Wednesday, February 29, 2012

History of A.A. - The Four Absolutes - Again!

Alcoholics Anonymous History
A.A. – The Four Absolutes –The Facts Again!
Dick B.
© 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved.

The “Four Absolutes” of A.A. were cherished “yardsticks” in earliest A.A.—standards for determining right behavior as measured through God’s eyes. And A.A.’s Co-founder Dr. Bob made that clear.[1] The Four Absolutes were Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness, and Love.

Robert E. Speer: The time-line for the recovery origins of these principles begins with Presbyterian missionary leader Robert E. Speer. In 1902, Speer published The Principles of Jesus.[2] Chapter 6 was titled “Jesus and Standards.”[3] And Speer there spelled out “some” moral principles that could be applied to determine and practice what was “right or wrong.” Speer said the teachings of Jesus set up absolute principles which didn’t allow men to measure their conduct by what they “thought” was right or wrong. Jesus, he said, enabled men to have absolute standards of conduct by which they were able to “know whether it is right or wrong, drag it into Jesus’ presence, and see how He looks at it, and how it looks to Him.”[4] Some have erroneously stated that Speer fashioned the four standards from the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 to 7). But his citations were much more broad. Speer said that Jesus taught in a practical way in order to make people understand, and the illustrations Jesus used were themselves such as to make some principle perfectly clear. The teachings set up standards (Mark 9:33; Matt. 5:34, 37; 6:16; Mark 7:15; Luke 9:60). Perfection was his standard (Matt. 5:48). He had attained it (John 8:29). He demanded it. Right is to be right. Thinking it right or thinking it wrong does not make a thing right or wrong. Jesus, said Speer, set up an absolute standard of truth. He said, if God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:42-44). Jesus set up an absolute standard of unselfishness. Speer pointed to Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but  to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Jesus set up an absolute standard or purity. He tolerated no uncleanness whatsoever. . . . A hand or an eye, outer or inner sin, must be sacrificed to the claims of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:29, 30). Jesus set up an absolute standard of love. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34),

Henry B. Wright: Next in line comes Yale’s Professor Henry B. Wright. And in 1909, Wright published The Will of God and a Man’s Lifework.[5] Wright devoted this teaching to the relation of the act of surrender of self in doing God’s will. He contended that willingness to do God’s will is a necessary condition for knowledge of it. He pointed to the Bible and Nature as the parts of God’s will that every one may know.[6] Wright emphasized that God reveals His Universal Will for the world in Jesus, the Living Word, and in the Bible, the Written Word.[7] Then he asked if there were “absolute standards of right and wrong; how Jesus found out the particular will of God for himself, and said Jesus “always did the things which were pleasing to God.” Citing Scripture, Wright pointed to verses in the Bible dealing with purity (Matthew 5:29), unselfishness (Luke 14:33); honesty (Luke 16:11), and love (John 15:2). Wright explained that Jesus was sure of God’s presence and guidance; and Wright reconstructed the “absolute standards of right and wrong” from the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. Wright quoted Robert E. Speer as follows:

Mr. Robert E. Speer has reconstructed from the teaching of Jesus the four standards in regard to which he never allowed himself an exception and with reference to which his teaching is absolute and unyielding. Jesus gives us no direct teaching in regard to such things as smoking, drinking, card playing, theatre, dancing, etc. He recognized that some men could decide one way and others just the opposite on like questions and yet both sides be true Christians. But in regard to four things there was no such option. A man must be pure, he must be honest, he must be unselfish, he must express himself in deeds of love or else he cannot see the kingdom of God. There is no exception to be made on these four counts.[8]

Having discussed many relevant verses applicable to the “Universal Will of God,” Wright then explained that God also has a Particular Will for each individual man, He suggested it rested on the “Fourfold Touchstone of Jesus and the Apostles.” He suggested, as to the four touchstones, that there be a test of Purity, Honesty, Unselfishness, and Love. He said that obedience provided the assurance as to one’s duty and power to achieve results. Wright illustrated:

To every problem, great or small, which presents itself in a small matter like one’s bearing in a game of sport, in a large matter like the choice of a life career, the Christian who is absolutely surrendered to God asks himself this question: “Is the step which I had planned to take an absolutely pure one? Is it an absolutely honest one? Is it the most unselfish one? Is it the fullest possible expression of my love? If it fails to measure up to any one of these four standards it cannot be God’s will and I must not take it, no matter what the refusal may cost me in suffering, mental or physical. As he holds his instrument of apprehension, the human will, resolutely to this standard, the Christian is conscious of its becoming strong both to know and to do God’s will and there comes the undoubted, the compelling conviction which guides and impels him forward. . . . The mysterious meeting place in the prepared and willing heart between the human and divine where precisely the will is finally moved into line with God’s of these things knoweth no man, save only the spirit of God.[9]

Discussing each of the four “absolutes” in turn, and using purity as the first, he proposed the following: “Is the step which I had planned to take an absolutely pure one? If it is not, it cannot be God’s will for that life.” And as to each of the four absolute standards, Wright would thus look at the question in terms of purity versus impurity, and then cite applicable Bible verses that provided definitions of God’s will, for example, as to fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, adultery. Furthermore, each absolute—purity, unselfishness, honesty, and love—was to be related to the other three so that if something were deemed pure, it must also be absolutely unselfish, absolutely honest, and absolutely an act of love.

