remember the first time I heard the
expression "soul surgery"
in an A.A. meeting, I thought the gal
who mentioned it was a little daft.
"Soul Surgery!" What in the
heck was that about? Then I saw
it mentioned in DR. BOB and the Good
Oldtimers. Then I read the Master’s
Thesis by A.A.’s and my friend T. Willard
Hunter and saw he spoke of Frank Buchman
as the "old soul surgeon."
Finally, as I dived into Oxford Group
research. I saw the surgery come together
piece by piece: (1) Sin was the problem.
(2) Sin was anything that blocked you
from God or other people. (3) To do
God’s will, you had to cut out sin.
(4) The "art" of Soul Surgery,
as Buchman called it, was to cut sin
out of your life by an incisive "surgical"
process that began with surrender of
your life to God’s care and direction
and then utilizing the power of God
to cut out sin. (5) You did that, said
Buchman and his colleagues, by the Five
C’s–Confidence, Confession, Conviction,
Conversion, and Conservation [later
called "Continuance"]. (6)
The process also involved making amends
or restitution, seeking God’s guidance,
continuing with a daily surrender, passing
it on, and living by the spiritual principles
of the Bible.
didn’t take me long to see that these
were the heart ideas of our Twelve Steps
as Bill heard the instructions from
Ebby Thacher, Rowland Hazard, Shep Cornell,
Victor Kitchen, the Twitchells, Rev.
and Mrs. W. Irving Harris, Sam Shoemaker,
and Bill’s other Oxford Group friends
of the mid-1930's.
began, of course, with the unmanageable
life [Oh, God, manage me because I cannot
manage myself]. There was the willingness
to believe and take action [John 7:17–Shoemaker’s
favorite verse]. Then you stood at the
Turning Point [a William James expression].
Then you commenced the real surrender
and soul surgery process that became
our middle steps: (1) A decision.
(2) Making the moral test [writing down
the Four Absolutes and seeing how your
life measured up]. (3) Confessing [letting
God and another believer in on your
discoveries].  Becoming "Convicted"
[an expression Lois Wilson and Anne
Smith both used in their journals, and
which meant being convinced that you
had screwed up in God’s eyes and were
willing to "hate and forsake"
your sins.  Conversion [the process
prescribed by Jung, detailed by Shoemaker,
used by Rowland Hazard and Ebby and
Bill–which meant accepting Jesus Christ
as your Lord and Saviour and thereby
being transformed into a new person–"Therefore
if any man be in Christ, he is a new
creature: old things are passed away;
behold, all things are become new."
You will see this verse from 2 Corinthians
5:17 in Oxford Group, Shoemaker, early
A.A., Clarence Snyder, and other writings.
This was the "changed life"
that arose from being born again of
the spirit of God.  Continuance [the
process of surrendering your sins daily,
taking a daily inventory, making a daily
confession, becoming convicted of newly
arising or returning shortcomings, relying
on the power of God to change, and then
getting back into fellowship with God
through Bible study, prayer, guidance,
"passing it on" as Buchman
called it, and living by the principles
of 1 Corinthians 13 and the Four Absolutes,
do you verify all this? You can study
Harold Begbie’s Life Changers where
Buchman is described as the "soul
surgeon" and Begbie narrates the
origin of the Five C’s. You can read
Soul Surgery, the important book
published by H. A. Walter in 1919 in
collaboration with Professor Henry Wright
and Dr. Frank Buchman. There Walter
explains each of the C’s in detail.
You can read about them in Sam Shoemaker’s
first significant title–Realizing
Religion. And you can see that these
techniques did not come out of a vacuum
cleaner. Each was based on Biblical
authority. Each was carefully explained.
And each was later specifically defined
by Sam Shoemaker’s learned assistant
Dr. Olive Jones in her book Inspired
Children. As with the Four Absolutes,
if you want the standards for truth
that Shoemaker, Buchman, Dr. Bob and
Bill used in the beginning, you turn
to the Bible roots themselves. For Confidence,
the many verses on witnessing. For Confession,
James 5:16. For Conviction, the verses
about iniquities prevailing against
you. For Conversion, Romans 10:9–confessing
Jesus as Lord and believing God raised
him from the dead. For Continuance,
the host of materials on prayer, Bible
study, seeking God’s guidance, witnessing,
fellowship, and living by the principles
of the Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians
13, and James–as well as others including
the Ten Commandments.
Analysis and Study
covered these Five C.’s from different
viewpoints in various of my titles.
In The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous
I showed some of the uses of the C’s.
In Anne Smith’s Journal (http://www.dickb.com/annesm.shtml),
I quoted from the writing of Dr. Bob’s
wife where she devotes much time to
discussing the Five C’s. In The Oxford
Group and Alcoholics Anonymous (http://www.dickb.com/Oxford.shtml),
I detailed the historical roots of the
Five C’s. In New Light on Alcoholism
I presented the Rev. Shoemaker
discussions of theses ideas. In Good
I provided the Biblical background
for Quiet Time, including Bible study,
prayer, listening, use of devotionals,
journaling, etc. And I certainly did
not leave out the necessity for accepting
Christ–which so many recent writers
have done in their statements about
listening to God. This "surrender"
concept is important to those who want
the accurate picture. If you don’t read
or learn about Streeter’s The God Who
Speaks, Forde’s The Guidance of God,
Day’s The Principles of the Group, Shoemaker’s
National Awakening and Realizing Religion,
you just won’t get it. "Continuance"
didn’t come out of a vacuum cleaner.
Anne Smith was one who commented that
turning to the "group" instead
of "Christ" is a "funk
hole." Good phrase–"funk hole."
Shoemaker would, more delicately, have
described it as using an "absurd
name for God," relying on "self-made
religion," and adopting "half-baked
prayers." I’d call it trying to
listen to a message without having a
receiving set. So would Oxford Group
writer Hallen Viney in his little pamphlet
"How to Begin." Half a loaf
is not better than none when
it comes to following God’s directions
in the Good Book. Leave out the Good
Book, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and
the teachings of Christ about salvation
and the new birth, and you might as
well be reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
You just won’t get the picture.
have rich and easily understood treasures
in our spiritual roots. Dr. Bob’s library
will tell you things about A.A. you
have never heard. Anne Smith’s Journal
will explain things about A.A. you have
never understood. The Oxford Group writings
will illustrate the "practical
program of action" that Joe and
Charlie talk about in their Big Book
Seminars. The Shoemaker writings will
let you see what Bill Wilson was either
hearing or reading or both. The Quiet
Time books, including the Bible, will
inform you of the whole process of "meditation
and prayer" that early AAs used–becoming
God’s kids through the new birth from
above, prayer, Bible study, listening,
checking, studying "helpful books,"
and fellowship. It’s a package, not
a piecemeal offering. And a knowledge
of the diversity of books early AAs
read will help you recognize the sometimes
conflicting materials AAs themselves
try to merge into one–the Bible, New
Age, New Thought, Roman Catholic expressions,
humanist questions and terms, and so
on. They just don’t fit together. But
they are history nonetheless. Good hunting!