The Big Book Message Bill W. Intended for His First Edition
The Evidence We Have Seen
Dick B. and Ken B.
© 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved
Robert Thomsen undertook the writing of Bill W.’s biography. And the book began with this Author Note:
Bill W. told his own story many times; he also wrote about it. Possibly because of New England reticence, the emphasis ws always on the second half of his life. He gave few details of his childhood, his youth, or the early years of his marriage. However, it was my privilege—my blessing, if you will—to have known and worked beside Bill during the last twelve years of his life, when he had begun to understand that his biography would be written one day, and he made many attempts in notes, in letters, and on tape recordings “to set the record somewhere near straight.”
Thomsen wrote further:
Ever since his night at Towns, Bill had no argument with God, and the impact of this sudden change had been far more profound than even he understood.
A professional writer would have run from such an assignment, but Bill sat down at his desk in Newark each morning and talked simply, honestly, unashamedly, using the language of religion where it applied. With no hesitation, he described the surrender at Towns Hospital and the miraculous communion he’d sensed with Bob, as well as the tools they’d tried to use in their new life. . . . In no time he had the first two chapters finished and Ruth typed them up.
As chapters were completed, copies were made and passed along for comment by the trustees and members of the group—and everyone had a comment
Fitz [John Henry Fitzhugh M.] felt that since the movement was based on Christian doctrine they should say so flat out.
First was the idea that they should label their steps a Suggested Program of Recovery. Bill called this one a ten strike. They all agreed that no drunk should rebel at a mere suggestion.
Each week, Bill would read what he had written to those who gathered at his home on Tuesday evenings. While he was working his way through the explanatory chapters, New York and Akron members were submitting their personal stories. . . . By the end of January, 1939, the manuscript was ready for preliminary distribution; 400 copies were Multilithed and circulated to members, friends, and other allies for comments and evaluation.
But Fitz was a minister’s son and deeply religious. Fitz fell at once into hot argument with Henry [Parkhurst] about the religious content of the coming volume. Fitz wanted a powerfully religious document. Fitz made trip after trip to New York from his Maryland home to insist on raising the spiritual pitch of the A.A. book.
The pros and cons were mostly about the tone of the book. Some wanted it slanted more toward the Christian religion, others, less.
In New York, the hot debate about the Twelve Steps and the book’s contents was doubled and redoubled. There were conservatives, liberal, and radical viewpoints. Fitz M, the Episcopal minister’s son from Maryland and the second man to recover at Towns Hospital, made constant journeys to New York in order to reinforce the conservative position. Fitz thought that the book ought to be Christian in the doctrinal sense of the word and that it should say so. He was in favor of using Biblical terms and expressions to make this clear. Another early New York A.A., Paul K., was even more emphatic about.
Alcoholics who had tried the missions were forever complaining about this very thing. The alcoholic’s un-reasoning rebellion against the spiritually religious approach had severely handicapped the missions. It was true that we could not agree on a religious basis for our fellowship and that the straight religious approach had worked in relatively few cases.
We were still arguing about the Twelve Steps. All this time I had refused to budge on these steps. I would not change a word of the original draft, in which, you will remember, I had consistently used the word “God,” and in one place the expression “on our knees.”
And What Did Bill’s Original Manuscript Say? There’s the Rub!
“Pass It On” states: “The very first draft of the Twelve Steps, as Bill wrote them, has been lost,” (p. 198). One historian wrote in an endnote: “Here also the original draft has been lost. Insofar as I have been able with the help of NW [Nell Wing, A.A.’s First Archivist] to reconstruct from the earliest available drafts and comments, the original form of the Twelve Steps, there were slight differences in the following six.”
If you were looking for the original draft manuscript in order to find out what Bill had really written in the midst of all this blackout, where would you start?
In 1991.when Dick B. first began researching at Bill’s home at Stepping Stones in Bedford Hills, New York, he arrived there for his two different trips with the blessing and encouragement of A.A. archivist Frank Mauser [Nell Wing’s successor] who even let him stay in his apartment during one of the periods. Dick also had the blessing and encouragement of the then Stepping Stones archivist, Paul Lange, who gave him free range of the materials, even the materials at Bill’s office (Wit’s End). Dick was astonished at the large number of draft materials which had preceded the ultimate Big Book form. These were located in the basement of Lois Wilson’s actual home; and that basement room—with its files, manuscripts, correspondence, and memorabilia—was completely open to Dick on both visits. So were the nearby copy machines in the area that enabled Dick to copy and take with him, with the archivist’s permission, all the materials he listed in writing for the archivist on 10/2/91: (1) Handwritten Pages—Hank Parkhurst ideas for Book. (2) Pages by Bill—Names of people for stories. (3) Outline of Chapters and Chapter 1 – “There is a Solution. (4) 36 pages of Bill’s Original Story—lines numbered, later pages missing. (5) Letters Bill to Lois. (6) Amos 5 page report. (7) Pages Clarace Williams to Bill and Lois Sept/35 (8) Pages T. Henry to Bill 3/37. (9) Pages Dr. Bob to Bill 2/17/38
Here in outline are the items Dick B. found and partial excerpts from them:
(1) An 11 page hand-written outline of proposed “ideas for the Book, “contents prepared by Hank Parkhurst. Page 3 asked: How do I know this will work with me? Why is this method any better than any other religious method? (It is not—This is only a step toward a religious experience which should be carried forward in Christian fellowship no matter what your church.”
(2) The typed “Original Story” with hand-written notations and titled “Bill Wilson’s Original Story.” It consists of 36 pages. There is a number for every line. The numbered items run from 1 to 1180, and end there. Among the comments by Bill: (a) Where now was the God of the preachers? (b) “Old memories of Sunday School” (c) The temperance pledge which I never signed. (d) the sound of the preacher’s voice which could be heard on still Sunday mornings. (e) This is what my friend suggested I do: Turn my face to God as I understand Him. I should prepare myself for God’s company. Ask what attitudes and actions I still have whichwere not completely honest wi9th God. Humbly ask God that he take these handicaps away. I was to keep myself free in the future of those things which shut out God’s power. Frequently asking God for help. Taking a simple childlike attitude toward God.
(3) The typed “W.G. Wilson Reflections” with handwritten additional portion stating “of his early life to the spiritual awakening.”
(4) “Main Events – Alcoholics Anonymous Fact Sheet by Bill” On return to New York began to go to more Oxford Group meetings. First work at the Mission and the Towns Hospital very hard. The second success which also occurred at Towns Hospital was John Henry Fitzhugh Mayo. He was author of the classic phrase, “Who am I to say there is no God.” At length Mr. Scott said: This is like first century Christianity, one person carrying the message to the next. I probably got down to serious writing about September 15, 1938. Meanwhile the chapters of the book were sent to Dr. Bob. He never passed them around very much, merely writing me sayng he thought they were all right. I had referred very frequently to God through the Steps. Fitz mayo thought the book didn’t have enough God in it.
(5) Typed copies of the first two chapters that were written – in reverse order.
Final editing of the book was done by Tom Uzzell, member of the faculty at New York University. Uzzell cut the book by at least a third, some say half—from 800 to 400 pages.
I contacted Bill Pittman, Hazelden’s Director of Historical Information. Bill said he had interviewed Ruth Hock and specifically asked her what had been deleted. Ruth told Bill Pittman that the deleted content consisted largely of Christian and biblical materials.
In a July, 1953 isssue of the AA Grapevine, Bill specifically said that A.A.’s “southern friend” Fitz M. “wanted a fairly religious book infused with some of the dogma we had picked up from the churches and missions which had tried to help us.”
In his biography of Bill Wilson, Francis Hartigan said: “Bill may have included some heavily Christian wording in his early drafts of the Big Book.”
Then still another suggestion that the “original manuscript” appears to have been lost. “Pass It On” states at p-age 235:
On March 16, 1940, a month after the Rockefeller dinner, Works Publishing moved its offices from Newark to 30 Vesey Street in lower Manhattan. . . . In the move, much was thrown out—including probably the original drafts of the Steps and the rest of the Big Book’s fifth chapter which was written there.
There is a final point about what is known to have been changed in the Big Book manuscript. At Stepping Stones, I found the original Chapter # 1 (which was written in the Spring of 1938). It was titled “There is a Solution.” Beginning on page 9 of the manuscript I found, Bill wrote:
But there is a solution. . . . And the GREAT FACT is just this and no less; that all of us have had deep and effective religious experiences which have in every case revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God’s great universe.
We would like to see you follow suit, for we think no one should miss THE GREAT REALITY which we have been lucky enough to find. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that the Creator of you and me has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is to us new and beautiful and has there has commenced to accomplish those things which by no stretch of the imagination were we humanly capable of.
After years of living on a basis which now seems to us wholly false, you are not going to get rightly related to your Creator in a minute. None of us has found God in six easy lessons, but He can be found by all who are willing to put the task ahead of all else.
[Speaking of Rowland Hazard and Dr. Carl Jung, Bill wrote:] You and I would say that the patient was on a very hot spot that is probably what he did say and feel. So have we when it began to look to us as thought we must have a vital religious experience or perish. Our friend did finally have such an experience and we in our turn have sought the same happy end. . . . What seemed at first to be a flimsy reed has proved to be a loving and powerful hand of God.
With All This Evidence of What Was Originally Written, What was Intentionally Deleted, and the Frequency of Former References to the Creator, to Christianity, and to biblical materials, the reader should ask these questions as to what Bill Wilson originally intended to say
· What were the Christian and biblical materials that Ruth Hock said were discarded?
· What was the “dogma” of the churches and missions that had helped AAs that Fitz wanted to have as a part of the book, but which Bill rejected?
· Why is there no mention of the fact that Rev. Shoemaker had said that man needed to have a vital religious experience; he needed to find God; he needed Jesus Christ; that Bill originally wrote of this necessary “vital religious experience;” and that Bill shifted his language to a “spiritual experience,” then a “spiritual awakening,” and finally to a “personality change.”
· To what did Fitz refer when he said the program was based on “Christian doctrine?
· To what language did Hartigan refer when he said Bill may have included some “heavily Christian wording” in some of the earlier drafts.
· What caused the bogus insertion of “choose your own conception of God” into the alleged, but non-existent remark by Ebby to Bill?
· What caused Bill to abandon his frequent mention of the Creator and God and shift to
the illusory “higher power” of the New Thought writers like William James and Fox
· And the bottom line question: Why are all these factual references to first century Christianity, to the contributions of the churches and missions, to the Creator and God, to Christian wording, and Christian and biblical materials simply missing, unknown, and veiled in attempt to exclude them from the minds of 12 Step people today—be they Christians, would be Christians, those with biblical and church backgrounds, those who believe in God—whether they are Christians or not?
 Robert Thomsen, BILL W.: 50th Anniversary Edition Commemorating the 1935 Meeting Between Bill W. and Dr. Bob that launched Alcoholics Anonymous (NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, Perrenial Library, 1975)
 Robert Thomsen, 255.
 Robert Thomsen, 278.
 Robert Thomsen, 282.
 Robert Thomsen, 284.
 “Pass It On,” 200.
 Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, 17.
 Lois Remembers,
 Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, 162.
 Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, 163.
 Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, 166.
 Ernest Kurtz, Not-God, 275, note 34.
 “Pass It On,”
 Francis Hartigan, Bill W.: A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Co-Founder Bill Wilson (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), 123.