Frank N. D. Buchman and the Oxford Group:
The Oxford Group’s Four Absolutes can be found in the speeches of its founder Frank Buchman.[10] They can also be found in books about Buchman, descriptions of Oxford Group principles, in Rev. Sam Shoemaker’s writings, in A.A. General Services Conference-approved books discussing the Oxford Group, in Anne Smith’s writings, and in some Oxford Groups today.[11] As stated, the historical chain begins with Robert E. Speer. Speer’s discussion and cited verses were expanded by Henry B. Wright. And, according to Oxford Group activist and long-time employee T. Willard Hunter, Henry B. Wright was the most influential force in Frank Buchman’s life, other than Buchman’s mother. Buchman’s biographer Garth Lean explained:

The moral standards which he [Buchman] used as a test of directing thoughts also became central to Buchman’s life and teaching: he took them as measuring rods for daily living. Here again he was indebted to Henry Wright. “The absolutes” had originally been set out, as a summary of Christ’s moral teaching, by Robert E. Speer in his book, The Principles of Jesus. Buchman had several times heard Speer preach at Mount Airy, but it was in Wright’s book that he first found the summarized standards “in regards of which,” Wright maintained, “Christ’s teaching is absolute and unyielding.” Wright defined them as “the four-fold touchstone of Jesus and the apostles” and maintained that an individual could apply them “to every problem, great or small which presents itself . . . if (anything) fails to measure up to any one of these four it cannot be God’s will.”[12]

Reverend Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. became a colleague of Frank Buchman’s in the earliest 1920’s. He was called in 1925 to be rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York. He shortly became the Oxford Group’s most prolific author, Frank Buchman’s chief lieutenant in the United States, and actually provided space in Calvary House (adjacent to the church) for the Oxford Group’s American headquarters where Buchman himself lived when he was in the United States. Shoemaker also became a close friend of Bill Wilson, taught Wilson most of the spiritual principles that were embodied in the Twelve Steps, and was dubbed a “cofounder of A.A.” by Wilson himself.[13] Wilson actually asked Shoemaker to write the 12 Steps, but Sam declined, saying they should be   written by an alcoholic, namely Bill.

But Shoemaker did write extensively on the importance of the Four Absolutes.[14] And the following is indicative of his view:

We must get to the point of whether the man is “willing to do his will” in all areas. Take the four standards of Christ: absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love. When people’s lives are wrong, they are usually wrong on one or more of these standards. . . . By our own frank honesty about ourselves and our willingness, under God as He guides, to share anything in our own experience that will help the other person, and by the willingness to ask God-inspired questions of them that carry the matter right down to the roots, we shall get deep enough to know the real problems . . . . If the person is honest with himself and with God, he will be honest with us and be ready to take the next step, which is a decision to surrender these sins, with himself, wholly to God.[15]

Early A.A.: In a few words, we can summarize how the Four Absolutes were handled in early Alcoholics Anonymous.

Bill Wilson: Wilson was actively involved in Oxford Group activities from late 1934 through August, 1937. He and his wife attended many meetings, attended Oxford Group house parties, and met Frank Buchman and Rev. Shoemaker and other leaders such as Rev. W. Irving Harris and his wife Julia. Bill himself was much involved in an Oxford Group team in late 1935 and early 1936. Bill said he had heard plenty about the Four Absolutes. However, his wife Lois claimed, the “Oxford Group kind of kicked us out [because] she and Bill were not considered ‘maximum’ by the groupers.”[16] By October 30, 1940, Bill said: “I am always glad to say privately that some of the Oxford Group presentation and emphasis upon the Christian message saved my life. Yet it is equally true that other attitudes of the O.G. nearly got me drunk again, and we long since discovered that if we were to approach alcoholics successfully, these [attitudes] would have to be abandoned.” [17] He wrote a laundry list of 8 criticisms of the Oxford Group, including a condemnation of the four absolutes, saying “when the word ‘absolute’ was put in front of these attributes, they either turned people away by the hundreds or gave a temporary spiritual inflation resulting in collapse.”[18] Despite these remarks, Wilson did another turnabout. According to one historian, Wilson wrote in 1960:

In the old days of the Oxford Groups, they were forever talking about the Four Absolutes—Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness, and Love—trying to get too good by Thursday. . . . Absolutes in themselves are not necessarily destructive. Every sound theological system contains them. When we say that our destiny is to grow in the likeness and image of God, we are stating a healthy relation between a relative and an absolute state of affairs. Therefore when writing the Twelve Steps, it was necessary to include some sort of absolute value or else they wouldn’t have been theologically sound. . . . That could have been unfortunate and as misleading as we found them in the Oxford Group emphasis. So in Steps Six and Seven, and in the use of the word God, we did include them.[19]

