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stigmatized than alcoholism." Guidance on how to respond to the

prospect came from Dr Bob (the oldest member in Akron, OH) asking,

"What would the Master do?" The member was admitted and plunged


12th Step work. (DBGO 240-241 12and12 141-142)
The prospect's "addiction" had nothing at all to do with

drugs and was

later described by Bill W as "sex deviate." Information on this

revelation is from a recording of an address by Bill W at an open

meeting of the 1968 General Service Conference. The recording is

available on-line from various web sites. See also the pamphlet "The

Co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous" (pub. P-53, pg 30).
Principles defined in the Foreword to the First Edition Big Book

provided the seeds for many of the Traditions that Bill W later

published in the April 1946 Grapevine. These same principles were also

incorporated into the "AA Preamble" which was first published in


June 1947 Grapevine. Relevant extracts from the Foreword to the First

Edition are:
"It is important that we remain anonymous because we are too few, at

present to handle the overwhelming number of personal appeals which

may result from this publication. Being mostly business or

professional folk, we could not well carry on our occupations in such

an event. We would like it understood that our alcoholic work is an


"When writing or speaking publicly about alcoholism, we urge each of

our Fellowship to omit his personal name, designating himself instead

as "a member of Alcoholics Anonymous."
"Very earnestly we ask the press also, to observe this request, for

otherwise we shall be greatly handicapped."

"We are not an organization in the conventional sense of the word.

There are no fees or dues whatsoever. The only requirement for

membership is an honest desire to stop drinking. We are not allied

with any particular faith, sect or denomination, nor do we oppose

anyone. We simply wish to be helpful to those who are afflicted. We

shall be interested to hear from those who are getting results from

this book, particularly from those who have commenced work with other

alcoholics. We should like to be helpful to such cases. Inquiry by

scientific, medical, and religious societies will be welcomed."
1942 (and earlier)
Correspondence from groups gave early signals of a need to develop

guidelines to help with group problems that occurred over and over.

Basic ideas for the formulation of the Twelve Traditions emerged from

this correspondence and the principles defined in the Foreword to the

first Edition of the Big Book. (AACOA 187, 192-193, 198, 204, PIO

305-306, LOH 154).

October, Clarence S, founder of AA in Cleveland (whose Big Book story

is "The Home Brewmeister") stirred up a controversy in Cleveland


discovering that Dr Bob and Bill W were receiving royalties from Big

Book sales. (DBGO 267-269, AACOA 193-194) Bill and Dr Bob re-examined

the problem of their financial status and concluded that royalties

from the Big Book seemed to be the only answer to the problem. Bill

sought counsel from Father Ed Dowling (Bill's spiritual sponsor) who

suggested that Bill and Dr Bob could not accept money for 12th Step

work, but should accept royalties as compensation for special

services. (AACOA 194-195, PIO 322-324). This later formed the basis

for Tradition 8.

April, Earl T, founder of AA in Chicago (whose Big Book Story is "He

Sold Himself Short") suggested to Bill W that he codify the Traditions

and write essays on them in the Grapevine. (AACOA 22, 203, SM S8, PIO

306, LOH 20-24). Earl T played a prominent role in the development of

both the long and short form of the Traditions.
August, the Grapevine carried Bill W's first Traditions article

(titled "Modesty One Plank for Good Public Relations") setting


groundwork for his 5-year campaign for the Traditions. The July

Grapevine edition had an article by member CHK of Lansing, MI about

the Washingtonians. Bill used this article to begin his essay

The Alcoholic Foundation wrote to John D Rockefeller, Jr and the 1940

dinner guests that AA no longer needed their financial help. Big Book

royalties could look after Dr Bob and Bill W and group contributions

could pay the general office expenses. This ended all "outside

contributions" to AA. (AACOA 203-204). It formed the basis of

Tradition 7. All loans received from Rockefeller and the dinner guests

from 1941 to 1945 were repaid in 1945 out of Big Book income.
One of the most durable Traditions myths in AA concerns an incident

that occurred in 1945. Bill W was called by Barry L (who would later

author "Living Sober") from the 41st St clubhouse. Bill

persuaded the

group to take in a black man who was an ex-convict with bleach-blond

hair, wearing women's clothing and makeup. The man also admitted to

being a "dope fiend." When asked what to do about it, Bill posed


question, "did you say he was a drunk?" When answered,

"yes" Bill

replied, "well I think that's all we can ask." The man was

reported to

have disappeared shortly after. (PIO 317-318) Anecdotal accounts

erroneously say that this individual went on to become one of the best

12th Steppers in NY. This story is often erroneously intermingled with

that of a 1937 incident ("year two" on the AA calendar)

involving an

Akron member that is discussed in the Tradition Three essay in the

12and12 and who was the one who plunged into 12th Step work (pgs


1946 Grapevine
April, the Grapevine carried Bill W's article "Twelve Suggested


for AA Tradition." They would later be called the long form of the

Twelve Traditions. (AACOA viii, 96, 203, LOH 20, 154)

