The Symbolism of Evil in the Big Book of AA
Keywords:Hermeneutics, Paul Ricoeur, symbolism, evil, Alcoholics Anonymous, recovery
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) describes itself as a “fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2010). The fellowship has millions of members all around the world and the number of independent AA groups is counted in tens of thousands. In this article, I try to understand the recovery from alcoholism in the fellowship of AA as a meaning giving process where the alcoholic is invited to interpret the founding text of AA, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism, and to appropriate the world that it opens in front of him. I focus on interpreting the symbolic language with which the Big Book of AA speaks of evil. I also explain how this symbolic language is related to recovery – i.e., how the alcoholic may find in the pages of the Big Book commonly shared symbols of stain, sin, and guilt which express his blind experience of evil.
Alcoholics Anonymous. (2010). Information on A.A. Retrieved from http://www.aa.org/lang/en/subpage.cfm?page=1
Fingarette, H. (1989). Heavy drinking. The myth of alcoholism as a disease. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Klemm, D. (1983). The hermeneutical theory of Paul Ricoeur. A constructive analysis. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press.
Kurtz, E. (1979). Not-God. A history of Alcoholics Anonymous. Center City, PA: Hazelden.
Kurtz, E. (1999). Why A.A. works. The intellectual significance of Alcoholics Anonymous. In E. Kurtz, The collected Ernie Kurtz (pp. 177–228). New York, NY: Authors Choice Press.
Kurtz, E. (2008). The collected Ernie Kurtz. New York, NY: Authors Choice Press.
Lobdell, J. (2004). This strange illness. Alcoholism and Bill W. New York, NY: Aldine De Gruyter.
Mercadante, L. (1996). Victims and sinners. Spiritual roots of addiction and recovery. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
Pellauer, D. (2007). Ricoeur: A guide for the perplexed. London, UK: Continuum.
Ricoeur, P. (1969). The symbolism of evil. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Ricoeur, P. (1974). The conflict of interpretations. Essays in hermeneutics (D. Ihde, Ed.). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Ricoeur, P. (1976). Interpretation theory: Discourse and the surplus of meaning. Fort Worth, TX: The Texas Christian University Press.
Ricoeur, P. (1981). Hermeneutics & the human sciences (J.B. Thompson, Ed.). Paris, France: Cambridge University Press.
Ricoeur, P. (2008). From text to action. London, UK: Continuum.
Simms, K. (2003). Paul Ricoeur. New York, NY: Routledge.
Stolberg, V. (2006). A review of perspectives on alcohol and alcoholism in the history of American health and medicine. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 5(4), 39-106.
Tiebout, H. (1999). The collected writings. Center City, MN: Hazelden.
Vaillant, G. (1983). The natural history of alcoholism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
White, W. (1998). Slaying the dragon: The history of addiction treatment and recovery in America. Bloomington, IL: Chestnut Health Systems.
White, W. (2000). Addiction as a disease: Birth of a concept. Counselor, 1, 46-51, 73.
LicenseAuthors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).