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of materials on the history and theory of alcoholism treatment and the
moral and spiritual dimensions of recovery

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Table of
TABLE OF CONTENTS: alphabetical list by author and title of articles and essays

Part 1
HISTORICAL MATERIALS 1: Alcoholics Anonymous and history of alcoholism treatment at the Hindsfoot Foundation

Part 2
HISTORICAL MATERIALS 2: Alcoholics Anonymous and history of alcoholism treatment at the Hindsfoot Foundation

Part 3
HISTORICAL MATERIALS 3: Alcoholics Anonymous and history of alcoholism treatment at the Hindsfoot Foundation

ESSAYS: spirituality, psychology, philosophy, religion

SPIRITUALITY: A.A. spirituality, philosophy, and religion at hindsfoot.org

Books on
& theology
PHILOSOPHY: books on philosophy and theology published by the Hindsfoot Foundation

in progress
FUTURE PUBLICATIONS IN PROGRESS: A.A. history and spirituality, recovery from alcoholism and addiction

To order
TO ORDER BOOKS: Hindsfoot Foundation and iUniverse

To contact
TO CONTACT HINDSFOOT: books on Alcoholics Anonymous history, spirituality, alcoholism and addiction treatment

LINKS: other sources on A.A. history, spirituality, and alcoholism treatment


Alcoholics Anonymous History and Archives
A.A. Historical Materials
Part 2

tombstone of the Hampshire Grenadier, Winchester Cathedral, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson

The famous lines at the beginning of the Big Book:

"We landed in England. I visited Winchester Cathedral.
Much moved, I wandered outside. My attention was
caught by a doggerel on an old tombstone:

'Here lies a Hampshire Grenadier
Who caught his death
Drinking cold small beer ....'

Ominous warning -- which I failed to heed."


Frequently Asked Questions

Names and Events in the A.A. Big Book, assembled over the years by the members of the AA History Lovers, as edited in April 2014 by Glenn Chesnut. This long list, organized by page numbers, may be opened and downloaded as either an MS Word document or an Adobe Acrobat PDF file. Fourteen pages long, a copy of this is a valuable reference tool to have on hand for an A.A. Big Book study group.

Where did the Herbert Spencer quote in the Big Book come from, the one given at the end of Appendix II on Spiritual Experience? Michael StGeorge, in his classic article "The Survival of a Fitting Quotation," shows that it was actually taken not from Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), but from an earlier author, William Paley (1743-1805).
"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance -- that principle is contempt prior to investigation." Big Book (4th edition) page 568.

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral, where Bill W. had his profound experience of the feeling of the
divine presence in 1918. And then he turned his back on it and walked away, until the end of
1934, when his drinking had destroyed his life, and he was forced to reach out once more to
that strange power he had felt back then, when it had seemed to fill the ancient cathedral.

A.A. History Lovers

The leading international webgroup for the study
of Alcoholics Anonymous history and archives

Glenn F. Chesnut, The History of the AA History Lovers, gives a detailed account of the early days of this webgroup under its first two moderators, Nancy Moyer Olson and Glenn Chesnut, and the principles by which the group was guided. This story is interwoven in a variety of ways with the development of AA archival and historical endeavors, and with the development of AA itself, at the turn of the twenty-first century.
The link above takes you to an Adobe Acrobat PDF document on the William L. White Papers: on the History of Mutual Aid Groups in America, etc., a major internet resource and archival collection in the field of treatment and recovery. Or Chesnut's account can be downloaded as a 57-page MS Word document from a mirror site by clicking here.
CLICK HERE to read and/or download all the past messages from 2002 to 2012, and to learn more about the AA History Lovers webgroup.

The collected messages of the AAHistoryLovers forms one of the largest single bodies of good AA historical material gathered in one place, an incredible accomplishment carried out by a number of the world's best AA historians. For the sake of future generations, all the messages from the group's first eleven years have now been put into computer files which can be either downloaded or read online. They are provided here in the form of Microsoft Word files (DOCX), text files (TXT), and Microsoft Access database files (MDB).

early AA atheist Jim Burwell

Jim Burwell, famous early AA atheist

Atheism, Moral Psychology,
and the Rejection of a Personal God
in Early Alcoholics Anonymous

Click here for a collection of articles, entitled Atheism, Moral Psychology, and the Rejection of a Personal God in Early Alcoholics Anonymous, on early AA figures who considered themselves to be atheists or agnostics, or who stressed the psychological aspects of the program far more strongly than the spiritual aspects, or who regarded the supreme principle of the universe as an impersonal absolute rather than a personal God.

Harry Emerson Fosdick and Protestant Liberalism

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969),
famous Protestant Liberal pastor in New
York and a strong supporter of AA.
Time Magazine cover Oct. 6, 1930

A.A. History

articles by Glenn F. Chesnut

Classical Protestant Liberalism and Early A.A.  Glenn F. Chesnut on the different major religious groups in twentieth century America and their relationship to the early A.A. movement.

Classical Protestant liberalism and its meditational book The Upper Room, the Fundamentalist reaction, Reform Judaism vs. Orthodox Judaism, Protestant Neo-Orthodoxy (Karl Barth and Reinhold Niebuhr), Ernest Kurtz and the second generation of A.A. thinkers, atheistic and Christian versions of existentialism, the Oxford Group, New Thought, Roman Catholicism, and the Episcopalians (Anglicans).
For one of the best short introductions to Protestant liberal spirituality, see Harry Emerson Fosdick and his famous sermon "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?"  given on May 21, 1922 at First Presbyterian Church on West Twelfth Street in New York City.

Although Fosdick was a Baptist, he was serving as Guest Preacher at this Presbyterian church. Under continual attack from the Fundamentalist wing of the Presbyterians, his position there became increasingly untenable. John Foster Dulles first came to his aid, and then in 1924 John D. Rockefeller, Jr. hired Fosdick to be the first pastor of the historic interdenominational Riverside Church which he was building in New York City. Fosdick is famous in AA history because he he gave one of the first important favorable reviews of the Big Book when it first came out, and provided continuing support for the new AA movement in ways that helped keep them going and guide them through the difficult periods.
The First Roman Catholics in Alcoholics Anonymous  by Glenn F. Chesnut. The story of Joe Doppler, Morgan Ryan, the Cleveland Catholics (and Clarence Snyder). How Sister Ignatia devised a formula in January 1940 (AA, like St. Thomas Hospital, should be nonsectarian, extending help and healing to people of all religious backgrounds), which resulted in AA becoming 25% Catholic by Fall 1940.

Also includes accounts of the liberal vs. fundamentalist controversy in early twentieth-century Protestantism, the problems raised by the Oxford Group, and the way the Roman Catholics broadened and deepened the AA understanding of the fourth step. The Golden Age of AA expansion after Roman Catholics began flooding into AA -- between 1939 and 1949 the AA membership grew over 750 times larger, the biggest growth in all of AA history.

Atropa belladonna

Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade)

Bill Wilson's Vision of the Light at Towns Hospital on December 14, 1934  Glenn F. Chesnut shows that it COULD NOT have been produced by taking belladonna. That drug belongs to the general group called the "hallucinogens," but it is classified as a deliriant, not a psychedelic or entheogen. That means it does not fill you with a sense of ecstacy, bliss, or being in contact with a good and loving God or divine reality. If given too large a dose, it throws you into a stumbling, delerious state; it contains the same poisonous alkaloids as datura, which was one of the drugs used in Haitian mythology for turning people into zombies.
Dr. Silkworth in Action c. 1947: A Nurse’s Eyewitness Account  In an article in the Saturday Evening Post, a nurse describes the way Dr. Silkworth set up his alcoholism ward, and the medications that he actually used.

The Effects of Belladonna and Henbane: first hand accounts and detailed descriptions  Some long accounts written by recreational drug users describing their own experiences when they took belladonna, plus a few notes on what it feels like to take henbane.
With (at the end) a note from Lawrence Willoughby, a psychotherapist whose speciality is adolescent alcoholics and drug addicts, who writes:

"In my 35 years of clinical experience, with one of my specialties being the treatment of adolescents who are alcoholics and drug addicts, I have known at least a thousand cases of people who have experimented with using belladonna to get high. Belladonna to the best of my experiences with patients has NEVER produced anything like what Bill Wilson reported happening to him at Towns Hospital. It is always bad. The attempt to claim that Bill Wilson's experience was a hallucination induced by belladonna is the silliest thing I have ever heard. Where is this coming from?"
Virtues and Vices  Glenn F. Chesnut on five different ways of understanding the virtues (the goals of the spiritual life) and the vices (the character defects that block our progress).

Cleveland A.A.'s Four Absolutes, the Six Central Virtues of Minneapolis A.A. (The Little Red Book), the Six Major Virtues (and the other virtues and vices) in the Detroit/Washington D.C. Pamphlet, the Seven Deadly Sins in Bill Wilson's Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and the Seven Virtues and Seven Vices in the classical western tradition (the pagan Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle and the medieval European spiritual writers of the Catholic and Orthodox tradition).

Psychological vs. Spiritual Interpretations of A.A.  by Glenn F. Chesnut. Genuine atheism was not truly a major issue in early A.A. The real split, if there was going to be tension and divisiveness, was between those who made heavy use of traditional religious language in talking about the A.A. program, and those who preferred to explain the program almost exclusively in terms of psychological concepts. The split in early A.A. in northern Indiana between groups led by Ken M. and Harry S. as a typical example. Sgt. Bill S. as the most articulate spokesman for that important group of good old-timers who were not atheists, and were not hostile to God and using spiritual language, but who themselves preferred to explain the program in largely psychological terms.

Writing Local A.A. History:  Stories as the Vessels of Wisdom and Grace  A talk given by Glenn C. (South Bend, Indiana) at the History & Archives Gathering at Lebanon, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, June 24, 2006.
History tells a story, my story is my message, the use of stories in A.A. and in the Oxford Group, stories and implicit value systems, character change and learning to retell the story of my life, alcoholism as a disease of perception, metanoesis (repentance or conversion) as the process of reframing the cognitive framework of my mind.  Ontology and story telling, epistemology and learning a language.

The A.A. Heritage Movement (began around 1990-2000):  Gail LaC. and the first National Archives Workshops in Akron, Nancy Olson and the AAHistoryLovers web group, the Hindsfoot Foundation.

The Varieties of Early A.A. Experience.  Can a world history of A.A. from 1955 to 2000 be written today?  The necessity for first writing the local histories and fuller histories of the component parts.  A.A. at the turning point:  the rigid dogmatism of the rulebook legalists vs. turning to A.A.'s Historic Heritage to provide the underlying stability of the program.

The Self-Hate Syndrome:
the equally destructive opposite to the
path of Grandiosity and Arrogance

In describing the Twelve Steps, and particularly in analyzing the character defects of the Fourth Step, there are two contrasting perspectives that are taken by different groups of spiritual masters. Guides of one type put their greatest stress on the necessity of dealing with the negative and destructive role of resentment, pride, grandiosity, arrogance and explosions of uncontrolled anger and rage. Bill Wilson wrote almost exclusively this way in the Big Book, and also in most of the chapters in the book on the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. But when he was talking at a more theoretical level he frequently acknowledged that there were numerous people who went down a path to self-destruction that led in the completely opposite direction.

Good sponsors in all the twelve step programs have long been fully aware of the dangers of the Self-Hate Syndrome (by whatever name they have called it), and have advised many of the people whom they sponsor to write out and meditate on lists of their good attributes, along with other strategies for increasing their sense of competence and self-esteem. But for many years, almost nothing was written about this issue in twelve step literature.

Melody Beattie
Melody Beattie, author of The Language of Letting Go, one of the
great classics from the third generation of twelve-step authors

The first major breakthrough came with the publication of a series of books by Melody Beattie. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself (1987) began popularizing the term "codependency" to describe one major aspect of the Self-Hate Syndrome. In The Language of Letting Go (1990), Beattie wrote a beautiful and extremely effective meditational book -- one which I think is destined to become of the the real classics of the twelve-step movement -- which deals with not only codependency issues but also many of the other aspects of the Self-Hate Syndrome.

The Slough of Despond

The Slough of Despond

SUE C. (SOUTH BEND, IN)  A short but extremely thorough and comprehensive description of the Self-Hate Syndrome and how to use the Fourth Step to heal it, was written a few years back by an Al-Anon -- Sue C. of South Bend, Indiana. This is now being made available online for the first time:  Escaping the Bog of Self-Loathing: Learning how to love ourselves again, using the Fourth Step to heal our shame, guilt, co-dependence, and depression.

DANTE'S SWAMP OF DEPRESSION  Bill W's metaphor of the Bog of Self-Loathing may ultimately have been derived from a classical source. See Glenn F. Chesnut, Dante’s Swamp of Depression, a commentary on Dante's Inferno, Canto 7, which describes the river Styx and the Fifth Circle of Hell, where those are sent who are damned by their anger or depression.
We are not talking here about the kind of depression that is caused by a chemical imbalance in the body, but about the sort of despair and chronic sadness which can be healed by the twelve steps, cognitive therapy, proper meditational techniqes, and/or other methods of that sort. No one is damned for having a chemical imbalance, or hormones out of whack, or having the wrong genetics, as long as the person does something about it if this eventually proves medically possible and feasible. And it is important to remember that Dante insisted that any soul down in Hell could leave the minute that person was just willing to admit that he or she had been wrong, and became willing to start climbing the Mountain of Purgatory, which was a seven-step program for the healing of the soul, to render it fit to enter Heaven.

The Tools of Recovery

The Seven A.A. Tools of Recovery list the fundamental things beginners have to know and do in order to get sober and stay sober. They were designed to be read at the beginning of A.A. meetings to keep us continually reminded of these fundamentals.

Early A.A. Groups

actress playing  the

The actress who played the role of
Jimmy Miller in the San Antonio performance of
Jackie Bendzinski's play In Our Own Words.

EARLY BLACK A.A. LEADERS  Glenn F. Chesnut, The Stories and Memories of Early Black A.A. Leaders Told in Their Own Words, including his talk on "Early Black A.A. Leaders" (Jimmy Miller, Bill Williams, and others) given on July 26, 2014 at Serenity House in Gary, Indiana.
Black A.A. Leaders and their friends, photos no. 2  Joe McQuany of the Joe and Charlie tapes, Charlie Parmley and Joe McCoy. The Joe and Charlie tapes brought the saving A.A. message to hundreds of thousands of alcoholics all over the world, and formed one of the most famous contributions of second generation A.A.
EARLY BRITISH A.A.  In March 1947 American AA member Grace O., visiting London with her husband, the writer Fulton Oursler, convened a meeting for eight people in her room at the Dorchester hotel in London, the first recorded AA meeting in Britain.
Laurie Andrews, Liberal Quakerism and 12 step spirituality: realised universalism?  An article from Friends Quarterly (2012, No. 2). "In December 1948 the first five AA members in Manchester realised they would need a telephone contact for enquirers. 'They approached the Friends Meeting House at Mount Street. The Friends agreed to allow their telephone number to be used as a contact, and meetings of the first Manchester AA group were begun at Mount Street.'"
History of the Chicago Group from Don B., Past Delegate from Chicago. History of Chicago area A.A. from the first group meeting on September 20, 1939 in Earl Treat's apartment in Evanston, down to the early 1970's.

AA's First Meeting on the West Coast: November 21, 1939 in San Francisco in the kitchen of Mrs. Gordon Oram's boarding house at 51 Potomac Street. Prepared by the CNCA Archives Committee in September 1984.

AA's First Meeting in Louisiana: a recently discovered document shows that a group was started in Anglola prison in 1942, a year before A.A. got started in New Orleans.

Jack Alexander

Jack Alexander, author of the famous article on Alcoholics Anonymous in the Saturday Evening Post

Jack Alexander:  postings about him from the AAHistoryLovers, April 2, 2002 – March 18, 2010. His article about A.A. in the March 1, 1941 Saturday Evening Post magazine helped bring knowledge of the new Alcoholics Anonymous program to people all over the United States.