1947 Grapevine
December, the Grapevine carried a notice that an important new 48-page

pamphlet titled AA Traditions was sent to each group and that enough

copies were available for each member to have one free of charge.
As plans for the first International Convention were under way, Earl T

suggested to Bill W that the "Twelve Suggested Points for AA

Tradition" would benefit from revision and shortening. (AACOA 213 says

it occurred in 1947) Bill, with Earl's help, set out to develop the

short form of the Twelve Traditions. (AACOA 213, PIO 334)
November, the short form of the Twelve Traditions was first printed in

the AA Grapevine. The entire issue was dedicated to the Traditions in

preparation for the forthcoming Cleveland Convention. Two wording

changes were subsequently made to the initial version of the short

form of the Traditions: "primary spiritual aim" was changed to

"primary purpose" in Tradition 6, and "principles above


was changed to "principles before personalities" in Tradition

12. (LOH

96) The date that these changes were adopted is difficult to determine

precisely and appears to have occurred with the publication of the

book "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" in 1953.

AA's 15th anniversary and 1st International Convention took place at

Cleveland, OH from July 28-30, 1950 (AACOA 43, LOH 121, PIO 338). Bill

W chronicled the proceedings in a September 1950 Grapevine article

titled "We Came of Age" which is preserved in the book

"The Language

of the Heart." (LOH 117-124)

The Traditions meeting of the Convention was held in the Cleveland

Music Hall. Bill W was asked to sum up the 12 Traditions for the

attendees. Bill did not recite either the short or long form of the

Traditions as we know them today or as they were first published.

Instead he paraphrased and summarized a variation of the Traditions

that is preserved in the book "The Language of the Heart" (LOH


Following Bill's summation, he asked if anyone had any objections to

the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. Hearing none he offered the

Traditions for adoption. The attendees unanimously approved their

adoption by standing vote.
Bill later noted in "AA Comes of Age" (AACOA 213) "It was

a fine hour

in that month of July 1950. Alcoholics Anonymous had passed it

fifteenth milestone; its Second Legacy of Tradition was secure."

In September, Al-Anon Family Groups adopted and adapted the Twelve

Traditions of AA. The version of the Traditions they used was the

original wording of the short form of the Traditions that appeared in

the November 1949. AFG Traditions continue to use the term "primary

spiritual aim" as opposed to "primary purpose" in

Tradition 6, and the

term "principles above personalities" as opposed to

"principles before

personalities" in Tradition 12.
June, the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions was published. Bill

W described the work as "This small volume is strictly a textbook

which explains AA's 24 basic principles and their application, in

detail and with great care." Betty L and Tom P helped Bill in its

writing. Jack Alexander also helped with editing. It was published in

two editions: one for $2.25 ($15.50 today) for distribution through AA

groups, and a $2.75 ($19 today) edition distributed through Harper and

Brothers for sale in commercial bookstores. (AACOA ix, 219, PIO

July 1-3, AA's 20th anniversary and 2nd International Convention at St

Louis, MO. Theme: Coming of Age. (AACOA viii, SM S2) Bill W claimed

attendance of 5,000. It was actually closer to 3,000. On July 3, by

resolution, Bill W and its old-timers turned over the stewardship of

the AA society to the movement. The Conference became the Guardian of

the Traditions and voice of the group conscience of the entire

Fellowship. The resolution was unanimously adopted by the Convention

by acclamation and was approved beforehand by the General Service

Conference subject to approval by the International Convention. (AACOA

ix, 47-48, 223-228) Note: this was one of two instances when the

Conference did not convene in NYC. The Conference first convened in St

Louis in late June and concluded on July 3.

