© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1948
Four is a specific application of general principles already
outlined in Traditions One and Two. Tradition One states
: "Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is but a small
part of a great whole. AA must continue to live or most
of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes
first. But individual welfare follows close afterward."
Tradition Two states: " For our group purpose there
is but one ultimate authority -- a loving God as he may
express himself in our group conscience."
these concepts in mind, let us look more closely at Tradition
Four. The first sentence guarantees each AA group local
autonomy. With respect to its own affairs, the group may
make any decisions, adopt any attitudes that it likes.
No overall or intergroup authority should challenge this
primary privilege. We feel this ought to be so, even though
the group might sometimes act with complete indifference
to our Tradition. For example, an AA group could, if it
wished, hire a paid preacher and support him out of the
proceeds of a group nightclub. Though such an absurd procedure
would be miles outside our Tradition, the group's "right
to be wrong" would be held inviolate. We are sure
that each group can be granted, and safely granted, these
most extreme privileges. We know that our familiar process
of trial and error would summarily eliminate both the
preacher and the nightclub. These severe growing pains
which invariably follow any radical departure from AA
Tradition can be absolutely relied upon to bring an erring
group back into line. An AA group need not be coerced
by any human government over and above its own members.
Their own experience, plus AA opinion in surrounding groups,
plus God's prompting in their group conscience would be
sufficient. Much travail has already taught us this. Hence
we may confidently say to each group, "You should
be responsible to no other authority than your own conscience."
please note one important qualification. It will be seen
that such extreme liberty of thought and action applies
only to the group's own affairs. Rightly enough, this
Tradition goes on to say, "But when its plans concern
the welfare of neighboring groups also, these groups ought
to be consulted." Obviously, if any individual, group,
or regional committee could take an action that might
seriously affect the welfare of Alcoholics Anonymous as
a whole or seriously disturb surrounding groups, that
would not be liberty at all. It would be sheer license;
it would be anarchy, not democracy.
we AAs have universally adopted the principle of consultation.
This means that if a single AA group wishes to take an
action that might affect surrounding groups, it consults
them. Or, it confers with the intergroup committee for
the area, if there be one. Likewise, if a group or regional
committee wishes to take any action that might affect
AA as a whole, it consults the trustees of the Alcoholic
Foundation, who are, in effect, our overall general service
committee. For instance, no group or inter group could
feel free to initiate, without consultation, any publicity
that might affect AA as a whole. Nor could it assume to
represent the whole of Alcoholics Anonymous by printing
and distributing anything purporting to be AA standard
literature. This same principle would naturally apply
to all similar situations. Though there is no formal compulsion
to do so, all undertakings of this general character are
customarily checked with our AA general Headquarters.
idea is clearly summarized in the last sentence of Tradition
Four, which observes, "On such issues our common
welfare is paramount."
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1948
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