Preface I wish to have it understood at the outset that this writing is entirely the inter

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Preface 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 their sobriety. 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 go forward. 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 concept. 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 think. 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! Electricity 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 again. 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 beginnings. 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 time. 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 a while. 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 between us. 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 and conjecture. 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 distance? 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 speculations. 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 God. 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 relapses. 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 of fire." 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 fraud!" "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 unfair. "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 hands. "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 their prayer. "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 nostril. 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 for himself. 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 sincere individual. 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 signature. 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 surgery. The weekend before the scheduled surgery, while on a ride at an amusement park, she accidentally bumped her nose on her boyfriend's head. 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 sheer coincidence. 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. were suicidal. 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 drinking. 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 categories. 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 healing. 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 inquiry. 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 single-mindedness necessary. 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 time." 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 become addicted. 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 obsession. 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 drinkers. 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 subconscious mind. 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 rationalization. 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 self defeating. 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 questions. 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 usually selfish. 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 live with. 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 understand. 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 preceded them. 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 Franklin. 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 spiritual growth. 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 no. 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 level. 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 this place. "...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 bounds." 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 them yet. 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 something wrong. 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 insanity. 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 world view. 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 started. 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 genes. 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 ignored. 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 become unmanageable. 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 character. 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 parents. 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 more difficult. 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 before us. 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 character. 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 willing. 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 nothing happens. 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 working. 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 any source. 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 lives. 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 unprovable. 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 sufficient evidence. 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 you. 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!

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank