This week’s Did You Know was written by a prominent professor who is a long time member of Alcoholics Anonymous: Among the Navajo, good shamans are especially aware that people who have been filled with too much anger and rage need to go through a healing ritual, where no one scolds them for feeling that way, and no one tells them to use their willpower to make themselves think differently. That would be ineffective and useless, because what they are suffering from is a soul-sickness, which is no more under the control of human willpower than any other form of disease, mental illness, or spiritual malady. What these people need to cure the anger and rage that is making them ill, is to be put into contact with the healing power of divine grace. These shamans know that someone caught in that destructive psychological state has to receive help from the sacred realm. We are surrounded at all times by yo-zho; a Navajo concept which takes several different English words to translate fully: it means beauty, harmony, the smooth flow of things, peace, and serenity, viewed as sacred and holy quality which we can sense and feel in the natural world around us—and also within ourselves, when we have attuned our emotions and world around us—and also within ourselves, when we have attuned our emotions and attitudes to it. Their traditional prayers ask us to visualize this sacred beauty and harmony all around us: “Beauty in front of us, beauty behind us, beauty, beside us.” “Peace in front of us, peace behind us, peace beside us.” So the Navajo chants, which make up the healing ritual capitalize on the fact that Nature itself—when our eyes and ears and other senses are attuned to its sacredness—will draw away our rage and anger and heal our minds, if we just let it. That is simply another form of the spirituality of grace, which we see in religions all over the earth.


The Apostle Paul however made an important new discovery about the nature of divine grace, which is found in Romans 7-8, and this in turn became the heart of twelve step programs. He found that the power of grace had an almost magical ability to produce a soul change (complete psychic change) and heal the kind of self-destructive behaviors that formed the most intractable of all human woes. He realized that the problems which most deeply tormented those who want to lead good lives, are the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors which we know are wrong and destructive, but which we cannot stop ourselves from doing by our own willpower (Romans 7:15-24): “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law of God is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells with in me…I can will what is right, but I cannot do it…For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my arms and legs another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my arms and legs. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Alcoholics give us an excellent example of the kind of behavior Paul was describing. An alcoholic eventually arrives at a point like the one Bill Wilson finally reached at the end of his drinking career, where he knew in his inmost self that his out-of-control drinking was an offense against all that was holy and good. But in spite of what the sane and moral part of his mind was trying to command his body to do, every day it was as though his legs would start walking automatically to the liquor store, and the next thing he knew, his arms, as though they had a mind of their own, were lifting the bottle to his lips.


To be continued…

The Waynedale News Staff

The Waynedale News Staff

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