Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Nonsense about A.A.'s Basic Text and 164 Pages

Let me stick to what I have frequently heard in 25 years of attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and now in reading cautionary remarks in various internet posts.

First, I was told that the "basic text" of Alcoholics Anonymous consisted only of the Doctor's Opinion and the first 164 pages.

Next, I watched a number of members tear out the personal stories in the Big Book because they were not a part of the "basic text."

Finally, A.A. itself began publishing material minus the personal stories--having already deleted many of them in prior editions.

As many know, I am very clear from my research that A.A. had two distinctly different programs in the early years after its founding.

(1) The first program was that of the A.A. of Akron Christian Fellowship that Bill W. and Dr. Bob founded in June of 1935. As Dr. Bob pointed out, there were no Steps, there were no Traditions, (and there was no Big Book), there were no drunkalogs, and there were no meetings as we later saw them progress. Dr. Bob further pointed out that AAs believed the answers to their problems were in the Bible. The parts of the Bible considered "absolutely essential," he said, were Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the Book of James, and 1 Corinthians 13. He also said he did not write the Twelve Steps or have anything to do with the writing of them. The basic ideas, he said, came from their study and effort in the Bible. When Frank Amos did a survey of the Akron program, he specifically enumerated seven points which, Amos said, comprised the "Program" They are set forth on page 131 of A.A. General Service Conference-approved book DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers. And around those seven points, there were about 16 principles and practices that the early AAs applied in seeking and receiving God's help. They are set forth in our book The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., 2010.

(2) The second program culminated in the "basic text" which Bill published in 1939 under the name "Works Publishing Company." To paraphrase Bill's statement, the Twelve Steps came from three primary sources--Dr. William D. Silkworth, Professor William James, and the Oxford Group as then led in America, he said, by the Episcopal Rector, Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. The end result was the First Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition to forewords and back matter, it consisted of the Doctor's Opinion, the material where Bill laid out many chapters describing his program, and many personal stories which were written by various members prior to publication. The three segments were tied together by Bill's references to Dr. Silkworth, by his specifying Twelve Suggested Steps of Recovery with instructions for taking them, and then laying out the personal stories. He referred to these stories by saying that each person in his own language and from his own point of view explained how he had established his relationship with God.

And now for the random opinions, deletions, and unwarranted statements I saw and heard.

‎"This is the Fourth Edition of the Big Book, the Basic Text for Alcoholics Anonymous." That is what the cover of the latest Big Book edition states today, and it was published in 2001.

Whoever invented the absurd idea that a book with 575 pages and xxxii pages of introductory material is somehow not a basic text. A text includes every word in a book. And to cut out Prefaces, Forewords, The Doctor's Opion, Personal Stories, and Appendices defies reason and the English Language. Moreover, it invites students of the text to stop reading until they reach page 1 and quit reading when they hit page 164. I have never seen a teacher or a professor or a drill sergeant tell a student that he or she must not read certain pages because the teacher doesn't like them or think them important. The Personal Stories were to have been the entire content of the original outline of the Big Book prior to 1939.

Whether one prefers to study the original A.A. program of Akron or to study the Big Book program assembled by Bill Wilson with the personal stories, if that student wants to know from a "text" what the program is about, he needs to read the text and not some abbreviated version meeting the desires of some meeting voice.

No comments: