Letter to Father Bill W. on the eve of our radio interview with him tomorrow:
A.A., Quiet Time, the Oxford Group, Shoemaker, and Stephen Foot
God keeps putting miracles before our very eyes these days. And the more we reach out, the more the miracles seem to multiply.
This one occurred today when I received three more “Oxford Group” books from Tuchy Palmieri who is reprinting and binding so many of the important Oxford Group and Shoemaker books. And you saw a number of them on the table at our Whittier, California conference. These three are: Life Began Yesterday by Stephen Foot, The Big Bender by Charles Clapp, and With the Holy Spirit and With Fire by Sam Shoemaker.
As I was on my way to the VA doctor today, and since, I read Foote’s book; and it brought your area of Quiet Time interest to my mind and also reminded me of the dozens and dozens of Oxford Group and Shoemaker books that were made available to me and that I read thoroughly some twenty-two years ago. That was when I was moving, subject by subject, through the roots of A.A. and then writing a book or more on each subject as I learned the Oxford Group relationship to the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. Of course, there were eventually about 500 Oxford Group and Shoemaker books made available to me from the libraries of Willard Hunter, James and Ellie Newton, MRA Headquarters in Washington DC, Garth Lean, Michael Hutchinson, Ken Belden, Parks Shipley, Mrs. Irving Harris, and their treasurer George Vondermuhll, as well as through numerous other book purchases and gifts of entire libraries like that of Danny Whitmore.
What struck me as I moved through A.A. history to see if it had actually come from the Bible was the multitude of sources that had impacted on Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob, Anne Smith, T. Henry and Clarace Williams, and Henrietta Seiberling. Dr. Bob was quoted in Pamphlet P-53 as saying he had read just about every Oxford Group piece he could get his hands on. Anne Smith not only read many but quoted from them in her journal and recommended some. Congressman Seiberling told me: “My mother, I am sure, read all of the Oxford Group literature of the 1930’s.” And DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers reported on the hordes of books Dr. Bob owned and had scattered around and under his bed at 855 Ardmore. Later, of course, his children were to make available for my inspection and listing all of these books that he had read and circulated prior to his death.
I’m going to get to the point of this letter – which has to do with the immensely fine writing in Life Began Yesterday and how much of it was almost literally or at least seemingly poured into Big Book and Step language. But I want, very very briefly, to point to the large scope of A.A. sources and of their variety.
Dr. Bob said specifically A.A. came from the Bible and specifically pointed to James, Jesus’ Sermon, and 1 Corinthians 13. Anne wrote that the Bible ought to be the main Sourcebook of all, and she quoted it freely in her journal. I went through Henrietta’s Bible at her daughter’s home; and it was filled with notes and markings, and Henrietta also quoted it frequently. T. Henry was a Sunday School teacher, and his wife was a trained missionary.
So the most overlooked point—and still disputed by those who can’t read or won’t read the documentation—is the fact that early Akron A.A. came from the Bible. Moreover, Frank Buchman was said to be “soaked in the Bible,” and the writings of his followers are filled with Bible references. Sam Shoemaker was called by Rev. W. Irving Harris a “Bible Christian,” and I can vouch for the frequency of Bible sermons, references, and articles in his writings—having read all his books and many of his other materials. The end result of all this was our flagship book – The Good Book and The Big Book: A.A.’s Roots in the Bible.
Yet as I went through the Oxford Group books and Shoemaker’s writings, it was inescapable that the very words and phrases in the Big Book and Steps were paralleled by their frequent appearance in scores of Oxford Group and Shoemaker writings. The result of these efforts were The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous; New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.; and Good Morning: Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A. Also the books Dr. Bob and His Library, Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939, and The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth.
The historical problem, of course, has been the concerted effort to toss out Oxford Group roots, leave the Bible removed and unmentioned from the Big Book of late, and simply ignore Anne, Henrietta, the books actually read and circulated, and the practices of the early AAs in Akron.
I’m sure our participants are coming to realize the variety of roots, the primary Bible source for the early Akron AA Christian Fellowship, and the complete change of course as Bill fashioned his life-changing program for the Big Book—drawing on the teaching and advice of Shoemaker.
Now for Stephen Foot. First, our International Christian Recovery Coalition will eventually learn what a debt we owe to Tuchy for printing up these books. Years ago Fleming Revell (publisher of most of that literature) had planned to engage Pittman and myself to examine and enable them to reprint the many many Shoemaker and Oxford Group books they had published. But their President went elsewhere. The deal fell through. And the end result was simply Courage to Change—which Pittman and I wrote together and which was published by the successor Baker Book House. Today it is published by Hazelden.
If Tuchy keeps up his wonderful effort and selects all the pre-1940 Oxford Group and Shoemaker books, people will at least see why Bill eventually attributed even ten of the Twelve Steps to Shoemaker and the Oxford Group and later called Shoemaker a cofounder of AA.
But I hope you will secure from Tuchy the Foot book as you trudge the happy road of Quiet Time, prayer and meditation, and 11th Step principles and practices. You will find it to be a compendium of A.A.-Oxford Group parallels. You will find that many expressions used by Anne Smith and the many specifics on Quiet Time, the Four Absolutes, the guidance of God, inventory, confession, conviction, conversion, and continuance, prayer, Bible, life-changing, being “born again,” are there for your historical feast. And I know that, with your penchant for Quiet Time and for bringing this practice to the fore, Life Began Yesterday can either be one of the authentic foundations from an historical standpoint and/or can be used for illustrative purposes if that suits your needs.
God Bless, Dick B. firstname.lastname@example.org – June 6, 2012