prospect came from Dr Bob (the oldest member in Akron, OH) asking,
"What would the Master do?" The member was admitted and plunged
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
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
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."
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).
is "The Home Brewmeister") stirred up a controversy in Cleveland
discovering that Dr Bob and Bill W were receiving royalties from Big
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.
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
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
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
replied, "well I think that's all we can ask." The man was
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)
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
Twelve Traditions. (AACOA viii, 96, 203, LOH 20, 154)
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
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.
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
of the Heart." (LOH 117-124)
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
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."
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
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.
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.
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
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."
sometimes erroneously state that the word "honest" was removed
Tradition 3. Tradition 3, in either its long or short form, never
comes from the Foreword to the 1st edition Big Book which still
contains the term.
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."
Steps, or the Six Warranties of Article 12, wherever the words
"registered AA groups of the world", "registered
"directory-listed groups" appear in the AA Service Manual and
"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).
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
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."
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
Concepts for World Service" by Bill W, or the pamphlets "The
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"
Traditions and Concepts.
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"
the Fellowship from destroying itself).
manner especially when someone is accused of "violating" this or
The Traditions were not designed to produce legalistic conformity.
[mailto:AAHistoryLovers@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of t
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 11:52 PM
Subject: Re: [AAHistoryLovers] Which takes precedence, Long or Short
> The long form of the traditions were published/adopted first and
> provides a more detailed or precise statement than its short form
> published/adopted more recently in time and are about the only form
> commonly mentioned.
> Does either form take precedent over the other?
the best results.
While keeping in mind as many of the Traditions [which ever form] and
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.
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
trying, rather unsuccessfully, to "sell" these Long Form
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
our elected delegates, officially accepted the Traditions [in the
Short Form]. [PIO
So you see, the Long Form was published first ... but the Short Form
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
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
try not to repeat material that has already been talked about in great
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.
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
the previous messages dealing with this subject to get a full and complete
the AAHistoryLovers at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aahistorybuffs/messages/ which go back to
Glenn Chesnut, Moderator
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.
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