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MIMETIC THEORY AND THE PROGRAM OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS Lillian E. Dykes Memphis, Tennessee No prophet can claim to bring a final message unless he says things mat will have a sound of reality in the ears of victims.... (William James, The Variety ofReligious Experience) Is it possible to live nonviolently? The works of René Girard involve us in understanding of the Gospel's revelation of the mechanisms of violence and nonviolence , but how is one to begin applying the Gospel to end violence? If Girard shows us thatviolence is the basis ofall culture and religion, where does one find a new model today? Ifthe shift from human to transcendent mediation results only in personal destruction, then why bother? IfGirard is correct, and the power ofthe nonviolent Gospel is moving like a vapor through the world, where are the people who are living non-violently? Is there corroboration for Girard's statement, "A new kind ofhumanity is in the process of gestation; it will be both very similar to and very different from the one featured in the dreams of our Utopian thinkers" (Things Hidden 445)? Ifit were possible to show that someone, somewhere were able to live in community without the protection ofscapegoating, following their lead might save us from the spirals ofviolence we arecreating. Ifone could find a design or an application ofGirard's theories, with confirmation that the resultis peace, would people be willingto consider giving upthe protection of violence? Some demonstration that Girard's understanding of Gospel Lillian E. Dykes91 non-violence is practical and possible seems necessary in order to hasten a non-violent cure for our violent world. Perhaps we must accept on faith that it is possible to live non-violently. Ifit were not, then why would the Gospels have ever been written and why have they persisted? In my examination ofhistorical applications ofnonviolence , it seemed that whenever non-violence was implemented, the results were remarkable. Of course, we think of Jesus, Paul, Francis, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King...but they are all dead and most ofthem were murdered. Yet there is a modern community where Girard's theories ofnon-violence through the relinquishment ofhuman mediation is being lived out daily. And, thankfully, it is a flourishing community that experiences healing and renewal through the practice ofwhat René Girard terms "the abandonment ofmimetic desire" (Things Hidden 430). The world is witnessing the healing power of non-violence without knowingthatGospel non-violence is involved. Millions ofmen andwomen are attempting to live non-violently in the "Utopian" community ofGirard and the Gospels without havingread Girard and withoutthe need to believe in the truth ofthe Gospels. It seems to me that the twentieth century has seen the establishment of a community not based upon scapegoating but, rather, upon having been scapegoated. It is a fellowship ofthe Spirit that distinguishes itself by being a fellowship ofbelievers without "religious" scapegoating. Itresembles first century Christianity and is experiencingthe same explosive growth. This phenomenon is what I call the non-violent "religion" ofAlcoholics Anonymous. In this Fellowship of A. A. we can see what might be called, in Girardian terms, a community of scapegoats. Since 1935 there has been a laboratory wherein the theories of René Girard are beingapplied. Bill Wilson, anothervisionary, intuitedthe underlying mimetic principles which Girard shows us, and implemented his understandings in orderto escape the violence1 ofhis addiction to alcohol. Though he did not articulate what he discovered in the way that René Girard has, Wilson found a way to break free ofmimetic desire. He knew that to continue to drink would result in his death (AA 13). Though he did not speak ofhis dilemma in terms ofmimetic crisis, he found a way out of alcoholism by exchanging the mediator of his desires. What Girard discovered and now describes is demonstrated by the practical applications 1In the words of Jack Alexander, "There is a close resemblance between the criminal psychopath and the alcoholic mind. Both are grandiose, resentful, defiant, and hating of authority; both unconsciously destroy themselves trying to destroy others" (Pass it on 364). 92Mimetic Theory andAlcoholic Anonymous contained in the writings of Wilson, in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, with its Twelve Steps, and the Twelve Traditions...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 90-113
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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