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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Trust God, Clean House, Help Others

"A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8)

"Draw near to God and God will draw near to you. Wash clean your hands, ye sinners. Purify your hearts ye double-minded." (James 4:8)

Dr. Bob, in the "Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous" pamphlet, notes that in the earliest days of A.A. he and Bill found the Book of James (together with the Beatitudes and 1 Corinthians: 13) to be "absolutely essential." "Absolutely essential," no doubt, as all these passages speak to the spiritual malady that is at the root of the alcoholic addict's suffering. This is particularly so of the Book of James, where one finds such maxims as "Faith without works is dead."

Keeping in mind the description of  "the actor" on pages 60-62 of the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the ultimate conclusion that "the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run wild," the above -quoted passages from the Book of James seem to me to be particularly relevant. They recognize that the vast, vast majority of us - alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike - are "double minded." And, I would put it to you, that such double-mindedness consist of the small ego-self and one's authentic Being. Such an observation accounts for Bill's observation that "our actor is self-centered - ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays." The self-reliant "actor" erratically tries to manage everything, not realizing that no one person can manage life; not realizing, indeed, that life is inherently unmanageable.

And what was Dr. Bob's famed summary of the A.A. program and way of life? "Trust God. Clean house. Help others." Notice how closely this mirrors the above passage from James 4:8. ("Draw near to God and God will draw near to you. Wash clean your hands, ye sinners. Purify your hearts ye double minded.")

This is not to suggest that Alcoholics Anonymous (or any of its sister organizations) is anything but a spiritual program, or that it is exclusively Christian-based  - a fact recognized in our Traditions and experience from the beginning of A.A. - but, rather, it is a recognition of how A.A.'s spiritual principles accord with spiritual principles recognized elsewhere. (Personally, I do not care whether "truth" comes from the Buddha, the Bible or Bambi's mother in the Walt Disney film - the truth is the truth, is the truth.)

The truths reflected in the above-passages form the Book of James reflect what we learn in A.A. That there is within each of us an at-first predominant ego (or small "self") and a higher, God-consciousness which is the essence of all spiritual experience. The point of the Twelve Steps is not so much to arrest one's drinking (which is more of a prerequisite), but to enable one to effect an ever clearer and more consistent conscious contact with this highest portion of one's being.

To the extent that one wavers between self-consciousness and God-consciousness, one's thoughts, words, and actions are bound to fluctuate, waver, and to become "unstable in every way." To the extent that one draws near to God, clears away the wreckage of one's past, and purifies one's heart in order that he or she may help others, however, one becomes increasingly single-minded, and fixed ever more steadily in a conscious contact with one's Higher Power.

The goal of A.A. is thus "ego deflation at depth" so that altruistic and compassionate action based on God-consciousness may increasingly predominate in our lives.

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