Dr. Bob Smith: His position was and remained the opposite of Bill’s. In his last major address to AAs, Dr. Bob said:

The four absolutes, as we called them, were the only yardsticks we had in the early days, before the Steps. I think the absolutes still hold good and can be extremely helpful. I have found at times that a question arises, and I want to do the right thing, but the answer is not obvious. Almost always, if I measure my decision carefully by the yardsticks of absolute honesty, absolute unselfishness, absolute purity, and absolute love, and it checks up pretty well with those four, then my answer can’t be very far out of the way.[20]

Dr. Bob’s wife Anne Ripley Smith: In her journal from which she shared with early AAs and their families, Anne spoke repeatedly about how to apply the four standards. She said:

Test your thoughts. It is possible to receive suggestions from your subconscious mind. Check your thoughts by the four standards. . . . Make the moral test. 4 standards. . . . Basis of an interview. Is a challenge on the four standards. . . .  Why I had been absolutely honest but not living. . . . Follow Christ’s absolute commandment. . . .  Absolute honesty demands that we no longer wear a mask. . . . Sharing. . . It is being honest even after it hurts. . . . Every time we register aloud the new attitude and change of heart with absolute honesty, another bridge is burned behind us and another stake is driven in to mark our progress. . . . Check your life constantly by the four absolutes.[21]

Clarence H. Snyder who founded Cleveland A.A.: Many might conclude that when Clarence Snyder (who got sober in February, 1938, and remained sober until his death years later) founded Alcoholics Anonymous in Cleveland, Ohio, he took the best of A.A. there. The best at that time! He embraced the Bible, the Four Absolutes, the Big Book, and the Twelve Steps. AAs achieved a 93% success rate.[22] Clarence said:

New people were told they had to read the Bible—The King James Version of the Bible. They were instructed to do this on a daily basis. Clarence said that newcomers were also told to read The Upper Room and to read the Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox. Clarence said the new people were then instructed on the Four Standards. These were the Biblical principles the Oxford Group people had taken from the teachings of Jesus Christ found in the Bible. These “Four Standards” were also called the “Four Absolutes”—Absolute Honesty, Unselfishness, Love and Purity.[23]

Clarence frequently took newcomers through the newly written Twelve Steps in two days time. He wrote a pamphlet on going through the Steps to guide them.[24]

What Happened to the Four Absolutes?

Bill Wilson framed the “moral inventory” items in Step Four. In that Step and in Steps Ten and Eleven, he proposed testing conduct for resentment, fears, selfishness, and harms done to others. He also claimed that the A.A. program called for grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.[25] The Absolutes, as such, simply vanished from the Big Book program of recovery. What can be said is that those, like myself, who have visited A.A. meetings and members all over the United States and reviewed thousands of pieces of A.A. literature, frequently encounter mention of the Four Absolutes, especially among those who have great respect and affection for Dr. Bob or Clarence Snyder. However, the idea of relating each of the standards to a teaching of Jesus has usually been replaced by pamphlets or discussions of what, in the opinion of the particular writer, constitutes conduct consistent with this or that absolute. Also, the writers and speakers often omit the critical part of the Four Absolute tests. Those applying them were also to look to God and His Word for illustration and understanding and also to ask God for the wisdom in applying them to proposed action (James 1:5-8).

Gloria Deo

[1] The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1972, 1975), 17.
[2] Robert E. Speer, The Principals of Jesus: Applied to Some Questions of To-Day (New York: Association Press, 1902).
[3] Speer, The Principles of Jesus, 33-36.
[4] Speer, The Principles of Jesus, 33.
[5] Henry B. Wright, The Will of God and a Man’s Lifework (NY:  Association Press, 1924). Copyrighted in 1909 by The International Committee of Young Men’s Christian Associations.
[6] Wright, The Will of God, 135.
[7] Wright, The Will of God, 138.
[8] Wright, The Will of God, 169.
[9] Wright, The Will of God, 173-74.
[10] Frank N. D. Buchman, Remaking the World (London: Blandford Press, 1961), 36, 40, 96, 131.
[11] For a thorough review of these statements, the supporting bibliography, and a discussion of the Oxford Group and the Four Absolutes, see Dick B., The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous: A Design for Living That Works New Rev. ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1998), 237-46.
[12] Garth Lean, Frank Buchman: A Life (London: Constable, 1985), 76
[13] These statements are documented and thoroughly discussed in Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. Pittsburgh ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1999).
[14] Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism, 55, 56, 97, 98, 101, 107-09, 117, 142-43, 159, 167, 234-35, 239, 241-42, 312, 314, 393, 414, 419-20, 432-33, 455, 462, 523,
[15] Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., The Church Can Save The World (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1938), 110-14; Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism, 56-57.
[16] Pass It On, 174.
[17] Pass It On, 171.
[18] Pass It On, 172-73.
[19] Ernest Kurtz, Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous.(Center City, MN: Hazelden, 1979), 242-43.
[20] The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches: Their Last Major Talks (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1972, 1975), 17.
[21] Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939:A.A.’s Principles of Success.3rd ed, (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1998), 32-33.
[22] Mitchell K., How It Worked: The Story of Clarence H. Snyder and The Early Days of Alcoholics Anonymous in Cleveland, Ohio (Washingtonville, NY: AA Big Book Study Group, 1997), 108.
[23] Mitchell K., How It Worked,, 69.
[24] Mitchell K., How It Worked, 240-44.
[25] Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed. (NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001), 28.

