The role of spirituality in mutual aid

By Alicia Schneider and Gustavo Berti, recopiled by Enrique Conde



“Spirituality plays a critical role in mutual-aid groups, understanding it as spirituality-the spiritual condition of the human being as a state of expanded consciousness as a human existential, that is, a phenomenon that originates in man, and also shows the specifically human man.


At the bottom of the desires and purposes of all mutual-aid groups and also in the “self-help” lies, with varying degrees of clarity, access to spirituality (twelfth step of the methodology of Alcoholics Anonymous).


When we try to define in complex terrain where intuition missing words, as Western languages ​​have very poor terms to describe the expanded states of consciousness, it is for that reason we have come to Dalai Lama who gives a definition of spirituality We transcribe because it seems appropriate for all beliefs, whether religious or not:


“The spirituality I think he says something about the qualities of the human spirit, such as love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, restraint, sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, etc. ., which bring happiness to both self and others.


As the ritual and prayer, along with the questions of nirvana and salvation, are directly related to religious faith, these inner qualities (spiritual) need not be. Therefore, there is no reason why the individual should not develop, even to its maximum extent, without recourse to any system of religious or metaphysical beliefs. So I say sometimes that religion is something without which we could pass, however, no way we can do without these basic spiritual qualities. “


For his part, Foucault calls seeking spirituality, practice or experience through which the subject makes itself necessary to access the truth transformations, so he considers spirituality to the whole of that search, practices and experiences that can be purifications, waivers, modifications of existence, which are for being, the price to pay for having access to the truth.


We should pay attention here to what is crucial to fully understand what they are, not only reborn, but all self-help groups; Foucault says in clear words what many of us have experienced: modifications of existence are gateways to spirituality and hence to truth and freedom.


He tells us that those who are radically changing existence, after an existential shock, they are given as a possible award of access to the truth.


Then ask ourselves if it is not right in the middle of an existential shock can not remain the same, as we have argued since the first meeting of “Grupo Renacer” (Rebirth Group), the December 5, 1988.


This way of access to the truth as a job support group, puts us in philosophical thought and not psychological, which is another reason why it is wrong to base the group task in the psychological analysis of emotions and feelings.


Following Foucault here reproduced the old struggle between truth as truth by experience and knowledge, and see how this has influenced and still influences a group as Rebirth.


Foucault argues that spirituality is given to a person requires that the subject is changed, it becomes, becomes, to some extent, other than itself as a means of access to the truth, it is only because of the subject to a price that brings into play the very being of it, so it can be no truth without a transformation of the subject.


Foucault continues, citing what he called effect “kickback” of truth on the subject and here we have something very important to us that we remain in groups of mutually help, insisting that, for spirituality, truth is what illuminating the subject, which gives you bliss, giving you peace of mind and inner peace.


If we are not able to see Renacer, or other support group, with these eyes we will never be able to understand why many members remain for years in a group, just because they have had access to the truth and with it liberation, enlightenment and inner peace.


Being in the truth is to be lucid, conscious, awake, alert to a world that has become transparent, without veils that distort. Conversely, if a particular group literature and look at it from a psychological perspective we could only say that some members continue to participate for a long time, because they have become addicted to or dependent on their group helpers


Given this way of accessing the truth by experience through an inner transformation of unexpected way and thrown to her by an extreme situation, in which, as Nietzsche says both the bowstring that now may be taken as tense whitest lejanas- goals the system of thought which holds that can be accessed by knowing the truth and only through it opposes.



Access to “the truth” by “knowledge”, without any alteration in its being necessary, it is only possible with conditions two orders, neither spiritual: first, constraints of the form, method, goals, etc. ., the rules to be observed and secondly cultural conditioning and have studied, have training, be accepted by a certain community, etc.


As can be seen, from this view of access to the truth by “knowledge,” begins the origin of power structures, mentoring the subject, as to be accessed by the permission of the authority is necessary; in other words, for centuries to access knowledge, and with him the truth, it was necessary the presence of a middleman in the middleman, dominance begins to take shape of a subject on the other.


