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© AA Grapevine, Inc, July 1962
is the intention of the Grapevine to carry occasional accounts
of spiritual experiences. To this interesting project I
would like to say a few introductory words. There is a very
natural tendency to set apart those experiences or awakenings
which happen to be sudden, spectacular or vision-producing.
Therefore any recital of such cases always produces mixed
reactions. Some will say, "I wish I could have an experience
like that!" Others, feeling that this whole business
is too far out on the mystic limb for them, or maybe hallucinatory
after all, will say, "I just can't buy this business.
I can't understand what these people are talking about."
As most AAs have heard,
I was the recipient in 1934 of a tremendous mystic experience
or "illumination." It was accompanied by a sense
of intense white light, by a sudden gift of faith in the
goodness of God, and by a profound conviction of His presence.
At first it was very natural for me to feel that this experience
staked me out for somebody very special.
But as I now look back
upon this tremendous event, I can only feel very specially
grateful. It now seems clear that the only special feature
of my experience was its electric suddenness and the overwhelming
and immediate conviction that it carried to me.
In all other respects,
however, I am sure that my own experience was not in the
least different than that received by every AA member who
has strenuously practiced our recovery program.
How often do we sit
in AA meetings and hear the speaker declare, "But I
haven't yet got the spiritual angle." Prior to this
statement, he had described a miracle of transformation
which had occurred in himnot only his release from
alcohol, but a complete change in his whole attitude toward
life and the living of it. It is apparent to nearly everyone
else present that he has received a great gift; and that
this gift was all out of proportion to anything that might
be expected from simple AA activity, such as the admission
of alcoholism and the practice of Step Twelve. So we in
the audience smile and say to ourselves, "Well, that
guy is just reeking with the spiritual angleexcept
that he doesn't seem to know it yet!" We well know
that this questioning individual will tell us six months
or a year hence that he has found faith in God.
Moreover he may by then
be displaying "spiritual qualities" and a performance
that I myself have never been able to duplicatemy
sudden spiritual experience notwithstanding.
So nowadays when AAs
come to me, hoping to find out how one comes by those sudden
experiences, I simply tell them in all probability that
they have had one just as goodand that theirs is identical
excepting it has been strung out over a longer period of
Then I go on to say
that if their transformation in AA extending over six months
had been condensed into six minuteswell, they then
might have seen the stars too!
In consequence of these
observations I fail to see any great difference between
the sudden experiences and the more gradual onesthey
are certainly all of the same piece. And there is one sure
test of them all: "By their fruits, ye shall know them."
This is why I think
we should question no one's transformationwhether
it be sudden or gradual. Nor should we demand anyone's special
type for ourselves, because our own experience suggests
that we are apt to receive whatever may be the most useful
for our needs.
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