How the New Age hijacks 12 step programs
http://womenofgrace.com/newage/?p=875#more-875, By Susan Brinkmann April 20, 2011
EG writes: “I am willing to accept that the 12 step programs are new age with the “God as you understand him” placed in the steps. My husband got over an addiction to alcohol in 1981 through Alcoholic Anonymous and remained sober till his death in 1998. I joined Al-anon before he joined AA. We did not stay active in the Program as it is called but we would drop in once in a while. We were active in our Catholic Convent Community, but it seemed like it really helped us to be dependent on the Lord instead of ourselves. I read Jesus Christ Bearer of the Water of Life, and wondered why the twelve step programs were included. I heard on EWTN’s Life on the Rock that they use the twelve step program for Courage, the program to help those suffering from same-sex attraction.”
EG continues: “One of the things I have noticed is that the program members are getting involved in the “Course in Miracles”, and I know of members who are starting Self Help Seminar programs that are using some AA materials but without ‘that god stuff’. Could I get some clarification on this as I find it confusing?”
A lot of controversy surrounds 12 step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) because of it’s emphasis on an unnamed “higher power”, which leaves the door wide open to New Agers who have turned this ambiguousness into an “invent-a-god” concept that is a perfect fit for their esoteric ideology.
But this is a very complex subject and I won’t attempt to cover it all in a blog. However, I can point you to this very thoroughly written article, entitled “Catholicity of 12 Step Programs” by W. Robert Aufill which appeared in the October 1996 issue of This Rock, http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1996/9610fea1.asp.
Essentially, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and dozens of other 12-step self-help programs are modeled on an early twentieth century movement known as the Oxford Group (not the Oxford Movement). It was founded on a belief in the necessity of personal conversion, a transforming spiritual experience, and restitution. Alcoholics used this movement, which sought to practice “original Christianity”, to become sober. After just a few years, they broke away from the Oxford Group to focus more on helping alcoholics recover. According to the writer of this article appearing in an October 1996 issue of This Rock, the two co-founders of the original AA, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, retained much of the vision of the Oxford Group and were heavily influenced by Catholic theology.
The original AA is fundamentally theistic which poses a problem for New Agers who believe in self liberation of the “god within” through either esoteric knowledge, one’s own power – or both. They also don’t believe in sin, only in one’s ignorance of their own divinity. Where AA speaks of growing in the image and likeness of God, New Agers are more interested in becoming God.
But New Agers in the burgeoning recovery and self-help group movement have managed to refashion these programs into something that better fits their ideology. As you state in your e-mail, some members are drifting into A Course in Miracles, which is a program designed to reorient a person from a Judeo-Christian to a New Age worldview, while others are becoming involved in spin-offs that are stripped of any biblical understanding of God.
This is why “twelve-step programs and self-help groups” are listed in the Pontifical document, Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life, as being connected to the New Age:
“Advertising connected with New Age covers a wide range of practices as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, kinesiology, homeopathy, iridology, massage and various kinds of ‘bodywork’ (such as orgonomy, Feldenkrais, reflexology, Rolfing, polarity massage, therapeutic touch etc.), meditation and visualization, nutritional therapies, psychic healing, various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, metals, music or colors, reincarnation therapies and, finally, twelve-step programmes and self-help groups. The source of healing is said to be within ourselves, something we reach when we are in touch with our inner energy or cosmic energy.”
The darker side of these programs is documented in a book by Martin and Deidre Bobgan entitled, 12 Steps To Destruction, in which they describe how many 12 step programs have become, in essence, New Age religions. This happens because they have learned to adapt the vague concept of a “higher power” into the concept of a kind of universal god that will appeal to all and eventually open the door to one-world religion. “When one configures his own image of god and places himself under that power, he is essentially his own god, because he finds that god within himself and within his own experience,” they write.
Even though these programs have worked wonders in many lives, the infiltration of the New Age into this area of self-help makes it necessary to scrutinize individual programs and their facilitators for any influences that are not compatible with Christianity.
12 steps – to where?
I was asked: what is your stand on 12 Step programs? My response was: what about 12 Steps? The answer came back to me: well, your seminars and book Spiritualistic Deception in Health and Healing expose spiritualism in health care, but you have said nothing about 12 step programs and we have personally taken programs where 12 steps were used and have concern. This comment surprised me. First, I knew only a little about the 12 step doctrine and in past years had felt no hesitancy to recommend participation in Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program. Second, I was not as informed as I might have been that the 12 step approach had expanded as a framework for recovery therapy in so many different avenues.
There were several individuals encouraging me to study this issue and if a second book exposing spiritualism in health care was to be written, I was urged to include a discussion of this subject. Notice, I had a bias is favor of the 12 step program as used for various afflictions. This chapter is my response to those requests and from my research. These two chapters on Twelve Steps may seem excessively detailed and lengthy, however, every paragraph has been written with a specific purpose. That purpose is to relate to each of the principles presented to me in favor of the Twelve Step program by its proponents. Twelve Step exercises were not the first steps used in the field of mind therapy, Ignatius Loyola in the 1500’s established Steps of Spiritual Exercises in his Jesuit Order, and later the eminent spiritualist, Swedenborg (1688 to 1772) included in his writings a spiritual 12 steps. However, there is no evidence that the steps of Ignatius were copied by Swedenborg or that the 12 step program of Alcoholic Anonymous was in turn copied from Swedenborg.
Today, “12 steps” are best known for their use in Alcoholics Anonymous sobriety programs. However, the 12 step method is used in a large variety of programs conducted to help people overcome addictions and improper habits. To understand how this came into being we need to tell the story of how AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) started and grew into a worldwide organization. The story is told in detail in Alcoholics Anonymous (the blue book) and Pass It On, published by Alcoholic Anonymous World Services, Inc., in this chapter it will be presented in a more brief form.
Bill Wilson as a young man had risen in the financial world to a profitable position as a stock analyst of influence in the New York Stock Exchange. With his rise to financial success so to there was a rise of Bill’s association with alcohol. Alcohol began to dominate his life to the extent that he was drinking night and day. When the stock market crashed in October 1929, so too did the fortunes of Bill Wilson. For the next five years Bill remained unemployed, supported by his wife.1 His involvement in alcohol grew deeper with the passing of time.
Promises and attempts to stop alcohol consumption had been in vain, he was not able to stop, and continued the downward spiral toward oblivion. His physician brother-in-law convinced him to seek admission three times to the Towns Hospital for alcohol and drug addictions in New York City, which was known for its “belladonna treatment” (a combination of two hallucinatory drugs) along with hydrotherapy. After the third admission in less than two years he left the hospital sobered for a few months, but reasoned he could take “one” drink on Armistice Day 1934; he quickly found himself back where he started, incessant drinking.
As Bill sat drinking in the kitchen at his home while his wife was away working, he received a telephone call from an old drinking friend requesting permission to come to Bill’s home to visit. Bill states that his friend was sober; it had been years since Bill had seen him that way.2 Bill looked forward to drinking again with his friend, Ebby Thatcher. When Ebby came into the house and sat down Bill pushed a drink across the table but Ebby refused the drink. Bill urged him again to take it but a firm refusal was the response. Bill asked “what is all this about?” The reply: “I’ve got religion.” Bill was stunned, but reasoned that it left more drink for himself. Ebby then shared with Bill how two months previously his friend Rowland H., came from the “Oxford Group” as he, Ebby, was in court and the judge was committing him to asylum. The judge was persuaded to suspend the sentence and let Rowland and his friends work with Ebby Thatcher in their religious way. Ebby Thatcher said it worked; for two months he had been dry.3
Rowland H. was a recovered alcoholic and had an interesting story as it has to do with the earliest beginnings of Alcoholic Anonymous. Rowland was desperately trying to become sober so he went to Switzerland to be a patient of the psychiatrist C.G. Jung M.D. There he received therapy for a year and returned home. Before long he returned to alcohol. He returned to Switzerland but Jung told him he had no more help for him and to go home and find a spiritual answer through religion. Rowland returned home, joined the Oxford Group and became sober. He heard of his friend Ebby and sought him out at the time the judge was going to commit him.
Bill’s friend Ebby had come to Bill to offer him this same path to sobriety, if he was interested. Bill was interested, realizing he was hopeless. In writing about this event Bill reviews his understanding of the forces in the universe. He declares that he was not an atheist:
…Despite contrary indications, I had little doubt that a mighty purpose and rhythm underlay all. How could there be so much of precise and immutable law, and no intelligence. I simply had to believe in a Spirit of the Universe, who knew neither time nor limitation. But that was as far as I had gone. With ministers, and the world’s religions, I parted right there. When they talked of a God personal to me, who was love, superhuman strength and direction, I became irritated and my mind snapped shut against such a theory.4
When Bill looked at and listened to his friend who had been in the process of being committed, to being locked up, because he was totally incapable of personal control. As he heard the testimony of Ebby testifying of his miraculous recovery, Bill then and there had a re-appraisal of his prejudices toward religious people. Here was an impossible change in a human heart. Bill comments in telling his own story that he could accept a power of the universe referred to as Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind, or Spirit of Nature, but could not accept a King of the Heavens no matter if He was said to be the source of love.
At this point Ebby suggested to Bill, why not go ahead and “choose his own concept of God?” What a thought, just to be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself, nothing more, Wow! There was no real surrender at this point and Bill continued to drink. Some days later Bill was drunk and in despair, so he sought out Ebby for help. Ebby was not at the mission where he stayed, but Bill attended the meeting that was being conducted at the mission by the Oxford Group. In a drunken condition he kneeled and committed himself to the God of his understanding. However, he continued to drink. Bill was at his lowest ebb once again, recognizing he was incapable of climbing out of the pit he had slid into. He admitted himself once again into the alcoholic rehab hospital in New York. Bill tells us he placed himself into the hands of God, as he understood him. It was while undergoing treatment with Dr. Silkworth’s Belladonna Cure Bill experienced a “Hot Flash” spiritual conversion while in the Towns Rehab Center, and he ceased drinking. Immediately prior this sudden conversion Bill Had shouted out:
I’ll do anything! Anything at all! If there be a God, let Him show himself!” What happened next was electric. “Suddenly, my room blazed with an indescribably white light. I was seized with an ecstasy beyond description. Every joy I had known was pale by comparison. The light, the ecstasy — I was conscious of nothing else for a time.5
Then, seen in the mind’s eye, there was a mountain. I stood upon its summit, where a great wind blew. A wind, not of air, but of spirit. In great, clean strength, it blew right through me. Then came the blazing thought ‘you are a free man.’ I know not at all how long I remained in this state, but finally the light became more quiet, a great peace stole over me, and this was accompanied by a sensation difficult to describe. I became a living spirit. I lay on the shores of a new world. ‘This’ I thought, ‘must be the great reality. The God of the preachers.’6
A question, what is the source of this “Hot Flash” experience? Did the hallucinating drugs he was being prescribed while in the hospital have any effect? Was it from the Creator God of the Universe? Did it come from some other power? The effect was certainly long lasting; and the first time Bill had experienced anything like it.
Wilson had his “hot flash” spiritual awakening, while being treated with these drugs, He claimed to have seen a white light and when he told his attending physician, Dr. William Silkworth about his experience, he was advised ‘not to discount it.’ When Wilson left the hospital he never drank again.7
He took full responsibility for his ways and turned them over to this new found Friend, the new “God-consciousness within,“8 and the effect was “electric.”9 Bill drank no alcohol from that day forward, Dec. 11, 1934.
Ebby continued to share with Bill the principles that the Oxford Group taught which are identified in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age by Bill Wilson. These consist of self-examination for character faults, then admitting and confessing them to some other human, giving restitution to those who you may have harmed, and working as a missionary to help others who are in a similar status.10
Let us digress a bit at this time in Bill’s story to gain an understanding of the Oxford Group. An American Lutheran pastor, Frank Buckman, initiated a spiritual movement starting in the U.S. in 1908, then, moving to England by 1921; it was known as A First Century Christian Fellowship. It grew rapidly in numbers and by 1931 was referred to as the Oxford Group, and in 1939 was legally incorporated under that name. They were centered in England at Oxford. This movement became international with participation of hundreds of thousands in number in many countries of Europe, the Americas, and Asia. There were no membership rolls, no dues, no paid leaders, no theological creed, nor regular meetings. It was a fellowship of people wishing to follow their God; chosen by their understanding of a Higher Power.
Buchman paid little attention to theology as found in the scriptures, he stressed simplicity of beliefs and emphasized people are sinners, all sinners are capable of changing, confession must precede change, with a change God can be accessed directly, miracles do happen, and those individuals changed must guide others into change.11 With the characteristic of minimal theology this movement was accepted by other beliefs with little concern.
The goal of this movement was to bring global peace through changing people from the heart outward. It concentrated its missionary effort on persons of leadership positions and of wealth. In this endeavor they were very successful.
The minimal theology of the Oxford Group consists of four absolutes: 1) absolute honesty, 2) absolute purity 3) absolute usefulness 4) and absolute love. Spiritual practices employed were 1) Sharing (confessing) your sins with another person; 2) Surrendering your past, present, and future life unto the control of the Higher Power of one’s understanding; 3) Restitution to any one harmed; 4) Listening for God’s guidance and then following it.
It was a custom to confess one’s sins (sharing) not only to another individual but also in a public forum. The sharing of the sins of members was practiced with the idea that it would help others that as of yet had not changed, to recognize they were sinners and openly confess their sins. The Oxford Group looked at alcoholism as a spiritual “disease— sin” hence the need for a spiritual solution which confession addressed; consequently a “cure” was possible. Listening for God’s guidance was done daily in early morning by private meditation, prayer, and scripture study. The individual would take pen and paper and write down the directions received from God during the “silence” of meditation.
BILL WILSON (continued)
From the time Bill W. reached sobriety and began to proselyte the principles of the Oxford Group until his first success of helping bring another alcoholic to sobriety (Dr. Bob Smith) was fifty drunks and six months later, summer, June 10, 1935.12 Lois and Bill Wilson attended an Oxford Group meeting in Frederick, Maryland at Francis Scott Key Hotel. James Houck, an Oxford Group member also attended these meetings stated that Bill W. always centered on alcohol and was obsessed with carrying the message of deliverance.
