While making my way out the back door of the church on Easter Sunday, I picked up a discarded copy of PASS IT ON, the biography of Bill W., founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. A.A. holds regular meetings in the basement of my church.
There is so much in this book. Bill W. was a failure at high school, at university, at business, but he was possessed of such a keen mind that he became successful on Wall Street in the 1920s as one of the first stock pickers, a niche job that was almost unheard of until he came along. Of course, he lost all of that many times over through a craving for alcohol. Rock bottom for him was tested on many occasions. His doctor said he would either die or be confined to a mental institution for the rest of his life. But still, he kept drinking.
An acquaintance of his had gone to Switzerland to seek help from Carl Jung. After a year of therapy and a subsequent relapse, he went back to see Jung who told him he would never beat this until he had a “spiritual awakening.” Belief in God was not enough. He advised him to align himself with a religious movement.
Bill W. was not very religious, but he sensed that spirituality was a missing element in his life. It was some time after this that he had what is called a conversion experience. He cried out during a particularly dark moment “If there be a God, let Him show Himself!” The room suddenly set ablaze with a white light and Bill W. experienced the same kind of ecstasy that was known to Teresa of Avila, Saul on the road to Damascus and others. He was 39 years old.