If you are just coming to this series, you can start at the beginning. Content note for a passing mention of suicide in this post.
Bill W. was 39 years old when he found religion after three days of hallucinations in the company of cult recruiters. Two decades of hard drinking had nearly killed him and now he was driven and focused – on the Oxford Group. Michael Lemansky wrote in The History of Addiction and Recovery in the United States:
Bill Wilson had quite literally “seen the light.” His vision of recovery from alcoholism embraced one thing and one thing only: religious conversion. To Wilson, research wasn’t necessary; religion was The Answer. And when one has The Answer, research and questioning become obstacles, not aids. The problem is not finding new, better approaches, but rather putting an end to questions so that The Answer can be adopted without opposition. “
Bill immediately tried converting drunkards to the Oxford Group, without a single success. His fervency and talk of visions was more off putting than persuasive, and he was unable to convince anyone that Frank Buchman’s cult was something they wanted. He did convince a few to stay in his wife’s home; most stole possessions, one committed suicide in the kitchen, and none got sober.
The Oxford Group had always sought to attract “up and inners”: wealthy, famous, influential people. Frank Buchman, founder and leader of the Oxford Group, spent the 1930s praising Hitler and attending Nuremberg rallies; at least they weren’t communists. This did not deter Bill Wilson or cause him to reconsider just how much moral authority such a leader could really have.
Bill regularly attended Group meetings held at Rev. Sam Shoemaker’s Calvary Church. He embraced Group teachings and dogma about the importance of confession, the superiority of this cult over all other walks of life, and the need to surrender to the Will of God. Where Bill W. didn’t always agree was in his single minded focus on recruiting the last kind of people the Group wanted at their house parties and palatial hotels.
Stay tuned for Bill meets Dr. Bob, psychic cons, and a dire warning from C.S. Lewis! You can support this blog at Patreon.com/AngieJackson