heard it before. Early A.A. had
a seventy-five to ninety-three percent
success rate among "medically
incurable" alcoholics who "really
you hear that? In the Big Book!
Third Edition, at pages xx, 11,
307, and DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers,
p. 261. The documentation is not
difficult. The Akron crew appeared
in rosters and pictures. The Cleveland
crew appeared in rosters with names
and addresses. These names are known.
The record is astonishing. And was
astonishing to the medical community
of the day.
probably also read one or more of
the many statements by Bill Wilson
that nobody invented A.A. That all
its ideas were borrowed As Bill
Sees It, p. 57. Now, let's look
at some of the quotes we've all
seen in the Big Book, the Twelve
Steps, and Dr. Bob's comments. You'll
find the quote, the source or sources,
and the documentation with each
First: Big Book, p. 135. Dr. Bob
pointed out many times that this
slogan came from the Sermon on the
Mount, Matthew 6:33 ("But seek
ye first the kingdom of God and
his righteousness; and all these
things shall be added unto you").
See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers,
pp. 144, 192. The slogan is also
mentioned in the Oxford Group books,
Soul Surgery. 6th ed., p. 25; and
Seeking and Finding, p. 17.
at a Time: Again, Dr. Bob pointed
to the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew
6:34 ("Take therefore no thought
[be not anxious] for the morrow:
for the morrow shall take thought
for the things of itself. Sufficient
unto the day is the evil thereof).
See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers,
p. 282; The Good Book and The Big
Book, p. 87.
See the twelve times God Almighty
is referred to as the Creator in
our Big Book (you look them up in
Poe's Concordance, or just dig out
your Third Edition, and go to work).
And see Isaiah 40: 28: "Hast
thou not known? Hast thou not heard,
that the everlasting God, the Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earth,
fainteth not, neither is weary?"
Also, of course, Genesis 1:1!
works is dead: According to Bill
Wilson, early AAs so liked the Book
of James that many favored calling
our society the "James Club."
See Pass it On, p. 147. (You look
up the references to "faith
without works is dead" in the
Big Book. And see James 2:14, 17_18,
20, 22, 26).
neighbor as thyself : Plenty of
references to this one in the Good
Book, but see particularly James
2:8: "If ye fulfill the royal
law according to the scripture,
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as
thyself, ye do well." And Big
Book, p. 153: "Then you will
know what it means to give of yourself
that others may survive and rediscover
life. You will learn the full meaning
of "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
Oh, Oh, there's God Almighty, our
Creator, again. See Psalm 95:6,
"O come, let us worship and
bow down: let us kneel before the
Lord our maker." And Big Book,
p. 57: "He humbly offered himself
to his Maker then he knew."
And page 63: "We were now at
Step Three. Many of us said to our
Maker, as we understood Him: God,
I offer myself to Thee. . ."
be done: Bill and Dr. Bob each said
many times that the Sermon on the
Mount contains the underlying philosophy
of A.A. You should have no trouble
with this source because you hear
it in the Lord's Prayer at the end
of most A.A. meetings. And see Matthew
6:10: "Thy kingdom come. Thy
will be done in earth, as it is
in heaven." See also Big Book,
pp. 67, 88.
is, or He isn't. What was our choice
to be? Sound familiar? Well it was
familiar to AAs and their mentors
too. See Big Book, p. 53: "Either
God is everything or else He is
nothing. God either is, or He isn't.
What was our choice to be?"
In Confident Faith (a book owned
and circulated by Dr. Bob), Rev.
Sam Shoemaker, wrote at p. 187:
"God is, or He isn't. You leap
one way or the other." Sam
Shoemaker and many others writers,
whose books were read by AAs took
that idea from Hebrews 11:6 ("But
without faith, it is impossible
to please him: for he that cometh
to God must believe that he is,
and that he is a rewarder of them
that diligently seek him")
religion: The ranting of an alcoholic
crackpot? That's what Bill thought
when Ebby used the expression (Big
Book, p. 9). But Sam Shoemaker's
disciples used it frequently. See
Children of the Second Birth, pp.
118, 165. But Bill used that same
expression himself in a letter I
found at Stepping Stones when I
was doing my research there. It
apparently was written by Bill to
Dr. Leonard Strong. And the expression
was often used the Oxford Group,
to which Ebby and Bill both belonged.
On: Ever heard that one? It's in
our Big Book at page 94 and is the
title of A.A.'s biography of Bill
Wilson. Frank Buchman, founder of
the Oxford Group, wrote: "The
best way to keep an experience of
Christ is to pass it on." See
Buchman's Remaking the World, p.
Absolutes: Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness,
and Love: That's just Oxford Group
stuff that was abandoned in 1937?
