In the preceding chapters, you have learned something
of alcoholism. We hope we have made clear the
distinction between the alcoholic and the non-alcoholic.
If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot
quit entirely, or if, when drinking, you have
little control over the amount you take, you are
probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may
be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual
experience will conquer.
To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic
such an experience seems impossible, but to continue
as he is means disaster especially if he is an
alcoholic of the hopeless variety. To be doomed
to an alcoholic hell or be "saved" - not easy
alternatives to face.
But it isn't so difficult. About half our fellowship
were of exactly that type. At first some of us
tried to avoid the issue, hoping against hope
we were not true alcoholics. But after a while
we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual
basis of life - or else. Perhaps it is going to
be that way with you. But cheer up, something
like fifty of us thought we were atheists or agnostics.
Our experience shows that you need not disconcerted.
If a mere code of morals,or a better philosophy
of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism,
many of us would have recovered long ago. But
we found that such codes and philosophies did
not save us, no matter how much we tried. We could
wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically
comforted, in fact, we could will these things
with all our might, but the needed power wasn't
there. Our human resources, as marshalled by the
will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly.
Lack of power,that was our dilemma. We had to
find a power by which we could live, and it had
to be A Power Greater Than Ourselves. Obviously.
But where and how were we to find this Power?
Well, that's exactly what this book is about.
Its main object is to enable you to find a Power
greater than yourself, which will solve your problem.
That means we have written a book which we believe
to be spiritual as well as moral. And it means,
of course, that we are going to talk about God.
Here difficulty arises with agnostics. Many times
we talk to a new man and watch his hope rise as
we discuss his alcoholic problems and explain
our fellowship. But his face falls when we speak
of spiritual matters, especially when we mention
God, for we have re-opened a subject which our
man thought he had neatly evaded or entirely ignored.
We know how he feels. We have shared his honest
doubt and prejudice. Some of us have been violently
anti-religious. To others, the word "God" brought
up a particular idea of Him with which someone
had tried to impress us during childhood. Perhaps
we rejected this particular conception because
it seemed inadequate. With that rejection we imagined
we had abandoned the God idea entirely. We were
bothered with the thought that faith and dependence
upon a Power beyond ourselves was somewhat weak,
even cowardly. We looked upon this world of warring
individuals, warring theological systems, inexplicable
calamity, with deep skepticism. We looked askance
at many individuals who claimed to be godly. How
could a Supreme Being have anything to do with
it all? And who could comprehend a Supreme Being
anyhow? Yet, in other moments, we found ourselves
thinking, when enchanted by the starlit night,
"Who, then, made all this?" There was a feeling
of awe and wonder, but it was fleeting and soon
Yes, we of agnostic temperament have had these
thoughts and experiences. Let us make haste to
reassure you. We found that as soon as we were
able to lay aside prejudice and express even a
willingness to believe in a Power greater than
ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though
it was impossible for any of us to fully define
or comprehend that Power, which is God.
Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need
to consider another's conception of God. Our own
conception, however inadequate, was sufficient
to make the approach and to effect a contact with
Him. As soon as we admitted the possible existence
of a Creative Intelligence, A Spirit of the Universe
underlying the totality of things, we began to
be possessed of a new sense of power and direction,
provided we took other simple steps. We found
that God does not make hard terms with those who
seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad,
roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding.
It is open, we believe, to all men.
When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean
your own conception of God. This applies, too,
to other spiritual expressions which you find
in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may
have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly
asking yourself what they mean to you. At the
start, this is all you will need to commence spiritual
growth, to effect your first conscious relation
with God, as you understand Him. Afterward, you
will find yourself accepting many things which
now seem entirely out of reach. That is growth,
but if you are going to grow, you have to begin
somewhere. So use your own conception, however
limited it may be.
You need ask yourself but one short question.
"Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe,
that there is a Power greater than myself?" As
soon as a man can say that he does believe, or
is willing to believe, we emphatically assure
him that he is on his way. It has been repeatedly
proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone
a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can
That was great news to us, for we had assumed
we could not make use of spiritual principles
unless we accepted many things on faith which
seemed difficult to believe. When people presented
us with spiritual approaches, how frequently did
we all say: "I wish I had what that man has. I'm
sure it would work if I could only believe as
he believes. But I cannot accept as surely true
the many articles of faith which are so plain
to him." So it was comforting to learn that we
could commence at a simpler level.
