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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pesonal Religion and Finding the God of Your Own Understanding

In recovery, there is no requirement that you believe in the God of your upbringing, nor in the God of any particular faith. Rather, what is suggested is that you find a God of your own understanding. And, as Bill W. points out (at page 27) in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: "A.A.'s tread innumerable paths in their quest for faith." Further, in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous (at page 28), the writer points out that William James, a distinguished Anmerican Psychologist, in his book "The Varieties of Religious Experience," "indicates a multitude of ways in which men have discovered God."
"We have no desire to convince anyone that there is only one way by which faith can be acquired," the 'Big Book' author continues. "If what we have learned and felt and seen means anything at all, it means that all of us, whatever. our race, creed, or color are the children of a living Creator with whom we may form a relationship upon simple and understandable terms as soon as we are honest and willing enough to try. Those having religious affiliations will find here nothing disturbing to thier beliefs or ceremonies. There is no friction among us over such matters."
In "The Varieties of Religious Experience" (at pages 28-29), William James distinguishes between "institutional" and "personal" religion. It is personal religious experience that James, like A.A. (and its sister organizations), is concerned with.
"In the more personal branch of religion," James notes, " it is . . the inner dispositions of man himself which forms the center of interest, his conscience, his deserts, his helplessness, his incompleteness. And although the favor of God as forfeited or gained, is still an essential feature of the story . . . the individual transacts the business by himself alone, and ecclesiastical organizations, with is priests sacraments and other go-betweens, sinks to an altogether secondary place. The relation goes direct from heart to heart, from soul to soul, between man and his maker."
In dealing with the inner being of the alcoholic addict, with "his conscience, his deserts, his helplessness, (and) his incompleteness," the writer of the 'Big Book' notes that invariably the alcoholic addict comes to a point where he or she must decide by themselves just what the God of his or her own understanding is to be.
"When we become alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is noting. God either is, or He isn't. What was our choice to be?"
If we take the provisional position that God is literally everything, this has many, many times served as a common beginning to understanding and faith. Then, working through the 12 Steps we are assured by those who have gone before us that they "found that Great Reality deep down within (them)," and that "(i)n the last analysis it is only there that He may be found."

Thus we are assured that within our being is the fundamental essence of an all-pervading God, an "unsusupected inner resource" that is the essence of spiritual awakening, and which many of the oldest of the old-timers came to know as "God-consciousness." ('Big Book,' Spiritual Experience Appendix, pp. 567-568.) Thus, we become enabled to find, believe in, and experience a God that is truly in and of our own understanding, although the voyage we take to get there is bound to be unique and singular.

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