Reviewed by Ronald Asta, Meharry Medical College, NASHVILLE, TN 37208
Albert Einstein, in a response to a greeting sent by the Liberal Ministers' Club of New York City in 1948, pointed to the impetus of this book when he asked, "Does there truly exist an insuperable contradiction between religion and science? Can religion be superseded by science? The answers to these questions have, for centuries, give rise to considerable dispute and indeed, bitter fighting. Yet, in my own mind there can be no doubt that in both cases a dispassionate consideration can only lead to a negative answer. What complicates the solution, however, is the fact that while most people readily agree on what is meant by 'science.' They are likely to differ on the meaning of 'religion.'"
Editors, Morgan and Jordan have clearly shown by using a "multidisciplinary approach" to the science of addictions treatment and spirituality that these two can in fact be fused into one, thereby dissolving some alleged contradictions between religion and science. This book points out how spirituality can become an important issue in today's recovery process.
In their respected fields, the fifteen or so contributing authors to this book are truly astute as well as instructive, in dealing with this still controversial issue. As stated in the introduction: "Each contributor was asked to submit a chapter in which she or he describes (a) her own basic "approach" to working with addicted persons, (b) his understanding of and /or questions about the "spiritual" dimension, as well as how it works in treatment and recovery, and (c) some suggestions for how ongoing research into this area might proceed. Contributors were asked to include a brief case vignette or other concrete examples for illustration." This may have been what the editors wanted, but it does not hold true in all of the cases. To wit, some contributors asked more questions than they answered.
Over all the authors do cast a spell of inspiration and or illumination on how spirituality can be relevant to treating the complete spectrum of addictions. They did not limit their writing to only chemical addictions, but show how the use of spirituality can play an essential part in all forms of addiction treatment.
The editors organize the book well by dividing it into five parts so that they were able to cover a wide array of ways that spirituality can facilitate the treatment of addictions. The flow of information truly runs the gamut. Part I begins with a retrospective view of the beginnings of the spirituality movement. Following this David E. Smith, M.D., and Richard B. Seymour, M.A., provide an excellent transition in Part II, Chapter 5, with their essay, "Cultural Points of Resistance to Spirituality in the Practice of Addiction Medicine (addictionology)." Parts III and IV move from the conceptual to a practical viewpoint as outlined by pastoral-clinical and recovery specialists. Finally Part V "Conclusion and Reflection" brings the book in full balance. By taking this multidisciplinary approach to addictions, the authors are allowing the reader to not only expand their current understanding of spirituality as well as formal and informal religion, but hopefully gain a new insight into the complexity of the traditional Judeo-Christian understanding of religion and spirituality that is still dominant here in the United States.
Nevertheless, there still is an on-going debate over whether spirituality is an essential aspect of treatment. Within its limitations, this book would be an excellent guide to address issues of religiosity or spirituality with anyone who is attempting to rebuild their life free of addictions.