Bill Wilson’s So-Called “Six Steps”
Word of Mouth Ideas He Claimed Were in Use Before 1939
© 2010 Anonymous. All rights reserved/
For a long time in my research, I kept hearing that there had been six steps before there were Twelve. In one way or another, Bill Wilson suggested this. In another way, Lois Wilson suggested it by quoting “six” Oxford Group tenets—tenets which very clearly did not exist in the history or annals of the Oxford Group. My tendency, therefore, was to point to these facts and reject Bill’s “six” steps as bogus.
But I nonetheless encountered them in several different ways, phrased in several different forms, and emanating from several different alleged sources. The first phraseology appeared on a piece of paper handed to me in New York by Bill’s secretary, Nell Wing. It was scribbled in Bill’s handwriting; and it appeared to contain material identical to that which Bill had placed in an A.A. Grapevine article. Bill stated there, as “we commenced to form a Society separate from the Oxford Group, we began to state our principles something like this:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol.
We got honest with ourselves.
We got honest with another person, in confidence.
We made amends for harms done others.
We worked with other alcoholics without demand for prestige or money.
We prayed to God to help us do these things as best we could”
(See Dick B., The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd ed., 1998, pp. 256-257. www.dickb.com/Akron.shtml). Identical language—specifying “we prayed to God” can be found elsewhere. Not “a” god. Not God as you understand Him. Not whatever kind of God you thought there was. See Bill W., The Language of the Heart. NY: The AA Grapevine, Inc. 1988, p. 200; William L. White, Slaying the Dragon. IL: Chestnut Health Systems, 1998, p. 132)
Time marched on. Bill shifted gears, seemingly bent on putting still more distance between “God,” the Akron program about God, and Bill’s delegated responsibility to report the original facts in the new text he proposed. And Bill still talked about a “word-of-mouth” program of six steps to achieve and maintain sobriety. But Bill listed a new and rephrased “six steps” as follows; and the dutiful revisionist historians of A.A. followed suit:
We admitted that we were licked, that we were powerless over alcohol.
We made a moral inventory of our defects or sins.
We confessed or shared our shortcomings with another person in confidence.
We made restitution to all those we had harmed by our drinking.
We tried to help other alcoholics, with no thought of reward in money or prestige.
We prayed to whatever God we thought there was for power to practice these precepts.
(See Dick B., The Akron Genesis, p. 256; Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 160 www.dickb.com/Akron.shtml; Pass It On., p. 197; Ernest Kurtz, Not-God. MN: Hazelden, 1991, p. 69. Note the prayer to “whatever God we thought there was”).
The newly invented six steps were not left alone, however. Others were tinkering with them. This even though there was absolutely no evidence that the Oxford Group had any steps at all – not two, nor four, nor six, nor twelve. But Bill’s wife Lois declared that there were “the Oxford Group precepts”—six in number—as follows::
Surrender your life to God.
Take a moral inventory.
Confess your sins to God and another human being.
Give of yourself to others with no demand for return.
Pray to God for help to carry out these principles.
(See Dick B., The Akron Genesis, p. 257; Lois Remembers. NY: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, 1987, p. 92. Note the language “surrender to God” and “Pray to God”).
And then, after Dr. Bob was dead, came the following unsupported insertion in the Big Book. It alleged that Dr. Bob had used “six steps.” In language hardly resembling any ever used by Dr. Bob (who had also said there were no steps at all when A.A. began), the Big Book writer attributed the following words to Bob (words containing no mention of God):
Dependence and guidance from a Higher Power.
Continued to work with alcoholics.
(See Dick B., The Akron Genesis, p. 258; Alcoholics Anonymous, 2d ed., p. 292; Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, pp. 22-23; DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, p. 131).