I wish to have it understood at the outset that this writing
is entirely the interpretation and viewpoint of the author, and not
those of Alcoholics Anonymous. I owe my very life to A.A. and would
not want to be the cause of any confusion among fellow members of
A.A. as to the source of this writing. It is solely mine. I hope
that no one confuses the interpretations of one individual, myself,
as representative of anyone other than that one person.
We are all free as individuals to interpret the A.A. program
in our own unique lights. I have done so in mine. I offer them to
others, not to create controversy, cause harm or dissension. I
offer them to help heal those like myself who need them.
This is not written for those that have an orthodox belief
system of any kind. If you have a church, a religious or God belief
system that suits you -- gives you peace and that you feel answers
most of your questions, you probably do not need it.
This was written for those who are stumbling along, trying to
achieve sobriety but failing, resistant to the A.A. program, not
working the steps, not achieving the peace of mind available to all
because of one reason. They cannot accept God or a Higher Power.
There is another group like myself. They come into A.A. as
atheists or agnostics. Then they begin to get an inkling, an idea
that something is at work in their lives, something spiritual,
something greater than themselves. Like me; they are not certain
what it is, except that it is helping them, guiding them. It is
moving circumstances in ways that aid them in the achievement of
In order to stabilize my sobriety, I had to understand
reality. In my opinion, understanding reality must include an
understanding of the Higher Power and whether such a thing is real,
a part of reality or not.
To do this I had to work through certain processes; some of
these took months, even years, but I had to be free to go forward.
There are those like me who also must be free if they are going to
Doing this means that I might write things that could be
offensive to some people.
After more than thirty years sobriety in A.A., including
working through my own problems and watching the successes and
failures of others, I have come to certain conclusions. One, that
those who work less than the full twelve steps diminish their
potential for attaining and maintaining sobriety. Two, if they
attain sobriety; they seldom attain any great degree of peace of
mind. The fewer steps worked; the poorer will be the results.
I hope to show ways to work the steps without an orthodox God
I am not an accomplished writer. I am an alcoholic. I am also
cursed with an obsession for total logic. It is a drive.
This writing is my thinking, my ideas, my working through
problems similar to yours. I will try to share them with you; in
order to shorten your journey through the wilderness I have been
through. Please do not read this for fancy style. Read it for
content, for ideas. Read it to get sober and stay sober.
I have no hopes to sober up the whole world with my writing,
nor to even sober up all of those to whom this writing is directed.
My desire is to help you realize there are many ways to
conceptualize a Power greater than ourselves, that can be useful in
working the steps. A Journey
This is one alcoholic's journey, trials, tribulations,
thoughts and speculations. It is written and offered for whatever
help it might give. It is neither writ on stone, nor handed down
from a mountain top. Argue with it if you will. Perhaps it will
help you think along lines you might not have considered before.
This is for us, those on the quest, the search, the drive for
the truth. We choose to continue the search because the truth is
too important to us. What is written here is what happened to me.
These are my thoughts, my ideas and my conclusions. I hope they
will give you some ideas, thoughts and possibilities. I do not
demand that others agree with me. My ambition is to help people
Before A.A., before I was more than a beginning alcoholic, I
began to doubt. I began to question, first my denomination, then
soon all religions. Any readers that are similar to me will
understand the problems and confusion that I went through.
I went through much the same set of steps from the religion I
was raised in as many others have. First I found too many errors
and inconsistencies in my own denomination. Then I started studying
others. If they did not have the same mistakes, they had others.
Again as many others have; I made the error of getting my
categories mixed. Disproving a religion or even all religions does
not disprove the concept of or the existence of God.
The question is not, "Does this religion or that religion's
explanation of God make logical sense, does any religion's
explanation make sense?" The question is rather, "What evidence is
there concerning the question of God?" Alcoholics Anonymous further
refines the question by implication. "Is there any evidence,
concerning whether there is a Power greater than ourselves; that is
spiritual and takes an interest in my life or others? Is this Power
concerned about our lives? Does this Power intervene in our lives?"
These are the questions we are concerned with and will discuss.
Concerning evidence, first let us remember that the old
explanations about God, Gods or Higher Powers are all hundreds and
thousands of years old. If you would read some of the old
scientific explanations about electricity or fire -- you would be
struck with the absolute ridiculousness of them. Yet fire exists!
The atheist when presented with evidence in these matters,
cries, "Coincidence! Imagination!" There is a Flat Earth Society.
When presented with evidence that the Earth is in fact round, they
cry, "Coincidence! Imagination!" The atheist is as often closed
minded as the convinced religionist.
The prime contradiction that bothered me, the one that caused
perhaps the most mental and emotional anguish, concerned Heaven and
Hell. How could a God that I was told is all loving, good and kind
intend to send a large proportion of mankind to Hell, a place of
eternal torment and punishment. I found this to be a contradiction
of insurmountable proportion.
I must say again that the question is not what seems the most
obvious, whether the various religions' explanations of an
afterlife are logical and make sense. No, the question is, "Is
there any evidence for the immortality of humanity?"
I found too that the world, with its evils, its injustices was
inconsistent with an omnipotent (all powerful), all wise, all
good, all loving, benevolent God.
So in following sound premises I arrived at an unsound
conclusion. I decided there was no God. I became an atheist. Except
during those occasions when I became desperate, afraid, maudlin or
perceived instances where something had interfered, or taken a hand
in my life.
I found religion as taught, to be fraught with too many
inconsistencies and contradictions to be tenable as a guide for my
life. It seemed not to be consistent with the reality of the
cosmos, the world.
Actually, I went into A.A. an Atheist/Agnostic. I was an
atheist until something would happen in my life to give evidence
that something was guiding or operating in my life of a spiritual
nature. Then I would measure it against the only thing I knew about
spirituality, religion. I would realize that it was impossible that
it could be true on that basis and the doubts would take over
That was where I stood when I entered A.A.. Because of the
depths alcohol had brought me to, I was willing to learn. I knew
that I was sick, perhaps insane, that my life's basic premises, the
very philosophical foundations of my life had led to my ruin.
Now all of these things were again open to question. The
people in A.A. said they owed their sobriety, their very lives to
God, or if I preferred, a Higher Power. The members of A.A. were
obviously well and saner than I, so their premises and
philosophical foundations had more truths than mine.
I became open to instruction, to learning, to change, to
experiment with the premise of God again.
I found A.A. to be unique as a spiritual program. It does not
define God; neither does it demand total allegiance to its belief
concept. It says, "God as you understand Him."
I attempted to approach all religions; including the one I had
been raised in, afresh, logically, without beliefs, expectations or
preconceptions. Using this approach, there was not one religion
that made sense to me.
I was aware that all of the major religions and many of the
minors had evolved great philosophical and moral schools, teachings
and many other noble and good things. Also they have been the
fountains out of which many good and noble things have sprung.
There are many good men or women of all religions and
denominations who have given and are giving selflessly of
themselves to help others. All religions have produced some
wonderful people. That was not the problem.
The problem was that I could not accept their logic in
explaining God, man and the universe. I could not see how anything
built on false basic premises, while still grounded in its false
roots could be anything but illogical, no matter how much good it
may or may not have done.
Causing good things to be, does not mean that a belief system
is necessarily true. If that were the case, then all belief systems
would be true, no matter how they contradict one another.
I came to the conclusion that the good comes in two ways.
First from good men who produce good works regardless, and would
have done so no matter what faith they were raised in. Secondly,
from a Higher Power, Who has had eons of experience working with
good men and women trying to do good and be good in all sorts of
churches and in spite of some religious belief and some with no
religious belief. So for whatever it is worth, this is what
religion appears to be to me.
I reiterate there are many and complicated theologies
connected with these religions. I sought for the basic premise,
that from which all else followed. If that was false the rest must
be. For example, if the basis of astronomy was that the earth was
flat and the center of the universe -- all or most of the teaching
about the planets and stars would be in error.
Even if as some contend that Hell is punishment for sins
actually committed the penalty outweighs the crime or crimes.
Eternity is an extremely long time.
The concept requires a punishing unrelenting God. One who will
mete out His punishment on someone, no matter what.
I will give one last thought on Hell. I have two daughters and
two granddaughters. Now if someone raped and murdered one of these,
I would desire revenge. I would perhaps want to torture and kill
him, perhaps burn him at the stake. I think after just so much
torture; I would begin to be sated of desire for vengeance. In
time I would eventually feel pity.
They would have us believe that God is: (1), all good and
all-loving, and (2), wants to burn everyone who displeases Him,
forever. We are to believe that we imperfect human beings have more
compassion and pity then this loving, good God. We can accept the
convolutions of logic that attempt to reconcile this twisted
illogic or we can dump it and start afresh.
We must remember that most religions were designed when people
were tribal and barbaric. Those people were locked in their own
time, with their own ethical standards. They were trying to grow
and help others to grow ethically and spiritually within the
limitations of their times and situations.
When we view them, what they wrote and what they preached, for
what they truly were, stepping stones along a spiritual and ethical
path, we can judge them with greater compassion.
God either is or is not certain things. He either does things
in a certain way, or He does not. We must ultimately believe what
we and others whom we know to be honest have experienced. When we
find writings that do not contradict what we know to be true we can
test them out to see if they work in reality.
We cannot allow ourselves to be shackled to any writings just
because we have been told they are holy. Not when all the internal
evidence of the writings themselves contradict it.
We still have the problem of explaining the existence of evil
in the world. This is the question that every religion has tried to
answer in its theology.
The atheist marshals some extremely telling arguments against
the God of religion and God in general. They are the evil
inequities, injustices, etc.: the disparities of birth,
retardation, crippling diseases, health poverty and wealth. They
include those born with no real chances and those who have all the
chances, those whose childhoods and environments give them little
chance to be good and those who start out good, with perfect
The atheist further argues; that evolution disproves God. That
God, if there were a God, would not have evolved the dinosaurs,
then wiped them out; nor taken so many millions of years to
generate and evolve man. A Vision
Early in my recovery from the emotional and spiritual ravages
of alcoholism, I was veering between agnosticism and belief. The
evidence in my life of aid and guidance, was pushing me towards a
belief in a spiritual force; I knew not what.
Then, came a day of crisis for me. As the day wore on, I knew
that though the fifth step, "Admitted to God, to ourselves, and
another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs," is suggested.
For me it was now or return to drink. There was no choice, none at
all. I wrestled with it all day, trying to find an easier, softer
way, to no avail. At eleven thirty at night, I began.
I reviewed my life. I emptied myself. I opened the floodgates
on things I had thought, felt, done and wanted to do. I felt
drained, released and relieved, as one feels upon vomiting up an
illness. I also felt dirty, defiled and beyond the pale of what is
acceptable in the human community. The feeling that one gets that,
"I am worse, nastier, dirtier, a greater criminal or sinner than
anyone else. I am beyond redemption." My feelings were extreme; but
the pain and anguish were excruciatingly real.
These were the feelings I had as the A.A. member to whom I had
told these things went to prepare more coffee. This was at 4:30
A.M. in January of 1961. It had been five emotional, tormenting
hours. I went into a darkened empty part of the building, alone. In
my aloneness, in my anguish, in my grief, in my feeling of being
beyond the pale of acceptability of other people, beyond the
acceptance of God Himself, if there was a God, I cried out, "Have
You turned your back on me too?"
Immediately the room was brighter, lit up by a Being of pure
white light. He replied, "I have never turned my back on you, it is
you who have turned his back on Me."
