the Big Book
This article is written by nationally recognized
historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
The writing of the Big Book took several months to accomplish.
Drafts were sent back and forth to and from New York and Akron. After
the New York members had reviewed each chapter, Akron members were
given a chance to give their input.
Dr. Bob had selected a few members to help in this review process.
They sat around his kitchen table and as one of the early members
put it, "we red lined and blue lined the whole thing."
Even before the stories were considered, chapter after chapter went
through several revisions. The Mid-West group in Akron stressed the
spiritual aspects and the New York group wanted to keep it to the
physical aspects. Jim B. of New York and later Pennsylvania has been
credited with the saying "as we understood Him, after God. There
is evidence however, that the phrase, as we understood Him, was being
used in some Oxford Group writings.
It is amazing that the Big Book was written after all. Most members
had minimal amounts of sobriety, the longest was Bill, with just over
4 years and the average being about 1 to 1 ½ years. Reasonable
newcomers to sobriety wrote the book, a prescription for a miracle,
the program of recovery for what was to become Alcoholics Anonymous.
Ideas Were Not New
Most, if not all of the ideas included in the Big Book were not new.
Much was "borrowed" from the Bible and from Oxford Group
and other spiritual books of that era. The idea to split the book
into two sections, one a program section, and another, stories relating
personal experiences possibly came from the book, Twice Born Men
by Harold Begbie. Begbie's book contained a program section relating
to the Salvation Army and a section of personal stories.
Other concepts were directly related to the Gospel of Matthew and
the General Letter of James. Bill also used the Varieties Of Religious
Experience, by William James, For Sinners Only, by A.J.
Russell, I Was A Pagan, by V.C. Kitchen, The Common Sense
Of Drinking, by Richard R. Peabody and others.
As example we will quote several sources, which may help the reader
to understand some of these concepts and give new light as to the
possibility of where their use in the Big Book came from.
"What we want to do is get in touch with Him and turn our lives
over to Him. 'Where should we go to do it?' At once the lad replied:
'There is only one place - on our knees.' The lad prayed - one of
those powerful, simple prayers which are so quickly heard by Him who
made the eye and the ear: Oh Lord, manage me, for I cannot manage
myself." (For Sinners Only - 1932).
"Peace, direction, power - the fullness of life - await the
complete surrender of ourselves to God for His purposes. This is the
Great experiment that is waiting to be made - giving God control.
How do we begin the experiment? To put it very simply, God cannot
take over my life unless I am WILLING. Willingness is not a matter
of feeling. It is not a vague desire that God should change me. It
is not an impulsive resolve to obey God in future. It is a very practical
thing. "If a man is bankrupt and consents to his chief creditor
reorganizing and running the business, the first thing he must do
is to produce the books - all of them. The difficulty with so many
debtors is that they conceal some of their debts, or fail to mention
some particularly foolish blunder or some doubtful transaction to
which fear prompted them
If, then, I want God to take control
of my life, the first thing I must do is to produce the books. I must
be willing to look with God at everything
It may be useful at
this point if I get a pencil and paper, and make some notes."
(When Man Listens - Cecil Rose - 1937).
"This initial surrender, if it is thorough and honest, is met
at once from God's side. When we hand over, God takes charge, and
things begin to happen. A world of strain falls from us. The business
of running life is off our hands. We find that we get through more
work, because it is ordered better. We meet people we were afraid
of, and discover that fear has gone. A habit that always beat us seems
to have lost its power. Someone we could not bear appears to us in
a new light, and we love them. We come through the ordeal and know
that it is not in our own strength." (When Man Listens).
From the chapter, First Steps in The Common Sense Of Drinking:
" A man must make up his mind to do everything in his power to
cooperate in such work as there is to be done. Halfway measures
are of no avail."
Also in First Steps: "Some years ago there lived a man
who decided to give up drinking until he could make a million dollars,
at which time he intended to drink in moderation. It took him five
years - of sobriety - to make the million; then he began his 'moderate'
drinking. In two or three years he lost all his money, and in another
three he died of alcoholism."
Oxford Group Activities
The Four Practical Spiritual Activities of the Oxford Group (from
What Is The Oxford Group):
1. The Sharing of our sins and temptations with another Christian
life given to God, and to use Sharing as Witness to help others, still
unchanged, to recognize and acknowledge their sins.
2. Surrender of our life, past, present, and future, into God's keeping
3. Restitution to all whom we have wronged directly or indirectly.
4. Listening to, accepting, relying on God's Guidance and carrying
it out in everything we do or say, great or small.
Also from What Is The Oxford Group: "You cannot belong
to the Oxford Group. It has no membership list, subscriptions, badge,
rules, or definite location. It is a name for a group of people who,
from every rank, profession, and trade, in many countries, have surrendered
their lives to God and who are endeavouring to lead a spiritual quality
of life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Oxford Group is
not a religion; it has no hierarchy, no temples, no endowments; its
workers have no salaries, no plans but God's plan
From a book on the Washington Temperance Society (The Washingtonians):
"The Washingtonians, formed in the 1840's, required a pledge
of total abstinence and attendance at weekly meetings where members
would relate their stories of drunkardness and recovery. As a body,
they recognized no religion or creed, were politically neutral, and
each member was supposed to help alcoholics who were still drinking."
From Courtenay Baylor's book: Remaking A Man - "
the glorious certainty that he need never fail again - he finds perfect
freedom and happiness." (From August to September 1934, Baylor
treated Rowland H. in Mass. - Rowland brought the message of the Oxford
Group to Ebby T., who in turn brought the message to Bill).
These have been but a few of the similarities between the language
in the Big Book and what has been quoted above. There are hundreds
of quotes from these early books which can be found, almost verbatim
in the Big Book. Bill W. had a lot to choose from when he set forth
in his writing.
More will be revealed