May 28, 2009
A.A. History Articles
A.A.'s Consistent Focus on Finding God
The First Edition of A.A.'s basic textbook, Alcoholics Anonymous
From its inception, Alcoholics Anonymous has focused on finding God. Page 71 of the First Edition of the Big Book says (as do the later editions) "But there is One who has all power--That One is God. May you find Him now!" Even more significant, page 13 of the multilith copy of the Big Book which was circulated before publication said: "Each individual, in the personal stories, describes in his own language, and from his own point of view the way he found or rediscovered God." Page 13 of the multilith also quoted "the distinguished American psychologist, William James," stating his book "indicates a multitude of ways in which men have found God."
A.A.'s current textbook, The Third Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous
The Third Edition of A.A.'s Big Book speaks, on page 116, of the opening up of "a path which led to the discovery of God." Page 59 speaks of finding God. Page 192 tells how A.A. Number Three (Bill Dotson) "found God." Page 341 tells of the housewife who had found and known "faith in the reality of God."
Just who was this God that AAs were enjoined to find? Their Big Book made over 200 specific, unqualified references to God. It made twelve references to our Creator. It made two references to Maker. It referred to God as Father and (from the Book of James) as Father of Light. (See Dick B., Turning Point, pp. 230-231, for documentation). In fact, all of these words referred to God as He describes Himself in the Bible.
God as He describes Himself in the Bible
For Creator, see Ecclesiastes 12:1, Isaiah 43:15, Romans 1:25, 1 Peter 4:19. For Maker, see Psalm 95:6. For Father, see Matthew 5:45. For Father of Lights, see James 1:17. A.A.'s founders (Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith) referred to God in Biblical terms as "Heavenly Father," "living God," "God Almighty," and "God, our Father" (For A.A. and Biblical sources, see Dick B., The Good Book and The Big Book, pp. 50-51, Bridge Builders Edition).
The A.A. path for finding and establishing a relationship with, our Creator
Finding God, then, was accomplished by using the path of the Twelve Steps to find and establish a relationship with our Creator, God. The Creator, Almighty God, is first mentioned in Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
The idea of "finding God" goes far back in Biblical writing. It also goes back to "A First Century Christian Fellowship" known as the Oxford Group (of which A.A. was an integral part at the beginning) and to the teachings of The Reverend Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York (whom Bill Wilson called a "co-founder of A.A." and a "wellspring" of its spiritual ideas.
In the Bible Itself
In what is often called the oldest book in the Bible, Job cried out concerning God "Oh that I knew where I might find him!" (Job 23:3). Years after A.A. was founded, Dr. Carl Gustav Jung explained in a letter to Bill Wilson that the solution (through conversion) that AAs had needed and developed could be explained as follows: the union with God. Jung sited Psalm 42:1 "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God."
In the First Century Christian Fellowship of which Early A.A. was a part
Dr. Leslie D. Weatherhead, whose books were owned by Bill Wilson, was an early writer on the Oxford Group. In 1933, Weatherhead published his book How Can I Find God? (London: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., 1933). It discussed such topics as (1) "Do we really want to find Him?" (2) "Are we hiding from Him?" (3) "How may we find Him?" (4) "How shall I know I have found Him?" Bill Wilson's Oxford Group friend Bill Kitchen wrote in his popular book I Was a Pagan as follows: "Yet my real education did not begin till the day that I found God" (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1934), p. 94. And Bill's spiritual teacher Sam Shoemaker wrote an article in The Calvary Evangel in August of 1935, titled "The Way to Find God." Later, Faith at Work published Shoemaker's pamphlet "How to Find God." And Shoemaker's very first Oxford Group book, Realizing Religion, concluded its first chapter with this statement: "What you want is simply a vital religious experience. You need to find God. You need Jesus Christ."
Early AAs, then, set about the path of finding God. The steps they took to that end constituted the path about which the Big Book said: "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path." This affirmation was followed shortly by the emphatic desire for Big Book readers: "May you find Him now!"
God Bless, Dick B.
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