while a few people have been critical of Bill W. since his passing in 1971, I knew him personally, helped write Pass It On, and can say that Bill expressed those qualities in his life and work.
I was, in particular, interested in the astonishing spiritual experience Bill had in New York’s Towns Hospital in late 1934. In 1956, I wrote to Bill about it, convinced that this blazing event had really changed Bill’s life in a few seconds and could even be called the real start of AA.
I received a wonderful letter that reflected Bill’s humility as well as his kindness and generosity. He felt that all of us can have spiritual transformations, though usually on a more gradual basis. As for the sudden, blazing type of experience he had undergone, he referred me to a 1901 book titled Cosmic Consciousness, authored by a Canadian psychiatrist named Richard Maurice Bucke. (In May 1976 the AA Grapevine published my article by the same name, which described Cosmic Consciousness and how it related to the founding of AA. Later on, I was able to discuss the subject in other publications.)
Bucke’s book, which went through numerous reprintings, was a study in the evolution of the human mind. He identified three levels of human consciousness, the first being Simple consciousness, which we share with many animals and is really our state in the first months after birth. The next level is Self-consciousness, which sets human beings above the animals and has given us high intelligence, use of tools, and abstract reasoning powers.
Our real destiny, however, is to be transformed by the Cosmic Sense, which will someday become common to all people.