Four Absolutes–More Revealed
by Dr. Bob’s Wife Anne in Her Journal
B. (Copyright, 2002)
Word or Two about Anne’s Discussion
of the Absolutes
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 between1933 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,
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:
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.
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
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:
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).
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).
Smith, our Moral Inventory, and the
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:
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).
about Jesus’s sermon on the mount
(Matthew 7:1-5), Anne wrote:
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 crystalize
the criticism, I had better look
for the mote in my eye (Anne
Smith’s Journal, pp. 30-31).
advocated testing or checking one’s
own conduct against the four
moral standards of Jesus Christ.
She said (Anne Smith’s Journal,
your thoughts. It is possible to
receive suggestions from your subconscious
mind. Check your thoughts by the
four standards of Christ.
the moral test. 4 Standards.
of an Interview. Is a challenge
on the four standards.
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.
every general need is a particular
moral need, so that a general surrender
will focus into one point.
on one’s moral issue. Destroy the
thing that [not able to decipher]
nearest. Then the next step becomes
was no less specific and clear that
she was referring to the Four Absolutes
in the foregoing discussion of the
moral standards. She declared (Anne
Smith’s Journal, p. 33):
I [not able to decipher the next
words] had been absolutely honest,
but not living.
to Jesus’s commandment of love:]
Follow Christ’s absolute commandment.
honesty demands that we no longer
wear a mask.
. . . . It is being honest even
after it hurts.
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.
your life constantly by the four
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,
Never Overlooked the Creator, His
Son, or the Bible
established in our first article,
the four absolute moral standards
came directly from the Bible, according
to the construction given them by
Dr. Speer. One should therefore
never overlook God or Jesus Christ
or the Bible in studying and interpreting
the Four Standards. And why? Because,
in the view of the evangelists and
scholars of the 1800's who espoused
them, the later Oxford Group writers
who adopted them, and the early
A.A. pioneers who used them, these
were God’s standards. They represented
to "cardinal teachings of Jesus
Christ" as one A.A. pioneer
put it. They came directly from
the specific Bible verses we mentioned
in Speer’s The Principles of
you get these facts under your belt,
you will see what Dr. Bob, Anne,
and their Oxford Group friends were
talking about when it came to the
issue of a need for "perfection"
in using the Four Absolutes as moral
standards. They spoke only of "yardsticks"
and "goals" and "targets."
But Wilson ultimately rejected the
absolutes, claiming they required
drunks to try to get too good by
Thursday (See Anne Smith’s Journal,
p. 122). But such a statement reflected
Wilson’s lack of understanding of
the Bible, the meaning of "Be
ye therefore perfect," and
the interpretation given this concept
by the Oxford Group people and by
A.A.’s other founders.
example, concerning the rigorous
demands of the "beatitudes"
in Jesus’s sermon on the mount (Matthew
5:3-11), Anne had carefully stated
that they stood for Christ-like
virtues to be cultivated
(Anne Smith’s Journal, p.
here’s what Anne had to say about
that cultivation and the sources
of information to be applied (Anne
Smith’s Journal, pp. 82, 78,
course the Bible ought to be the
main Source Book of all.
the person on a new life with simple,
concrete and definite suggestions,
regarding Bible study, prayer, overcoming
temptation and service for others
all your reading be guided.
What does God want me to read?
from God humility, patience, courage,
faith and love.
must let Christ run my life–always
try, but trust. Any kind of
goodness that you try to achieve
with effort will be self-righteousness
which has self in the center. That
is why it is repellent. "Not
having mine own righteousness"
is Paul’s phrase [See Philippians
3:9]. The only effort we need to
put forth is that of daily surrender
and daily contact with Christ. We
find release not by our own efforts
but by what Christ does for us and
in us when we open every area of
our lives to him.
quality of life is an adventure
not an arrival. We surrender
to God from more and more and from
more to maximum. As E. Stanley Jones
says, "Christianity is an obtainment
not an attainment and the more we
obtain, the more we see there is
to obtain." Maturity comes
from fuller self renunciation and
surrender and often it takes new
experience to bring us farther along
the way. The goal is "Be ye
therefore perfect, even as your
Father in Heaven is Perfect [Compare
Matthew 5:48 in the sermon on the
Place to Find the Facts is in Our
my knowledge, regrettably A.A. itself
has never published the contents,
or even excerpts from, Anne Smith’s
Journal. I was provided with a copy
for study, quotation, and publication
by A.A.’s Trustees Archives Committee
and its archivist Frank Mauser,
at the written request of Dr. Bob’s
daughter Sue Smith Windows. And
that Journal, and my book about
it, are (to me) the greatest single
product of my 12 years of research
into the spiritual roots of A.A.
you know the Big Book, the Steps,
our Fellowship, our literature,
the Oxford Group, and certainly
the Bible, you’ll begin to see exactly
and specifically where–as a practical
matter–our spiritual principles
came from. matter. Take a look at
Anne’s Journal. You’ll see Big Book
phrases, Step language, A.A. Biblical
ideas, Oxford Group expressions,
and our slogans (even "one
day at a time"). In fact, as
one historian wrote in substance:
"the A.A. language in Anne’s
Journal leaps at you." And
why not! Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob
sat with Anne daily in the great
summer of 1935. Anne wrote down
the materials from 1933 to 1939
when Bill published his Big Book.
Anne had them with AAs and their
a place to find the facts. About
our history. And about the Four
Absolutes (Check out Dick B.,
Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939,
3rd ed. HI: Paradise
Research Publications, Inc., 1998).