RICHMOND WALKER & THE TWENTY-FOUR HOUR BOOK
Posted as a gesture of appreciation for the planners and participants in the national archival conference held this past weekend (Sept. 25-28, 2003) amidst the palm trees and sunshine and good A.A. fellowship of sunny Florida.
Glenn C. (South Bend, Indiana)
Talk given at the 8th Annual
National A.A. Archives Workshop ©, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The three most published A.A. authors are Bill W., Richmond Walker, and Ralph Pfau, in that order. Ralph, who lived in Indianapolis, became in 1943 the first Roman Catholic priest to get sober in A.A., and under the pen name "Father John Doe," wrote the fourteen Golden Books© along with three other books, all of them still in print and read by A.A. people today. Richmond Walker got sober in Boston in May 1942, and later moved down to Daytona Beach in Florida, where in 1948 he published Twenty-Four Hours a Day©, which became the great meditational book of early A.A. from that point on.
The old timers in my part of the country say without hesitation that they got sober by using two books: the Big Book and Richmond Walker's Twenty-Four Hour book. Phrases and topical advice from both books are sprinkled throughout everything they say when they talk about their own experience of the program, and when they give advice to newcomers. A.A. people carried the little black book with them everywhere they went. It was always considered permissible to read from the Twenty-Four Hour book during A.A. meetings, and to base the discussion on a topic from that book. By 1959, it had sold over 80,000 copies, which means, given the number of people in the program at that time, that roughly fifty percent of the A.A. members owned their own copies, and most of the rest had attended meetings where it was read from or used. As of 1994 (the latest figures which I have), it had sold six and a half million copies (see note 1).
In the Big Book, the eleventh step said "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." But there were only a handful of extremely short prayers in the Big Book to use as examples, and even if one added the Lord's Prayer and the Serenity Prayer, this was still an unworkably short list. Early A.A. people often used the Methodist meditational book called the Upper Room©, and listened to the radio broadcasts of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, but they had nothing of their own. The traditional western books on spirituality and meditation were, most of them, tied to the life of the medieval monasteries and convents and religious orders, and were not tailored to people who were married and had jobs in the secular world, nor were they, most of them, designed to deal with people who had suffered the kinds of trauma, violence, internal torment, and degradation which many alcoholics had experienced. There was an acute and desperate need for something which would teach recovering alcoholics how to pray effectively, and how to meditate on the spirit of the twelve steps.
So Rich produced a little book which I myself would put on my short list of the world's ten or fifteen greatest spiritual classics -- and I include eastern as well as western writings in my assessment. I have been a scholar and a professional in this field for forty years now, and I have seen an incredible number of people make far more spiritual progress in their own lives by meditating daily on that little book, and accomplish this far more quickly, than with any other spiritual work I know of.
The Walker family background
Richmond Walker's world during his youth centered on the wealthy city of Boston, the grand old homes on Beacon Hill, the fancy new houses in Brookline, and the political power residing under the shiny gilded dome of the great state house overlooking the green grass of Boston Common. Rich's family were personal friends with presidents of the United States, like William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. The family money and political prominence came from Rich's Grandfather Walker, who had started out in Worcester, forty-four miles west of Boston, and made his fortune in the shoe manufacturing business. He was not only a successful and wealthy businessman, but got himself elected to the U.S. Congress as the representative from Worcester, and spent many years in Washington continually building his political power in the halls of Congress (Ld 2).
Rich's father and mother (his mother also came from a moneyed manufacturing family) lived in a new house in the fashionable Boston suburb of Brookline at 108 Upland Road at the time Rich was born. Rich's father also went into politics, and got himself elected to the Massachusetts state legislature as the representative from Brookline, where he eventually rose to be speaker of the house from 1905 to 1907 (Ld 1 and 3). He ran for governor of Massachusetts once and failed, and in 1912 decided to run again. He was a Republican, and personal friends, as we have said, with both President Theodore Roosevelt and President William Howard Taft. 1912 was unfortunately the year the Republican party split in half. Taft controlled the old machine politics and the patronage system, and easily obtained the Republican nomination at the convention. Teddy Roosevelt, in outrage, formed a third party, nicknamed the Bull Moose party, made up of reformers and progressives and the honest politicians, and made his own separate run at the presidency.
