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Staying baffled

A friend in Program says:

If knowledge is about knowing, wisdom is perhaps about not knowing. We have a tradition here in the West that is strongly intellectually based. The inadequacy of that tradition for spiritual growth has long been recognized in our various programs. AA has a delightful story about a psychiatrist who joined the fellowship in its fairly early days. He was a good psychiatrist, says the story, but he was obliged to learn his AA practice from his sponsor, who was a butcher.

Confusion, as a counselor in Palmer Drug Abuse Program once memorably said, is the optimum state of mind for the recovering addict. If we could make a generalization about ourselves as addicts, no matter what we are addicted to, it might be that we were know-alls. We might be brash cocaine addicts, we might be introverted and non-confrontive ACAs, but it didn't matter: In our heart of hearts, we knew that if only people would do what we knew to be correct, everything would be OK.

Unfortunately, spiritual progress appears to be the polar opposite of intellectual insight. Outside one AA meeting room was a large peg. Newcomers were advised to leave their brains hanging on it before they entered, for their brains would assuredly be of little use inside the room. But -- even if we've been in recovery for a long time -- it's so easy to forget that our intellect is of little use on our spiritual journey. Sometimes it can be hard to remember in meetings which are dominated by confident old-timers that our progress comes, not from knowing, but from not-knowing, wondering, and exploring.

An eminent researcher once said that the difference between a bad scientist and and good one is that when the bad scientist gets an unexpected result she ignores it because she "knows" she must have made a mistake in the experiment, while the good scientist says, "That's odd -- I wonder why that happened." At the core of Program, in both its early days and its later focus on Steps 10, 11 and 12, lies the same principle: Our experience is more important than what we have learned. If our experience of our spirituality flies in the face of what we have learned about spirituality, then what we have learned needs to be questioned -- however baffling the consequences may be.

"The spiritual life is never one of achievement:
it is always one of letting go."

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