I’ve been in AA a long time. I’ve been to meetings in many places in and out of the US. I’ve read the history books and heard fabulous “old timer” stories. I love the conventions and the regional “round-ups”.
But it was only this past weekend, talking to a Buddhist friend, that I got a new understanding about AA and how it works: AA is a wisdom tradition.
Yes, a wisdom tradition like Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, or other religions. Yes, I know “AA is not a religion, not a religion, absolutely not ever a religion.” Got it. But AA does have two important characteristics that define a wisdom tradition: Lineage and Transmission.
Lineage: these are the “begats”, if you will. Ebby Thacher begat Bill Wilson who begat Dr. Bob Smith, who begat the Akron Ohio group and from them there became the first 12, then the first 30, then they wrote the book and the traditions.
Transmission: Even though we have books and even The Big Book--AA is an oral tradition. We gather in groups on a regular basis and tell the stories. We tell our individual stories in a prescribed fashion: What it was like; what happened and what it’s like now. And somewhere in most AA groups or in the regional or national conferences we are also told --or are telling --the lineage story. We are taught the history. We revere (even though were not supposed to) those who knew Bill or Bob or Ebby or Lois.
We even bring transmission to the very personal level. We get a sponsor who tells us how they did the steps and how they work the program. From our sponsors we learn how to be sponsors and we teach newer members the wisdom that was passed on to us.
We get sober --and if we do the work and accept the teachings—we also can get wise.