Dick B.
P.O. Box 837
Kihei, Hawaii
Ph/fax: (808)874-4876

© 1999-2012
Paradise Research
Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.

Trademarks and Disclaimer: ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS®, A.A.®, and Big Book® are registered trademarks of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Dick B.'s web site, Paradise Research Publications, Inc., and Good Book Publishing Company are neither endorsed nor approved by nor associated or affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Big Book Seminar

A Big Book Seminar

What It Did and What It Still Can Do

Dick B.

Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved

My Joe and Charlie Sacramento Beginning

There was a guy named Tony who showed  up at all the Beginner’s Meetings on Friday in Larkspur. He was one of the first to hand me his card and phone number when I came in. He sponsored a number of my newcomer friends, and he always had them sitting in the front row with Big Books open throughout the meeting. They were serious. They were sober. And they stayed sober and began sponsoring others. One of those great examples I had at the beginning.

But then there was the matter of the Big Book:

Tony always had his sponsees come to his home on Sunday and read the Big Book with him. Neither my sponsor nor his sponsor ever even offered to do that. Tony knew how to take people through the Twelve Steps, and you could tell it from the relevant points they shared. My sponsor and his sponsor never explained to me once how to take the Steps. And I went to Big Book study after Big Book study meeting, and Step meeting after Step meeting, and—with my fuzzy brain and confused thinking, I was a poor example of how the learn and apply the solution of A.A.

One evening, Tony came to the Beginner’s Meeting. He announced that there was a Big Book Seminar in Sacramento; and he said this seminar was a “must” for those who wanted to learn the program of recovery. I went. I sat in front. My book was open. I heard Frank Mauser, archivist from General Services in New York give an hour talk on A.A. history. And then I followed Joe McQuany and Charlie Parmley line by line through the Big Book. And the light went on.

In fact, as the years rolled on, I insisted that each of my sponsees go to Sacramento in September and attend the Big Book Seminar. Usually there were about 800 in attendance. As I did with every function involving my sponsees and meetings, I was always there, and they were staying in a motel with me throughout the sessions. The same was true for Tony and his ever-flowing tide of eager newcomers.

What Came of It?

I learned what to look for in the “problem,” in the “solution,” and in the “practical program of action” that in all made up the program of recovery through the Steps. So did the men I sponsored. And they passed on to their newcomers the same information. I might add that neither my own sponsor nor his sponsor ever attended these events.

I became a good friend of the GSO archivist Frank Mauser. He introduced me to Joe and Charlie. I became good friends with all three and actually met with Joe in Little Rock twice and at Founders Day once where we discussed the history, the Big Book, the Steps, God, the Bible, prayer, and recovery. Later, Frank said he could no longer do the history segment and suggested that I take over his slot at the seminars—something that never happened because the “voice” of the Seminar” decided he wanted the task. However, I was hot on the history trail by then. Frank invited me to stay in his apartment while I was meeting Nell Wing, researching at World Services headquarters, and going up to Bedford Hills to research at Stepping Stones. Frank facilitated it all. Nell Wing was very helpful. And Frank even put me in touch with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, with whom I met. And he suggested T. Willard Hunter as a speaker and as a friend of A.A. thoroughly knowledgeable of A.A.’s Oxford Group roots.

What’s The Important Lesson?

At this point, my four friends are dead. I believe Frank died first. Then Nell. Then Joe. And finally Charlie. But in my own life, all four had sown the seeds that produced a deep conviction that there were at least three deep holes in A.A. as I inherited its benefactions on April 23, 1986.

The first hole was the need for those who were not merely serious about permanent sobriety, but also realized that the Big Book suggested much more: (a) The need to “find” God. (b) The need to establish a relationship with God. (c) The need to see what Bill and Bob saw in the book they authorized in 1939—the need for a “spiritual experience” that would enable permanent cure and a live of service to God and those about us. This could not be done without a good teacher or teachers with clear minds who—like Joe and Charlie—had thoroughly studied the Big Book, achieved long term sobriety, and had the clarity of mind to teach others with laughter, sincerity, and effectiveness.

The second hole was one that both Joe and Charlie—as well as Frank Mauser and Nell Wing—urged me to pursue and encouraged me by their help and suggestions. That hole was the huge gap in the history of A.A. and the sources and application of its biblical roots.