Bill was on a business trip to Akron, Ohio, in May 1935, but the business proposition he came to complete fell through, plunging him into a compulsion to drown it in alcohol. At the Mayflower Hotel in Akron, where he was staying he looked into the cocktail room and was tempted to go in, get drunk and forget this misadventurous business trip. He fought off the overwhelming urge, said a prayer, “received guidance,” and then looked at the ministers’ directory board in the hotel. His finger fell on the name of Reverend Tunks who turned out to be acquainted with members of the Oxford Group in Akron. Bill was directed by Tunks to call Henrietta Seiberling; as a new Oxford Group had been meeting at her house for just one month. Bill was invited to join with them in a meeting where he met Bob Smith, M.D. The meeting with Dr. Bob was the beginning of a long association, as well as experiencing his first success in helping another drunk to sobriety.
BOB SMITH, M.D. (Dr. Bob)
Bob Smith was raised in a small New England town by a religious family. With his family, he attended regularly not only Sunday services but Sunday evening, Monday evenings and often Wednesday for prayer meeting. When he left home he decided not to enter a church again except for special occasions, such as funerals, etc. This pledge he was faithful to.
In his college days he took up drinking for pleasure and he excelled in this new-found pursuit. Following the college years he worked as a salesman selling large hardware products and was able to continue the use of alcohol without interfering in his work. After three years he chose to study medicine. The companionship of alcohol continued with him into the study of medicine. It caused him to have to transfer to another medical school after his second year. He eventually finished school, and then had two further years of hospital internship training. During the internship he was too busy to have time to drink. He went into private practice following the internship and once again took up drinking.
Alcohol plagued him throughout his working years. He admitted himself to rehab institutions many times, yet, continued to drink. During these years his wife was faithful to him and continued to search for some method of help. Nothing was of value. In the spring of 1935,
Bob had contact with members of the Oxford Group in his town and through Henrietta Seiberling of Akron met a man (Bill W.) who was a recovered alcoholic. This friendship resulted in Dr. Bob’s sobriety, starting June 10, 1935, when Dr. Bob took his last drink. This friendship of Dr. Bob and Bill W. resulted in the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous, June 10, 1935.13
Bill Wilson stayed in Akron for some months attempting to resurrect the business project that had brought him to Akron, while also continuing to support Dr. Bob Smith in his ongoing sobriety. Both began to work for other alcoholics in Akron as well as attending Oxford Group meetings. Bill eventually moved into the home of Dr. Bob as he worked on his business project. They began to work on developing a program to be used to help alcoholics gain sobriety. They immediately looked for drunks to share their approach with. A third recovered alcoholic, Bill D., soon joined them in sobriety, then a fourth, Ernie. A partnership was born for working with alcoholics.14
There was no name for this group; however, they still stayed close to the Oxford Group. After four months in Akron Bill’s business adventure failed so he returned to New York.
Bill and Lois attended Oxford Group meetings including various Oxford house parties (large gatherings) from 1934 until 1937. Bill was holding his own meetings for alcoholics at his home during the time he was attending the Oxford meetings. This brought a rift between the two groups in 1935.15
The Oxford group in New York advised the alcoholics they were working with not to attend the meetings at the home of Bill and Lois. Bill departed from the Oxford Group in 1937. In 1938 the Oxford Group was asked by Oxford University to change its name to avoid controversy; this it did taking the name Moral Rearmament (M.R.A).16
In 1937 Bill traveled to Akron, Ohio, to see Dr. Bob. The two men conducted a formal review of their separate work. There were nearly 40 men in sobriety as a result of their work the past two years. Both Dr. Bob and Bill W. were broke financially but rich in spirit. They came to the realization that it might be possible for their program to eventually circle the globe.
What a tremendous thing that realization was! At last we were sure. There would be no more flying totally blind. We actually wept for joy, and Bob and Anne and I bowed our heads in silent thanks.17
In this meeting, agreement was made for preparing a book to be used in their meetings. A book would make it possible to present a standard program everywhere. As they were working with alcoholics to gain sobriety they had been recommending a book on the beatitudes of the Bible, authored by a New Thought Movement minister, Emmett Fox. Several individuals that joined the groups and became ex-alcoholics wrote in their testimonies of having received recommendation from their group leaders to study that book.
In the spring of 1938 Dr. Bob and Bill W. moved forward to produce a text book for their group. The duty for writing fell upon Bill W. The purpose for the book was to have a text that would stimulate interest in sobriety, motivate those desiring to reach this goal and contain the program information followed in the recovery meetings that were presently being conducted. When Bill came to the place in the book writing where he was to form the basic program to follow, he hesitated; he knew it needed to be powerful and thorough:
There must not be a single loophole through which the rationalizing alcoholic could wiggle out.18
So far the recovery programs conducted did not have written material to follow; they simply followed word-of-mouth techniques. There were six basic steps then in use by the Oxford Group as follows:
1. We admitted that we were licked, that we were powerless over alcohol.
2. We made a moral inventory of our defects or sins
3. We confessed or shared our shortcomings with another person in confidence.
4. We made restitution to all those we had harmed by our drinking.
5. We tried to help other alcoholics, with no thought of reward in money or prestige.
6. We prayed to whatever God we thought there was for power to practice these precepts.
Bill had concern that the six steps as outlined were not definitive enough and needed amplification so as to avoid ambiguity. In December of 1938, while lying in bed with pen and paper he first relaxed, then asked for guidance, and then began to write. As he started writing the words flowed out of his mind and within 30 minutes he had formed 12 steps in the place of the original six.19
When the book manuscript was finished, 400 copies were printed to be circulated for appraisal. There was strong criticism by the atheists and agnostics in the group of recovered alcoholics reviewing the manuscript prior to printing because of the word “God” being used so frequent. So the word “God” was changed to “Higher Power as you understand it” and or “God as we understand Him” was substituted in most places. Another expression Bill had used was the expression “asking of God on one’s knees to having one’s shortcomings removed,” and this phrase was requested to be removed. Thus the agnostics and atheists were placated. In April of 1939 Alcoholics Anonymous had become a fellowship with its own text and program.
The 12 steps are the backbone of the Alcoholics Anonymous program; the title soon took on the nick-name Fellowship and has continued for the past seventy plus years. There was a difference in philosophy from the teachings of the Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous Fellowships; the Oxford Group taught that alcoholism is a spiritual malady and can only be cured by spiritual means; Alcoholics Anonymous takes the stand that alcoholism is a “disease” that needs a spiritual experience to control but does not effect a cure. Hence, once an alcoholic—always an alcoholic so there is need to have continuous fellowship.
The completed book contained the 12 steps. At this time in 1939 the number of recovered people was slightly more than one hundred. They voiced their reason for supporting the publishing of this book.
We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book…20
Progress in spreading the 12 step program was slow as were the book sales. There was a gradual increase in locations for the Fellowship meetings and contacts were made in various ways which often led to additional groups starting.
On a cold rainy night in the winter of 1940 Bill W. had an unexpected guest. Father Ed Dowling, a Jesuit Priest from St. Louis, also editor of the Queen’s Work, a Catholic publication. He had come to visit with Bill after obtaining and reading the book, Alcoholics Anonymous. The book created a great interest in this priest and he wanted to discuss it with the author. He said he was fascinated by it because of parallels of 12 Steps of AA to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the spiritual discipline of the Jesuit order. Bill stated he knew nothing of the exercises of Loyola. The similarity of spiritual exercises of the Jesuit Order and the AA 12 steps so impressed the local Jesuit organization in St. Louis where Father Dowling was a member, that another priest (an alcoholic) of the order wrote out both the Jesuit spiritual exercises and the 12 steps and posted them together in the Queen’s Work publication office. A friendship started that night of their meeting which was to grow in depth for the next twenty years. Bill later characterized that evening as the evening he had a “second conversion experience.”
On March 1, 1941, The Saturday Evening Post published an article on Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program, and success in sales of the book as well as increased interest of people wishing to participate in the program followed immediately. The country now knew of AA, book orders came in and there was steady progress in expansion in the number of fellowship meeting groups.
A mental state of deep depression afflicted Bill Wilson around 1944 and was to remain with him for ten years. It greatly interfered in his work. He was unable to write more than one half page per day as he worked on his next book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Nell Wing, his secretary, tells that he frequently broke down in tears while dictating to her. He found that many recovered alcoholics a few years following recovery, suffered depression. He wrote letters to many of them in an attempt to help them and himself as well.
In 1953 the Alcoholic Anonymous organization published Twelve Steps—Twelve Traditions, a book that had taken Bill W. several years to complete. This book was an extensive treatise and amplification on the 12 steps that had been the backbone of Alcoholics Anonymous’ program for gaining sobriety. He added the Twelve Traditions that pertained to the working and governing principles of their organization. These Tradition Steps in 1950 had previously been ratified by the first International Alcoholics Anonymous Convention. This book became a very popular addition to the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Alcoholics Anonymous eventually received acceptance, as a powerful, safe, inexpensive, method for gaining sobriety. This acceptance came from the medical establishment, from religious bodies (especially from Roman Catholicism), and from most secular organizations and general public. It became a worldwide organization, guided by the books Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve traditions. The program is the same in all countries of the world.
This organization has maintained that it is not a religion but simply a tool which all organizations and religions may safely use without interfering in their religious belief or personal persuasion. Bill Wilson put great effort in writing to choose words and phrases that would keep wide the gate of entrance into AA. He stated that he had to make it work for:
“…atheists, agnostics, believers, depressives, paranoids, clergymen, psychiatrists, and all and sundry”.21
The Foreword for the 2nd edition of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1955 states there were 6000 groups in 52 countries with 150,000 recovered alcoholics. In March of 1976 the 3rd edition was introduced and 1,000,000 people were meeting in 28,000 groups in 90 countries. By the time of the third edition Alcoholics Anonymous had been translated into 43 languages. The 4th edition came off the press November 2001. Comment is again made that the membership had doubled to 2,000,000 since 1976; 100,800 groups were meeting in 150 countries and 15,000,000 books of Alcoholics Anonymous had been printed.
The core principles utilized in the group meetings are the 12 steps. These steps have been used in many other programs for recovery from different addictions and destructive practices; for obesity, narcotic addiction, anger control, sexual perversions, and a variety of programs for anxiety and neurosis. The 12 steps are also in popular use within many churches. Wikipedia in an article on the 12 steps contains the following quote:
In 1999 Time Magazine declared Bill W. to be in the top twenty of the Time 100: Heroes and Icons who exemplified “courage, selflessness, exuberance, super human ability and amazing grace” in the 20th century.22
A writer, Dick Burns, a recovered alcoholic now in his eighties, has produced 30 or more books promoting the 12 step program as originating from a Christian organization, the Oxford Group, and that the co-founders, Dr. Bob and Bill W., were near to being Christians. He also has been a staunch defender in print against critics that dispute his characterization of 12 steps being a Christian-based program. Charges of involvement of spiritualism in the origin of and contained within the 12 steps have been made over the years by a variety of individuals including ministers of the Gospel. Dick Burns in his defense of the principles of the 12 steps has not directly answered critics on this point. To the critics it seems that he side-steps this issue.
The common public concept as well as by many individuals who utilize the 12 steps for use in programs for conditions other than alcoholic addiction is that the program is based upon the Judeo Christian tradition. Since I had spent many years researching spiritualism’s rapidly spreading influence in medical therapy several individuals suggested that I had the background knowledge to recognize seeds of spiritualism within the 12 step system if it was present. I received very strong urging to do such a study. I was not anxious to do so as I carried the belief that AA was indeed based in Christian doctrine, was an excellent organization, and was doing a good job in helping recovery for various problems.
I am aware that information that would presumably expose spiritualistic concepts within 12 step therapies would initiate strong reactions. This would bring forth questions in the mind of the reader as to whether I, the author, had become unbalanced and saw ghosts of spiritualism in everything. The subject of the book, Spiritualistic Deception in Health and Healing, has been as a whole, well accepted except by those individuals who were involved in a particular therapy exposed. Often I hear that the book is correct in all but a specific therapy which of course was the one this person had belief in. The only defense of a spiritualistic method of therapy ever presented to me in twenty years in sharing my understanding of spiritualism’s influence in medicine has been, “well, it works.”
I have asked myself the question many times, am I seeing spiritualistic ghosts where they do not exist? In most every seminar I have presented exposing spiritualism’s rapidly spreading tentacles, there has been someone who had been involved in New Age or occult practices that came to me and expressed their thanks for my willingness to expose these deceptions and that my material was correct. These comments have helped to calm concern of “over reaction” on my part.
In the remainder of this chapter I will present what I learned in my study on 12 Steps. I will then let the reader decide if the concern expressed of spiritualistic concepts being incorporated within the 12 steps is or is not true.
WAS THE OXFORD GROUP CHRISTIAN?
The proponents of AA have insisted that the Oxford Group was a Christian movement, but one could ask upon what basis is this comment made. Pastor H.A. Ironside, in a sermon preached in Moody Memorial Church, testified:
I have gone through book after book, supposedly setting forth the teaching of the Oxford Group Movement, and have not found one reference to the precious blood of Christ in any of them, nor any reference to the fact that the worst sin that any one can possibly commit is the sin of rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘There is none other name under heaven given among men, where by ye must be saved’ (Acts 4:12)23
There were practices of the Oxford Group that were not in harmony with Christian theology. These included choosing a god of your understanding and not the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God who came in the flesh, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Also their method of confession, that of personal sins being “shared” in a public forum is not Biblical. The scripture text in James 5 that tells us to “confess our faults one to another” is telling us to confess to our brother when we have faulted him, not to share it with everyone. We are to confess our sins to God and not to mortal man unless we have faulted him.
And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess (your) faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5: 15, 16
The English word “meditation” often leads to confusion. It has a dual meaning and sometimes it is difficult to differentiate as to which meaning is meant when the word is used. One meaning is referring to a deep thought and study attitude wherein our mind is most active upon a subject; another definition refers to an empting of the mind, a cessation of active thought, placing the thought process in neutral. Often it is necessary to look at the setting in which the word is used to know the intention of the author. Such is the case in its use in writings pertaining to the Oxford Group.
Also it had become a practice of the Oxford Group to hold meditation sessions. Members would sit, pencils in hand, waiting to jot down any “guidance” that might come through during their silences…24
An Oxford Group member, C. Irving Benson, who was also a minister, gave caution concerning the Quiet Time/guidance in spite of the Bible being read during this period.
The silence becomes a sacrament wherein God comes to us25… I wait in self-forgetting silence, contemplating the presence of God.26
Pastor H.A. Ironside, a noted fundamental evangelist of the 1930’s and 1940’s, was very familiar with the Oxford Group and carefully evaluated their teachings. He made the following comment in regards to their meditation practices in a small booklet he wrote entitled, The Oxford Group Movement: Is It Scriptural?
Each (Oxford Group) member is urged…to sit quietly with the mind emptied of every thought…waiting for God to say something to them…sometimes they tell me nothing happens, at other times the most amazing things come. Tested by the Word of God, many of these things are unscriptural. They lay themselves open for demons to communicate their blasphemous thoughts to them.27 (emphasis in original quote)
Robert Thomsen wrote in his biography Bill W.:
…that it had become a practice of the Oxford Group members to hold meditation sessions. They would sit, pencils in hand, waiting to jot down any guidance that might come through during the silences and it was extraordinary how many times that winter the message from on high would indicate that Bill Wilson should get himself a job and leave his drunks in peace.28
Two women identifying themselves only as “Two Listeners” wrote the book, God Calling wherein they received Quiet/Time “guidance” in the manner outlined by the Oxford Group. They tell us they received the words of Christ Jesus on a daily basis.29 These words they received were not from the Holy Scriptures but out of meditation of “guidance.” One of the two “Listeners” wrote the introduction for the book and entitled it The Voice Divine, wherein she speaks of the experience of the other “Listener” receiving guidance.
But with my friend a very wonderful thing happened. From the first, beautiful messages were given to her by our Lord Himself, and every day from then these messages have never failed us.
We felt all unworthy and over whelmed by the wonder of it, and could hardly realize that we were being taught, trained and encouraged day by day by HIM personally, when millions of souls, far worthier, had to be content with guidance from the Bible, sermons, their Churches, books and other sources.30
A prior Oxford Group member, then later an AA member, Richmond Walker, wrote a small book, Twenty-Four Hours a Day. This book had much in it that was based on the book, God Calling by the two “Listeners.” He did not refer to Jesus Christ but substituted words that fit a universal spirituality. The book, Twenty-Four Hours a Day, millions of AA members have read.31 AA history website says of Twenty-Four Hours a Day:
The book explained how to practice meditation by quieting the mind and entering the Divine Silence in order to enter the divine peace and calm and restore our souls.32 (emphasis added)
Modern Mystics describe “silence” as in Three Magic Words by Uell S. Anderson:
The brain is stilled. The man at last lets go; he glides below it into the quiet feeling, the quiet sense of his own identity with the self of other things-of the universe. He glides past the feeling into the very identity itself where a glorious all consciousness leaves no room for separate self thoughts or emotions. (Emphasis added)
I turn from the world about me to the world of consciousness that lies within. I shut out all memories of the past, create no images of the future. I concentrate on my being, on my awareness. I slide deep into the very recesses of my soul to a place of utter repose. I know, I know that this is Immortal Self, this is God, this is me, I AM, I always was, I always will be. (Emphasis added)
Twenty-four Hours in a Day states:
There is a spark of the Divine in every one of us. Each has some of God’s spirit that can be developed by spiritual exercise.33
The Oxford Group Movement promoted several additional books for study. One was given to Bill W. by Ebby Thatcher shortly after Bill’s conversion. This book was Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, M.D. James was professor of psychiatry and philosophy at Harvard and a contemporary of Freud and Jung. He, too, (James) was a renowned spiritualist.
“… Bill learned that even his experience at Towns was not unique. He could never recollect if it had been Ebby or Roland who gave him a copy of William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience, but he remembered the impact of the book. It was James’s theory that spiritual experiences could have a very definite objective reality and might totally transform a man’s life.34
…as Bill Pittman has found, The
varieties of Religious Experience was “the most often quoted book” in Oxford literature…35
The Oxford Group considered “sin” as a moral issue and hence confessing a prerequisite to conversion which would be the solution for sin. They also looked at alcohol as a sin and hence with a conversion it could be cured. Their style of conversion did not depend upon a person accepting by faith Jesus Christ and His shed blood as a propitiation for their sins. The entire system of the Oxford Group appears to leave Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God out of equation and so man attempts to save himself.
The doctrine of pantheism—the Divinity of man and salvation through progression of the divinity of man is seen in the teachings of the Oxford Group. Will this same teaching be seen in Alcoholics Anonymous teachings? Are these teachings of the Oxford Group Judeo-Christian doctrine? That is something the reader must decide!
WERE THE COFOUNDERS, BILL W. AND DR. BOB OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS CHRISTIANS?
DR. BOB SMITH
Dr. Bob had been raised in a Christian home but had chosen to reject Christianity or any religion when he left home. He only entered a church for a funeral or some similar gathering. His alcohol consumption started in college and grew in intensity through his life.
There is very little written about the doctor and his relationship to Christian fellowship. It is true that he was involved closely with Oxford Group activities for two or more years but I did not find any information that revealed he had accepted Christianity. Dr. Bob had been in the Masonic organization but his membership was suspended in 1934. It was later restored when he gained sobriety. When Alcoholics Anonymous formed he gradually moved away from the Oxford Group. From this association it is known that Bob did have a daily twenty minute period of devotion, reading the scriptures, sitting in quiet meditation with pencil and paper in hand waiting for “guidance.”
We do know from a letter sent by Bill W. to his wife Lois in the summer of 1935 that Dr. Bob, Anne, his wife and Bill W. had been active in séances and other psychic events. Pass It On an official book of AA, page 280, tells of a neighbor, friend, and fellow AA member, Tom P., who with his wife frequently joined in “spook sessions” at the Wilson home with Dr. Bob and Bill and their wives; spook sessions were séances and other psychic acts.
Dr. Bob found great interest in and promoted to others while attempting to bring them to sobriety, the book Sermons of the Mount. This book is a commentary by Emmet Fox on the Beatitudes of Matthew chapters 5-7. Emmet Fox was a minister of the New Thought Movement which was active in New England in 1800’s. ‘The New Thought Movement’s doctrines’ were a blend of Christian and Eastern teachings and had wormed its way into many churches of that day feigning as if it would bring a revival and spiritual regeneration. Actually it was a pantheistic “wolf in sheep’s clothing” as is revealed by its teachings.
Fox comments that Jesus was the most influential man in the history of the world. For three and one half years of ministry, His influence continued after his absence affecting vast numbers of people, many nations, and entire civilizations. Jesus is not spoken of as the Divine Son of God in his entire book. Promptly from the beginning of the book we are informed that the Bible does not present any plan of salvation, no system of theology, has no doctrines, that all doctrine of churches is man derived, denigrates the seventh day Sabbath, and that the Bible does not teach atonement by the shed blood of Jesus Christ; the Bible is simply a composite of old fragments of writings of authors unknown. The Adam and Eve story is simply an allegory. His book teaches that man is divine and is in progression toward (“maturity”)—godhood, where he will possess everything God possesses.
He tells us that Jesus said the following: “I have said ye are God,” and “all of you sons of the Most High.” He believed that Jesus actually did miracles but that the power for performing them was obtained by Jesus’ understanding of spiritual things, not that he was “God in the flesh.” He also teaches that “we are all fundamentally one—all part of the Great Mind.” He also teaches that the word “Christ” is not identical with the name Jesus. It only represents “Absolute Spiritual Truth” about any subject.36
Does Dr. Bob’s activity in séances, the psychic arena, and in promoting these doctrines from Fox’s book cause you to question whether or not he was Christian?
In chapter one of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. tells us he was not an atheist and had never been one. He stated he had always believed in some great power above himself and had actually thought on these issues. He did believe that there was some “Spirit of the Universe not bound by time or space”, a “Creative Intelligence”, “Universal Mind,” or “Spirit of Nature.” His mind was closed to accepting a God that he could have a personal relationship with. He saw Christ as man only, not God in the flesh.37 He considered himself an agnostic.
Ebby Thatcher, Bill’s friend and a member of the Oxford Group, had suggested to Bill W. that he could choose a God of his own conception to surrender to. This approach appealed to Bill. What type of God did Bill’s conception pick? He spoke of a Power Higher than himself, but was that Jesus Christ, the only name (Acts 4:12) under heaven whereby we have salvation? He surrendered himself totally unto the Higher Power he had decided on, the “God-consciousness within.”38
“God-consciousness” was not, however, a term taken from James (William James), but rather from the Oxford Group; it described the nature of personal revelation. Consider, for example, the definition in V.C. Kitchen’s I Was A Pagan (1934), an Oxford Group testimonial, by a reformed drunkard, that Wilson likely read. “I am now, in other words,” writes Kitchen, “receiving super natural aid—not through a nonsensical Ouija Board nor any other spiritualistic ‘instrument’—but through God-consciousness— through direct personal contact with the third environment —the spiritual environment I had so long been seeking.39
We will need to explore more of Bill’s statements made over time to better determine if he had chosen the God of Christians, Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God, or perhaps a pantheistic god. The term “God” is used widely as a synonym for various concepts of a Higher Power. A pagan refers to a universal energy—a force, the New Ager similarly. A Christian mystic refers to a power he envisions within himself, often referred to as “God Consciousness,” “Self,” “Christ Consciousness,” etc. Which God did Bill W. pick? He tells us that it was not needful to consider another person’s concept of God, as one’s own conception is all that matters no matter what it is. A “Creative Intelligence, or a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things,”40 was all that is needed to begin to get results. Bill makes the following comment:
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.41
Where was this God of his conception to be found?
…We had to search fearlessly, but He was there, He was as much a fact as we were. We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found. It was so with us.42 (emphasis added)
Here we have a statement, made by the author Bill Wilson in the official book for Alcoholics Anonymous, upholding a pagan—New Age doctrine of the Divine within, pantheism. Does that sound like Bill chose the God of the Christian? These are typical terms and expressions I see routinely used in writings from pantheistic Eastern religions and neo-paganism of the West.
Let us look again, at Bill’s conversion experience while he was in Towns Hospital December 11, 1934. This account of the light experience is recorded by Robert Thomsen in a biography of Bill and brings out an expression not recorded in the previous rendering of this happening. As Bill cried out in desperation:
“Oh God,” he cried, and it was the sound not of a man but of a trapped and crippled animal. “If there is a God, show me. Show me. Give me some sign.”
As he formed the words, in that very instant he was aware first of a light, a great white light that filled the room, then he suddenly seemed caught up in a kind of joy, an ecstasy such as he would never find words to describe. It was as though he were standing high on a mountain top and a strong clear wind blew against him, and round him, through him—but it seemed a wind not of air, but of spirit—and as this happened he had the feeling that he was stepping into another world, a new world of consciousness, and everywhere now there was a wondrous feeling of Presence which all his life he had been seeking. Nowhere had he ever felt so complete, so satisfied, so embraced.
…Then when it passed, when the light slowly dimmed, and the ecstasy subsided—and whether this was a matter of minutes or much longer he never knew; he was beyond any reckoning of time—the sense of Presence was still there about him, within him. And with it there was still another sense, a sense of rightness. No matter how wrong things seemed to be, they were as they were meant to be. There could be no doubt of ultimate order in the universe the cosmos was not dead matter, but a part of the living Presence, just as he was part of it.
Now in place of the light, the exaltation, he was filled with a peace such as he had never known. He had heard of men who tried to open the universe to themselves; he had opened himself to the universe. He had heard men say there was a bit of God in everyone, but this feeling that he was a part of God, himself a living part of the higher power, was a new and revolutionary feeling.43
These statements convincingly suggest that the God Bill W. had chosen was a pantheistic god, not Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God, the God of a Christian. We will continue reviewing statements made by Bill to his friends and in his writing. The quotation above brought to my mind a comment by E.G. White concerning contemplating the Presence of God:
It introduces that which is naught but speculation in regard to the personality of God and where His presence is. No one on this earth has a right to speculate on this question. The more fanciful theories are discussed, the less men will know of God and of the truth that sanctifies the soul…Those who entertain these sophistries will soon find themselves in a position where the enemy can talk with them, and lead them away from God.44 (emphasis added)
At this point in looking for an answer to the question of whether or not Bill Wilson was a Christian we need to share with the reader Bill’s long time connection with spiritualism. When it began no one can be sure, however, the first written information starts with his association with his wife, Lois. Lois in her autobiography, Lois Remembers, recounts fond memories of her church and church family. She came from a family that were members of the Swedenborgian Church (also known as Church of New Jerusalem or New church) and she had attended this church all her life, and was married to Bill in it January of 1918. The mystical aspects of this religion so fascinated Bill and Lois that they vowed to explore it more deeply some time. Her grandfather was a minister in the Swedenborgian church. She mentions the strength and guidance she received from the church’s teachings. What is the origin of the Swedenborgian Church and what are its teachings?
Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) of Sweden was one of Europe’s great minds: mining engineer, expert in metallurgy, astronomy, physics, zoology, anatomy, political economics, an author of voluminous writings, Biblical theologian, a spiritualist, seer, and medium. He has been considered the forerunner of modern spiritualism. He was a psychic from childhood and he continued in such all his life. His influence extended to many great names such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Jung, Helen Keller, etc., and his influence lasted for two centuries every verse of the Bible. He claimed to have direct communications with God, angels, Moses, David, Mary, Martin Luther. Aristotle, the apostles, and many, many other spirits.45 Notice the quote below:
…that night in 1745 his visions began to invade his waking life as well. As he ate, he became aware of frogs and snakes crowding into his private dining room, and an unknown gentleman materialized in a corner to rebuke him for eating too much. Back home in Salisbury Court the stranger appeared again, and introduced himself as Christ, the man-God, creator and redeemer of the world. He then made an important announcement: humanity stood in need of a definitive explication of Holy Scripture, and Swedenborg had been selected to provide it; moreover, to assist him in his labors, he was to be given unrestricted access to the entire spirit world. http://www.victorianweb.org/religion/swedenborg2.html (George P. Landow)
Swedenborgians do not believe that salvation is exclusively through Jesus Christ, but that salvation was possible through all religions. He felt that he was destined to bring this doctrine to the world through his writings.
In Swedenborg’s book, Divine Providence, paragraph 36 he writes:
…picture wisdom as a magnificently and finely decorated palace. One climbs to enter this palace by twelve steps. One can only arrive at the first step by means of the Lord’s power through joining with Him…As a person climbs these steps, he perceives that no one is wise from himself but from the Lord…the in union with love. (emphasis added)
This bit of information is interesting because 200 years later Bill W. would be the writer of a 12 step program that would go to the whole world. Is it possible that the origin of both these top scenarios came from the same spiritual source?
What effect of being a member of the Swedenborgian Church had on Lois is not clear, but it is known that she joined Bill on many of his pursuits in the field of spiritualism such as in séances and table tap ping, and the Ouija board.46 The first recorded spiritualism activity of Bill is seen in his letter to Lois in the summer of 1935, the time when Alcoholics Anonymous had its beginning. He had been in Akron, Ohio, for several months staying at the home of Dr. Bob and Anne Smith, the other cofounder of A.A. Bill wrote to Lois stating he had been active in séances and other psychic events with Dr. Bob and Anne.47
Pass It On is an official book published by the Alcoholics Anonymous organization telling the life story of Bill Wilson. Chapter 16 shares with us that Bill had a persistent fascination and involvement in psychic phenomena. He had a firm belief in reincarnation and felt everyone had had several lives already and the present life was a “spiritual Kindergarten.” It was from this belief that he pursued various forms of occult practices. He believed he could receive energy from another person. He trusted in clairvoyance and other extrasensory phenomena, levitation, Ouija board, séances etc., and played the part of a medium. Spirits would materialize and talk with him.48
This 16th chapter also relates that by 1941 he was holding regular Saturday “spook sessions” at his home—Stepping Stones. One room was reserved just for those sessions. It was dubbed the “spook room” and here various psychic experiments were carried out. Different friends and neighbors would join with him in these endeavors. They also practiced “table tapping,” performed by several people sitting around a table and placing their hands on the edge of the table and then questions would be asked and answers would return by the table tapping out by alphabet, a letter code, at times the table would levitate. At other times Bill would lie on the couch semi-withdrawn, yet not in trance, and receive messages, sometimes one word at a time slowly and other times rapidly.49
He tells of a special time in 1947 that several spirits appeared before him when he was visiting in a home at Nantucket. The visitation of these materialized ghosts occurred when he was alone in the kitchen of the home where he was a guest; the ghosts gave their names and what they had done in life. One of these entities gave the name of “Shaw” and he had been a store keeper on the Island, another gave the name of David Morrow and he had been a sailor, the third called himself Pettingill, a master of a whaler from the Island, then the last another whaling master. Later that day from a monument in the city center and at a museum he found evidence of such people having lived and worked from Nantucket 100 years previously.50, 51
On one session of using a Ouija board, Bill wrote the following:
The Ouija board got moving in earnest. What followed was the fairly usual experience—it was a strange mélange of Aristotle, St. Francis, diverse archangels with odd names, deceased friends — some in purgatory and others doing nicely, thank you! There were malign and mischievous ones of all descriptions, telling of vices quite beyond my ken, even as former alcoholics. Then, the seemingly virtuous entities would elbow them out with messages of comfort, information, advice—and sometimes just sheer nonsense.52
A friend and neighbor, Tom P., tells of one particular “spooking session” he attended along with Bill and Lois at the home of his aunt and uncle. An old sunlight faded table was brought into the room. They sat around the table and began “…Knocking the table around” and it would …”spell out messages. It would raise and tap.”… The table would also levitate. They turned out the lights and took their hands off the table and it “wrapped around inconclusively, and we’d say, ‘Oh well, he’ll find us another session,’ and we all went home.”53
The next day Tom’s aunt called to tell them that morning the table was found refinished perfectly. Everyone went to see, to believe.
Tom said he was a problem for these people (Bill and Dr. Bob) because being an atheist and materialist he could not believe in spirits and other worlds. Tom expressed how that Dr. Bob and Bill “believed “vigorously and aggressively” in spiritualism. That it was not a fun thing or a hobby; it had a purpose for them. It related to their interest in AA “So the thing was not at all divorced from AA. It was very serious for everybody.” Tom also stated that Bill never did anything that was not connected to AA or his own spiritual growth. Tom put it this way, he, Bill, was “one-pointed.54 Another author sheds more light on Bill’s status as spiritualist:
Wilson himself seems to have been an “adept”, that is, “gifted” in the psychic sense; and he served as a medium for a variety of “controls,” some of them recurrent. “Controls,” in the lingo of spiritualism, are the discarnate (having no physical body) entities who seem to usurp a medium’s identity and literally to speak through him or (far more usually) her. Sometimes the control answers questions; sometimes a spirit seems to materialize. In fact, according to the account published in ‘Pass it On,’ Bill had one such experience during a trip to Nantucket in 1944. 55 (Pass It On gave the date as probably 1947)
A member of the Alcoholics Anonymous and the biographer of Bill W. and Mr. Wilson, Matthew J. Raphael speaks plainly in his book page 159:
…it might be said for the cofounder at least, AA was entangled with spiritualism from the very beginning.
After twenty years in AA, Bill and Lois began to break away from the constant duties of AA and in a spirit of controversy about their actions they continued to communicate with spirits. Their séances were not secret and they had many guests that joined with them in their psychic activities. Biographer Susan Cheever in her biography, My Name is Bill, relates in chapter 22 “The Spook Room,” something of these “spook” activities.
…Even the sounds from nature seemed to enter the trance. They could hear a silence beyond silence. Then there would be an almost inaudible tap, or Bill’s quiet voice would begin to form a letter.
Bill and Lois had a rich past together, and on these evenings they were in the presence of the past, in the company of the Yankee householders clustered around their kitchen tables on cold nights before they had electricity They were in the presence of all their own dead, of Bill’s cousin Clarence whose sad violin had been Bill’s first fiddle, and the stern Rayette and Ella Grifﬁth, of Lois’s beloved mother, and her handsome father who read Swedenborg’s teachings to his children in the Clinton Street living room, of all those who had passed on before them.
Bill became acquainted and developed a close relationship with Aldous Huxley, an author (Brave New World), philosopher, teacher, and pioneer of New Age consciousness. Huxley connected Bill with two Canadian psychiatrists, Humphry Osmond and Abram Hoffer, who were working with alcoholics and schizophrenics in an attempt to break through their resistance to surrender. Bill had been involved in helping the alcoholic surrender himself by a spiritual means. Their efforts in experimenting with the use of LSD were with the hope of it being useful for the addict. Nell Wing Bill’s secretary tells us:
There were alcoholics in the hospitals, of which AA could touch and help only about five percent. The doctors started giving them a dose of LSD, so that the resistance would be broken down. And they had about fifteen percent recovery.56
Bill himself took LSD and gave it to his wife, secretary, friends and alcoholics. (It was not illegal at that time.) Bill was very pleased about the use of LSD and he believed it eliminated barriers erected by “the self” that stood in the way of a person’s direct experience of the cosmos and of god (a pantheistic god?).57
According to Bill W. psychic phenomena of all types as mentioned in the books is found very frequently throughout AA. He shares that besides his early “hot flash” experience, “he had experienced an immense of psychic phenomena of all sorts.” Here Bill seems to equate his “hot flash” conversion with other psychic events he experienced throughout his life. Bill believed that:
…the cumulative weight of these phenomena validated his belief in humanity’s divine and therefore immortal nature, and he wanted every alcoholic to be able to say, as he could, that their belief in God was “no longer a question of faith” but “the certainty of knowledge (gained) through evidence.58
Bill Wilson had an additional character flaw, unfaithfulness to his wife. Author Hartigan tells us that Bill’s “interest in younger women grew more intense with age.” It became such a problem and embarrassment that:
…a “Founder’s Watch” committee formed of people who were delegated to keep track of Bill during the socializing that usually accompanies AA functions. They would steer him one way and the woman in another.59
Was Bill W. a Christian? That label has been placed on him by multitudes of people. First, what is a definition of Christian? A working definition might be the following: a person who believes in Jesus
Christ as the Divine Son of God having come in the flesh, born of a virgin, lived a life without sin, died on the cross, His death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins, and by faith in the merits of His shed blood we are pardoned by God, empowered to overcome sin into obedience and may have eternal life.
Was this the God of Bill W.? We read in the biography, Bill W., by Francis Hartigan the following:
His belief in God might have become unshakable, but he could never embrace any theology or even the divinity of Jesus, and went to his grave unable to give his own personal idea of God much definition. In this sense, he was never very far removed from the unbelievers.60
The biggest reason why Bill felt that he lacked faith may have to do with his admission that he was never “able to receive assurance that He (Christ) was one hundred percent God…”61
The Apostle John warned us of those who do not accept the Divinity of Jesus Christ.
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that (spirit) of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already it is in the world. (I John 4:3)
A footnote for chapter 9 # 1. Follows:
At a 1954 AA conference in Fort Worth, Texas, speaking about “How the Big Book Was Put Together,” Wilson referred ironically to “the good old book, Alcoholics Anonymous“: “some People reading the book now, they say, well, this is the AA Bible. When I hear that, it always makes me shudder because the guys who put it together weren’t a damn bit biblical.62
One more quotation concerning Bill W. and his interest and activities in spiritualism is made in a letter July 31, 1952, by Henrietta Seiberling, the woman who first introduced Bill W. to Dr. Bob in Akron Ohio in 1935.
He imagines himself all kinds of things. His hand ‘writes’ dictation from a Catholic priest, whose name I forget, from the 1600 period who was in Barcelona, Spain—again, he told Horace Crystal he was completing the works that Christ didn’t finish, and according to Horace he said he was a reincarnation of Christ. Perhaps he got mixed in whose reincarnation he was. It looks more like the works of the devil but I could be wrong. I don’t know what is going on in that poor deluded fellow’s mind.63
Information has been presented to make it possible for the reader to develop his opinion as to whether the claim by people promoting AA, that its cofounders, Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith, were Christians or not. The next question to answer is as to whether AA is founded upon Christian principles and is truly a Christian based program. This is the subject of the next chapter.
1 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill’s Story, New York City (1939), p. 4.
2 Ibid., p. 9.
3 Alcoholic World Services, Inc., Pass It On, New York N.Y., (1984), p. 115.
4 Alcoholic Anonymous, op. cit., p. 10.
5 Pittman, Bill, AA, The Way It Began, Glenn Abby Books, (1988), pp. 163-65
6 Pass It On, op. cit., p. 121
7 Pittman, op. cit., pp. 83-87, pp. 165-167
8 Alcoholics Anonymous, op. cit., p 13.
9 Ibid., p. 14.
10 Wilson, William, Alcoholic Anonymous Comes of Age, Alcoholic Anonymous World Services Inc.,
(1957), p. 39.
11 Mercandante, Linda, Victims and Sinners, Westminster John Knox Press, (1996), pp. 50-51 Reported in Wikipedia.org/wiki//OxfordGroup, p. 20.
12 Raphael, Matthew J., Bill W. and Mr. Wilson, University of Mass. Press, Amherst, (2000), pp.97-106; Pass It On, op. cit., p. 149
13 Alcoholic Anonymous World Services, Inc., Alcoholic Anonymous, (2001) Fourth Edition, pp. 171-181.
14 Pass it On, op. cit., pp. 164-70.
15 Ibid., p. 169.
16 Ibid., p. 171
17 Ibid., p. 178.
18 Ibid., p. 196.
19 Ibid., p. 198.
20 Ibid., pp. 203, 204.
21 Fitzgerald, Robert, S.J., The Soul of Sponsorship, Hazelden, Center City, Minnesota, (1995), p. 58.
22 Time, Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century, retrieved Dec. 31. (2007), Bill Wilson reference # 5. Reported in Wikipedia.
23 Ironside, H.A. Pastor, The Oxford Group Movement Is It Scriptural? Loizeaux Brothers, Publishers, New York, (1943), p. 2. http://www.orangepapers.org/orange-Ironside.html
24 Thomsen, Robert, Bill W., Published by Popular Library, a unit of CBS Publication, the Consumer Publishing Division of CBS Inc., by arrangement with Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc. (1975), pp. 215.
25 Benson, Irving C., The Eight Points of the Oxford Group: An Exposition
26 Ibid., p. 69.
27 Ironside, op. cit. p. 9.
28 Thomsen, op. cit., p. 215.
29 Two Listeners, God Calling, The Voice Divine, Barbour Publishing, Inc. (1949), p.1 http://www.twolisteners.org/Introduction.htm
31 Lanagan, John, Alcoholics Anonymous and Contemplative Spirituality, See John Lanagan Website.
32 AA History, The 24 Hours a Day Book. Hazelden Publishing, (1954),
33 Walker, Richard, Twenty-Four Hours a Day, Hazelden Foundation, Meditation for the Day, April 30.
34 Thomsen, Ibid., p. 213.
35 Raphael, Matthew J., Bill W. and Mr. Wilson, University of Massachusetts Press, (2000), p. 84.
36 Fox, Emmet, The Sermon on the Mount, Buccaneer Books, Cutchogue, New York (1934), pp. 3,4,6,7,11,12,124,125,127,128,149.
37 Alcoholics Anonymous, op. cit., Chapter 1. pp. 11-13.
39 Raphael, Matthew J., Bill W. and Mr. Wilson, University of Massachusetts Press, (2000), p. 79.
40 Alcoholic Anonymous, op. cit, p. 46.
41 Ibid., p. 47.
42 Ibid., p. 55.
43 Thomsen, op. cit., P. 207.
44 White, E.G., 1. Selected Messages, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, MD, (1958), p. 202.
45 Catholic Encyclopedia: Swedenborgians; http://www.fst.org/spirit2.htm;
46 The Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., Pass it On, New York, N.Y., (1984), p. 277-278
47 Ibid., p. 275
48 Ibid., pp. 278,279.
49 Ibid., p. 278.
50 Ibid., pp. 276-277.
51 Ibid., p. 278.
52 Ibid., p. 278.
53 Ibid., pp. 279-280.
54 Ibid. p. 280.
55 Raphael, op. Cit., p. 159.
56 Pass It On, op. cit., p. 370.
57 Ibid., p. 371.
58 Hartigan, Francis, Bill W., St. Martins Press, New York, NY, (2000) p. 177.
59 Ibid., p. 192.
60 Ibid., p. 123.
61 Ibid., p. 175.
62 Raphael, op. cit., p. 197.
re.wordpress.com/2008/09/24/seances-spirits-and-12- steps/ click on Séances, Spirits, and 12 steps, scroll down to 2nd quotation. Source of quotation Henrietta Seiberling, 7/31/52 letter, http://www. orange-papers.org/orange-Henrietta_Seiberling.html (archived)
Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps – Are they Christian?
From December 11, 1934—the date of the beginning of Bill W’s sobriety and from June 10, 1935—the date of the start of Dr. Bob’s sobriety, the organization Alcoholics Anonymous slowly began to take form, yet without a name for three years. These men from the first days of sobriety were active in assisting other alcoholics to find freedom from alcohol. They immediately embarked upon a relentless missionary campaign of seeking out and to proselytize drunks utilizing the methods for spiritual conversion learned from the Oxford Group. One aspect of the Oxford Group’s method was to make available a particular book or books to the individual with whom they were working. This was the experience of Bill W. following his “hot flash” conversion in the Towns treatment center.
Rational light on this mystical event came “the next Day”, when someone (possibly Ebby) handed Bill a copy of the Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James M.D., which he found to be “rather difficult reading” but nonetheless devoured “from cover to cover1
It was with them (religious experiences related in the book) that Bill learned that even his experience at Towns was not unique. He could never recollect if it had been Ebby or Nowland who gave him the copy of Varieties of Religious Experience, but he remembered the impact of the book. It was James’s theory that spiritual experiences could have a very definite objective reality and might totally transform a man’s life.2
In the previous chapter comments were made concerning this book, i.e., it contains many stories of special spiritual experiences which this author, upon reading the book, is convinced are mostly stories of spiritistic encounters.
Dr. Bob often chose The Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox, a New Thought minister, for literature support, a book promoted by the Oxford Group that denies the Divinity of Jesus, but promotes Divinity within man.
The New Thought name can be traced to their teaching that the whole outer world—whether it be the physical body, simple things in life, wind and rain, the clouds, and the earth itself are amendable to man’s thought. The earth had no character of its own, only the character man gives it by his own thinking. This movement was the source of a later concept known as “the power of positive thinking.” Man, it is taught, has dominion over all. Scholars Anderson and Whitehouse comment:
New Thoughters are fond of such affirmations as…’The Christ in me salutes the Christ in you.’ Rather than viewing Jesus as the first and the last member of the Christ family, many New Thoughters believe that Christ is a title that we can all earn by following Jesus’ example.”3
An Internet article carried an article May 20, 2008, titled “Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounders Were Not Christians,”4 and therein are references to individuals who received for reading, Fox’s book, The
Sermon on the Mount, as they were seeking sobriety. Some comments are given below from these individuals.
In a recorded 1954 interview, early AA member Dorothy S.M. reminisced, “The first thing Bob did was get me Emmet Fox’s “Sermon on the Mount.”5 Dorothy then recalled how it went with alcoholics who wanted help: “As soon as the men in the hospital, as soon as their eyes could focus, they go to ‘The Sermon on the Mount.”6
Archie T., the founder of Detroit AA, stayed with Dr. Bob and Anne Smith for more than ten months. He became sober in September of 1938. Archie T. recollected, “In Akron I was turned over to Dr. Bob and his wife. …I spent Labor Day in the hospital reading Emmet Fox’s Sermon on the Mount,’ and it changed my life.”7
This book, Sermon on the Mount, teaches that Jesus “taught no theology whatever.” On page 3 and 4 it states:
There is absolutely no system of theology of doctrine to be found in the Bible; it simply is not there…. The “plan of Salvation” which figured so prominently in the evangelical sermons and divinity books of a past generation is as completely unknown to the Bible as it is to the Koran. There never was any such arrangement in the universe, and Bible does not teach it at all.
Another book promoted by the Oxford Group and that was used in the early work and formation of the organization—Alcoholics Anonymous, was Modern Man in Search of a Soul by Carl Jung M.D. In summary, at least part of the literature used to bring spiritual conversion to the alcoholic and patterned after the Oxford Group were two books written by spiritualist mediums, and the other by a minister denying the divinity of Jesus Christ and promoting the pantheistic dogma of the New Thought movement. In the Oxford Group, studies were conducted from the Bible, from the book of James, and I Corinthians 13. However, none of these passages refer to the Divinity of Jesus or that under no other name under heaven could there be salvation. Where do we find Christianity in this scenario?
When Bill W. looked back in the history of AA and its development he gave credit to these books and their authors as being forefathers of AA …both the men Wilson considered forefathers of Alcoholics Anonymous were deeply involved with spiritualism. William James, who was a friend and admirer of Frederic Myers and who himself served as president of the American Society for Psychical Research, spent innumerable hours, in the course of twenty-five years, in séances with Mrs. L.E. Piper, the marvelous trance medium whom the S.P.R. kept practically under house arrest in Boston. It was precisely James’s openness to spiritual manifestations in The Varieties of Religious Experience that made him simpatico with Wilson. Carl Jung, too, took occultism seriously, beginning with his doctoral dissertation, “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-called Occult Phenomena” (1902: the same year as Varieties).8
The Varieties of Religious Experience text had considerable influence on forming the 12 steps found in Alcoholics Anonymous. The first draft of these 12 steps was lost but they have been reconstructed to similar wording as displayed below:9
1. We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol— and that our lives had become unmanageable;
2. Came to believe a God could restore us to sanity;
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God;
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves;
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs;
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character;
7. Humbly on our knees asked Him to remove these short comings—holding back nothing;
8. Made a complete list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all;
9. Made direct amends to such people where ever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others;
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it;
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out;
12. Having had a spiritual experience as the result of this course of action, we tried to carry this message to others, especially alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Bill’s first three steps were culled from his reading of James (a spiritualist psychiatrist), the teachings of Sam Shoemaker (Episcopal priest working with Oxford Group), and those of the Oxford Group itself.10
That evening Bill had a couple of visitors who looked at his 12 steps. They had objections to the use of the word “God” and his comment on step seven of “humbly on our knees asking Him to remove one’s shortcomings.” A few days later Bill appeared at the AA office and showed the manuscript again. The same objections arose again. So he changed certain steps as follows.11
#2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity;
#3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him;
#7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings;
#11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out;
#12. Having a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs;
These compromises seemed to placate the atheists and agnostics and made wide the gate leading to acceptance by many people of all races, religions, gender, financial position, social standing, etc. of the twelve steps. Bill’s desire was to make the steps acceptable to agnostics, atheists, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, Masons, or any religious organization and non believers. The title, Alcoholics Anonymous, was chosen after many name considerations.
With the success for alcoholics using 12 step principles many other programs for various addictions, i.e., smoking, obesity, etc. incorporated and adapted the 12 step tactics into their programs. Many churches have utilized this approach in recovery classes they have sponsored.
Let us return to the time that Bill W. was in Towns hospital and had the “hot flash” conversion, the room filled with a great white light and Bill experienced a feeling of a great Presence. Was it the same power that inspired him as he relaxed and asked for guidance? To whom was the request for “guidance” directed to? Was it to the Christian God— Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God? Was it to some unknown god or no god? To a pantheistic god? None of the books containing the story of this event including Bill’s own words give us a direct answer. Bill has previously stated that he was not able to accept a King on High who he could have a relationship with, yet he could accept a Universal mind, Nature Spirit type god, a pantheistic style god—”The Great Reality deep down within.”
This question, not yet answered, is very important because if the 12 step fellowship method goes to the whole world, the power source of Bill’s “inspiration” in developing the 12 steps will be the power of influence exerted over the world. A result of sobriety cannot of itself be the criteria we use to determine the source of power, as Satan is given great power to heal. He may come as an angel of light in the form of man, even a minister, and deceive even the very elect. The Bible tells us we cannot serve two masters; we must determine if the power is of Jesus Christ our Creator God or of His adversary.
Would I expect the power of Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God to be manifest in a person who denies Him, who has been active as a medium contacting spirits of the dead; visited with embodied spirits; who played the Ouija board in a vigorous manner; promoted books written by notorious spiritualist mediums and/or a minister who denies the Divinity of Christ and teaches that we have divinity within to bring spirituality to an individual seeking change? If Bill’s “inspiration” was not from the Christian God of a 6 day Creation, then how could the 12 step method be so beneficial, so effective? As we continue to follow the story of the popularity and growth of AA and the 12steps in recovery programs this question, “what is the source of power of the spirituality of these steps?” This should be uppermost in our mind.
In 1938, Alcoholics Anonymous was published and began to be the written guide used in the fellowship meetings. Progress in increasing numbers of groups and of people continued but slowly. When Father Edward Dowling, the Jesuit priest from St. Louis, visited Bill W. he said:
…we have been looking at this book, “Alcoholic Anonymous.”12
Father Dowling told Bill he was fascinated with the book because the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous paralleled the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, which is the spiritual guide for the Jesuit order. Father Dowling became the spiritual advisor to Bill W.
Who is St. Ignatius Loyola? He was the founder of the Jesuit Order in the early 1500’s. His Order had the goal of returning the Protestants as well as the whole world to the fold of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also known as a Christian mystic. A comment from author Edmund Paris, in his book, The Secret History of the Jesuits, follows:
Ignatius of Loyola was a first-class example of that “active mysticism” and “distortion of the will.” Never the less, the transformation of the gentlemen-warrior into the “general” of the most militant order in the Roman Church was very slow; there were many faltering steps before he found his true vocation….
Blissful visions and illuminations were constant companions of this mystic throughout his life.13
He never doubted the reality of these revelations. He chased Satan with a stick as he would have done a mad dog; he talked to the Holy Spirit as one does to another person actually; he asked for the approval of God, the Trinity and the Madonna on all his projects and would burst into tears of joy when they appeared to him. On those occasions, he had a foretaste of celestial bliss; the heavens were open to him, and the Godhead was visible and perceptible to him.
…From the start, medieval mysticism has prevailed in the Society of Jesus; it is still the great animator, in spite of its readily assumed worldly, intellectual and learned aspects.14…
What is the origin of his spiritual exercises? A comment is made contrasting the direction that Luther chose in his drive to follow God in comparison to Ignatius’ choice is presented.
Inigo, instead of feeling that his remorse was sent to drive him to the foot of the cross, persuaded himself that these inward reproaches proceeded not from God, but from the devil; and he resolved never more to think of his sins, to erase them from his memory, and bury them in eternal oblivion. Luther turned toward Christ, Loyola only fell upon himself…visions came erelong to confirm Inigo in the convictions in which he had arrived…Inigo did not seek truth in the Holy Scriptures but imagined in their place immediate communication with the world of spirits…Luther, on taking his Doctors degree, had pledged his oath to holy scripture … Loyola at his time, bound himself to dreams and visions; and chimerical (fantasy plots) apparitions became the principle of his life and his faith.15
Ignatius, in choosing to follow the god revealed to him in his visions and apparitions did not choose the same God of Luther but chose a pantheistic god as revealed in the following statement presented by the Catholic “Brentwood Religious Education Service”, April 2005:
Then perhaps we begin to see the examen (prayer and meditation) as so intimately connected to our growing identity and so important to our finding God in all things at all times that it becomes our central daily experience of prayer. For Ignatius finding God in all things is what life is all about. Near the end of his life, he said that “Whenever he wished, at whatever hour, he could find God.” (Autobiography, p. 99) (Emphasis added)
Being able to find God whenever he wanted, Ignatius was now able to find that God of love in all things through a test for congruence of any interior impulse, mood or feeling with his true self. “For now my place is in him, and I am not dependent upon any of the self-achieved righteousness of the Law.” (Philippians 3:9)16 (emphasis added)
Early in his career Ignatius was arrested three times and imprisoned twice by the Inquisition because of his teachings. He had a special ability to attract young people and this he did on university campuses. What was it that made him so attractive?
…It was his ideal and a little charm he carried on himself: a small book, in fact a very minute book which is, in spite of its smallness amongst those which have influenced the fate of humanity. This volume has been printed so many times that the number of copies is unknown; it was also the object of more than four hundred commentaries. It is the textbook of their master: the “spiritual exercises”.17
Edmund Paris sums up the value and effect of these Spiritual Exercises:
It is understandable that after four weeks devoted to these intensive Exercises, with a director as his only companion, the candidate would be ripe for the subsequent training and breaking. … Imposing on his disciples actions which, to him, were spontaneous, he needed just thirty days to break, with this method, the will and reasoning, in the manner in which a rider breaks his horse. He only needed thirty days “triginta dies”, to subdue a soul.18
In the book, Ignatius of Loyola, The Psychology of a Saint, by W.W. Meissner, S.J., M.D., p. 87 gives us a glimpse of the influence of Ignatius’ Exercises upon the Church for the last four and one half centuries.
Spiritual Exercises is one of the most influential works in Western civilization. It became a guide for spiritual renewal in the Roman church during the entire counter-Reformation and has been a primary influence in the spiritual life of the church ever since, particularly through the efforts of Ignatius’ followers in the Society of Jesus. It remains a powerful influence and is the basis for much of the contemporary retreat movement.
…It contains a series of practical directives—methods of examining one’s conscience, engaging in prayer of various kinds, deliberating or making life choices, and meditating. This program of spiritual development, if you will, is interspersed with outlines and directives for various meditations and contemplations …19
Later in the year of 1940, Bill W. traveled to St. Louis to visit Fr. Dowling. Bill noticed in the office of the Queen’s Work, the outline of the similarities between AA’s 12 Steps and Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. John Markoe a Jesuit priest and an alcoholic had prepared the outline.20 Bill W. and Ed Dowling continued a close friendship for the following 20 years until the death of Dowling. There were around 150 letters written between these two men during those years as well as many visits with each other. Robert Fitzgerald, S.J., a member of the order of Jesuits that Ed Dowling belonged to, gathered together the letters spoken of above and published in 1995 the book, The Soul of Sponsorship, illustrating their friendship. From this book some following paragraphs share some of their correspondence.
In 1952 Bill W. began to work on a small book which he purposed to be an addition to the literature for Alcoholics Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Bill wrote to Ed Dowling in May 1952, requesting a copy of the Spiritual Exercises of Loyola, for he wished to study them so as to help him in composing the rest of his essays. Along with the letter requesting a copy of the Spiritual Exercises Bill had sent to Dowling copies of his essays, two of the 12 Steps. The book was to consist of an essay of at least 2000 words for each of the 12 Steps and likewise for each of the Twelve Traditions. Bill asked Fr. Ed Dowling who was the Editor of the Catholic journal Queens’ Work to critique the copies that were sent to him.21
Dowling returned a letter to Bill on June 20, 1952, expressing his delight that Bill was going to do an interpretation of each of the 12 steps. He commented that he was sending the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius to Bill. July 17, 1952. Bill’s return letter speaks of his impression of the Spiritual Exercises received.
…Please have my immense thanks for that wonderful volume on the Ignatian Exercises. I’m already well into it, and what an adventure it is! Excepting for a sketchy outline you folks had posted on the Sodality wall years back, I had never seen anything of the Exercises at all. Consequently I am astonished and not a little awed by what comes into sight. Again, thanks a lot.22
Bill spoke of the problem he had in writing the essays about the steps. He felt he needed to broaden and deepen the steps for new members as well as those of long term. He had to make them acceptable for atheists, agnostics, believers, depressives, paranoid, psychiatrists, clergymen, and everyone else. How to open wide the entrance into the steps? This was his dilemma. Bill had previously shared that he had good help in writing of the essays by authors Tom Powers, Betty Love, and Jack Alexander. Now he makes the following quote:
The hoop you have to jump through is a lot wider than you think. But I have good help—of that I am certain. Both over here and over there.23 (emphasis added)
The author of The Soul of Sponsorship, Fitzgerald, on reporting about this letter says “over there” refers to the spirit world. Fitzgerald further comments that the voice from the other world, as Bill stated it, came out as if it was an unremarkable comment. Bill was writing about the help he was getting in his writing from Boniface, a spirit entity that was purported to be an Apostle or priest from England that went to Germany, Bavaria, and France as a missionary in the 1600’s. Fitzgerald continues his comments about Bill W. and the spirit—Boniface. Bill had chosen not to join the Catholic Church after a year of study because he could not see a Pope having infallibility. Fitzgerald, a Jesuit priest, is puzzled because Bill refuses to join the hierarchical church but was open to receiving help from a dead bishop via his spirit entity. Bill tells his story of Boniface:
One turned up the other day calling himself Boniface, Said he was a Benedictine missionary and English….I’d never heard of this gentleman but he checked out pretty well in the Encyclopedia.24
Bill asked Fr. Dowling to check Boniface out for him. Ed Dowling was able to identify Boniface as an apostle of Germany of the 1600’s. Dowling cautions Bill with the following words speaking of spirits:
…that these folks tell us truth in small matters in order to fool us in larger…25
Dowling continued to give caution to Bill concerning the spirits and their messages. He refers to the play Macbeth wherein spirit voices—otherworld voices bring temptation to Macbeth to murder the king, Duncan. He tells Bill to read the Spiritual Exercises on page 100, the Longridge edition; on this page Two Standards Meditation appear in italics. In this text Ignatius views the devil on a throne high above yet surrounded by chaos and smoke, drawing all under his control. To this group will be granted riches, enticements to pride, and other vices. In contrast on a low plain, is seen Christ, inviting any who will come join under His flag and accept humility, poverty and all other blessings. Once each year Father Dowling attended a retreat where he would pray the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which contain rules for discernment of spirits as well as rules for discerning God’s will. St. Ignatius was visited by, he believed, spirits of the devil as well as members of the Divinity, and he formed these rules to help himself discern which he was being visited by.26 It is not probable that all of the spirits visiting Ignatius were of the devil?
A response to the advice of Dowling to Bill W. came in a letter from Bill dated August 8, 1952. He said he had read the requested passage and accepted the need for caution when communicating with spirits from the otherworld. Yet, he was reluctant to have the church limit his connections with the otherworld. He reasoned that it did not make sense that the devil’s spirits could gain access to our world but the saints discarnate spirits did not seem to make it through. Why he reasoned is the opening so wide for the devil’s spirits but so restricted for all the good folks. He mentions that he no longer had a compulsion toward the “spooks business” but occasionally one gets through without invitation, such as Boniface.27
In 1955, at a celebration of AA’s 20th year anniversary a symbol was displayed which had been chosen to be the logo for Alcoholic Anonymous. The symbol, a circle enclosing a triangle with the words Recovery, Unity, and Service written on each arm of the triangle, was mounted on a banner which floated above the audience. The symbol’s meaning is explained:
…The circle stands for the whole world of AA, and the triangle stands for AA’s Three Legacies of Recovery, Unity, and Service. Within our wonderful new world, we have found freedom from our fatal obsession. That we have chosen this particular symbol is perhaps no accident. The priests and seers of antiquity regarded the circle enclosing the triangle as a means of warding off spirits of evil, and AA’s circle and triangle of Recovery, Unity, and Service has certainly meant all of that to us and much more.28
The 12 Steps constitute the foundation principles of guidance in Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship program—the “spiritual powerhouse of AA.” Father Ed Dowling was the first to recognize the potential for application of the 12 Steps to other “compulsions.”29 Their use is now found in a large number of recovery-like programs designed to help in overcoming a variety of dysfunctional practices, attitudes, etc., and its use has moved into the church in a big way.
In a previous chapter we reviewed in brief the origin and development of these 12 Steps. Would it not be appropriate to give thought and consideration to the potential that tentacles of spiritualism may have found its way into the 12 Steps? These Steps had their beginning out of the Oxford Group wherein no mention is found of the shed blood of Jesus Christ cleansing us from our sin and they promoted a book in therapy for alcoholism that denies the divinity of Jesus Christ. Strong influence came from the books of two spiritualists (Jung and James), the cofounders (Dr. Bob and Bill W.) were from the beginning involved in séances and other forms of psychic phenomena. The initial writing of the steps came following “relaxation” and a request for “guidance” from Bill W. who was an active spiritualist and medium. When the 12 Steps were to be amplified, broadened, and explained in detail in the book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, there was the spirit “Boniface” that Bill said was giving him aid in his writing. Jesuits priests were astonished at the similarity between their Spiritual Exercises and the 12 Steps.
While Bill was deeply engrossed in the use of LSD for alcoholics and giving it to many of his acquaintances, Father Ed sent him “Rules for Discernment of Spirits” coming from the second week of Spiritual Exercises. These are recorded in The Soul of Sponsorship by the Jesuit Priest Robert Fitzgerald, page 98, and appear below.
It is the mark of an evil spirit to assume the appearance of the angel of light. He begins by suggesting thoughts suited to a devout soul but ends by suggesting his own, little by little drawing the soul into his snares and evil designs.
The Bible is very clear and forceful in its warnings against spirit involvement of any kind.
There shall not be found among you one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whosoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you. Deut. 18: 10-12
Many would say the results speak for itself; there have been millions of people that found sobriety from their association with AA and continue to do so. Is it not a program designed to be neutral to various religions as well as for those of no religion? It is a system that depends on the choice of the member to freely choose the principles of the 12 Steps, there is no hook or coercion. How could a person even suspect spiritualistic influence to be incorporated into the program? Would it not more likely signify that the person holding such thoughts and concerns has a problem and not AA? Up to this time almost all source material used to write these chapters on 12 Steps has come from books that either the AA organization sanctions or from books whose authors are themselves members of AA and/or supporters. Now I will present questions that some have asked who are not members of AA or supporters of, as they evaluated the 12 Steps.
First, there is the history of spiritualism association as related in previous paragraphs. The question is asked: will the Creator God, the true God of the universe, use people who are in the service of Satan, as revealed by being a spiritualist medium, etc., to bless His followers with vital information and healing methods? Will the messages and methods passed on by those who are Satan’s agents, be free of spiritualistic entanglement? It is needful that we look carefully at certain of the 12 Steps and consider the questions asked by those who have concern that there might be deceptive spiritualistic influence within.
Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:13)
As for the person who turns to mediums and spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set my face against that person and will cut him off from his people. (Leviticus 20:6)
What is the base for the individual steps? Christian? Pantheistic? Secular? Again the reader must decide, read on. In an attempt to find the answer to the question as to whether or not the originators of, and the AA program itself, is Biblical and Christian based we will look closely at certain specific Steps with that question in mind.
Step # 1.: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
A. Comments presented by AA in support of the first Step:
When Bill W. was in Towns Hospital December 1934 for his alcoholism, Dr. Silkworth presented his concept that alcoholism was a “disease” (the first professional to do so) and that a person had an allergy to alcohol, which, in turn, caused the uncontrollable urge to drink. Bill W. accepted Dr. Silkworth’s opinion that alcoholism as a disease had no moral implications and so Bill was relieved of any guilt that his alcoholism had had anything to do with his personal decision to drink. The medical profession accepted the definition of alcoholism as a “disease” in 1944. However, Bill Wilson felt that a spiritual power was what was involved in bringing him to sobriety.
The tyrant alcohol wielded a double-edged sword over us: first drinking, and then by an allergy of the body that insured we would ultimately destroy ourselves in the process.30
This first step is stating that the person must come to utter helplessness to be able to move toward freedom of alcohol’s hold upon him. Unfortunately these criteria did not work well for those who wished to quit drinking but had not yet reached that state of total helplessness. To remedy this defect in the program, AA simply raised the threshold of what was considered the bottom in one’s experience. Therefore the belief that one had now reached the bottom long before they actually did reach the worst possible physical condition, made the program acceptable to many heavy drinkers.31
For therapy of this “physical disease” AA sought after and accepted a spiritual solution. We could agree that for most alcoholics there is a need of a physical solution through nutrition, exercise and proper habits of life as well as a spiritual. However, the physical—chemical influence on the body of alcohol is not now understood to be an allergy.
B. Concern over step one.
When man sinned selfishness took the place of love:
His nature became so weakened through transgression that it was impossible for him, in his own strength, to resist the power of evil. He was made captive by Satan, and would have remained so forever had not God specially interposed.32
It is impossible to escape from our habits and behavior by ourselves. Our hearts are ruled by sin and we cannot change such.
There must be a power working from within, a new life from above before men can be changed from sin to holiness. That power is Christ. His grace alone can quicken the lifeless faculties of the soul and attract it to God, to holiness.33
Paul the Apostle experienced the “bottoming out” experience that is referred to in AA’s step one. He longed to be free of the enslavement of sin and he cried out:
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24)
The only way to God is through Jesus Christ.
Step One is a dangerous counterfeit for both Christians and non-Christians. It serves as a substitute for acknowledging one’s own depravity, sinful acts, and utter lostness apart from Jesus Christ, the only Savior, and the only way to forgiveness (relief of true guilt). Step One is also a substitute for Christians to acknowledge that without the life of the Lord Jesus Christ in them, they are unable to live righteously. Apart from Christ in them, they are unable to please God.34
Step # 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
A. Comments presented by AA in support of the 2nd Step:
Bill W. the agnostic on Dec. 11, 1934, while in Towns Hospital, readily accepted Ebby Thatcher’s invitation to choose a God, a Higher Power of his understanding when introduced to the Oxford Group’s method of overcoming alcoholism. It did not matter as to what one chose for a God as long as one was selected. It was a way of getting a person to make a step of surrender into the Oxford Group’s influence, a foot in the door concept. Once a choice was made then the individual could be exposed to more of their teachings. With this approach a person did not need to accept Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God. One could participate in the Oxford Group’s meetings yet could expect to receive the “blessings” of God. In fact, the Oxford Group made no mention of the Divinity of Jesus Christ and recommended a spiritual book for study that taught divinity within—pantheism. Alcoholics Anonymous adopted step 2 from the Oxford Group.
Bill W. makes it clear in his personal story that is written in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, that he could not accept the God of the Christian, and that Jesus Christ was simply a man. So when it was suggested to him that he could choose his own concept of God this appealed to him; it was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than himself, nothing more to start with.
In writing the “big book”—”Alcoholics Anonymous,” Bill put forth great effort to properly state Step Two to make it acceptable to anyone, so avoiding offense. Jack Alexander, the reporter for Saturday Evening Post in 1941, spent a month with the AA fellowship meetings investigating carefully their method and teachings so that the article he was to write for the Post would be accurate and truly reflect their teaching. He wrote the following:
Describing AA’s “higher power,” Alexander noted the alcoholic “may choose to think of his Inner Self, the miracle of growth, a tree, and man’s wonderment at the physical universe, the structure of the atom, or mere mathematical infinity. Whatever form is visualized, the neophyte is taught that he must rely on it and, in his own way, to pray to the Power for strength.35
You may question whether choosing some inanimate object is really suggested or done in AA; the following quotation speaks to this issue:
…In fact, initiates who come seeking help, but who have trouble inventing or envisioning a god, are often told they can worship a “doorknob,” or even the group itself to begin their spiritual journey. The first time we heard we thought it was a joke-some form of esoteric humor. But it is not. We have heard the “doorknob-deity” speech a number of times now. It apparently serves as their starter-god. Like the training wheels on a bike-only there until the child is ready for the next big step. Believe in something, newcomers are told; believe in anything; just believe.36
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 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.37
B. Serious questions and comments that are frequently made concerning the second Step:
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20: 3)
I am the Lord, that is my name. I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to idols. (Isaiah 42:8)
What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, Or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handwork when he fashions speechless idols, Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake.’ To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’ And that is your teacher? (Habakkuk 2:18-19)
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper…(Romans 1:28)
If Alcoholics Anonymous is based on Christian principles how is it I can choose a Higher Power that is not the Christian God, and still be Christian? If I choose the pantheistic god known by a hundred different names (universal energy, prana, chi, the Great Reality, god of Nature, Presence, mana, Self, etc.) does that equate to the Christian God and His principles? The same question is asked when choosing an inanimate object, idea, the fellowship group itself, etc., as my god?
These people “Who say to a tree, ‘you are my father, and to a stone, “you gave me birth.” “For they have turned their backs to Me, and not their face.” (Jeremiah 2:27)
The Christian looks at this choice as being critical because some of the following steps directly relate to this choice. The question arises, “is this choice simply a trick to get the individual further involved before we spring the Christian God on him or her, or instead to deceptively slip in the god of the pantheist?
Many Christians defend AA and may not see it this way, but they are in agreement with a belief system that “lifts up strange gods,” Amos 3:3. In AA all gods are called the “Higher Power” thus relegating Christ our King to commonality, as if He were simply one nameless deity among many—pantheon.
In their Churches on Sunday they call God by that Name above all names: Jesus Christ the Savior. But here, in their all-gods sect, they call Jesus by the term all members use for their various gods. So Jesus becomes a “higher power.” Thus has the savior been placed in the pantheon, the temple of the gods.38
When I fellowship in AA and we repeat the Lord’s Prayer and the Serenity Prayer together, do I in this form of joint worship join with unbelievers in their worship? They worshiping their chosen god and I the Lord Jesus? I am sure many who participate in AA will consider that this verse is not appropriately used in this instance. You decide.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? …Therefore, come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. (2 Corinth 6: 14-17 NIV)
Step # 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”
A. Comments presented by AA in support of the Third Step:
In Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Step Three is likened to opening a door that has been locked, all that is needed is the key. The key is to give our will, our power of choice to the Higher Power we have chosen to be our God as we understand. We turn our will and our lives over to the control of that Power. This is a critical step, it is critical because it lets the Power we have chosen be the ruler of our lives. All the other steps in AA depend upon our effort to conform to the principles of this step and to place our trust in our chosen God.39
So how, exactly, can the willing person continue to turn his will and his life over to the Higher Power? He made a beginning, we have seen, when he commenced to rely upon AA for the solution of his alcohol problem.40 (emphasis added)
The prayer of serenity:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine be done.41
B. Serious questions and comments that are frequently presented concerning the third step.
This Third Step in conjunction with step two is the most serious decision one can make in all of the 12 steps. This step is asking me to turn my will, my decision power over to whatever Higher Power I decide upon. The Christian understands two powers in the universe, first,—the power of God the Creator, Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God, and second, the power that Satan has been allowed to exercise. When we choose a God of my understanding, I choose one or the other. No matter what entity I may choose as a Higher Power if it is not Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God I will have chosen the power of Satan for my god. There is no other power to choose from!
Let the reader consider the quotations below:
The will is the governing power in the nature of man, bringing all the other faculties under its sway. The will is not the taste or the inclination, but it is the deciding power, which works in the children of men unto obedience to God, or unto disobedience. Every child should understand the true force of the will. He should be led to see how great is the responsibility involved in this gift. The will is . . . the power of decision, or choice.
…In every experience of life God’s word to us is, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Joshua 24:15. Everyone may place his will on the side of the will of God, may choose to obey Him, and by thus linking himself with divine agencies, he may stand where nothing can force him to do evil.42…
From the Bible we have this counsel:
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of (his) good pleasure. (Philippians 2: 12, 13)
When I surrender my will into the hands of Jesus Christ to be the Lord of my life then His will directs my life in obedience to Him; if I surrender my will into the hands of Satan then he becomes the lord of my life and his will is the power that directs me. Satan has great power and may well do great and wondrous works in my life but eternal life comes only through Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God. Let us reflect once again upon this critical point.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man, cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
We are choosing the Lord of our life in this third step, there is no other choice more important that we will make.
We are told that a person makes a beginning toward the goal of sobriety when one commences to rely upon AA for the solution of his or her alcohol problem. Does AA become our god? Does not the power to overcome, come from Jesus Christ? Choosing AA does not necessarily involve choosing Jesus as our power and that is the only way to overcome evil.
When we give our will and turn our lives over to the power we chose to believe in, it is important to not have given our permission to spirits—fallen angels, to have sway with us.
Warren Smith, in Standing Fast in the Last Days, tells how a psychic woman who uncannily knew many details about him, told Smith the spirits on the other side needed his permission to work in his life.43
Step # 5. “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
A. Comments by AA in support of step #5.
After one has made an inventory of all past wrongs, recognized defects of character, and sins then they are to be confessed to some other human being. AA declares this is mandatory to maintain sobriety. Furthermore, it is said:
…It seems plain that the grace of God will not enter to expel our destructive obsessions until we are willing to try this.44
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5: 16)
The suggestion is that only by presenting one’s self judged defects to some other person, not holding back anything in the confession can one proceed on the road to straight thinking, honesty, and humility. This is a real test of willingness to confide with some chosen person facts that you may not want anyone else to know.
Provided you hold back nothing, your sense of relief will mount from minute to minute….Many an AA, once agnostic or atheistic, tells us that it was during this stage of Step Five that he first actually felt the presence of God. And even those who had faith already often become conscious of God as they never were before.45
B. Comments questioning confessing all my sins to another human being.
In the study of preparing to write this chapter I discovered that confession not only is taught in the Bible, but has been promoted by the Catholic Church, Ignatius Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises, by the psychiatrists Freud and Jung, Oxford Group, and picked up and practiced by Alcoholics Anonymous. Within these groups confession is made to man. The question is asked: Is it Biblical that I confess all my sins to my fellow man? Quotations are shared pertaining to this question.
In the work of overcoming there will be confessions to be made one to another, but the word of God forbids man to put an erring man in God’s place, making confessors of frail humanity. We are to confess our faults one to another, and pray one for another that we may be healed. The appointment of men to the confessional of the Roman Church is the fulfillment of the design of Satan to confer upon men power which belongs to God only. God is dishonored by the absolution of the priest and by the confession of the soul to man. Confessions of secret sins are made to men whose own hearts may be as sinks of iniquity. There are sins which are to be confessed to God only, for he knows the whole heart and will not take advantage of the trust reposed in him; he will not betray our confidence, and if we submit ourselves to him, he will cleanse the heart from all iniquity.46 (emphasis added)
Many, many confessions should never be spoken in the hearing of mortals; for the result is that which the limited judgment of finite beings does not anticipate. . . . God will be better glorified if we confess the secret, inbred corruption of the heart to Jesus alone than if we open its recesses to finite, erring man, who cannot judge righteously unless his heart is constantly imbued with the Spirit of God. . . . Do not pour into human ears the story which God alone should hear.47 (emphasis added)
…He who kneels before fallen man, and opens in confession the secret thoughts and imaginations of his heart, is debasing his manhood and degrading every noble instinct of his soul. In unfolding the sins of his life to a priest,—an erring, sinful mortal, and too often corrupted with wine and licentiousness,—his standard of character is lowered, and he is defiled in consequence. His thought of God is degraded to the likeness of fallen humanity, for the priest stands as a representative of God. This degrading confession of man to man is the secret spring from which has flowed much of the evil that is defiling the world and fitting it for the final destruction.48
If one confesses his faults to the god of his understanding but not Jesus Christ the Son of God, of what value is it? Only Jesus Christ can forgive sin, the devil cannot, and all “Gods of our understanding” outside of Jesus Christ are false gods.
Wilson cautions in Alcoholics Anonymous, page 74, that “we cannot disclose anything to our wives or our parents which will hurt them and make them unhappy.” He speaks of “perhaps one is mixed up with women in a fashion we wouldn’t care to have advertised.” In Bill W. and Mr. Wilson, author Raphael points out the adulterous behavior of Bill W. which continued during his sober years and with this exception to the rule in confession of all sins, he had made an escape for himself.49
The psychiatrist C.G. Jung has written some interesting observations on “confession” as used by the Catholic Church, Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, Germany’s “Professor Shultz’s autogenic training (now called biofeedback), Freud’s psychoanalysis, and his own analytical psychology approach to mind—cure. He compares confession to the Hindu’s use of Yoga as the tool to enter into the unconscious, which he (Hindu) considers a higher level of consciousness. In psychological use its purpose is to open up the unconscious to the conscious mind. Both approaches suppress our protective inhibitions and opens the mind to outside influence and /or control.50
He (Jung), elaborates further on the origin of confession use in mind therapy:
The first beginnings of all analytical treatment are to be found in its prototype, the confessional. Since, however, the two practices have no direct causal connection, but rather grow from a common psychic root; it is difficult for an outsider to see at once the relation between the groundwork of psychoanalysis and the religious institution of the confessional.51
Jung further tells us that the first stage of psychoanalysis is in essence a “catharsis” (purging) of the mind by confession, with or without hypnotic aid; also this places the mind in the same state as the Eastern yoga systems describe, i.e.,, meditation—open to control by outside powers.
Even if the neurosis is cured there may be a complication that creates a limitation in the use of confession. The patient may be bound to the individual receiving the confession. If this attachment is forcibly severed, there is a bad relapse. This is seen also in hypnosis. Freud first noticed this problem of fixation on the therapists by patients undergoing catharsis. The fixation is similar to that of a child to the father. Notice:
The patient falls into a sort of childish dependence from which he cannot protect himself even by reason and insight. The fixation is at times astonishingly strong—so much so that one suspects it of being fed by forces quite out of the common… we are obviously dealing with a new symptom—a neurotic formation directly induced by the treatment.52
It appears that the use of confession in therapy is not innocuous.
Step # 11.: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
A. Comments by AA in support of step # 11.
Prayer is an act of supplication and a method of communication addressed to Deity, it may be silent or vocal. There are many forms of prayer and such as is offered to idols, to the pantheistic god or gods of the pagan, to the God of Christians, etc. Praise, gratitude, allegiance, to one’s God can be expressed by prayer as well as request for guidance, assistance, deliverance, and blessings. Jesus Christ the Son of God prayed to His Father for guidance and strength and He in turn taught the apostles to pray. Throughout the Bible prayers were recorded of various people and frequent mention was made of specific prayers being offered. Certainly it is fitting for an individual seeking sobriety to be encouraged to pray and pray often asking for the power of God to grant him healing from his malady. There is no other power than Jesus Christ that can truly free us from our afflictions.
There is some awkwardness in the subject of prayer, however, in the 12 Step program. What type of God are we praying to? The God as we understand him can be even an inanimate object, an idea, etc. A quotation from the essay on the Eleventh Step is shared below:
To certain newcomers and to those one-time agnostics who still cling to the AA Group as their higher power, claims for the power of prayer may, despite all the logic and experience in proof of it, still be unconvincing or quite objectionable.53
In careful review of Step Eleven’s essay, the description of meditation as suggested in the 12 Steps is much closer to the Eastern style meditation than the Christian concept of meditation. To illustrate let us examine several sentences explaining meditation as to be used in the 12 Steps.
As though lying upon a sunlit beach, let us relax and breathe deeply of the spiritual atmosphere with which the grace of this prayer surrounds us. Let us become willing to partake and be strengthened and lifted up by sheer spiritual power, beauty, and love of which these magnificent words are the carriers. Let us look now upon the sea and ponder what its mystery is; and let us lift our eyes to the far horizon, beyond which we shall seek all those wonders still unseen.54
This much could be a fragment of what is called meditation, perhaps our very first attempt at a mood, a flier into the realm of spirit, if you like. …Meditation is something which can always be further developed. It has no boundaries, either of width or height….But its object is always the same: to improve our conscious contact with God, with His grace, wisdom, and love.55 (emphasis added)
Even use of a mantra is slipped in, in an inconspicuous way:
…and repeat to ourselves, a particular prayer or phrase that has appealed to us in our reading or meditation. Just saying it over and over will often enable us to clear a channel choked up with anger, fear, frustration or misunderstanding, and permit us to return to the surest help of all—our search for God’s will, not our own, in the moment of stress.56 (emphasis added)
B. Questions asked concerning and comments made about the Eleventh Step.
In Step Two a god of our choice and understanding is chosen; in Step Three that god is given a person’s will, turning one’s life over to that power. Confession of sins and faults is made in Step Five, to another human being. In Step Eleven prayer and meditation are directed to the power selected in Step Two. No boundaries are placed on meditation and so it can vary from an active thought process, to the Eastern style meditation of silence and emptying the mind wherein the purpose is to make contact with a “god” entity.
In prayer we present what is in our heart in praise, requests, dedication to whatever God of our choice, asking this God to possess us, to put his will into our will and be the Lord of our life.
How critical it is that we choose the one and only true God, Jesus Christ the Divine Son. In the fellowship meetings I read that the Lord’s Prayer and the Serenity Prayer are both prayed out loud in unison by the entire group. The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our father which art in heaven…” A question asked is, if I being a member of the fellowship have not chosen Jesus Christ as my Higher Power yet I pray to “Our Father,” Of what value is this? The Bible verse John 14:6 tells me:
Jesus saith unto him: I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man, cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
How can these prayers ascend to the Father when we have denied the Son?
The word “meditation” is of concern to me. Most of us upon hearing the word “meditation” consider an active cognitive process by which we have given study to a word, phrase, or passage and look to God, through the Holy Spirit, to join in blessing us with understanding, to fill our mind with His wisdom. When the meditation practice of the Oxford Group is carefully reviewed it appears to be more of the Eastern pagan practice of “deep breathing,” “silence,” “emptying the mind,” as the method of communion with God. Does it open our mind to being possessed by a god not of our choosing? Shall we give control of our mind to the powers of darkness?
Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:11, 12)
The devil continues to hone his techniques and deceptions to precision. A movement of today referred to as the Emergent Church has as its goal to sweep the world into its deceptive dogma; it has also reached out to the 12 step program. The stated goal of the Emergent Church is to be an agency bringing peace to the world through uniting all religions. The power of this movement is through a special style of mystical prayer that is proclaimed to bring God down to you, the Christian prayer is to raise man up to his God. The prayer method of Rohr and Keating has many names but a more comprehensive name is “contemplative prayer.” This prayer movement is actually Eastern meditation in a very smooth disguise. It is sweeping the world.
Two outstanding leaders in this movement, Father Richard Rohr and Father Thomas Keating, both Catholic priests, facilitated a conference in 2008.
…to demonstrate to those in 12 Step Fellowship ways to embrace the invitation of the 11th Step to improve our conscious contact with God… (This) will offer us all a wonderful opportunity to deepen our contemplative practices.57
The goal of Rohr and Keating is to incorporate their mystical contemplative prayer methods into the 12 Step program. They present the use of a repetitive phrase, or word (mantra), and a special breath prayer at these conferences. Following this Eastern meditation method it is not unusual to hear of people who experience a sense of euphoria, feeling of well-being, and the feeling that they are in the “presence of God” as a result of these special prayer techniques. They build their foundation of Christianity upon “feelings” and not on “thus saith the Word.” Remember that in the “big book—Alcoholics Anonymous” of AA the central doctrine of the New Age is to be found therein.
We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis, it is only there He can be found.”58
AA claims not to be religious, only spiritual in nature, is there a difference? The U.S. Supreme Court ruled November 15, 1999, upholding a lower Appeals Court decision, that the AA program is religious. Its fellowship meetings are religious in nature; they cite the participants as a body reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the Serenity Prayer. They worship a “Higher Power”, confession is a part of the service, testimony is given, and they are instructed to go spread the word. It has been voiced about that it is Christian in orientation and arose from a Christian organization—Oxford Group and its founders Dr. Bob and Bill W. were near Christians. In several months of reading many books which are under the blessing of Alcoholics Anonymous as well as books written by members who are supporters of the organization I never once found any sentence or reference that acknowledged in any way Jesus Christ to be the Divine Son of God and that the way to the Father was only through Him. Forgiveness of sins and removable of character defects happens only through the access of Jesus Christ to God the Father.
The program accepts any and all gods placing itself more closely within pantheism by definition than Christianity. Some critics have called it idol worship, I let you decide. Spiritualistic practices were involved with its cofounders from the beginning and had influence in forming the core program, the 12 Steps. Two fundamental reading texts used by AA were written by spiritualists—Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soul and William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience, were:
… the sources of many of Wilson’s profoundest ideas about religion, philosophy, and psychology.59
AA early on used the text by Emmitt Fox, The Sermon On the Mount, and which the Oxford Group had used regularly for working with alcoholics. This text denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ, denied that the Bible had doctrine.
A noted writer and editor of a monthly religious journal expressed his conviction that the spiritualistic activities of Bill Wilson and Bob Smith occurred after the establishment of the program of AA. This is not true as Bill’s own statement given earlier in this text, dates the summer of 1935 as the start of AA as well as a summer that he and Bob were active in the practice of spiritualism.
“AA was entangled in spiritualism from the very beginning.”60
The cofounders Dr. Bob and Bill W. were also personally deeply involved in spiritualism in a variety of ways including séances, Ouija board use, table rapping, and automatic writing and as a “control medium”. Bill mentions in a letter to Sam Shoemaker that:
“Throughout A.A., we find a large amount of psychic phenomena, nearly all of it spontaneous….These psychic experiences have run nearly the full gamut of everything we see in the books. In addition to my original mystic experience, I’ve had a lot of such phenomenalism myself.61
Bill had a spirit guide, Boniface, that Bill said helped him in writing Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Author Raphael in Bill W. and Mr. Wilson p. 161, tells us that Bill W. was committed to “mystical modes” as a way of enduring sobriety. A text extolling the merits of AA makes the following summary:
The building blocks that Bill W. synthesized into his concept of a fellowship that could help alcoholics were derived from disparate sources: the psychology of Carl Jung, transcendental and existential mysticism, Christian fundamentalism and early notions
from American medicine about the role of allergy as a cause of alcoholism.62
The central core dogma of AA is to be found within the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and is summarized as follows. A person usually comes to an acceptance of his or her inability to control his or her life. A (Higher Power) of one’s understanding is chosen to be your God; then a person consecrates and gives their life and “will” to that “Higher Power.” Next an inventory is made of one’s faults and these are confessed to another human being; then the chosen Higher Power is asked by prayer and meditation to take away those faults; thus allowing that Higher Power (no matter what it is) to be ruler of my life.
Marilyn Ferguson, in The Aquarian Conspiracy called by the New York Times the New Age Bible, makes a potent point concerning 12 step programs and their influence in transformation of the mind into accepting the neo-pagan belief system. She makes this comment:
• Self-help and mutual-help networks—for example, Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters anonymous, and their counterparts, whose twelve rules include paying attention to one’s conscious processes and to change, acknowledging that one can choose behavior, and cooperating with “higher forces” by looking inward.63
In this chapter the history and teachings of the AA program has been presented as their writings have presented it. Contrasting views are also presented. The reader will make up his own mind as to whether or not the 12 Step type programs would be your choice of therapy. I have heard expressed concerns that such programs tend to be looked to as the power for overcoming and take away our confidence in the power of Jesus Christ to cleanse us from our habits and sins. The Creator God is frequently allowed to be replaced, by our enthusiasm, for a “program,” even without our believing such is happening. I share with you statements made by ministers of the gospel relevant to this subject.
These Christians believe only through attending this all-gods religion can they be free. But it is a strange sort of “free,” because they have to attend these meetings for life. In fairness, they have been encouraged to participate by their own pastors, family members, and by other Christians who already attend. For seventy years Christians have been part of this movement.64
Well, I choose Jesus Christ as my Higher Power, I have given Him my will, I have confessed only those faults that are proper to confess to my fellow man, my prayers are to the God of heaven through the Name of Jesus and I have no part with Eastern style meditation. When I refer to the Higher Power I have in my mind the reference to Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God. So what is the concern?
I have heard the question: do I look to AA for healing rather than the power of Jesus Christ and His healing grace? Do I have more confidence in the 12 Step program than I do for my professed Lord and Savior to keep me in sobriety? Pastor John MacArthur addresses this question in the following comment.
Others would formally affirm Christ’s sovereignty and spiritual headship over the church, but they resist His rule in practice. To cite just one instance of how this is done, many churches have set various forms of human psychology, self-help therapy, and the idea of “recovery” in place of the Bible’s teaching about sin and sanctification. Christ’s headship over the church is thus subjugated to professional therapists. His design for sanctification, however, is by means of the Word of God (John 15:3; 17: 17). So wherever the word is being replaced with twelve-step programs and other substitutes, Christ’s headship over the church is being denied in practice.65 (emphasis added)
We have confidence in the saving power and gift of eternal life through our faith in the merits of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, yet when it comes to freeing ourselves from our sinful habits and addictions it is such a temptation to seek deliverance through the popular methods and programs designed by Satan to deceive us into giving him worship in place of Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God.
Do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead even expose them. (Eph. 5: 11-12)
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every sprit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from god. And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. (1 John 4: 1-3)
The book Steps to Christ has twelve chapters which reveal the way to salvation through Jesus Christ our Creator and the thirteenth is a chapter of celebration of the freedom in Christ Jesus. Steps of themselves are not the concern; it is the teaching in the step that could deceive one into choosing unawares a power other than the Divine Son of God. Having great fellowship and continued sobriety is not proof positive that the power of overcoming is of heavenly origin.
These chapters on 12 steps, similar to the chapters on psychology, were submitted to a variety of individuals including professionals in mind—therapy, for their response to the content. The feedback was positive as well as negative. The negative responses tended to dismiss or discredit concerns about the strong spiritualistic history of the founders. It was expressed that no spiritualistic practices had been observed in those attending recovery programs. In fact a stronger fellowship seemed to come from attendance with a recovery group or program than occurs at their church. This may very well be, however, the concern is whether that is a fellowship that leads to eternal life by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God. If one does choose to participate in AA or a 12 step program then beware of those steps that harbor risks exposed in this chapter. The next chapter contains a personal story of three recovered addicts who developed a recovery program that features Jesus Christ as the power by which we may overcome through the use of His Word. Enjoy.
1 Raphael, Matthew J., Bill W. and Mr. Wilson, University of Massachusetts Press, (2000). P. 82
2 Thomsen, Robert, Bill W., Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc., N.Y., N.Y., (1975) p. 213.
3 Anderson, c. Allen, Whitehead, Deborah g., New Thought and Conventional Christianity
5 Ibid., p.2
8 Raphael, op. cit., p. 161.
9 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, In., Pass It On, New York, N.Y., (1984), p. 198
10 Ibid., p. 199
12 Ibid., pp. 241, 242.
13 Paris, Edmund, The Secret History of the Jesuits (translated from French 1975), Chick Publications, , Chino, CA p. 17,18.
14 Boehmer, H. professor at the University of Bonn, “Les Jesuites” (Armand
Colin, Paris (1910), pp. 12-13; Reported in The Secret History of the Jesuits by Edmund Paris, p. 18.
15 D’ Auburgine, JH Merle D, History of the Reformation of the 16th Century, 5 volumes in one. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Bookhouse reproduced from London (1846) edition in (1976), book 10.
found in “Ignatian Spirituality.com , Home>Ignatian Prayer>The Daily examen>Consciousness Examen
17 Boehmer, op. cit., pp. 25, 34-35; Reported in Paris, op. cit., p. 21.
18 Paris. op. cit., p. 22.
19 Meissner, W.W.,S.J., M.D., The Psychology of a Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Vail-Ballou Press, Binghamton, New York ,(1992), p. 87.
20 Fitzgerald, op. cit., p. 58.
21 Ibid., pp. 55, 56.
22 Ibid., 58.
23 Ibid., p. 59.
26 Ibid., p. 79.
27 Ibid., pp. 60, 61.
28 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, Harper & Brothers, New York, (1957), p. 139..
29 Dowling, Ed S.J., Grapevine, A.A. Steps for the Under-privileged Non A.A., (July 1960); reported in Fitzgerald, Robert, The Soul of Sponsorship p. 60.
30 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., Twelve Steps Twelve Traditions, (1952), p. 22.
31 Ibid., p. 23.
32 White, E.G., Steps to Christ, Review and Herald Publishing Assoc., Hagerstown, MD, (1892), Ch.2.
34 Bobgan, Martin and Deidre, 12 Steps to Destruction, Codependency/Recovery Dependency, Heresies, East Gate Publishers, Santa Barbara, CA, (1991), p. 95.
35 Alexander, Jack, Saturday Evening Post, March 1, 1941.
36 Http://mywordlikeÞ re.wordpress.com2009/02; Missionaries into Darkest Alcoholics Anonymous, Feb. 2009.
37 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., Alcoholic Anonymous, (1938), p. 46
38 (Worldview Times, Missionaries into Darkest Alcoholics Anonymous.) http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=3574
39 Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, New York, NY, (1952), pp. 34, 40.
40 Ibid., p. 39.
41 Ibid., p. 41.
42 White, E. G., Child Guidance, Southern Publishing Assn., Nashville, TN, (1954), p. 209
44 Twelve Steps, op. cit., p. 57.
45 Ibid., p. 62.
46 White, E.G., Signs of the Times, April 20, (1891), part 5.
47 White, E.G., Our Father Cares, chapter 3, (1991), p. 73.
48 White, E.G., The Great Controversy, Pacific Press Publishing Assoc., Nampa, ID, (1888), p. 567.
49 Raphael, op. cit., pp. 128-131.
50 Jung, C.G., Psychology and the East from the Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Yoga and the West, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, (1978), pp. 84, 85
51 Jung, C.G., Modern Man in Search of a Soul, A Harvest Gook, Harcourt, Inc. San Diego, CA, (1933), p. 31.
52 Ibid., p. 38.
53 Twelve Steps, op. cit, p. 96.
54 Ibid., p. 100.
55 Ibid., p. 101.
56 Ibid., p. 103.
57 “Inner Room Conference” promotional material http://www.cacradical-grace.org/
58 Alcoholics Anonymous, op. cit., p. 55.
59 Raphael, op. cit., pp. 133-4.
60 Ibid., p. 159.
61 Pass It On, op. cit., p. 374.
62 Mel B., The New Wine, The Spiritual Roots of the Twelve Step Miracle, Hazelden Information & Educational Services. (1991) p. 7
63 Ferguson, Marilyn, The Aquarian Conspiracy, Personal and Social Transformation in Our Time, J.P. Tarcher, Inc., Distributed by St. Martin’s Press, New York, (1980), p. 86.
65 MacArthur, John, The Truth War, Nelson Books, division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. (2007), Nashville, TN, p. 159.
The author is a Seventh Day Adventist. The above is chapter 23 reproduced from his book Exposing Spiritualistic Practices in Healing with his permission.
JESUS CHRIST, THE BEARER OF THE WATER OF LIFE – A Christian reflection on the “New Age”
February 3, 2003
#2.2.3. Health: Golden living
There is a remarkable variety of approaches for promoting holistic health, some derived from ancient cultural traditions, whether religious or esoteric, others connected with the psychological theories developed in Esalen during the years 1960-1970. Advertising connected with New Age covers a wide range of practices as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, kinesiology, homeopathy, iridology, massage and various kinds of “bodywork” (such as orgonomy, Feldenkrais, reflexology, Rolfing, polarity massage, therapeutic touch etc.), meditation and visualisation, nutritional therapies, psychic healing, various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, metals, music or colours, reincarnation therapies and, finally, twelve-step programmes and self-help groups. The source of healing is said to be within ourselves, something we reach when we are in touch with our inner energy or cosmic energy.
Categories: new age