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Herbert Spencer

There is a principal which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep man in everlasting ignorance – That principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer is one of my Recovery heroes. Although he wasn’t part of the Recovery movement his quote at he end of Appendix II is, for me, one of the most powerful in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was most surely living in ignorance. I had nothing but contempt for treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous, and most of all, any concept of God or a higher power. I am forever grateful for my first sponsor who introduced me to Appendix II and the idea of a “Spiritual Experience” of the “educational variety.”

Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable. I had none of these qualities and no faith that a spiritual program could relieve my alcoholism and addiction. My contempt of all things religious and non-scientific was a major obstacle for me embracing any part of a twelve- step program. I was a broken man, in all forms, mentally, physically, and certainly spiritually. If not for the wise words of Herbert Spencer and the guidance of my sponsor I’m not sure if I would have ever been open to the idea of a spiritual program becoming not only the answer to my addictions, but the key to true happiness and serenity.

As I considered this topic for a blog post I began to research the quote and learn more about Mr. Spencer. I was quite surprised to find that the quote had been inadvertently attributed to Herbert Spencer! According to Susan Cheever, a prolific addiction writer and historian, the actual author was another British philosopher, William Paley. Regardless of who penned the line, or what circumstance it came to be in the Big Book, I am grateful for it’s inclusion and it’s ability to make this scoffer reconsider my contempt of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

With gratitude,

Mark Kloster
Alumni Coordinator