Here we have a statement, made by the author Bill Wilson in the official book for Alcoholics Anonymous, upholding a pagan—New Age doctrine of the Divine within, pantheism. Does that sound like Bill chose the God of the Christian? These are typical terms and expressions I see routinely used in writings from pantheistic Eastern religions and neo-paganism of the West.
Let us look again, at Bill’s conversion experience while he was in Towns Hospital December 11, 1934. This account of the light experience is recorded by Robert Thomsen in a biography of Bill and brings out an expression not recorded in the previous rendering of this happening. As Bill cried out in desperation:
“Oh God,” he cried, and it was the sound not of a man but of a trapped and crippled animal. “If there is a God, show me. Show me. Give me some sign.”
As he formed the words, in that very instant he was aware first of a light, a great white light that filled the room, then he suddenly seemed caught up in a kind of joy, an ecstasy such as he would never find words to describe. It was as though he were standing high on a mountain top and a strong clear wind blew against him, and round him, through him—but it seemed a wind not of air, but of spirit—and as this happened he had the feeling that he was stepping into another world, a new world of consciousness, and everywhere now there was a wondrous feeling of Presence which all his life he had been seeking. Nowhere had he ever felt so complete, so satisfied, so embraced.
…Then when it passed, when the light slowly dimmed, and the ecstasy subsided—and whether this was a matter of minutes or much longer he never knew; he was beyond any reckoning of time—the sense of Presence was still there about him, within him. And with it there was still another sense, a sense of rightness. No matter how wrong things seemed to be, they were as they were meant to be. There could be no doubt of ultimate order in the universe the cosmos was not dead matter, but a part of the living Presence, just as he was part of it.
Now in place of the light, the exaltation, he was filled with a peace such as he had never known. He had heard of men who tried to open the universe to themselves; he had opened himself to the universe. He had heard men say there was a bit of God in everyone, but this feeling that he was a part of God, himself a living part of the higher power, was a new and revolutionary feeling. (Emphasis added)
These statements convincingly suggest that the God Bill W. had chosen was a pantheistic god, not Jesus Christ the Divine Son of God, the God of a Christian. We will continue reviewing statements made by Bill to his friends and in his writing. The quotation above brought to my mind a comment by E.G. White concerning contemplating the Presence of God:
It introduces that which is naught but speculation in regard to the personality of God and where His presence is. No one on this earth has a right to speculate on this question. The more fanciful theories are discussed, the less men will know of God and of the truth that sanctifies the soul….Those who entertain these sophistries will soon find themselves in a position where the enemy can talk with them, and lead them away from God. (Emphasis added)
At this point in looking for an answer to the question of whether or not Bill Wilson was a Christian we need to share with the reader Bill’s long time connection with spiritualism. When it began no one can be sure, however, the first written information starts with his association with his wife, Lois. Lois in her autobiography, Lois Remembers, recounts fond memories of her church and church family. She came from a family that were members of the Swedenborgian Church (also known as Church of New Jerusalem or New church) and she had attended this church all her life, and was married to Bill in it January of 1918. The mystical aspects of this religion so fascinated Bill and Lois that they vowed to explore it more deeply some time. Her grandfather was a minister in the Swedenborgian church. She mentions the strength and guidance she received from the church’s teachings. What is the origin of the Swedenborgian Church and what are its teachings?
Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) of Sweden was one of Europe’s great minds: mining engineer, expert in metallurgy, astronomy, physics, zoology, anatomy, political economics, an author of voluminous writings, Biblical theologian, a spiritualist, seer, and medium. He has been considered the forerunner of modern spiritualism. He was a psychic from childhood and he continued in such all his life. His influence extended to many great names such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Jung, Helen Keller, etc., and his influence lasted for two centuries. An embodied spirit claiming to be
Christ directed him to re-write every verse of the Bible. He claimed to have direct communications with God, angels, Moses, David, Mary, Martin Luther, Aristotle, the apostles, and many, many other spirits. Notice the quote below:
…that night in 1745 his visions began to invade his waking life as well. As he ate, he became aware of frogs and snakes crowding into his private dining room, and an unknown gentleman materialized in a corner to rebuke him for eating too much. Back home in Salisbury Court the stranger appeared again, and introduced himself as Christ, the man-God, creator and redeemer of the world. He then made an important announcement: humanity stood in need of a definitive explication of Holy Scripture, and Swedenborg had been selected to provide it; moreover, to assist him in his labors, he was to be given unrestricted access to the entire spirit world.
http://www.victorianweb.org/religion/swedenborg2.html (George P. Landow)
Swedenborgians do not believe that salvation is exclusively through Jesus Christ, but that salvation was possible through all religions. He felt that he was destined to bring this doctrine to the world through his writings.
In Swedenborg’s book, Divine Providence, paragraph 36 he writes:
…picture wisdom as a magnificently and finely decorated palace. One climbs to enter this palace by twelve steps. One can only arrive at the first step by means of the Lord’s power through joining with Him…As a person climbs these steps, he perceives that no one is wise from himself but from the Lord…the in union with love. (Emphasis added)
This bit of information is interesting because 200 years later Bill W. would be the writer of a 12 step program that would go to the whole world. Is it possible that the origin of both these top scenarios came from the same spiritual source?
What effect of being a member of the Swedenborgian Church had on Lois is not clear, but it is known that she joined Bill on many of his pursuits in the field of spiritualism such as in séances and table tapping, and the Ouija board. The first recorded spiritualism activity of Bill is seen in his letter to Lois in the summer of 1935, the time when Alcoholics Anonymous had its beginning. He had been in Akron, Ohio, for several months staying at the home of Dr. Bob and Anne Smith, the other cofounder of A.A. Bill wrote to Lois stating he had been active in séances and other psychic events with Dr. Bob and Anne.
Pass It On is an official book published by the Alcoholics Anonymous organization telling the life story of Bill Wilson. Chapter 16 shares with us that Bill had a persistent fascination and involvement in psychic phenomena. He had a firm belief in reincarnation and felt everyone had had several lives already and the present life was a “spiritual Kindergarten.” It was from this belief that he pursued various forms of occult practices. He believed he could receive energy from another person. He trusted in clairvoyance and other extrasensory phenomena, levitation, Ouija board, séances etc., and played the part of a medium. Spirits would materialize and talk with him.
This 16th chapter also relates that by 1941 he was holding regular Saturday “spook sessions” at his home—Stepping Stones. One room was reserved just for those sessions. It was dubbed the “spook room” and here various psychic experiments were carried out. Different friends and neighbors would join with him in these endeavors. They also practiced “table tapping,” performed by several people sitting around a table and placing their hands on the edge of the table and then questions would be asked and answers would return by the table tapping out by alphabet, a letter code, at times the table would levitate. At other times Bill would lie on the couch semi-withdrawn, yet not in trance, and receive messages, sometimes one word at a time slowly and other times rapidly.
He tells of a special time in 1947 that several spirits appeared before him when he was visiting in a home at Nantucket. The visitation of these materialized ghosts occurred when he was alone in the kitchen of the home where he was a guest; the ghosts gave their names and what they had done in life. One of these entities gave the name of “Shaw” and he had been a store keeper on the Island, another gave the name of David Morrow and he had been a sailor, the third called himself Pettingill, a master of a whaler from the Island, then the last another whaling master. Later that day from a monument in the city center and at a museum he found evidence of such people having lived and worked from Nantucket 100 years previously. ,
On one session of using a Ouija board, Bill wrote the following:
The Ouija board got moving in earnest. What followed was the fairly usual experience—it was a strange mélange of Aristotle, St. Francis, diverse archangels with odd names, deceased friends — some in purgatory and others doing nicely, thank you! There were malign and mischievous ones of all descriptions, telling of vices quite beyond my ken, even as former alcoholics. Then, the seemingly virtuous entities would elbow them out with messages of comfort, information, advice—and sometimes just sheer nonsense.