The Books and Materials Early
By Dick B.
Early AAs were
readers. The Bible was the written word of God. The daily devotionals were
written guides. Oxford Group people wrote. Sam Shoemaker wrote. Anne Smith
wrote. And there were a great many books available for reading. Dr. Bob was an
avid reader, and so was his colleague Henrietta Seiberling. Every pioneer A.A.
meeting had tables set out in T. Henry's house where literature was available.
Dr. Bob recommended and circulated many books. He kept a journal which recorded
the books loaned, and he quizzed the alcoholics on the Bible and on the written
materials they had borrowed from him. Whatever their proclivity for reading,
early AAs all attested to the presence of the Bible and The Upper Room. They
mentioned The Runner's Bible. They mentioned E. Stanley Jones books. They
mentioned Henry Drummond's The Greatest Thing in the World. They mentioned My
Utmost for His Highest. They mentioned James Allen's As a Man Thinketh. They
mentioned the popular Glenn Clark books, Emmet Fox books, and Harry Emerson
Fosdick books. There were religious books, and almost every one elaborated on
some aspect of ideas AAs were borrowing from the Bible and the Oxford Group for
their basic principles.
There was plenty of material on the Bible, prayer, healing, divine guidance, the
Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians 13, and the Book of James. There were Oxford
Group/Shoemaker materials on finding God, changing lives, conversion, the
guidance of God, fellowship, witness, and the teachings of Jesus. There has,
perhaps, never been a fellowship with such diversity of subject matter at the
immediate beck and call of its participants. Nor with such encouragement of its
study by the "leadership."
Dr. Bob's Library
Dr. Bob and everyone that knew him well in the early A.A. days spoke of the
immense amount of reading he did. He read the Bible through three times and
studied it daily. As he put it:
I read everything I could find, and talked to everyone who I thought knew
anything about it (DR. BOB, p. 56).
[Of the Oxford Group books and the Bible] . . . I had done an immense amount of
reading they had recommended. I had refreshed my memory of the Good Book, and I
had had excellent training in that as a youngster (The Co-Founders of Alcoholics
Anonymous, p. 11-12).
[To his son, "Smitty"] Well, I should know something, I've read for at least an
hour every night of my adult life drunk or sober (RHS, pp. 37-38).
DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers reported:
For the next two and a half years [After January, 1933], Bob attended Oxford
Group meetings regularly and gave much time and study to its philosophy. . . .
He read the Scriptures, studied the lives of the saints, and did what he could
to soak up the spiritual and religious philosophies of the ages (p. 56).
Dr. Bob's daughter told the author that her father frequently stayed up late
into the night studying the Bible (Dr. Bob's Library, p. 13).
With the foregoing comments as a start, the author was privileged to see the
huge number of books that Dr. Bob had assembled, read, studied, and circulated.
The author saw them in the home of Dr. Bob's daughter, Sue Smith Windows, in
Akron; and he saw them in the home of Dr. Bob's son, Robert Smith, in Nocona,
Texas. Many of the books had Dr. Bob's name and address in them with the
notation "Please return." Dr. Bob's Library lists the materials in detail. But
it is important to cover here the subject matter to show how much light it was
able to shed on the ideas A.A. pioneers were studying and borrowing.
This aspect of Dr. Bob's reading was considered so important that his Bible was
donated to the King School Group (A.A. Number One), and it is taken to the
podium at the beginning of each meeting, to this very day a ceremony the author
personally witnessed in the company of Dr. Bob's daughter Sue.
Books about the Bible
In the family's possession are God's Great Plan, A Guide to the Bible and The
Fathers of the Church. It is also likely that Dr. Bob read an Oxford Group
pamphlet by Roger Hicks (who was one of the Oxford Group people in Akron in
1933) titled How to Read the Bible. Also An Outline of the Life of Christ by
Shoemaker's assistant minister The Reverend W. Irving Harris (written in 1935).
Also The Lord's Prayer and Other Talks on Prayer from The Camps Farthest Out by
one of Bob's favorite authors Glenn Clark (written in 1932). Without a doubt, we
know that Dr. Bob read Emmet Fox's book The Sermon on the Mount.
The Confessions of St. Augustine, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis,
and The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence were all owned by
Bob and were frequently quoted by the writers whose books Bob read.
The Life of Jesus Christ
Anne Smith recommended reading at least one book on the life of Christ a year
for a while, commenting that even more would be better. Dr. Bob's daughter
confirmed that Dr. Bob read these. They included: Jesus of Nazareth: A Biography
by George A. Barton, The Life of Jesus Christ by The Rev. James Stalker, Studies
of the Man Christ Jesus by Robert E. Speer, The Jesus of History by T. R.
Glover, The Manhood of the
Master and The Man from Nazareth by Harry Emerson Fosdick, and Jesus and Our
Generation by Charles Whitney Silkey. Most of these were quoted in the source
books Dr. Bob read.
