There are many things that the Apostle Paul and Bill Wilson, as well as AA and the church, have in common. In the next eight posts (12-19) of this year-long series, we will look at some of them, beginning with:
HAVING HAD A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING
The “Apostle” Bill W.
At Towns Hospital in New York City in 1935, where he was being treated for alcoholism, Bill Wilson (Bill W.) had what has been referred to as a spiritual awakening. Years later, Wilson wrote a letter to the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl G. Jung, who had previously treated an alcoholic acquaintance of Wilson’s. In the letter, Wilson recalled his spiritual awakening:
“Clear once more of alcohol, I found myself terribly depressed. This seemed to be caused by my inability to gain the slightest faith… In utter despair I cried out, ‘If there be a God, will He show himself.’ There immediately came to me an illumination of enormous impact and dimension, something which I have since tried to describe in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous…
“My release from alcohol obsession was immediate. At once, I knew I was a free man… Shortly following my experience, my friend Edwin came to the hospital, bringing me a copy of William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience. This book gave me the realization that most conversion experiences, whatever their variety, do have a common denominator of ego collapse at depth… In the wake of my spiritual experience, there came a vision of a society of alcoholics, each identifying with and transmitting his experience to the next ~ chain-style. If each sufferer were to carry the news of the scientific hopelessness of alcoholism to each prospect, he might be able to lay every newcomer wide open to a transforming spiritual experience… This has made conversion experiences ~ nearly every variety reported by James ~ available on an almost wholesale basis.”
Spiritual transformations invariably shift the primary focus of the individual from a “me” to a “we” perspective. It is a realization of the connectedness of the part to the whole, of the individual to the group. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians that, when he was a child, he thought like a child but had since put away childish things. Those words are spoken most frequently at weddings which are a ceremony, a journey, a mystical union in which two become as one. Spiritual transformations of all varieties have that in common ~ from seemingly unrelated entities and isolated lives comes the realization of a common purpose, a common identity, a common bond. That is true in church as well as in 12 Step recovery programs.
Bill Wilson framed recovery from alcoholism in terms of spirituality, fellowship, and dependence on God. He spread the good news of spiritual recovery through sobriety throughout the world and was heralded by many individuals and organizations, including a tribute by the writer, Aldous Huxley, who referred to Wilson as the greatest social architect of the twentieth century. As much as AA is heralded as a “self help” group; it appears to many to be nothing less than a divine intervention (no matter how “divine” is defined) to make straight the spiritual paths of many. And in so doing, millions of lives have been saved.
Please ask your friends and colleagues to subscribe to this blog by entering their email address in the upper right corner of this page. Your comments may be incorporation into future posts. Please consider reading the eleven posts published prior to this one in this series called “Spirituality Within Addiction & Recovery.”