“Came to believe that an inclusive Higher Consciousness could restore us to sanity.”
– A Rephrasing of the Second Step in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
Acceptance of our being out of control and ruinously misled takes us naturally into Step Two. By this time, we have begun to see the results of past beliefs. “Came to believe” might imply that former beliefs and assumptions by which we were guided resulted in our current unmanageable state of affairs. Belief in an inclusive Higher Consciousness did not seem necessary until we took Step One and admitted that we were out of control and could not successfully discern right from wrong. Before that, we were operating on ego, willfulness and fear. We clung to our God and our Rights. Our beliefs discounted the obvious fact that, while the rest of the world may see God differently, He is also their God; loves them just as fervently and as steadfastly as He loves us; and grants them the same inalienable rights that He has granted to us. Our religious dogma misled us into self-aggrandizement, self-congratulatory lies, and selfishness. We lost the compassion Jesus had for others. We lost the ability to see enemies as people. Our rhetoric and invective truncated our human compassion at our borders. We mouthed dishonest justifications for meaningless violence ruining lives and property of brothers and sisters who merited (but did not receive) our compassion and understanding.
As we begin to accept the notion of a compassionate Higher Consciousness, of an inclusive God with all-encompassing love and understanding, we start to function in a healthier way. We begin to feel a new sense of peace and serenity. We recognize that most enmity was a fiction created out of our inability to see beyond our borders, to reach across that imaginary dividing line and see the rest of our family, fellow elders of the human tribe, fellow travelers on spaceship Earth; fellow ancestors to our mutual progeny, loving and loyal, just like we are.
must not let ourselves be consumed with anger or shame. This has
been going on for millenia. We didn’t create it. We didn’t know any
What blocks our acceptance of a compassionate and inclusive Higher Power?
To be a Higher Consciousness, a “Higher Power” must be universal and unconditionally loving. He/She/It must not promote prejudice or violence as the god of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam has done and is doing. To see clearly, we must somehow divest ourselves of much, if not most, of what we learned in childhood; of attitudes and beliefs which have been reinforced throughout our lives.
Our religious beliefs led us into assuming the worst of some arbitrary “enemy” whose “evil” must be stopped by violence. Almost invariably, this led, not to a resolution but to a worse “evil” that had to be stopped by even more violence. Because our religious beliefs held us as preferred by our Creator, this made it doubly difficult to rid ourselves of these erroneous attitudes. It is so much easier to vilify and denigrate others with different traditions, different customs and different attitudes than to descend to equality with the rest of the world.
Our blind loyalty to our flag and our armies and our dominance in the world also kept us from noticing many things we have in common with them even though they may look and sound differently. Traditionally, both religion and nationality placed us above others in our imagining of God’s viewpoint. To be equals, we must find an inclusive God rather than an exclusive one.
Adopting an inclusive Higher Power may force us to revise our personal identities. We might not be able to look at ourselves as especially favored by God. We might have to extend our allegiance to the rest of the world, beyond our borders, our language, our skin color, our religion and perhaps even our idea of a preferred sexual orientation.
We might have to revise the Pledge of Allegiance or at least our national agenda and our understanding of the words “under God.”
We could no longer look with dismissive disdain on socialism or communism or even totalitarianism. We would have to rethink everything! Our economic and political systems would no longer be “the best in the world” without one iota of proof. We might have to look at the merits of other, differing ways of doing things as equal to and possibly superior to current norms. Having to descend from the lofty heights of continuous self-aggrandizement, we would certainly be humbled by this experience.
We must act towards other countries, religions and cultures as we would have them act towards us.
What are the properties of this presumed “Higher Consciousness” we might believe in?
It doesn’t favor one gender over another. While genders may differ, their abilities and their characteristics are equally needed, equally important and equally qualified for leadership.
An inclusive Higher Consciousness doesn’t favor one religion or one sect or one set of beliefs over others. It is OK to have beliefs1. It is a serious problem when our beliefs lead us into grandiosity and/or disdain for others.
While an inclusive Higher Power might forgive and bless us all, forgiveness does not, as some religions teach us, make us immune to the ongoing results of destructive attitudes and behaviors. It is necessary for us to learn new approaches to problem-solving rather than being stuck in endless cycles of making mistakes and begging forgiveness. It will be necessary for us to acknowledge and, wherever possible, correct conditions caused by those mistakes (Steps 4-10).
An inclusive Higher Consciousness might accept all religions as efforts to understand and explain things that are essentially incomprehensible. He or She or It created us all and thus, we are all necessary members of the human family. We must come to believe that God loves all of us equally; that he ((or she) blesses all of us and wishes all of us to support each other. Our God must be the God of everyone and everything, not a God we define, control or manipulate.
Our Higher Consciousness must not be tied to the past, chained to ancient traditions and beliefs or stuck in a veneration of ancestral norms. As science led us out of the Dark and Middle Ages, so spirituality must lead us out of constant violence, away from extremism and passionate dogmatism. We must find tolerance. We must treat other beliefs with respect and dignity. We must allow ourselves to see more clearly but with less certainty. We need to re-examine assumptions which led us away from lasting peace on Earth.
Our Higher Consciousness must not be tied to money and profit. It is an obvious though infrequently considered fact that many religious organizations have massive assets which are often used almost exclusively for self-perpetuation and maintaining the status quo. If we turned the majority of the assets of our churches, synagogues and mosques outward, helping those in need as Jesus taught, it would go a long way towards accomplishing the goals set forth in this book. If we direct our government at this goal as well, positive results are almost sure to ensue.
Finally, our Higher Consciousness must be personal rather than collective. Each person should be allowed a full range of beliefs without censorship by family, organizations or peers. We must change things so that freedom of belief rather than freedom of religion is our goal. As long as we are forced into a rigid mold that dogma inevitably creates, we will have difficulty developing an inclusive and compassionate view of the world.
Why do you believe in an inclusive Higher Power?
It started with twenty years of twelve-step meetings. I saw that, when groups followed the traditions, the meetings were prosperous and helpful. When they didn’t, there were problems similar to those in a dysfunctional family. I witnessed this at all levels of organization.
Then I discovered the spiritual healing of Bert Hellinger called Family Constellations and got involved in three years of intensive training to facilitate this work. This showed me that the most ardent desire of the human spirit is to be included, to be a part of the family, the army, the tribe, the nation, and, yes, the entire human family. All successful resolutions involved reconciliation and acceptance. While the unsuccessful constellations involved disunity, discord, and/or a lack of acceptance.
Twelve-step work and Family Constellations come from completely different sources, but what they share is spirituality. Spirituality is what Jesus preached for most of his first life, but not what he is said to have preached at the Last Supper or after his resurrection. Spirituality rewards compassion and inclusion with happiness and contentment. When compassion and inclusion are missing, we find anxiety or smug self-satisfied grandiosity … or both.
I also studied history and saw the evidence of irrational thinking leading to irrational behavior such as war and a belief in violence as a type of panacea. Once we agree to be credulous about the beliefs of our pastors or parents without any proof whatsoever, something which is naturally supported by our love and loyalty towards them, we become susceptible to certain knee-jerk reactions to words like “evil.” Religion has consistently provided support for irrational and dysfunctional beliefs and practices. This is inherent in accepting its illogical and dysfunctional premise: that God discriminates based on our religious beliefs. Once we accept this, it is a tiny step to harbor these same prejudices ourselves. Once belief is involved, rational analysis stops and loyalty dictates our thoughts and thus our actions.
Why do you believe others must change their beliefs. After all, aren’t you talking out of both sides of your mouth? Aren’t you being intolerant?
At first blush, this would seem a legitimate concern. Certain beliefs aren’t working, haven’t worked, and show no signs of working in the future. They shouldn’t guide us or our society.
Yes, this is intolerant. But it is intolerant towards intolerance. Something has to give and that something, I most fervently believe, is our smug assumptions about our good intentions and the grand purposes of our deadly crusades all over the rest of the world. Our hearts belong to a “God” who is bigoted and violent, who loves only our credulity and our obedience, and who has no tolerance for anyone who doesn’t believe what we believe.
We live in a world of science – of machines which came out of the Renaissance and brought us heretofore unheard of ease and comfort: engines which wash our clothes and take us wherever we want to go; the Carnot cycle which cools our homes in Summer and warms them in Winter; the hybrid crops which provide a bounty in our supermarkets; and the electronics which put the entire world at our fingertips in an instant. Yet we are irrationally loyal to the grandiose, bigoted utterances of ancient self-styled “Prophets” who told people that their God favored them above others; men who concocted legal agreements between God and their leaders which entitled them to steal and enslave with God’s blessing despite injunctions against those same activities elsewhere.
So we are stealing and bullying all over the world and believing these activities are sanctified. This irrational and destructive thinking isn’t even in our OWN long-term best interest, let alone the long-term interests of the world as a whole.
We should be offering an olive branch rather than a Bible to the rest of the world.
A look forward
In the next few steps, we will see what spirituality and the Twelve Steps require us to do. If we follow this path, I urge you to believe that we can pass on miracles to our grandchildren.
Rather than a crushing burden of debt as well as guilt, we can be inspired to justice, harmony and peace.
Rather than suffering, fear and discord both inside and outside our borders, we can author true liberty, generosity, harmony and loving support.