Rich's father cast his lot with Teddy Roosevelt and the break-away Bull Moose party, but alas, half of the Republican vote was not enough to gain Roosevelt the presidency nor Rich's father the governorship (Ld 3). Rich turned twenty during the summer of that year. At one level, this was very heady stuff: your father, a prominent and well-known politician, running for governor, the whole house abuzz with talk of the bitter split between Taft and Roosevelt at the national political level, and with major political figures regularly dropping by either to plan strategies with Rich's father, or to try to shift him over to their side with threats or promises. And after the bitter results of the election came in, and when it became clear that the family had gone down in humiliating defeat, the atmosphere of depression, resentment, and hurt must have been overwhelming. That was the year, 1912, and that was the situation in which the twenty-year-old Rich started drinking and trying to flee into the bottle.
Rich's childhood and youth
That was the catalyst, but the pressures had already been there since Rich was a small child, and he had already become, long before that point, a very unhappy and rebellious person. He was one of six children, he explained. Joseph was the eldest, born in 1891, then came Rich, who was born on August 2, 1892, then Dorothy (who died of diphtheria while still a baby), and then George, Katharine, and Evelyn. The baby Dorothy's death created a psychological barrier of some sort, which separated Joe and Rich later on from their three younger siblings and created a special linkage between the two older brothers. It is doubtful whether the parents paid much attention to the two boys at all for a while, as they fell into the throes of grief over the death of Dorothy, and only slowly began recovering. Joe, a year and a half older, weathered it better than Rich, who was at an extremely vulnerable age. Poor Rich became convinced from that point on that his parents neither loved nor cared for him at all, and began acting accordingly, which only made matters worse (Ld 5).
His older brother Joe was the only one in the family whom he felt close to, but he resented even Joe: "I always played second fiddle to my brother Joe," he said, in part simply because of the age difference, but Joe was also "stronger and better loved than I was." Rich felt unnoticed and always shoved into the background, so he isolated himself more and more. He says that he became "a lonesome kid who felt he was not loved enough or appreciated enough by [his] mother and father. They considered me a problem child, which I was." He misbehaved and rebelled to try make his parents notice him (Ld 5, see also10).
Rich felt that his family did not love him, and this may have been partly just a misunderstanding in his own head, but he also said that, although they were skilled and brilliant politicians and businessmen, at a deeper level they were people who did not understand love in the true sense, real love, the kind he later discovered in A.A. There was too much emphasis on surface things, grand (and fairly impersonal) social schemes, and personal achievement, and not enough real caring about other human beings at a deeper level. As soon as he was old enough, he went off rebelliously and pretended that they did not even exist.
He and Joe were both sent off to private schools, Joe to Volkman's School in Boston, and Rich to St. George's School in Newport, Rhode Island. Rich then went to a very prestigious school, Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, which had been founded in 1785. In the world's eyes, he was an enormous success at every point along the way. The problem was that Joe had gone to Yale instead. No matter how well you did at Williams College, it could not compare to a degree from Yale. Rich had once again been surpassed and outshone by his older brother (Ld 6 and 10).
And yet Rich had been enormously successful, so bright that he was able to finish college in just three and a half years -- magna cum laude, with a Phi Beta Kappa key -- and then take a grand tour through the great historical and artistic centers of Europe (Ld 6). He was a highly educated man, as shows up repeatedly in his Twenty-Four Hour book, knowledgeable about literature and science, art and psychology, philosophy and theology -- but he regarded himself as a failure.
He won a gold medal for his ability in classical Greek, which is important, because it meant that he had read and understood Plato. In the Foreword to the Twenty-Four Hour book, Rich explains how he took God Calling©, a work of traditional Christian piety, and converted these religious statements into what he called "universal spiritual thoughts," which make up part of the small print sections at the bottoms of the pages in the Twenty-Four Hour book. It was not the beliefs of a specific religion which he was interested in, but the Platonic ideas which lay behind them, which were equally accessible to people of all religions, or no particular religion at all.
It was the vision of the sunlight of the spirit in Plato's parable of the cave which Rich was trying to teach, and the eternal ideas which became visible when the prisoners in that cave managed to escape the dark shadow world in which they had been enchained, and finally emerged into that radiant light above. And like all good Platonists, he realized that the material world was a complex hall of mirrors, reflections of reflections of reflections of those shining eternal truths, which were alive with the Eternal Life.
Rich also learned in college about the German philosopher Kant, whose Critique of Pure Reason in 1781 created the central problem of all subsequent western philosophy and theology. Our human minds are imprisoned in a box of space and time, as Rich comments repeatedly in his Twenty-Four Hour book, and the normal scientific method does not allow us any contact with the eternal and infinite ground of the universe which lies outside this box.
But he also learned, at first or at least at second hand, about the German philosophers and theologians of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who had proposed ways to get past the barrier which Kant seemed to have erected. In his Twenty-Four Hour book, Rich talks in language sometimes reminiscent of Jakob Friedrich Fries or Friedrich Schleiermacher, sometimes of Rudolf Otto or the early Karl Barth, sometimes of Albrecht Ritschl or even Adolf von Harnack. These theologians taught us that, in spite of the Kantian problem, we could still obtain some sort of real contact with God via Ahnung (the realm of intuitive knowledge and the hints we could see in the world around us of the infinite), Gefuehl (the realm of feeling and emotion), and by focusing on the moral dimension of human life. This kind of knowledge could only be expressed in symbol and metaphor, in Platonic images and icons and parables and what Rudolf Otto called ideograms ("picture writing"), but it was real knowledge also, just different from scientific knowledge.
In spite of his brilliance in school, Rich was not the kind of person who hid in the library and did nothing but study all the time. He was able to use the family political skills to get himself elected class president, captain of the football team, president of his fraternity -- whatever kind of recognition he set his eye on. And yet, in spite of all the time he spent participating in sports and various social groups, and his ability and enormous skill in manipulating other people, he had no one with whom he was genuinely close. In the lead which he gave at an A.A. meeting in Rutland, Vermont, in 1959, he says:
"Although well-respected, I did not make class friends. I was wrapped in a cloak of reserve; there was a wall between myself and other people. I did not go halfway to make friends, and there was no love in my life. In fact, true love has always been a mystery to me. As a child I was not loved, and as a result I have never learned to truly love others. I was poorly adjusted to life, being self-contained, egocentric, immature, easily hurt, and overly sensitive."
It was the typical alcoholic mind-set: feeling alone even in the midst of a crowd, and unable to feel any real sense of connection with others. He was incredibly thin-skinned and wore his feelings on his sleeve: even a slight word could wound or enrage him to the core (Ld 10-11).
He began drinking when he was halfway through college, and yet at first he regarded himself as a very controlled and moderate drinker. "I thought that those who drank a lot were very foolish." Then, after leaving college, he began to drink more and more heavily, and he began to feel even more isolated (Ld 8). As he says in the reading for January 30 in the Twenty-Four Hour book:
"A drinking life isn't a happy life. Drinking cuts you off from other people and from God. One of the worst things about drinking is the loneliness . . . . Drinking cuts you off from other people, at least from the people who really matter to you, your wife and children, your family and real friends. No matter how much you love them, you build up a wall between you and them by your drinking. You're cut off from any real companionship with them. As a result, you're terribly lonely."
Underneath the surface egotism, the aura of apparent total self-confidence, the glad-handing, the shrewd massaging of other people's fears and desires, was an inferiority complex which turned every achievement to dust in his mouth. In the reading for June 6, he comments:
"Alcoholism is usually a symptom of some underlying personality problem. It's the way we alcoholics express our maladjustments to life. I believe that I was a potential alcoholic from the start. I had an inferiority complex. I didn't make friends easily. There was a wall between me and other people. And I was lonely. I was not well adjusted to life."
And what did Rich mean by that interesting phrase in his 1959 lead, "true love has always been a mystery to me"? (Ld 11) He did not mean it in the romantic sense, where the man sends a Valentine to a woman with a gushy, sentimental message talking about how "when I found you, I found true love at last." He talked repeatedly about not being loved when he was a child, and not knowing how to love anyone else, even family members or friends his own age, in any kind of truly deep way.
