Speaking of the basics, is there ever a time when working the 12-Steps that one is beyond basic?
I’ve heard the 12-Steps described as spiritual kindergarten or as the pancakes “just add water” variety.
I think once more the question should be asked, “is there an intermediate or advanced spirituality?”
Paint By Numbers Spirituality
Certainly, spirituality can gain depth, but is this where it starts?
One doesn’t begin learning mathematics by jumping to calculus, instead, you focus on the basics: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc,..the truth is, to return to the basics is synonymous in this context with “returning to spirituality.”
So, first and foremost, it is for those who have deviated grossly from spiritual living. However, the idea of this text – as heralded by many members – is also to restore the spiritual within the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous which is also said to be the proper lens for Big Book interpretation.
*Wally P’s Back To Basics is considered part and parcel of the fundamentalist sect of Alcoholics Anonymous*
Is This Combatting A Clinical Take on Addiction?
Clinical thought – though extremely beneficial in its proper place – has long since clouded, obscured, and blatantly misunderstood 12-Step spirituality.
Indeed, in a system that presupposes “no God,” there is great difficulty in apprehending a God/spiritual system.
This book, in my understanding, is an attempt to remove the obscurity from the original idea the founders of the 12-Steps wished to convey – a return to the raw, active ingredient of the spiritual life: simplicity.
*This in no way denigrates clinical viewpoints- it instead separates the two; supplementary to each other but not a hybrid 12-Step/clinical mixture*
Of course, spiritual living can become more nuanced and in-depth but, as one author once remarked, “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.”
Moreover, it should be acknowledged that this is the nature of the 12-Steps; that is, a reconnection (recovery) to spirituality (see Big Book review). Alcoholics Anonymous is the Apple IOS for spiritual living (user-friendly and simple) – a foundation on rock as it were.
Face It – The Concepts Evolved From Religion
Reflect on the words of Jesus, which I believe to be unequivocally applicable here. Try to look beyond religion, what is the substance? This passage was the closing of the Sermon on the Mount (see Emmet Fox “Sermon on the Mount”), which hugely influenced the Twelve Steps – perhaps we can say it concludes the steps as well.
The Subtitle: How To Take the Twelve Steps “Quickly and Often”
Originally the Twelve Steps were understood as a process of recovery. Yet, over time as the world became less dominated by religious concepts and was overrun by performance-driven secular ideologies, It came to be understood as an artificial “set of exercises.”
Unfortunately, this understanding underscores the extreme deviation from a basic comprehension of spirituality.
The picture A.A. paints is a new lifestyle, a “design for living that works.”
Not a lifestyle with one tiny, minute flaw that needs re-adjusting.
A complete overhaul – something entirely new…
Consequently, the 12-Steps is thus likened to a new canvas… a tabula rasa…the rudimentary ingredients to a brand new life.
Why Quickly And Often?
The old life is a death sentence…are you willing to wait for a magical pardon. As St. Francis remarked, “I pray for a garden, then I pick up a hoe.” Dr. Bob – co-founder of A.A. and evidently the major inspiration behind Back To Basics – once gave a now-famous simplified version of the Twelve Steps:
- Trust God (Steps 1-3, 11)
- Clean House (Steps 4-10)
- Help Others (Step 12)
How long does this process take? There are two answers per Wally P:
- Between 4-6 Hours (introduction – finding)
- A Lifetime (seeking – the endless discovery)
“Seek until you find, then seek some more to experience the endless depths of all you can discover.”
The Beginners Meeting: The Focal Point of the Book
Once more, words motivated and inspired by Dr. Bob are most instructive,
This is what we find in Back To Basics; a simplified form of the 12 Steps that the original A.A. members used to begin and recover from a hopeless state of mind and body.
I’m not going to go too far and spoil the book in its entirety, but Wally P is a brilliant and ruthless archivist; historically putting all the pieces together so the entire puzzle of original A.A. (which vaunted a 50% To 75% success rate) is in view.
Let Me Give You The Gist
In the early, to mid-twentieth century The Saturday Evening Post was for all intents and purposes the national means for news and entertainment. Jack Alexander – an investigative journalist – famous for his penchant for exposing corrupt organizations was oft the go-to writer for American readers. (Check out his articles here – specifically the one he penned on AA)
Hearing about this small band of drunks and their capacity in sustaining sobriety – where others have failed (particularly the professionals at the time) – Alexander decided to probe the ranks of Alcoholics Anonymous. His conclusion? It was legitimate and it was working.
As you can imagine, whereas A.A. was only small time and hardly known prior to the article, now they were known on a national scale. Further, the demand for Big Books and the 12-Steps therein was momentous – the fledgling fellowship could not keep up.
Too Many Newcomers & Not Enough Old Timers
Beginners meetings started to flare up across the country. Their purpose? To introduce the newcomer to the steps – to take him or her through the steps and convert their status thereafter to “oldtimer.”
Therefore, each beginner’s meeting had its own interpretation of the Twelve Steps (For one early interpretation publish in 1946 see The Little Red Book) and used a format the traditionally took the newcomer through the steps in four consecutive one-hour sessions.
Quick Recap: So What Is Back To Basics?
It’s one of the formats used in the original beginner’s meetings. Even if you loathe the idea of taking the steps “quickly and often,” this little piece of history is worth the read. And hey…it may radically revolutionize your existence as it did for so many others.
Wally P. also wrote another fanscinating historical account on the Oxford Group’s method of prayer: “How to Listen to God: Overcoming Addiction Through Practice of Two-Way Prayer.”
Click here to check out the currrent prices on “Back To Basics – The Alcoholics Anonymous Beginners Meetings “Here are the steps we took…” in Four One Hour Sessions.”
For a Deeper Dive into A.A. History:
- Mel B – New Wine
- Ernest Kurtz – Not God
- Dick B – Anne Smith’s Spiritual Workbook
- Bill P – Practice These Principles and What is The Oxford Group
- Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age
- Dr. Bob and The Good Old Timers
Timmy G (2020)
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