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Stealing Fire A men’s recovery metaphor "Quiet, where need is; and talking to the point." Aulus Gellius, in Noctes Atticae circa A.D. 125.

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Presentation on theme: "Stealing Fire A men’s recovery metaphor "Quiet, where need is; and talking to the point." Aulus Gellius, in Noctes Atticae circa A.D. 125."— Presentation transcript:

1 Stealing Fire A men’s recovery metaphor "Quiet, where need is; and talking to the point." Aulus Gellius, in Noctes Atticae circa A.D. 125

2 Objectives These slides are an outline for discussion and do not contain all the answers. Wisdom is available from the men who are present here in this room right now. Look around you, and look inside. Please speak up if you have something to say or ask, but do not cross-talk or ask to leave the room until the program is finished. We will use a story from mythology to examine aspects of being human and of being a man. We will talk about how men can use aspects of their humanity as strengths in the process of recovery from addiction. Meaning that we draw from a story is more important than the story’s content. (This in itself is a critical lesson to remember!)

3 Remember... when you were a child, the first time that you can remember being punished, perhaps by one of your parents, for breaking a rule. How did you feel at that time? Angry? Hurt? Alone? Vulnerable? Powerless? Rejected? Isolated? As a grown man, can you still IDENTIFY with these feelings? When was the last time you felt like this? Afraid? Sad? Depressed?

4 Maybe your parents wanted you to learn an ethical, moral, or behavioral lesson they considered important. For others, punishment may have become abusive. Right now I am just asking you to remember how you felt at that time; what the emotion was (or is still) like. How or why you were punished, or whether it was fair or not, doesn’t matter at this moment – just the feeling that you had (or still have) in the pit of your stomach.

5 Letting go After moment, and you’ve let those feeling go, we will move on. Now let go.

6 Light Fire

7 Ethics require an underlying story line… Every ethical system depends on a fundamental story that reveals assumptions about human nature, freedom, good and evil, and how the universe works. Metaphor: the process of describing one thing as if it were another. The language of metaphor can speak more powerfully than words.

8 Two types of laws… Social laws (collective commands and prohibitions of society, like government legislation or court orders) – Examples? Natural law (laws of creation) – Examples of these? Addiction, everyone knows, often results in consequences for violations of social laws and other human conventions. – Like? What are the some consequences of addiction that come under the heading of natural laws? – A few are? The two are not always identical.

9 Human beings are free agents In sports, a free agent is a player who is free to sign a contract with any team. What do you think I mean by “Free Agent” in this context? Consider...  Did you choose to enter rehab, or did somebody force you?  What other options did you have?  How did you reach a decision to attend this particular workshop today?  What were your other options?  Give yourself credit for making healthy choices today.

10 Free Agency “The capacity or power of choosing or acting freely, or without necessity or constraint upon the will.”capacitypowerfreelynecessity - Definition from the Online Medical Dictionary at Consider...  We make many choices every day.  We always have options, until we run out of choices. – When is that?  Some choices are easier to make than others. – Examples?  Natural laws must be followed.  Societal laws are optional, but of course every choice has consequences.

11 Meet Prometheus... who stole Fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to humanity. Among other observations on the human condition, this story illustrates Free Agency as one example of a Natural Law. Also, we will discuss some spiritual coping skills that men who are in recovery (and anyone, really) can use to cope with nature’s laws.

12 The original trouble-maker... Prometheus was a bright guy. Sometimes called the wisest of the Titans, his name means “Forethought” because he could foretell the future. Half man, half god, he was the son of Iapetus (the son of Uranus [Heaven, or Air] and Gaia [the Earth]) and an ocean nymph named Clymene [Water]. Prometheus liked humans. He always tried to help humans out, but somehow humans always ended up getting less out of Prometheus' efforts than if Prometheus had not done anything at all. For example… There was the time Prometheus persuaded humanity to sacrifice the useless parts of some animals to the gods (the bones), and keep the good meat for themselves, tricking the gods into eating bare bones instead of good meat. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but…

13 The original angry father… When Zeus found out that he and the other gods on Mount Olympus had been tricked, or cheated, by the phony sacrifice mankind had made, he got really angry! Zeus initially directed his rage at the humans, not Prometheus.

14 To punish humanity, Zeus took Fire away from them. Without Fire, they could no longer cook or keep warm. In this story, the punishment Zeus inflicted on humanity was heavy and abusive. This Zeus is not an example of the kind or loving father that a sober man would aspire to be But in this story, Zeus was the The Man. He was in complete control of everything that then existed.

15 But he accepted responsibility. Since Prometheus knew it was his idea, and no one else’s, to trick the gods with the phony sacrifice, he felt bad. Without Zeus’s permission, and doubtless knowing there was no way Zeus would allow it, he decided to undo humanity’s punishment. Stealing “a spark” from Mount Olympus, Prometheus passed the flame back to men. Thanks to Prometheus, as men began to share this gift, Fire was restored to the world. Prometheus thought…

16 When Zeus saw this, once again he was mad! But now, Prometheus was the target. Prometheus knew he was in trouble.

17 Consequences for choices… Because of what he did, Zeus (the chief god) chained Prometheus to a rock where his liver would be eaten every day by an eagle. His liver would then reconstitute, only to be eaten again by the eagle the next day. Prometheus experienced constant pain and isolation, chained to a rock, alone in the mountains. Or so the story goes… Prometheus would not die under angry Zeus’s ruling, but would suffer in this way day after day for "thrice ten thousand years." Pablo Picasso (1937). Guernica.

18 What was Prometheus’ gift to humans? Fire is a tool and a “Life Force” separating humans from animals. Fire symbolizes Consciousness. Fire enlightens the vast expansion of the dark Void. Fire is Light. “Fire in the belly” represents passion, energy, determination. Fire allows us all to heal… recover… feel well… to live…

19 More on Fire -- Nancy Coker (20027). Lighting the Fires of Mind, Sunrise magazine, Spring 2007, Theosophical University PressLighting the Fires of Mind -- Based on Nancy Coker (20027). Lighting the Fires of Mind, Sunrise magazine, Spring 2007, Theosophical University PressLighting the Fires of Mind More on Fire Just as a flame is in constant motion, all the constituent parts of our being are in constant flux. We are an interactive field of forces, like rivers of consciousness with every aspect of our selves continually flowing. We can picture our bodies as dynamic fields of energies that, to a certain extent, we direct with our minds. Sometimes we’re aware of this, most times we’re not. The spiritual path is about becoming more and more aware. In The Voice of the Silence H. P. Blavatsky refers to a “golden fire, the flame of Prajna [wisdom] that radiates from Atman” – which refers to our inner divinity.” This spark of wisdom not only lights up our being but, according to one Hindu source, allows “atman to realize itself for what it is, and so to abide in this state as in a dreamless sleep.” This implies that the ability to know one’s self, to be self-reflective, is a quality of the most divine plane we can imagine. This most important human trait, self-awareness, is a divine gift.

20 How to “steal Fire” How To “Steal Fire From The Gods” Live a sober life – accountable, autonomous, clear. Exercise compassion and oppose injustice. Questioning authority helps define your core values. Stand up, without violence, and “be a Man”.. OR PHRASED ANOTHER WAY… “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” - The Bible, Micah 6:8

21 How does drug and alcohol use affect your inner Fire? What is the word for the condition when Fire is extinguished? In relation to the previous question, how do you know? What good does it do you to know all of this? Death IN STILL OTHER WORDS: Honestly ADMIT who you are inside your self, and be that genuine person; IDENTIFY with other humans, accept their support, offer service in return; and LET GO to principles higher than your own ego and accept what follows. POP QUIZ How can you use it?

22 Consequences for choices… A man’s Conscience responds to: Societal (government’s) commands and prohibitions Natural law (laws of nature or of God) Personal ideals or loyalties Societal laws and natural laws are not always identical. What sort of “mandates” come from societal laws? What sort of “mandates” come from natural law? What are your options (choices) in relation to societal laws? What are your options (choices) in relation to natural law? What role does guilt or shame have?