He talked about this twice in his Twenty-Four Hour book. March 5th says that he finally discovered that the kind of real love he lacked in his life could only come from the indwelling of God in the human heart, a divine love which drove out fear and pathological dread of closeness with other human beings: "There is no room for fear in the heart in which God dwells. Fear cannot exist where true love is or where faith abides." But we need even more than that. In the reading for May 21, Rich says that we not only need God, we also need the fellowship of the program in order to be healed and to learn how to share, which is one of the most important parts of loving. A.A. taught him how to share with others.
After finishing up at Williams College in June of 1914 (Rich turned twenty-two that summer), he threw himself into drinking and parties in a way he never had before. As he put it in his lead (Ld12), "I found that drinking loosened me up and allowed me to enjoy the company of others -- especially drinkers like myself. Soon alcohol became a crutch to me, which enabled me to enjoy life: the companionship of girls, parties, football games, and all of my activities."
Rich pointed out in one of the essentially autobiographical sections of the Twenty-Four Hour© book, the reading for April 4th (see also June 24), that his out-of-control alcohol consumption was a symptom, which pointed towards an even more serious underlying disease. People who came into A.A. not only had a drinking problem, they had an even more destructive thinking problem:
"Every alcoholic has a personality problem. He drinks to escape from life, to counteract a feeling of loneliness or inferiority, or because of some emotional conflict within himself, so that he cannot adjust himself to life. His alcoholism is a symptom of his personality disorder. An alcoholic cannot stop drinking unless he finds a way to solve his personality problem. That's why going on the wagon doesn't solve anything. That's why taking the pledge usually doesn't work."
Sgt. Bill S., the Air Force sergeant who came into the A.A. program on Long Island in 1948 (the year Rich wrote the Twenty-Four Hour book), explores the nature of the kind of emotional conflicts which Rich was talking about in the book he recently wrote, On the Military Firing Line in the Alcoholism Treatment Program©. Old-time A.A. people knew that we had to do two things in order to be healed: we had to quit fighting God and start making a little better friends with him, and we had to deal with all the character defects and personality problems which underlay our alcoholic compulsion. Not either-or, but both-and.
Rich put the problem very simply: "Alcohol is our weakness," but underneath that is the seething morass of "our unstable emotions." So Rich partied and he played, a son of the wealthy and prominent, and if he seemed to be drinking a tremendous amount, he and everyone else just put it down to youth
From the First World War to successful young Boston businessman
The United States entered the First World War on April 6, 1917. Both brothers went into the service. Rich served honorably; he was put in the Medical Corps, and eventually commissioned as a second lieutenant. He ended up as adjutant of Evacuation Hospital No. 54, which meant that he knew at first hand the horrors of the men who had been maimed and mutilated, and were coughing out their lungs from having breathed poison gas. But Rich himself never got overseas. His brother Joe on the other hand was in the Marine Flying Corps, there with the dashing new airplanes which so caught the public's fancies. So Joe was with the modern equivalent of knights in shining armor on noble white chargers, the most romantic of the romantic, while Rich stayed home and took care of the injured. Once again, Joe had outdone him (Ld 6).
But Joe was the one person in the family who continued to love him most, the one who tried to take care of him. So Joe talked Rich into joining him in starting their own wool business (see note 2), the Walker Top Company, where Rich worked in one capacity or another for the next thirty years. Presumably the family money and connections gave them their start-up. In his lead, he says that "We had a house on Beacon Hill, with a Japanese servant, and we did a lot of entertaining. Although I went to the office every day, I never was much of a businessman -- it did not really interest me." It was the parties and the drinking that interested him. Beacon Hill, rising to the side of Boston Common and the Public Gardens, was where the old elite of Boston lived, the upper crust of one of the most snobbish cities in the world. The two brothers were already wealthy businessman even though they were just in their twenties. They seemed to have risen to the very heights of worldly success, and for Rich at least, it was all one big party that would never end (Ld13).
Marriage to Agnes
But after several years of partying on Beacon Hill, shortly before his thirtieth birthday, he made an effort to do what he regarded as growing up. On May 8, 1922 he married Agnes, who was a Bostonian like himself, and someone who seemed to like a good party as much as he did (Ld 14, also 7). Neither of them told anybody about it. They simply went off to New York city and had a simple ceremony at the Little Church Around the Corner, as it was called, and then came back to Boston and rented an apartment in Brookline. The part of this story that is especially strange and bizarre -- the part that makes it clear that Rich had very serious psychological problems of some sort by this point -- is that Rich never bothered to tell anyone in his family that he was married until Hilda, their first child, was born. He says that the family accepted this block-busting news just fine. So there was no hint that Agnes was fundamentally socially unacceptable to the family, or that marrying her was in and of itself an act of rebellion. In Rich's version of the story at least, he seems to have just decided perversely that he was not going to tell anyone that he had gotten married (Ld 14).
Joe in particular instantly came to Rich's support, and built them an extremely nice new house in the Chestnut Hill section of Brookline, over in the Boston suburbs. Joe, the family caretaker, attempted to make everything right again. Rich and Agnes ended up having four children: Hilda, Caroline, John, and David. Rich of course did not stop drinking, and looking back at that period of his life from thirty-some-odd years later, he realized that he had never really spent any time with his wife or their young children. He had married in the first place because he felt so alone, and so desperately wanted human companionship, but once he had it, he continually fled from it and went out drinking instead (Ld 7, also see 8).
Once he and Agnes were ensconced in their fancy new house, Rich decided to make his partying bigger and more extravagant:
"We became friends with a family who lived nearby, and together we went on several trips to the West Indies, Havana, and Canal Zone. I was drinking a lot on these journeys, and my alcoholism was becoming more evident as time passed. After we had been married for two years, I bought a summer cottage in Siasconset on Nantucket Island, where we spent our summers. Our friends there were a heavy drinking crowd, and my alcoholism developed rapidly."
It should be said that one reason for the trips abroad was that the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act had introduced the Prohibition era to the United States by the beginning of 1920, and alcohol was illegal for fourteen years, all the way down to the end of 1933. This did not mean that alcoholics could not obtain alcohol whenever they wanted -- it could easily be smuggled in by boat onto the beaches of Nantucket Island, where Rich indicates that he was able to get all he wanted to drink every summer without any problem -- but a nightclub in Havana, Cuba could operate a good deal more openly, extravagantly, and flamboyantly than a speakeasy in a dark basement in Boston. And you could pretend that there was more glamor to it that way too.
Rich talked about the fancy nightclubs and the romantic trips to the tropics in some of the autobiographical sections of the Twenty-Four Hour book, and took pains to make it clear that the reality was not so glamorous at all, if you looked at the whole picture (24H 2/6–2/7):
"A night club crowded with men and women all dressed up in evening clothes looks like a very gay place. But you should see the men's room of that night club the next morning. What a mess! People have been sick all over the place and does it smell! The glamour of the night before is all gone and only the stink of the morning is left."
"A long mahogany bar in the tropical moonlight looks like a very gay place. But you should see the place the next morning. The chairs are piled on the tables and the place stinks of stale beer and cigarette stubs. And often we are there too, trying to cure the shakes by gulping down straight whiskey."
In his Twenty-Four Hour book in the January readings, particularly the 25th, Rich stressed that this was an unnatural and abnormal way of living, that craved an artificial life of continuous excitement and a hyper kind of "good times" feeling for every waking hour.
The worst of it though, Rich said, was the long-term effect of his drinking on his family and his career and his mind (24H 2/18): "After I became an alcoholic, alcohol poisoned my love for my family, it poisoned my ambition in business, it poisoned my self-respect. It poisoned my whole life, until I met A.A. My life is happier now than it has been for a long time. I don't want to commit suicide." Such a simple, poignant way of summing up what A.A. did for him: I no longer am tormented by such pain and self-hate that I yearn to commit suicide now.
The downhill slide begins
On Black Friday (October 28, 1929), the U.S. Stock Exchange in New York crashed, and the economic crisis got worse and worse. By March 6, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt had to close all the banks in the country for four days by presidential proclamation.