The third hole was the greatest and most overlooked. Nobody seemed to have spent any significant time finding out where the biblical and other Christian ideas so prominent in early A.A. had come from. They never talked about: (1) The great Christian evangelists like Moody, Meyer, Sankey, and Billy Sunday. (2) The important conversions and revivals conducted by lay brethren of the Young Men’s Christian Association. (3) The key elements of the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by those derelicts and drunks – like Ebby Thacher and Bill Wilson—who had gone to the altar and been born again. (4) The unique exemplary techniques of the early Salvation Army workers in the slums of London and then America. (5) The program of the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor—whose principles and practices became those of the early Akron A.A. program. Nor had anyone devoted time to seeing how the foregoing Christian organizations and people—plus the Christian churches, Sunday schools, parental influences, prayer meetings, Bible studies, daily chapel, and the  Young Men’s Christian Association as well as the revivals had impacted on the Christian upbringing of Dr. Bob. Finally nobody seemed to pick up on the fact that the first three AAs—Wilson, Smith, and Bill Dotson—all believed in God, had accepted Christ, had studied the Bible, had turned to God for help, had immediately learned to get busy helping others, and who never, ever drank again. All this before there was a Big Book. Before there were Twelve Steps or Twelve Traditions, Before there were drunkalogs. And before there were meetings of the kind that exist today.

What’s the Future for the Big Book, the History, and the Bible in Recovery?

It is fair to say that every alcoholic or addict (and Bill W. and Dr. Bob were both alcoholics and addicts) needs permanently to quit pursuing and trying to control alcohol and drug use. Forever! With a sane mind restored, why would they want them or the disasters they bring. They don’t need them. They don’t need the misery created for themselves and others through the excessive use of them. And their lives, entrusted to and guided by the power, love, forgiveness and deliverance of God and His Son Jesus Christ, hold promise of an abundant life and an everlasting life. That’s the starting point – going to any lengths to overcome the alcoholism and addiction.

The Big Book is filled with biblical references that most AAs would never recognize. It is filled with language that encourages reliance on God, prayer, study, and helping others. To stand on sound ground, the oldtimers need to learn and teach that language. And the newcomers need to hear it repeated, learn it, and act on it. Without that foundation, the retreat to “acceptance,” “spirituality,” nonsense gods, and even not-god-ness. They just don’t know their own Big Book.

The history? Few realize what a devilish battering ram has been propelled at alcoholics. It is pushed by a wide and diverse group of enemies. Christians who think that A.A. is not of the Lord. Who think you will go to hell if you enter an A.A. meeting. And who condemn any Christian who dares set foot in a room peopled with atheists, unbelievers, those with other religious or no religious beliefs. No matter that this diverse group of suffering people need help and, at the beginning, gladly receive it whether tendered by Christians or former derelicts.

The anti-AA hostility is pushed by those who try to paint the fellowship as ungodly, unchristian, and unworthy because of the sins of its cofounders and others. The anti—AA hostility today is motivated by men and women of science, of proponents of First Amendment prohibitions, of psychiatric and pharmaceutical approaches, and by “rational” recovery—recovery without God.

Then there are the AAs themselves who cry out against the mention of God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and of some denominational belief.

The Bible? People just don’t know the biblical practices that have helped suffering people for centuries, that were employed by Christians in the 1800’s, and that were commonplace in the early A.A. fellowship

The Future and The Hope Can Be Embellished by Big Book Seminars

As stated, Joe and Charlie were teachers. Frank Mauser, the archivist, was both historian and teacher. Joe and Charlie insisted on line by line study. They salted it with humor and sagacity.

They had done their homework and preparation. They had long-term sobriety. And they loved A.A. and its program of recovery. Their talk exuded confidence in the subject matter.

Today, there are a host of Big Book studies, groups, and seminars. I receive their literature, their email notices, and their website materials with great frequency.

Are they valuable?

They, of course, are no better than the wisdom, teaching ability, experience, and attention to detail of those who conduct them. Like A.A. itself, they are becoming more and more available.

And, even if badly organized, presented, or taught, they at least get newcomer and oldtimer alike to put his eyes on the Big Book, use his growing return of mental capacity, and distinguish between the sluggard and the grey beard. If it’s bad, he can vote with his feet. If it’s fair, he can improve it. If it’s good, he can foster attendance at it.

Is there a future? Yes. I needed help in the 1980’s, and I sure got it at the Big Book Seminars conducted by the two drunks from the State of Arkansas. God Bless them. And God bless those who try to emulate their achievements, perhaps even improve on them, today.

Gloria Deo

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What Dr. Bob said about prayer, cure, Jesus Christ, Bible and God

A.A., Religion, "Your Faith" 1939 Interview of Dr. Bob

[This is the "Faith" article which A.A. literature had said was lost. AAs speculated that Dr. Bob wrote the article. He didn't. He was interviewed by Defoe in September 1939 for "Your Faith" Magazine. And the interview disappeared from view for years and years as far as AAs were concerned. Yet in the interview, Dr. Bob told how he read the Bible with patients. He told how they came to trust God. He told how he had been cured by prayer. He spoke about the healings of Jesus Christ. And he was talking about the many drunkards whom he had been able to help once he himself prayed, turned to God for help, and was cured--a priceless article free of the editing and revision of others who might have doubted!]