23 Atonement... The idea of a God’s son interceding to save humanity from eternal punishment for bad behavior (sin) is hardly unique to the Greeks. Prometheus is an example of a “Christ image” in myth. You do not need to be religious to understand from this story how the following ideas work... A Christian view might be that humans do not need to “steal fire” because God has already freely given them all the fire they need in Christ and in his spirit. This view works beautifully for some. Others look for different understandings in order to be “at one” with the God of their understanding. There is no “one true way” to spirituality. Joshua ben Joseph, crucified between two thieves. Recovering men need to get and give support. No one can recover from addiction alone. Your condition will improve when you LET GO to a Higher Power and another human being.

24 Integration and wholeness... Some cultures emphasize an INTEGRATED pattern of meaning and physical/mental health. The yin/yang of the Tao, or some of goddess- worshipping religions of ancient Africa, Asia, and Europe, for example, seem to give more emphasis to WHOLENESS than Western ideas with which we may be more familiar. Spiritually speaking, it’s the MEANING we draw from life (consider this warmth from the Fire), and what we DO with that MEANING; not the specific story or religion that lights the way, that matters.

25 Meanwhile, back on The Rock… In the midst of a quest for some Golden Apples, a guy name Heracles stumbled across Prometheus, felt compassion for (or you could say IDENTIFIED with) him, and offered to help. Heracles killed the eagle with an arrow and broke the chains that bound Prometheus. Elsie_Russell (1994). Prometheus.

26 Prometheus was freed, and… showed gratitude to Heracles by telling him where to find the Golden Apples that Heracles needed to fulfill his own mission – one of his “twelve labors” (which for Heracles, by the way, were part of some “amends” for wrongs he had committed). Prometheus’ defiant act of taking sparks from Mount Olympus to give Fire back to humanity in order to prevent humanity’s obliteration is a metaphor. Metaphor is the process of describing something as if it were another. “Metaphors… are the essence and pattern of our mind.“ – Connie Willis in Passage Language and images of metaphor can speak more powerfully than words. Meaning drawn from a story are more important than the story’s content.

27 Prometheus could not free himself ! Like Andromeda (whose story, that we won’t go into today, is a name worth remembering for another time): Prometheus was powerless to loosen his own chains. He needed the help of another. What are some dissimilarities between this story and recovery? How can you apply the story of Prometheus to recovery? How do you free yourself from the chains of addiction? He was not able to unchain himself. He needed, and accepted, help. How (and who) can you ask for help? Where does this fit into a 12-step program?

28 “We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” - AA/NA Step 5

29 It can be scary, and takes courage, to expose one’s weaknesses, especially for men. It can be liberating as well. It’s worth the risk. Strength comes from admitting weakness. Healing from surrender. Before being freed, Prometheus could not have been more exposed or vulnerable. Jean-Louis-Cesar-Lair (1819). The Torture of Prometheus.

30 This step is a "make or break" point for some people’s recovery simply because the afflicted person is ashamed of things that happened during the course of active illness. To ADMIT mistakes to oneself is to accept the truth of how things were. It is the first step to repairing spiritual injuries. Self-deception and denial can not be allowed to serve as a safety net. Admitting faults to one's Higher Power shows humility, faith, and a desire to confront the past in a spiritually contemplative light. Perhaps more for some men than for women, the hardest part of this step is admitting one's wrongs to another human being. Do you agree? Why might this step be harder for some men than women ?

31 Define the word “expose” Ex*pose" (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Exposed(?); p. pr. & vb. n. Exposing.] [F. exposer; pref. ex- (L. ex out)+poser to place. See Pose, v. t.] To set forth; to set out to public view; to exhibit; to show; to display; as, to expose goods for sale; to expose pictures to public inspection. “Those who seek truth only, freely expose their principles to the test, and are pleased to have them examined.” John Locke To lay bare; to lay open to attack, danger, or anything objectionable; to render accessible to anything which may affect, especially detrimentally; to make liable; as, to expose one's self to the heat of the sun, or to cold, insult, danger, or ridicule; to expose an army to destruction or defeat. “Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel.” William Shakespeare. To deprive of concealment; to discover; to lay open to public inspection, or bring to public notice, as a thing that shuns publicity, something criminal, shameful, or the like; as, to expose the faults of a neighbor. “You only expose the follies of men, without arraigning their vices.” Dryden. To disclose the faults or reprehensible practices of; to lay open to general condemnation or contempt by making public the character or arts of; as, to expose a cheat, liar, or hypocrite. Ex`po`sé" (?), n. [F., prop.p.p. of exposer. See Expose, v. t.] A formal recital or exposition of facts; exposure, or revelation, of something which some one wished to keep concealed.

