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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

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

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Alcoholics Anonymous History and Archives
A.A. Historical Materials
Part 3

Our Greatest Danger: Rigidity, farewell address by Bob Pearson

Artist's sketch of one of the sessions at the 36th
General Service Conference in New York City in 1986.

Our Greatest Danger: Rigidity

In his farewell speech to the 1986 General Service Conference, Bob P. gave this warning to future generations of A.A. members:
"If you were to ask me what is the greatest danger facing A.A. today, I would have to answer: the growing rigidity -- the increasing demand for absolute answers to nit-picking questions; pressure for G.S.O. to 'enforce' our Traditions; screening alcoholics at closed meetings; prohibiting non-Conference-approved literature, i.e., 'banning books'; laying more and more rules on groups and members."

The spirit of real old time AA is being destroyed as more and more people are beginning to ignore one of Bill Wilson's favorite sayings: "Every group has the right to be wrong."

A.A. Success Rates

"Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Recovery Outcome Rates: Contemporary Myth and Misinterpretation."  Adobe PDF fileMS Word DOC file.  January 1, 2008.  By Arthur S. (Arlington, Texas), Tom E. (Wappingers Falls, New York), and Glenn C. (South Bend, Indiana).
The A.A. Triennial Membership Surveys for 1977 through 1989 show that, of those people who are in their first month of attending A.A. meetings, 26% will still be attending A.A. meetings at the end of that year.

Of those who are in their fourth month of attending A.A. meetings (i.e., those who have completed their initial ninety days, and have thereby demonstrated a certain willingness to really try the program), 56% will still be attending A.A. meetings at the end of that year.

Loran Archer, "The 95% First Year Dropout Myth."  Archer is one of the top U.S. experts on alcoholism. He has served as Director of the California Office of Alcoholism and as Deputy Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The claim made by some of A.A.'s critics, that only 5% of A.A. members will still be attending A.A. meetings at the end of their first year, "is inaccurate," Archer says, "and based on flawed statistics."

In addition, the U.S. government's studies show that the A.A. General Service Office, in an urge to be modest and give conservative figures, has significantly undercounted the number of alcoholics who can be determined (on independent grounds) to have attended A.A. meetings and to be using A.A. teachings to stay away from alcohol.

Carl Jung

The story of how the AA movement was begun, starts with a wealthy alcoholic named Rowland Hazard (1881-1945) who traveled to Zurich in 1926 and became a patient of the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Jung finally told Rowland that the only way alcoholics of his sort could stop drinking was to immerse themselves in the spiritual life. But like a typical alcoholic, Rowland ignored his advice, and had to go through seven more years of misery (his drinking nearly killed him on his hunting trip to Afica later on) before he was willing to seek a spiritual answer.
Richard M. Dubiel --  The older AA literature said that Rowland Hazard went to Carl Jung for extensive analysis in 1931. But then AA historian Richard M. Dubiel, in his book The Road to Fellowship: The Role of the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club in the Development of Alcoholics Anonymous (2004), showed from a detailed analysis of correspondence and financial records in the Hazard family papers that there was no time in Rowland Hazard's busy schedule during 1931 in which he could have spent an extensive period in Switzerland undergoing treatment by Carl Jung. But if he could not have gone to Jung in that year -- the date given in all the older AA literature -- then did he in fact undergo treatment by Jung at all? Was the whole story only a myth?

Subsequently two researchers, Finch and Bluhm, working completely independently, established that Rowland arrived in Zurich in May 1926 -- five years earlier -- and wrote back to his family about how well his sessions with Jung were progressing. It was only the date that was wrong, not the fundamental fact of his undergoing treatment by Jung.

Cora Finch --   in 2006 wrote a long account of Rowland Hazard's life and struggles with alcoholism which not only established 1926 as the date of his treatment by Carl Jung, but also put this event securely in the context of the Hazard family's history. See Cora Finch, "Stellar Fire: Carl Jung, a New England Family, and the Risks of Anecdote."

Also see Cora Finch, "Additional Notes to Stellar Fire," including
     1. Remarks from Dr. Jung
     2. Correspondence with Bill Wilson
     3. Loose Ends
     4. About William James

Amy Colwell Bluhm Ph.D. --  working totally independently, discovered the very same letters in the Hazard family papers and published her article "Verification of C.G. Jung’s analysis of Rowland Hazard and the history of Alcoholics Anonymous" in the American Psychological Association's journal History of Psychology in November 2006. The correct date for Rowland's treatment by Jung -- 1926 -- and the way this encounter with the great psychiatrist fit into the story of his life was now established beyond a reasonable doubt.

Carl Jung and AA history

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung

By 1933, Rowland was drinking to the point where he could not cope with even simple everyday life. He sought help from a therapist named Courtenay Baylor, who was associated with the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club. This was the only early twentieth century group other than Alcoholics Anonymous which had had any notable success in getting alcoholics sober and keeping them sober. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, the EM and JC combined spirituality and psychological help through a simple kind of lay therapy. See Richard M. Dubiel, The Road to Fellowship: The Role of the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club in the Development of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Baylor pushed Rowland into taking Jung's advice seriously. They were too far from Boston for Rowland to become actively involved in the Emmanuel Movment and the Jacoby Club, so he became actively involved instead in an upperclass Protestant evangelical movement called the Oxford Group, and finally got sober.

Rowland Hazard with his wife and their son Peter

Rowland Hazard with his wife and their son Peter, around 1943 or 44

This photo of Rowland Hazard comes from A.A. author Mel B. (Toledo, Ohio): "Here is a photo of Rowland Hazard and wife with their son Peter, taken at the family home in Peace Dale, Rhode Island. I got it from Ray G. I believe this photo would have been taken around 1943 or 1944, perhaps just after Peter was commissioned and won his wings as a Naval aviator. His death is reported on page 354 of The Little Giants, by William T. Y'Blood, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1987. This is a book about the Navy's 'baby flattops' during World War II. In early 1945, Peter was piloting an Avenger in pursuit of some Japanese Vals near Okinawa. Unfortunately, he flew right into some of our own anti-aircraft fire and plunged into the sea. Peter was still being listed as 'missing in action' at the time of Rowland's death [in 1945], but it was obvious that he was gone."

In August 1934, Rowland helped rescue an alcoholic named Ebby Thacher who was being involuntarily committed to an insane asylum because of his out-of-control drinking, and Ebby was also able to get sober through participating in the activities of the Oxford Group.

Ebby Thacher with Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

Ebby Thacher (on the right) with Bill Wilson, the
cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

Two months after meeting Rowland Hazard and hearing Carl Jung's message, in November 1934, Ebby visited Bill Wilson and sat with Bill in the kitchen of the Wilson's Brooklyn apartment, and talked about the way this new spiritual answer to alcoholism had gotten him sober. Bill W.'s fundamental conversion experience took place while he was talking with Ebby, as "the scales fell from his eyes" and he became willing for the first time to turn to the experience of the holy in prayer and meditation, and let its healing power begin to restore his soul.

Rudolf Otto

Rudolf Otto, author of <i>The Idea of the Holy</i>

Rudolf Otto, author of The Idea of the Holy

Rudolf Otto (1869-1937), one of the two greatest theologians of the early twentieth century, published his formative work Das Heilige: Über das Irrationale in der Idee des göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen in 1917. The English translation was called The Idea of the Holy.

The heart of all of the world's religions, Otto said, lay in the experience of what he called the holy or the sacred. This was the experience of something real and external to ourselves, totally alien to anything human, a numinous reality (underlying everything else in the universe) which overwhelmed us with feelings of awe and majesty and contact with the wholly other. It was the core of all religious experience, even in religions which had no concept of God (like nontheistic Buddhism and the Native American spirituality of tribes like the Navajos and Potawatomis).
See Glenn F. Chesnut, Changed by Grace, Chapter 7, the sections on the experience of the sacred and Bill W.'s conversion experience (pp. 110-116). Click here to read this chapter of the book.
Bill Wilson, while talking with Ebby in his kitchen, remembered his encounter with the experience of the sacred at Westminster Cathedral when he was a young man, and he remembered how his grandfather had talked about experiencing the same mysterium tremendum while gazing at the starry heavens in the middle of the night. This became THE KEY for Bill Wilson in working out his own understanding of a higher power, and using Carl Jung's method for healing his alcoholism.

In December 1934, Bill Wilson checked himself into Towns Hospital on Central Park West in New York City to be detoxed, and never drank again. He had a second spiritual experience while in the hospital, a vision of light, where God gave him the mission of spreading this new message of hope to alcoholics all over the world. William Duncan Silkworth, M.D., the doctor in charge of the hospital, who liked Bill enormously and had been trying to get him sober for a long time, told him "Something tremendous has happened to you. You are already a different individual. So, my boy, whatever you've got now you better hold on to. It's so much better than what had you, only a couple of hours ago."

Five months later, in May 1935, Bill Wilson met a surgeon in Akron, Ohio, Dr. Bob Smith, who was also an alcoholic, and passed this same message on to him. The two of them began organizing a movement, later called Alcoholics Anonymous, which eventually established groups in countries all around the globe, and brought sobriety and serenity to alcoholics of every race and nationality.

The early A.A. six step program

For pre-Big Book versions of the steps (one in Bill W.'s handwriting) see "Early Six-step Versions of the Steps"

Photo Pages

Click here to go to a collection of photos which has just been started of various kinds of pictures relating to A.A. history:  Henrietta Seiberling's grave and so on.

Notes and Documents

The phrase "God as we understood Him" in the Twelve Steps seems to have been taken from the writings of the American Oxford Group leader Dr. Sam Shoemaker.

THE BIOGRAPHY OF Dr. Howard who advised Bill W. to remove the words "you" and "must" from the Big Book and replace those words with phrases saying "we" and non-coercive suggestions.

THE FIRST THREE AA BULLETINS, given to us by AA historian Arthur S., who explains: "The 'AA Bulletin' was the precursor to the 'AA Exchange Bulletin' which was the precursor to 'Box 4-5-9.' The bulletins were used to keep the groups informed of important events. They are historical nuggets."

AA Bulletin No. 1 (November 14, 1940) gave the names of all the cities where AA groups had been established at the time -- the first twenty-two cities -- and the five other cities where a group was in the process of being established.
"A list of communities where A.A. work is well established and weekly meetings are held:

New York City, N.Y.
South Orange, N.J.
Washington, D.C.
Richmond, Va.
Detroit, Michigan
Jackson, Michigan
Coldwater, Michigan
Chicago, Illinois
Houston, Texas
Los Angeles, Calif.
San Francisco, Calif.
Evansville, Indiana
Little Rock, Arkansas
Philadelphia, Pa.
Baltimore, Md.
Waunakee, Wisconsin
Greenwich, Conn.
Cleveland, Ohio
Akron, Ohio
Toledo, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
Youngstown, Ohio

"There are several 'working' A.A. members in each of the following cities where meetings are in a get together stage."

Pittsburgh, Pa.
Boston, Mass.
Wallingford, Vermont
San Diego, California
Indianapolis, Ind.
AA Bulletin No. 2 (January 15, 1941) gave the membership an early alert as to the historic Jack Alexander article that was going to appear in the March 1, 1941 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.

AA Bulletin No. 3 (June 20, 1941) announced the discovery of what was later to be called the Serenity Prayer: "One of our New York members clipped the following from the personal column of a New York paper, and since it seems to 'hit the spot', here it is:"
"God grant me the serenity
to accept things I cannot change,
courage to change things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference."
LIST OF ALL THE CITIES WITH A.A. GROUPS as of Dec. 31, 1941  Very impressive growth, going from established groups in 22 cities in November 1940 to three times that number in only one year:  this list shows established groups in 69 cities as of December 1941 (plus two other cities handwritten into the list). Sent to us by A.A. archivist and historian Bruce C. from Muncie, Indiana.

OXFORD GROUP QUIET TIME AND GUIDANCE by going into a trance or semi-trance state and carrying out automatic writing. At least half a million copies of this famous pamphlet by John E. Batterson, How to Listen, were distributed by the Oxford Group.