The “higher power” iceberg. Don’t jump ship. Just turn and steam away. No Titanic for AAs

Academia and a small fragment of the clergy have been pushing nonsense gods ever since A.A.’s Akron Christian Recovery program was founded in 1935.

What are these nonsense gods? Higher powers that are called light bulbs, “Somebody,” “Something,” a tree, a Coke Bottle, the Big Dipper, the back end of a city bus, a chair, a table, a radiator, Gertrude, Ralph, and any “power greater than yourself.”

Rev. Sam Shoemaker, called by Bill Wilson a “cofounder of A.A.,” tried to help AAs and Christians aware of this idolatry. He decried “absurd names for God,” “self-made religion,” and “half-baked prayers.” You can find his remarks in the transcripts of A.A. International Conventions in Long Beach and St. Lois. You can find his solution in one of his earliest books, Realizing Religion.

In that early book Realizing Religion–introducing many ideas Bill W. was later to incorporate in his Twelve Steps and the language of his Big Book of 1939–Shoemaker made the spiritual battle plain.

He pointed to the need for “finding” God. He discussed becoming “born again.” He discussed the “turning point” (See Dick B. http://www.dickb.com/Turning.shtml). He discussed the need for a “vital religious experience.”

Shoemaker’s simple explanation of man’s spiritual problem–spiritual misery–certainly didn’t point to light bulbs or chairs as a solution. Who would pray to a chair for relief from alcoholism! Who would try to find “power” in Ralph? Who would claim to understand that an “higher power” could be understood and relied upon to produce the miraculous of cure of alcoholism? Who would assert that the A.A. “solution” on page 25 of the Big Book entailed the back end of a city bus entering into your heart in a way that is truly miraculous? Absurdities all!

We now know from Bill’s own discussion in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, that this whole shift to a ridiculous “broad highway” for alcoholics and addicts began when Bill yielded to the irreligious begging of his partner Hank Parkhurst. Bill eliminated “God” from the proposed Second Step. He corrupted “God” in the Third and Eleventh Steps by adding “as we understood Him” –even though the phrase came from the writings of Rev. Sam Shoemaker in Children of the Second Birth, and The Way to Find God. And Bill admitted it was done to appease atheists and agnostics (of whom there were practically none in A.A.)

Shoemaker made it clear to Alcoholics Anonymous that the God he (Shoemaker) understood Him was Yahweh, the Creator–Almighty God as he was named and described in the Scriptures. So did Bill W. during his blazing extraordinary white light experience in Towns Hospital. And their frame of reference–their Heavenly Father–was suitable for delivering AAs.

Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, a cofounder of AA, wrote these ideas in Realizing Religion–a decade before there even was an Alcoholics Anonymous. Shoemaker said: (1) Man suffers from spiritual misery. (2) Motor drives will not relieve it. (3) The spiritual misery is man’s separation from God who meant man to be His (God’s) companion. (4) “What you need is a vital religious experience,” Sam wrote. (5) “You need to find God.” (6) “You need Jesus Christ.”

And early Akron AAs responded to these ideas.

There were no “higher powers.” The “higher powers” were the product of people like Emmet Fox who claimed the doctrine of salvation in the Bible was bogus. In those early years, only a few people like William James, Ralph Waldo Trine, Fox, and Victor Kitchen–who talked “new thought” language–were introducing the idea of a “higher power”–a phrase that will not be found in the Bible which early Akron AAs stressed.

Now, an American researcher and a British clergyman are holding a “higher power conference” to find out the various ways in which this weird phrase is understood. The answer? It is a diversion. It is idolatrous, And it is impotent. It surely is not understood because it’s nonsense!

Gloria Deo

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About mauihistorian

Uses pen name Dick B.: Writer, Historian, Retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and active and recovered A.A. member with over 25 years of continuous sobriety. Published 42 titles and over 650 articles on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Christian Recovery Movement. www.dickb.com
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