We've previously covered the origin of the Four Absolutes in Dr. Robert E. Speer's The Principles of Jesus and the expansion of them in Professor Henry B. Wright's The Will of God and a Man's Lifework. And we will shortly produce another article with some of the more contemporary comments about the Absolutes (honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love) by Oxford Group writers and Dr. Bob while A.A. was shaping its program between 1935 and 1938. But there's much to be learned from the comments and teachings that Dr. Bob's wife Anne Ripley Smith shared from the journal she wrote between 1933 and 1939. Her comments are particularly important because Anne shared them with AAs and their families during A.A.'s developmental years; and they were frequently topics for discussion in the morning quiet times held by Anne Smith at the birthplace of A.A. during the pioneer years [See Dick B., Anne Smith's Journal 1933-1939: A.A.'s Principles of Success, 3rd ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1998)]– http://www.dickb.com/annesm.shtml John R. (now deceased) was one of the longest surviving of the A.A. pioneers. He made this statement about how Anne Smith's Journal was used at the beginning of A.A.:
Before one of these meetings [the morning quiet times at Dr. Bob's home], Anne used to pull out a little book [her spiritual Journal] and quote from it. We would discuss it. Then we would see what Anne would suggest from it for our discussion.
Though many in and out of A.A. have since written their own statements about, and interpretations of, the Four Absolutes, the most accurate source of how they were used and defined in early A.A. is unquestionably the material in Anne Smith's Journal. And this accuracy is needed because the Absolutes are frequently the subject of discussion and writing in various A.A. groups and conferences today.
Bill and Lois Wilson often spoke of Anne Smith's impact on A.A.; and the following are two of Bill's pertinent comments about Anne's teachings:
[Bill Wilson:] Bob and Anne and Henrietta [Seiberling] have been working so hard with those men and with really wonderful success... Anne and Bob and Henrietta have done a great job [Letter from Bill Wilson to his wife Lois, from Akron, in the earliest days. See DR. BOB and The Good Oldtimers, p. 108].
[Bill Wilson:]... Clevelanders had gone to Dr. Bob's home, sitting with him and Anne over cups of coffee at their kitchen table. Eagerly they had absorbed knowledge of their problem and its solution and had breathed deeply of the remarkable spiritual atmosphere of the place [See Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 19].
Anne–following the example of many in the Oxford Group–often referred to the Four Absolutes as the Four Standards, the Standards, the Moral Standards, and the Moral Test. Early in her Journal, she wrote:
It is absolutely necessary to face people with the moral test. Fundamentally, sin is independence toward God, living without God. Seeing one's self as God sees one, brings hatred out of sin [Dick B., Anne Smith's Journal, supra, p. 30].
Speaking about Jesus's sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:1-5), Anne wrote:
Who checks another checks himself. If I have an urge to check because of personal feelings, I am not seeing in light of Christ's love. Criticism born of my own projection. Something wrong in me. Unless I can crystallize the criticism, I had better look for the mote in my eye [Anne Smith's Journal, pp. 30-31].
Anne advocated testing or checking one's own conduct against the four moral standards of Jesus Christ. She said:
Test your thoughts. It is possible to receive suggestions from your subconscious mind. Check your thoughts by the four standards of Christ.
Make the moral test. 4 Standards.
Basis of an Interview. Is a challenge on the four standards.
What thoughts do I expect? Am I ready to write them down and willing? It is not making my mind a blank but trusting God to use my mind, my thought life and my imagination. First of all come uncomfortable thoughts of wrong relationships with family, friends and people I work with. Resentments to be faced and set right. Restitution to be made, bills, letters, untidy desks, or house to be send straight.
Behind every general need is a particular moral need, so that a general surrender will focus into one point.
Surrender on one's moral issue. Destroy the thing that [not able to decipher] nearest. Then the next step becomes plain. [The quotes above may be found in Anne Smith's Journal, pp. 32-33]
Anne was no less specific and clear that she was referring to the Four Absolutes in the foregoing discussion of the moral standards. She declared:
Why I [not able to decipher the next words] had been absolutely honest, but not living.
[Referring to Jesus's commandment of love:] Follow Christ's absolute commandment.
Absolute honesty demands that we no longer wear a mask.
Sharing... It is being honest even after it hurts.
Every time we register aloud the new attitude and change of heart with absolute honesty another bridge is burned behind us and another stake is driven in to anchor and mark our progress.
Check your life constantly by the four absolutes. [The quotes above may be found in Anne Smith's Journal, p. 33.]
Dr. Bob shared his wife Anne's belief in the importance of the four absolutes. He called them "yardsticks" (See references in Anne Smith's Journal, pp. 33-34). Bill Wilson, however, had no such enthusiasm. Bill shifted the gears from listing, checking, and examining for honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love. He replaced that inventory with one that searched for resentment, self-seeking, dishonesty, and fear. Anne, however, was no less relentless in her journal about the importance of finding and purging the "negative sins" to which Bill referred. She specifically called for rejecting and correcting resentments, self-centeredness, dishonesty, and fears (Anne Smith's Journal, pp. 35-36). And, as can be seen from the foregoing quotes, Anne not only addressed rigorous honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love in the inventory process, but also in the "sharing" process [precursor of the Fifth Step]. See Anne Smith's Journal, pp. 36-41. Anne used sharing language that found its way directly into A.A.'s Fifth Step: "I must share to be honest with God, myself & others" (Anne Smith's Journal, p. 39). Also, Anne wrote: "Being honest to God, self and other people... It is being honest even after it hurts. It is giving your real self to another person" (Anne Smith's Journal, p. 77).
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