Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lingering Questions About the Oxford Group, Bill W.'s "Steps," and Ebby Thacher

[The following interchange has been lightly edited]

From: Dick B. []
Sent: Saturday, July 23, 2011 9:38 AM
To: 'Karen H.'
Subject: RE: Oxford Group

I don’t believe you read my answers carefully. And I suggest you do that first and then make your comments on the supposed contradiction. Also, you should read the variant six “ideas” in my title The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous. Have you done so? Also, I am not sure you are conversant with the difference between the original Akron program, the alleged six “word of mouth” ideas that Bill claimed were circulating in various ways, and the actual twelve steps which Bill seems to have fashioned in half an hour—building on his alleged six “ideas” and the Oxford Group twenty-eight and Shoemaker’s teachings about them. If you read Shoemaker, you will see almost verbatim transpositions from Shoemaker’s language to Step language.

As to what Ebby learned, conveyed, and said at which time and place, I don’t believe there is any reliable information about that. However, if you read Turning Point, you will read what I found at Stepping Stones twenty years ago, and some lengthy comments that Bill said were made by Ebby.

I do not want to get caught up in discussions which take off from misconceptions of the facts I laid out. If you have not read Turning Point, and if you have not studied the relevant pages of Bill’s Story, then you have failed to understand what we do know. Ebby transmitted IDEAS to Bill, not steps. When he transmitted them is not clear to me though it would Appear that it occurred when Ebby first visited Bill or perhaps at the time of Bill’s final hospitalization at Towns.

Again, there were no A.A. six steps. There were no Oxford Group six steps. There were no Oxford Group “steps” at all. That has been documented by Willard Hunter and by remarks in A.A. Conference-approved literature. And there were no twelve steps until Bill wrote them in December of 1938. There were 28 Oxford Group ideas which are thoroughly discussed in my book, The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous. These have been verified and endorsed by several leading Oxford Group activists including Garth Lean, Michael Hutchinson, James Newton, Eleanor Newton, and Willard Hunter—along with the many Oxford Group people who have read and discussed my points with me personally. Bill said he got the ideas for Steps 3 through 12 from the teachings of Sam Shoemaker (an Oxford Group leader).

In sum, to get the factual picture in focus, you should read the following titles I have written: (1) Turning Point. (2) The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous. (3) The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous. (4) New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. You should also master the Big Book pages in Bill’s Story which say that “my friend” came to the hospital and went through the exercises there stated—exercises bearing close resemblance to the actual twelve step ideas written several years later in 1938.

God bless,

Dick B.

From: Karen H. [last name withheld]
To: Dick B.
Subject: RE: Oxford Group

Hi Dick,

I appreciate your comprehensive response!  Your answers #5 and #8 seem to conflict:  #5: Bills' own invention was that there were six ideas which he expanded to twelve.  #8: Bill was informed of all 12 steps by Ebby.  Am a little confused so hope you can expand. Thank you Dick.  

Lastly, if Ebby gave the Steps to Bill, when did he do this--at the time Ebby told Bill that he, Ebby, got religion? And where did Ebby get the 12 steps?

Hope to hear from you soon!  Merci, Karen :-)  

--- On Thu, 7/21/11, Dick B. wrote:

From: Dick B.
Subject: RE: Oxford Group
To: "'Karen H.

Received: Thursday, July 21, 2011, 2:51 AM
Thank you very much for writing. Several comments: 
  1. You need to obtain and read Pamphlet P53—the Cofounders last major speeches and biographies. Dr. Bob tells you explicitly what they did and didn’t have. They had no Steps, no Traditions, no Big Book, no drunkalogs, and no meetings as we know them today.
  1. They used the Bible and particularly studied and stressed the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13.
  2. The Oxford Group had no steps – ever. Not six, not twelve, none! You can find that in Pass It On. To find out what the Oxford Group’s 28 principles were (reviewed and endorsed by many Oxford Group people who read my work), read Dick B. The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, 2d ed. See Buy it there or on Amazon.
  1. Dr. Bob explicitly said that all the basic ideas for the Steps came from the Bible. See Dick B., The Good Book and the Big Book and The James Club: The Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials.
  2. A.A. never had any six steps, nor did the Oxford Group--no matter what you may read. Bill’s own invention was that there were six word-of-mouth ideas from which he expanded to the Twelve Steps. Different folks, he said, differed about what they were and how they were used. See Dick B. The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous
  1. The original Akron Christian Fellowship program founded by Bill W. and Dr. Bob in Akron in June, 1935, was summarized by Frank Amos as having seven points―five required and two recommended. See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 131. And we have identified 14 practices they used to implement the 7 principles. It is all laid out in The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., 2010. See order form on first page.
  1. Many A.A. critics—a few Christian and many others in and out of A.A.—violently oppose the Oxford Group, not realizing that Bill and Lois left it in August of 1937; and Bill began work on his Big Book in 1938 obtaining the Step and Big Book ideas largely from three sources: William James, Dr. Silkworth, and Rev. Sam Shoemaker of Calvary Church in New York. Akron’s only significant connection with the Oxford Group there was in holding a Wednesday night meeting at the home of T. Henry Williams. Even there, the alkies often held their group meeting in a different room from the Oxford Group’s meeting.
  1. Students of the Big Book and those who read my book Turning Point ( can learn that Bill was informed of all twelve step ideas by his friend Ebby Thacher.
You can find the summary on pages 12-14 of the 4th edition Big Book; and you can find the full details of what Bill related about Ebby and the Steps in Turning Point.
  1. I hasten to point out that A.A. has drifted so far from God and the Bible and also from the Oxford Group that you will hear more phony stories about these subjects than you will the truth. 
Please favor me with your name, mail address, phone, and email. And do keep in touch. Thanks again. You are the second in a day or so to raise Oxford Group questions, and this is healthy! 
God bless, 
Dick B.

From: Karen
Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 1:11 PM
Subject: Oxford Group 
Hi Dick, 
Could you give us the answer to the following question please? 
After Bill and Dr. Bob met and were just beginning to help others, did they use the Oxford Group's 6 Steps to help other alcoholics?  Would you also expand on what they did do if they didn't use the 6 Steps? 
Thank you so much, 
Karen :-)  

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