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What We Mean By "Spiritual"

The Deep Recovery Course is spiritual in its foundation. But that idea can often be misleading. Spirituality is a rather vague thing. It can denote a particular religion or no religion at all. It can suggest practices rooted in a religious tradition or those that are labelled "spiritual", but are simply breathing or emotional exercises. So what do we at Deep Recovery mean when we say, "spiritual"?

For us, spirituality is not reduced to a set of exercises but goes to the very root of our definition of what it means to be human beings. In order to understand what lies at the root of our problems, we have to define what it means to be human. Psychologists have recently (2004) proposed Moral Foundations Theory to explain why some things create emotional distress. To define what it means to be human is to determine a moral foundation. Our moral foundation begins with reclaiming the Imago Dei - the Divine Image.

The Divine Image rests on the creation narrative in Genesis chapters 1-3. There we are told that we are made in God's image. But what does that mean? It certainly does not mean that God looks like a human being sitting somewhere in the cosmos! It means that we are made in the likeness of God's divine qualities. What are these qualities? We explore these in chapter 2 of the workbook. For example, Origen of Alexandria, writing in the fourth century, tells us "our inner man, which is invisible, incorporeal, incorruptible, and immortal, is made according to the image of God." John of Damascus tells us it is in our intellect and free will that we are made after the divine image. And Gregory of Nyssa tells us we are made a participant in God's love and goodness, because to be made in His image is to participate in these qualities. So, humans are intrinsically good, have an immortal and invisible soul that is incorruptible, and is rational and thinking.

Why is this definition important? Because it gives us a more compelling moral foundation theory, and with it a reason why bad things offend and hurt our nature, causing pain. The bad things that happen to us are offenses against the divine image within us. So, trauma is an offense against the Divine Nature - an offense against our inherited sense of freedom, reason, purity, and goodness. Trauma is a spiritual wound against the moral foundation of our being. That's why we can never get past it. What we learn by this spiritual definition of human nature is that we were not made for trauma.

There are other ways The Deep Recovery Course is spiritual. For example, our model of mindfulness is influenced by Eastern Orthodox Christian concepts, not Buddhist ones. There are many ways spirituality comes to play in the course, and these are just two examples. Stay tuned for more about it in the future.

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