The Group’s Conscience: Our Ultimate Authority

Here is an excerpt from “Living the 12 Steps of Recovery – One Day at a Time”
from the Chapter on our Second Tradition:

“For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.”

February 28
Traditional Patience and Tolerance

All who serve with our trust have come to believe in a power greater
than ourselves, a loving God as He might express himself in the group

That conscience ought to be mindful, grateful, and tolerant of every
agency and method that serves in trying to solve the problem of
alcoholism, whether of medicine, religion, education, or research. Our
service is intended to be open-minded toward all such efforts and
sympathetic when the ill-advised ones fail. We remember that A.A.
itself ran for years on trial and error.

As individuals and groups, we can and should cooperate with those
who promise success—even a little success. “We of A.A. are friendly
with our friends.” All seek the restoration to sanity promised in the
Second Step. We all follow the Second Tradition recognizing our loving
God as the ultimate authority, as He brings the virtues of patience
and tolerance to the group conscience.

Step II: Admitting Insanity and Seeking Restoration

When You Believe

Step II: “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Note the strong proposals in this, our Second Step: our acknowledgment that we have been possessed by periods of insanity. That’s inclusive with the recognition that powers beyond ourselves could restore us to a balanced life we once had or would like to; sanity in our capacities of drinking, addictions and sense of moral values.

Let’s admit it. We have been driven temporarily insane by alcoholism and other addictions or a combination. But forces outside of and greater than ourselves can aid in changing that as  we follow a pathway of recovery. First and foremost, we need to accept this fundamental conclusion:  for nearly all of us this is a process,…not an event.

Though one might think familiar recognition of these precepts to be obvious, isn’t it puzzling when we discover how different, if not contrary we might view these principles in their meaning? Being individual people, we look at things in divergent ways, even while we practice a process towards finding mutual understanding. As that is the case, we seek common  ground by referring to a power outside of ourselves: our classical 12 Step literature.

Let’s set some parameters by bringing to light the premise of this book: “Living the 12 Steps of Recovery – One Day at a Time – As It Was in The Beginning.” ( It’s a classical rendition of the original 12 Steps and Traditions. Staying true to the original model is its intention.

So first, let’s look at how “The Big Book” of Alcoholic’s Anonymous and “The 12×12”, (Twelve Steps & Traditions)  see things with respect to the principle assumptions  in Step II.

The original text and its author proceed with this statement: “Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live and it had to be greater than ourselves.” Then the author makes his first argument for a Supreme Being – “God” – by asking the question: “Who made all this” ,…. this star-lit night we see? It’s suggested that all one need do is lay aside our alcoholic/addict ego-based prejudice, expressing willingness to believe in a “Creative Intelligence, a spirit of the universe.” Even But -hough that’s an end justifies the means technique – that’s the sell. We are to see rational deduction as flawed and faith as the more perfect, mystical method, circumventing the roadblock of pride.

But – This still universally accepted statement rings sound with truth to all of us, even some 75 years later:

“it’s impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power which is God.”

The author goes on to say as a result of that agreement, we will all arrive at our own conception, but only when we begin spiritual growth and as we do so, we will find ourselves accepting many things prior to out of reach. For quite a few of us that meant God the Supreme Being  – God The Creator – God the Creative Intelligence,  God the Deity, all of which according to the author, become quickly acceptable and understandable in the light of Alcoholic Destruction – “Faith ala Desperation.” Conclusion? There are no agnostics in foxholes, first-time AA Meetings and Rehab-centers, where all border on being possessed by “terror, frustration, bewilderment and despair,” having faced the true nature of their illness; both physical and psychological. In light of such conditions, faith IS the alternative.

Using the physical properties that govern gravity in comparing the man made flight of the Wright Brothers; the sub-atomic particles in the strength of steel construction and the possibility of Man’s Flight to the Moon (now a reality -  and beyond) the author suggests that it is a perfectly logical and similarly following assumption that an All Powerful, Guiding, Creative Intelligence exists by a like logical deduction: that all these scientific comparisons were once doubted in their own right. This is however, a clearly unrelated quantum leap made without allegiance to scientific method and physical properties. The logic is dissimilar, if logical at all.

After that comes the plea made for leniency with organized religion, “for the harm they have done is much less than the good that faith has given to millions. ” This contradiction is offered, in spite of beginning as his argument with a criticism of their hypocrisy in warring over who is the most right,  he represents it as a commonly held prejudice.

To the alcoholic, according to the author, “many hundreds of people are able to say that the consciousness of the Presence of God is today the most important fact of their lives.” That alone is to be the reason why one should have faith: their experience and recommendation, represented as fact.

‘We saw others solve their problems by a simple reliance upon the Spirit of the Universe” – but then, once again, he subtly slides in the bait and switch saying: Our ideas did not work, but the God idea did. The bait is the reliance; the switch is from the spirit of the universe to the presumption that God, the Supreme Being and Creator is  synonymous with a much broader conception of a Higher Power.

None of us who have recovered from the problem of chronic alcoholism will make an unrelenting argument against that statement though.  As Intelligent and decent people, we are all not so ego-driven by faithlessness not to have our own humbling scruples and doubts. When we changed from self-sufficiency to God sufficiency, it was through an act of desperation; to find relief of our bondage to Alcohol  or other Addictions – we believed that it worked. It was our own and personal faith’s conception that made it so.

In the final tally, an argument is introduced with an ultimatum:

“Either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn’t. What is our choice to be”?

Living in the midst of Delirium Tremens, P.A.W.S. ( Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) and seemingly uncontrollable and maddening allergenic cravings,…..the decision is not at all difficult for us. At the jumping off point, we are willing to try most anything.

This theorem is suggested: anyone willing and open minded enough to overcome their misplaced reliance on reason in the face of alcoholism; taking the leap of faith to the acknowledgment of a Divine Creator, a Supreme Being, the ultimate power greater than themselves, can have their alcoholism removed in a similar spiritual experience to the author’s , or that of another alcoholic which he relates. The rest of us will eventually arrive through the unpredictable length in a garden variety educational process, led by this principle:

“When we draw near to Him. He disclosed Himself to us”!

This synopsis of the arguments and persuasions towards the acceptance of the author’s 1939 premises for Faith in a God of HIS understanding have carried the movement for near 75 years. My discussion here is not intended by any means to be complete nor infallible, but only an effort to report the basis it would appear the text concludes an alcoholic/addict comes to: We came to believe IN a power greater than ourselves,……

Next: an examination of the 12×12, some 13 years later and after a lot of sober living had occurred.

An Excerpt From the Book on Step II

February 8
Faith by Intuition
Intuition is our untaught knowledge. Though not infallible, it is our
direct spiritual perception; some call it the unspoken language of true
feelings. Our moral values and duties can be discerned through it, and
perhaps so can faith. It does not seem to be attainable through normal
rational thought or the logic of deduction.
The essence of spirituality comes from our intangible selves, not
in our physical nature or its five senses. Our conscious thoughts and
emotions can originate or be influenced by our spirits, a different part
of our persona that is beyond the natural mind.
In an instant of comprehension of the true nature of things, our
spiritual selves may find their Higher Power intuitively. Most of us
regard and call it God. It is many things, of many forms, to many of
our people.
We have come to know God as our good and orderly direction, our
ultimate authority and the force within all creation. God is the source
of all love and benevolence. All that is good is the work of a creative
source we know as God.
We find this intuitive insight where it rests: in our hearts. It is there
as well that we find the power to trust in the surety that as we come
to believe we will find faith and wisdom.