I was shocked. I was aghast. I was dumfounded. I was
frightened. I was relieved. I was comforted. I was forgiven. I was
blessed. I was accepted. I was loved, all in a magical instant of
What was it that I learned in that magical moment of time? For
though it was but a short time, one senses and knows with a total
knowing, a full sensing. I sensed a Being of love, of power, of
miracles and magic. There was no sense of remoteness or awesome
terrible power one would get from an ultimate God of the universe,
nor a sense what the religious people term angelic. This was not it
either. He was higher, more exalted. The Being was truly holy.
The Being was totally composed of white light, what should
have been blinding white light. Because it was so brilliant, I
shouldn't have been able to look at him and see. However, I did
look. I did see a Being of white light who seemed to have a head
and shoulders. He looked at me and though He was too bright for me
to see if He had eyes in our sense of eyes; I sensed a seeing of
me, a looking, a regarding of me.
This was an approachable Being. One that could be cursed at,
disbelieved, and still love, with no heavenly wrath, no wrath at
all. It was a Being with a sense of humor, with real love. There
was a sense of companionship and guardianship for me alone, that
had gone on for unknown, uncounted time and would never end. I
would never be deserted, never alone. I had never been alone, but
before I didn't know. Now I know. The Being of light had always
been there, will always be there, no matter what.
Though I use the terms He and Him, I know the terminology
doesn't fit. The Being was neither male nor female, but both, not
neuter, nor unnatural. The Being was a composite, a unity, a
completeness. That is why the term "It" cannot be used for this
Being. "It" is a thing, a neuter, an object. This Being was
complete. More complete than anyone I knew. I sensed the power and
thrust that is masculine along with the enfoldment and love that is
feminine. Words cannot describe a knowing, a sensing.
Those who have never had this happen to them feel they would
bask for hours in the Heavenly presence, communing, learning,
enjoying. I cannot speak for others, only for myself. It was like
using jumper cables to start another car. When the engine starts,
you remove the cables because the sustained power is too strong. I
withdrew from the contact that had come so unexpectedly.
What was the aftermath? A sensing, a knowing, whenever I
reached out of a presence of guidance, of help; the difference
between believing and knowing. Some believe, I know! I said nothing
about it to anyone for years, for fear of being thought strange.
This visitation, this miracle happened in January of 1961,
years before the books about death or near death experiences, where
people met a Being of Light. These others had experienced death or
near death in order to meet this Being. My visitation was without
a near death experience. It was only later when I read the books
and recognized that the description was the same as some of the
near death experiences. I saw that this was the same type of Being.
But was it God, the ultimate God, a monotheistic God,
something or someone else? Was there a God, a religious type of
God, one demanding adoration, fear, tithes, obedience?
I had to look again to the evidence in my own life, and in
those around me in A.A., and given my studies, my learning, my
experiences, including my meeting with the Being of Light; there
was something at work in my life. It was something of Power,
something good, something that cared for me, loved me, that was
helping. I knew that I was not alone, that I had never been alone.
I felt that this "Being of Light" had always been with me.
I cannot believe that I am unique in being guided and guarded
by a spiritual being, a Being of Light. So I must conclude, that
probably everyone is so guarded, so guided -- whether they are
aware of it or not.
To my thinking if this is so, then this being is the
explanation of many of the spiritual experiences written and spoken
about by so many. In all probability, no one goes through this life
alone, and never has. The Search
Then I began to search for a system of belief that explained
and encompassed what I had experienced, what I knew. One that
explained logically the world, natural and spiritual as I had
experienced it. It is doubtful that any of us can come to a totally
satisfactory answer, but we can make an attempt.
In this my personal journey along the spiritual pathway of
truth, I give my opinions, my thoughts and my ideas. People will
question my humility and unbiased viewpoint. As to humility, I
believe it is to a large extent a realistic view of one self in the
reality of the world. What I am writing is my attempt to find as
much as I can about this reality.
Am I unbiased? No one is unbiased, myself included. I can only
judge from my viewpoint. I can only measure from where I stand,
with the evidence now available. All men are the measure and judges
of their own reality. I am doing the best that I am capable of at
this time. I hope you will do the same.
Any search for understanding of God requires certain things:
the integration of personal experiences, the real experiences of
others, psychology, psychic phenomena, parapsychology, physics,
astronomy, genetics, evolution, prayer, answer to prayer, spiritual
guidance, spiritual phenomena and all the various scientific
disciplines. It requires reading and studying of various books,
scriptures and other religious writings.
The reading of religious writings convinced me of a few
things. That parts, bits and pieces of different religions seem to
make logical sense; though no one religion did. There was also a
tradition, among most religions of an esoteric, inner teaching,
that was secret. The Essenes, Pythagoras, Jesus, the Sufis of Islam
taught that there were parts of their doctrines that could not be
committed to writing, parts that were secret.
There is evidence, stretching into the dim past of psychic
abilities, psychology, bits and pieces of science, just being
discovered, rediscovered and not yet discovered. All religious
writings, though differing in theology, seem to be describing the
same or similar psychic phenomena. There could not be this
crossover of agreement unless they were having similar experiences.
So, I studied various writings, including some scriptural
writings. Not as ineffable words of God, but as writings of men
like myself; who had experienced something and were attempting to
explain it in light of the knowledge they had to work with at the
time. Approached that way, in light of modern day psychology,
parapsychology, sociology, genetics, physics, science and
evolution; there was much to be learned.
Two books by psychologist Dr. Lawrence LeShan, "The Medium,
The Mystic and The Physicist," and, "Alternate Realities," pointed
out the similarity between cosmic views of mediums, mystics,
physicists, scientists, mystical religious writings and shamans.
Lawrence LeShan also wrote another book, "How to Meditate,"
which discusses all aspects of meditation from a psychologist's
viewpoint, without theology.
One other book, "The Way of the Shaman," by anthropologist
Michael Harner brings out one interesting thing; that there is a
correlation between mystic realities of shamans in various parts of
the world, with no way of contact between them.
These are merely three of the scientific writings I studied.
I merely use them to prove that there is much to be studied in the
search for truth. Of course I recommend, "The Varieties of
Religious Experience," by William James, as a starting point. The
journey to the truth is long and difficult, but worthwhile.
A.A., the "Big book" and the "Twelve Steps and Twelve
Traditions," these are practical, practically arrived at in the
crucible of having kept what worked and discarding what did not.
Our lives, the lives of all alcoholics in A.A. were sick, very
confused and headed towards disaster. By working this program, we
turned our lives around and brought about the intervention and aid
of a Power greater than ourselves. So in our search for guidelines,
we start with the A.A. program.
Let us see what can be learned this way. To start with,
nowhere in A.A., is there anything about securing God/Higher
Power's forgiveness. There is a lot about making amends, about
trying to heal the ill will, resentments and hurt feelings of other
human beings, gaining their forgiveness where possible. Obviously
guilt is unhealthy and making amends is the best way to remove it.
I have never found it necessary to secure, plea for, or request my
Higher Power's forgiveness. My recovery seems to be no different
from nor inferior to those who did seek it. I must conclude that
divine forgiveness or its necessity is not rooted in reality. To
need forgiveness would imply that I could harm God. That idea is
both inconceivable and extremely arrogant.
So how do we understand God? We have used man as a measure of
God down through the ages to the detriment of both. He has been
postulated as being jealous, punishing, killing and destroying.
Why? Because a member or members of a remote species of sentient
beings on a small planet circling a remote sun on the edge of a
middle size galaxy: weren't going to the right church, obeying the
proper rules and taboos, using the proper name for God, were eating
the wrong food or not being respectful to the right priests or
ministers. These are not Godlike behaviors. These are human
behaviors. We humanize our Gods.
We attribute our worst, our basest, our most immature emotions
and attributes to our Gods. We make our Gods jealous, demanding of
adoration, childish and paranoid. We have always used man as our
measure, usually man's worst measure.
The problem of measure is how do we do it differently? Were an
ant to measure a man, she would use an ant's terms in an ant's
understanding. Can we do better? Can I do any better? Possibly not,
all I can do is try.
Shall we try to understand something different but close to
us? First, become mentally and emotionally a dog. Feel like a dog.
Look out of a dog's eyes. Remember dogs are color blind with just
a hint of blue and brown but everything else shades of gray. Run
sniffing the ground, discerning a texture, a feel of odors. Knowing
what they mean, reading the scents as we do a book. Continue it for
Now we will do a lobster. No, we won't do a lobster, because
we didn't really do the dog. What we did was put on a masquerade
dog suit and played dog. We can play at it, play around it, but we
cannot truly do it. We can only approach it.
So how can we understand something like God? Imagine the gulf
An average galaxy has about 10,000,000,000 stars. The galaxies
that are known, number 800,000,000. So, there are more than
8,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. Figure the percentages. One
percent, even one tenth of one percent, one hundredth, one
thousandth of one percent of these stars having planets with
intelligent life is a fantastically large number. Allow for a
couple million or billion intelligent beings on each of these
planets and it comes to a fantastic number of sentient beings.
Now we have a God in charge of this vast cosmos, all the
galaxies, suns, satellites, intelligent beings and all the life on
all the worlds. We have God that is farther from us than we are
from the ant. Farther than we are from an amoeba.
Three things emerge from this. (1) How could we hope to
comprehend a being of this magnitude? (2) Do we really need to? (3)
Is this the way it is? A vast multitude of life, beings and things
going up to our level and then a vast gulf between us and this God,
who is beyond comprehension?
Do we truly need to comprehend? In one sense no; billions of
people have lived and died with some of the most ridiculous
concepts and I doubt that God punished them. On the other hand,
reality which is part and parcel of God has its own punishment.
Ignore the laws of gravity at your own peril. In reality are not
our studies in A.A. and working the steps attempts to comprehend
God, reality and its workings?
The view of the world and the cosmos as expressed by the
religions is extremely provincial, very egocentric. Most people and
religions believe that where they are is the naval of the world,
that the world is the center of the cosmos, or at least the center
of God's interest in the cosmos. In reality, this world is less
than a mote; a particle of dust in this galaxy and the potential of
this galaxy being the center one is very remote. The egocentricity
of this world or any part of it being the center of focus of an
ultimate God's interest boggles the mind. Another view is required,
one that takes into account the vastness of the cosmos, the
numberlessness of probable worlds with intelligent life.
We human beings are just scratching the surface of knowledge
of the cosmos. We are pushing back the frontiers of knowledge, but
the unknown is so very much vaster than the known. We cannot even
guess the dimensions or extent of the universe. All that we can
say, is we see so and so many galaxies with present instruments,
and we have no idea whether it is ten or a million times greater in
extent than the area of the cosmos which we know. When we weigh the
dimensions of the known against the unknown, for we minuscule
human beings to say we know there is no God, is the height of
egotism and arrogance. We cannot know there is no God. The field of
inquiry is too great.
How can we hope to comprehend a being of this magnitude? In
reality we cannot. All we can hope for is bits and pieces, hints
Here are a few of mine. God created this immensity and/or is
managing it the best way possible under natural, supernatural,
ultra-dimensional and whatever laws pertain; in the best way He
knows at this time.
In viewing A.A., I haven't seen any alcoholic instantly struck
with sobriety, sanity, and emotional and spiritual maturity. I
don't say it can never happen, but only in very special
circumstances, subject to rules and laws of which I am not aware.
To all intents and purposes, healing requires time, effort, work,
prayer, meditation -- a change in the alcoholic before the Higher
Power can get through to work from His side, to work on the
alcoholic on this side. It seems necessary to clear blocks and
debris on our side to open the way.
The religionists would tell us that God deliberately limits
Himself -- that He is omnipotent, but that he deliberately sets
limits and restrictions on Himself and lets evil have its sway.
Another facet of the argument is that He limits Himself in order to
permit us to have freedom of choice.
In that case having created everything and everyone; He has
created us with all our biases and inclinations. He thus controls
everything and everyone anyway. Therefore, He would be ultimately
the creator and cause of all evil as well as good, and the one who
punishes us for what is ultimately His responsibility. This is, to
me, the behavior of a devious, perhaps sick God.
My Higher Power, as I have experienced Him, is not evil, not
vicious. The majority of my troubles, in one way or another, were
of my own making. I cannot believe that the others were initiated
maliciously or evilly by God or this Power greater than myself.
When I have turned to my Higher Power, I have found Him to be good.
Others who have had personal experience with some power of a
spiritual nature in their lives know first hand that there is
something good at work.
If God is omnipotent, we have a paradox. I cannot reconcile
the question on that basis. I find it impossible to accept this
logically. There has to be another explanation. To my logic God is
not omnipotent. This is the only explanation that fits all the
facts! He is doing the best He can within the scope of natural and
spiritual laws we know of and are yet to know.
Also the arguments of atheism concerning evolution, science,
evil or unfairness to prove the nonexistence of God are answered
simply. God is not omnipotent! Those who opt for an omnipotent God
will say that it is because God chooses to do it that way, because
He wants certain results that He can get that way. But it seems to
me that an omnipotent God could do it more easily and softly. He
could make me perfect without all this pain and effort to strive
for perfection. They tell me I appreciate it more this way. An
omnipotent God could create me chock full of appreciation. So I
must conclude that my Higher Power is doing the best He can and
needs all the help He can get.
So now on top of questioning the need for divine forgiveness
we are questioning one of the cornerstones of theology, the
omnipotence of God Himself. What does omnipotence mean? Simply put;
it means that God is all-powerful, all-wise, all-knowing, (past,
present, future). That He can do anything He wants. That there no
laws, nor rules, natural or supernatural, that can govern, restrain
or stop Him from doing anything He wishes.
Let us look where the idea of an omnipotent God started. It
started with the Jewish prophets and priests. Other religions have
followed their lead.
Well is God omnipotent? Of course He is! Isn't it obvious? All
of the major religions agree and everyone knows it. Or do they? Is
it so obvious?
Let's look at some things that are obvious to anyone with eyes
to see and a mind to deduce the obvious. Here are three obvious
truths; the world is flat; the earth is the center of the universe;
God is omnipotent.
What is the shape of the world? We can see by looking around
us with the naked eye it is flat. Otherwise we would fall off or
roll down the sides. Of course there are problems. We should be
able to go to the top of Sears Tower in Chicago, with a good
telescope and view New York or Paris. We cannot. Why not? Then
there is the odd way ships at sea disappear, bottom first, top
last. How can we explain it, refraction of the air, the sheer
The earth is the center of the cosmos? Again with the naked
eye it is obvious, isn't it? But once again you invent a telescope
and start to measure, check and study, it becomes obvious that the
design is more immense, beautiful, grander.
Let us view the logic of an omnipotent God: where does it
take us? As I stated, God seems unable to change us unless we are
totally willing. God will not jail or coerce us. In A.A. or out of
it, I know of no case where God changed anyone through force
whether they would or not. I must bow to the evidence. He cannot or
He will not.
What about miraculous healings? There have been some and not
in the dim past either. Diseases are healed. Illnesses go away. The
crippled walk. But I know of no replacement of lost limbs. There
are limits, but there should be none for an omnipotent God.
So, we are forced to one of two conclusions. Either there is
no God or He is not omnipotent.
Is this the way it is? An evolution that starts with inert
matter going all the way up to us and perhaps others like us, then
a vast unbridgeable gulf between us and the unimaginably vast power
and intelligence that is God. For even if He is not omnipotent,
when was the last time you gave birth to a star? A Few Unorthodox Thoughts
Up until now I have torn down some old thinking and shared
some things that happened to me. Perhaps you feel that I have only
confused you more. Please remember, if you were not already having
difficulties in these areas you would not be reading this booklet.
So please be patient with me.
So at this point, hoping that I have more evidence and science
to work with; I will pass around a few theories of my own. With at
least one difference, I hope. None of what I have written or will
write is proposed as revelation of immutable truth: some has been
personal experience, some personal deduction, some pure
speculation. Read it make your own speculations and deductions.
The important thing is that we are free, free to reject what
does not make sense, what is not logical, including what I have
written. Study, learn, think, above all think. We do not have to
accept something just because it has many adherents. Look for logic
and proof, the two most important ingredients.
I am at this point going to put forth some of my own
speculations. I feel that they are logical. Perhaps you will agree,
perhaps not. But the important thing is that it will hopefully
start you to thinking along your own track. Remember above all that
A.A. has vast amounts of proof that it has a method of sobering up
alcoholics. The proof is all around us. So any theories that
contradict A.A., are highly questionable.
So for whatever it might be worth here are a few more of my
We who were outside orthodoxy, felt pity for those people
trapped in religious thought that we felt stunted their lives.
Those of us who were argumentative often tried to save them from
themselves. While at the same time, before we came to A.A., we were
trapped in a cult and were unaware of it.
By my definition, a cult is an organization, possibly
religious in nature, that shuts down your mind, takes all your
money and assets, controls your every waking moment. It usually
puts you into new and/or demeaning work for the benefit of the
cult. The drinking world we inhabited was the cult and alcohol our
A.A., acted as a deprogrammer, to set us free. A.A.'s
buzzwords and slogans were very good and very necessary in the
first crucial months, to still, to quiet the tremors, the jitters,
the terrible fears that sat on our shoulders. Through the power of
repetition, the force of the group, the words soon triggered
positive responses in our subconscious wherein lay the emotions and
the obsessions. A.A., started triggering positive responses and
healing emotions, in place of the negative.
We all, those of us who have been in A.A. any length of time,
have attempted to skirt the working of some if not all the steps.
We have used many rationalizations. One of my favorites, was that
because I could understand the psychological reasons behind the
step or steps; there was no need of me actually working it. This,
of course, was the attempt of the conscious (the will) to by-pass
the spiritual and be like other people, the nonalcoholics. But if
an intellectual answer could have won the day, I would never have
been brought so low, never been an alcoholic; or at the very least,
I should have been able to intellectualize my way to sobriety. The
problem is that tools of the intellect are inappropriate for the
job. It is on a par with trying to use a computer to break broncos.
We know that we are the result of millions of years of
evolution. There were the simian packs that evolved into human
tribes. It is merely a few thousand years since we became feudal,
then citified. The pack/tribal time is so great against the time of
civilization as to make it insignificant.
The evolution that went on during the pack/tribal time is
still within our genes, our nervous systems, the ROM of our brain
system and biology. ROM is a computer term that seems apt in this
context. It means, read only memory. Read only memory can be read,
but not written or rewritten. It can be utilized, but not changed.
It must be worked with or worked around. Two examples are: our need
for ritual, as in funerals and weddings and in a need to deal with
our guilts and guilt feelings.
Computers can be programmed in many ways, but certain biases
are built in; ways of conceptualizing, ways to operate and
limitations on ways to operate. Categories in which certain data
will be placed, including in some instances stimuli, e.g., (a) will
result in operation, (b) to be followed by either (c) and/or in
some cases (d). The concept in some ways matches the operation of
the human brain. There is a reality to the concept of the
subconscious as a fact, whether called the emotional side or
whatever terminology is used. The conscious mind concept is real
also, sometimes called intellect or will. These things have their
own reality in the ROM of the brain, nervous system and biology of
every human being.
This is the system in which, due to some biological
difference, alcoholism takes root and grows. We can be as
intellectual as we like, but our subconscious will reach for a
drink and baffle us when we least expect it. Negative emotional
patterns and patterning do not cause alcoholism, but they do
complicate it. They do stand in the way of recovery. They do cause
This system is what must be dealt with in any program that
tries to bring sobriety. This reality system is the one that A.A.
deals with. A.A. touches the most bases within this system. This is
the reason for A.A.'s high rate of success. A.A. is a
moral/spiritual program. In dealing with the subconscious; moral
concepts work, emotional concepts work, spiritual concepts work. Prayer
Dr. Rhine was the father of modern day parapsychology. He
originated the term Extrasensory Perception (E.S.P.). Using
mathematics and extensive testing, he proved the existence of
E.S.P.; gaining acceptance and respectability for the subject in
the scientific community. Rhine used the laws of probability to
prove that when coincidence exceeded the probability of chance it
proved the existence of E.S.P.. My life had far too many
coincidences. Someone, something higher was taking a hand.
Driven as I was by the immediacy of the pain and misery in
working the Program, I had to experiment with prayer. The results
of the experiments were intermittent answer to prayer and too, too
many coincidences to be coincidences. Help in times of desperate
need. The arrival in my life of A.A.s to help when I felt that
drinking was the only answer to a dilemma but really did not want
to. The coincidental arrival of someone from A.A. At unlikely
times and places, just when I so desperately needed a hand, to turn
me around, away from returning to drink. My own wandering into
someone else's life, just when my own experiences or words would
make a crucial difference.
In looking back surveying my personal journey in Alcoholics
Anonymous, in what could termed a Physcho-Spiritual realm -- I see
what happened when I prayed and when others prayed. A group of
people embarked on a spiritual search for healing, without
theological constraints, is a good laboratory in which to study
spiritual reality. A.A. stands the hard test of spirituality
working in the here and now; the world we must perforce live in.
Psychic phenomena, spiritual phenomena, spiritual guidance,
prayer, answer to prayer and meditation, all seem to operate out of
one gray area, the emotional side of man, the subconscious. Do you
know of any successful prayer that is totally unemotional, cold
intellectual? Prayer is always emotional. Joy, pleas, sorrow and
desperation are all parts of prayer, all emotions.
Prayer -- what is it anyway? There seem to be two kinds.
Public recitation type prayer which is more to exhort and unite
groups spiritually and emotionally, which might or might not reach
a spiritual power. The other is usually private, personal and
emotional; this type is aimed at a spiritual power whether it gets
there or not. This prayer is usually mental. Personally, I have
found that it appears to work better with more pictures and
feelings with fewer words. You might say, telepathic communication
with your spiritual power.
What does all this prove? As any scientists, we study a thing
by its behavior and the results of its reaction. I have witnessed
answers to pleas, prayers and/or commitments irrespective of what
name He is addressed under. God/spiritual power is not parochial.
He seems to answer and love everyone regardless of church, race or
nation. This is an important step in understanding prayer. Prayer Magic
When I was new in A.A. I wanted to know and understand about
prayer. So I thought I would go and ask an old timer.
Now in those days when A.A. was young, an old timer was anyone
who was sober fifteen years or more. So I went and found a man who
was sober for fifteen years.
I asked him, "Tell me what is prayer?"
This is what he told me, "For the first five years in A.A. I
kept slipping and going back to drink. I decided that I needed to
find some magic so I could stay sober.
"So I set out on a journey, a spiritual quest. I traveled far
and wide looking for some one to explain the nature of magic to me.
"Finally I came to a small village in the jungle. There I met
a witch doctor, they call them shaman now, he was from the little
tribe that lived there. The shaman was so ancient that his skin
looked like seasoned, wrinkled parchment. I asked the aged man,
"Please can you tell me what magic is and how does it work?"
The man studied me for a long moment and replied, "Yes, I will
explain magic to you. I will also show you magic that works.
"First I must explain to you that prayer is a magic rite. For
you see magic and prayer are identical. Both first look to some
Higher Power, or God for results. In both magic and prayer, a
person is petitioning a higher spiritual power to change the future
from being a continuation of the way things have been, to something
different, presumably better. Then the procedure is begun in
whatever way is appropriate to the that person's belief system.
"Now I will show you a magic rite, that is done among my
people; that when done properly always works.
"You see, among my people, fire is a very holy thing. Because
of this, you see, we always do our magic rite, our prayer to bring
down fire from the fire God.
"Watch closely now, for you will soon see the magic generation
Then the wizened old shaman sat on the ground, his legs in a
lotus position. "Now," he said, "we must focus our minds on the
fire God, Ashahra Gorah, meditating on His fiery nature."
Then he began to chant, "Hocus pocus, hocus pocus, hocus
pocus, hocus pocus..." As he chanted, he reached down and took out
two sticks of wood and began to rub them together briskly. "Hocus
pocus, hocus pocus, hocus pocus..."
"You are a fraud!" cried the old timer, "You are a bloody
"Ah," said the ancient shaman, "you have not looked closely
enough at the two sticks that I hold in my hands. For you see this
stick I have in my right hand is willingness.
"Willingness to change. Willingness to change anything that
stands in the way of the prayer coming true. Perhaps it is
something that I refuse to give up that keeps me from getting the
good I pray for. Perhaps it is guilt that I hold in my heart, that
makes me feel unworthy that my prayer come true. It may be that I
have been taught that praying for myself is selfish and I should
not do it. It might be that I have been taught that I must work
very, very hard in order to get anything and that using magic is
"If this is so, then what you really have is this action," he
put the stick in his right hand on the ground and continued to move
his left hand vigorously back and forth in the air.
He then held up the stick in his left hand, "This stick is
belief, or faith. Perhaps you believe that there are no Gods, or if
there are they no longer listen. Perhaps you believe that what you
are praying for is impossible. It might be that you believe the
Gods only listen to important people.
"If one of these things is so, then you will have this," he
then laid down the stick in his right hand and started sawing the
air powerfully with the stick in his left.
"Then of course there are those who pray like this," he said
as he laid down both of the sticks and chanting, "Hocus pocus,
hocus pocus," he sawed the air in front of himself with his empty
"All right, all right," the old timer conceded. "But you know
that hocus pocus, stuff is sheer nonsense."
"Ah, no," the old shaman said quietly. "Quite the contrary.
Everyone uses hocus pocus. Hocus pocus is necessary to keep your
concentration and rhythm correct. Praying with beads is hocus
pocus. Thinking that you can only pray in a building with stained
glass windows is hocus pocus. Thinking that we can only pray on our
knees is hocus pocus. The idea that God is so archaic that he must
be prayed to in old English, with many thees and thous is hocus
pocus. The thought that we must use candles, or candles of a
certain color is hocus pocus. We all use hocus pocus in our prayers
and magic. Some of us recognize it."
The shaman then wiped the sweat from his forehead, "You see my
sweat? Perhaps you did not know that prayer, true prayer is a very
strenuous, very emotional action. Without emotion, you pray with no
heat. If there is no heat, there will be no fire.
"It is also something that must be repeated often.
"When you have you have your spark, some people do not put the
spark to the kindling and the fire does not ignite. How many people
almost have what they have prayed for, then reject the answer for
one reason or another and thus there is no magic, no answer to
"How many people get sober in your organization, their lives
start coming together, then they get drunk and ruin it all?"
Of course the above is a parable. I wrote it specifically in
an effort to explain what I believe prayer is and something about
how it works. Naturally when I use a parable form, I take the
chance that you might believe that something further on is fiction
also. I promise that this will be the one and only parable or
fable. Some Examples of Answered Prayers
There have been many instances in my life and the lives of
people in and out of A.A. that I have known to be cases of what I
consider answered prayer. Many of them lack certain elements that
would make the claim indisputable. The deep dyed skeptic can say,
either coincidence or self suggestion.
Another problem in finding and/or proving cases of healing is
the investigators. There have been many cases of healing of cancer
by prayer, by healers of varying degrees of renown.
The members of the medical profession immediately respond that
it is a case of spontaneous remission. Spontaneous remission in
this instance simply means that they don't know why it went away;
and refuse to accept the possibility that it could have been caused
by a spiritual procedure. Yet, if it had gone away while a new and
unknown chemical procedure was being tested -- they would have
immediately credited the chemicals.
In the examples I intend to cite; some element precludes this
quick easy response.
In the examples I use, you only have three responses: I am a
liar, I am self deluded, or I am telling the truth.
Case number one.
Over thirty years ago, I was involved in a divorce from my
first wife. In the state of Indiana at that time it was impossible
for a father to gain custody of a child as long as the mother was
alive and wanted custody. It did not matter the merits of the case.
The courts were locked into the position that the mother was the
best possible custodian; no matter what.
In my case at that time I was still drinking and was not a fit
custodian for my daughter. Nevertheless, I tried to get custody of
my daughter. Quite naturally I lost.
To be perfectly candid, I must say that like so many divorces,
my motives for seeking custody were not the purest. I was driven by
spite as much as anything. It was a battle of wills. My daughter
was a pawn in our divorce battle.
Five years later I had sobered up in Alcoholics Anonymous. I
discovered that the man my ex-wife had married was a violent
abusive alcoholic. He was not abusive to my daughter, just to my
ex-wife. Still my daughter was living in this environment.
There was one other reason I wanted custody. My ex-wife was
one of those women, who are so man-dependent that they utilize sex
to get a man to take care of them; marriage if possible, any other
arrangement if necessary.
This type of woman is becoming rarer today because of the
woman's movement and it is a very good thing. My primary concern at
that time was that my daughter not grow into a dependent sexually
manipulative person, like her mother.
I consulted a good attorney who was also a friend of mine. He
informed me that the climate in the courts of Indiana had not
changed and that there was no possible way that I could gain
custody of my daughter. It was a lost cause.
At that time I was studying a type of prayer discipline that
I had read about and decided as a last resort to try it.
I composed myself, cleared my mind and began the prayer
action. First I assured myself that this prayer was solely for the
benefit of my daughter, not any vendetta against my ex-wife.
I then prayed for a solution that was exclusively for my
daughter's best interest, not mine, nor my ex-wife's. Then I
cleared my mind as the book had suggested. Clearing one's mind,
really clearing it, is a very difficult task. Then I waited.
I then heard a voice speak to me. It was very precise and
matter of fact. It said, "Put your daughter in an orphanage. Make
it a Roman Catholic one, because with their restrictive attitude
towards sex, they will counteract her mother's almost self
degradation in that regard. She has been pulled in one direction
for years, now she will be pulled in the opposite by the nuns. She
will then settle somewhere in the middle, towards normalcy. Have
your daughter put in an orphanage a good distance away from here.
Thus she will not be subject to a continual emotional tug of war,
between you and her mother."
My first reaction was elation that my prayer action was a
success; it had worked. My second was, what a stupid answer! I am
in no position to implement any of it. My ex-wife had sole custody;
this was Indiana. I dismissed the entire incident.
Then a week later, I received a telephone call from the child
welfare people. They informed me, that my daughter was experiencing
emotional difficulties in general and difficulties at school. It
was her home environment and did I have any suggestions?
I quickly gave them the full set of instructions as relayed to
me in the prayer action.
The plan was set into motion. My daughter was there for four
years, then returned to her mother. By that time her mother had
gotten her life into better shape.
Growing up was no better for her than the average child in
those years. My daughter is married, the mother of two daughters.
She is a college graduate, with a master's degree in social work,
a self sufficient professional.
The prayer worked. She is her own person.
The important thing about this prayer is that the spiritual
power I dealt with could manipulate people and circumstances. If
you discount the ability to manipulate people and circumstances --
you must admit that at the very least it was able to foretell the
future, to enough of an extent, to give me the correct advice in a
situation, that had not even happened yet.
Case number two.
This case involves my youngest daughter, from a second
marriage. It happened in 1986. She was involved in an auto
accident. Though there was no outward disfigurement, the cartilage
in her nose was broken. She could not breathe through her left
She was scheduled to be operated on in June after graduation.
It was so scheduled to avoid having swelling and discoloration,
during graduation exercises.
I had read about this healer who worked by telephone and mail.
He did not charge nor proselytize. He owns and operates apartment
buildings in Florida. The man has no church or anything of that
nature. He says that if can pray for others to prosper; he can
certainly do the same for his own fortunes and needs no donations
Mr. Y. works from the theories of a man, now deceased, named
Max Freedom Long. Like all of the rest of us Mr. Y. uses a certain
amount of personal "hocus pocus." By and large he is an intelligent
I wrote him a letter on my computer, had my daughter sign a
blank piece of paper not telling her what would be printed on it
and ran it through my printer to put the letter above her
The reason I did it this way, is that I did not want to raise
false hopes in my daughter.
The letter asked for healing for my daughter before the
scheduled date of her operation; so that she need not undergo
The weekend before the scheduled surgery, while on a ride at
an amusement park, she accidentally bumped her nose on her
When they arrived home, she told me that she could now breathe
through that nostril. I told her to make an appointment with her
physician. He cancelled the scheduled operation on the grounds that
it was no longer necessary.
Coincidence, you say. I challenge you to get punched in the
nose sufficient times to place a broken nose back in place, by
The suggestive power of knowing she was being prayed for? She
did not know. I did not tell her.
Case number three.
This case requires a little explanation.
It involves a woman of my acquaintance who was at that time
and had been for thirty-five years a multiple personality. At age
four as the result of massive child abuse and trauma, she split
into two alternate personalities.
There seem to be two basic types of multiple personality. The
first type is of the type mentioned in "Sybil," the true
personality is present, but is pre-empted from time to time by
alter, created, false personalities. The second type is similar to
the that mentioned in "The Three Faces of Eve" case and "When
Rabbit Howls." The true personality is not present. This lady had
been of the second type, until therapy had aroused the true
personality about two years before I made her acquaintance.
I met her in a writing club we both attended. At that time her
therapy was at a standstill.
She gave me a manuscript that she had been working on at the
suggestion of her therapist. It concerned a case of multiple
personality. She said that it was partly autobiographical. She
asked me to help her with it.
When I read it, I realized that it explained certain
peculiarities that I had noticed in her behavior; I realized that
it was highly autobiographical.
She told me that she, A. was the true personality. She had
been aroused by therapy, but was not able to eradicate the other
personalities and feared for her life as the other two, B. and C.
She also had a drinking problem and was attempting to stay
sober in A.A.. When she made an effort to stay sober, sometimes one
or the other of her alter personalities would take over and start
She called me one evening from her home in a nearby community;
she was drunk.
I remembered what Mr. Y. in Florida had done previously at a
distance for my daughter. I called him and requested his help. Mr.
Y., asked name, age and her location at that immediate time.
He then started his prayer ritual and worked for an hour. I
thanked him and went to bed.
In the morning I called A.. I inquired as to how she felt. She
admitted to a massive hangover. I asked as to B. and C.. She
replied that they were gone. I further asked how she felt as to
their absence. She answered that she felt empty and alone.