Besides a seeming inability to accept much on
faith, we often found ourselves handicapped by
obstinacy, sensitiveness, and unreasoning prejudice.
Many of us have been so touchy that even casual
reference to spiritual things made us bristle
with antagonism. This sort of thinking had to
be abandoned. Though some of us resisted, we found
no great difficulty in casting aside such feelings.
Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became
as open minded on spiritual matters as we had
tried to be on other questions. In this respect
alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat
us into a state of reasonableness. Sometimes this
was a tedious process; we hope no one will be
prejudiced as long as some of us were.
The reader may still ask why he should believe
in a Power greater than himself. We think there
are good reasons. Let us have a look at some of
The practical individual of today is a stickler
for facts and results. Nevertheless, the twentieth
century readily accepts theories of all kinds,
provided they are firmly grounded in fact. We
have numerous theories, for example, about electricity.
Everybody believes them without a murmur of doubt.
Why this ready acceptance? Simply because it is
impossible to explain what we see, feel, direct,
and use, without a reasonable assumption as a
Everybody nowadays, believes in scores of assumptions
for which there is good evidence, but no perfect
visual proof. And does not science demonstrate
that visual proof is the weakest proof? It is
being constantly revealed, as mankind studies
the material world, that outward appearances are
not inward reality at all. To illustrate:
The prosaic steel girder is a mass of electrons
whirling around each other at incredible speed.
These tiny bodies are governed by precise laws,
and these laws hold true throughout the material
world. Science tells us so. We have no reason
to doubt it. When, however, the perfectly logical
assumption is suggested that underneath the material
world, and life as we see it, there is an All
Powerful, Guiding, Creative Intelligence, right
there our perverse streak comes to the surface
and we laboriously set out to convince ourselves
it isn't so. We read wordy books and indulge in
windy arguments, thinking we believe this universe
needs no God to explain it. Were our contentions
true, it would follow that life originated out
of nothing, means nothing, and proceeds nowhere.
Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent
agents, spearheads of God's ever advancing Creation,
we agnostics and atheists chose to believe that
our human intelligence was the last word, the
alpha and the omega, the beginning and end of
all. Rather vain of us, wasn't it?
We, who have traveled this dubious path, beg you
to lay aside prejudice, even against organized
religion. We have learned that whatever the human
frailties of various faiths may be, those faiths
have given purpose and direction to millions.
People of faith have a logical idea of what life
is all about. Actually, we used to have no reasonable
conception whatever. We used to amuse ourselves
as we cynically dissected spiritual beliefs and
practices; we might have observed that many spiritually-minded
persons of all races, colors, and creeds were
demonstrating a degree of stability, happiness
and usefulness which we should have sought ourselves.
Instead, we looked at the human defects of these
people, and sometimes used their shortcomings
as a basis of wholesale condemnation. We talked
of intolerance, while we were intolerant ourselves.
We missed the reality and the beauty of the forest
because we were diverted by the ugliness of some
of its trees. We never gave the spiritual side
of life a fair hearing.
In the stories which follow you will find wide
variation in the way each teller approaches and
conceives of the Power which is greater than himself.
Whether you agree with a particular approach or
conception seems to make little difference. Experience
has taught that these are matters about which,
for our purpose, we need not be worried. They
are questions for each individual to settle for
On one proposition, however, these men and women
are strikingly agreed. Everyone of them has gained
access to, and believes in a Power greater than
himself. This Power has in each case accomplished
the miraculous, the humanly impossible. As a celebrated
American statesman puts it, "Let's look at the
Here are one hundred men and women, worldly and
sophisticated indeed. They flatly declare to you
that since they have come to believe in a Power
greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude
toward that Power, and to do certain simple things,
there has been a revolutionary change in their
way of living and thinking. They tell you that
in the face of collapse and despair, in the face
of the total failure of their human resources,
that a new Power, peace, happiness, and sense
of direction has flowed into them. This happened
soon after they whole-heartedly met a few simple
requirements. Once confused and baffled by the
seeming futility of existence, they will show
you the underlying reasons why they were making
heavy going of life. Leaving aside the drink question,
they tell why living was so unsatisfactory. They
will show you how the change came over them. When
one hundred people, much like you, are able to
say that consciousness of The Presence of God
is today the most important fact of their lives,
they present a powerful reason why you too should
This world of ours has made more material progress
in the last century than in all the milleniums
which went before. Almost everyone knows the reason.
Students of ancient history tell us that the intellect
of men in those days was equal to the best of
today. Yet in ancient times material progress
was painfully slow. The spirit of modern scientific
inquiry, research and invention was almost unknown.
In the realm of the material, men's minds were
fettered by superstition, tradition, and all sorts
of fixed ideas. The contemporaries of Columbus
thought a round earth preposterous. Others like
them came near putting Galileo to death for his
But ask yourself this: are not some of us just
as biased and unreasonable about the realm of
the spirit as were the ancients about the realm
of the material? Even in the present century,
American newspapers were afraid to print an account
of the Wright Brothers first successful flight
at Kittyhawk. Had not all efforts at flight failed
before? Did not Professor Langley's absurd flying
machine go to the bottom of the Potomac river?
Was it not true that the best mathematical minds
had proved man could never fly? Had not people
said God had reserved this privilege to the birds?
Only thirty years later the conquest of the air
was almost an old story and airplane travel was
in full swing.
But in most fields our generation has witnessed
complete liberation of our thinking. Show any
longshoreman a Sunday supplement describing a
proposal to explore the moon by means of a rocket
and he will say, "I bet they do it - maybe not
so long either." Is not our age characterized
by the ease with which we discard old ideas for
new, by the complete readiness with which we throw
away the theory or gadget which does not work
for something new which does?
We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn't apply
to our human problems this same readiness to change
the point of view. We were having trouble with
personal relationships, we couldn't control our
emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and
depression, we couldn't make a living, we had
a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear,
we were unhappy, we couldn't seem to be of real
help to other people - was not a basic solution
of this bedevilment more important than whether
we should see newsreels of lunar flight? Of course
When we saw others solve their problems by simple
reliance upon the Spirit of this universe, we
had to stop doubting the power of God. Our ideas
did not work. But the God idea did.
The Wright Brothers' almost childish faith that
they could build a machine which would fly was
the mainspring of their accomplishment. Without
that, nothing could have happened. We agnostics
and atheists were sticking to the idea that self-sufficiency
would solve our problems. When others showed us
that "God-sufficiency" worked with them, we began
to feel like those who had insisted the Wrights
would never fly.
Logic is great stuff. We liked it. We still like
it. It is not by chance we were given the power
to reason, to examine the evidence of our senses,
and to draw conclusions. That is one of man's
magnificent attributes. We agnostically inclined
would not feel satisfied with a proposal which
does not lend itself to reasonable approach and
interpretation. Hence we are at pains to tell
why we think our present faith is reasonable,
why we think it more sane and logical to believe
than not to believe, why we say our former thinking
was soft and mushy when we threw up our hands
in doubt and said, "We don't know."
When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed
crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had
to fearlessly face the proposition that either
God is everything or else He is nothing. God either
is, or He isn't. What was our choice to be?
Arrived at this point, we were squarely confronted
with the question of faith. We couldn't duck the
issue. Some of us had already walked far over
the Bridge of Reason toward the desired shore
of faith. The outlines and the promise of the
New Land had brought lustre to tired eyes and
fresh courage to flagging spirits. Friendly hands
had stretched out in welcome. We were grateful
that Reason had brought us so far. But somehow,
we couldn't quite step ashore. Perhaps we had
been leaning too heavily on Reason that last mile
and we did not like to lose our support.
That was natural, but let us think a little more
closely. Without knowing it, had we not been brought
to where we stood by a certain kind of faith?
For did we not believe in our own reasoning? Did
we not have confidence in our ability to think?
What was that but a sort of faith? Yes, we had
been faithful, abjectly faithful to the God of
Reason. So, in one way or another, we discovered
that faith had been involved all the time!
We found too, that we had been worshippers. What
a state of mental gooseflesh that used to bring
on! Had we not variously worshipped people, sentiment,
things, money, and ourselves? And then, with a
better motive, had we not worshipfully beheld
the sunset, the sea, or a flower? Who of us had
not loved something or somebody? How much did
these feelings, these loves, these worships have
to do with pure reason? Little or nothing, we
saw at last. Were not these things the tissue
out of which our lives were constructed? Did not
these feelings, after all, determine the course
of our existence? It was impossible to say we
had no capacity for faith, or love, or worship.
In one form or another we had been living by faith
and little else.
Imagine life without faith! Were nothing left
but pure reason, it wouldn't be life. But we believed
in life - of course we did. We could not prove
life in the sense that you can prove a straight
line is the shortest distance between two points:
yet, there it was. Could we still say the whole
thing was nothing but a mass of electrons, created
out of nothing, meaning nothing, whirling on to
a destiny of nothingness? Of course we couldn't.
The electrons themselves seemed more intelligent
than that. At least, so the chemist said.
Hence, we saw that reason isn't everything. Neither
is reason, as most of us used it, entirely dependable,
though it emanate from our best minds. What about
people who proved that man could never fly?
Yet we had been seeing another kind of flight,
a spiritual liberation from this world, people
who rose above their problems. They said God made
these things possible, and we only smiled. We
had seen spiritual release, but liked to tell
ourselves it wasn't true.
Actually we were fooling ourselves, for deep down
in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental
idea of God. It may be obscured by calamity, by
pomp, by worship of other things, but in some
form or other it is there. For faith in a Power
greater than ourselves, and miraculous demonstrations
of that power in human lives, are facts as old
as man himself.
We finally saw that faith in some kind of God
was a part of our make-up, just as much as the
feeling we have for a friend. Sometimes we had
to search fearlessly, but He was there. He was
as much a fact as we were. And we are sure you
will find the Great Reality deep down within you.
In the last analysis it is only there that He
may be found. It was so with us; why not with
We can only clear the ground a bit for you. If
our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables
you to think honestly, encourages you to search
diligently within yourself, then you will have
joined us on the Broad Highway. With this attitude
you cannot fail. The consciousness that you do
believe is sure to come to you.
In this book you will read the experience of a
man who thought he was an atheist. His story is
so interesting that some of it should be told
now. His change of heart was dramatic, convincing,
Our friend was a minister's son. He attended church
school, where he became rebellious at what he
thought an overdose of religious education. For
years thereafter he was dogged by trouble and
frustration. Business failure, insanity, fatal
illness, suicide - these calamities in his immediate
family embittered and depressed him. Post-war
disillusionment, ever more serious alcoholism,
impending mental and physical collapse, brought
him to the point of self-destruction.
One night when confined in a hospital, he was
approached by an alcoholic who had known a spiritual
experience. Our friend's gorge rose as he bitterly
cried out: "If there is a God, He certainly hasn't
done anything for me." But later, alone in his
room, he asked himself this question: "Is it possible
that all the religious people I have known are
wrong?" While pondering the answer, he felt as
though he lived in hell. Then, like a thunderbolt,
a great thought came. It crowded out all else:
"WHO ARE YOU TO SAY THERE IS NO GOD?"
This man recounts that he tumbled out of bed to
his knees. In a few seconds he was overwhelmed
by a conviction of the Presence of God. It poured
over and through him with the certainty and majesty
of a great tide at flood. The barriers he had
built through the years were swept away. He stood
in the Presence of Infinite Power and Love. He
had stepped from bridge to shore. For the first
time, he lived in conscious companionship with
Thus was our friend's cornerstone fixed in place.
No later vicissitude has shaken it. His alcoholic
problem was taken away. That very night three
years ago it disappeared. Save for a few brief
moments of temptation, the thought of drink has
never returned; and at such times a great revulsion
has risen up in him. Seemingly he could not drink
even if he would. God had restored his sanity.
What is this but a miracle of healing? Yet its
elements are simple. Circumstances made him willing
to believe. He humbly offered himself to his Maker
- then he knew.
Even so has God restored us all to our right minds.
To this man, the Revelation was sudden. Some of
us grow into it more slowly. But He has come to
all who have honestly sought Him.
Draw near to Him and He will disclose Himself