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A friend in Program says:

Many religions and spiritual movements seem to follow the same pattern of change. Their founders offer ambiguous teachings that can be interpreted either as saying that only strict adherents will be "saved," or that everyone is already "saved." Initially the movement in question is dominated by the "particularists" -- the people who maintain that salvation is only for the few. Gradually the universalists start to influence the movement's thinking; and very often the movement in question continues to flourish without resolving the difference between the particularists and the universalists.

Early Judaism emphasized the uniqueness of the Jewish people, and the early books of the Old Testament are full of stories of the unpleasant ends of people who opposed them and lost. But after the Exile -- about 500 B.C. -- a more universal flavor enters Jewish thinking. The books of Jonah and Ruth point to a faith that is inclusive rather than exclusive -- inclusive even of Gentiles.

In a similar way, the teachings of the Buddha were originally interpreted fairly narrowly. It took several hundred years for Buddhist thinkers to accept that enlightenment is not some future state achievable only by those who strive for it, but a present reality enjoyed by all beings -- whether they believe it or not.

Our 12-Step fellowships are not dissimilar. Is the heart of the AA program the release from the compulsion to drink, and therefore for alcoholics only? Or is it about finding a way of life that we have in common with everybody else, regardless of their addictive orientation?

When Al-Anon came into existence, it offered a hint that our 12-Step programs might be universal rather than particular in focus. The "message" of Step 12 in Al-Anon is carried, not "to other friends and relatives of alcoholics," but simply "to others." The "salvation," "enlightenment," or "recovery" offered by Program is, according to Al-Anon, offered to everyone -- not just addicts.

"The spiritual life is never one of achievement:
it is always one of letting go."

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