Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Generic spirituality (part one)

 The most successful treatment for alcoholism ever devised – Alcoholics Anonymous – is an example of generic spirituality. A “generic” medicine is the medicine itself apart from the trappings of the original manufacturer’s marketing department. It’s the same stuff without the ‘groupthink’ so to speak.

The co-founders of A.A., Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, and the early membership, drew spiritual principles from whatever religious, philosophical, or scientific source they could find in forming the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Then, they did their best to sanitize these spiritual principles to make them palatable to as wide a range of alcoholics as possible. They learned that these spiritual principles were commonly found in most religious or philosophical thought systems. Perhaps even more surprising, they found that, when sanitized of their religious underpinnings and made generic – these principles worked! Alcoholics of whatever stripe, persuasion, or background got sober by using them.

Alcoholism, an ‘equal opportunity’ condition, requires a spiritual recovery program as ‘generic’ as the founding A.A. members could make it. Therefore, modern A.A. members turn their will and their lives over to the care of God as they as individuals “understand Him” (or “Her”) rather than being compelled to accept someone else’s God concept.

This amounts to the possibility of a new-found freedom in spiritual things. With freedom comes responsibility and with responsibility tends to come actual personal spiritual practice which is necessary in conscious recovery or any kind of spiritual growth. One must live the principles instead of merely discussing (or often arguing) about them.

This series will identify and describe the three basic generic spiritual principles (introspection, contemplation, and altruistic service) which were incorporated into the 12 Step recovery program by the early members of A.A. It will also explore some of the possible sources of these principles from both east and west.


Cheever, S. (2004). My name is Bill: Bill Wilson – his life and the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous. New York: Simon & Schuster.

DR. Bob and the good oldtimers: A biography, with recollections of early A.A. in the midwest. (1984). New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

‘PASS IT ON’: The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world. (1984). New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

W., Bill. (1986). Twelve steps and twelve traditions. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (Original work published 1952)

W., Bill. et. al. (2001). Alcoholics Anonymous. Fourth edition. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. (Original work published 1939)

Copyright @ 2010 Jeremy K. Finkeldey; All rights reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment