An Endorsement of Dr. Ian Mc Cabe’s Forthcoming Book,
Carl Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous
By Dick B.
© 2015 Anonymous. All rights reserved
Few writers have even attempted to tell the complete, unabridged story of how A.A. began and the varied sources of its ideas. My son Ken and I have devoted over 25 years to picking up the pieces and making sure that the entire story is presented in order to enhance the recovery hopes of millions of alcoholics and addicts. The prior efforts of others began with a dissertation completed in the 1970’s by a student now deceased. And, as the years passed, it became clear that there was no single chain of facts that truthfully and fully gave the picture to still-suffering alcoholics or that truthfully recorded the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible played in enabling a handful of suffering souls to fashion a “Christian fellowship” out of their drinking experiences, the viewpoints of some distinguished writers, and a potpourri of thoughts by physicians, clergy, treatment workers, and authors.
In part of Dr. Ian Mc Cabe’s book about Carl Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous, he delves into the huge reservoir of tangled facts relating to A.A.’s history, its “founders,” the distinguished writers who have covered various pieces of the puzzling picture, and Mc Cabe’s opinions as to how the facts can, if possible, be reconciled.
But those facts cannot be reconciled. Instead, Mc Cabe has furnished his readers with the kind of panoply of efforts which need to be examined as a whole, documented with appropriate sources, and avoid the daunting task of chewing an elephant bite by bite. Mc Cabe writes well, blankets his field with hitherto muddled facts that need clarifying, and still leaving lots of editing to be done.
We can, with due respect, describe the whole of Mc Cabe’s work as follows: (1) In the course of discussing Carl Jung’s influence on Alcoholics Anonymous, it boldly attacks many details about A.A.’s founders, A.A.’s sources, and the varied remarks of those believers and unbelievers who have busied themselves attacking the Bible, the religious origins of A.A., and the interpretations of those who have variously been called fundamentalists, conservatives, and hobbyists. (2) It bravely steps into the tangled brush and enables readers to examine each of a wide number of diverse sources which have often been lacking in coherent research and writing. (3) Half-truths do not a full picture paint. And the Mc Cabe book helpfully opens the door to A.A. and its roots as they look today.
If I were to arouse further interest in Mc Cabe’s book, I would emphasize the following: (1) It is a “founders” book because it calls for more research and more resources on the founders—William James, Carl Jung, William D. Silkworth, the Oxford Group, Rev. Sam Shoemaker, and most assuredly the Bible. And I will have some pithy references to Silkworth and to the Bible, and how their full impact has been ignored. (2) Writers have missed the boat when it has come to how much the Christian upbringing of A.A. cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the Vermont roots of Bill and Bob, and the 28 Oxford Group ideas flowed into A.A. And it is there where a great body of our writing of 46 titles and 1,700 articles has reposed under the carpet of those interested in New Thought, atheists and agnostics, spirituality, and idolatrous higher powers. (3) Since Carl Jung has appropriately received special attention in Mc Cabe’s book, readers may realize that the Jung contribution of “vital religious experience” needs in depth work particularly since it was originally embodied in the A.A. Big Book’s Chapter Two, titled “There is a Solution.” And Bill’s solution has been diluted into “spiritual experience,” “spiritual awakening,” “personality change,” and “You don’t have to believe in anything at all.” For those amendments have wreaked havoc with the recovery ideas of James, Jung, Silkworth, Shoemaker, and most certainly the Bible.
I would also eliminate all secular discussions of “spirituality,” “not-godness,” and the “higher power” idolatry that Ernest Kurtz, now deceased, spawned. For a keen appreciation of why early A.A. laid the foundation stone for recovery by the power of God can be seen in these remarks:
1) A.A. has been tooting the horn of Dr. William D. Silkworth of Towns Hospital for years and crediting the doctor as the source of the First Step idea of powerlessness–erroneously defining the doctor’s opinion as having taught two vital facts:
(a) In reflecting on a letter Dr. Silkworth wrote which was included in the Big Book, Bill W. stated:
. . . [O]ur bodies were sickened as well. . . . [A]ny picture of the alcoholic which leaves out this physical factor is incomplete.