32 You do not need to feel isolated or condemned. People who honestly work this step discover that they are no better or worse than anyone else. The payoff... What are some things that can block a man’s way?

33 Society teaches young men… Other men are competitors How did you learn these things? Where do these ideas come from? Not to admit or express emotions Not to appear emotionally vulnerable Not to admit weakness

34 Recovery demands trust not only in a Power higher than yourself, but also in “another human being”. To recover from addiction, you must be able to trust other men. Why do you think this is true? What else does our culture teach men to believe about themselves?

35 Men should always be in control. In control of what? Violence is okay, sometimes encouraged. When is violence okay? Affection for other men equals weakness. If not, what does it mean? Gay and other lifestyles are bad. Does this ever matter to you? Women have less worth or strength than men. How would you know? Men should be taken care of by women. What does this mean? What else do men learn ? As a child, did you learn these false ideas like these about being a man? If so, where and how did you learn them? How do false ideas like these block men’s recovery? What is it within your power to do about false ideas like these, which hurt society and individuals?

36 Spiritual Character = Behavior + Meaning RC Ward ATC offers the following definition of spirituality. “Spirit has to do with wholes rather than parts, and integration rather than individuation. If in common sense terms you understand what the term ‘team spirit’ means, and can describe what a particular team’s spirit is (as most sports fans certainly can) then you understand spirituality. It is the Character of a thing, visible as ‘its’ Behavior… “But Spirit doesn’t stop there. Not only is it a thing’s character, it is the process of acquiring character itself, of integrating experience into meaningful wholes, establishing and maintaining connections. This is the second principle. Spirituality is Integrative and Inclusive.” * * Erwin Michel (2002). Promising Practices: "An Integrative Behavioral/Spiritual Model Of Addiction Treatment, NYS Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services," Richard C. Ward Addiction Treatment Center.

37 Men and spirituality The definition contained in the preceding slide allows for limitless varieties of spirituality, or as many character types have ever existed in the world. A couple of elements of which men I suggest that men take special note are: 1. A man’s “spirit” is visible in a his behavior; and 2. Each man derives personal meaning in life by integrating his daily experiences with his view of the world and what is important to him. Meaning drawn from a story more important than content. You shape your feelings, perceptions, and your “spirit” by how you interpret your experiences each day. Objective “truth” of a belief system (which are often not provable or disprovable) is usually not as important to an individual as whether or not the system works. REMEMBER:

38 Where does this stuff come from? Many of the ideas in this outline are consistent with writings of the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl G. Jung, particularly on the subject of archetypes, which, very simply, are: Another famous Light-bearer, a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson (“Bill W.”), said Jung’s writings influenced the ideas that led to the AA fellowship… A type of symbol, usually an image (such as a Light-bearer, like Prometheus), which recurs often enough in literature to be recognizable as an element of one's literary experience as a whole. “Very many thoughtful AAs are students of your writings. Because of your conviction that man is something more than intellect, emotion, and two dollars worth of chemicals, you have especially endeared yourself to us.”

39 Carl Jung’s views on alcoholism Carl Jung described alcoholism as “the equivalent on a low level of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in mediaeval language: the union with God.” Bill W. understood the above in terms which he described as the recovering alcoholic’s need for an individual “spiritual awakening”. Jung wrote to Bill W. that recovery “can only happen when: “you walk on a path which leads you to higher understanding. “You might be led to that goal by an act of grace or through a personal and honest contact with friends, “or though a higher education of the mind beyond the confines of mere rationalism.”

