Traditions War: a pathway to peace

Chapter 4
Money, Property and Prestige

Rage, jealousy, territoriality reside in the back portion of the human brain, the medula oblongata. Crocodiles and alligators have well developed medula oblongata. Sensitivity and spirituality involve more advanced portions of the brain and rise above our basic animal instincts. Something snaps occasionally in our members an irrational side seems to take over without notice. It is similar to a lynch mob that gets going over some tragic event like a rape or a murder of a child and becomes obsessed with finding someone who will fill the opening at the end of their rope. It is not for naught that our Traditions warn us to avoid money, property and prestige. These three relate to greed, lust and pride and we are sick in the areas of sex, security and society. We will most of us sell out for more money than we can use, more power than we can handle and the advantage over our Fellows. Many spiritual paths warn against getting involved with upsetting worldly concerns when we are seeking spiritual growth. There is a natural conflict between things of the world and things of the spirit. It is not perhaps a matter of good and bad, it may only be the difference between the way we need air to breathe or food to eat and our need for peace in our hearts and clarity in our thinking.

There are three planes of existence that need to have our attention to understand these things: the physical, the mental and the spiritual. Physical recovery is not using. Mental recovery is not allowing diseased habits and attitudes to control our lives. Spiritual recovery is the freedom to grow and aspire to greater things. In early recovery, we learn the mind can produce pain if it will get drugs in return. So, we learn to tolerate a degree of pain to maintain our recovery, if necessary. So also, we learn there can be unaccountable conflicts between the mental and the spiritual. The mental judges all by its own standards and declares illegal and off limits anything not covered in those standards. The spiritual knows no boundaries and is beyond the limitations of both the physical universe and the limitations of individual cognition. Conflicts are bound to occur and should not necessarily be regarded as accidents. The world of the spirit is veiled in ways that divert and deflect those unprepared for the awesome and wonder vistas of spiritual perception. In particular, those who have not yet achieved comfort in being surrendered experience pain and anxiety when confronted by spiritual reality. They retreat into their ignorance and may become dangerous if pressed too deeply into a psychological corner. All roads lead to betterment and increase in health, it is only our disease that holds us back. As with all things, the spiritual path is to wait and let things unfold agreeably rather than force and beat into submission those flowers not yet ready to bloom. The illusions of money, property and prestige allow people to attempt to substitute these things for contact with a higher power. Those who understand this will back off and allow those who do not to grow. It does not need to be a mystery or a subject of fear and superstition. That only gives power to the disease and we have enough of that.

As the WSO grew from a handful of employees to over forty, and the cash flow broke the million dollar mark, the questions became, “Who’s book is it any way?” Naturally, the people who get it printed, type set and distribute the book assume it is their charge, and by extension, their property. Well, that’s not the way the law reads. WSO did not pay anyone for writing the Basic Text, they didn’t even pay expenses. The WSC gave some reimbursement after several hundreds of dollars of printing and postage had been paid out over a year’s time, insisting on seeing the receipts first. We felt the thrill of getting the book done and then the absurdity of being accused of making typographical errors in the WSO printed hardback copies. Like they would copy our letters, even including errors of spelling and tense. Huh. Fortunately our background included enough adversity and unfairness to not let this rough treatment upset our spiritual equilibrium. After all, the WSO was made up of business types and clerks. They couldn’t be expected to appreciate the miracle at hand. Antipathy between office staff, paid workers, and the Fellowship volunteers, unpaid trusted servants began. 

The changes growing out of these differences showed up in quietly removing the office of WSC secretary and letting the WSO do that. Then the Treasurer of the WSC seemed redundant and so the WSO did that too. Then the Secretary of the World Service Board was dropped in favor of letting the WSO do that job. Also, the Board didn’t need a Treasurer. After a few years, it was obvious the WSO could really do everything and why not? They were at the center of the NA world and knew better than anyone what was going on and best for the Fellowship. By seeing their distribution of minutes and reports as an expensive and largely unnecessary task, they began to style the material in a petulant and unfriendly manner. By the late 1980's it was becoming hard to read the Conference reports, minutes and get anything sensible out of them. They still exist and samples will be included in this material. I recall reading one report in the early 1990's that took two pages and stated that the Committee met and considered three options and dropped one because it was just like the second option and discounted the third option as unworkable. What stood out to me was there were no nouns. The report never even hinted what options had been considered, how the first and second were similar or identical and what the third one was and how it was not a practical consideration. Even the first option was never described even in the most general terms. It was what college students are taught to label ‘gobbledygook.’ Members stopped reading and responding to the obscure and unfriendly reports that even college level students found dense and hard to read. 

The riff deepened with the strains showing up in motions affecting the Temporary Working Guide to our Service Structure. The acronym TWGSS, pronounced ‘twigs’, was used to refer to the Temporary Guide. Some members thought it through and said, “The NA Tree has been reduced to Twigs.”

Surely, it is fair to say that some of the ‘powerful’ personalities wound up working at WSO. They stressed professional credentials and worked hard to get and hold their positions. This business of ‘seeking a job’ at WSO was not regarded as the most spiritual way to serve NA by the Representatives sent in from the Fellowship. The unspoken objection was ‘conflict of interest’ that would place the spiritual objectives of the NA Fellowship at odds with the balance sheet of WSO. The Office stance was finally best defined by the notion that it took about eighteen months to get something brought up at a WSC through a Conference Agenda Report (CAR), addressed at the Conference, sent out for a year’s group conscience and take a vote at the following WSC. No more brief way to take a group conscience back to groups for a vote was ever mentioned that I recall. Surely there was a way. 

The members stance was hindered by several things. First off, most Representatives had never been to Southern California, Hollywood, Disneyland or any of the other sights to see out there. They were often a bit awed and over whelmed. They wanted to be liked. Second, the demands were great and the training was brief. Much depended on luck and having key individuals present to look out for Fellowship interests. The notion that the Fellowship had to be protected from encroachment by its own WSO was not pleasant and it was hard to shift gears. Kind of like having a pet baby tiger that is outgrowing its play pen. You don’t want to shoot it but it can get tense.


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Reprinted from the 
Traditions War: a pathway to peace
2003 Form

Copyright © December 2001
Victor Hugo Sewell, Jr.

NA Foundation Group
6685 Bobby John Road Atlanta, GA 30349 USA


All rights reserved. This draft may be copied by members of Narcotics Anonymous for the purpose of writing input for future drafts, enhancing the recovery of NA members and for the general welfare of the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship as a whole. The use of an individual name is simply a registration requirement of the Library of Congress and not a departure from the spirit or letter of the Pledge, Preface or Introduction of this book. Any reproduction by individuals or organizations outside the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous is prohibited. Any reproduction of this document for personal or corporate monetary gain is prohibited.

Last update January 12, 2006