Jack Boland — Unity and Alcoholism

Jack Boland

Rev. Jack Boland's series of three talks on Unity and Alcoholism were given at Unity Village. In these talks he supports and encourages all who struggle with chemical dependency and his impassioned and thoughtful message will challenge others who struggle with hearing the phrase "I am an alcoholic."

Click here to download a paper entitled The Truth Shall Make You Free, written by Unity minister Rev. Lonnie Vanderslice. She writes in this paper about twelve-step programs and Unity teachings and principles. Her paper will be very helpful to those in Unity who minister to people in recovery. Thank you, Rev. Lonnie for sharing this paper.

One of the resources that Rev. Lonnie draws from is Practical Mysticism and the Promise of Sobriety: James, Dewey and Theology in Alcoholics Anonymous. I found this article very insightful about the ambiguity in viewing alcoholism as a disease or a spiritual flaw.



Download Icon   Download these talks (right click and "save link as")

Unity and Alcoholism


Notes taken from the talk by Jack Boland

Lecture 1:

AA is a spiritual resource with a specialized system for a special need.

The Unity teaching is a system to live by.   But it has not been able to change alcoholics without AA.

Oxford Movement:

From the experience of Frank Buckman in China
Led in America by Bishop Sam Shoemaker, DD, STD (1893–1963)

Based on the idea that the healing process is a natural one, but that one must fulfill the conditions for healing.  Is that not what prayer is?  Prayer is the process of getting one’s mind reordered.  “I have fulfilled the law.”  It works.

If you are dis-eased or dis-stressed you are separated from an awareness of God by the concepts that you use to try to contain God.  One is working within concepts that prevent the awareness of God.

That which gets our attention is usually not what we desire, but a desire to quit feeling that which we do not desire.

TAO is what AA calls the 12 steps.  The Holy Spirit is always bring to the human race “the way.”   Man is a spiritual being that has fallen away from his identity.  

We are co-creators.  Creation is “spirit thinking.”  The image we have created for ourselves is coming to pass.  We may not believe that the image exists, but it does.   What we think about ourselves is materializing.  All we can do is to stop believing things about ourselves that are not true and to begin believing things about ourselves that are true.

Harmonizing Unity and AA:

How can we say “I AM an alcoholic”?

Read from Emilie Cady’s Lessons In Truth p.72.  Individuality and Personality.  John the Baptist is the highest level of the intellect, but he knows that there is something else that comes that is higher.   There is a side of us that “can do nothing.”   But the personality wants to be spiritual, but it can’t.   The smartest thing that the intellect/personality can do is to recognize that he can’t be spiritual.   The most dangerous thing is when the intellect comes into Unity and wants to be spiritual.

Disease is the lack of growth, and the personality can’t grow.  The John side of us must admit that it can’t grow.   We must “put on” the individuality and, to do this, we must put off the personality.

The process of recovery of all things is an admission of the condition that exists.  We must see clearly where we are.    The prodigal son said “I AM no longer worthy” and this is where he recognized his condition.

If you are so “spiritual that you can’t have a problem,” then you can’t recover.  If you are diseased, you have a problem and you can’t see it.

When one says “I AM an alcoholic” one is saying that they are identifying with the solution, not with the problem.  The destination is not sobriety, but sanity, a spiritual experience.  

If I can admit that my personality has no power, I am doing what Jesus spoke of with the prodigal son and what the gospel says of John the Baptist.

Lecture 2:

Conscience is the “programmed part of yourself.”  Don’t let your “conscience be your guide.”  Equates the personality with the soul, as opposed to Spirit.

We must catch the unspoken words we are sending out, such as “I am lonely.”  The Universe responds.  Whenever we associate ourselves in thought with anything we are saying “I AM.”   “I have” means “I am” because we can’t have anything in life except but what we are.

Our soul state must be seen before it can be changed.  This is why we must look at our personality before we can change.

When I say “I AM and alcoholic” we are saying “I AM a recovering person” and it is an identification with a spiritual life and a spiritual law.  

The Word is thought coupled with feeling.  But it is sowed on hard, solid ground.  Unless an idea has feeling, it has no power.  The feeling becomes receptive and responsive.  Then it becomes “the word.”

We must be willing to examine ourselves, to take an inventory of our life.  In Unity we are willing to emulate the qualities of Christ.  The first real test in life is when we must examine ourselves and are willing to let go of what we no longer need.  