I wish that I could say that this solved all of her problems
and that she lived happily ever after. Life seldom works quite
that way; I am afraid.
I had made two false assumptions. One, that she would
automatically stop drinking without the presence of B. an C.. Two,
that she was ready to be free of her alter personalities. On a
subconscious level, the level where these personalities are
created, there was still a compulsion to continue to use the other
personalities, to solve problems; albeit in an irrational manner.
She continued to drink and within two months she commenced
something she had never done before, manufacturing new
personalities at the least sign of personal stress.
Eventually through study, I came to the conclusion that
multiple personality requires three ingredients. The person must be
a hysteric. The person must have suffered massive physical and\or
sexual abuse as a young child and have a high IQ. She fit all three
I thought if I could eliminate one leg of the triad, it might
break the pattern of personality creation. I could not eliminate
her past. I could not eliminate the intelligence.
That left the hysteria. Hysteria is classed as a
psychoneurosis in which there is conversion of mental conflicts to
physical symptoms. It is marked by amnesia, hypnoidal states,
fugues, tremors and multiple personality.
Another fact is that hysterics are the best hypnotic subjects.
The early experimenters in hypnosis all used hysterics when they
could find them.
Through questioning the lady, I became convinced, that
multiple personality is the result of powerful self hypnosis at an
extremely young age, in a desperate effort to solve insoluble
problems. The child attempts to escape a terrible situation in a
manner that is natural to them, entrance into a hypnoidal state in
which the conscious mind withdraws. In desperation the subconscious
creates an alter personality to deal with the situation.
Over time the coping method becomes habitual. The alter
personality becomes entrenched and others are sometimes created, to
deal with other situations. In some cases the conscious mind
withdraws for many years, sometimes it never returns.
What started out as a coping mechanism, becomes a way of life
that causes almost as much, if not more trouble than they were
created to alleviate.
The question remained, what causes a person to be a hysteric?
I suspected hypoglycemia. I had her go to a physician to be tested.
She was a hypoglycemic
Through diet and taking evening primrose oil capsules, she
finally ceased being a hysteric and stopped splitting and creating
new personalities. She has reverted to drink on occasions, but she
is attending A.A. and trying.
As to prayer, what does this all prove?
First, there could not have been suggestion or hypnosis as she
had no idea that I was going to call Y. in Florida. Further, she
had no idea that Y. had been called until after she told me that B.
and C. were gone.
Second, it proves that you cannot heal a person by prayer
unless and until the person wishes strongly to be healed. Y. has
since changed his policies and refuses healing to anyone solely on
the request of a third party. It is a waste of his time. He only
accepts prayer requests by the individual that is in need of
It also proves what I have said before; without the
cooperation or at least the neutrality of the subconscious, prayer
is destined to fail.
I have listed three cases that I consider classic examples of
prayers answered. I could list many more but these are the best and
they each prove a point that I consider important.
There is one other problem with cases to cite; quite often
those who get wholesale answers to prayers are fanatics of one
stripe or another and are not open to scientific, open minded
By their very nature, fanatics are more successful in these
things than open minded searchers like myself. We tend to be too
relaxed, open minded, skeptical and less prone to the
Only, when we are driven by personal needs or those of people
very close to us, are we capable of dredging up the emotional fire,
to pray for ourselves or others effectively.
Prayer if it is nothing else (and it has many more facets) is
at base an emotional thing and without the emotion it goes no
where. The emotions can be desperation, love or fear of something,
prayer for deliverance, etc.. An Unorthodox Viewpoint
In surveying my journey in A.A., the best term would be that
it is a Physcho-Spiritual realm. I saw what happened when I prayed
and when others prayed. A.A. is a good laboratory in which to study
spiritual reality. It stands the hard test of spirituality working
in the here and now; the world we must perforce live in.
In A.A. certain actions are suggested, certain actions are
taken. Steps are worked.
What are the results? On the whole the results are positive.
People stay sober. People find greater peace of mind. The
Alcoholics Anonymous program works in the real world, with real
people. We must conclude pragmatically that it has a greater hold
on reality than therapies and programs that either do not work or
give lesser results.
Look at ourselves and others in A.A.. After years of denial,
we are finally willing to change one thing or die. We become
willing to stop drinking, but that is about all. Even when it is
obvious that change is necessary for sanity, peace of mind and
sobriety, we balk and rationalize to avoid change.
In A.A. terms, we are supposed to turn our will and our lives
over to the care of a Power greater than ourselves. Why? Because
when we came into A.A. we saw what others were doing and saying. If
we were honest, we recognized that in comparison to others, we were
almost totally wrong in many if not all departments -- morally,
spiritually, in our personal relations, in our thoughts, thinking
and many other areas. Our view of reality was warped and misshapen.
Misshapen views of reality give misshapen results in life. This is
a description of insanity.
Others in A.A. said they had made a commitment to a power
greater than themselves. Some called this Higher Power, God, some
Allah, some Jehovah, some Father, some Jesus; some used other names
and some simply Higher Power. Those with some order of maturity and
serenity had made the commitment.
It has been shown previously that this commitment must be
worked at, that we do not become puppets. So, we do not have that
to fear. We think that He will not assist us to be evil, mean and
nasty. We must do those things on our own. I believe this to hold
true. Spiritually mature people eventually don't desire to be
evil, mean and nasty.
Another area of fear is that He will curtail or terminate our
sex life. In my experience and of those I have watched in A.A.; sex
is like any other drive we have. We have to learn to use and enjoy
it on a mature level, neither selfishly nor hurtfully. Beyond that
all I can say is that it is something that is extremely enjoyable.
I have had no evidence that my Higher Power has any interest in it
as long as there is no harm caused to others or to myself.
Perhaps this would be an appropriate time to discuss
rationalization. Rationalization vies with resentments as the prime
enemy of an alcoholic's sobriety.
Any discussion of rationalization could start with a simple
definition. Rationalization is the language we use to justify what
we want to do. It would cover the thought to a certain extent, but
it would not cover it entirely, nor well.
To truly understand rationalization, we must understand that
Freud did not either invent or discover the subconscious. He merely
painted it with a broad brush of sexuality. While sex is fun and
a reasonable portion of our psychological make-up, it is not the
overriding drive behind everything that he said it was.
Others studied it and discussed it in a more rational manner.
William James was one. I cannot quote the original statement
exactly, but it went like this, "Whenever there is a contest
between the emotions and the will, the emotions will win every
If we recognize the correlation between the will and conscious
mind and the one between emotions and subconscious -- we begin to
see some daylight.
Because we are biochemically and genetically alcoholics,
alcohol does strange and magic things for us (and sooner or later
to us). The social drinker who sometimes looks down on the
suffering alcoholic would be just as addicted if he or she received
the same effects from alcohol as we do.
The subconscious mind comes into the picture at this point.
Everyone tries to cope with stress and other negative emotions. We
all find coping mechanisms. We all repeat successful coping
mechanisms, alcoholic and nonalcoholic.
The seductive power, is in the powerful effect of alcohol and
other drugs on those of us who have the body-brain, biochemical
predisposition towards addiction. It is almost as if the alcoholic
and the nonalcoholic were drinking different liquids. It will get
both of them drunk if they drink enough of it. It will not addict
the person who is not triggered physically to become addicted. The
one cannot become addicted. The other can do nothing else but
Responding to the almost magical ability of this beverage, to
make the world right, our subconscious minds begin building a
pattern, a methodology of coping, through this to us unsocial,
social beverage. It makes a deep rooted, emotional decision about
alcohol. It is reinforced every time we drink. It soon becomes an
When we start drinking, alcohol reacts differently in our
physical and emotional being. It is powerful and it begins to set
up a physical compulsion and an emotional obsession.
I will give you an example of an obsession from a college
textbook I read years ago, but it is still valid.
A psychology professor was demonstrating hypnosis to a class.
He had found an excellent subject in a female student. While she
was under he told her, "When I awaken you, you will not remember
anything, even that I succeeded in hypnotizing you. But during the
lecture, when you see me tug on my left earlobe you will
immediately get up and go to the coat room. You will get my white
lab coat. You must put it on me before you can sit down again."
He awakened her and apologized for wasting her time trying to
hypnotize her when it was obvious that she could not be hypnotized.
She resumed her seat and he continued his lecturing. During the
lecture the professor tugged the earlobe. The subject went
immediately to the coat room and brought back the lab coat. "Here
Professor put on your lab coat."
"Why should I put on my lab coat?"
"So you won't catch a chill."
"Catch a chill? Look at the thermostat. It's seventy
degrees in here. Besides, I already have on a sport jacket."
"That's why you should put on your lab coat. So you won't get
chalk dust on your jacket."
He put on the lab coat and she returned to her seat.
What does this all prove?
The hypnotist induced an obsession that she had to get him to
don his lab coat. The obsession was in her subconscious mind, the
seat of the emotions. The rationalizations were sent up by the
subconscious mind to the conscious to fulfill the obsession.
It didn't matter that the rationalizations were irrational.
They were powerful and demanding. She was at their mercy until her
obsession was fulfilled.
Our alcoholic drinking gets worse because the alcohol is doing
things to and for us that it doesn't do for the social drinker. No
matter what we do emotionally and mentally; because of the physical
basis of our disease it will always rehook us, if we ingest it
again. It is never safe for us to attempt to become social
The subconscious, starts sending up rationalizations, to
fulfill its obsession. "One drink won't hurt. Just one to relax.
It's a hot day, it will cool me off. After all this time sober,
surely I can drink safely now. These A.A.s are a bunch of religious
fanatics. They don't know what they are talking about. A.A. is
trying to control my mind." This one is especially good because
alcohol has controlled our minds on a subconscious level for years.
It still does or it would not be sending up these rationalizations.
Our attempts to control our drinking or go on the wagon are
all the actions of the conscious and the subconscious conflict.
The subconscious is the emotional part of the mind. The
conscious is the intellect, the reasoning part. It should be in
charge, or at the least the senior partner.
In a healthy person they work in harmony. In an alcoholic the
subconscious is trying to be the whole person, and accomplishes it
albeit poorly, for years.
When they speak in the literature about deflation in depth
they are talking about the deflation of the subconscious. It is
willing for once in a long time to surrender the reins. It is
ready because the pain and anguish that have resulted from the
alcoholic drinking have forced it to surrender.
The rationalization process is one of the circuitous ways it
has to try to regain them. We know intellectually that we cannot
drink safely, yet the rationalizations still come.
The subconscious has great resiliency, great emotional power,
great deviousness. All we can do is attempt to defuse the
obsessional-emotional demands in the subconscious.
This is where we call upon a Higher Power, something more
powerful to help in this unequal contest.
This too, is the reason we have so many rationalizations why
the steps don't apply to us: why this or that step is unnecessary
for us; why this characteristic is not really a character defect.
Rationalization is not limited to Alcoholics. We find it
whenever and wherever reason and intellect are in conflict with
obsessions and compulsions that are rooted in emotion, the
No matter what evidence you might advance about the actions of
an aware Spiritual power; he must try to explain it away. When all
else fails, he falls back on coincidence, the ultimate
There are certain things that must be remembered in dealing
with the subconscious, sheer brute determination rarely works.
Anger at the subconscious is self anger and self hatred, and is
Many things work, hypnosis sometimes works. Prayer often
works if coupled with an understanding of a Higher Power that does
not cause the subconscious to cringe in fear and shame and not
participate in the prayer.
