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" four times, and the plural "higher powers" seven times, to refer to powers beyond the self that may provide assistance.

The term has been cited as found 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." However, in this passage Saint Paul is referring to civil authorities such as kings and governments, rather than a spiritual power.

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]

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. ^ 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)