The doctor’s theory that we have an allergy to alcohol interests us. [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., xxvi]
And in the letter to which Bill referred above, Dr. Silkworth himself stated:
We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, . . . their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly difficult to solve. [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., xxviii; (italics added)]
(b) In the opinion of the present writer (Dick B.), Silkworth’s ideas were alluded to, without attribution to him, in other places in the Big Book. For example:
The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink. [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 24; italics in original, bolding added]
Thus started one more journey to the asylum for Jim. Here was the threat of commitment, the loss of family and position, to say nothing of that intense mental and physical suffering which drinking always caused him. He had much knowledge about himself as an alcoholic. Yet all reasons for not drinking were easily pushed aside in favor of the foolish idea that he could take whiskey if only he mixed it with milk! [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 36-37; italics in original].
But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge. [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 39; italics in original, bolding added].
However, Silkworth’s least-known and most vital contribution to Alcoholics Anonymous was his advice to Bill W. during Bill’s third stay at Towns Hospital in September 1934 that the “Great Physician” (Jesus Christ) could cure Bill of his alcoholism. [Dale Mitchel, Silkworth: The Little Doctor Who Loved Drunks (Center City, Minn.: Hazelden, 2002), 44. See also: pp. 47, 49-51, 225 (fn. 10). And see further: (1) Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1957), 61; (2) Bill W., My First 40 Years (Center City, Minn.: Hazelden, 2000), 139, 145; and (3) Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 191.]
2) Far above all the other founding sources of A.A. is the Bible.
The Bible is the source most ignored, distorted, misunderstood, and shelved today. Here, however, are the documented words of A.A.’s founders that demonstrate beyond argument that the Holy Bible—called the “Good Book” by early AAs—was the major, the original, and the most important founding source of A.A.
(a) In his last major talk—given at Detroit, Michigan, in December 1948—Dr. Bob plainly showed that the Bible trumped other contributing sources. In The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. Bob is quoted as follows:
In early A.A. days, . . .
At that point, our stories didn’t amount to anything to speak of. When we started in on Bill D., we had no Twelve Steps, either; we had no Traditions.
But we were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the Good Book. To some of us older ones, the parts that we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James.
We used to have daily meetings at a friend’s house. [The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches: Their Last Major Talks (New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1972, 1975), 13 (“Pamphlet P-53”)]
In that same talk, Dr. Bob said further:
It wasn’t until 1938 that the teachings and efforts and studies that had been going on were crystallized in the form of the Twelve Steps. I didn’t write the Twelve Steps. I had nothing to do with the writing of them. But I think I probably had something to do with them indirectly. After my June 10th episode, Bill came to live at our house and stayed for three months. There was hardly a night that we didn’t sit up until two or three o’clock, talking. It would be hard for me to conceive that, during these nightly discussions around our kitchen table, nothing was said that influenced the writing of the Twelve Steps. We already had the basic ideas, though not in terse and tangible form. We got them, as I said, as a result of our study of the Good Book. [The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches: Their Last Major Talks (New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1972, 1975), 14 (“Pamphlet P-53”); bolding added. See also: Dick B., The Good Book and the Big Book: A.A.’s Roots in the Bible, Bridge Builders ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1997), ix, 1-7].
Dr. Bob wrote: “If you think you are an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptic, or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from accepting what is in this book, I feel sorry for you. . . . Your Heavenly Father will never let you down! [Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., 181].
Dr. Bob’s wife, Anne Ripley Smith, wrote in her personal journal for the years 1933 through 1939 from which she shared with A.A. pioneers: “Of course the Bible ought to be the main Source Book of all. No day ought to pass without reading it.” [Dick B., Anne Smith's Journal, 1933-1939: A.A.'s Principles of Success, 3rd ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1998), 5].