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the Big Book
article is written by nationally recognized historian and
oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
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.
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
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.
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.
Were Not New
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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).
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
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."
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."
Four Practical Spiritual Activities of the Oxford Group
(from What Is The Oxford Group):
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
Surrender of our life, past, present, and future, into God's
keeping and direction.
Restitution to all whom we have wronged directly or indirectly.
Listening to, accepting, relying on God's Guidance and carrying
it out in everything we do or say, great or small.
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
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."
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).
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.
will be revealed