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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Discerning God's Will For Us

Having made the decision to turn one's will and one's life over to the care of the God of one's understanding, how then does one make decisions and act in accordance with such a seemingly inscrutable will? How does one distinguish, in short, one's own will from God's will? And just how does one become able to bring his or actions into conformity with what God would have for us?

As a starting point, consider the probability that it is only in establishing a "conscious contact" - that is, in establishing a connection with a deeper part of one's consciousness, i.e., the higher consciousness of God, or simply, God-consciousness - that one will be able to act in accordance with God's will. In doing so, one embodies the sage advice to "hesitate and meditate" before acting, remembering that we remain alcoholic, that our lives are unmanageable, but that God can and will relieve us from our alcoholism if He is sought.

("The disciplining of the will must have as its accompaniment a no less thorough disciplining of the consciousness," observed Aldous Huxley, a non-alcoholic friend of Bill Wilson's. "There has to be a conversion, sudden or otherwise, not merely of the heart, but also of the senses and of the perceiving mind." -- "The Perennial Philosophy," p. 72)

Thus, above all, one needs to quiet the raucous consciousness of the ego-self in order that one may attain to the state of God-consciousness described by many of the initial old-timers. In the Spiritual Experience appendix, we read that such "God-consciousness" was seen as "the essence of spiritual experience." It is, thus, only in the quietude of our higher consciousness that we may experience the grace of God and the silence of our own humility. It is there that we can come to the silent acceptance of life as it has unfolded, and it is there where we can intuit what, if anything, God would have us do in any particular instance.

There is, however, a considerable danger, rooted in the persistence of self and in the subtlety of the ego, that we may be all too readily fooled by what we think we should do under the circumstances and that our thinking is a product of God-consciousness rather than the mundane self-consciousness of our ordinary waking life.

Recognizing this danger, Dr. Bob, Bill W., and many of "the good old-timers" relied heavily on the Four Absolutes that were developed and utlized by the Oxford Group; a set of useful metaphysical tools that were never formally adopted by A.A. as their then-notoriety would have publicly identified the then-fledgling A.A. movement with the Oxford Group.

To apply the Four Absoutes - honesty, purity, unselfishness and love - it is necessary only to gain the quietude of our own innate God-consciousness, and then to contemplate the four following questions about our proposed response to circumstances:
  1. Absolute Honesty - Is it true or false?
  2. Absolute Purity - Is it good or bad?
  3. Absolute Unselfishness - Disregarding ourselves entirely, how will this affect others?
  4. Absolute Love - Is it beautiful or ugly?
In the "Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous" pamphlet, Dr. Bob notes: "Almost always, if I measure my decision carefully by the yardsticks of absolute honesty, absolute unselfishness, absolute purity, and absolute love, and it checks up pretty well with those four, then my answer can't be very far out of the way. If, however, I do that and I'm still not satisfied with the answer, I usually consult with some friend whose judgment, in this particular case, would be very much better than mine. But," he notes, "usually the absolutes can help you to reach your own personal decision without bothering your friends."

Thus, persistence in meditation and prayer, quietude, and clarity of mind - together with the absolutes of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love - can allow us to discern God's will for us and to align our actions with both the totality of life and the will of our Higher Power, if He is sought.

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