The modern world has the benefit of machines and technology that make us far more productive than in ancient times. This technology should belong to us all as a world society. It can be used for non-destructive purposes. It can be shared so that all can prosper. To allow others the same dignity and respect we demand for ourselves, we will naturally be generous with the blessings we have received: clean water, non-destructive energy, abundant food and the means to grow more.
I have everything I need and most of what I want in the way of material things. It is time for me to share. It is time for me to give to the poor and not necessarily just within my own country. It is time we spread this miracle we’ve been given, this abundance, this safety, this contentment.
I’m not suggesting a free lunch. I’m suggesting giving away the technology to revitalize farmland. I’m not suggesting sending bottles of clean water but machines to make clean water and the technology to manufacture and maintain them. I’m not only suggesting we guarantee people a chance at a job but provide a way for them to gradually achieve ownership of a workplace and a voice in running it. If they can’t stay productive, I’m suggesting the option of a modest lifestyle in which they can be closely supervised. I’m suggesting that people on welfare should also be on compulsory birth control. While this may seem harsh and undemocratic at first, it acknowledges an obvious fact: if parents cannot support the children they already have, they lose the right to further burden the rest of us with more. If people can’t cut it or don’t want it, then it will be their choice to avoid being part of the greater “us.”
I’m not suggesting that we demolish our churches, synagogues and mosques, but that we change them into centers of help and comfort open to anyone no matter what their beliefs; community centers where one can find a local job which, even if one cannot earn minimum wage, one can have food, a bed, dignity and some income as long as one stays sober and does one’s best.
The “we” must be every human being on the planet.
Of course, there will be repressive regimes linked to the past. There will be pockets of intense resistance to any change. We cannot force this down their throats. Maybe we airdrop food and non-military supplies into blighted areas, but we don’t invade and we don’t compel; we wait for things to change and for the walls and barbed wire to rust or be pulled down from the inside. We saw this within the Soviet Union. It wasn’t defeated; it was obsolete. Of course, it has been resurrected into a smaller version of its former self, but the general movement is to free people from tyranny – and that includes us and our undemocratic use of money and influence in politics, commerce, and, yes, religion. We saw the end of a racist Apartheid government in South Africa, not through armed revolution but by an unarmed revolution, a forgiveness and an inclusive resolution that worked for almost everyone.
Inclusion and compassion work. Despite all our movies, despite the contrary message of most of our video games, despite what our television sets are telling us, despite what our pastors, priests, rabbis and imams are telling us, if you walk out your front door and into your community wearing a smile – even in the ghetto – you will most likely be greeted with kindness and tolerance. If you aren’t, it’s undoubtedly because of some unkindness or intolerance towards that person by someone in the past. If you do this consistently, I’m convinced that your world will become gentler, kinder, and more free … both for you and for your neighbors.
If, on the other hand, you emerge with a handgun clutched tightly in your fist beneath a coat also concealing a flack jacket, you will be less free and less safe despite the feeling of being protected. Fear – both ours and others, doesn’t create safety. The Branch Davidians are an extreme example of this. We are told that guns keep us safe, but reality and statistics tell us just the opposite.
Americans want to believe that policemen in the United Kingdom are less safe than those in the United States because they don’t generally carry guns. The clear and unassailable reality is that the unarmed policeman is safer – and the population he or she protects is much safer – without the gun.
Americans want to believe that Corporate Capitalism is the best system possible. But it just isn’t. It takes money and jobs from a community that needs them and sends the money to a billionaire and the jobs to a country where the wage is extremely low and the average person is trying not to let his family starve. It allows unlimited political influence in the political process – both in elections and legislation – by the wealthy and their managers and surrogates. It is undemocratic and unfair and growing less democratic, less fair and less sane every day. Even our decisions about war and peace have become about profitability and not about what’s good for any of us – even the wealthy themselves.
Americans want to believe that our troops are fighting for freedom overseas. I challenge you to find a pattern which shows any freedoms won and maintained by our troops overseas in the past fifty years – for us OR for them. The troops themselves are, because they enlisted, no longer as free as civilians, so it cannot possibly be them unless, God forbid, freedom equals death. We cling to the myth that freedom has to be defended by violence, where true freedom is won by strict and unassailable boundaries which we impose on ourselves; not by raining random violence down on any society that looks at or handles things differently than we do.
Americans have all kinds of false beliefs. We live in Fantasyland. It’s time to wake up, to open our eyes and see the true world and find our true selves and develop our true beliefs. There is only one way I know of doing this: through compassion, forbearance, and forgiveness – by following the Golden Rule; by humbly bowing to the greater good and an inclusive power greater than ourselves, however that may be manifest in our awareness.
1It would make more sense, however, if our beliefs were more consonant with reality.
©David N. Dodson, January, 2016, Phoenix, AZ