The two brothers were able to keep their business going, but times were so tough that in 1932, Rich and Agnes had to sell their fancy home in Chestnut Hill. They decided to try to make something positive of it, so they got a smaller house in Cohasset, Massachusetts. It was twenty-five miles south of Boston, but it was right on the harbor, so this gave it some charm. In his lead, Rich talked about his discouragement at that point (Ld 16, see also 7): "I continued to take the train to Boston and go to the office, but my heart was not in it." Naturally enough, being an alcoholic, he began to drink even more and neglected his wife even further. In the readings for March 29th to 30th, he says, "My few friends were only drinking companions, not real friends."
"I lied to my wife constantly about where I had been and what I'd been doing. I took time off from the office and pretended I'd been sick or gave some other dishonest excuse. I was dishonest with myself, as well as with other people. I would never face myself as I really was or admit when I was wrong. I pretended to myself that I was as good as the next fellow, although I suspected I wasn't."
They were desperately short of money, and in truth, it was not all due to the Great Depression which had struck the country. Rich was drinking up a lot of their available cash. In his Twenty-Four Hour book, he says that one of the things A.A. had given him was that it did in fact "make me happy to see my wife have enough money for herself and the children" now.
In the Twenty-Four Hour book, he says that he acted that way in part out of gross selfishness. In the reading for March 28th, he says: "I wanted my own way in everything. I don't believe I ever grew up. When things went wrong, I sulked like a spoiled child and often went out and got drunk. [I was] all get and no give." And in the reading for May 10th, he said that he had no feelings of loyalty to anyone or anything: "When I was drinking, I wasn't loyal to anybody. I should have been loyal to my family, but I wasn't. I let them down by my drinking." He betrayed his wife, he betrayed his own children, and he didn't even care.. He let them down at a point when they were totally dependent on him. An alcoholic has to face a lot of bitter truths about himself when he does a fourth step and an eighth step.
His daughter Hilda's death: the plummet downhill quickened
Money problems there during the great depression had already thrown Rick into considerable despair. But then came the worst blow of all. Around 1935, he managed to scrape together the money to send his twelve-year-old daughter Hilda to a summer camp on Cape Cod. While she was there, she caught spinal meningitis and died. Rich plunged into such grief that he resigned his position as a partner in the firm. "Agnes and I took a trip to Sweden, and upon our return I went back to the office, not as a partner, but as a clerk working on statistics." Rich was around 42 to 43 years old at the time. The next seven years were the worst of his life: "I was arrested three times for drunken driving," he said in his lead, "and landed in several hospitals," as his drinking just continued to get worse and worse (Ld 17).
The party was over
It had not been like that, he said, back when he was in his twenties. He could still remember those good old days (24H 2/8): "All of us alcoholics had a lot of fun with drinking. We might as well admit it. We can look back on the good times . . . . But the time comes for all of us alcoholics when drinking ceases to be fun and becomes trouble." The party was over now, for good. The only parts of his later drinking years of which he could remember much at all, was the hangovers the mornings after (24H 6/01, 6/02, 6/03, see also 1/28):
"Some things I do not miss since becoming dry: That over-all awful feeling physically, including the shakes, a splitting headache, pains in my arms and legs, bleary eyes, fluttering stomach, droopy shoulder, weak knees, a three-day beard and a flushed complexion. Also facing my wife at breakfast and looking at my breakfast. Also composing the alibi and sticking to it. Also trying to shave with a hand that won't behave. Also opening up my wallet to find it empty."
"Some more things I do not miss since becoming dry: Wondering if the car is in the garage and how I got home. Struggling to remember where I was and what I did since my last conscious moment. Trying to delay getting off to work. Wondering how I will look when I arrive at the office. Dreading the day ahead of me."
"Some more things I do not miss since becoming dry: Running all over town to find a bar open to get that "pick-up." Meeting my friends and trying to cover up that I feel "lousy." Looking at myself in a mirror and calling myself a damn fool. Struggling with myself to snap out of it for two or three days. Wondering what it is all about."
