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Title: The desire of the spirit : theological reflections on substance use and misuse
Author: Williams, Hector Chandra-shekar
ISNI:       0000 0004 2682 6011
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis is a theological reflection on substance use and misuse. René Girard’s mimetic theory of human Desire is used as a hermeneutic to explicate the formation of self in Western modernity. The role of intoxicative and hallucinogenic substances in Western culture is seen primarily as facilitating the Capitalist template of homo oeconomicus whose central tenets are individualism, autonomy and rationalism. The mind-altering quality of such substances is a means to cope with the existential angst of individualist modes of life and provides, in the milieu of social interaction, an artificial and temporary sense of connectedness with others. Humanity’s ubiquitous search for connectedness and meaning beyond itself is argued as its defining spiritual character. Consequently the addiction recovery principle of sobriety through accountability to a Higher Power – seen as a spiritual principle and practised in recovery programmes based on the twelve-step method of Alcoholics Anonymous – provides the foundation for the empirical aspects of this study. Lifestory narratives of a sample of recovering individuals reveal the spiritual roots of substance misuse as disconnection and isolation from certain significant others (such as parents), or from a normative code of early social settings (such as schools). The role of intoxicative and hallucinogenic substances in providing alternative means of connection and belonging is illustrated through the mimetic patterns in the narrative accounts which substantiate Girard’s reading of human Desire as fundamentally contingent upon the Other. In considering the implications for the Church’s praxis, Girard’s notion of nonrivalistic mimesis is elucidated as an antidote to Capitalist Desire in which the Church unwittingly participates. Hauerwas’ vision of a communal and sacrificial witness is put forward as an alternative template for the Church in its witness and offer of Christocentric relationality whose economy of Love removes the need for mindaltering substances in order to affirm one’s identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Drug abuse ; Substance abuse