Correcting the Factual Picture of Early A.A.’s 1935 Program and Bill W.’s 1939 12 Step program

Several clear cut facts are equally important in showing the difference between Bill W.’s 1939 “new version” of the program, the Twelve Steps, and the Christian technique and program founded in June 1935 and developed to the point of documented success by November of 1937.

The first set of facts has to do with the historical evidence now available to you because of the very recent Dover Publications reprint of “Alcoholics Anonymous The Original 1939 Edition With a 23 Page Introduction by Dick B.” See http://mcaf.ee/j4hq5. Now you can see plainly from the personal stories of the early pioneers that those stories were testimonies to the way Dr. Bob’s brood practiced their Christian Fellowship program in old school A.A. and as summarized in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers at page 131.. See our careful study in “Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous: http://mcaf.ee/gj7iw.

The second set of facts has to do with the “new version” of the program–which was unrelated to the personal stories. Why? Because the stories were written before Bill had completed his new version. And they plainly show how the testimonials described practice of the Akron program–hosptialization, belief in God, accepting Jesus as Lord, surrendering one’s life to God, obeying God’s will, growing in understanding through Bible study, prayer, quiet time, and reading Christian literat ure. These are not Big Book or 12 Step ideas Bill incorporated in his new version in the 1939 Big Book. Further, Bill’s new version came, said one erring and recent article, just from the teachings of Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker.

But in “The Language of the Heart,” Bill claimed that his new version came from three sources:

(1) The information supplied by Dr. William D. Silkworth and related directly to the First Step. That information included Silkworth’s explanation of the obsession of the mind and the allergy of the body that condemned the alcoholic to death or insanity. Death or insanity and seeming hopelessness in the absence of establishing a relationship with Jesus Christ–a point almost universally omitted from reports of Bill’s sources but crystal clear from Bill’s Language of the Heart Article as well as the biography of Dr. Silkworth, the autobiography of Bill himself, and the insistence that early AAs accept Jesus as Lord. See our discussion in “The Conversion of Bill W.”–www.dickb.com/conversion.shtml.

(2) The second source, according to Bill W., had to do with Step 12 and the Solution–a vital religious experience, a spiritual experience, a spiritual awakening, or a personality change (depending on how Bill worded it in various writings)/ This solution–the entry of the Creator in to the hearts and lives of suffering alcoholics–came from Professor William James’s theories about the cure of alcoholism by a vital religious experience.

(3) The third source, said Bill, was the teaching by Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. about the Oxford Group life-changing program codified into Steps 2 to 11.

Therefore if the full set of facts is reported correctly and truthfully, the reader will see that the early A.A. pioneers got well by following the biblical principles and basic ideas in their Christian Fellowship. Then , in 1939, Bill’s new version presented a completely new version–the Twelve Steps–which did not mention the Bible, belief in God, a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, or the remarkable healing of the first forty AAs measured in November, 1937.

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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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