PART THREE of "Richmond Walker and the Twenty-Four Hour Book," talk given by Glenn C. (South Bend, Indiana) at the 8th Annual National A.A. Archives Workshop, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 27, 2003.

Twenty-Four Hours a Day

  Rich talked in his lead (Ld 24) about writing the Twenty-Four Hour book in 1948 (see note 8). It has a page for each day of the year, with each page divided into three sections. The large print section at the top is called the Thought for the Day: some of this material was adapted by him from a work he wrote earlier, called For Drunks Only, and he also included an extended selection of excerpts from the Big Book as part of the large-print section for one period of the year. The section in smaller print that followed was called the Meditation for the Day, and then at the very bottom of the page was a short Prayer for the Day.

By 1948, Rich regarded Daytona Beach
in Florida as his principle home


God Calling by Two Listeners

  For the small print sections at the bottom, Rich drew heavily on a book he had discovered, entitled God Calling by Two Listeners, which had been edited and published by A. J. Russell, one of the most famous Oxford Group authors (see note 9a). The book had a strange origin. One of the two women (whose names are unknown to this day) explained in an introduction how they were inspired to begin their spiritual exploration:  

  "In the autumn of 1932, I was sitting in the lounge of a hotel when a visitor, quite unknown, crossed over and handing me a copy of For Sinners Only asked if I had read it. I answered no, and she left it with me. On returning home, I bought a copy for myself. I was curiously affected by the book and . . . . there came a persistent desire to try to see whether I could get guidance such as A. J. Russell reported, through sharing a quiet time with the friend with whom I was then living. She was a deeply spiritual woman with unwavering faith in the goodness of God and a devout believer in prayer, although her life had not been an easy one. I was rather skeptical, but, as she had agreed, we sat down with pencils and paper in hand and waited . . . . To this day, I cannot obtain guidance in this way alone. But with my friend a very wonderful thing happened. From the first, beautiful messages were given to her by our Lord Himself, and every day from then these messages have never failed us . . . .”

"Certainly we were not in any way psychic or advanced in spiritual growth, but ordinary human beings who had more suffering and worry than the majority and who had known tragedy after tragedy. [And yet] always, and this daily, He insisted that we should be channels of love, joy, and laughter in His broken world . . . .”

"We, or rather I, found this command difficult to obey; to others it might have been simple. Were we to laugh, to cheer others, to be always joyful when our days were pain-racked and our nights tortured by chronic insomnia, when poverty and almost insupportable worry were our daily portion . . . ? Still came this insistent command to love and laugh and bring joy to the lives we contacted. Disheartened, one of us would gladly have ceased the struggle and passed on to another and happier life . . . . [Yet] He encouraged us daily . . . . Continually He exhorted us not to lose heart and spoke of the joy that the future held for us . . . . He stressed, most strongly of all, the immense power given to two souls praying together in close union and at one in their desire to love and serve Him."

  This was the kind of message that could actually speak to struggling, tormented alcoholics. Rich decided to take it and use it freely in the small print sections in each day's meditation in his own compilation. He had to shorten the work enormously, and eliminate references to calling on the name of Jesus or contemplating Christ on the cross. Instead of prayers to Jesus, he turned it all into prayers to God instead, which was very, very important in the A.A. context. He clarified passages that were difficult to understand, and often almost totally rewrote the material.

He also added copious material of his own which was vitally important, explaining what the concept of a higher power was really about, for the help of alcoholics who literally did not have the foggiest idea of what was actually meant by the word God (see note 9b).

Perhaps the best way of summing up what Rich actually did would be as follows: God Calling was a nice little work of early twentieth-century Protestant piety, replete with the sentiments of the popular hymns from that period, hymns like "I walk in the garden with Him, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear, whispering in my ear, the Son of God discloses." It was deeply moving in many places, but not truly exceptional -- or not in the sense of Rich’s adaptation. Rich remolded it, reshaped it, added copiously and cut away equally vigorously, and came out with what I would regard as one of the ten or fifteen true classics of spiritual literature -- a masterpiece, measured by the standards of the past three or four thousand years, and including both eastern and western spiritual writings.

Publishing the book

  Rich finished putting the Twenty-Four Hour book together in 1948, and at first handled the printing and the distribution on his own. He did not place his name on the book in any way, merely putting at the very back the simple words "Compiled by a member of the Group at Daytona Beach, Fla." The book sold over 80,000 copies during the first ten years alone (Ld 24), which means that over 10,000 copies a year were eventually having to be packaged and shipped out year after year, just to keep up with the demand. It did not take long for Rich to become totally overwhelmed by the task. In 1953, he asked the New York A.A. office if they would take over this job, but his request was turned down. In their defense, New York was desperately short on money, staff, and space; they also already had their hands full with the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, which came out in April of that same year. They only just barely managed to cobble together a financial deal to get that vital book published. The next year, 1954, Patrick Butler at Hazelden offered to take over the mammoth job of printing and distributing Twenty-Four Hours a Day to keep the book available. Mel B. says that this was the publication that got Hazelden started as a major publisher of recovery materials (see note 10). As of 1994, nearly six and half million copies of Twenty-Four Hours a Day had been sold, and the little book is still doing fine today.  

Rich's credo

  Rich regarded himself as the teacher of an intelligent faith in the Great Intelligence behind the universe. In language partly similar to Emmet Fox's (see note 11), he says for June 21st that:  

  "Intelligent faith in that Power greater than ourselves can be counted on to stabilize our emotions. It has an incomparable capacity to help us look at life in balanced perspective. We look up, around and away from ourselves and we see that nine out of ten things which at the moment upset us will shortly disappear. Problems solve themselves, criticism and unkindness vanish as though they had never been."  

  God was, he said in the language of the Platonic philosophers, "the Great Intelligence behind the universe," which meant that we do not have to sacrifice our own minds and intellects in order to talk about God. But God, as any good Platonist knows, is infinite and eternal, which means that to approach him, we must rely on faith and intuition and feeling and vision, not the language of the scientists. Ultimately, we can only be saved by faith alone.

When Rich gave his lead at Rutland, Vermont, in 1958, he was around sixty-six years old and knew that his days were fundamentally numbered, so he talked about not only life but also death, in deeply moving fashion. Death was returning to God, and that was where faith alone could carry us across the great divide which separates our world of space and time from the realm of the eternal ideas and the infinite reality which lies beyond all else (Ld 26, see note 12):

  "Above all, my faith in the Great Intelligence behind the universe, which can give me all the strength I need to face whatever life has to offer, is the foundation of my present life. When I die, my body will return to dust. Heaven is not any particular place in the sky, but my intelligence or soul, if it is in the proper condition, will return to the Great Intelligence behind the universe and will blend with that Great Intelligence and be at home again whence it came. My problem, in what is left of my life, is to keep my mind or intelligence in the proper condition -- by living with honesty, purity, unselfishness, love, and service -- so that when my time comes to go, my passing to a greater sphere of mind will be gentle and easy."  

  Notice that in that last sentence, he refers to the four central Oxford Group virtues: Honesty ("Is it true or is it false?"), Purity ("Is it right or is it wrong?"), Unselfishness ("How will this affect the other fellow?"), and Love ("Is it ugly or is it beautiful?"). But then he adds a fifth major virtue, Service: service in the spirit of the St. Francis Prayer, but above all service to the A.A. groups and his brother and sister alcoholics, the kind of service which will maintain and deepen the bonds of fellowship which give us the experience, strength, and hope which we must have in order to survive. He preaches fellowship and service from one end of the Twenty-Four Hour book to the other, and he lived as he spoke, desiring no fame or recognition for himself, not even putting his name on the book. All the book says, with humble simplicity, buried at the end where you might not even notice, is the little phrase: "Compiled by a member of the Group at Daytona Beach, Florida."

He died about seven years after giving that talk, on March 25, 1965. He was seventy-two years old at that time, with almost twenty-three years sobriety.

Daytona Beach, Florida, where Rich (with his love of
the tropics) enjoyed spending the last years of his life



David W. (Daytona Beach A.A. Archives) has some financial records from the period when Rich was publishing the little black book himself. One year it made a profit of $2,000 and some odd cents. Rich donated the $2,000 to the intergroup. The New York A.A. office had just sent around a plea for additional financial support, because they were in desperate straits at that time, so the intergroup promptly sent the $2,000 to New York. David says that, based on his investigations, neither Rich nor his heirs ever made a penny of personal profit off of the sales of Twenty-Four Hours a Day.

Based on the researches of David and other Florida A.A.'s whom I have talked to, it appears that Rich was probably for many years what the Florida people call a "snow bird": he would go back to New England for the hotter months and keep up his links with friends and family there -- which is presumably why he was able to give his lead at the A.A. meeting in Vermont in 1958 without having to travel too far -- but then he would return to Daytona Beach for the colder months. But it is clear that, by the time the Twenty-Four Hour book was published, he had come to regard Florida as his real home.

In the Twenty-Four Hour book, Rich said that (2/20–2/21) "my main business now is keeping sober. I make a living in business, but that's not my main business. It's secondary to the business of keeping sober." David W. says that, on the basis of his research, by the end of his life Rich had gotten an inheritance from his brother, and was basically living during his retirement years on the investment proceeds from those funds.

The "second book"

I cannot help but think that reading Rich's little black book as their "second book," surpassed in importance only by the Big Book itself (which was of course the all-determining and foundational source), was one of the things that helped A.A. to grow and prosper so much during its greatest growth years. It is clear that, back in those days, people could form a good A.A. group simply by getting a copy of the Big Book and doing what it said, even if they had no personal contact with anyone already in the program from elsewhere. But it seems to me that the people who also read the little black book formed even better A.A. groups. It told you how to keep the fellowship strong and healthy, and inspired you to commit yourself even more deeply to A.A. service work. It reminded you over and over that loyalty to your group, and to A.A. itself, was one of the primary virtues, and would give you life abundant. The members who were the most dedicated also frequently carried the little black book with them instead of the Big Book, for instant help in times of spiritual crisis -- that was one of the other things they found it especially useful for.

I think it is significant to note how early A.A. in Indiana and Michigan treated three different groups of material. You had to have a copy of the Big Book: you read from it and quoted from it at meetings, and used it to define the essential principles of the program. Rich's little black book was the only book not coming out of New York which was universally acknowledged by the early tradition as appropriate to read from at official A.A. meetings, and to quote from freely when speaking at meetings -- but it was not the "defining" book on matters concerning essential program principles. That was the all-important distinction. Many early A.A.'s in the United States and Canada also read Ralph Pfau, the third most published early A.A. author, who had produced his little Golden Books under the pseudonym of "Father John Doe" to preserve his anonymity and maintain the spirit of the Twelve Traditions. But in Indiana at least, when small groups would meet in someone's home to read and study the Golden Books, or to listen to phonograph records of Father Ralph speaking, they felt that it was not appropriate to call these little groups "A.A. meetings" in the official sense. And the Golden Books were certainly never regarded as "defining" statements of official program principles. So there were three levels of importance, and three different kinds of ways that A.A. people could use wise and healthy spiritual literature. Richmond Walker's Twenty-Four Hours a Day was the major work at the level of the second tier of importance.

One human soul touching another

David W. says that when Rich first began writing the material which shows up in the small print sections at the bottoms of the pages, he never intended to publish a book. He prepared these little meditations simply for himself, and carried them around on little cards. Other people at the A.A. meetings in Daytona Beach saw some of these, and were so impressed by the depth and profundity of what they said, that they finally talked him into putting them together into a book, so other people could use them too.

I think this is one of the things which gives the small print sections in the Twenty-Four Hour book so much power: they were not written by someone "preaching at" us, and trying to tell other people what the author wanted them to believe. They are simply the very private and very personal jottings of a person of extraordinary spiritual depth, reaching out simply for himself, to try to touch God and feel his presence and open himself up to the workings of God's healing and empowering grace. When he finally agreed to publish these little private prose poems and personal exercises in guided imagery, he opened up his own soul to us. He does not "teach at" us, but invites us to accompany him on his own spiritual journey, as a soul-mate and a trusted friend. When we open up the little book to read the selection for the day, what Rich is really saying to us is, "This is what I see and hear and feel and touch when I pray and meditate and try to draw closer to the living presence of the Great Intelligence behind the universe. What do you yourself see and hear and feel and touch?" He says to us, "This is what I learned when I thought about these particular images and principles, which helped me to grow spiritually. What have you learned about this part of the spiritual life by this point in your spiritual journey and how do you plan, on the basis of that new insight into these universal spiritual thoughts, to start living and acting a little differently today?"

Along with Bill W. and the other good old-timers, Rich is saying to everyone who reads his little volume the same essential words which conclude the first major section of the Big Book (page 164 in the 3rd edition):

  "Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

"May God bless you and keep you -- until then."


24H = Richmond Walker, Twenty-Four Hours a Day, Compiled by a member of the Group at Daytona Beach, Fla. (Center City MN: Hazelden Foundation, 1975 [orig. pub. 1948, 1st Hazelden edit. 1954]).

Ld = Richmond Walker, lead given at an A.A. meeting in Rutland, Vermont, in 1958, paragraph number in the text as given in the Northern Indiana Archival Bulletin 4 (No. 1, 2001): 1–4. See the foreword to the 40th Anniversary Edition of Twenty-Four Hours a Day for the date and location where Rich gave this talk.

  1. Mel B. (Toledo, Ohio), special foreword to the 40th Anniversary Edition of Twenty-Four Hours a Day (Center City MN: Hazelden Foundation, 1994).

2. Ibid.

3. Pass It On: The Story of Bill Wilson and How the A.A. Message Reached the World (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 1984), pp. 203, 210–13, 257–8.

4. See Richard M. Dubiel, The Road to Fellowship: The Role of the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club in the Development of Alcoholics Anonymous, Hindsfoot Foundation Series on the History of Alcoholism Treatment (New York: iUniverse, 2004).

5. See Emmet Fox, The Sermon on the Mount.

6. This is actually the Platonic concept of participation. As the twentieth-century theologian Paul Tillich has pointed out in his writings on religious symbolism, the material thing which is the shadow or symbol (the "icon" or holy image in the Greek) does not just point toward something else from the outside (like a signpost beside the road which points the way to the Grand Canyon), but participates in that higher reality to which it leads our minds.

7. Foreword (p. iii) to the edition of Twenty-Four Hours a Day printed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hazelden Foundation (no actual date given). This version is a reprinting otherwise of the original 1954 Hazelden edition.

8. Richmond Walker, The 7 Points of Alcoholics Anonymous, rev. ed. (Center City MN: Hazelden/Glen Abbey Books, 1989).

9a. God Calling, by Two Listeners, re-edited by Bernard Koerselman (Uhrichsville OH: Barbour and Company, 1993). This book is still among the five or six top bestsellers in Christian bookstores in the United States. One of the two women had what scholars of comparative religion call the gift of ecstatic prophecy (compare the way Mohammed received the verses of the Koran): caught up in a trance, she would deliver the meditations verbatim, while the other woman wrote down the words with a pencil on a piece of paper. Someone from the Pentecostal or Catholic charismatic tradition would say that this deeply spiritual woman was prophesying in the Spirit. There were also similarities to a phenomenon called automatic writing which some people were experimenting with in the early twentieth century.

9b. An account is given of some of the other major motifs in Rich's spiritual teachings in Glenn F. Chesnut, The Higher Power of the Twelve-Step Program: For Believers & Non-Believers, Hindsfoot Foundation (San Jose: Authors Choice/iUniverse, 2001), Chapter 5, "Two Classical Authors of A.A. Spirituality," pp. 115-129, and also pp. 81-82 and p. 213 n. 10: maintaining soul-balance, finding inner calm, the prayer without words (a contemplative technique similar to the Hindu discipline called transcendental meditation, but using guided imagery and a Zen-like contemplation of nature instead), faith (trust, courage, and a willingness to commit, based on intuition and feeling, coupled with pragmatic experience), becoming one of the Friends of God, and guidance.

10. Mel B., foreword to the 40th Anniversary Edition of Twenty-Four Hours a Day.

11. Compare Emmet Fox's Golden Key (described in Chesnut, The Higher Power of the Twelve-Step Program, pp. 91-96).

12. In Cleveland A.A., it is actually the Four Questions which accompany the Four Absolutes which are at the center of the spiritual path. This helps to avoid the flavor of "absolutism" which made Bill W. apprehensive about that way of speaking about the spiritual life. The kind of absolutism which Bill W. wanted to avoid was the sort of moralistic, Pharisaic rigidity which will either lead us astray into hypocrisy and arrogance and boasting, or commit us to the kind of ruthless perfectionism which leads ultimately to despair. See Bill W.'s letter to McGhee B., 30 October 1940, as quoted in Ernest Kurtz, Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 51:

  "The principles of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love are as much a goal of A.A. members and are as much practiced by them as by any other group of people, yet we found that 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. The average alcoholic just couldn't stand the pace and got nowhere."  

  See Chesnut, The Higher Power of the Twelve-Step Program, pp. 58-59, and also 129-133 (discussing the way Father John Doe makes the same point in his Golden Books), on pathological perfectionism as a great spiritual danger, and also as one of the frequent major contributing sources of chronic depression.

In Cleveland A.A. however, it was the Four Questions which were emphasized in actual practice. We are instructed to remind ourselves every morning to go through the day asking the following simple questions before speaking or acting: "Is it true or is it false?" (Honesty), "Is it right or is it wrong?" (Purity), "How will this affect the other fellow?" (Unselfishness), and "Is it ugly or is it beautiful?" (Love). Almost anyone who is dedicated to living the spiritual life could benefit from the exercise of reading these four questions every morning for a month, and trying to live by them throughout the day for every day of that month. See the little pamphlet which the Cleveland A.A. intergroup still publishes on the Four Absolutes.

Richmond Walker, following Bill W.'s suggestions, omits the dangerous word "absolutes," but does weave an emphasis upon those four great virtues throughout the pages of his little book. So it is clear that his two and a half years in the Oxford Group did have a lasting influence on his ideas. But he learned from his contact with the Jacoby Club too, and added that fifth vital item, the virtue of Service, as of co-equal importance. The continual emphasis in his meditational book on doing A.A. service work and above all on maintaining the fellowship (a Jacoby Club theme), is one of the most important continuing themes in his book. It helped make A.A. vital and strong back during that period of its history.