Dick B. discusses the first, introductory video for the upcoming “Bill W., Dr. Bob, and the Cure of Alcoholism: The Rest of the Story” class on the January 31, 2014, episode of the “Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B.” show
You may hear Dick B. discuss the first video in the upcoming “Bill W., Dr. Bob, and the Cure of Alcoholism: The Rest of the Story” class here:
Episodes of the “Christian Recovery Radio with Dick B.” show are archived at:
Tonight’s radio show brings us to the brink of filming the introductory video in our forthcoming “Bill W., Dr. Bob, and the Cure of Alcoholism: The Rest of the Story” class. In the three shows, we gave you a preview of those parts of the class that show how much is missing from the details about how the first three AAs got sober, the simplicity of their actions, and the astonishing success of their efforts. This was just to give you a taste of one of the many parts of our history that are really beyond the knowledge or experience of the newcomer who still suffers. And the main purpose of the class is not to write just another “total history” of A.A. or a series of minor snippets of history that leave out some vital helps for the newcomer.
Tonight’s show looks into why our new historical account of “the rest of the story” is so important at this stage of A.A. history. It will also show you that a ship without a full complement of equipment is like a ship without a rudder engaged in a meandering voyage. It will give you a taste of a great many important historical helps that have been ignored, omitted, or forgotten up to this point. And it will provide you with some of “the rest of the story” which is really the portion most needed by books, articles, conferences, speakers, sponsors, and the still-suffering newcomer.
We note that today’s A.A. has at least five different types of programs, because few recognize either that fact or the difference in approach. Because few try to utilize and harmonize the effective parts that are virtually unknown. And because we believe from the thousands of phone calls, emails, and conversations we have had over the past 24 years of researching A.A.’s history that the cause of helping to cure the still-suffering newcomer is best be served when the full complement of historical truths and approaches is restored to view.
Synopsis of Dick’s Talk
Rest of the Story Introduction – A Draft
What? Another history of Alcoholics Anonymous!
Yes! And one that is much needed today.
Why this New Historical Account of “the Rest of the Story!”
Needed because of what is said and believed by many who speak about Alcoholics Anonymous; write about A.A.; study alcoholism and addiction; speak about their war stories; share their “experience, strength, and hope” in meetings; grind out more and more biographies and autobiographies; produce more timelines and forum commentaries; and characterize A.A. as monolithic—rather than diverse in membership—and as “spiritual, but not religious,” and as a “cult,” too Christian, too much focused on an “any god” philosophy, an heretical fellowship that Christian AAs must never join or attend, and an invitation to self-made deities (called higher powers) that can be anything from a rainbow to a tree to a door knob to a light bulb, to “Somebody” or to “Something” that “saves.”
The Ship Without a Rudder
It is a fair assessment to say that none of the foregoing descriptions can be characterized as A.A. today. Nor are they commonly understood and agreed to among today’s vacillating two million members. More important, they are not representative of the views of A.A.’s original founders, the original Akron A.A. fellowship program, the biblical and Christian roots and practices of pioneer A.A., or the successes that were achieved when reliance on the Creator was the center-piece of early A.A. recovery.
What, then, is the task here? Is it to write a new, ponderous, comprehensive, complete history?
Writing about the weaknesses of a voyage devoid of a full complement of equipment constitutes conducting a voyage of meandering and opinionated theories about travel. But it is on a journey with an untrained crew.
For one thing, those who need the successful techniques of old school recovery are often still ill, perhaps poorly educated, and usually not very enthused about reading anything at all—not even their basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous. Half a loaf of history will not produce a repast that satisfies the need.
The Lacuna – The Gap – The Missing Tools
Several years ago, Dick B. learned from his A.A. historian friend Mel B. that a scholarly Roman Catholic priest was quite enthused over our work in unearthing A.A.’s missing historical points. We were just about to publish Turning Point: A History of Early A.A.’s Spiritual Roots and Successes (San Rafael, CA: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1997). The priest was Father Paul B., M.A., Ph.D., Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City, Missouri. The gracious priest kindly agreed to endorse the Turning Point book, saying:
Though there have been excellent histories of A.A.’s beginning years, each and corporately, have left one major lacuna—the precise origins of A.A.’s spiritual principles (page 1)
Now, let’s ask what the average AA knows about Professor William James, author of The Varieties of Religious Experience—the man whom Bill Wilson had named as one of the three sources of A.A.’s Twelve Steps. What does the average AA know about this foundational statement in which Professor James wrote:
Self-surrender has been and always must be regarded as the vital turning-point of the religious life, so far as the religious life is spiritual and no affair of outer works and ritual and sacraments.
