Dick B.'s Address on the Six Major Roots
of Alcoholics Anonymous
2005 by Dick B.
Dick B. is an active, recovered member of
the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The International Convention of A.A.: June 29 - July 2, 2000
Transcribed Copy by:
Minor editing by Dick B.'s son, Ken
[(Introduction by "Don":) Good morning,
everybody, I am a grateful alcoholic from Greenville, S.C. My name
is Don. I belong to the world famous Summit Group in Summit County.
Ohio is where A.A. was born. There is a wonderful, rich history of
A.A., and I started studying and learning about it, and made some of
the pilgrimages a couple of years ago, and I found a web site that
has much of this information, too. And I found a very prolific
author who has captured the essence of the spiritual history of our
fellowship and has committed so much of it to books, which I have in
my collection and which I treasure. I am sure his journey is nowhere
near done, but he carries the message in writing in a way that I
have not found other people to do. It is with great honor and
pleasure that I would like to introduce Dick B. (Applause . . .)]
[Dick B.'s Address on the Six Major Roots
of Alcoholics Anonymous:] I'm Dick. I am a recovered alcoholic, from
Maui, Hawaii. I have had the pleasure the last couple of days. As
far as I know this is a first to actually have a historical display
at a national convention. A good one, a big one, a tremendous
resource here. This is the kind of thing I have dreamed about seeing
for a long time, and it is here, and I am certainly grateful for the
people who have worked so hard to put it together.
Last couple of days, I have had the
pleasure of listening to a lot of young dudes who grew old in A.A.,
graciously old. Mel [B.] was here yesterday and had us all in
laughter, and if I were ever going to live for 50 more years, I
would like to be in the same position that he is. However, I am an
old dude that got young in A.A. I did not get in until I was 60, and
the best years of my life, truly, have been the last 14.
It was not that way at the beginning. I had
a nine-month drunk and then a week's blackout. I came bounding into
A.A., got a sponsor, got a Big Book, had grand mal seizures at my
9th meeting, went into a treatment program, from there to the VA nut
house for a couple of months, and from there I went to Vacaville
State Prison, which I like to think of as a health facility because
they were treating Charlie Manson there at the time I was there. The
long and the short of it is--I had to get well. Things were worse,
as they often are in early sobriety, than they were at the end,
although the last drinking was pretty ghastly.
A young man, now dead of alcoholism, said
to me shortly before the convention in Seattle [the 1990 A.A.
International Convention], "Dick, did you know that A.A. came from
the Bible?" And having gone to meetings intensely for four (4)
years, I said, "No," that I sure did not. He said, "Well, why don't
you read DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers. And I did. And I was
astonished. That got me to read Mel's Pass It On and A.A. Comes of
Age; and I realized that we had a rich history that I just did not
hear about at meetings. Didn't even know about the books. But what I
found was missing were the details. Yes, we came from the Oxford
Group. Yes, we got a lot of information from Sam Shoemaker. Yes,
Anne Smith was "the mother of A.A." Yes, the Bible was the source of
our basic ideas. Yes, Quiet Time was a must. Yes, they read a lot of
books. And what were they? And what did they say? Because I had a
feeling that A.A. was founded on a rock! And I believe that today. I
will let you decide what the rock is, but the rock essentially is
truth, and it works.
I don't hold with those people that say,
"Well, I don't know how it works, it just works." It works because
it is founded on a rock. Dr. Bob knew that, and Bill knew that. Dr.
Bob said many times that our basic ideas came from the Bible. Bill
and Bob both said that the underlying philosophy of A.A. was the
Sermon on the Mount--and Emmet Fox did not write it! So, what we are
going to do today? 10 years ago, I wrote a lengthy book. I think I
even showed it to Mel. I did not know what I was talking about, and
Frank Mauser, our [General Services] archivist, told me that. He
said, "Dick, you don't have to tell everything you know." Since I
did not know much, I had to start over again and take it piece by
A. A. has been correctly characterized as a
spiritual program of recovery. Bill Wilson defined "spirituality" as
a reliance on our Creator. Now where do you suppose he got that
idea? The same place that Dr. Bob got it when he talked about that
"your heavenly Father will never let you down."
So, the first thing we are going to talk
about is that A.A. basically has six (6) basic roots. They have all
been short circuited in detail, and it is not possible to cover
those details today, but I will try to go as far as I can with each
of the six roots of A.A. Just to give you a flavor of the rock that
I think A.A. is founded upon.
 The first root is the Bible. That is
the one we don't talk about. If you read our literature, you will
see that there was talk by Dr. Bob that the principal ideas, the
ones that were felt to be essential, came from 1 Corinthians
13--called the "love chapter,"--the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew
chapters 5 through 7, and the Book of James. Some early members
wanted to call A.A.'s fellowship "the James Club." That is how
popular it was. What did this mean in terms of where our ideas came
Let us think it about it in these terms.