Daily Bible Devotionals
These devotionals have been mentioned before. They include Daily Strength for
Daily Needs by Tileston, My Utmost for His Highest by Chambers, The Runner's
Bible by Nora S. Holm, The Upper Room, Victorious Living and Abundant Living by
E. Stanley Jones, Handles of Power by Lewis L. Dunnington, I Will Lift up Mine
Eyes by Glenn Clark, The Meaning of Prayer by Harry Emerson Fosdick. And
probably the highly recommended Oxford Group pamphlets: How to Find Reality in
Your Morning Devotions by Donald W. Carruthers, The Guidance of God by Eleanor
Napier Forde, and The Quiet Time by Howard J. Rose.
Books on Prayer
Dr. Bob was intensely interested in the efficacy of prayer, and his library
bespeaks this interest. Among his many books about the subject of prayer were
Glenn Clark's The Soul's Sincere Desire, Starr Daily's Recovery, Mary Baker
Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Charles and Cora Filmore's
Teach Us to Pray, Emmet Fox's Getting Results by Prayer, Gerald Heard's A
Preface to Prayer, Frank Laubach's Prayer (Mightiest Force in the World),
Charles M. Layman's A Primer of Prayer, William R. Parker's Prayer Can Change
Your Life, and F. L. Rawson's The Nature of True Prayer.
Books on Healing
There is no doubt that Dr. Bob and his wife relied on the healing power of God.
That fact is adequately reported in A.A.'s own histories. But the collection of
their books, and the remarks in Anne Smith's Journal show that they owned and
read the following: Christian Healing by Charles Filmore, Healing in Jesus Name
by Ethel R. Willitts, and Heal the Sick by James Moore Hickson.
The Sermon on the Mount
Dr. Bob's interest in Jesus' sermon was exemplified not only by the many times
he studied and quoted it, but also by the foregoing books as well as the
following specific studies of the Sermon on the Mount: Studies in the Sermon on
the Mount by Oswald Chambers, The Christ of the Mount by E. Stanley Jones, The
Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox, and The Soul's Sincere Desire and I Will Lift
Up Mine Eyes by Glenn Clark.
Anne Smith devoted four pages of her spiritual journal to Toyohiko Kagawa's
treatise on love, titled, Love: The Law of Life. Dr. Bob often recommended Henry
Drummond's The Greatest Thing in the World a study of the famous love chapter in
the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. Anne often quoted 1 John 4:8 "God is love;" and Dr.
Bob frequently spoke of God as a God of love. He summarized A.A.'s ideas as
being, in their essence, "love and service."
The Oxford Group
Dr. Shoemaker's books of the 1920's and 1930's were, of course, Oxford Group
books, but the author found in the possession of Dr. Bob's family the following
books written by other Oxford Group people: For Sinner's Only by A. J. Russell,
He That Cometh by Geoffrey Allen, Soul Surgery by Howard A. Walter, What is The
Oxford Group? by the Layman with a Notebook, Life Changers by Harold Begbie,
Twice Born Men by Harold Begbie (written before the Group was formed), New Lives
for Old by Amelia Reynolds, and One Thing I Know by A. J. Russell. Anne Smith
recommended some of these as life-changing stories. Also some of the Shoemaker
titles written for that purpose. It seems apparent from Dr. Bob's remarks about
the immense amount of Oxford Group literature he had read and the immense amount
of reading he did that his Oxford Group reading included many more than the
Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr.
Moreover, one could not, as Dr. Bob said, claim he had read an immense amount of
Oxford Group literature, without having read many Shoemaker books. Shoemaker was
the most prolific Oxford Group writer, was in touch with Oxford Group people in
Akron, and was a close friend of Bill Wilson's. Therefore, though the following
were the Shoemaker books the author found in possession of Dr. Bob's family,
there must have been many others: Children of the Second Birth, Confident Faith,
If I Be Lifted Up, The Conversion of the Church, Twice-Born Ministers, and One
Boy's Influence. There were also popular Shoemaker pamphlets, titled Three
Levels of Life and What If I Had but One Sermon to Preach?
Quiet Time Books
Dr. Bob and Anne, and even Bill and Lois Wilson practiced Quiet Time. And the
Smiths were well versed in a number of books on the subject. Some were
previously mentioned. The following were also popular: When Man Listens by Cecil
Rose, God Does Guide Us by W. E. Sangster; The God Who Speaks by B. H. Streeter;
How Do I Begin? by Hallen Viney; and When I Awake by Jack C . Winslow.
William James and Carl Jung
Bill, Bob, and many early A.A.'s read Professor William James's The Varieties of
Religious Experience (cited by name in A.A.'s Big Book) and Dr. Carl Gustav
Jung's Modern Man in Search of a Soul. Jung was later called a "founder" of A.A.
as was William James.
