A.A.’s Conversion Requirement and Bill W.’s Own Vital Religious Experience

Bill W.: A Synopsis of Bill’s extensive Christian background and beliefs that finally led him back to Christ and the new birth and set the stage for conversion to God through Jesus Christ as one of the required elements in early A.A.’s first group, Akron Number One, a Christian Fellowship

Dick B., © 2013 Anonymous. All rights reserved

Bibliography materials and documentation can be found on http://www.AlcoholicsAnonymousHistory.com

[As a youngster in Vermont, Bill had repeatedly heard the story of how his alcoholic grandfather Willie had been converted to God through Jesus Christ on a mountaintop next to Bill’s village. Willie was saved, said so, and never touched a drop during the remaining years of his life. And Bill was no stranger to revivals, conversion meetings, temperance meetings, and salvation teachings—the latter in his church and Sunday school

(1) Dr. Carl Jung had told Rowland Hazard that he had the mind of a chronic alcoholic and that a conversion—a vital religious experience–might heal him

(2) Rowland Hazard made a decision for Jesus Christ, joined the Oxford Group, and worked actively with Rev. Sam Shoemaker.

(3) Rowland and two other Oxford Group friends told Bill Wilson’s long-time drinking friend Ebby Thacher the solution that Jung had proffered. Rowland taught Ebby about the efficacy of prayer. He informed Ebby of a number of the Oxford Group’s Christian principles. Then Ebby was lodged in Calvary Rescue Mission in New York.

(4) Meanwhile, Bill Wilson had made his third visit to Towns Hospital. Dr. William D. Silkworth, Bill’s psychiatrist, had a long talk with Bill. Silkworth had given Bill a virtual death sentence contingent upon his continuing to drink. Dr. Silkworth, a devout Christian and a long-time parishioner of Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary Church, told Bill Wilson that the “Great Physician” Jesus Christ could cure Bill.

(5) In this same period, Ebby Thacher had made a decision for Jesus Christ at Calvary Mission, gotten saved and sober, decided to witness to Bill, visited Bill, and told Bill what had happened at the Mission.

(6) Bill decided to check out Ebby’s story and went to hear him give testimony at Calvary Church.

(7) Bill decided that since the Great Physician had helped Ebby recover, he might help Bill.

(8) Bill W. accepted Jesus Christ at Calvary Mission, wrote in his autobiography that “For sure I had been born again.”

(9) Bill continued to drink, became severely depressed, and thought: If there be a Great Physician, I had better call on him.

(10) Bill staggered on to Towns Hospital drunk and very depressed and was hospitalized.

(11) He said to himself, “I’ll do anything, anything at all. If there be a Great Physician, I’ll call on him now.”

(12) He cried out, “If there be a God let him show himself.”

(13) He said the effect was, instant, electric. Suddenly my room blazed with an indescribably white light.

(14) He continued: Then, seen in the mind’s eye, there was a mountain. I stood upon its summit where a great wind blew. A wind, not of air, but of spirit. In great, clean strength it blew right through me.

(15) The light and the ecstasy subsided. Bill became more quiet. A great peace stole over him.

(16) Then he became acutely conscious of a presence which seemed like a “veritable sea of living spirit.”

(17) He thought, “This must be the great reality.” And in one account, he said to himself: Bill, you are a free man. This is “the God of the Scriptures.”

(18) He said, “I thanked my God who had given me a glimpse of His absolute Self.

(19) He said that faith had suddenly appeared—no blind faith—but faith fortified by the consciousness of the presence of God.

(20) Briefly he stopped doubting God and said “this great and sudden gift of grace has always been mine.”

(21) He never drank again.

(22) But he did have his “hour of doubt.”

(23) Dr. Silkworth appeared and sat by Bill’s bed. Bill told Silkworth what had happened. Bill asked: “Doctor, is this real? Am I still perfectly sane?”

(24) Sikworth assured him that he was sane. He said “You have had some kind of conversion experience.”

(25) Ebby showed up at the hospital, agreed with Bill that he and Bill had a release that was a gift, real. He handed Bill a copy of a book by Professor William James. It was called “The Varieties of Religious Experience.” Bill he had read it “all day.”

(26) The James book was filled with studies and stories of the cure of alcoholism at missions such as the one founded by Jerry McAuley at 316 Water Street in 1872, and later (in 1882) at 104 West Thirty-second Street, known as Cremorne Mission. In 1886, S.H. Hadley took charge of the Water Street Mission. Hadley had been converted at Jerry McAuley’s Cremorne Mission, and in the years of service in Water Street not less than seventy-five thousand persons came to the mission for help. Hadley died in 1906.

(27) Before his discharge from Towns Hospital in December of 1935, Wilson had been inspired to help drunks everywhere.

(28) On his discharge, he raced feverishly to the streets, the missions, the hospitals, the Bowery, Oxford Group meetings, and flea bag hotels. He went with a Bible under his arm and insisted that drunks give their lives to God.

(29) Bill’s story is briefly told as follows in the Big Book: “Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me curing me of this terrible disease that I just want to keep talking about it and telling people.”

(30) But in his first six months of witnessing, Bill was unable to get a single person sober.]

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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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