Frye Lake, Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming

Frye Lake, Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming


Sunday, February 23, 2014


One must simply believe in something "larger than one’s self," according to twelve-step program believers.  But the term "larger" implies size or quantity, while the term "higher" implies an elevation or direction.  "Higher" is then combined with "power" to form a yet more ambiguous, incomprehensible term open to thousands of interpretations.  

For example, the book Alcoholics Anonymous contains a chapter entitled "We Agnostics."  It variously describes a higher power as (all caps are AA’s): Creator; God; Power; Supreme Being; He; Him; Himself; Creative Intelligence; Spirit of the Universe; Realm of Spirit; All-Powerful; Guiding and Creative Intelligence; Great Reality; Presence of God; Presence of Infinite Power and Love; Maker.  Believers are "Spearheads of God’s ever advancing Creation", in whose lives the "Presence of God" is the most important "fact".  AA in one passage decries the "God of Reason", but later states, "On the Broad Highway, we walk the Bridge of Reason towards the desired shore of faith."  It concludes with, "He has come to all who have honestly sought Him.  When we drew near to Him He disclosed Himself to us!"

The higher power concept implies that I must be submissive or humble before a deity or supernatural entity.  The kind of object is not as important as the requirement that I see myself as lower than something.  I am composed of atomic particles composed of yet smaller subatomic particles composed of yet-undiscovered subatomic particles.  On a continuum, the mass of objects ranges from zero (in a hypothetical microcosm), through infinite (in the macrocosmos of the universe).  Where do humans fall on this continuum?  We know not.  Surrounded by the vastness of space, we and our egos are but minute specks on the minute speck of planet earth on the minute speck of the Milky Way Galaxy, within the minute speck that is the sea of infinite numbers of galaxies.  If I’m standing on my head, would my higher power become my lower power?  If space surrounds me, in what direction is "above?"  The only entity that could be above me would be the product of humankind’s fertile imagination.

The higher power concept is used as subtle, shame-based coercion into a state of submission.  To what?  To the control of a mythical, typically male, anthropomorphic "spiritual" entity.  Ostensibly to compensate for our ignorance, God creates and guides all.  The holy spirit idea conveniently explains the unknown.  "Worship" is the vestigial remnant of ritual intended to appease imaginary forces. 

Humility needs no higher power.  My morality and virtue need no higher power.  How could I be somehow "lower" than a vague concept, and why must I submit myself to it?  I need only be rational, ethical, compassionate, and charitable.

Will Walsh    © 2014

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