Dr. Bob studied the Bible, Anne Smith used to do a Quiet Time at the
Smith home each morning where people came for what they called
"spiritual pablum." They read the Bible. They prayed. They had Quiet
Time. They consulted devotionals, like The Runner's Bible, The Upper
Room, My Utmost for His Highest. Old timers used to open meetings by
reading from Scripture. It was exciting for me to go to Akron for
the first time, and Dr. Bob's daughter said, "Would you like to go
to the King's School Group? [A.A. Group Number One]" And I said I
sure would. And the first thing I saw was Dr. Bob's Bible being
brought from the back of the room to the front. And that Bible is
signed by Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob, and Bill Dotson (AA # 3). It is
symbolic of where we came from.
What is it about this Sermon on the Mount?
Bill never told us. Bob never told us. But I submit to you if anyone
has ever heard the expression "Thy will be done" someplace other
than the Lord's Prayer (which is where it came from), I would be
surprised. It appears in our Big Book. And at the conclusion of the
Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about that he who wants to enter
the kingdom of heaven must want to do the will of the Father which
is in heaven. That is from the Sermon on the Mount. Also, the idea
of the Golden Rule. I saw a man just now crying several times during
his talk. I believe that others did to him, as they would want done
unto themselves. That is at the heart of an A.A. idea. And then,
"Thy will be done," which is quoted in our Big Book, and it comes
from the Lord's Prayer, Matthew 6:10. Then the Lord's Prayer itself.
It is getting out of vogue in some places, but the early meetings
always closed with the Lord's Prayer. 1 Corinthians 13. A lot of our
basic principles are spelled out in terms of patience, kindness,
tolerance, love. Dr. Bob once said that some gal was in detox, and
they called and said, "What do we do with her?" And he said, "Have
her read Henry Drummond's The Greatest Thing in the World for 30 or
90 days (I think it was 30), and she will be a changed person. Why?
Because that is what we have to do in A.A. If we, . . . I think Mel
said it well the other day. The people that I see going out are the
ones that go back to where they came from, and the old stuff begins
to look good again, and we haven't changed, and if we don't change,
there is not much to be said for just not taking a drink. It isn't
long before we will want to take one.
Well, other ideas came from the Sermon on
the Mount. Obeying the 10 commandments. In our early literature, you
will find them quoted. The first one has to do with only one God.
Agreeing with your adversary quickly, making amends, loving your
neighbor, that is quoted in the Big Book. Being anonymous. That is
somewhat speculative, yet Jesus talked about doing your alms-giving
in secret, doing your praying in secret, doing your fasting in
secret. Why? Because he said your heavenly Father knows what you
have need of. So, what are you out there trumpeting for? So, this
whole idea is that we do things because they are the right thing to
do rather than wanting somebody to see us. Seeking God
first--Matthew 6:33. Nobody knows that "first things first" came
from Matthew 6:33. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, serving God.
Living one day at a time-What? Yes, read Anne Smith's journal, and
you will see that concept of living one day at a time came from
Matthew 6:34. Taking your own inventory--what? The Sermon on the
Mount. Uh huh! Look for the log in your own eye before you look for
the speck in your neighbor's eye, and get rid of the one in your own
eye. That is what we do in the fourth and fifth steps, and maybe
some of the later ones as well.
In 1 Corinthians, as I said, those ideas of
patience, humility, unselfishness, truthfulness, those are the heart
of our program, and they came, those principles, primarily from I
And then the good ole' Book of James. It is
loaded with A.A. material. Some of them quoted and some not. One of
my strong points, of course, is patience; and that comes from James
[laughter]. And there is a dilly on seeking guidance from God: If
any of your lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all men
liberally. Resisting temptation. I usually pass right over that one
[laughter]. Relying upon the Father of lights. That expression is
found in the Book of James, and it is found in your Big Book. Being
slow to anger. There is a toughy. Being a doer of the word, not a
hearer only. This is an action program, it is not one where you say,
"Yeah, I know that," and then you don't do anything.
Observing the "royal law;" loving your
neighbor as yourself. It is all through the New Testament; but in
the Book of James, it is called the "royal law." It is quoted in our
Big Book. As I said, obeying the 10 commandments. And some people
like to think that "faith without works is dead" was Anne Smith's
favorite verse. Not from what I can tell. Her favorite verse was
"God is love," from 1 John [4:8, 16], but when she used to read to
Bill and Bob during that summer [of 1935], it is said that she
concluded by saying that "Faith without works is dead." Because
these were two gentlemen that were gathered with her, not merely to
study the Bible, but to find out how to help others, how to love
others, and how to serve God. There is one that I wish was as well
known as it was in the old days. Anne said in her journal, "learn to
tame your tongue." I wish I could. Dr. Bob always talked about
taming your tongue. It is in his last address, his farewell address.
