The Spiritual Scientific Import of the

Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

by Joel A. Wendt

Anyone reading this is correct to wonder about my qualifications for this work.  I am an addict in recovery, since September 1987 - that is over 25 years.  I also have 18 years of grunt-work in the field of mental health.  By grunt-work I mean as a counselor to emotionally disturbed adolescents in group homes, as well as a mental health worker for over ten years in a private psychiatric hospital.  I also am the guy who had to wrestle the misbehaving to the ground, or clean up after the incontinent, or spend hours in the quiet room with a paranoid schizophrenic waiting for the medications to kick in, and the unruly inner voices to moderate.

As to Spiritual Science, I have been a member of the Society for over 30 years and of the Class for almost as long.  I do spiritual research on the relationship of Christ to the social life of humanity (1); on the soul and spiritual nature of America (2); and have succeeded in the work Steiner laid before us in the books: A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception; Truth and Knowledge; and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (3).  I have also done original research on the threefold double-complex (4), which understanding is crucial to appreciating the finer points of addictive behaviors.

Rudolf Steiner was clear, in the second lecture of Geographic Medicine, that knowledge of the double was crucial to questions of health.  Knowledge of the double is best discovered on the empirical/scientific introspective path outlined in The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity.

Here is a schematic diagram from my book on The Mystery of Evil (keep in mind that the map is not the territory):

Christ Jesus

Guardian Angel

i-AM

[sense world < soul (A/d) < i-AM > (L/d) soul > spiritual world]

human double

(asuras)

the Divine Mother

The “I” or ego is surrounded in the environment of the soul by the threefold double-complex:

i-AM

(A/d) < i-AM > (L/d)

[human (d)]

The upper “i-AM” is the higher ego or conscience.  It is the lower ego that has to encounter the double.  In the early Class Lessons, Steiner refers to three “creatures” in the soul.  Tomberg in his anthroposophical book Inner Development was the first to refer in a more didactic way to the ahrimanic double (A/d), the luciferic double (L/d) and the human double.  Later in his Meditations on the Tarot, Tomberg spoke of the prosecutor (A/d); the tempter (L/d) and egregores.  Egregores are psychic parasites in the soul, and represent aspects of the astral body that have become independent of the forces of the warmth body or ego.  Steiner called this type of “creature”, in Man as Symphony of the Creative Word (lecture 12), as a cancer or tumor of the soul.  Like a physical cancer the egregore is a kind of independent entity in the astral body, which I prefer (for artistic reasons) to call: a self-created wound of the soul.

The heroin addict calls it “the monkey on my back”, and the alcoholic at the beginning of the 20th Century called it “demon rum”.  A psychic parasite is created by a repeated ritual, such as regularly shooting up or getting drunk over and over and over again.  It is the parasite that loves and seeks the crack or methamphetamine rush.  It is the parasite that overpowers the ego, by spreading the “pleasure” of the rush throughout the astral body as a kind of relaxing or stimulating warmth.  We also speak of adrenaline junkies, or shopping junkies, or couch potatoes - people whose wills seem to be compromised.

When an addiction so overwhelms the ego, the Asuras drawn near for in a way somewhat analogous to the insects that take apart a decaying body, the Asuras consume an ego that has become completely lost to these psychic parasites, when they fester  unchecked in our self-generated wounds of soul.

We have to recognize the influence of karma here, as well.  Addictions vary in intensity, and where in time in the biography they begin.  Some addictions are of the will, such as for greed and power.  Other’s are of the feeling life - the addict likes to check out of life and to dream. Some addictions become physical in the sense that withdrawal is painful and long.  Other addictions are of the mind, such as the chronic liar - it is the self-invented world-view that dominates the desire.  The astral, or desire, body is quite complex 

In 1933, when Bill W. was detoxing from near-death alcoholism for the final time, he was visited by what he described as a “friend from childhood”, a necessary euphemism for that which actually appeared before him as Christ in the form of an Angel.  There followed a gathering of many (under the influence of the Holy Mother) out of which community impulse was written the Twelve Steps.  Both the guide of the “I” (the Greater Guardian of the Threshold) and the guide of the future of community (the Holy Mother) cooperated here.

Anthroposophical thinking discovers that the Twelve Steps can be divided into three soul and spiritual processes, the first of which is surrender:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Novalis intuited this situation:

The heart is the key to the world and of life.

We live in our helpless condition

in order to love, and be obliged to others.

Through imperfection we become ripe for the influence of others,

and this outside influence is the aim.

In illness we must be helped by others and only others can help us.

From this point of view, Christ surely is the key of the world.

The second process is confession and contrition:

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

The third process is: practice leading to service:

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Steps 4 and 5, as well as 8 and 9, are bridges for the three processes.  Steps 5 to 8 are the heart of these processes, for we never recover, but are always: in recovery

Many people don’t like what seems to them to be the religious aspect of the Steps, but for Spiritual Science this aspect is obvious.  At the same time, the Twelve Steps are not for everyone.  The core of this work is community.  We make a dangerous private journey in the company of others also making a dangerous private journey.

Recall Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.  This becomes very true for those who spend time in this community, because the people who practice it are not only worldly-wise, they are also emotionally authentic, often in unusual ways.  For the beginner this can be kind of intimidating. 

I had been in recovery on my own for about 3 years when I met a man (John) who had returned from Vietnam an addict and a drunk, and then killed a man in a bar fight.  This got him 8 years in Attica, and he was there for the famous riot.   When the air cleared there were 39 dead, including prisoners and staff, after Governor Nelson Rockefeller had ordered in the State Police.

He was the main dual-diagnosis addiction counselor on the adult unit where I worked.  One day we were admitting a drunk at the end of the night shift, who was standing at the nurses’ station being verbally aggressive with everyone who came in sight.  When John entered the unit, the drunk said to him in a loud voice: “Who the fuck are you?”  John answered: “I’m a drunk, who the fuck are you”, without breaking stride.  Our belligerent fellow became immediately quiet and went to sit in a corner until he otherwise needed to finish the admission process.

It was being around John that made me realize I still had a long way to go, even though I had quit using some years before.

What is important to realize is that with the gift of grace from higher Beings that is the Twelve Steps, a Path was created, in cooperation with human beings, for dealing directly with the threefold double-complex, without any need for spiritual scientific knowledge.  Not only that, but this Path is a Way all in itself, which is applicable to many people who find themselves descending into realms of darkness where there seems to be no help at all.  The relevant phrase is: hitting bottom.  When we bottom out, if we are willing to surrender to our situation, we will find ourselves in the arms of the Holy Mother, just as is depicted in the Pieta.

That the Twelve Steps are an American invention is also a matter of no little consequence, and in its own way this fact can teach us a great deal about the American Soul.  Mostly Rudolf Steiner taught about how to awaken the chakras from the heart and above.  In America we have to deal with the lower chakras, an entirely different matter.  The appetites are powerful forces (5).

notes

(1) The Art of God: an actual theory of Everything: http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/artofgod.html

(2) In Praise of the American Spirit: http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/americanpolitics.html

(3) Cowboy Bebop - and the physics* of thought as moral art: http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/CowboyBebop.html

(4) The Mystery of Evil in the Light of the Sermon on the Mount: http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/mysteryofevil.html

(5) Sex, Porn, and the Return of the Divine Feminine: http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/sex,porn.html