Alcoholics Anonymous & History of AA
By Dick B.
During the early 1990’s, while I was doing research at Stepping Stones in New York, I found, and was given permission to make a Xerox copy of, a manuscript Bill W. wrote titled “ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS: CHAPTER #1: THERE IS A SOLUTION.” As my son Ken and I note in “Appendix Two: Key Highlights in the Writing of the Big Book with Approximate Dates” of our new title God, His Son Jesus Christ & the Bible in Early A.A., when Bill W. originally wrote the chapter titled “There Is A Solution” in March or April of 1938, it was identified as chapter one. As I was reviewing my copy of Bill W.’s manuscript again today, I was struck by significant differences in language between Bill’s early manuscript and the Big Book as we know it today—particularly relative to the phrase “religious experience(s).”
How Bill W. Wrote of the
• “The tremendous fact for every one of us has been the discovery of a common solution – a way out with which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action.” (Manuscript page 2).
• “The main purpose of this book is to exhaustively, definitely and specifically answer those questions and to let you know what you can do about it.” (Manuscript page 5).
• “But there is a solution, and how glorious was the knowledge of it to us. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of our sins of omission and commission which the process requires for its successful consummation, but we saw that it really worked in others.” (Manuscript pages 9-10).
• “And the GREAT FACT is just this and no less; that all of us have had deep and effective religious experiences which have in every case revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God’s great universe.” (Manuscript page 10—emphasis added).
• “The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that the Creator of you and me has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is to us new and beautiful and has there commenced to accomplish those things which by no stretch of the imagination were we humanly capable of.” (Manuscript page 10).
• “After years of living on a basis which now seems to us wholly false, you are not going to get rightly related to your Creator in a minute. None of us has found God in six easy lessons, but He can be found by all who are willing to put the task ahead of all else.” (Manuscript page 10).
• [Dr. Carl Jung told Rowland Hazard, wrote Bill:] “Sporadically, here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital religious experiences. . . . [H]is 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 displace his insanity with respect to matters alcoholic.” (Manuscript page 11—emphasis added).
• “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, with all of the ardor of drowning men clutching at straws. But what seemed at first to be a flimsy reed has proved to be a loving and powerful hand of God.” (Manuscript page 11—emphasis added).
• “As a group, or as individuals, we have no desire to convince anyone that the true God can only be discovered in some particular way . . . If what we have learned, and felt, and seen, means anything at all, it indicates that all of us . . . are the children of a living Creator with whom we may form a new relationship upon very simple and understandable terms, the moment any of us become willing enough to do so. Therefore, we waste no time in the kind of religious disputation which has so frequently torn people apart.” (Manuscript page 11).
• “Not all of us have joined religious bodies, but we are nearly all agreed that by so doing, each would be taking a step toward new growth and availability for God’s purpose.” (Manuscript page 12).
• “The next few chapters are the personal narratives of several of us. In these accounts each person will describe in his own language and from his own point of view the way in which he happened to find the living God.” (Manuscript page 12).
Notes for the Readers
1. Bill said that the solution was a “vital religious experience.” So did Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker in his first significant book, Realizing Religion. And so, as you can see here, did Dr. Carl G. Jung—who fathered the solution through advising Rowland Hazard.
2. The “vital religious experience” was explained by Bill W. as the need for a “defense;” but there was no mention of a “higher power.” Bill simply explained that Rowland had “placed himself beyond all human aid, and unless locked up, is virtually certain to die, or to go permanently insane.” (Manuscript page 9).
3. The GREAT FACT, said Bill, was that “all of us have had deep and effective religious experiences.” (Manuscript page 10).
4. The solution, said Bill: “So it began to look to us as though we must have a vital religious experience or perish.” (Manuscript page 11).
5. “All of us,” said Bill, “are the children of a living Creator with whom we may form a new relationship.” (Manuscript page 11).
6. The author of each personal narrative “will describe in his own language and from his own point of view the way in which he happened to find the living God.” (Manuscript page 12).
7. The result produced by seeking God and obtaining the solution, said Bill, is “The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that the Creator of you and me has entered into our hearts and lives in a way . . . which by no stretch of the imagination were we humanly capable of.” (Manuscript page 10).
The Certainty, in the Minds of the
First Three AAs,
On page 191 of the latest edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. is quoted as follows:
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.
On page 181 of the latest edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. Bob is quoted as follows:
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!
On page 191 of the same edition, A.A. Number Three (Bill D.) is quoted a follows:
I thought, I think I have the answer. Bill was very, very grateful that he had been released from this terrible thing and had given God the credit for having done it, and he’s so grateful about it he wants to tell other people about it.
That sentence, “The Lord has been so wonderful to me, curing me of this terrible disease that I just want to keep telling people about it,” has been a sort of a golden text for the A.A. program and for me.
The Certainty Was Embodied in the Three Pertinent Ideas on Page 60 of the 4th edition
(a) That we were alcoholic
and could not manage our own lives.