I don’t know how to express how much this scene from the end of Indiana Jones and the Final Crusade has helped me. If you have never seen the movie, watch it now, or be spoiled.
In this scene, Indy’s father has been shot by the Nazis and the only way he can save his father is by going through the three trials and finding the Holy Grail. Fortunately, his father kept a detailed Grail Diary documenting the three trials.
Here is what happens:
The Breath of God
The first trial is The Breath of God: Only the penitent man shall pass.
I love how Indy and his father repeat it over and over. Penitent, penitent, penitent. At the last minute, Indy realizes he needs to kneel before God or he will be struck down by very real blades.
“The penitent man is humble before God. The penitent man is humble. He kneels before God!”
To me, this trial represents the first step in the Twelve Steps. You MUST be humble for this program to work. You MUST admit that you are not as cool as you thought you were. You have to be so defeated by this disease that you bow your head in humility. God, not required. The razor sharp blades of your disease will cut you down whether there is a god or not.
The Word of God
The second trial is The Word of God: Only in the footsteps of God will he proceed.
Indy reads the Grail Diary and realizes he needs to spell out the name of God, which was easy! Jehovah!
And then Indy realizes that in Latin, Jehovah starts with an “i.”
This trial represents the second step in the Twelve Steps. You must recognize that only a power greater than yourself can help you. Once again, no God required. In fact, what you think you know about God might be a liability. That power greater than you can be the group, your sponsor, your FitBit or any other guidance outside your own diseased mind. I’ve talked about this quite a bit here:
I like to think that Indy’s dad translated it wrong. The true meditation should be, “Only in the footsteps of one greater than you shall you proceed.”
The Path of God
The final trial is The Path of God: Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.
A quick look at the Grail Diary tells him all he needs to know.
“It’s a leap of faith. Oh jeez!”
“You must believe, boy. You must believe.”
This is the third step in the Twelve Steps. You must believe that a power greater than you can stop you from killing yourself. You have to hand yourself over to it, whatever it may be. You just close your eyes and step onto that delicate bridge. It will be there under your feet as long as you are careful.
Was It Intentional?
I’ve looked all over the Internet and I can’t see any reference to the Twelve Steps with this movie. In fact, Indy’s dad said he found these clues in the Chronicles of St. Anselm. Most believe that to be St. Anselm of Canterbury, but I did a search through all the works of St. Anselm and found nothing written that is even close to the phrases in the three trials.
I must have watched this movie at a very impressionable time in my teens. I can recite this scene almost verbatim and when I have felt too cocky, I repeat to myself, “Only the penitent shall pass.” When I have felt like I could just skip my meetings and do this alone, I repeat, “Only in the footsteps of one greater than you shall you proceed.” Each time my atheism got in the way of my recovery, I thought about that leap of faith and Indiana Jones standing on the slim and cleverly disguised walkway.
I didn’t need to believe in God. All I needed to do was believe that it could be done with the help of someone else.