AA is a Cult, part 49

Ninth Tradition. Each A.A. group needs the least possible organization. Rotating leadership is best. The small group may elect its secretary, the large group its rotating committee, and the groups of a large metropolitan their central or Intergroup committees, which often employs a full-time secretary. The trustees of the General Service Board are, in effect, our A.A. General Service Committee. They are the custodians of our A A Tradition and receivers of voluntary A.A. contributions by which we maintain our A.A. General Service Office at New York. They are authorized by the groups to handle our over-all public erelations and they guarantee the integrity of our principal newspaper, the A.A. Grapevine. All such representatives are to be guided in the spirit of service, for true leaders in A.A. are but trusted and experienced servants of the whole. They derive no real authority from their titles; they do not govern. Universal respect is the key to their usefulness. 

Short: A.A. as such ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

Like most cults, Alcoholics Anonymous pretends to be less hierarchical than it is. Hilariously, AA literature draws the power structure upside down as an “inverted pyramid hierarchy”, with the General Service Board members at the narrow bottom and completely disempowered newcomers at the wide top. In my own experience in AA’s splinter cult Al-Anon I found twelve step groups to be more rigidly organized and structured than the faith healing sect I was raised in. 

Do note the bit about the Board being “receivers of voluntary A.A. contributions”. Recognize that AA is primarily run by alcoholic volunteers, and subsists on the monetary contributions of those same alcoholics. That set up doesn’t guarantee exploitation or the presence of a cult, but it can hint at each. The leadership of AA, whether we call them trusted servants or not, are the only ones paid for their labor on behalf of the group. The money which flows up from destitute alcoholics stops there. 

The main functions of the General Service Board are to establish new meeting groups; to publish AA literature including books, devotionals, magazines, and pamphlets; and to receive funds from each of the self-sustaining AA groups. It’s a racket. The 21 board members include 14 alcoholic AA members and 7 nonalcoholics from the Family Groups (Al-Anon and Alateen). Board members receive compensation packages which include six-figure annual incomes. While it is, unfortunately, typical for Chairs and Presidents of large charities to have such packages, virtually no other charity collects such funds exclusively from the population they claim to be helping. 

The phrase about being “guided in the spirit of service” should be understood as using cult speak. Guidance is also invoked in Step 10. We must remember that Bill Wilson, founder of AA, was once an avid Buchmanite, or follower of Frank Buchman’s Oxford Group. The Oxford Group taught that its members could communicate directly and perfectly with God via occult practices of spirit writing, conjuring, and channeling. AA calls this “conscious contact”. 

“Universal respect” likewise is best understood as less than wholly sincere. That respect only need extend to AA members in good standing; not struggling newcomers, 13th step victims, atheist members, medical professionals, or religious leaders who went to seminary instead of going for decades of binge drinking as preparation for the calling. It’s not universal at all. 

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