ego-phase dies and we begin another; some have suggested that this psycho-spiritual process occurs every 7-10 years, about the time the physical body takes to replace the cells in every organ. This notion is found in all of the world religions.
That is why we call Death the Grim Reaper with his scythe, because our egos are harvested, and another grows, and it dies, and then another passage into some other phase of life and ego-identity. The Hindus recognize this in their iconography of Shiva or Kali standing on a dwarf (ego), killing it and creating a new self. The same imagery is in the crucifixion - out of the old life or ego-identity comes a new life, or new birth where old things pass away and all things become new. The problem with traditional Christianity is that it teaches this death of the old and rebirth happens only once when you are 'saved,' failing to see that Jesus taught it happens many times in the course of a life.
Each time we find some new object of affection and adoration, we speak toward (addiction), or say yes to it over and over. This is as it ought to be.
BREAKING THE STRING, RETYING THE KNOT
So I see all humans as on the same basic purposeful path - traveling from seed to mature kernel many times in this life, trying booze, success, religion, family, entertainment, sex, food, ad infinitum - and each time the new ego-identity is harvested, often disappointed because the particular addiction du jour didn't satisfy. But, the good news is that we are one step closer in the Individuation process. The conscious person knows of this ego-death-rebirth cycle as life as it ought to be.
There is a Jewish proverb that says, "God ties us to himself with a very long string; and each time we cut the string to get away, God reties it and draws us closer." I love that image because it illustrates the process of my many egos cutting the string over and over, trying many things to satisfy me, and with each failure I get closer to the Higher Self/God.
[If you are interested in reading more on this, see James Hollis, Middle Passages]
Contact Michael: InRequiemVita@aol.com