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Why Powers Greater Than Ourselves Matters So Much

Posted: Tue May 18, 2021 9:30 pm
by desire2stop
I adapted this from a 1961 Bill W. piece from the Grapevine. This was originally titled "The Dilemma of No Faith".

We used this for a meeting topic on our personal spirituality.

"The phrase “powers greater than ourselves” is perhaps the most important expression to be found in our whole CGAA vocabulary. Within the compass of these words there can be included every kind and degree of spiritual path, together with the positive assurance that each of us may choose our own. Scarcely less valuable to us are those supplemental expressions – “A Higher Power” and “HP” For all who deny, or seriously doubt a deity, these frame an open door over whose threshold the unbeliever can take their first easy step into a reality hitherto unknown to them – the realm of faith.

In CGAA such breakthroughs are everyday events. These breakthroughs are all the more remarkable when we reflect that a working faith had once seemed an impossibility of the first magnitude to perhaps half of our present membership or more. To all these doubters has come the great discovery that as soon as they could cast their main dependence upon “powers greater than ourselves” – even upon their own CGAA groups – they had turned that blind corner which had always kept the open highway from their view. From this time on – assuming they tried hard to practice the rest of the CGAA program with a relaxed and open mind – an ever deepening and broadening faith, a veritable gift, had invariably put in its sometimes unexpected and often mysterious appearance.

We much regret that these facts of CGAA life are not understood by the legion of gaming addicts in the world around us. Any number of them are bedeviled by the dire conviction that if ever they go near CGAA they will be pressured to conform to some particular brand of faith or theology. They just don’t realize that faith is never a necessity for CGAA membership; that abstinence can be achieved with an easily acceptable minimum of it; and that our concepts of spiritual principles and Higher Power as we understand it afford everyone a nearly unlimited choice of spiritual belief and action…

Many years ago a so-called “unbeliever” brought me to see this very clearly. He was an M.D. and a fine one. I met him and his wife Mary at the home of a friend in a midwestern city. It was purely a social evening. Our fellowship of gaming addicts was my sole topic and I pretty much monopolized the conversation. Nevertheless, the doctor and his lady seemed truly interested and he asked many questions. But one of his questions made me suspect that he was an agnostic, or maybe an atheist.

This promptly triggered me, and I set out to convert him, then and there. Deadly serious, I actually bragged about my spectacular spiritual experience of the year before. The doctor mildly wondered if that experience might not be something other than I thought it was. This hit me hard, and I was downright rude. There had been no real provocation; the doctor was uniformly courteous, good humored and even respectful. Not a little wistfully, he said he often wished he had a firm faith, too. But plainly enough, I had convinced him of nothing.

Three years later I revisited my midwestern friend. Mary, the doctor’s wife, came by for a call and I learned that he had died the week before. Much affected, she began to speak of him.

His was a noted Boston family, and he’d been Harvard educated. A brilliant student, he might have gone on to fame in his profession. He could have enjoyed a wealthy practice and a social life among old friends. Instead, he had insisted on being a company doctor in what was a strife-torn industrial town. When Mary had sometimes asked why they didn’t go back to Boston, he would take her hand and say, “Maybe you are right, but I can’t bring myself to leave. I think the people at the company really need me.”

Mary then recalled that she had never known her husband to complain seriously about anything, or to criticize anyone bitterly. Though he appeared to be perfectly well, the doctor had slowed down in his last five years. When Mary prodded him to go out evenings, or tried to get him to the office on time, he always came up with a plausible and good-natured excuse. Not until his sudden last illness did she know that all this while he had carried about a heart condition that could have done him in at any moment.

Except for a single doctor on his own staff, no one had an inkling. When she reproached him about this, he simply said, “Well, I could see no good in causing people to worry about me – especially you, my dear.”

This was the story of a man of great spiritual worth. The hallmarks were plain to be seen: humor and patience, gentleness and courage, humility and dedication, unselfishness and love – a demonstration I might never come near to making myself. This was the man I had chided and patronized. This was the “unbeliever” I had presumed to instruct!

Mary told us this story more than twenty years ago. Then, for the first time, it burst in upon me how very dead faith can be – when minus responsibility. The doctor had an unwavering belief in his ideals. But he also practiced humility, wisdom and responsibility. Hence his superb demonstration.

My own spiritual awakening had given me a built-in faith in God – a gift indeed. But I had been neither humble nor wise. Boasting of my faith, I had forgotten my ideals. Pride and irresponsibility had taken their place. By so cutting off my own light, I had little to offer my fellow gaming addicts. At last I saw why many gaming addicts had shied away from CGAA– some of them forever.

Therefore, our personal spiritual growth and practice is more than our greatest gift; its sharing with others is our greatest responsibility. May we of CGAA continually seek the wisdom and the willingness by which we may well fulfill that immense trust which the Giver of all perfect gifts has placed in our hands."

Re: Why Powers Greater Than Ourselves Matters So Much

Posted: Tue May 18, 2021 11:19 pm
by Scott
I truly appreciate any efforts people make to be clear that in CGAA "higher power" and "power greater than ourselves" are all-inclusive terms for all forms of additional strength and guidance our various members rely upon. They include spiritual and non-spiritual forms, religious and non-religious forms.

desire2stop, I don't doubt that you posted this piece because of its strengths. I like much of what is written in the center of the piece.

The start and the end of the piece include very problematic statements, made more so when "AA" is changed to "CGAA". For the sake of the newcomers, I want to make clear that the problematic statements are not a part of CGAA.

I appreciate that in this article Bill W, co-founder of AA, freely admits to his closed-mindedness and arrogance when other people didn't share his monotheistic faith. He wrote about a newcomer whose "questions made me suspect that he was an agnostic, or maybe an atheist. This promptly triggered me, and I set out to convert him, then and there." I appreciate his open admission to trying to convert AA newcomers to his own beliefs. In most of his writings, he acts as if being open to all types of monotheists and all newcomers who might eventually be converted to monotheism is somehow a respectful openness to all types of people and their spiritual beliefs and worldviews.

In CGAA, things are different than in AA. Here the reason we have an open door to people of all beliefs is not so that we can pull them in for later conversion to monotheistic belief. Here, it's open at the door and open in the meetings and open in our literature and open all around. We respect all types of spiritual beliefs, religions, and worldviews and do not denigrate people as "faithless" "unbelievers" who need to take their "first steps" toward "the realm of faith", as Bill W wrote, if they happen to be Hindus or Buddhists or Pagans or New Agers or Taoists or atheists who do not hold monotheistic beliefs.

Bill wrote: "These breakthroughs are all the more remarkable when we reflect that a working faith had once seemed an impossibility of the first magnitude to perhaps half of our present membership or more."

In CGAA, a breakthrough is overcoming denial. Or overcoming urges to game. Or dedicating oneself to one's own personal spirituality. Switching from one's beliefs around spirituality to a faith in Bill W's religious beliefs is not a breakthrough in CGAA. If someone wants to convert, that's a personal choice that has nothing to do with our program or fellowship. No one here should be pressured to do so.

Bill W ends with "May we of AA continually seek the wisdom and the willingness by which we may well fulfill that immense trust which the Giver of all perfect gifts has placed in our hands." Again he is talking if as there is only one Giver of perfect gifts and that we all need to "fulfill that immense trust" of that Giver. "May we of AA" says he wants everyone in the program to "continually seek" fulfilling the trust of that one Giver.

None of this is true in CGAA. May we of CGAA each be true to our own spiritual beliefs, worldview, or religion, whatever that might be. May we not compromise our own spirituality or crumble to pressure to conform to Bill W's beliefs, no matter how often we are pressured with his arrogant writings pushing one right faith.

He also wrote, "At last I saw why many alcoholics had shied away from AA–-some of them forever." Yes, I've seen it throughout my twenty four years in AA too, although "shied away" is sugarcoating how they were alienated and driven away. It deeply saddens me. Many times my efforts to show non-monotheistic newcomers how they could take advantage of AA's strengths without having to convert wasn't enough to counterbalance the constant messages that monotheistic faith was required. They left and never came back. One of them died. I pray that the same dynamic never overtakes CGAA.