Reeducation of the subconscious is another avenue used in
A.A.; the steps are reeducation and removal of negative emotion
through concrete action.
Ultimately the commitment to turn one's will and life over to
the care of one's Higher Power leads to growth, maturity and
serenity both mentally and spiritually. If you can, give it a try.
Look to those whose poise and maturity interests you; ask
One observation we can make from others' lives and our own
lives in A.A., is that the Higher Power wants us to have happiness
at depth. We can remember the fleeting so-called happiness we had
during our drinking years on occasion. What happiness we had was
Our happiness in A.A. is usually less selfish. It is usually
coupled with following the guidance of a Higher Power. From this we
can assume that our Higher Power wants us happy. We can further
conclude, that the more we call the Higher Power to guide us; the
greater happiness we will have.
There are certain questions that must be asked and answered,
understandings that must be found before we make a commitment to a
Power greater than ourselves. Is this Higher Power going to operate
us as a puppet master; allowing absolutely nothing of free motion,
not one twitch? Are we going to be bystanders to our own lives as
this Power greater than ourselves, manipulates our lives totally?
In actual practice, it seems to be the other direction that causes
confusion. If we stand and wait for instructions before dressing
and eating, we are likely to starve to death naked.
While we are seeking direction if your mind works in the same
manner mine does you are probably floundering around in search of
a moral code you are able to live with. When we were drinking, we
veered back and forth between a code of dog eat dog, rationalizing
anything and everything and attempt to be perfect in every way. Our
old ways did not work. We need something that works and that we can
Concurrently, with my search for reality on a Theological and
real world basis was my need for a code or set of rules of ethics
or morals. During my drinking days my ethics and morals had
deteriorated to an alarming degree, even though I had felt great
guilt at the same time. I needed something to live by that I could
The various religious systems had so many contradictions that
I could not pick or choose between them. I found though, that all
religions in one way or another said one thing, one way or another.
They either said, "Do unto other as you would have others do unto
you," or, "Do not do unto others, as you would not have others do
unto you." Almost without exception I found this to be true. I
elected to live by this code to the best of my ability. Whenever I
have a question or a problem about what to do in any given
situation, I hold it up to the question, "Would I want this done to
me?" I have found that almost invariably that this test yields the
right answer. I would not be stolen from, so I do not steal. I
would not be lied to, so I do not lie. I would not be cheated, so
I do not cheat.
Starting as a temporary expedient, it remains my code for
living. I have found none better. Perhaps you will; perhaps
eventually I will also. In the mean time I would suggest you try it
as a temporary code of morals to live by.
We look for divine direction. Do we get it by mail or
telephone? It may sound facetious, but I am pointing out a problem
we all ponder. The difficulty in getting guidance and direction is
just one more indication that God or the Higher Power is not
omnipotent. It is part of the need for the twelve steps or some
program to get through to Him.
In over fifty years of life, I have experienced two-way verbal
communication with my Higher Power only twice. Most of the time, we
get an occasional hunch or urge, we follow them and good things
happen. Of course, at other times, we get urges and hunches with
subtle differences. We realize that these were not divine, but our
own basic desires. One of the goals of spiritual growth is learning
the difference between them.
The Third step in A.A. is something that requires continuous
work and effort. It is not a once and forever thing, but in my
estimation the reward is well-worth the effort.
I must reiterate that this is my journey, my search for total
reality. Part of it must deal with whether man is immortal, whether
there is an afterlife and if so what kind.
In our short sojourn here in this existence, we change
radically from birth to death. We are promised by religion that we
will be frozen as is. Deep down we know that change is death. Death
is change: death of the old, birth of the new. When I change; the
old I dies; a new I is born. That is why we fight change so
desperately; even when the change is for the better. We fear death.
We fear change.
I admit that I fear change. I fear the death of the I that I
am, as I evolve through life and death and the spiritual growth and
change that is inevitable.
I have already discussed the irrationality of Hell. So let's
look at Heaven; harps and wings? I rather doubt that, but total
eternal bliss? It sounds rather boring on the face of it.
The rest of it, the concept of heaven being a reward is also
rather difficult to conceive. Reward for what? Believing in a
religion? All those who never heard of that particular religion,
miss out regardless of fault or lack of it. Ridiculous! That one is
good rather than evil -- evil in what way and by whose judgment?
Mostly the judgments of men who need or wish to control others. The
judgments take no account of heredity, genetics, environment or a
thousand and one things that go into behavior. Nothing allowed for
length of life, either. I have had over fifty years to study and
ponder the nature of reality, good and evil. While someone else,
might be only allowed a very few years to determine where and how
they will spend eternity. It seems terribly sloppy and unjust to
say the least.
The search for the truth requires courage. Fairy tales seldom
need it. Everyone marries the Prince and lives happily ever after,
or goes to Heaven. Reality, the truths as I have perceived them,
often demand courage. The accepted religions all promise that when
we die we will enter into an afterlife and be frozen, frozen as to
personality, growth level, persona if you will, body and soul.
I admit that the things that I see as obvious, cause me
apprehension. It would be easy to turn my back on the search for
the truth. It would be comfortable to shut down my mind and join
a conventional religion that promised eternal freezing, eternal
unchange. But my mind was shut down for years with alcohol, so I
seek the truth regardless.
The concept of a cosmos of vast evolution does not fit in with
this being the only life I have to live; it being first a test and
then an eternity of being immortal, frozen, just as I am
changeless. I am not today the same person I was ten years ago.
Neither of them is the same as the person l was twenty years ago.
None of them is the same as the drunken, drinking alcoholic that
I had to look to something that took evolution, change and
longer life span into account. Reincarnation demanded another look.
Pythagoras the Greek mathematician and philosopher believed in it.
Hindus, Buddhists and many varieties of Pagan and Heathen believed
in reincarnation. I don't know if they all constitute a majority of
the human race over time but they were not all fools; some of
the best brains and philosophers considered it as part of their
reality. These include one of America's founding fathers, Benjamin
There is one thing considered part of the concept of
reincarnation that always draws laughter; it is the idea of coming
back as a rat or a cockroach as punishment. To start with that is
transmigration of souls, not reincarnation. I agree it is silly.
There is too, too much of me to be compressed into a rat or a
cockroach. It is possible that the spiritual spark that is me
started a long time ago in the animal kingdom or lower and worked
its way up. Bouncing back and forth like a yo-yo makes very little
sense. Once human, we probably never return to the animal. That
makes a great deal more sense.
Another part is Karma. On first look God, or Higher Power,
exercising the laws of Karma to punish or reward, e.g., an eye for
an eye, sounded judgmental and in some cases downright vicious;
particularly when a person cannot remember what he is being
punished or rewarded for.
There were other ideas, however. Nothing was for punishment or
reward in the human sense. Everything including what has come to be
known as Karma, is for us to learn, to grow, to evolve to a higher
When I began to look at this life as a grade, a level, in a
centuries-long evolutionary growing process, that I had evolved, I
was evolving and would continue to evolve. I concluded that I was
in a process of evolution.
I thought back to my school days. The pep rallies, the
problems, the fights, the love affairs, the team rivalries, the
fears over grades, the many things that were so important then, but
are all so unimportant now. They were all so transient, but all a
part of my growing, learning and evolving into adulthood. Perhaps
there is another growing, another adulthood, another grade on the
vast road of growth. I began to sense that I was not only growing,
I was looked after and was a growing, evolving part of a growing,
evolving universe that is Divine.
Some will argue that God was remiss in making us forget what
we experienced in previous incarnations, but tolerate me in my
theorizing. It is conceivable that reincarnation operates under
laws that are immutably interwoven in the fabric of the universe,
just the same as gravity. Following that premise we come to the
conclusion that God can operate within such laws, but not in
contravention of them.
I have spoken of evolution, evolution of life and spiritual
evolution. This is not only on the level of that within a life span
but also through the chains of life upward to man. What about
beyond man? Step by minute step the progression climbs to the
pinnacle -- the apex of humanity, then what? Where do we go from
here? If my judgments are correct, we reincarnate, but forever and
ever? If we are evolving, growing and changing then logic would say
Logic says no two counts. (1) We are working for perfection,
even those of us who are unaware of it. So where are the multitudes
of perfected people that should be stacking up? I, for one don't
see that many. (2) The concept of a vast evolutionary growth over
eons, which gets us here and no farther, doesn't fit. The vast gulf
between us and the ultimate, vast God that powers or is the
universe is awesome. It demands filling.
It demands filling because there must be more stages of growth
and/or development beyond this. Conventional religious thought says
we go this far and no farther. We are then cast in concrete, frozen
as it were, no more change no more development.
There must be more stages. Logic demands that there be a
continuation of development. How many more, I have no way of
knowing. Discerning what the ultimate goal is, is beyond our
capacity. Knowing with absolute certainty is impossible to any of
us. So, we are left with speculation and conjecture. You are
perfectly welcome to yours. What follows is mine.
My personal belief is that the Being of Light is the next
step up, the next school after mankind. I think perhaps when I
perfect myself as best I am able, that is what I will evolve to, be
changed to, graduate to. Naturally it will be in ways I cannot
conceive of or know at this time. To be perfectly honest, I am
rather sure that I am not ready this time and will probably need to
return as a human, how many more times is useless to conjecture. I
wish I could say that I knew I was ready for graduation. It would
be nice, not to have to go through more grades in this school. This
is a rough school on occasion.
It would seem that the Being of Light would logically be the
next step up from man. I personally believe that when I graduate
finally; it will be to become a Being of Light. There is
undoubtedly a vast unknown series of steps above the Being. What
they are I cannot know at this level. I can no more comprehend the
steps beyond; than the lobster can comprehend me, much less the
amoeba. The best I can hope to do is attempt to understand the next
level, the Being of Light level, in the same way a chimpanzee could
understand me -- poorly and on a chimpanzee level, not a human
My capacity to understand the next level is naturally poor,
but all I can do is try as best I can. We live one day at a time,
one lifetime at a time. A stab at understanding this level and the
next is the best we can do and that task is truly awesome.
I can neither comprehend nor believe that the unknowably vast
God of the cosmos is my own personal Higher Power. The distance is,
to my understanding, unbridgeable. No, the sense that I got in my
vision of the Being of Light was that He was my Higher Power, my
guardian, my guide. I had no sense of His being the ultimate God.
This, to me, holds the most logic, the most sense.
"Varieties of Religious Experience," was written by William
James in 1902 and the writing to me seems to be obtuse and
convoluted, but I do recommend it to you despite its difficulty.
The following quotation is from the book and I think appropriate at
"...The only thing that it unequivocally testifies to is
that we can experience union with something larger than
ourselves and in that union find our greatest peace.
Philosophy with its passion for unity and mysticism with
all its monotheistic bent both pass to the limit and
identify the something with a unique God who is the
all-inclusive soul of the world. Popular opinion,
respectful of their authority, follows the example which
they set. Meanwhile the practical needs and experiences
of religion seem to me sufficiently met by the belief
that beyond each man and in a fashion continuous with him
there exists a larger power which is friendly to him and
his ideals. All that the facts require is that the power
be both other and larger than our conscious selves.
Anything larger will do, if only it be large enough to
trust for the next step. It need not be infinite, it need
not be solitary. It might conceivably even be only a
larger and more Godlike self, of which the present self
would then be but a mutilated expression, and the
universe might conceivably be a collection of such
selves, of different degrees of inclusiveness, with no
absolute unity at all. Thus would a sort polytheism
return upon us -- a polytheism which I do not on this
occasion defend, for my only aim at present is to keep
the testimony of religious experience within its proper
We have done much speculation on the nature of God. I believe
I would be remiss if I did not throw this one in at this point of
free wheeling speculation. Let us step outside western concepts of
the old man with the white flowing beard, forming worlds as on a
potter's wheel, let us look to an eastern one. God is! All of the
world, the worlds, the suns, the galaxies are God! If you haven't
considered it before; you might find it ludicrous, repellent and
impossible, but on consideration it might make sense of sorts.
When the singularity that erupted into the big bang -- the origin
of the cosmos as we know it -- perhaps it was the birth pangs of an
awesome intelligence and power, erupting into being. Stop and
consider it as I did. It would explain quite a bit. The obvious
limitations on God and what He can and cannot do. His doing of many
things we consider incomprehensible. Think about it as I have; it
has a superior validity of logic.
In the writings of India was the concept of God being the
universe, rather than being the creator of it. A cosmos that lives,
breathes, and vibrates with an intelligence beyond our
comprehension. Think about God as an evolving intelligence, of
which we are evolving parts of the intelligence, a God of power
wherein the forces are governed by laws some of which we know and
many others that appear miraculous because we haven't discovered
As part of this concept of a dynamic cosmos, that has over
many eons breathed in and out; expanded into beingness and
contracted into nonbeingness; is the mystical counterpart of the
big bang theory. I concluded that we are part of a vast evolution.
There are many other concepts of God or Higher Power than the
orthodox. What I have written is mine not necessarily yours. Don't
close your mind because none of these concepts suits you. Later,
when you have had time to dry out; one of them may. Perhaps you
can, as I have, search out your own best answers.
The answers are not in the bars nor in the bottle. They are
in books, in people's lives and in their spirits. They are
wherever you seek if you search with an open mind.
There is one more group I must address before I go on: those
who feel that God has abandoned them and those whose thoughts can
be expressed as, "God wants nothing to do with me because...," or,"
There might be a God, but He doesn't believe in me!" This concept
is neither new nor unique. So please give this a thought. If God is
not omnipotent and needs all the help He can get from this level;
perhaps you have been going about it wrong. Look at those around
you, those who have maturity, serenity, peace of mind. Ask. Study.
Learn. Open up the clogged passages of your thinking, clean out the
cobwebs, drive out the bats, let in the light, have the humility to
admit you might be wrong and others right. They are happy, you are
not. They must be doing something right; you must be doing
I realize there are still those who cannot or will not accept
the possibility of a Higher Power. So where does that leave you? I
would hope that those who consider themselves atheist would move
over into the agnostic column, as the concept, "There is no God,"
is unprovable and arrogant. For Those Who Cannot Accept Orthodoxy
So, you cannot accept the religion of your fathers. You, like
I, are also unable to accept the religious theories of your fellow
members of A.A. It's not the end of the world. You are not
condemned to inevitably getting drunk, contrary to what some people
might think or say.
I have managed to stay sober for over thirty years with some
very unorthodox thinking. There are those who are certain that my
ideas will get me drunk. Even if I were to drink tomorrow, it would
not prove anything other than I had managed to restore myself to
With the right attitude, we can stay sober. When we want to
stay sober, we will do those things and take those options which
lead to sobriety.
Perhaps if it is well thought out, our sobriety will be that
form of sobriety will that which is best for each one of us.
There are many in A.A. who cannot accept an orthodox God
concept, But as long as we can accept another prime concept: that
they are not God!
Believing you are God is not peculiar to the intelligent, the
philosopher. All practicing alcoholics operate and think as if they
are the center of the universe, the most important, the arbitrator
of what everyone else should do, think and enjoy. We judge others.
We demand perfection from them that we cannot find in ourselves. We
know what is best and right for others. We are extremely intolerant
of other's weaknesses when we cannot control our own.
The first point in recovery is to realize that we are sick, in
many ways -- that a high percentage of our life is not sane, that
it is not working. It must be changed. The question is what we must
change and how much of our lives must we change.
That is the purpose of the fourth and fifth steps. We must
inventory on our own. Then we must inventory with another farther
along the road to recovery. We must be willing to reconsider our
entire life, and perhaps most important, our life's philosophy, our
Not being able to accept an orthodox God concept; where do you
go from here? The A.A. program can be worked as a straight
psychological, ethical program. Morals and ethics really are
interchangeable, but pure psychology, without morals or ethics will
seldom, if ever, sober up alcoholics.
We will be examining the steps with a view to the concept that
our Higher Power needs all of the help that he can get on our side
in order to wrought any change from his.
Contrary to what some religionists would have you believe;
most philosophers and free thinkers are every bit as ethical as
they are. So, we must start considering the program as an ethical
psychological exercise, as well as a spiritual one.
Now of course, all we have to do is figure out what ethics
are. To find out what they are it would help to ponder where they
A pack animal must interact with others in the pack. Methods
and means of interaction are necessary to preserve the pack.
Preservation of the pack preserves the individuals and consequently
the genetic material, genetic material that keeps the pack
successful will be passed on.
Behavior that preserves the individual will usually preserve
the pack/tribe, but not always. Behavior that preserves the
pack/tribe usually but not always preserves the individual.
Consequently, there are compromises.
The behaviors and compromises equal the mores, the morals and
ethics. This encompasses some, but not all, of the concept of sin.
The elaborations and embellishments on these basics cause some,
but not all, of the problems and confusion.
The rest of the difficulty comes mainly from two directions.
One is when the individual's survival behavior interferes with
pack/tribal survival. Two, when pack/tribal survival behaviors
interfere with individual survival. By survival, I am not only
speaking about living but also about heritage, the passing on of
A few examples are that the nurturing of both parents permits
the long childhood of man, which in turn permits learning and
ultimately civilization. Some methods by which a man assures
survival of his genes; ownership of the female and all forms of
male domination societies. In societies that permit female
promiscuity, the male nurtures his sister's children. He knows they
share a portion of his genes. Morals/ethics equal genetic descent.
To a large extent, if the ethics and morals are not built into
the genetic structure, at the very least the hunger and absolute
need for mores, morals and ethics are built in.
So, we accept that we have an absolute need for an ethical
moral life. We can go into a long philosophical discussion of what
kind of morals and ethics we should live by. But it would be well
at this point to reconsider the A.A. twelve steps from the
viewpoint of ethics, totally without a God concept.
The next section deals with the twelve steps, hopefully from
a different viewpoint.
Perhaps some of you think it still too spiritual, but we who
claim a thirst for reality at any price must face certain facts.
Pragmatically, the A.A. twelve step program works! It works
because it deals with the reality of homo sapiens as it is, not as
we or someone else think it should be constructed. The
moral/ethical aspect of man must be dealt with, it cannot be
We have tried our own way, it did not work. Now we try the
twelve steps. With the wide-open spiritual/ethical views of A.A.,
we can start from wherever we stand.
John Donne said, "No man is an island." We must deal with
other people on a moral/ethical level. The level we all live on,
wherein we interact with one another. We can do it. We must do it
or die. We will do it. A Look At The Steps
In our short sojourn here in this existence, we change
radically from birth to death. We are promised by religion that we
will be frozen as is. Deep down, we know that change is death,
death is change -- death of the old, birth of the new. When I
change, the old I dies, a new I is born. That is why we fight
change so desperately -- even when the change is for the better. We
fear death. We fear change.
I admit that I fear change. I fear the death of the I that I
am, as I evolve through life and death and the growth and change
that is inevitable.
Nonetheless, the next section is devoted entirely to examining
the Twelve Steps of A.A. totally on the basis of reason,
rationality and pragmatically without reference to a religious
point of view. We will strive to do this with the theory of an
aware but not omnipotent Higher Power.
Those that use such statements as, "No one is too dumb for
A.A. but there are many who are too smart," are dead wrong. No
matter how smart or dumb we might be we can and do use
rationalization. It is just that we who are intelligent often spin
much more intellectual and seductive webs to justify returning to
alcohol that it tends to give intelligence a bad name.
Intelligence can be used to understand ourselves, alcohol,
drugs, alcoholism and addiction. Used in that manner it can only
lead to sobriety and sanity.
This is not a re-write of the steps but, another viewpoint. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had
2. Came to believe, that a power greater than ourselves, could
restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care
of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and another human being the exact
nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to
make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when
to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong
promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious
contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge
of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,
we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these
principles in all our affairs.
Reprinted with the permission of A.A. World Services Inc.
Twelve Steps For Those With An Unorthodox God Concept
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives
had become unmanageable.
Read all the literature about alcoholism, preferably the newer
things. The more the physiologists and neurologists investigate,
the more the evidence is piling up that the cause of alcoholism is
physical and genetic.
The Swedish study of biological children of alcoholic parents
adopted by nonalcoholic parents, is one case in point. The children
developed alcoholism at the same rate as children raised by their
alcoholic biological parents; a rate much higher than the national
average, higher than the rate for natural children of nonalcoholic
The studies at Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York,
by Dr. Henry Begleiter show that there is a brain abnormality in
the P-3 component which deals with the memory and emotions common
to alcoholics, that causes an unusual brain wave, shared by their
children at the same percentage rate as other studies have shown
alcoholism to develop in children of alcoholics. There will need to
be more follow up studies of course, but more and more evidence
indicates the physical basis of alcoholism.
Various psychological studies have shown, that alcoholics have
no more psychological problems before pathological drinking sets in
than the population as a whole. The psychological problems that are
present in alcoholics are usually caused by the alcoholism, not the
cause of alcoholism.
There are alcoholics that suffer from schizophrenia, but we
would never say that only schizophrenics can become alcoholics. If
an alcoholic can be also a diabetic, then we must accept the fact
that an alcoholic could have been a neurotic before he became an
alcoholic. The one did not necessarily cause the other.
One of the problems in studying alcoholism is the fact that
twenty five percent of the children of alcoholics have the genetic
factors that cause alcoholism.
Thus many of the parents of alcoholics are themselves
alcoholics; a high percentage of alcoholics thus come from
alcoholic, dysfunctional families. Some alcoholics come from multi-
generation alcoholic dysfunctionalism.
All too often we mistakenly come to the conclusion that the
cause of alcoholism is psychological or dysfunctional families.
The cause of alcoholism is genetic, a physical problem.
Dysfunctional families and other psychological problems do
complicate the problem and often make the attainment of sobriety
Naturally these problems must be addressed and dealt with if
we are to attain happy, serene sobriety.
We alcoholics must accept the fact that we are alcoholic, that
we are powerless over alcohol, that it is rooted in our physiology
and we cannot trade in our bodies.
Whether we believe in God or not, we are powerless over
alcohol and will remain powerless.
According to James R. Milam Ph.D. ("The Emergent Comprehensive
Concept of Alcoholism"),
Research shows that sober alcoholics are
already as mature as social drinkers. That
isn't good enough because social drinkers
freely drink to relieve psychological tension.
Because of residual physiological damage,
alcoholics have lower tolerance for
psychological stress. They must transcend
normal maturity to be able endure greater
tension and never resort to chemical relief.
A.A. provides a program of character building
to this end.
I recommend his entire monograph if you can secure it.
With or without a God concept, orthodox or otherwise, our
lives are unmanageable. The first step was never a step requiring
any spirituality whatsoever. It merely compelled us to face reality
about something that we had so shrouded with denial that oft times
we had convinced others to agree with our insane rationalizations.
We need help. A.A. provides it in the next eleven steps.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves, could
restore us to sanity.
The program and its accumulated wisdom of how to live sanely
and soberly is a greater power. The peer pressure of the group can
act as a power greater than one sick alcoholic.
In utilizing this step we all too often overlook the obvious.
It is not necessary that this power be the omnipotent master of the
universe. As William James so aptly put it, "... if only it be
large enough to trust for the next step. It need not be infinite,
it need not be solitary."
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the
care of God as we understood Him.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the
care of an aware spiritual power that is friendly to us and has
demonstrated that fact in numerous ways.
The people of the program have lived through most or all of
the problems we are experiencing, or will experience. Admitting
that we are sick, that we do not have all the answers and that
others have some answers that might work for us, even if in a
different way, in a slightly different context; that is the
beginning of humility. Realizing that we are not all-wise,
all-knowing, not God, that others know more in certain areas than
we do, is humility.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Made a searching and fearless moral and ethical inventory of
ourselves. The term ethical is added to illuminate the fact that
moral is not a "God" term. Nowhere in the A.A. Big Book does the
term "sin" enter in. There are only two categories of wrong; wrong
done to other human beings and wrong emotions that harm ourselves.
These wrongs are those things which are dysfunctional to our own
physical and emotional health, also dysfunctional to our healthy
interactions to others in human society.
These emotions are also very dysfunctional, in any attempt to
fashion a working relationship with a higher spiritual power.
This is not because the spiritual power is building barriers.
It is because we build them on a subconscious level and they oft
times become inpenitratable, unless broken down on our side.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the
exact nature of our wrongs.
Admitted to ourselves and another human being the exact nature
of our wrongs. Healers of the mind and psyche down through time
have found again and again that confessing, sharing things,
feelings and emotions hidden in the deep recesses of our
subconscious minds, is healing and freeing. It opens the door to
sharing, and in sharing, learning that we are not unspeakably evil,
weird or insane, but merely ill as other alcoholics have been ill
When we alcoholics, especially in early recovery, operate in
total isolation; our thinking can become extremely confused. We
need the interaction, sharing and cross checking of someone who is
on the same path -- the path of recovery from alcoholism.
Without the sharing of the Fifth step, we cannot hope to
participate in the sharing in depth so necessary to recovery.
Admitting these things to our Higher Power is not to gain
forgiveness. It is to gain the Higher Power's assistance in
rendering them powerless to wreak the havoc in our lives that they
have in the past.
It is a case of bringing them out for our Higher Power to
assist us in their transformation and ultimately in the
transformation of our lives.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of
Were entirely ready to have all these defects of character
removed. It might seem the height of simplicity to state that first
we must be ready to be willing before we can change, but many
people know they should change, but are not really ready nor really
willing. Perhaps the closest they can come is wanting to be
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Humbly sought guidance and help in removing our shortcomings.
We do need the help of someone or something. In this case it must
and can be someone, probably in A.A. It possibly could be that
someone and both of your Higher Powers, if that makes sense to you.
Unaided, alone, and on our own, we have descended deeper and
deeper into the morass of alcoholism. We cannot continue on the
hermit's path. We seek and obtain the help, spiritual and
psychological available in A.A..
Around any A.A. table we can find, a plenitude of experience
of recovery from alcoholism, through the use of spiritual agency.
It is not necessary to agree theologically and doctrinally with
someone, to learn from their experiences.
It is not important that we agree on what name we call this
Higher Power, nor what book best describes it; rather it is
important what personality it has.
A pig will automatically go back into the mud and slop because
it is a pig. Without the program, without the steps, particularly
this one, we do not change. Without change, we will still be the
persons who crawled out of the slop and the mud. We will, like the
pig, automatically go back into what we crawled out of, because
this is all we know and the only place we feel we belong.
To attain recovery and serenity, we must change. All of the
steps in the A.A. program are designed to bring about this change
and this is one of the key ones. Remember, there are books,
pamphlets and people in the program that can help us if we are open
minded in our search.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to
make amends to them all.
Sins against Gods or churches are never mentioned in A.A.,
only harm to others. Guilt is something we alcoholics cannot live
with. Real guilt for harming real people must be dealt with.
Forgiveness of others, the removal of our resentments is necessary
to our health and freedom from alcohol.
All of this is inherent in becoming willing. It is of
paramount importance that we learn in this and all steps that the
act of becoming willing is of primary importance. Without it
Becoming willing to act and change is sometimes the most
difficult part of the program. So often, we disregard the steps
pertaining to becoming willing and wonder why the steps are not
9. Made direct amends to such persons wherever possible, except
when to do so would injure them or others.
Many people think they know how to rid themselves of guilt and
resentments, but God or no God, these emotions can only be removed
through person to person action. Many try to intellectualize this
step in order avoid the initial emotional pain, but we cannot have
the emotional freedom without the action.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong
promptly admitted it.
The other steps are designed to remove the debris of the past,
this one to assure that we do not accumulate new guilts, new
resentments. Because if we feel guilty for wrongs we have done
others, we soon resent those we have wronged.
When we overlook this fact in our recovery, we soon find the
old barriers resurrected and we are back in our spiritual desert,
trying to make spirituality work and not understanding our failure.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious
contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge
of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Sought through prayer, study and meditation to improve our
depth of understanding of this program, seeking knowledge of how to
implement this program in our lives.
Seeking humbly means to acknowledge other people's expertise
in working and living this program with some measure of serenity,
peace and sobriety. Being willing to ask, to study, to learn from
Meditation does not necessarily need an orthodox God or an
orthodox God-concept. Lawrence LeShan has written a book, "How to
Meditate," that deals with this and is one of the best I have read.
It touts no religious viewpoint, gives no doctrinal tenants to
observe, but discusses extensively all aspects of meditation from
a psychologist's viewpoint.
Meditation can help to create the psychic unity with a
natural, spiritual reality that can aid the flow of recovery. I beg
of you to at least study the subject and consider it.
Try this experiment:
Pick a comfortable position, sitting, reclining or lying down
- one you can stay in without discomfort or paying attention to
your body. Close your eyes and start a pattern of deep breathing
and pay as little attention to it as possible.
Remember and go back in your mind to a place that was
outdoors. Return to nature, a pond, a valley, a forest, somewhere
that gave you a feeling of peace. Sink into this place. Feel
yourself in unity with this place, with nature itself. Bask in the
union and the peace. Let the peace flow through you. Feel it and
enjoy it as long as it lasts.
Rest a few moments. Reflect on the peace, the unity with the
world and everyone and everything in it, along with your recovery
and peace with the world.
Perhaps not at first, perhaps not for some time, but soon you
will find spiritual doors opening.
This was one form of meditation, without the need for a
divinity or a God concept. Give it a try.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,
we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these
principles in all our affairs.
Having had a spiritual, emotional and psychological awakening
as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to
alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
A spiritual experience such as I and others have had is not
the same as a spiritual awakening. Quite often as in my own case it
happens to someone who is spiritually at such a low ebb that it is
the only way that a Higher Power can help.
Also it usually happens when there such a psychic pain that
for a brief time all of the blockages, fears and other obstacles to
the spirit are down. Then the power can flow in and transform
After this can come the awakening that could not break through
before. Whether we are aware of it or not, it is obvious that in
spiritual matters there must be natural laws that apply. I am not
speaking of laws that some omnipotent God has laid down to suit his
fancy; no I mean natural laws akin to gravity or thermodynamics.
The awakening is when we alcoholics, who spent most of our
lives in a state of emotional immaturity, grow up. Growing up is
genuine concern and regard for others and the removal of negative
emotions. Carrying this message to alcoholics is genuine regard and
it strengthens our own sobriety. Anyone who is sober and working
this program has a message to carry.
Practicing these principles in all our affairs maintains and
strengthens our maturity, our sobriety. The cosmos, the galaxies,
the suns, the worlds, the spiritual powers and the ultimate God
itself are governed by principles and dynamics.
All species of the animal kingdom are so governed. We humans
are governed by principles and dynamics in our interactions with
one another and within the forces within our own psyche, the
interplay between the intellectual and the emotional. These are the
principles of this program, the optimum usage of these dynamics for
health and sobriety. Conclusion
In conclusion, in this thesis I purposely limited my own
personal experiences, to avert the appearance of trying to convert
you to my own personal beliefs, my own conclusions. The totality of
my experiences led me to certain conclusions and conjectures. I
have tried as much as possible to give you the bare bones -- no
more than a mere foundation for you to build your own system on. To
do more would be grossly unfair.
I am well-aware that no one can prove that there is an
ultimate God -- as a creator and/or prime mover and shaker of the
universe. Just so with the concept that there is no God. Both are
As with others like myself, I have had experiences, things
happening in my life, that gave me sufficient evidence that there
is a Power greater than myself, that this Power loves me, wants to
help and guide me. To my experiences and feelings this Power is
very personal and oriented to my problems and to me. There are
others like myself, reading this who have had similar experiences
and come to similar conclusions.
In point of fact, and by pure logic, none of this is proof of
an ultimate supreme God and I am well-aware of it. Also at this
time I know of no way to prove the existence of such a God.
To my way of thinking, logic dictates that there is more than
the Higher Power as I have experienced it, that the progression
goes higher; that there is a guiding power to it all. But this
power would be so awesome and beyond my comprehension that there is
no way for me to really understand it. It is really futile to try.
So, I do what I can under the circumstances. I form a working
hypothesis; that there is an ultimate supreme God. It seems
logical, but I am aware it is impossible to prove.
On the basis of my own personal experience and evidence, I am
convinced that there is a Power greater than myself.
Since they seem different, I operate as if they are different
-- a Higher Power and an ultimate supreme God, separate, operating
on different levels -- the Higher Power concept, with personal
evidence, the supreme God concept with logic, but without
I have tried to be as candid and honest as I possibly could in
my writing. I am aware that I have possibly offended some people.
For this I apologize, but I feel it is necessary to show that we
can use evidence and logic; to come to a logical operating basis
for living with a Higher Power concept that works, when we are
unable to accept the orthodox explanations. You may and probably
will come to different conclusions. That is fine.
I want to say that this thesis is not to change A.A., nor to
rewrite the Twelve Steps.
It is to give a new outlook, a new viewpoint. My own personal
experiences and ideas were stated to give you a springboard to
launch your own thinking on the subject.
Having lived through similar problems, I trust that I have
been able to show that no matter how unorthodox or different we
might be; there is a way to approach the program that will work for
each of us. The program has been working for me. It can work for
There are five steps to getting well: (1) Knowing something is
wrong with you. (2) Admitting it. (3) Knowing you need help. (4)
Asking for it. (5) Following instructions. You know where you stand
in the above steps. Do something about it.
The A.A. program is open, available and operable for anyone
with any type of spiritual belief and to those with none. Those
who are either unorthodox or doubters or unbelievers have to work
at it a little harder and think it out a little more thoroughly.
But, we can make it work for us! We can stay sober if we want to
badly enough! I have. Others have.
Now I would like to suggest that you take your new viewpoint
and go back to the writings of A.A.. Look at it with the knowledge
that they have worked for someone as unorthodox as myself and they
can work for you. Give it a chance. Give yourself a chance. Get
into the program.
All you have to lose is your drunkenness, your misery, your
unhappiness and your insanity. You have sobriety, happiness, sanity
and life itself to gain.
Claim it all!