Higher Power

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Higher Power is a term used in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other twelve-step programs.[1] The same groups use the phrase "a power greater than ourselves" synonymously. The term sometimes refers to a supreme being or deity, or other conceptions of God.

Definition and usage[edit]

In current twelve-step program usage, a higher power can be anything at all that the member believes is adequate. Reported examples include their twelve-step group, nature, consciousness, existential freedom, God, science, and Buddha. It is frequently stipulated that as long as a higher power is "greater" than the individual, then the only condition is that it should also be loving and caring.[2][3]

Alcoholics Anonymous[edit]

The terms higher power and power greater than ourselves appear in the "Big Book", on three occasions:

  • "Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."[4]
  • "The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power."[5]
  • "Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances!"[6]

History[edit]

Sources that may have contributed to the adoption of the term in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the first twelve-step group, include spirituality, the King James Version of the Bible, New Thought religion, and the work of William James.[7]

James, who wrote "The only cure for dipsomania is religiomania" in The Varieties of Religious Experience, is cited in the "Spiritual Experience" appendix of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.[8] Varieties of Religious Experience uses the singular term "higher power" 4 times, and the plural "higher powers" 7 times, to refer to powers beyond the self that may provide assistance.

The term is used in a similar sense in the King James version of the Bible, again in the plural form, in Romans 13:1: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."

Correlates of belief[edit]

Sociologist Darren Sherkat researched the belief of Americans in a higher power. He based his research on data from 8,000 adults polled by the Chicago-based National Opinion Research Center between 1988 and 2000. Among his findings were that 8% stated "I don't believe in a personal god, but I do believe in a higher power of some kind." This is the same figure as found by the 1999 Gallup national poll of Americans. Sherkat also found that 16% of the Jewish people surveyed agreed with the statement about a 'higher power', while 13.2% of liberal Protestants and 10.6% of Episcopalians also agreed with it.[9]

An empirically based recovery framework likened faith in a higher power to motivation for personal growth as described by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers.[10]

Criticism[edit]

Christian[edit]

Celebrate Recovery was founded by a group of Christians who criticized the higher power concept as being too vague. In the twelve-step derived group, Jesus is the only higher power allowed.[11][12]

Gender theory[edit]

M. E. O'Hare-Lavin argues that the concept of a higher power represents a masculine perception of spiritual recovery, such as the hero's journeys of Moses, Gautama Buddha, Jesus, Odysseus, Icarus and Percival, and that the archetypal feminine heroic journey is a chthonic underworld journey, lower and deeper; like those of Persephone, Psyche, Eurydice and Inanna. Her opinion is that the higher power spirituality may not necessarily be relevant to women in recovery.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Silkworth.net. "The God Concept In Alcoholics Anonymous – Silkworth.net". silkworth.net.
  2. ^ Baker, Michael P.; Sellman, J. Douglas; Horn, Jacqueline (2001). "Developing a God/higher power scale for use with twelve step treatment programs". Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. 19 (2): 45–61. doi:10.1300/J020v19n02_03. ISSN 0734-7324.
  3. ^ Rudy, David R.; Greil, Arthur L. (1989). "Is Alcoholics Anonymous a Religious Organization?: Meditations on Marginality". Sociological Analysis. 50 (1): 41–51. doi:10.2307/3710917. JSTOR 3710917.
  4. ^ Alcoholics Anonymous (February 2002). "Chapter 5: How It Works" (PDF). Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of how Many Thousands of Men and Women have Recovered from Alcoholism (4th ed.). Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. ISBN 1-893007-16-2. OCLC 2353981. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
  5. ^ Bill W. (February 2002). "Chapter 3: More About Alcoholism" (PDF). Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of how Many Thousands of Men and Women have Recovered from Alcoholism (4th ed.). Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. ISBN 1-893007-16-2. OCLC 2353981. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
  6. ^ Bill W. (2002-02-10). "Chapter 7: Working With Others" (PDF). Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of how Many Thousands of Men and Women have Recovered from Alcoholism (4th ed.). Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. ISBN 1-893007-16-2. OCLC 2353981. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
  7. ^ Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers: A biography with recollections of Early AA in the Midwest. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. December 1980. pp. 306–315. ISBN 0-916856-07-0.
  8. ^ Bill W. (February 2002). "Spiritual Experience" (PDF). Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of how Many Thousands of Men and Women have Recovered from Alcoholism (4th ed.). Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. ISBN 0-916856-59-3. OCLC 2353981. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
  9. ^ Dart, John (December 14, 2004). "Americans' belief in God is high but nuanced, study says". Christian Century. Retrieved 2008-08-10.
  10. ^ Ochocka, Joanna; Nelson, Geoff; Janzen, Rich (Spring 2005). "Moving Forward: Negotiating Self and External Circumstances in Recovery". Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal. 28 (4): 315–322. doi:10.2975/28.2005.315.322. PMID 15895914.
  11. ^ Baker, John (1998). Celebrate Recovery: Leader's Guide. Zondervan Publishing House. ISBN 978-0-310-22108-1.
  12. ^ Ryan, Dale. "God as We Understood Him : Too Christian or Not Christian Enough?". Archived from the original on 2016-04-27. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
  13. ^ *O'Hare-Lavin, M. E. (2000). "Finding a "Lower, Deeper Power" for Women in Recovery". Counseling and Values. 44 (3): 198–212. doi:10.1002/j.2161-007X.2000.tb00172.x.
  14. ^ Bush, George W. (2008-06-26). "Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives National Conference". The White House, Washington. Retrieved 2008-08-10.

Further reading[edit]

  • Green, L. L., Fullilove, M. T., & Fullilove, R. E.; Fullilove; Fullilove (1998). "Stories of spiritual awakening: The nature of spirituality in recovery". Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 15 (4): 325–331. doi:10.1016/S0740-5472(97)00211-0. PMID 9650141.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)