“Bill W.” and the Many Film Portrayals: An Appraisal Via The Facts

Dick B.’s Documented Account of the Story of Bill Wilson, Alcoholics Anonymous, and the Influences on Wilson [In reply to a question about Oxford Group influences, if any, on Bill Wilson]

Dick B.
Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights resereved

“Thank you for asking about the possible influence of the Oxford Group on Bill Wilson.

Actually, there were many influences on his A.A. ideas, as there were in the case of Dr. Bob: They definitely include, and I have documented, the following:

1. The Bible.
2. The Christian organizations and people that preceded and influenced AA: a) Evangelists like Dwight Moody and F. B. Meyer; b) Gospel Rescue Missions; c) Lay brethren of Young Men’s Christian Association; d) Salvation Army; e) Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor; f) Oxford Group; g)Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr.
3. The Christian upbringing of Wilson in the East Dorset Congregational Church, the Bible studies he did with grandfather Griffith and friend Mark Whalon, the conversion and cure of his grandfather Willie Wilson, the sermons and revivals and conversions and temperance meetings he attended, his 4 years at Burr and Burton Academy where he took a four year Bible study course, went to daily chapel at this Congregationalist school, and was president of and active in the school’s Young Men’s Christian Association.
5. The advice of his physician Dr. Silkworth on his third visit to Towns Hospital; that he would die or go insane if he didn’t stop drinking; and that the Great Physician Jesus Christ could cure him.
6. The visits from his friend Ebby Thacher, telling him: a) that he (Ebby) had been to the altar at Calvary Rescue Mission, been born again, got religion; b) that he (Ebby) had learned several things from the Oxford Group friends (Rowland Hazard, Shep Cornell, and Cebra Graves) about Christian subjects he had studied as a youngster, and also about the power of prayer, about the Oxford Group[ program, about Dr. Carl Jung’s advice to Rowland that he (Rowland) could be helped if he had a “vital religious experience”–a conversion experience;] c) Bill’s trip to Calvary Church to hear and check up on Ebby Thacher’s testimony; d) Bill’s thought that perhaps Calvary Mission could do for him what it had done for Ebby; e) Bill’s trip to the altar at Calvary Mission where he made his decision for Jesus Christ, wrote twice “For sure I had been born again,” and wrote that he had “found religion.” f) Bill’s subsequent drinking, deep despair and depression, and thoughts that he should call on the Great Physician for help; g) Bill’s last trip to Towns Hospital where he cried out to God for help, had his memorable “indescribably white flash” blazing in his room, sensed the presence of God, exclaimed “So this is the God of the Scriptures,” stopped doubting the power of God, and never drank again.
7. Bills subsequent discussion with Dr. Silkworth where Bill was told he had had a “conversion experience.” Bill’s extensive study that day of the William James book on religious experiences that cured alcoholics, and Bill’s conclusion that his experience in the hospital was a valid conversion experience.
8. Bill’s adventure on discharge from the hospital out on the streets with a Bible under his arm and telling drunks in hospitals, missions, flea bag hotels, Oxford Group meetings that he had found a cure for alcoholism and that they should give their lives to God (See Big Book, page 191).
9. Bill’s utter failure to convert or sober up anyone at all. Not before he met with Dr. Bob in Akron.
10. Bill’s visit with Dr. Bob at Henrietta Seiberling’s Gate Lodge for six hours where Bill convinced Bob that the idea of service to others was an essential element in the Oxford Group that was part of the mix, and Dr. Bob’s assent.
11. The three months that Bill spent with the Smiths at their home in Akron where: a) Anne read them the Bible each day. b) Anne may have shared from the journal she had kept since 1933. c) there were daily prayers and quiet time. d) there was an agreement that hospitalization was an essential ingredient. e) Attendance at the weekly “clandestine lodge” meeting of the Oxford Group at the T. Henry Williams home. f) Where extensive Oxford Group and Shoemaker literature were available at the meeting for the taking.
12. The success–when there was no Big Book, were no Steps, were no Traditions, were no drunkalogs, and were no meetings like those today–with A.A. Number Three-Bill Dotson. Bill and Bob visited Dotson in the hospital, told him to give his life to God and, when healed, go out and help others. Dotson turned to God for help, was immediately healed, and went out from the hospital a new man–which marked the founding of Akron Group Number One July 4, 1935.
13. Bill and Bob learning in November of 1937 by “counting noses” that forty members had achieved and maintained some sobriety–with an assured 50% success rate; and that God had shown them how the cure could be passed on by working with newcomers, hospitalization, belief in God, acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, old fashioned prayer meetings, Bible study meetings, Quiet Time, reading Christian literature, and helping others without charge.
14. When Akron, by a barely passing vote in Akron, authorized Wilson to write a book, Bill claimed there were six word-of-mouth ideas being used with success. He phrased the six ideas in at least 4 different ways–when it came to God’s help. He claimed they were derived from the Oxford Group, but that there was no general agreement, particularly in the mid-west , on what they were. He also said they were applied according to the “whim” of the group involved. But Bill’s “six” word-of-mouth ideas were very different from the 7 point Akron Christian Fellowship program that Frank Amos summarized in his report to the Rockefeller people in 1937. See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 131.
15. Bill soon sat down with Rev. Sam Shoemaker at the book-lined study at Calvary House–with closed doors–and worked out the program of the Big Book, derived largely from Oxford Group ideas (and the Oxford Group itself declared that the principles of the Oxford Group were the principles of the Bible–as Rev. Sherwood Day twice wrote in The Principles of the Oxford Group).
16. When it came time to write Chapter 5 of his new book, Bill asked Sam Shoemaker to write the 12 Steps, but Shoemaker declined saying that they should be written by an alcoholic, namely Bill. Bill then sat down, looked at his alleged “six ideas”, and quickly wrote out Twelve Steps in a book where the word “God” had consistently been used without qualification.
17. Just before the book went to press, four people (Ruth Hock-secretary, Hank Parkhurst–Bill’s partner, Bill Wilson–the author, and John Henry Fitzhugh Mayo–who wanted the book to be Christian to the core) changed the language of the steps, deleting God from Step Two, and adding “as we understood Him” to Steps 3 and 11. Bill attributed this change to a “broad highway” to the contributions of the atheists and agnostics.

Most of this material can be found in various of my books listed in http://www.dickb.com/titles.shtml.

And the material is placed in updated, comprehensive, documented, teachable form in “The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide,” 3rd ed., 2010. http://www.dickb.com.

Most of the recent, documented research is set forth in my two preceding books “Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous” http://www.dickb.com/drbobofaa,shtml, and “The Conversion of Bill W.” http://www.dickb.com/conversion.shtml.
dickb@dickb.com

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About mauihistorian

Uses pen name Dick B.: Writer, Historian, Retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and active and recovered A.A. member with over 25 years of continuous sobriety. Published 42 titles and over 650 articles on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Christian Recovery Movement. www.dickb.com
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