Friday, September 11, 2015

A.A. Cofounder Dr. Bob's Involvement with Spiritualism and Some of "the Rest of the Story”

By Ken B.
© 2015 Anonymous. All rights reserved


You have probably heard that A.A. cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob were involved in spiritualism—at least at some points in their lives. Here is some of "the rest of the story" from the A.A. General Service Conference-approved book DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers:

John and Elgie R. recalled that in the late 1930’s, Doc [i.e., Dr. Bob] would talk for hours to a fellow named Roland J., “who believed in anything that came down the pike when it came to spiritualism. . . .” said Elgie. Roland had studied many faiths in his search for sobriety, but never did stop drinking until he met Doc.
“I had several experiences with Roland-----, his wife, Doc and Anne, and Ruth T----- in Toledo,”[1] Elgie recalled.[2]

There is more, but in this article, I would like to make one point in passing and share some of “the rest of the story” relating to this topic. That point is that Roland J. lived in Toledo, Ohio, more than two hours away from Akron, Ohio. And now here is some of “the rest of the story” from DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers: 
“A lot of us believed in the spiritual thing,” said Clarence S. “We’d go to Roland’s on a Sunday night. He’d call in the spirits. It got spooky after a while—beyond what we should be monkeying with. Doc backed off, too.
[Dr. Bob’s son] Smitty agreed. “They got away from Roland J----- when they started to get bad vibrations,” he said. “They felt it might be dangerous.”
There was a similar feeling among Akron A.A.’s. “They were all against this spiritualist thing,” said Sue [Dr. Bob’s daughter].[3] [bolding added]
Here is more of “the rest of the story” about Dr. Bob, again from DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers:
Paul S. . . . said of Dr. Bob, “At this time [when Dr. Bob became connected with the Oxford Group in 1933], he began his conscious search for truth through a concentrated study of the Bible over two and one-half years before his meeting with Bill.” 
In addition to Dr. Bob’s “concentrated study of the Bible,” which began in 1933 according to Paul S., here is Dr. Bob’s own statement in the A.A. General Service Conference-approved pamphlet The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous about that period of his Bible study, as well as his “excellent training” in the Bible as a youngster in St. Johnsbury, Vermont:
We [Bill W. and Dr. Bob] had both been associated with the Oxford Group,[4] Bill in New York, for five months, and I in Akron, for two and a half years. Bill had acquired their idea of service. I had not, but I had done an immense amount of reading they had recommended. I had refreshed my memory of the Good Book, and I had had excellent training in that as a youngster.[5]
Dr. Bob’s son Smitty also stated in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers: “He [Dr. Bob] read the Bible from cover to cover three times and could quote favorite passages verbatim.”[6] And Clarence S. (founder of A.A.’s third group in the world in Abby G.’s home in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 11, 1939) stated about Dr. Bob: “‘(Dr. Bob was always positive about his faith, Clarence said. If someone asked him a question about the program, his usual response was: “What does it say in the Good Book”?’”[7]
As Paul Harvey, the famous radio personality, used to say: “And now you know [some of] the rest of the story.”
Gloria Deo

[1] Toledo, Ohio, is about 137.5 miles from Akron, Ohio, using today’s Interstate I-80 W (2 hours 9 minutes at today’s speeds):; accessed 9/11/2015.
[2] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers (New York, N.Y.: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980), 311.
[3] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 312.
[4] The original name of the group Lutheran minister Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman and a couple of associates founded in the autumn of 1922 was “A First Century Christian Fellowship.” The group was called “the Oxford Group” for the first time in September 1928 by the press in South Africa. When Mr. Firestone invited Dr. Buchman and his entourage to give a series of meetings in Akron in January 1933, the printed invitations had on them the group’s name “A First Century Christian Fellowship.” See: (1) ‘PASS IT ON;’ (2) Garth Lean, Frank Buchman: A Life; and (3) Dick B., The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, Newton ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1992, 1998), 17-18 fn.
[5] The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches: Their Last Major Talks (New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1972, 1975), 11-12.
[6] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 310.
[7] DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 144.


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