I Saw Religion Remake A Drunkard
by D.J. Defoe
September 1939 "Your Faith" Magazine, page 84

Through Liquor, this physician had lost his practice, his reputation and his self-respect. Then one night in a gathering in a private home, he found the way of escape.

WHEN a doctor starts drinking, he's usually on the skids for keeps. His profession gives him so much privacy, so great exposure to temptation both from liquor and from drugs, and his need of a stimulant to lift him from depression becomes so extreme, that many a good doctor has dropped into oblivion for no cause other than his own thirst for drink.

I could tell you about more than one doctor who came to no good end through liquor. Their stories are alike in their early furtiveness, then a brazen attitude of liquor - might -do-things-to some-men - but - I'm-different, then a broken desperation to try to keep up appearances and pretend nothing has happened, and finally exposure—and failure—and disgrace. One brilliant ex-surgeon a suicide; another exile from home; two others forgotten by their friends; so runs the history.
But Dr. X handled his liquor problem differently. He came close enough to degradation to see how the jaws of hell reaching out for him. But then something interfered and saved him.

Today Dr. X—and I dare not give his name, or even the name of the city, for reasons you will soon discover—is alive and happy and is probably a better and more popular doctor than ever before. What saved his life and reputation? What force made him into a new man?

It was simply religion, brought home to him in a way he could use it. Simply the new habit of living his religion, and the discovery that he could utilize the power of prayer.

We used to see Dr. X around a lot. He was cheery, straightforward, friendly, and successful. His field was a particularly intricate form of surgery and he did well at it.

Then for quite a while we missed him. I saw his wife now and then, and noticed—even a man can things like that—that she seemed a little shabby and not especially happy.

We began to hear ugly rumors. That's bad for any doctor. We heard he was losing his practice. When a doctor begins drinking, not many people are willing to trust their own lives to his skill with a knife.

Last year I met Dr. X for the first time in several years. He was a new Dr. X. Straight as an Indian. Clean eyes. An honest I-can-lick-the-world look in his face. He gripped my hand in a vise and said hello in a way that gave you something to tie to.

We were at a party. Someone offered Dr. X a drink. Then I remembered what had happened to him and wondered what he would do.

"I don't drink," he said evenly. "Some men can take a drink, or two drinks, and stop. I can't. I had that ability once, but not now. If I'd take as much as a swallow of alcohol now, I'd disappear—and you wouldn't see me for three weeks."

From him and from others I got his whole story, a bit here, a bit there. Here it is.

He had been drinking for longer than anyone but his wife suspected. For a while he was able to keep the matter a secret. But he missed a couple of appointments and got into some trouble. First his competitors knew it. Then his friends around the hospital got wise. Finally even his oldest patients began to leave him.

He had always been dignified and aloof, and when he was straight you hesitated to go up to him and tell him he was drinking too much. Usually he drank alone, silently, hungrily, in a sodden fashion of one who wants to forget. Just a deadly, steady sopping up of the poison. It was ghastly. In his saner moments he must have known the way he was headed. But a stubborn pride—and pride of that sort in a wayward person is a terrible thing—held him from seeking help.

Finally a friend he trusted got him to attend a little meeting in a living room one evening. It was a simple affair. Not dress-up at all. Here was a factory foreman who looked happier than almost anybody in town. When the time came to talk he told how he had been cured of drunkenness by prayer. His wife told how unbelievably happy their life was now. They didn't have much money—you could see that—but they had something that money alone had never brought them. They had love, and self-respect, and they had each other.

Dr. X was surprised to find that everyone in this little group had some sort of a fight to make, and had won. He began to look at these people in a new way. They had been weak and now they were strong. Unconsciously he began to envy them.

He surprised himself by starting to say something. He admitted he had a tremendous hunger for liquor, and sometimes it got him down. He found that just merely talking about his trouble seemed to bring relief. As long as you conceal your difficulties, no one can help you. But once you bring your trouble out in the open, you can invite help and encouragement from friends. And you can benefit by the strengthening power of prayer.

Merely getting on his knees and asking for help wasn't the whole story of Dr. X's reformation. Many a drunk knows there's a wide difference between promising to go straight and sticking to it!

What enabled him to hold fast to his resolution was the discovery that he, who had just started to climb back to sobriety and respectability, had the ability to help other desperate and disheartened drunks to live decent lives too.

In fact, that's a big part of the cure. When Dr. X gets an inebriate started on a new life of decency, he sees to it that the man gets on his feet now and then and talks to other people in the same predicament. Telling yourself and the world that you're going to go straight helps you to remind your subconscious mind that you are going straight.

