If you want to walk into a state of confusion, just ask an A.A. member if he or she can tell you what the "principles" of the Twelve Steps and/or the A.A. Big Book and/or the Society of Alcoholics Anonymous are.
I've attended more than one large speaker conference where someone has run through each of the Twelve Steps and ascribed some "principle" to that Step. But the problem is that the language of the Twelfth Step gives no hint of what the principles are. So too, you can search the Big Book endlessly and fruitlessly to find out what those "principles are." Yet the Twelfth Step concludes with the suggestion that we "practice these principles in all our affairs." And as with so much of the talk in the rooms and speeches of A.A., when something is not clear from the literature, the talker is apt to make up something as a guestimate, as a speculation, or as a supposedly authoritative explanation.
Here's the problem.
If you had addressed such a question to Dr. Bob, he would have commented: "What does it say in the Good Book." He wouldn't have manufactured some idea. He would have adhered to his statement that the basic ideas for the Twelve Steps came from their study and effort in the Bible.
So what would the Good Book tell you about the "principles." The answer is that it would provide you with a host of choices--principles that early AAs studied in the Bible and believed. What are they?
The Ten Commandments. These are specifically mentioned in the AA of Akron Pamphlets that Dr. Bob commissioned.
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Not only was that sermon considered absolutely essential, but both Bill and Bob stated that it contained the underlying spiritual philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The nine "ingredients" of "love" that are laid out in 1 Corinthians 13. These are stated and reviewed in Henry Drummond's The Greatest Thing in the World. And, not only was 1 Corinthians 13, considered essential, but Dr. Bob highly recommended Drummond's book as an explanatory essay.
Then there are all the chapters in the Book of James. This book was the favorite in early A.A. The members wanted to call their Society "The James Club" because they considered the book absolutely essential as well as easily understood and specifically related to their problems. See Dick B., The James Club and The Original A.A. Program's Absolute Essentials www.dickb.com/JamesClub.shtml.
Perhaps the foregoing are "principles" enough, but we could go further. For example, the so-called "Four Absolutes" of the Oxford Group were, for Dr. Bob, the only "yardsticks" the pioneers had. For Bob's wife Anne, these Four Absolutes--Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Unselfishness, and Absolute Love--were the "standards"--the moral standards by which to test conduct by biblical standards. See Dick B., Anne Smith's Journal, 1933-1939 www.dickb.com/annesm.shtml.
Some might look to the Oxford Group for the "principles." But the problem is that a major Oxford Group thinker and writer said in 1923 that the Oxford Group Principles were the Principles of the Bible. The writer was Rev. Sherwood Sunderland Day, who said that in his pamphlet "The Principles of the Group."
In sum, before I tried to define the "principles" that AAs are to practice, I would look to the history of the phrase. I would then look to the Bible, to the Four Absolutes (which came from biblical teachings in a book written long before A.A. was founded), and I would pay particular attention to the teachings and principles in the Book of James, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13.
In fact, I see no value in trying to reduce the principles to twelve in number, or nine in number, or four in number. The pioneers recommended daily study of the Bible, and this is and can and should be the work of a lifetime if one wishes to know anything about the "principles" that God instructed man to follow.
Dick B., The Good Book and The Big Book: A.A.'s Roots in the Bible www.dickb.com/goodbook.shtml.