Narcissism is a human personality trait which exists as a spectrum. It’s the hubris that lets us believe we are right in an argument, the desire for recognition that drives performers and politicians, and the confidence to pursue romantic interests. A little ego is necessary protection against exploitation. Taken to extreme, narcissism includes delusions of grandeur and contempt for the needs and feelings of others.
Cult leaders are on this farther end, with an unhealthy craving for adoration and perfect obedience. Frank Buchman and Bill Wilson each had narcissistic temperaments. It seems obvious that two such self-absorbed men would clash and part ways. What is perhaps less immediately evident is why Frank’s narcissism appealed to Bill, a competitor for the center of attention.
Oxford Group teachings morally justified Buchman’s vices and desires, many of which Wilson shared. It was a religion of direct access to God, through meditation, prayer, and automatic writing. No priests or careful study of Scripture were required to get direct, personal, constant, and ongoing “Guidance” straight from God whenever a Group member wanted.
The Group practice of public confessions told in an entertaining and lively narrative turned his twenty years of excessive drinking into a treasure trove of trophies; every war story got laughter and applause. Bill went from being a dying drunk plagued by delirium tremors into a religious maniac with visions of God and a spiritual excuse for all his bad behaviors. He had a disease and it was before his conversion so now it was just comedy. (I doubt it was funny to Lois.)
Bill tried one last time, at the fairly young age of 40, to earn a respectable living. His wife Lois had supported them all through his many years of drunkenness. In the Spring of 1935, Bill W. set out for Akron, Ohio to serve as proxy for Wall Street speculators interested in buying property. His team failed and everyone else left. Bill W.had a free weekend until his return train ticket. He thought about drinking.
More coming soon!