Some years later, Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., author of Realizing Religion—and the clergyman whom Bill Wilson had named as a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous as well as one of the three sources of A.A.’s Twelve Steps (ten of the twelve in Shoemaker’s case)—wrote:
Now the thing which is striking about much of the misery one sees is that it is spiritual misery. It is the unhappiness of spiritual very often—souls who are too fine-grained to get along without religion, yet who have never come to terms with it. It is the sadness of maladjustment to the eternal things, and this throws out the whole focus of life. Rest cures and exercise and motor drives will not help. The only thing that will help is religion. For the root of the malady is estrangement from God—estrangement from Him in people that were made to be His companions. . . . Now St. Augustine said truly: “We are not born Christians, but we become Christians” (pages 4-5).
All of us cling, despite all proofs to the contrary, to the idea that we are different, and need something that others do not need, and never can be satisfied with any generally accepted ideas about religion. But this is our old pride raising its head for a last thrust. Our heavenly Father knows where we are really different (pages 8-9)
What you want is simply a vital religious experience. You need to find God. You need Jesus Christ (page 9).
Years later, Reverend Shoemaker helped Bill Wilson shape the proposed manuscript of A.A.’s “Big Book.” The two men actually worked together in Shoemaker’s book-lined study on the Twelve Steps. Bill actually asked Shoemaker to write those steps. but Shoemaker declined. Yet those words by Shoemaker in Realizing Religion still seemed to be ringing in the ears of A.A.’s cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob as they completed their portions of the Big Book.
Shoemaker’s role in the language of “The solution” emanating from a vital religious experience. As the years have rolled by, A.A. has altered its seminal phrase “vital religious experience.” First, it substituted “spiritual experience.” Then, “spiritual awakening.” And finally, the so-called Spiritual Appendix which offers a variety of choices for a solution, one including a “personality change.”
But it was not always so. The “vital religious experience” phrase had at least one origin in the William James volume “The Varieties of Religious Experience.” Shoemaker then used the expression in Realizing Religion. In a manuscript Dick B. found at Stepping Stones in the early 1990’s, Bill had written:
And the GREAT FACT is just this and no less; that all of us have had “deep and effective religious experiences” (page 10).
Then, writing about what Dr. Carl Jung had told Rowland Hazard, Bill stated:
Sporadically, here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called “vital religious experiences. . . His [Rowland’s] faith and his religious convictions were very good as far as they went, but that in his case, they did not spell “the vital religious experience so absolutely imperative to replace his insanity.” (page 11).
Finally, speaking for himself, Bill then wrote:
So it began to look to us as though we must have “a vital religious experience” or perish. Our friend [Rowland Hazard] did finally have such an experience and we in our turn have sought the same happy end.
What happened to the “vital religious experience?” It’s missing. Yet Professor James wrote extensively on the variety of religious experiences. Reverend Shoemaker wrote that, to find God, you needed a vital religious experience. Dr. Carl Jung told Russell Hazard that “vital religious experiences” had at times solved the alcoholism problem. And then Bill himself said it began to look as though we “must” have a vital religious experience. Who changed this, and why!
Shoemaker’s Role in the A.A. Language about Finding God: Shoemaker had said that, to overcome spiritual misery and become companions of God, men needed to “find God.” In the same Stepping Stones manuscript named above, Bill wrote:
All of us are the children of a living Creator with whom we may form a new relationship. The author of each personal narrative “will describe in his own language and from his own point of view that way in which he happened to find the living God (pages 11-12).
How did finding God suddenly shift to finding a “higher power?”
Bill Wilson had written in the Big Book: “Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power—That One is God. May you find Him now!”
On page 193 of the First Edition of the Big Book, Dr. Bob wrote:
If you think you are an atheist an agnostic, a skeptic, or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from accepting what is in this book, I feel sorry for you. . . . Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!
Did AAs suddenly conclude that Dr. Bob had just opened a “broad highway” for atheists and agnostics? What role had he played in the great compromise that did so? He didn’t!
Shoemaker’s Role in Specifying the need for Jesus Christ::Shoemaker concluded his vital religious experience remarks in Realizing Religion with the statement: “You need Jesus Christ.” And, in so doing, Shoemaker was referring to the Bible requirement as expressed in John 14:6 (KJV) “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
And every early Akron A.A. was required to make a “real surrender” in which he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. That concept is missing from A.A. Conference-approved literature? Why?