There is a whole chapter in the book of James about that, chapter 3.
Avoiding envy and strife, and being peacemakers, submitting
ourselves to God, humbling ourselves before God, the concepts of
humility-you will find them in our Third and Seventh Step prayers.
In the Third, of course also, the Sermon on the Mount, the idea of
"Thy will be done."
Drawing near to God, knowing the He will
draw near to you. It is almost an exact quote in the Big Book as in
the book of James. Eliminating grudges. Praying for one another.
Ever thought about praying for someone in A.A. I have been to a
number of meetings where that is done, and it is cool. People need
help. You see it; and you pray for them. Confessing your faults one
to another. The Fifth Step is a complete adoption of that in James
5:16. And then there is the neat verse that says the "effectual
fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Remember when Bill
says in the Big Book that "we should not be shy in the matter of
prayer and meditation." Where did the idea come from. It works. It
I am going to move on to the next part
because I want to be sure to at least touch on it. But just don't
forget that we have extolled the Oxford Group so that we could
condemn it, and we have forgotten the Bible which is where Sam
Shoemaker, and the Oxford Group, and Anne Smith, and Dr. Bob, and to
some extent Bill Wilson, got their ideas. So, the Bible comes number
one as the source of the basic ideas of our program.
[2 - Quiet Time] A second thing that has
passed from existence. And it is in Pass It On, where Bill says, "I
always sort of thought we lost something when we lost meditation."
Do you know that our trustee, Frank Amos, said that meditation was a
must in early A.A. What did meditation mean? It was called "Quiet
Time." It meant studying the Bible first, to get in tune with God's
general will. It meant praying. It meant quiet time, listening for
God's voice. And then it meant sometimes consulting things like The
Upper Room, The Runner's Bible, and My Utmost for His Highest for
inspiration as to what would be discussed at the meetings. There
weren't any drunk-a-logs. No drunk-a-logs.
What was going on is, some people were
being taught by some very able teachers back there in Akron; and, in
New York, by a very able teacher--Sam Shoemaker and his circle of
friends. So prayers were regular fare in early A.A., as was
listening to God. And it has gotten a bad rap, again by laying it on
the Oxford Group. But Quiet Time was something that, whenever Anne
was stressed out, she would go upstairs to have what she called
"quiet time." Why? To get peace. To get peace. To get out of the
ring-a-ding that goes on. And you will see that at the end of your
The helpful books, what were they? We will
get into that shortly. They did not try to invent their own program.
A.A. is not a self- made religion. A.A. was something that came from
this rock that I am talking about. They used The Upper Room, My
Utmost for His Highest, The Runner's Bible, Fosdick's The Meaning of
Prayer, Drummond's The Greatest thing in the World, to help them. I
am happy to say that now the archives back there that they have
worked so hard to assemble, Ray G., in particular, that I know, and
his wife, Ginny. You can see those books. It is my dream and hope
that you can do more than see them before very long. That you can
open them up. And it will knock you dead when you see how much of
our program has come from those books. And it begins to make certain
expressions in A.A. meaningful.
Quiet Time, in other words, doesn't get its
full due, unless you believe as I do, that those early people
consulted God for guidance as to what to do in the program. With the
speakers. I firmly believe that the residue of it in our [Twelve]
Traditions is the ultimate authority as a loving God as He may
express himself in our group conscience. That is an attempt to
describe the old steering committee meetings that were held at the
Monday night they prayed. Later on, just
before the meeting, they would pray and ask God to guide them as to
what could be helpful. Also, Bill reportedly consulted God when he
was writing the Big Book and particularly the 12 Steps.
So there was a reliance upon God and His
guidance at the beginning of this program. Not only taking ideas
from the Bible, His Word, but also seeking what the Oxford groupers
called His "particular will" through prayer and listening. So the
Quiet Time! Bible, number one, Quiet Time, number two. Why number
two? Because it was a must. No drunk-a-logs. . . . Just consulting
[3 - Rev. Sam Shoemaker] The next source is
an interesting one. Mel said it very well in Pass It On. Bill always
tried to get away from the Oxford Group, and he stated one of the
several reasons by laying it on Sam Shoemaker. When I came to the
Seattle convention 10 years ago I went there to be informed. I
wanted to know what A.A. had gotten from the Bible. Zilch. Nothing.
I wanted to know what it got from the Oxford Group. Zilch. Nothing.
There was a panel, and one old dude was sitting up there with a book
called What Is the Oxford Group? Which was not written by an Oxford
grouper! But it contains a lot of information on that, and that was
it. So, I talked to this guy, and I said, "Can I get one of those
books?" And he said, "Yes," and he sent it to me. And I said, "Who
is this guy Sam Shoemaker?" And he said, "Well, talk to Frank."