In the words of Nietzsche, “is not enough to have talent or ability, but it is also necessary to have the permission to do so.”


This figure of powerful intermediary about the suffering continues today in full force in the figure of the analyst of the human psyche: To access the inner person really need a broker to guide you, tells you, you authorize and eventually ; can you master them by the imposition of values.


But every crime has its punishment, condemnation for those systems of thought that maintained that is accessible to the truth through knowledge, was reflected in the fact that truth was not able to save the subject and did not bring enlightenment and inner peace.


This is crucial for the task of mutual aid, in fact, in the scheme of the twelve steps adopted by many groups, access to spirituality is the twelfth step; to him it comes as a result of having successfully completed a series of tasks thanks to which the person recognizes their problems and learn how to correct implicit tasks in steps one through eleven; in other words, is expected to achieve spirituality through cognitive processes -llevados praxis only second term- when in fact you can only get to it thanks to an existential transformation.


Speaking of structures we find, once again, to the guardianship of the person; and thus we see that we can move from belonging to a guided search access to spirituality, to group membership by joining the structure group, a fact that puts us again in the middle of the struggle between two conceptions access to the truth.


Parity in a group requires the absence of authorities and refers to the eternal theme of philosophy, as is the truth, freedom and the relationship between them.


Any institutionalization generates power, the power generated control, the control generates clamping means securing domination, they override the freedom of both parties. The relationship between having power and dominated is not a peer relationship but condescending. This is not self-help.


The lack of power is not anarchy: the absence of power is released.


Power always dependent ties to powerful. Freedom is the essence of truth and access to the truth sets us free.


Frankl said that suffering makes lucid man and the transparent world, in other words, the inevitable suffering can be, and for many of us has been the gateway to the truth and with it entry to a freedom never before experienced as such.


This is another reason why we believe that a group should not be transformed into a structure because it requires fees and charges generated power and the cycle that leads to loss of freedom begins.


We mentioned that access to truth through a radical change of life provides the individual, according to Foucault, in return access to lighting, so it is now necessary to inquire into the meaning of enlightenment in the West, which means for members of a group and, in turn, does it mean for society the emergence of individuals who have achieved this status.


The meaning of enlightenment, was raised by a newspaper in Berlin, the “Berlinische Monatschrift” readers in November 1784, and who answered this concern was no less than Immanuel Kant, whom the 30th of the same month begins his letter saying that enlightenment is the liberation of man from the tutelage in which he has committed, and defines mentoring as a man’s inability to make use of reason without the guidance of another.


Kant insists that it is very difficult for an individual free from a life of tutelage, adding that if given freedom, enlightenment is a natural consequence.


Finally, thanks to our encounter with the Other, which in turn has led to our being, we are able, finally, to respond to the Buddhist riddle question by the sound of clapping with one hand and discover that is to mutual aid, which only occurs when one hand is the hand of a brother …


A reality unrecognized, of mutual aid groups is that, by its very nature, is one of the strongest borders in a given community, against discrimination.Indeed, in any of these groups a senior executive may have to listen on the same plane, the experience of a cadet of his company’s most senior in the group, demonstrating, with this simple example, and no parity utter all kinds of differences among members.


It’s funny, and it remains a paradox that groups had to be formed to create alternatives to inadequate social responses, if not inappropriate, to existential problems can then return free and responsible individuals, caring and compassionate, and to this society that he could not, did not know or refused to accommodate them in their darkest hour.


If in everyday life we ​​had assumed responsibility for the other, mainly in the family, a group, a community of suffering even this responsibility begins to extend to cover “other” and in that stretch we become aware that all We are responsible for what might happen to each of us and so, in this way, the range of our responsible task can be extended to the community in which we live, and, ultimately, to all humanity, refuting the idea man eats man, reminding us to be moral Kropotkin meant for those who give others more than what is expected of them, we see that the dimension of morality not only starts but also closes the phenomenon mutual aid. “



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