& History of AA
April 24, 2012
Alcoholics Anonymous History
A.A. History: There Is No Easier, Softer Way
By Dick B.
© 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved
With all the
passage of time, extensive research and writing, Internet opportunities,
multiple biographies, and substantial sobriety and archives and conferences,
there are still major gaps in most presentations about Alcoholics Anonymous
There is a
contemporary phrase you have probably heard: “Spot on.” But nearly all existing
presentations on Alcoholics Anonymous history are not “spot on” because they
omit key elements that show the roles played by God, His Son Jesus Christ, and
the Bible in early A.A.’s astonishing success. And those key elements—which
could, should, and would help the still-suffering newcomer recover—are either
unknown (because they are missing from most “standard” presentations); or, in
the rare cases where they are known, they are often not believed or applied in
today’s recovery scene.
The following are
some of the key elements of Alcoholics Anonymous history that keep being ignored
Rowland Hazard’s decision for Jesus Christ after seeing Dr. Jung.
Dr. Silkworth’s advice to Bill Wilson during his third stay at Towns
Hospital in September 1934 (and to other Silkworth patients) that the Great
Physician, Jesus Christ, could cure them of their alcoholism.
Ebby Thacher’s decision for Jesus Christ at Calvary Mission on November
Bill W’s observation that Ebby Thacher had been born again.
Bill’s visit to Calvary Church about December 6, 1934, to hear Ebby’s
testimony the evening before Bill went to Calvary Mission.
Bill’s thoughts about calling on the Great Physician.
Bill’s blazing “indescribably white light” experience at Towns Hospital
during his fourth and final stay there from December 11 to 18, 1934; and his
belief that he had been in the presence of “the God of the Scriptures.”
Dr. Silkworth’s being a devout Christian; his having been a friend of
Samuel Shoemaker and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale; his having attended Shoemaker’s
church; and his having confirmed that Bill Wilson had insisted on a
“relationship with Jesus Christ” for all the earliest AAs.
Dr. Silkworth’s words when he talked to Bill after the “white light”
Bill’s thorough reading of William James’ book,
The Varieties of
Religious Experience, to learn about other “conversion experiences” in
conjunction with which alcoholics had been cured in rescue missions and other
The respectful viewpoint that Professor William James had expressed in
stating that that these healings by such experiences deserved the attention of
scholars—men of science.
Lois Wilson’s taped interview on June 29, 1953, in Dallas, Texas, in
which she said that Bill had, in all sincerity, gone to the altar at Calvary
Mission and handed his life over to Christ.
Bill’s written statements that he—like his friend Ebby—had “found
religion” at Calvary Mission and had “for sure . . . been born again.”
Bill’s leaving Towns Hospital on December 18, 1934, and feverishly going
to the streets, the hospitals, the flea bag hotels, the missions, and even
Oxford Group meetings with a Bible under his arm and telling drunks that they
needed to give their lives to God and that the Lord had cured him of his
Bill’s repetition of his real experience in the message on page 191 of
the Big Book that “the Lord” had cured him and that he just wanted to keep
talking about it and telling people.
Bill’s statement in the Third edition of the Big Book that, as he
pointed to a copy of the famous painting of Jesus praying in the Garden of
Gethsemane, that the painting showed the solution to alcoholism that the
Clevelander was asking about. Bill simply pointed to Jesus and said, “There it
Silkworth’s real advice to Bill that he needed to hit his prospects hard
with the dire facts about almost certain death or insanity due to excessive
boozing. This was what Silkworth himself had done to Bill and his wife before he
offered them the solution which was turning to God.
Bill had no lasting success in sobering up drunks, before he met Dr. Bob
on May 12, 1935, in Akron, and the two worked together during the late spring
and summer of 1935.
The precise details of what Bill told Dr. Bob about the “Great
Physician,” the “cure,” and service to others in their six hour first visit at
the Seiberling Gate Lodge.
Dr. Walter Tunks, Rector of St. Paul’s Church in Akron, was the pastor
of the Firestone family church; that he had played a big role in helping the
Firestones bring Frank Buchman to Akron in 1933; but that he was not himself an
Oxford Group member.
The well-known statement about “choosing your own conception of God”
attributed to Ebby in the Big Book was not present in the typed, multilith
edition (or so-called “original manuscript”) of the Big Book. And that it was
only added to the “printer’s manuscript” of the Big Book as part of four
handwritten paragraphs inserted into the Big Book during the last moments before
the book was published. (This can be seen very clearly in Hazelden’s title, The Book That Started It All, published in 2010.)
It was not until 1957 that Bill explained to AAs in
Anonymous Comes of Age that, in the original draft of the Twelve Steps, he
had consistently used only the unqualified, unmodified word “God,” and not the
substitute phrases “power greater than ourselves” and “God as we understood
These substitutionary references to “a” god were to be contrasted with
the many times previously that Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker had used them in his
own, well-known writings as descriptions of what Bill had previously called “the
God of the Scriptures.”
The fact that the “popular,” common, contemporary use of the weird
expression “higher power cannot be found in the Bible—from which the basic
ideas of the Twelve Steps came, but were in fact some strange “New Thought”
deity invented by New Thought writers like Ralph Waldo Trine, Emmet Fox, Emanuel
Movement writers, and Professor William James.
There are many
more historical questions that deserve far more research, analysis, and
attention if “the rest of the story” is to be available to recovery programs
designed to help “seemingly-hopeless,” “medical-incurable” alcoholics who still
Dick B.'s son Ken
P.O. Box 262
Tel.: (808) 276-4945
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