Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Professors, Higher Powers, AAs, and God

Professors, Higher Powers, AAs, and God Dick B. © 2011 Anonymous. All rights reserved Academics and Their Meandering Comments In the past thirty years or more, many academics have dabbled with the strange idea of some “higher power” that the recovery community has tried to relate to Yahweh, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Some have simply mentioned the many strange descriptions of this “higher power.” Some have attempted to link their self-made idea to God and the descriptions of Him in the Bible. And some have critically analyzed the inconsistencies and errors in the wild usages. The Roster of Professors We will first look at some of the more recent and specific descriptions of the professors and in their writings Professor Glenn F. Chesnut, D. Phil., Professor of History Department, Indiana University South Bend, 1970-2003 (dept. chairman 1982-4). In an excerpt set forth in his “Hindsfoot Foundation” disccusions, Chesnut wrote: It does not matter whether we call it "God" or the holy or the sacred or the numinous. All human languages have had a word for it: it was qadosh in ancient Hebrew, hagios in ancient Greek, sacer or sanctus in Latin, tabu in Polynesian, and manitou in the Algonquian language spoken by the Potawatomi tribe who live in my part of the United States, just to give a few examples. The name we put on it is not terribly important. Intellectual theories about it are not all that useful. What is vital however is that we learn how to actually feel it and experience it. Ancient and medieval Jewish, Christian, and Muslim philosophers were therefore in total agreement that the transcendent divine power which Plato called the Good Itself was the one whom they called God or Allah. Anyone who looked carefully could see that Plato, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed were all talking about the same higher power. God IS the sunlight of the spirit and the Light of the Good, for this has been -- for well over two thousand years now -- one of the traditional orthodox Names of God. Professor Richard L. Gorsuch, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary. Gorsuch wrote a chapter for Research on Alcoholics Anonymous: Opportunities and Alternatives, Edited by Barbara S. McCrady and William R. Miller (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies, 1993). Titled, “Assessing Spirtual Variables in Alcoholics Anonymous Research.” The Gorsuch article said: This is most interesting because alcoholics’ concept of God differs so widely from the Christian culture that they are supposed to have been part of. . . . In terms of psychological research, God concept studies show traditional Christians see God as kind, loving, and benevolent—but alcoholics completely miss this. They would score high on another God concept factor: wrathfulness, which is unrelated to the classical concept of the Christian God. Hence, psychologically as well as theologically the “Christianity” of alcoholics is not the Christianity of most other American Christians (page 310) Alcoholics have a non-Christian view of God. How could this have come to be? Christianity can be inadequately developed for a number of reasons. Since the majority of people in our culture are not active Christians, it is likely that many alcoholics have not been truly exposed to it. . . . The point for A.A. and its evaluation is that alcoholics are primarily those who have failed to be encultured in the Christian faith. Theirs is a theologically immature faith, and because it is immature, it is also ineffective (page 311). Professor Ernest Kurtz, Ph.D., author of Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, with Ph.D. in the history of American civilization from Harvard and affiliated with the Center for Self-Help Research at the University of Michigan. In Not-God (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 1979), Kurtz wrote: It is the writer’s hope that the message of Alcoholics Anonymous—“not God”---is clearly defined, analyzed, and enabled to be heard from this book (page 160) Alcoholics Anonymous carefully avoided the term conversion. It came freighted with religious rather than spiritual connotations. . . . But salvation was explicitly apprehended, laid hold of, made operative, by human activity. . . . the human activity most fundamentally essential to the attainment of “salvation” is accepting reality. . . . The salvation of sobriety—the restoration of the sanity of appropriate contact with reality and truth—resulted from the active interest and free gift of a Higher Power. . . . Alcoholics Anonymous transmitted its not-God core intuition exclusively by Word and Witness (pages 183-86). , , . the first steps to sobriety did not require classic belief in a traditional “God”; but they did require that the alcoholic accept his not-God-ness by acknowledging some “Power greater than himself. The A.A. group itself clearly was such a “Higher Power” (page 206) Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham wrote in The Spirituality of Imperfection: Modern Wisdom from Classic Stories (NY: Bantam Books, 1992): For although it insists on the necessity of “the spiritual” for recovery, A.A. has always presented its program as “spiritual rather than religious” (page 5) Within Alcoholics Anonymous, they learn that they can reclaim “God,” calling that “higher power” anything they want. . . (page 109) The use of the phrase Higher Power—his, hers, yours, or mine—rather than the word God, reminds members of A.A.’s tolerance of individual differences in religious belief and spiritual inclination. The most basic understanding of the concept “Higher Power” within Alcoholics Anonymous is that it is that which keeps me sober (page 208) Professor Richard M. Dubiel, Ph.D., Professor of Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, wrote The Road to Fellowship: The Role of the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club in the Development of Alcoholics Anonymous (NY: I universe, inc., 2004). Commenting on the Hindsfoot website, Dubiel said: The writers of Alcoholics Anonymous and Paul Tillich wrote much during the same period of time yet under different circumstances. They both were addressing the same problem of understanding the complex being of the human person and how this person can save himself or herself by surrendering to a Higher Power Professor Linda A. Mercadante, Ph.D., Professor of Theology at Methodist Theological School in Ohio, wrote Victims & Sinners: Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998). Mercadante said: From the start, Alcoholics Anonymous was sensitive to people who were distant from or actively hostile to religion. The Big Book accommodated the antiauthoritarian bent in American culture by reducing any teaching about God to the bare minimum. Not everyone understands the Higher Power as God, however. Some simply choose the group or other tangible entity outside the self. Nor does Alcoholics Anonymous provide much content about the Higher Power. The restraint was originally useful, because it allowed people from various backgrounds with various attitudes about religion to coexist and focus on their common problem. Even today, this relative silence about God’s nature can stir controversy. One pamphlet available at a renowned treatment center well known for its Twelve Srep perspective takes this to its logical conclusion. It urges women to “shape an image of her Higher Power that appeals to her. . . . What’s best—most comfortable for you. Professor Jared C. Lobdell, Ph.D., Lecturer at Millersville University of Pennsylvania and Adjunct Professor at Elizabethtown College, published This Strange Illness: Alcoholism and Bill W. (NY: Aldine De Gruyter, 2994)]. Lobdell wrote: And since the cofounders (and their colleagues) believed that belief in God was a necessary ground for the program—in fact, that God was the ground for the program—and that the Twelve Steps were spiritual exercises, an acceptable theology (beyond a kind of “not-God” psychology would seem to be a good idea” [As to the so-called Six Steps,] these may well be considered the agnostic’s six steps, and they seem to come from a time when Bill W. had withdrawn from his very early heavily evangelistic attitude and was playing down God’s participation in the whole business Be that as it may, there is no doubt some of the early members of A.A. had a great deal of trouble with identifying the “Higher Power” with some idea of God. Particularly this was true of Hank P. . . who apparently did not stay sober. . . . Dr. Bob’s exact words, “Not a God, but God” is exactly in accord with everything I have been able to find out about Dr. Bob S. and the early days of A.A. in Akron (A considerable body of work touching on this has been published by Dick B. [1998] in Hawaii). Bill Wilson, Professionals, and Even AAs Climbed on Board with these “Higher Powers” Wilson adopted a wide variety of “Higher Powers” in his Big Book language. Let’s look at Wilson’s capitalized “gods” whose presence is still extant in one form or another in the fourth edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, published in 2001: Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind . . . Spirit of Nature . . . Czar of the Heavens [p. 12] Power beyond ourselves . . . Supreme Being . . . Power greater than ourselves [p. 46] All Powerful, Guiding, Creative Intelligence [p. 49] Spirit of the Universe [p. 52] Great Reality deep down within us [p. 55] Presence of Infinite Power and Love [p. 56] our Director . . . the Principal . . . new Employer [pp. 61-62] Great Fact [p. 164] Later. Wilson was to write in his Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions that you could make the “A.A. Group” your higher power. These man-made deities can simply not be found in the King James Version of the Bible that early AAs studied prior to publication of the Big Book in April 1939. Were these new gods? New names for a “god?” Wilson’s own self-made “god?” Or lingo that he had picked up from his association with William James, Swedenborg, and Fox writings? I don't know. To Whom or To What Should the A.A. Pray? For many in 12 Step Fellowships today, these new man-made deities represent some kind of “god.” For others in A.A., it all seems perfectly normal. Settling for a “convenient” God or an “expedient” God is okay with them. One thing we know is that many AAs don’t know Who God is, or how to “find” Him, or to Whom they are supposed to pray. We believe the foregoing ideas which they hear and mouth with frequency do not answer their questions or their needs. Again, to whom should they pray? Is it the Creator? Is it Jesus Christ? Is it a light bulb? Is it a rock? Is it Somebody? Is it Santa Claus? Is it the Great Fact? Is it the Spirit of the Universe? Is it Creative Intelligence? Is it Ralph? Is it Gertrude? Is it a tree? Or is it a light bulb? For all these absurd names keep popping up—regularly! If Dr. Bob were still alive, he would be focusing on God, his Heavenly Father. If Bill Wilson were still alive, who knows? A Survey of the Absurd “gods” Still Floating in the A.A. Stream Today In Dick B., God and Alcoholism: The Great Opportunity in the 21st Century (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2002, I did an extensive review of all the absurd names for a “god” that are extant in today’s A.A. I also reviewed how this trend found its origins in the New Thought writings. Also, I reviewed the descriptions by many professionals and writers have picked up on the nonsensical definitions. These writers include: (1) Dr. Cathy Burns—“God, Allah, Confucius, Prime Cause, Divine Mind” (page 79). (2) P.J. Flores—“natural forces other than deity. . . “Up to A.A. members to come to their own personal understanding of the meaning and significance of this higher power (page 80). (3) Walter Houston Clark—“behave as if there were a Higher Power” (page 90). (4) Anne M. Fletcher—“AAs Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions stresses that A.A. does not demand belief in anything” (page 97). (5) Terrence T. Gorski—“faith that there is someone or something bigger and more powerful than we are. . . . There are some people who claim that a Higher Power can be anything, even a Coke bottle” (page 108). (6) Marianne W. Gilliam—“a Higher Power could be anything we interpret it to be, even a tree” (page 108). (7) Martin and Deidre Bobgan—“The ‘Power greater than ourselves’ can be anybody or anything that seems greater than the person who takes Step Two. It can be a familiar spirit. . . It can be any deity of Hindu-ism, Buddhism, Greek mythology, or New Age channeled entities. It could be one’s own so-called higher self. It could even be the devil himself” ((page 109) (8) Philip Kavanaugh—“we don’t have to believe in God. . . whether that power is Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Buddha, Nature, Mighty Mouse, Higher Power, Allah, Creative Life Source, Mohammed” (page 110). (9) Ken Ragge—“defining God in A.A.’s image” (page 111). (10) William Playfair—“the AA group as the Higher Power or god of an A.A. member” (page 112). Jan Wilson and Judith Wilson—“Good Orderly Direction” and “Group of Drunks” (page 112) A Much-Needed Return to the Language of Early A.A. Though efforts were made, just prior to printing, to change the language at the close of Dr. Bob’s personal story, Dr. Bob’s own language has been retained in all four Big Book editions. Today, the following statement can be found on page 181: “Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!” This is the language AAs had consistently heard for the many years in which they closed their meetings with the Lord’s Prayer, which opened with, “Our Father which art in heaven.” Dr. Bob kept is simple, easily understood, and directly stated. In A.A.’s own biography of Dr. Bob, DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers (NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980), the following account appears at page 144: Then he [Dr. Bob] asked, “Do believe in God, young fella?” (He always called me “young fella” When he called me Clarence, I knew I was in trouble.) “What does that have to do with it?” “Everything,” he said. “I guess I do.” “Guess, nothing! Either you do or you don’t” “Yes I do.” “That’s fine,” Dr. Bob replied. “Now we’re getting someplace. All right, get out of bed and on your knees. We’re going to pay.” “I don’t know how to pray.” “I guess you don’t, but that’s all right. Just follow what I say, and that will do for now.” “I did what I was ordered to do,” Clarence said. “There was no suggestion.” (Dr. Bob was always positive about his faith, Clarence said. If someone asked him a question about the program, his usual response was: “What does it say in the Good Book?” Suppose he was asked, “What’s all this ‘First Things First?’” Dr. Bob would be ready with the appropriate quotation: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” This quote from A.A.’s own General Service Conference-approved literature speaks for itself. Dr. Bob never talked about a Coke Bottle, Ralph, a light bulb, or Santa Claus. He talked about God. And he quoted directly from the Bible in defining his terms. And once he showed the newcomer how to pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ, the solution was at hand and simple. Gloria Deo

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