Frank was our [GSO] archivist at the time. And I said, "Frank what
do you have on Sam Shoemaker?" And he said, "Nothing." This is our
archivist in New York. So, he sent me a list of some of Sam's books,
and then he said to me "Dick, you have a book in you." Well, now you
tell that to an alcoholic, and before you know it you have got
sixteen books. Eventually they had something to say, I hope. Sam
Shoemaker! His writings are beautiful. Sam wrote over 30 books. He
wrote many, many sermons. Many, many articles. He addressed two
Alcoholics Anonymous conventions. Would that we have that kind of
person addressing us today. Where are they? Why have we excluded
these people? Sam and Father Dowling addressed A.A.'s convention in
St. Louis; and Sam and a Catholic monsignor addressed our convention
in Long Beach. Why? Because we felt they had something to say about
They taught us. So Sam, to be sure, was a
very strong factor in this sense. In New York, this has been
disputed. But I have been to the Episcopal Church Archives. And I
have been to Sam's churches. And I have been everywhere I know how
to go to find what Sam did do. And he was closeted with Bill Wilson
for two or three years in New York in a book-lined study that I have
been in. And they discussed the principles of this program, to the
point where Bill asked Sam to write the 12 steps, and Sam said "No,
they should be written by an alcoholic." And they were! Bill
submitted the original manuscript of the Big Book to Sam for review.
Sam was not the only one, but Sam knew Bill from the beginning. I
unearthed a little letter that is in Ray's archives back there now,
in which Sam wrote Bill, in January of 1935. Now, I wouldn't trust
any new convert like Sam did. He said, "Bill, I think you could help
Fred Breithut, the little chemistry professor, with his drinking
problem." Imagine. A great preacher asking Bill Wilson at less that
sixty (60) days of sobriety to help this dude. And lo and behold,
they all went in, and there was a baptismal ceremony in which Ebby
was baptized. Bill was present, and then this guy was baptized, and
Bill was the godfather. I misstated. Bill was not present as far as
I know at Ebby's baptism. But it all happened in Sam's church.
There was a very close relationship between
Sam and Bill from the beginning, and what astonished me is that
there were probably 200 expressions in the Big Book (and I wish I
had time to read some of them to you because you would recognize
them in a moment); and they come from Sam Shoemaker's talking, the
kind of language he used. It is phenomenal. I would not say that
Bill plagiarized. I think he was just like you and I are when we go
to meetings, and over and over again we hear "How it works." "Rarely
have we seen a person fail." I had some dude over in Hawaii that had
six months, and he had been in the program for 10 years, and that
guy recited the whole part of "How it works." For 10 years, he had
been listening to it. I happen to think Bill Wilson was a pretty
smart guy, and he went to those meetings daily, back in New York,
talked to Sam, listened to his circle of friends, Rowland Hazard,
Shep Cornell, all those people. And Bill was absorbing it. It is
said that Bill was not a reader. I don't know. But I do know that he
sure used a lot of words that you can find in Sam Shoemaker's books.
What did Sam give to us? The specifics that I mentioned. I can only
tell you to look at the record and see if you do not agree that Sam
gave us those expressions. But he gave us some general ideas. His
very first book said, "You need to find God. You need a vital
religious experience. You need Jesus Christ." Well, leave Jesus
Christ out. A.A. has decided to do that for some reason or another,
but the first two are immediately recognizable. "You need to find
God." Lots of times when I am talking to groups, I say, "There is
One who has all power. That One is Who? (Audience answers 'God.')
May you find Him when? (Audience answers 'Now.')" We know. You know
we KNOW. And where did we get that from? Sam Shoemaker wrote a book
on How to Find God. Then another article in 1935, "A Way to Find
God." And he came up with the expression, "the turning point." The
turning point. I used to hear that, and I wondered, "What does that
mean?" It means when you decide to give in, to surrender, to turn
your life over to God's care. It is from Sam Shoemaker, who got it
from William James.
Willingness. I won't go into John 7:17, but
that was Sam Shoemaker's favorite verse. You will see willingness
throughout the Big Book, and you will see it in the writings of the
Oxford Groupers and in Sam's writing. The decision. The decision.
When I first came in, my sponsor kept saying the Third Step is a
"decision"--not action. You have to make a decision. So I passed
that on. Well, it came from Sam.
God is God and self is not God. One of the
interesting things in Akron was that, when the Oxford groupers came
there in 1933, you were seeing this stuff in headlines. I went there
and spent quite a bit of time digging out the old newspapers. I
turned some over to Ray, and I am sure now there are a lot of them
around. But it was all about "Bible Study Group is here,
self-centeredness is the problem." There wasn't any A.A. yet. This
is what they were talking about.
Then there are the mysterious 5 C's.
Everybody has an idea what we got from the Oxford Group. Well, the 5
C's were: confidence, confession, conviction, conversion, and
continuance. Take a look at the Tenth Step language. "Continued to
do this," "Continued to do that." It was not enough to surrender and
recognize your faults and confess them and to ask God to help you
get rid of them. You had to continue. And this idea of continuance
was talked about by Sam and by the Oxford Group.
Reading the Bible. Sam used to say read the
Bible and all else will fall into place. Listening to God. One of
the things I like to do with God is to say, "Hear, Lord, thy servant
speaketh." And Sam used to say, "Speak, Lord, thy servant heareth,"
which is from 1 Samuel. We ask God. Bill Wilson said that one of the
first things he learned from Sam was how to pray. And I must say
that my prayer life is entirely different today than it was before.
When I was headed for Vacaville State Prison, you can guess exactly
what I was telling God. They did let me drive up in my own car. I
think that was a first. But lawyers get to do stuff like that. But I
had some very strong ideas about what should happen with me, and the
judge had slightly different ideas. I don't know where God was at
the beginning of the thing, but I can tell you He was in Vacaville
State Prison. That was the coolest experience. Man! I sponsored
people. We had A.A. meetings, Bible fellowships. It was cool. The
psychiatrist did not want to let me out of there. He said, "I think
you have found a niche here." [Laughter.] I said, "No, no, no. I
want to go. I want to go." And even the way I got out is a story in
Restitution from Sam. Reading the Bible.
Seeking God first. Remember the expression in the Big Book, "God
either is or he isn't"? That is from Confident Faith. Where do we
find Confident Faith? In Dr. Bob's library, and tucked away in the
back of Anne Smith's journal, at the archives of Stepping Stones.
Who knows where they are now, but that is where I found it. Then Sam
came before us at St. Louis, and he defined this mysterious thing
called a spiritual awakening. You know where we got those
expressions "spiritual experience" and "spiritual awakening?" They
were common fare in the Oxford Group. Sam wrote a book called
National Awakening. Frank Buchman [the Oxford Group founder] was
always talking about we need a moral rearmament and a spiritual
awakening, and there was common talk of a spiritual experience.
Contrary to what many think, Carl Jung was talking about
conversion--not spiritual experience. He was talking about
conversion. But by the time it reached the Oxford Group, via A.A.,
or vice versa, it became a spiritual experience; and then, since no
one seemed to have hot flashes but Bill, we got a spiritual
So, Sam defined this, because this language
was very familiar to him. He said a spiritual awakening involves
four (4) things: conversion, prayer, fellowship, and witness. And
guess who authored the expression, "You got to give it away to keep
it?" Guess who authored "Pass it on?" I am not saying that those
were the first people who uttered it. But, Frank Buchman, the
founder of the Oxford Group, said, "You gotta pass it on." And,
Shoemaker said in many ways, "You got to give it away to keep it,"
and that has survived. Well, that's Sam.
 And then there is the Oxford Group.
Boy, do people like to lambaste that. If they only would walk into
the archives room right here and pick up any of the Oxford Group
books. Whether it is Soul Surgery (which has the five C's) or
whether it is For Sinners Only (which discusses quiet time, the Four
Absolutes), and several other key Oxford Group Books, which were
earlier. One is Eleanor Forde Newton's The Guidance of God. Each one
of these little ideas, the guidance of God, the five C's, the Four
Absolutes, the surrender, the turning point--we have "codified" the
Oxford Group's life-changing program. So, if you want to understand
expressions like "God as you understand Him," let us dwell on that
for a moment.
There is a guy that claimed he authored
that concept. You know, if I were in San Diego . . . . . [end of
side A of the audio cassette] . . . "Give as much of yourself as you
understand to as much of God as you understand."
They did not invent light bulbs. Those came
later Chairs at a beginner's meeting! A guy used to say, "My higher
power is Ralph." You know I spent months trying to figure out that
one. No, it was God as you understand Him. I might ask you, either
now or after the meeting, to pull out a dollar bill or any
denomination. "In God we trust," it says. I asked my little
granddaughter what was on the back, and they did not have any
problem with that. It was God as you understood Him. And, if you
read your Big Book, you will see even in the Third Edition, that
Bill says, in Town's Hospital, he surrendered to God as he "then"
understood God. Where did he get this language? Sam Shoemaker was
his tutor. That was primarily a Shoemaker idea.
There were some other ideas: Sin the
disease, Jesus Christ the cure, the result a miracle. But I like the
things that we recognize more easily. Surrender to God. How did you
do that? "Thy will be done" was one way. Also, they had a prayer in
the Oxford Group, and Sam's church, and in Anne Smith's journal. I
call it the "manage me" prayer. "Oh God, manage me, because I cannot
manage myself." And, I don't know about you, but, boy, when I was
facing those seizures and that treatment program and two months in
the nut house and the brief period of recuperation in Vacaville
State Prison, I was unmanageable, and I needed God's help. And ¼
finally, in 8 months, I sought! And things began to change.
Sin. There is a word that they deleted. We
had that in the steps originally, and what was it called in the
Oxford Group and by Sam Shoemaker? That which blocks you from God
and another. So, if you look at your Big Book, you will see several
references to the blocks, the obstacles. This was an Oxford Group
What are these? Well, we do not have a very
sound relationship with God if we are riddled with fear. If we are
riddled with anger, selfishness, lies. And so those blocks became
the things that in the 5 C's were to be removed! Somebody instills
his confidence in you, you confess to him your shortcomings, you
become convinced that they have to change, you become converted so
that the power of God will change them, and then you continue to
work on that. It is so simple, and yet we don't hear much.
At the last convention [in San Diego in
1995], I had lunch with Smitty [Dr. Bob's son]. And I said, "You
know, it is really cool the way you . . ." (Smitty is one of the
most amusing speakers - he will be here this afternoon). And I said,
"You talk a lot about the Four Absolutes. Why don't you mention the
five C's." He said, "Dick, what are they?" So we sat there, and he
wrote them down on a napkin. Then he got up on the stage and said,
"I was told to mention the five C's, but I can't remember them."
Well, of course he can't, because we don't hear about them. And yet
they are at the heart of our program.
Restitution. An Oxford Group idea. It came
from the Bible. Life changing . . . . The Oxford Groups were called
"The Life Changers." And that is the heart of what we are supposed
to do. There is an old dude, a Bird Colonel, that used to hold forth
in our meetings. He never had much to say. Because he was deaf, he
couldn't hear what was going on in the meetings. But every now and
then, he would stand up and say, "CHANGE!" It would scare the heck
out of you, you know. And he had a message. If you do not change, it
is not just you are going to drink, it was you are going to be
miserable. Because I was miserable. And I don't know about you, but
I didn't want to be miserable anymore. And today I am happy, joyous,
Where do you find the details about Sam if
you want to do some reading about Sam? Early AAs were readers. The
kids I am working with out in Maui can 't read, but early AAs could.
They went to school. They learned how to read. There wasn't TV.
There weren't CDs or "beans" or "bongs" or all the other stuff that
are diversions. So people read. And when they read Shoemaker, they
saw solid stuff that we see in our books: Soul Surgery, the five
C's, life changers, the story of the group, the guidance of God,
where we got our ideas for the eleventh step, and For Sinners Only.
I used to think that [For Sinners Only] was a book written for me,
then I found out, hey, this contained the stories of the Oxford
Group's Life Change Program and was recommended by Anne Smith. The
Quiet Time, by Howard Rose, tells you exactly how early quiet time
was conducted. And, When Man Listens. You read that book, and you
are astonished when you see them talking in there about taking a
business inventory. Wait a minute, I thought that was in the Big
Book. Yeah, but it was in When Man Listens by Rev. Rose in the
Every single idea in our Steps contains an
Oxford Group principle. I love the fact that, even though the
details are not there, in Pass It On, it said that when the Big Book
was written it was heavy with Oxford Group principles. I might have
used the word laden. It was loaded with Oxford Group principles.
Now, was A.A. a part of the Oxford Group?
You bet it was! We don't like to talk about that too much, but there
is a little story. The Oxford Group in Akron was not like the Oxford
Group in New York. I don't think this point is recognized the way it
should be because people don't know where Dr. Bob came from. In St.
Johnsbury [Vermont]. He said, "I was a member of Christian Endeavor,
and I went to church four (4) nights a week." And yet the myth grew
up that Dr. Bob never went to church. In fact he said it himself,
but it is not the case.
I went back and researched this. Dr. Bob
was very much involved in Christian Endeavor and in his church. Yes,
it was under pressure from his mom, but it went on for a substantial
period of time. Then he belonged to several different churches, and
then, about the time he got into A.A., he and Anne were charter
members of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Akron. And so
remained for several years. And just before he died, Dr. Bob became
a communicant at the famous St. Paul's church where Dr. Tunks was
the Rector. So this man had a long history.
And what I see in those early meetings. . .
. There are people going to Moscow right now. They think they are
countering the New Age people from A.A. that are going there and
telling them their "Higher Power" can be a whale and all that sort
of thing. These people have a different story. They conduct an
Oxford Group meeting and tell people that that is what A.A. was
like. It wasn't.
A. A. was called an "old fashioned prayer
meeting." If you read DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, you will see
that the kinds of meetings that they held in Akron, more resembled
the Christian Endeavor meetings that Dr. Bob went to than they did
Oxford Group Meetings. Now, New York is a different story. Share
your experience, strength, and hope. That is where we got the
storytelling part. It was called "witnessing." People got up and
told what God had done for them that they couldn't do for
themselves. So there was a different flavor in New York than what
there was in Akron.
As far as I can see, the Akron
people--Henrietta [Seiberling], T. Henry and Clarace [Williams], and
Anne Smith--they just wanted to help drunks. Their focus was not on
the Oxford Group. It was on compassion and love for the drunk. And
they were pretty doggoned successful.
[5 - Anne Ripley Smith, Dr. Bob's wife].
Next root. I am going to make it, by golly.
[Displaying the six books on A.A.'s
roots].Oh, no, I am not, because I am going to hold these books up.
This is not a book sale, and mine are the only books that are not
for sale here. If you want to know our Bible roots in detail, The
Good Book and The Big Book is a study of that. If you want to know
what we did in Quiet Time, Good Morning_ is a study of that. I got
that title because I went to Princeton and found Sam Shoemaker's
alumni archives. His first sermon. It was just a five-minute sermon.
And it said: "When my wife and I wake up in the morning, here is
what we do." "We don't reach for a cigarette, we don't reach for
coffee, we reach for our Bibles." "We read the Bible, we call our
daughter in, we have some prayer, we seek God's guidance, and we
have a good day, we have a good evening and if you do that you will
have a good day all day long." It was such a cool expression
that--and I haven't done a very good job of it--that I took that as
our theme for Quiet Time study.
Then there is old Sam. This will keep you
busy for a lifetime [holding up New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam
Shoemaker, and A.A.]. I don't guarantee it will keep you sober but
it will show you how much of our program came from Sam Shoemaker.
The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous was one of the first books
I wrote. I submitted it to many, many Oxford Group people in
Florida, in England, and in California, and elsewhere, to make sure
that the 28 ideas that found their way into A.A. were correctly
expressed from an Oxford Group standpoint and then how they appeared
in our Steps. What does it matter? Well, it matters to me, because I
hear so much baloney. Sam came before us in St. Louis, and he put it
into his books: "What can kill us is self-made religion, absurd
names for God, and half-baked prayers."
It was a very moving speaker that preceded
me. He talked about finding God in A.A., and he talked about
learning how to pray. Those were not half-baked prayers. God likes
to hear from His kids. But not these "Please keep me out of
Vacaville" things. I deserved to be in Vacaville. I did not tell the
judge that but that is what he found.
Now back to Anne Smith's Journal. I don't
know why, but still it is not in these archives. It used to be sold
in Dr. Bob's Home, and that is a sore point with me but not any
more. Anne Smith's journal is something that I discovered quite by
accident. It was a footnote in the book Not God. It was mentioned in
Sister Ignatia. And I went to Sue Windows [Dr. Bob's daugher], and I
said, "What is this?" She said, "Well, my mom kept a notebook." "How
do we find that?" So, I went through channels. Mel [B.] used to say,
"I don't know how you get all this stuff, Dick." And I said, "Well,
it is because I am new and sick, and they take pity on me." But, I
went to Frank [Mauser, GSO Archivist] and submitted a request to the
[GSO] trustees and asked to be given a copy of Anne Smith's journal.
The first time I wrote it, everyone called
it an Oxford Group book. It is not. And so my wife looked at--my
ex-wife that I love so dearly--and she said there is not enough of
Anne Smith in that book. She was right. So, I rewrote it. But the
astonishing thing about Anne Smith's journal--it began in 1933. From
the minute they were connected with the Oxford Group gang (T. Henry,
Clarace, and Henrietta, etc.). And she recorded that, and Dr. Bob's
daughter Sue typed up some of that. Some of it is almost
undecipherable in Anne's handwriting, but as I looked through it,
man! I saw the Bible. I saw the Oxford Group. She recommends the
books to read. She quotes the verses. This little lady was called
the "Mother of A.A.," and now I know why. Bill Wilson called her a
"founder" of A.A., and now I know why.
She was not just a lady who got together
the bread and milk that they used to have at the kitchen table back
there around the coffee pot. She is the lady who was the counselor
and the nurse. Many early AAs felt more comfortable talking to Anne
than they did Bob. Bob was an austere person, rather dominating, no
nonsense. And Anne was a compassionate lady. And, they felt more
comfortable with her. She would have these morning Quiet Times--an
hour and a half. In them, she would share from her journal. It took
me a long time to find that out. I found it out through a man named
Johnny R. And the man who made that available is sitting right over
there. Dennis. And this man, John R., not only wrote but said, "Anne
would share with us from her journal." What did she share? Oxford
Group ideas, Bible ideas, the books that she suggested they read.
This is our program. I don't know whether Bill was listening to that
in that summer of 1935 .