There have been a lot of ex-drunks that have come within Dr. X's influence since that fateful night he was turned back from a drunkard's grave. Forty-three of them, no less, owe their new lives to him. He'll leave a party or a dinner, almost leave an operation, to go and sit up all night with some drunk he probably never saw before but who he knows needs help.

He has worked out a little system. Usually he puts the drunk to bed in a hospital, where he can sleep off his liquor quietly but can't get any more. There the sick man—for a drunk really is a sick man—receives regular care, and hot meals, and also some measure of discipline and restraint. There he has privacy, and time to think.

"But you can't do much for a man until he hits bottom and bounces back up, can you?" I asked.
"A man doesn't necessarily have to hit bottom, but he has to come close enough to it to see where he's going if he doesn't stop drinking," replied Dr. X quietly. "And he's got to want to be helped before we can do much with him or for him"

When a drunk in the hospital starts to sober up, Dr. X closes the door and starts to talk to him.
"I know where you hide your bottles," he'll say. "I know every sneaky little thing you do to get liquor

when you're not supposed to have any. I've been there myself. And I want to tell you, my fine young friend, it's getting you nowhere. You're rotten. You're ashamed of yourself. Now let's do something about it."

So there in that white, silent hospital room they read the Bible together. Then they pray. Very simply. First the Doctor, then, falteringly, the man himself. He finds his voice gains in confidence. He finds it is easy to talk to God, and talk out loud. He finds a huge load is lifted off his chest. He begins to feel he could hold his head up again. He gets a fresh look at the man he might be. The whole idea becomes real and feasible to him. He becomes enthusiastic and eager about going straight. He promises to read the Bible, and Dr. X leaves him.

Then, like as not, the sick man slips up, and badly. Success is not that easy. Those nerves that have been accustomed to bossing the mind and the body can't be straightened out without a last tough fight. The patient begs for just one more last little drink, and when the nurse refuses, he is angry at Dr. X and may storm about and threaten to go home. Fortunately, the foresighted Dr. X had carefully removed the patient's pants and shoes and locked them up in his own locker in the surgeons' room of the hospital.

And then, because he knows the fight the sick man is going through, Dr. X comes back in time to bring new comfort and new cheer and to again call forth the searching and ever-available help of prayer. And in a couple of weeks the man, rested and refreshed and with the eyes alight as a result of decent living, goes home to his friends and his family that had almost given him up for dead.
"No, I don't dare let you tell about this," Dr. X said to me when I asked him for a signed interview.

"We can't publicize these cures. These men are outside the realm of every day medicine. They have tried everything and been given up as hopeless. We don't succeed every time ourselves. We can't brag. Every case is a new battle."

"But if word got out that we can do anything at all for a drunk, then derelicts would come into this town by the TRAINLOAD. We couldn't handle them. We couldn't handle a dozen. Two is a lot. One at a time is plenty. I can't talk to one of these fellows for more than an hour or two without feeling spent and tired, unless I talk like a parrot, and talking like a parrot wouldn't do them any good".
"Do you remember when Christ turned around in the crowd and asked, 'Who touched me?' and some woman confessed she had touched his robe because she wanted to be cured? Christ felt some of his power pass out from him at that touch. It's the same way with helping people. You're giving something. It tires you.

"We fellows who are doing this sort of thing feel we have hold of something, but we don't dare use our names in connection with it. Look up the new book, Alcoholics, Anonymous which we helped write. We studied around for a long while to find how we could tell our story without using our names. That book was the answer. It tells some actual stories—my own among them—but no names are given. Even the publisher doesn't know our names."

"But Dr. X," I insisted, "Why not let these drunks pay you something for what you do for them? After all, they have been a burden to their friends. You put them back where they can earn a living again and live a decent life. You deserve any kind of fee you want to charge."

"No, we can't commercialize the idea," the doctor said firmly but kindly. "That would spoil everything. We've got to keep our work as a gift to anyone we are able to help.

"Moreover, I'm not sure we could set up a sanitarium and cure people effectively in any wholesale manner. I'm convinced this idea has to grow, one cure at a time."

I tried to argue still further. "But Christ was willing to let folks invite him in for supper and the night," I suggested. "You and your wife have food to buy, and rent to pay, and overhead expenses in the way of taxes and insurance and shoes for your daughter. It's your own fault if you don't let these reformed drunks help pay their own way."

"I'm satisfied," he said with a quiet smile that permitted no debate. "My wife and I are happier than we have ever been in our lives. We can keep going very nicely as long as I get a few operations from time to time, as I am doing. I'm doing a good job of living, and am happy," he ended.

Then he handed me this final thought. "I have found that no one can be permanently happy unless he lives in harmony with the rules set down in the Good Book," he said. "Try it some time! You don't need to wait till you're down and out before you ask for help. There's help waiting for you right now, if you just ask God to help you."
† † †
The gifts of friendship have only the value that
friendship gives them.—The Advance.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

First Century Christianity in the Recovery Arena Today

A First Century Christian Fellowship

Major Sources for Observing Early A.A.’s Apostolic Principles, Practices, and Resemblance to First Century Christianity at Work

Dick B.

Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved

A Common Observation About Old School Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous History: A.A. cofounder Dr. Bob called the Akron A.A. Group Number One – founded on July 4, 1935 – a Christian Fellowship (DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers,

Of the five Rockefeller people—including John D. Rockefeller, Jr—who met the early AAs, listened to Dr. William Silkworth, and read the report that Frank Amos had given to them, all said something to the effect, “Why this is First Century Christianity at work. What can we do to help?” And they did help.

But long before that. Evangelists were telling New Englanders and the world how the Apostles not only found salvation, but taught and lived Christianity—healing drunks, addicts, and derelicts along the way.

And then there were the early Oxford Group and its earlier period American sparkplug Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. Bill Wilson called Shoemaker a cofounder of A.A. Bill discussed the proposed Big Book and Step contents with Shoemaker. He even asked Sam to write the 12 Steps, and Sam humbly declined. But the very language of the 12 Steps paralleled Sam’s teachings—teaching founded on the very basic ideas in the Bible that Dr. Bob said were the foundations for the Steps.

Shoemaker and many early Oxford Group people called their life-changing group and groups “A First Century Christian Fellowship” and defined what that phrase meant to them and their groups.

“A First Century Christian Fellowship”

Here are some of the ways early A.A.’s associated predecessor Group described their personal work with others,

In his popular book, Life Changers, Harold Begbie (who had written Twice Born Men and much more about General William Booth and the Salvation Army) described the Group this way:

Above all, the Group was a Fellowship—a first-Century Christian Fellowship controlled by the Holy Spirit. (Dick B., The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 31)

We discuss and cite precise sources for the following statements:

. . . Frank Buchman’s formation of what he and his friends called “A First Century Christian Fellowship.” Buchman had said, “It is an attempt to get back to the beliefs and methods of the Apostles.” He said, “We not only accept their beliefs, but also decided to practice their methods” (The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 286)

In Life Changers, author Begbie also wrote:

            Harold Begbie, Life Changers

Chapter title: “Beau Ideal”

Page 121:

Since those words were written he [who?] has paid a visit to the United States in company with F. B., . . .

Page 122:

In his last letter written from America he tells me that he is entering with others into “A First Century Christian Fellowship,” explaining that they wish to get back to the type of Christianity which was maintained by the apostles“We not only accept their beliefs, but are also decided to practice their methods.”


He announces in detail the elemental beliefs of a First Century Christianity. He believes in:

The possibility of immediate and continued fellowship with the Holy Spiritguidance.

                The proclamation of a redemptive gospelpersonal, social, and national salvation.

The possession of fullness of liferebirth, and an ever-increasing power and wisdom.

The propagation of their life by individuals to individualspersonal religion.

                Out of these beliefs proceeds the method of propagation:

Love for the sinner.

Hatred of the sin.

Fearless dealing with sin.

The presentation of Christ as the cure for sin.

The sharing and giving of self, with and for others.

“We are more concerned,” he writes, “with testifying to real experiences, explicable only on the hypothesis that God’s power has brought them to

Page 123:

Pass, through Christ, than with teaching an abstract ethical doctrine.”

Rev. Samuel Shoemaker spoke of the Group as A First Century Christian Fellowship as follows:

The Spirit can communicate His truth to a spiritual fellowship of believers in ways He cannot communicate to individuals: it is another phase of Christ’s meaning when He said that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. He is wherever a believer is; but His present in heightened reality in the fellowship (The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, 293)

In his first significant book, Realizing Religion, Shoemaker had the following to say about the days “when the Church had martyrs in it” Shoemaker wrote at page 67:

I believe that originally this was the spiritual impulse, entirely apart from considerations of ecclesiastical order or the founding of a brotherhood by Jesus, which welded Christians together in the days when the Church had martyrs in it. The value of united prayer and worship, of inspiring and instructing a group bent on one object, the constant impact of the words and the interpretation of Jesus, has often been dwelt upon. . .

The Acts of the Apostles

In chapters 1 to 6 of the Book of Acts, there a number of descriptions of what the First Century Christians did, what they had received, and how they fellowshipped together. Here we will just quote two segments.

The first from Acts 2:38-43, 46-47:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. . . .

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.

Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

 The second segment from Acts 4:29-32:

And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.

By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul. . . . And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

The Keys to Applying First Century Christianity in Recovery Programs Today

Our latest title is How to Conduct “Old School” 12-Step Recovery Meetings Using Conference-Approved Literature: A Dick B. Guide for Christian Leaders and Workers in the Recovery Arena.

In a brief number of pages--very succinct and very specific--this new book covers the ground above and then shows how the successful Christian Fellowship practices of the First Century and of the early A.A. Group in Akron can be applied today and fully supported by Conference-approved literature published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. And how those who join together in Christian fellowship can attain healing and a whole life in the same way the Apostles did and that the old school AAs did.

Gloria Deo