The Example Above: Filling the Holes with the True Solutions
The challenge here is to identify the chunks of history that have been omitted, ignored, or misstated. The challenge is to identify which of the missing pieces of historical information is directly applicable to today’s A.A. fellowship, to the recovery and cure of still suffering AAs, and to today’s stated solution for the problem of alcoholism—a solution emblazoned in an entire chapter of A.A.’s basic text (There Is A Solution), and articulated on Page 25 of even today’s Fourth Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous.. Today’s challenge is to investigate and report those portions of A.A. history that are either unknown or not sufficiently known and therefore not a significant part of what is being spoken about, taught to, or practiced by the alcoholic who still suffers. One of these is seeking a “vital religious experience.” One is “finding” God. And one is coming to God through His son Jesus Christ—the needed factor Shoemaker explained.
A.A. is not a church. It is not a hospital. It is not a place where self-centered whining attains the prize—a cure! That cure by “the Lord”—called by one of the first three AAs “The Golden Text of A.A.”—is the one all three of the first successful AAs specified—healing by the power of God. The Creator whom A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob called his “Heavenly Father” and declared would “never let you down!”
And A.A. either is, or it is not a place where the stentorian tones of “circuit speakers,” their ability to bring both laughter and compassion, to produce little information about the guts of A.A. or the history of A.A. or to relate how they (those present-day icons) practiced the principles of A.A. in recovering their own sanity, in helping others, and in living godly, useful, sober lives.
The Missing Historical Elements Are Numerous But Simple in Character
One of the things that will be made apparent in this introduction and in the history class is the simplicity of the many elements of recovery that were used with success by Christian organizations and individuals almost a century before A.A. was founded. Also how those early elements of recovery were absorbed by A.A.’s founders before they ever got sober and established their fellowship. Also how closely the actions of the first three AAs in getting sober. as well as how the program of recovery that A.A. founders originally developed beginning in 1935—constituted a program that was itself simple, easily understood, directly founded on abstinence, reliance on the power of God, and helping others recover in the same manner. This simple formula involving renouncing of liquor, relying on and understanding God, and helping newcomers do likewise constitutes a program still as viable, effective, and consistent with recovery today as it was at the beginnings of the A.A. Christian Fellowship founded years ago in 1935.
A Brief Summary of the Subjects in the Remaining Chapters
Here, once again, we will be talking about what’s missing. We will also be talking about what the restoration of missing links can do for those who still suffer and want to be cured. And we will leave the details and documentation to the following chapters. The subjects to be underlined are:
- First Century Christianity: The Book of Acts and what the Apostles did. The many comments on the resemblance of early A.A. practices to the acts of the Apostles. Other comments linking A.A. origins to First Century Christianity itself; to “A First Century Christian Fellowship”—one of the influences on the cofounders; and to the early Akron A.A. “Christian Fellowship”—the name given to the original Akron Christian Group’s program.
- The Christian organizations and people from the 1850’s forward who developed the biblical ideas and techniques for healing the down and out drunks of those days. Organizations and others such as the YMCA, rescue missions, Salvation Army, Congregationalism, the evangelists like Moody, and Christian Endeavor.
- The Christian upbringing of Dr. Bob and Bill W. in Vermont and how these youngsters were exposed to the relevant Christian ideas spawned largely by the foregoing organizations and people and were being used to help drunks.
- How the First Three AAs got sober, and this First Epoch of A.A.’s Recovery Ideas.
- The complete details of the Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship’s program and the practices that implemented it. Also the source of documentation of program details in The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous; DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers; Personal Stories of the Alcoholics Anonymous Pioneers; and more.
- The proof of victory – the counting of noses in 1937; the Frank Amos report on the Akron program, and the precise written records of those who succeeded
- The variant and so-called six word-of-mouth ideas Bill W. expounded as being in use after 1935, though controversial and, and used as the basis for his Twelve Steps.
- The outline by Hank Parkhurst of the proposed contents of the Big Book – commenting on the cure of alcoholism and religious experience – expressions which correspond to Bill’s characterizations in Bill’s descriptions of religious experiences.
- The “New Version” Program of Twelve Steps that Bill constructed, naming William Silkworth, William James, and Samuel Shoemaker as the sources.
- The great compromise made in the printer’s manuscript by the self-appointed committee of four.
- Self-made religion derived from the great compromise and including in the fellowship atheists, humanists, people that were religious but not Christian, and those who believed in “something” or in “nothing at all.”
- Absurd names and peculiar attributes for “a” god derived from concepts about “higher powers,” “a power greater than ourselves,” and “God as we understood Him.”
- The “spiritual but not religious” dilemma and the attempts to characterize A.A. as something it was never established in the beginning to be.
- The self-appointed governors who attempt to impose personal rules on AAs and their groups and meetings. This in contravention of A.A. traditions of non-interference with autonomous groups and non-governance and inability to control by leaders.
- The importance for believers of learning and standing upon undisputed history and its incontrovertible relevance to 12 Step recovery today as believers wish to practice it and express themselves.
- What the International Christian Recovery Coalition is engaged in fostering and encouraging.