Other Spiritual Source Books
We will cover our bibliographies in a moment. But here there should be a list of
some particularly popular spiritual books early AAs read and which were read by
Dr. Bob as well: James Allen's As A Man Thinketh; Glenn Clark's Fishers of Men,
Two or Three Gathered Together, How to Find Health Through Prayer, and
Touchdowns for the
Lord; Harry Emerson Fosdick's The Meaning of Service, The Meaning of Faith, As I
See Religion, On Being a Real Person, and A Great Time to be Alive; Emmet Fox's
Find and Use Your Inner Power, Power Through Constructive Thinking, Alter Your
Life, You Must be Born Again, The Great Adventure, and Your Heart's Desire; the
many E. Stanley Jones books; Charles M. Sheldon's In His Steps; In Tune with the
Infinite by Ralph Waldo Trine; Psychology of a Christian Personality by Ernest
M. Ligon; and Religion Says You Can by Dilworth Lupton.
It is not fruitful here to list every book that early AAs read, particularly the
Oxford Group and Shoemaker books. But the bibliographies in the following books
by Dick B. will provide complete data on all the books believed to have been
available and read: (1) Dr. Bob and His Library; (2) The Akron Genesis of
Alcoholics Anonymous; (3) The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous; (4) New Light
on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.; (5) Good Morning!: Quiet Time,
Morning Watch, Meditation and Early A.A.; (6) Turning Point: A History of Early
A.A.'s Spiritual Roots and Successes; and the most complete and up-to-date is
(7) The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth, 7th Edition.
What Oldtimers Said
Some books and pamphlets were very frequently mentioned by A.A.'s pioneers. They
were: the Bible, The Upper Room, My Utmost for His Highest, The Runner's Bible,
the Glenn Clark books, the E. Stanley Jones books, James Allen's As a Man
Thinketh, Henry Drummond's The Greatest Thing in the World, the Emmet Fox books,
Harold Begbie's books, two Lewis Browne books, William James, Carl Jung, the
Oxford Group literature, and Sam Shoemaker's books.
These are mentioned in A.A. histories. And they were mentioned in pamphlets and
bulletins put out by A.A. offices and groups. They were also mentioned by many
of the surviving families and pioneers the author interviewed.
What Did the Literature Contribute?
Many of the core ideas that AAs adopted were ideas that were covered in depth by
many different books and materials they read.
Materials about Finding God
AAs were told by Sam Shoemaker, by the Oxford Group, and by their own literature
that they needed to find God and find Him now! Sam Shoemaker wrote on this topic
a great deal. So did Leslie D. Weatherhead in books that Bill Wilson owned or
may have owned. So did the other writers.
Materials Defining a Spiritual Experience and Awakening
Throughout Bill Wilson's leadership in A.A., he talked much of his famous "hot
flash" experience. He pointed to William James's book The Varieties of Religious
Experience as a validation of what had occurred to him. It is fair to say that
neither Dr. Bob nor most AAs ever had anything like Bill's experience. But their
reading did define for them what it meant to be converted, to have a conversion
experience, to experience the presence of God, and so on.
Shoemaker said you could understand and know God by following Jesus Christ's
suggestion in John 7:17 by conducting an "experiment of faith." Once AAs
abandoned the Bible, the discussions of the Creator, and their reliance on
coming to God through His Son, they began to lose understanding of God. They
began talking of a higher power which could be a group, a lightbulb, a door
knob, a chair, and nonsense which could not be found in early A.A. nor in the
literature early AAs read.
Knowing God's Will
If early AAs wanted to know God's instructions on faith, believing, prayer,
study of His Word, forgiveness, healing, deliverance, love, restitution,
service, resentment, fear, selfishness, dishonesty, their literature was replete
with road maps to pertinent sections of the Bible and teachings about these
Early A.A. was not about "relationships anonymous." Whether they read the Bible,
the Ten Commandments, or the Four Absolutes, AAs were given much instruction on
how to behave in accordance with God's will. This is true today in only a very
Quiet Time and Meditation
Early AAs were the recipients of specific information on the biblical origins of
Quiet Time on what Quiet Time was, and on how to practice it through Bible
study, helpful books, prayer, listening, checking, and so on. Lacking that
information today, AAs have been subjected to a barrage of "meditation" and
"reflection" materials by writers who have put new spins, new time-saving
squibs, and a wide variety of private interpretation on what had originally been
understood as a substantial period of communion with God.
To this very day, A.A.'s basic text speaks of the alcoholic's need to change.
Early AAs were given specifics on what they were to change from, where to obtain
the power to change, and what they were to change to.
Techniques for Effective Witness
There was no shortage of specific information in early A.A. as to what the
message was, how to carry it, and what to do with the newcomer. If they simply
looked to the Book of Acts and the commentaries about it, they were well
supplied. Anne Smith so suggested.
The Importance of Fellowship
Though they may not realize it today, AAs received a rich body of instruction
concerning the body of Christ, from the Book of Acts and the many Christian
materials they read. They learned the intended meaning of the fellowship of the
Spirit, and how God worked with His children where two or three were gathered
The foregoing are just a few of the topics covered in the hundreds of books,
devotionals, pamphlets, and articles available for the taking by early AAs.
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