40 Bill W. and C.G. Jung letters Bill W. wrote this to Dr. Carl Jung in a letter dated January 30, 1961: If you you are interested in reading full texts of the above mentioned letters during your free time, for their historic and other value, you can see me in my office and I will give you a copy. This is entirely optional. Viewers should not infer that anything contained in these slides is endorsed by Alcoholics Anonymous. “Very many thoughtful AAs are students of your writings. Because of your conviction that man is something more than intellect, emotion, and two dollars worth of chemicals, you have especially endeared yourself to us…”

41 Review The gift of Fire exists in every person. Natural Laws must be followed. Society’s laws allow options. One example of a Natural Law that every human being has Free Agency. Choices and actions have consequences. Spirituality requires self-awareness, a uniquely human skill. Spiritual Character = Behavior + Meaning. Isolation blocks recovery. Men need each other’s support to recover. False ideas about masculinity impair men’s spiritual capacities to recover. A few blocks to spiritual progress include: racism, sexism, gay-bashing, violence, etc. It is a Natural Law that people are on one level, as evidenced by disease and death. The meaning we draw from life is not set by the story (religion) that lights the way. The meaning we draw from a story more important than the story’s content. We shape our feelings, our moods, and our life’s meaning by how we interpret experiences.


43 Till hope creates… “ To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite; To forgive wrongs darker than death or night; To defy Power, which seems omnipotent; To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates From its own wreck the thing it contemplates… - Shelley, in Prometheus Unbound ”

44 What Prometheus knew Prometheus knew a secret that could potentially lead to Zeus' downfall, and how the revelation of this secret led to reconciliation between the Titan and Olympian. The secret is this: Thetis the Nereid, whom Zeus wants to take as a lover, is fated to bear a child greater than its father.ThetisNereid Lying with her, then, would result in Zeus' being overthrown just as he had overthrown his father, Cronus. Prometheus decided to warn Zeus about Thetis. Rather than lie with her, Zeus marries her off to the mortal Peleus, King of Aegina. The product of this union indeed became a son greater than the father, namely Achilles, Greek hero of the Trojan War.CronusPeleusAeginaAchillesTrojan War

45 Related references... D.P. Sulmasy (2006) “Promethean medicine: spirituality, stem cells, and cloning.” Southern Medical Journal 99, no. 12 (Dec 2006): 1419-1423. Abstract:: Every ethos implies a mythos. That is, every ethical system depends upon some fundamental story disclosing its assumptions about human nature, freedom, good and evil, and the workings of the universe. A romanticized version of the myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and was punished by being chained to a rock and having his liver plucked out by vultures, seems to under-gird much of contemporary healthcare. Christianity offers a different view--one in which the universe is not a zero sum game and human beings do not need to steal fire because God has already freely given them all the fire they need in Christ and in his spirit. A critical virtue for physicians, taught by Christianity, is sagacious engagement--the ability to engage the world practically, discerning what can and should be changed and what should be accepted as unchangeable and given. The illusory quest for immortality through the practice of regenerative medicine using stem cells is a gross violation of that virtue. [John J. Conley Department of Ethics, St. Vincent's Hospital, Manhattan, NY 10011;] Miranda Aldhouse-Green (2004). Chaining and shaming: images of defeat, from Llyn Cerrig Bach to Sarmitzegetusa, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 23 (3), 319–340. Abstract: Summary. This paper seeks to address issues relating to physical restraint, disempowerment and the symbolisms of humiliation, particularly within the contexts of warfare and conquest in Iron Age and Roman Britain and Europe, although the enormous topic of ancient slavery per se is beyond the scope of the present study. The enquiry is based upon evidence from iconography, human remains, the physical paraphernalia of restraint and, for the latest Iron Age onwards, the testimony of such ancient authors as Tacitus. The subject is approached from the perspective not only of empirical material but also from that of social and symbolic theory. Furthermore, in seeking to interpret the relevant material culture, I have deemed it useful to draw broad analogies with other. Miranda Aldhouse-Green11University of Wales, Newport, Caerleon Campus. © 2007. Permission is granted to steal, copy, distribute and/or modify the content of this slide-show (except where otherwise noted) under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. A copy of the license is available at

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