Reviewed by bob k
The resistance of free-thinking newcomers to the religious language of the literature is one of the principal concerns facing the secularist in AA, in pursuing the goal of helping others. Some authors, notably Gabriel Segal (Twelve Steps To Psychological Good Health)*, and Adam N. (Common Sense Recovery)*, for example, wade through the religious language to explore the philosophical merit and common sense value that lies beneath.
If there is need to alter terms and wordings, alter away. The usefulness is in the principles.
The Universal Edition provides a secularized version of key chapters of AA’s basic text. Presumably, one could hand a free-thinking newcomer this small volume and say, “Here’s what AA has to offer, once the religiosity is stripped away.” Previously we could counsel folks to “Take what they want, and leave the rest,” but in reading the literature, the unwanted stuff is THERE, and “in your face.” It’s very hard to “not see.”
Mr Voxx has removed the religion and left the psychology. It is not a great stretch to suggest the Universal Edition resembles what might have been, had the Jim B. and Hank P. faction prevailed, at the time the original Big Book was being crafted.
That the author’s intent be clearly understood, the full INTRODUCTION follows.
“The 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most successful program in history for addressing addiction. It represents brilliant, groundbreaking work in addiction recovery.
“As a part of the AA process, an individual undergoes a personal transformation. This is referred to as a spiritual awakening in the AA program. This transformation is not a religious conversion, but a change in how you view yourself and your relationships with others.
“To accomplish this change you must turn to a source of principles for conducting your life that are outside of your current thinking. In the AA recovery process these are considered spiritual principles. People who participate in AA draw on a wide variety of sources for these principles including organized religion and non-religious beliefs. Some participants are agnostic or atheist; with solid sources of spiritual guidance that work for them.
“There was pressure from within the team developing the Big Book and 12 Steps in the 1930s to make the source of the spiritual principles neutral.. That is, to not favor any one source. This did not prevail and the Big Book and the related 12 Steps are written, in great part, from the standpoint that the Christian faith and its God are the source of spiritual guidance. This presents a challenge for those individuals who do not embrace this particular perspective.
“This Universal Edition consists of key chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous (“The Big Book”) that have been modified to remove the religious emphasis. All of the content of the Universal Edition is the same as the original Big Book, except for changes considered essential to make it neutral from the standpoint of personal spiritual beliefs. As a result, the Universal Edition is completely compatible with all AA recovery work including meetings, sponsorship, and related activities.”
What follows are translations of THE DOCTOR’S OPINION, and Chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 11. TO AGNOSTICS, TO WIVES, THE FAMILY AFTERWARD, and TO EMPLOYERS are relegated to the wastebasket.
“God” exits, replaced by higher power, uncapitalized. Prayer becomes reflection. Step 3 is modified to “the care of external spiritual resources as we understand these.” In 6 & 7, we become ready, and take action to remove our shortcomiings. The new 11 becomes “Sought through reflection and meditation to improve our understanding of our new spiritual principles seeking only knowledge of their meaning and the power to carry these out.
The famous three pertinent ideas are changed to b) That probably no personal effort could have relieved our alcoholism; c) That external spiritual guidance could and would if it were sought.
We may debate the details, of course – there is no pleasing everybody. Nonetheless, this is another asset in the growing body of literature helpful to the secularist choosing to pursue sobriety within the general AA framework.
Alcoholics Anonymous Universal Edition is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle.
*Review of Common Sense Recovery by Adam N, AA Agnostica, September 21, 2014
*Review of Twelves Steps to Psychological Good Health and Serenity by Gabriel Segal, AA Agnostica, April 23, 2014
Bob K. lives in the Metropolitan Toronto area, and has been a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 24 years, and an out-of-the-closet atheist for that entire time. He has been a regular contributor to the AAAgnostica website for almost 5 years, and in January, 2015, published “Key Players in AA History” In 2013, he cofounded the Whitby Freethinkers meeting.