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A Power Greater? Second Step (Part 1)

"(We) came to believe in a power greater than ourselves who could restore us to sanity."  The Second Step of the 12 Steps of AA and Al Anon.


I am more finicky than most people about naming the creative power of the universe--certainly more finicky than i have any need or right to be; but that's just  the  way i am.  I believe that symbols with shared meanings can have great power for good or (mostly) for ill.  On tjhe one hand, i have no problem substituting words like Brahman, The Void, the Godhead, Allah, the Goddess, Tao,* etc., etc., for each other.
On the other hand, some of these words, at different  times, when used in devotional settings, will figuratively jump off the page to bite me on the nose, destroying whatever medatative attitude i might have acquired.

The word "God" is my least favorite term for gpd, and it is particularly offensive when associated with the words "He" or "Him."**  People have taken steps to avoid using this term.  Some people feel that they must practice Buddhism or Taoism along with the 12=Steps.  Laura S. refers to her Higher Power as the Gang Of Drunks; my son once referred to his as DOG.  At one time i called my Higher Power Irene (goddess of peace in Greek mytholgy) and have consideredf using the name Ganesha (the elephant headed god of obstacles in Hinduism).

I can only say that the God of "my understanding" is beyond my understanding, at  least at the level of intellect or speech.

I wavered between agnosticism and atheism before i encountered the Tao Te Ching in midlife, and it was the notion of Tao that i carried with me into Al Anon.  I sccept that the 12 steps were discovered/invented by men who were middle class, American, Protestant  Christians.  I appreciate that 80% of Al Anon members in the USA, when thay address their Higher Power, are thinking about the God of Abraham, Isaac. Jacob and most of the early Christian bishops.  But they work the same program that i am trying to work, and many of them have found a level of spiritual understanding that i can only hope that i am able to attain some day.

Different thoughts will sometimes go through my head as i do the twelve steps.  Words that might cause me joy, might suggest despair to someone  else.***  That no longer concerns me.  I will find my Higher Power as She, He, It, or some Unnounable finds me.


.
* The Taoist philosophy is really not that much different from the perspective of many Christians.  Neo Platonism, which starts from a place similar to that of the Tao Te Ching, had a strong influence on early Christianity and it runa as a subversive stream in the via negative  -- from PseudoDionysius, through The Cloud of Unknowing and John of the Cross to William Blake and beyond.  My heart can imagine the preincarnation of the unknown 14th century English monk looking over the shoulder of Lao Tse as he writes "The  Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao", and saying: "Yes, and  the God who can be thought about is not the real God.

** I could rant on this for hours, but i  think anyone who has read this far knoqa why i say this.

*** Bill W. writes (AA p. 49) "We read wordy books and indulge in windy arguments, thinking we believe this universe needs no God to explain it.  Were our contentions true, it would follow that life originated out of nothing, means nothing, and preceeds nowhere."  As AA intended it, that second sentence is nihilistic and would certainly give no one any reason to stop drinking.  But the idea of nothing can also be seen as a "positive" faith

Within the via negativa, the idea of nothingness is welcome.  It is by losing ourselves that we find our Selves.  It is only an empty glass that can be filled, It is out of emptiness and silence that fullness and compassion arise.  This is the Taoist "faith>"  When the Christian poet, Emily Dickinson called herself "nobody" she was expressing a desire, not a complaint.

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Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
reginaterrae
Sep. 28th, 2016 01:49 am (UTC)
Have you read Bede Griffiths or Henri Le Saux? Camaldolese Benedictine monks who pioneered a profound encounter between Christianity and Hinduism. Here is the website of their "Christian ashram" in India. They go well beyond mere dialogue, in the conviction that there is one ultimate truth, and explore deeply how that Truth is expressed in the two apparently poles-apart religions.

I am just scratching the surface, haven't even begun to read, but am fascinated. My Abbot cited Griffiths and Le Saux as his favorite theologians, on his profile recently posted on St. Anselm's website. I think I've mentioned before how much Abbot James has been involved over the years in the Inter-religious Monastic Dialogue.
bobby1933
Sep. 28th, 2016 02:14 am (UTC)
Thank you.

Of course, i've heard of Griffiths, though i don't know much about him. And i think i might have read some of Le Saux' poetry. I am going to look him up right now. (Didn't he take an Indian name?)
reginaterrae
Sep. 28th, 2016 02:23 am (UTC)
Yes, for their monastic names they took Indian names. Le Saux was Abhishiktananda (the Bliss of Christ). Griffiths was Swami Dayananda (first Dhayananda, meaning Bliss of Prayer, then Dayananda, meaning Bliss of Compassion, according to the ashram's website).
amaebi
Sep. 29th, 2016 12:19 pm (UTC)
Now that I think about it, "greater than myself" is a really hilarious measure, for theology in general. In a 12-step context, of course, it's different. That desperate concentration on I can't but Something can."
bobby1933
Sep. 29th, 2016 04:08 pm (UTC)
A monarch, or somebody who thought like one, would fail to get the joke. Yet it is only a monarchical or post-monarchical world that makes the joke possible.

God as "a power higher than myself" would be very conceivable in a patriarchal. individualistic ("every man a king") capitalistic society during an economic depression.

I wonder if the actual words "Higher Power" came out of the Oxford Group movement??
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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