Nope. The Four Absolutes were on
the Masthead of the Cleveland Central
Bulletin in the 1940's for a long
time; and Dr. Bob mentioned them
with praise in his last major address
in 1948. See Dr. BOB and the Good
Oldtimers, pp. 54, 163. Where did
they come from? From Dr. Robert
E. Speer's The Principles of Jesus
(New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1902),
pp. 33_36).Think that's wrong? Here's
what Rev. Sam Shoemaker (whom Bill
called a "co_founder"
of A.A.) wrote How to Become a Christian
at pp. 56_57: "One of the simplest
and best rules for self_examination
that I know is to use the Four Standards
which Dr. Robert E. Speer said represented
the summary of the Sermon on the
Mount- Absolute Honesty, Absolute
Purity, Absolute Unselfishness,
and Absolute Love."
that erring member the tongue: In
his farewell address to AAs, Dr.
Bob said: "Let us also remember
to guard that erring member the
tongue, and if we must use it, let's
use it with kindness and consideration
and tolerance." (See DR. BOB
and the Good Oldtimers, p. 338).
Was that just an expression Dr.
Bob dreamed up in his farewell address?
No! Anne Smith had mentioned taming
the tongue in her journal. And it
came from a major part of Chapter
Three in the Book of James. Here
are a few lines from James 3:1_13:
"Even so the tongue is a little
member and boasteth great things.
Behold, how great a matter a little
fire kindleth! And the tongue is
a fire, a world of iniquity. . .
. Out of the same mouth proceedeth
blessing and cursing. My brethren,
these things ought not to be."
we understood Him: Did this much
misunderstood expression come from
the atheist Jim Burwell? Jim said
so. But Bill Wilson never confirmed
that statement and for good reason.
Long before there was an A.A. fellowship,
Reverend Sam Shoemaker had written:
"So they prayed together, opening
their minds to as much of God as
he understood." (See Children
of the Second Birth, pp. 47 and
25). Sam taught Bill's sponsor Ebby
Thacher and Bill himself. And it
is not surprising that, long before
Jim Burwell got sober, Ebby told
Bill to "Turn my face to God
as I understand Him and say to Him.
. . that I henceforth place my life
at His disposal and direction forever."
(See The Good Book and the Big Book,
pp. 65_66). Bill followed that direction
and said that at Towns Hospital,
long before Jim Burwell got sober,
"I humbly offered myself to
God, as I then understood Him, to
do with me as He would. I placed
myself unreservedly under His care
and direction." (See Big Book,
First Edition, p. 22; Third edition,
p. 13). This simple idea from Sam
Shoemaker was set forth in Anne
Smith's Journal and in Oxford Group
writings: surrender as much of yourself
as you understand to as much of
God as you understand. These people
(Shoemaker, Ebby, Bill, and Anne
Smith) were all referring to our
Creator as they understood Him.
Not a lightbulb, a radiator, or
to God, to ourselves, and to another
being the exact nature of our wrongs:
Initially, it came from James 5:16
"Confess your faults one to
another and pray for one another
that ye may be healed." See
Pass it On, p.128. But the phrase
itself was written by Sam Shoemaker
and also by Dr. Bob's wife, Anne
Smith, in Anne Smith's Journal.
See Anne Smith's Journal. One example
is at page 32: "I must share
to be honest with God, myself &
of lights: AAWS, Inc. spelled it
wrong at page 14 of our Third Edition
in the Big Book ("Father of
Light"). But Bill Wilson spelled
it right his First Edition of the
Big Book, at page 23, though Bill
did like to capitalize references
to God. Bill wrote: "I must
turn in all things to the Father
of Lights who presides over us all."
The name and title come from James
1:17: "Every good gift and
every perfect gift is from above,
and cometh down from the Father
of lights, with whom is no variableness,
neither shadow of turning."
Bill wasn't talking about his psychic
experiences or spiritualism adventures.
Try John 4:24: "God is a Spirit:
and they that worship him must worship
him in spirit and in truth."
was new in sobriety and learning
the Big Book, we used to play a
game where someone would quote a
phrase; and the other person had
to locate it in the Big Book. We
would know a lot more about our
history and sources and words if
we spent less time looking in the
dictionary and instead turning to
the real sources of our basic ideas.
Most come from the Bible. Get acquainted
with accuracy in talking about the
Big Book, the Twelve Steps, and
our Slogans. "Let go and let
God" refers to our Creator,
not Santa Claus. And if you would
like to see many more, look them
up in The Good Book and The Big
Book: A.A.'s Roots in the Bible;
The Oxford Group & Alcoholics
Anonymous: A Design for Living That
Works; and New Light on Alcoholism:
God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. They
can be found on Dick B.'s website
on Alcoholics Anonymous History: