A.A. & the So-called “Original Manuscript”

Many who follow my blogs, articles, books, and talks on real Alcoholics Anonymous history have asked if I have heard of the so-called Alcoholics Anonymous being published by Hazelden. A typical publicity article can be found in the Boorstein article published by The Washington Post.

As a writer, historian, retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and an active and recovered member of the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship, I have devoted 20 years to investigating Alcoholics Anonymous origins, history, founding, original program, astonishing successes and changed. See http://www.dickb.com.

Several remarks are appropriate at this time:

1. The manuscript and its changes are not the “original” manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have many other writings by Bill Wilson that I discovered at his home at Stepping Stones, and it would be far better to describe the document as the printer’s manuscript with all the handwritten changes that, with further changes, went to the printer in 1939. We hope publicists don’t turn this document into some kind of priceless “original.” For example, A.A.’s own publication Pass It On makes it clear that some 400 pages of manuscript material were thrown out before publication. Also Bill Wilson’s “autobiography” now published by Hazelden was found by me at Hazelden and shows Bill had made many other statements about his early recovery including the fact that he had been “born again,” that he had called on the “Great Physician” (Jesus Christ) and had been delivered from his alcoholism by a “white light” experience in which he sensed the presence of God in his hospital room at Towns and declared, “So this is the God of the Scriptures” (as reported in A.A.’s The Language of the Heart.

2. The new published title has immense historical significance–but not that being claimed by the commentators quoted in The Washington Post article. Thus the publicists make statements now established as incorrect. They claim, for example, that Wilson “didn’t attend church.” This distortion ignores my own research which discloses, among others, that Bill and his family attended East Dorset Congregational Church, that the family owned Pew 15 in that church, that Bill attended Sunday School at that church. Bill went on to Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, Vermont. There he regularly attended Manchester Congregational Church, daily chapel at the Academy, and a four-year Bible study course.

3. The new published article ignores Bill Wilson’s decision for Christ at Calvary Rescue Mission after which he wrote that “for sure I was born again.” It ignores his decision to call on the “Great Physician” that Dr. William D. Silkworth had said could cure him–the Great Physician, in Silkworth’s own words, was Jesus Christ. Having made his decision for Jesus Christ at the Calvary Rescue Mission, having received the advice of Silkworth that Jesus Christ could cure him, and having decided–in bis moments of deep depression and despair–to call on the Great Physician. Bill checked into Towns Hospital for the last time, cried out to God for help, sensed the presence of God in his room, observed that “this was the God of the Scriptures,” and had a “white light”–not a “white flash” experience. After this, Wilson never drank again and declared that the Lord had cured him. See Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W. www.dickb.com/conversion.shtml.

4. What the unearthed manuscript does provide for historians is a plain proof of the battle Bill had with three other persons (Hank Parkhurst, John Henry Fitzhugh Mayo, and Secretary Ruth Hock). This is laid out in full in A.A.’s Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age and in context in The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., 2010 (www.dickb.com/christian-recover-guide.shtml).

5. Hazelden has previously published some very important titles that fill in part of the critical history period and contradict the statements of publicists about this latest manuscript. Those are “Bill W.: My First 40 Years;” “Silkworth: The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks;” and “The Lois Wilson Story: When Love is Not Enough.” Since this current publication provides visual evidence, it would have been wise for its publishers to refrain from characterizations at variance with its own previously published accounts, as well as the research of the last 20 years.

6. For those who want to pay $65.00 or such for this piece of history, the new manuscript will be a helpful evidentiary item. For those who want to know the full story of A.A.–including the entire program that was first founded in 1935 in Akron–this will explain the changes in the Big Book made to appease atheists and agnostics. It will not alter the fact that the word “God” and other descriptive pronouns about Him, as well as Biblical descriptions such as “Creator,” “Maker,” “Heavenly Father,” “Father of Light” are permanently embedded in the latest Big Book edition of 2001 and number over 400. God is there. Jesus Christ and the Bible–vital components of the original program in the Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship–have been removed. For Christians in recovery, the real program, plus knowledge of Wilson’s last-minute changes in 1939, simply document the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible have really played in the recovery movement–long before there was an A.A.