The 2nd edition Big Book was introduced at the international

convention. 30 new personal stories were introduced. A new appendix

was added to the Big Book containing the short and long form of the 12

Traditions. During the 1950's there was confusion in this appendix

because it listed the short form of the Traditions that appeared in

the November 1949 Grapevine and not the version that was contained in

the 12and12 in 1953. Eventually, the wording of Tradition 6 was

corrected in the 3rd printing of the 2nd edition Big Book and the

wording of Tradition 12 was corrected in the 6th printing of the 2nd

edition Big Book in 1963.

1957 Conference Advisory Action
Bill W, suggested, and the 1957 Conference approved, that the

Conference Charter be amended to read: "But no change in article 12 of

the Charter or in AA tradition or in the Twelve Steps of AA may be

made with less than the written consent of three-quarters of the AA

groups (SM S87).
1958 Conference Advisory Action
The 1958 Conference approved removing the word "honest" from the


"honest desire to stop drinking" in the "AA

Preamble." It also changed

the term "AA has no dues or fees" to "There are no dues or

fees for AA

membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions." The

wording of the Conference advisory action can give the misleading

impression that the Traditions were changed. The advisory action

reads: "The General Service Conference recognize the original use of

the word ‘honest' before ‘desire to stop drinking'

and its deletion

from the Traditions as part of the evolution of the AA movement. Any

change to be left to the discretion of AA Publishing, Inc."

The advisory action did not change the Traditions. AA legend will

sometimes erroneously state that the word "honest" was removed


Tradition 3. Tradition 3, in either its long or short form, never

contained the word "honest." The term "honest desire to

stop drinking"

comes from the Foreword to the 1st edition Big Book which still

contains the term.

1976 Conference Advisory Action
"It is resolved by the 1976 General Service Conference that those

instruments requiring consent of three-quarters of the responding

groups for change or amendment would include the Twelve Steps of AA

should any such change or amendment ever be proposed."

"In case a change is needed in the Twelve Traditions, the Twelve

Steps, or the Six Warranties of Article 12, wherever the words

"registered AA groups of the world", "registered

groups" or

"directory-listed groups" appear in the AA Service Manual and


Concepts for World Service, a bracketed sentence be inserted to state,

"This would include all AA groups known to the General Service Offices

around the world."
The 1976 Conference Advisory Actions (and their predecessors)

effectively make any notion of a change to the Steps, Traditions,

Concepts and Warranties a virtual impossibility (even so much as

adding or removing a comma).

Interpretation of the Traditions
The lead paragraph to the Ninth Tradition in the pamphlet "The Twelve

Traditions Illustrated" reads "The words ‘Let's keep

it simple' were

the last Bill W heard from his fellow founder of AA, shortly before Dr

Bob's death in 1950. Aware that ‘it' meant our recovery

program, Bill

later wrote ‘We need to distinguish sharply between spiritual

simplicity and functional simplicity ... When we get into questions of

actions by groups, by areas and by AA as a whole, we find that we must

to some extent organize to carry the message - or else face chaos.

And chaos is not simplicity."
Perhaps the main challenge and barrier in interpreting and applying

the Traditions in a spiritual manner, is a propensity of many members

to inform themselves with little more than what is printed on the

short form window-shade displays of the principles. The spiritual

application of the principles is a function of how well members are

informed either on their own initiative or by others. Interpretations

can vary widely depending on whether a member is acting as an "AA

lawyer" or an "AA unifier."

All too often a member will extract a word or two from the short form

of the Traditions or Concepts and interpret the principle(s) as their

semantic imagination leads them rather than to be constructively

informed by AA literature. There is much helpful literature e.g. the

books "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" "AA Comes of

Age" "Twelve

Concepts for World Service" by Bill W, or the pamphlets "The


Traditions Illustrated" and/or "Twelve Concepts

Illustrated" and other

pamphlets and service pieces.
The long form of the Traditions and Concepts is far more informative,

in context and substance, than their short form counterparts. Also,

there is a very under-appreciated pamphlet titled "The AA Group"


is a gold mine of information for groups on the application of the

Traditions and Concepts.

Much can be gained, and gleaned, from the Steps, Traditions and

Concepts, both in understanding and results, when each of them is

viewed as a whole instructive sentence. Each whole instructive

sentence can then be viewed as a "principle" (i.e. a rule of


conduct) that we try to practice in all our affairs as a means of

developing a spiritual condition that offers a daily reprieve from

alcohol. The resultant God-given gift is something called


(freedom from alcohol). The gift of the Traditions is "unity"

(to keep

the Fellowship from destroying itself).

Perhaps the worst way of using the Traditions is in a legalistic

manner especially when someone is accused of "violating" this or


The Traditions were not designed to produce legalistic conformity.

They were designed to produce spiritual unity.

-----Original Message-----

From: AAHistoryLovers@yahoogroups.com

[mailto:AAHistoryLovers@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of t

Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 11:52 PM

To: AAHistoryLovers@yahoogroups.com

Subject: Re: [AAHistoryLovers] Which takes precedence, Long or Short


yankee1gb wrote:

> The long form of the traditions were published/adopted first and


> provides a more detailed or precise statement than its short form

> counterpart. The Short form traditions were, however,

> published/adopted more recently in time and are about the only form

> commonly mentioned.


> Does either form take precedent over the other?



Short answer:

whichever best applies to a particular situation... what ever yields

the best results.

While keeping in mind as many of the Traditions [which ever form] and

Long answer:

First we need to separate published vs. adopted.

The Long Form of the Traditions were first published, in the

Grapevine, April 1946,

as "Twelve Suggested Points of AA Tradition", a sort of first


form some say.

Then again in the Grapevine, October 1947, "Traditions Stressed in

Memphis Talk" in a

more finished form recognizable to our membership today.
In Pass It On [PIO] pg 324, it states that Bill spent 1947-1950 out in

the groups

trying, rather unsuccessfully, to "sell" these Long Form


Sometime in late 1949 it was suggested to Bill by Earl T of Chicago

that they needed

to be edited down, so Bill [with the help of a few trusted members]

did just that.

[PIO pg 334]
Finally, at the Cleveland Convention, July 29, 1950, the membership of

AA, through

our elected delegates, officially accepted the Traditions [in the

Short Form]. [PIO

pg 338]
So you see, the Long Form was published first ... but the Short Form

was accepted

And as far as I know, the membership has never specifically voted to

accept the Long

Form of the Traditions. We HAVE voted and accepted them, as package

deals in

accepting the revisions of old publication, and newer publications

that have come out

which included them. But, curiously, never 'just on their own merit'.
Never seen any indication of GSO or the Conference EVER trying to

place one form in

precedence over the other. I have seen some business meetings where


members, trying to argue against a different point of view, have

strongly stated that

the version [long or short] they insisted supported their view was

superior to the

version the opposition used.
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++++Message 3461. . . . . . . . . . . . Principles of the AA program

From: Glenn Chesnut . . . . . . . . . . . . 6/6/2006 2:13:00 PM

What do we mean by "the principles of the program"?
For the sake of the people who have been members of the group for a while,


try not to repeat material that has already been talked about in great

detail in

previous messages. In this case, if you go to the Message Board at

http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/AAHistoryLovers/messages and look at

Messages 3116, 2908, 2899, 2522, 2521, 2520, 1973, 1972, and 1971, you will


a long and detailed discussion of all the issues.

It is also important to look at a concordance to the Big Book when asking


the significance of a word, to see how that word is used in the Big Book.
Two useful concordances are:


If you look there, you will see that the words principle and principles are


in the first 164 pages of the Big Book on pages 14, 19, 42, 47, 60, 64, 79,


87, 93, 94, 97, 98, 112, 115, 116, 121, 124, 125, 128, 130, 139, 156.
If somebody can come up with some brand spanking new information (some

historical fact that can be documented) that is extremely important, but has

never been looked at or discussed before, then this would be good to post.
For the sake of fairness, however, let me include some of the messages that


been sent in on this topic during the last four days, but again, please look


the previous messages dealing with this subject to get a full and complete

discussion. We've got some really good material stored on the Message Board


the AAHistoryLovers at

http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/AAHistoryLovers/messages , going all


way back to March 2002. And we have additional messages stored at

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aahistorybuffs/messages/ which go back to


Glenn Chesnut, Moderator

South Bend, Indiana


From: denezmcd@aol.com

Date: Wed May 31, 2006 12:06 pm

Subject: Re: [AAHistoryLovers] Principles of the Program
The principles are the steps as explained on page 60 1st para after the 12th

No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to

these principles. skip line
The principles we have set down are guides to progress.
Dennis McD



Date: Wed May 31, 2006 1:11 pm

Subject: Re: [AAHistoryLovers] Principles of the Program
"The Principles we have set down" are the life giving Twelve

Steps, the life

saving Twelve Traditions and the life propagating Twelve Concepts.
The "lists" are the qualities with which we are blessed if we

follow the

Cliff Bishop


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