A.A. History: There Is No Easier, Softer Way
By Dick B.
© 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved
With all the passage of time, extensive research and writing, Internet opportunities, multiple biographies, and substantial sobriety and archives and conferences, there are still major gaps in most presentations about Alcoholics Anonymous history.
There is a contemporary phrase you have probably heard: “Spot on.” But nearly all existing presentations on Alcoholics Anonymous history are not “spot on” because they omit key elements that show the roles played by God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible in early A.A.’s astonishing success. And those key elements—which could, should, and would help the still-suffering newcomer recover—are either unknown (because they are missing from most “standard” presentations); or, in the rare cases where they are known, they are often not believed or applied in today’s recovery scene.
The following are some of the key elements of Alcoholics Anonymous history that keep being ignored or shelved:
1. Rowland Hazard’s decision for Jesus Christ after seeing Dr. Jung.
2. Dr. Silkworth’s advice to Bill Wilson during his third stay at Towns Hospital in September 1934 (and to other Silkworth patients) that the Great Physician, Jesus Christ, could cure them of their alcoholism.
3. Ebby Thacher’s decision for Jesus Christ at Calvary Mission on November 1, 1934.
4. Bill W’s observation that Ebby Thacher had been born again.
5. Bill’s visit to Calvary Church about December 6, 1934, to hear Ebby’s testimony the evening before Bill went to Calvary Mission.
6. Bill’s thoughts about calling on the Great Physician.
7. Bill’s blazing “indescribably white light” experience at Towns Hospital during his fourth and final stay there from December 11 to 18, 1934; and his belief that he had been in the presence of “the God of the Scriptures.”
8. Dr. Silkworth’s being a devout Christian; his having been a friend of Samuel Shoemaker and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale; his having attended Shoemaker’s church; and his having confirmed that Bill Wilson had insisted on a “relationship with Jesus Christ” for all the earliest AAs.
9. Dr. Silkworth’s words when he talked to Bill after the “white light” experience.
10. Bill’s thorough reading of William James’ book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, to learn about other “conversion experiences” in conjunction with which alcoholics had been cured in rescue missions and other places.
11. The respectful viewpoint that Professor William James had expressed in stating that that these healings by such experiences deserved the attention of scholars—men of science.
12. Lois Wilson’s taped interview on June 29, 1953, in Dallas, Texas, in which she said that Bill had, in all sincerity, gone to the altar at Calvary Mission and handed his life over to Christ .
13. Bill’s written statements that he—like his friend Ebby—had “found religion” at Calvary Mission and had “for sure . . . been born again.”
14. Bill’s leaving Towns Hospital on December 18, 1934, and feverishly going to the streets, the hospitals, the flea bag hotels, the missions, and even Oxford Group meetings with a Bible under his arm and telling drunks that they needed to give their lives to God and that the Lord had cured him of his “terrible disease.”
15. Bill’s repetition of his real experience in the message on page 191 of the Big Book that “the Lord” had cured him and that he just wanted to keep talking about it and telling people.
16. Bill’s statement in the Third edition of the Big Book that, as he pointed to a copy of the famous painting of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, that the painting showed the solution to alcoholism that the Clevelander was asking about. Bill simply pointed to Jesus and said, “There it is.”
17. Silkworth’s real advice to Bill that he needed to hit his prospects hard with the dire facts about almost certain death or insanity due to excessive boozing. This was what Silkworth himself had done to Bill and his wife before he offered them the solution which was turning to God.
18. Bill had no lasting success in sobering up drunks, before he met Dr. Bob on May 12, 1935, in Akron, and the two worked together during the late spring and summer of 1935.
19. The precise details of what Bill told Dr. Bob about the “Great Physician,” the “cure,” and service to others in their six hour first visit at the Seiberling Gate Lodge.
20. Dr. Walter Tunks, Rector of St. Paul’s Church in Akron, was the pastor of the Firestone family church; that he had played a big role in helping the Firestones bring Frank Buchman to Akron in 1933; but that he was not himself an Oxford Group member.
21. The well-known statement about “choosing your own conception of God” attributed to Ebby in the Big Book was not present in the typed, multilith edition (or so-called “original manuscript”) of the Big Book. And that it was only added to the “printer’s manuscript” of the Big Book as part of four handwritten paragraphs inserted into the Big Book during the last moments before the book was published. (This can be seen very clearly in Hazelden’s title, The Book That Started It All, published in 2010.)
22. It was not until 1957 that Bill explained to AAs in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age that, in the original draft of the Twelve Steps, he had consistently used only the unqualified, unmodified word “God,” and not the substitute phrases “power greater than ourselves” and “God as we understood Him.”
23. These substitutionary references to “a” god were to be contrasted with the many times previously that Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker had used them in his own, well-known writings as descriptions of what Bill had previously called “the God of the Scriptures.”
24. The fact that the “popular,” common, contemporary use of the weird expression “higher power cannot be found in the Bible—from which the basic ideas of the Twelve Steps came, but were in fact some strange “New Thought” deity invented by New Thought writers like Ralph Waldo Trine, Emmet Fox, Emanuel Movement writers, and Professor William James.
There are many more historical questions that deserve far more research, analysis, and attention if “the rest of the story” is to be available to recovery programs designed to help “seemingly-hopeless,” “medical-incurable” alcoholics who still suffer.