Origins Of A.A. As We Know It

Here are the origins of A.A. as we know them:

“The basic principles of A.A., as they are known today, were borrowed mainly from the fields of religion and medicine, though some ideas (our Twelve Traditions) upon which success finally depended were the result of noting the behavior and needs of the Fellowship itself.” (Forewords to “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“)

Dr. William D. Silkworth (from the field of medicine) is the one who had first mentioned our physical allergy making controlled drinking impossible…

“…drinking to overcome a (physical) craving beyond their mental control.” (“The Doctor’s Opinion“)

Along with that, Dr. Silkworth also shared with us his awareness of “something more than human power [being] needed to produce the essential psychic change” in order for people such as ourselves to be able to remain completely abstinent altogether so we could avoid early graves. At that point of fundamental awareness concerning our alcoholism, we had what we needed for what would eventually be called “Step One”…and there in our hopeless state is where we next heard Dr. Carl Jung (a psychiatrist within the field of medicine) first share with us (through Rowland H.) the essence of some specific experience leading to what we now know as “Step Two”:

“Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences… phenomena… in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes (old ideas) which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.” (page 27)

In so many words, Dr. Jung had just suggested we alcoholics “Go see God” and place our lives and our wills under His care and direction or “management” if we would like to get over drinking for good and all.

Does that mean A.A. is a religious fellowship with a religious program? No, it does not, and here is more about that:

“Upon hearing [God could do for him what he could not do for himself], our friend (Rowland H.) was somewhat relieved, for he reflected that, after all, he was a good church member. This hope, however, was destroyed by the doctor’s telling him that while his religious convictions were very good, in his case they did not spell the necessary vital spiritual experience.” (same page)

At this point along the way, we had knowledge of our problem (alcoholism) and its solution (spiritual experience or spiritual awakening), but we were still in need of a way to apply that solution to our problem…and there is where we began receiving from the field of religion without becoming bogged down in sectarianism. In other words, we were next shown how we could step right on past mere religion and go “straight to God”, so to speak, and here is how that became reality amongst us:

“In a matter of fact way (Ebby) told how two men…had told of a simple religious idea (now known as Step Three) and a practical program of action (later known as Steps Four through Nine). That was two months ago and the result was self-evident. It worked!” (page 9)

Maybe you have already heard one or more religious folks presuming to speak over and above the “combined experience and knowledge” (page 19) shared in our Basic Text while trying to either bring religion into A.A. or even trying to drag A.A.s on out into religion. We understand their concerns amidst today’s non-A.A. idea of “a god of your own understanding” (nowhere to be found within our Basic Text), but religion is still religion and the original “experience, strength and hope” of A.A. is still something much different:

“Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.” (page 164)

One A.A. member here amongst us once heard his first sponsor say, “One of these days I am going to go sit in the sunlight at the top of a mountain somewhere and take a look to see what is really in this book…”

Having since “been to the mountain” ourselves, we now share with you what we have learned.


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