We have things that are buried in our life, things we haven’t confessed.  Our dishonesty makes us miserable and we are blocked in life.  When we confess our sins we are forgiven.  “Admit your faults to one another.”

Confessing ourselves is growth, it is not negativity.  Spirit says “that’s okay, you’re fixed.”    Confessing is a call to the Universe for help.  The Universe will respond, just as it does with an affirmation.  Key point in Boland’s view of Unity and Alcoholism.

Boland describes a woman who was dry for 9 1/5 years and then found Unity. Her minister said “don’t ever believe you’re an alcoholic” and she left AA.  A few months later she got drunk.

Purpose of talk is to convey to Unity why it needs to understand AA.  To allow recovering people to enjoy the full blessings of the Unity movement.  When Unity resists the statement “I AM an alcoholic” then this is a problem for the recovering person.

Lecture 3:

Describes St Francis, who Boland believes was an alcoholic.  The darkness of his life was his great strength.  He never lost his roots.  

Blake’s poem:  “I looked for a friend, and I found all three.”  There are lots of saints around.  A saint is “one through whom the light shines.”   If your light does not illuminate others, then it has no brilliance.

All life is good.  It has taken my entire life to stand and say “I am Jack Boland, I am an alcoholic.”  

“Hosannas” from the Revealing Word is  “hosannas--Represent the joyful obedience and homage that all the thoughts in one's consciousness give when an error state of mind is overcome. ”

Yes, alcoholism is an incurable disease, but he has been delivered from the experience of alcoholism.  He has been delivered from the desire to drink.   

When he says “I am an alcoholic” he is saying “Jehovah is my deliverer.”

All of us need to be healed because we live in the human condition.  Do you want to be healed?  Do you really want to become alive?

Some people say, “yes I would want to be healed, if I needed fixing.”   Boland says we won’t find happiness in our human condition.    We must get out of our human state of mind.  Most people want healing to take place in the state of mind there the problem is.

Jesus confronting the paralytic at Bethesda (John 5) as an example of how Unity can minister to alcoholics.  5 porticoes stand for the five senses.  They are blind.  All of us living from sense consciousness are blind, lame and paralyzed.  Jesus confronted the man who had been there 38 years (who was almost ready).  Jesus said to go home and the man went to his spiritual home (the temple).

Psycho cybernetics example of positive and negative.  The negative is not “negative” but essential for correcting errors.  Nothing in life goes in a straight line.  Errors are necessary to alter the direction of where we are going.   Suppose you’re a person who never makes mistakes - then you have no negative feedback.  If you’re a metaphysician you are “never wrong” and this is a problem.  The mind needs negative feedback in order to go home.  By continuing to “take an inventory” and to observe we get this negative feedback.   Negative feedback is a healthy and positive function we all need to function.

However, reading from Max, he says that once a mistake has been realized and the correction made, we must let it go and focus on the positive response we made.

Our past will continue unless we can correct it.

12 steps to a spiritual experience (the Jesus system, taken from Sermon on the Mount in the book of James):

I admit that I am powerless to improve my life, that I need help.   Reads from “I AM” in MBD.  

I come to believe that available to me is a creative intelligence and power that can change my life.  This is a mind posture.

I make a decision to place myself under God’s direction and guidance and to be changed.

I get honest with myself as never before.   Why?  Because I want the negative feedback so I can be healed.   In metaphysical theology there is a mistaken notion about positive thinking.   How to clear up muddy water:  allowing pure water to drip into it.  But the real problem is the debris at the bottom at the bucket.  Every time clear water gets in, the debris pollutes it.  That is why positive thinking is no substitute for introspection.  One must be willing to remove the debris.

I admit to God, to myself and to another human being exactly what I discover to be wrong with me.  

I now become entirely ready to have God remove all my defects

I humbly ask Him to change me

I made a list of all persons who I have harmed and to make amends to them all.  We take all blame against all other persons.

I proceed to make amends

I continue to observe my actions and my attitudes and, when I am wrong, to admit it.

I seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God

Having awakened to the spiritual life through these steps, I continue to share what I have found.

Everything we have ever done or known can be used, not for identification but for separation.  It can be used to help correct our path.    Don’t be so spiritually smug that someone can’t come to you with their suffering.  Boland is “shock-proof” because his alcoholism has allowed him to understand.    In Unity, we understand, not only the Truth, but where people are.   Don’t come to me with your words unless you come with love and understanding.

I am an alcoholic.  Hosanna.  Praise God.