There ought to be a lot of work done on
Anne, and it ought to be done in Akron, I might add. She is the lost
lady. But if you want to understand our program, understand Anne
Smith and realize that she wrote it down before there was a Big
Book, before there were Steps, and when people were getting well at
wonderfully high rates.
[6 - The Literature of Early A.A.] The last
part of our roots is the books that people read. What did they read?
A lot would think that it was just Oxford Group books. No. Some of
the most popular books were by people who were not in the Oxford
Group. Henry Drummond's The Greatest Thing in the World was one of
the best sellers, and it still is. You can walk into many stores
today and get it. It is a study of 1 Corinthians 13. Emmet Fox--I am
not a fan of Emmett Fox, and he is not the only guy that talked
about the Sermon on the Mount. Dr. Bob had all the books that talked
about that. Oswald Chambers' book on the Sermon on the Mount,
Fosdick's book, Glen Clark's book, E. Stanley Jones' book, but the
popular one was Emmet Fox. Unfortunately, that is the only one that
seems to have survived today. But, there were some dillies.
Allen's As a Man Thinketh. A lot of what
goes on up here that is wrong is up here, and it has to be changed.
As a man thinketh, so is he. From the Bible! There were a great many
other books, I will just mention quickly. There should be a guy
raising his hand about now. Books on prayer by Glen Clark, Mary
Baker Eddy, Charles Filmore, Fosdick, Emmet Fox, Gerald Heard, E.
Stanley Jones. You will see Victorious Living mentioned in the First
Edition of the Big Book. They have taken out all this stuff. These
guys were telling what they did. So, we think that we need new
books. The Fourth Edition. Heaven knows how many more!
But, in those early stories you saw what
they were reading. Books on guidance in the Oxford Group, When Man
Listens, The God Who Speaks, The Guidance of God, books on Jesus
Christ. They have got them back there. Anne Smith said you should
read one each year. By Barton, Fosdick, Grover, . . . the classics.
St. Augustine, That is tough sledding. Thomas į Kempis used to be a
subject of meditation. And I believe Sister Ignatia handed that book
Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence
of God, the life changing books, For Sinners Only, etc. The books on
the Sermon on the Mount that I mentioned. And the books on--heaven
forbid-how to study the Bible! They keep telling me, Dick don't
write anymore books, and my early demise may ensure that, but the
next one, if it is, will be on the Good Book. How do you read the
Bible? You know it is so easy for somebody to say, "Well, I got to
the 'begats,' and I gave up." Well, there were a lot of very
intelligent people that did not just say, "Study the Bible." They
would focus on the things that were helpful. Bob E. in Akron said
that many times people would go into see Anne, and she would try to
find a verse that would be helpful to them in a particular problem.
And, if she couldn't find it, she would read from 1 John 4:8: "God
There is the signal. 5 glorious more
So, we have ways to study the Bible that
are almost "peculiar." And I use that word advisedly for the AA. I
don't know about you, but I have done many, many, many 5th steps. My
sponsor did not have me do a fear list. I don't know how you could
miss it in the Big Book, but my experience with AAs--and here is
another heresy that you can stone me for after the meeting--but I
don't think resentment is the number one offender. I love
resentments, and I still have them, and I know they are bad news.
But I will tell you where I come from, and it is called fear. And
fear has a million forms--shame, guilt, terror, rejection, low
self-esteem, abandonment. The stuff that is the fodder for our
meetings today, unfortunately, except it's psychological. There is
an answer to fear, and shame, and guilt. I did not know that fear
had ruled my life. I was afraid to stand up in front of the jury.
And the one time I got in front of the jury, I won the case. My boss
gave me a $50.00 bonus--how about that? I was afraid to get up in
front of the jury.
One of the fabulous things about A.A. is
how many dudes (and dudesses) get up. And these people, some of
them, can hardly speak English, but you cannot shut them up. They
have gained self-esteem. They are able to stand up in front of a
group and express themselves and move you. This is part of the fear
game: Fear of gals. "I don't want to ask her to dance." There is a
whole bunch of gals over there, guys over here and nobody's getting
to dance. That isn't true anymore, not in A.A. anyway. But, fear,
All of these things! If we understand what
our roots are, we can find out what we can be delivered from. Did
they know that in early A.A.? You can bet your boots they did. A.A.
was about getting back. I am happy to say that a lot of the guys I
have sponsored have been around for 10 years. These guys are getting
married. They are having babies. They have jobs. Some of them have
gone back to church or a Bible fellowship.
This is the kind of thing, I believe. I
don't know anything about the words "emotional sobriety." I don't
know what that means. But I do know about full recovery and what
full recovery and deliverance means. It means that you are restored
to a whole and useful life, something that is worthwhile, something
in which God becomes a paramount part of that life and in which we
have accurate and adequate information about God and what He can do
for us. Right about now it is time to say, "Thank you very much, and
God bless you all."
(End of Speech.)
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