And it was not just the hangovers and the morning after, but the other things alcohol did to him. As his drinking got worse and worse, he had to lie even more each time around: to his wife, to his brother Joe, and to everyone else with whom he came into contact (24H 1/27):
"What a load lying puts on your shoulders! Drinking makes liars out of all of us alcoholics. In order to get the liquor we want, we have to lie all the time. We have to lie about where we've been and what we've been doing. A man who's lying is only half alive, because of the constant fear of being found out. When you come into A.A., and get honest with yourself and with other people, that terrible load of lying falls off your shoulders.
Caught between the times: the terror of remorse and dread
Increasingly, Rich said, he was caught between a past filled only with remorse and a future filled only with dread (24H 1/28 and 3/20).
"What a load remorse puts on your shoulders! That terrible mental punishment we've all been through. Ashamed of the things you've said and done. Afraid to face people because of what they might think of you. Afraid of the consequences of what you did when you were drunk. What an awful beating the mind takes!"
"When we were drinking, we used to worry about the future. Worry is terrible mental punishment. What's going to become of me? Where will I end up? In the gutter or the sanitarium? We can see ourselves slipping, getting worse and worse, and wonder what the finish will be. Sometimes we get so discouraged in thinking about the future that we toy with the idea of suicide."
Only by learning to live well within the now -- the Eternal Now of the divine Spirit -- could an alcoholic be freed from this hell of remorse and dread. Rich placed a proverb at the beginning of his Twenty-Four Hour book which laid out the only route which he had found that he could follow and be happy and unafraid. Notice that he took it from the Hindu spiritual tradition -- Rich was trying to put us on notice, from the very beginning of the book, that the "universal spiritual thoughts" which would save us could be found in all the religions of the world, not just in the Judeo-Christian tradition:
Look to this day,
For it is life,
The very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
The realities and verities of existence,
The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power --
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
Today well lived was the secret to hope and happiness, provided it was lived with a sure faith in a God of compassion and grace. Only trust in God's compassion can free us from the shame and guilt and remorse over our pasts.
Feeding my pride vs. nurturing the real, eternal, imperishable me
Rich had done his early drinking in fancy nightclubs, and on Nantucket Island where the wealthy had their summer homes, and on expensive trips to the Caribbean. But during his last seven years of drinking he went progressively down the ladder till he was drinking in cheaper and cheaper bars, and with lower and lower companions. He talks about that in the readings for May 4–6 in the Twenty-Four Hour book. "I used to hang around the lowbrow barrooms so I could feel superior to the other customers." "I used to tell tall stories about myself. I told them so often that I half believe some of them now, even though I know they aren't true." "I had to show off and boast so that people would think I amounted to something, when of course both they and I knew that I really didn't amount to anything. I didn't fool anybody."
Rich said he learned an important lesson from that: "If I'm going to stay sober, I've got to keep myself small." He had to learn to quit feeding his pride, and playing the phoney, and find out who he really was. As A.A. began to teach him to live well within the eternal now, Rich said, he was able to begin regaining contact with his own essential being, what he called "the real, eternal, unperishable me." (24H 1/14)
"I will learn to overcome myself, because every blow to selfishness is used to shape the real, eternal, unperishable me. As I overcome myself, I gain that power which God releases in my soul. And I too will be victorious."
The Eternal Me is the true spiritual self, which dwells within the Eternal Now, untouched by the material world, in immediate communion with the Great Spirit who presides over the universe. "The eternal life is calmness and when a man enters into that, then he lives as an eternal being." (24H 3/10 and 3/17) This is the ancient pre-Christian Platonic tradition at its best.
His brief period in the Oxford Group: 1939–1941
In 1939 Rich did what Bill W. and Dr. Bob had done before him: he joined the Oxford Group in an attempt to get sober (Ld 18). He was able to achieve two and a half years of painful, white-knuckled sobriety by using their methods. But that was as long as he could make it, and in 1941 he started drinking again. He did however gain a deep acquaintance with Oxford Group concepts like guidance, and with the books which various Oxford Group leaders were writing and publishing.
His last year and a half of drinking
From 1941 to May of 1942, Rich was not only back to drinking again, he was putting away so much alcohol that he had to be hospitalized several times, lying there suffering through the D.T.'s. But still he could not stop (Ld 8 and 17, 24H 4/18).
"I was lying in a hospital when my wife sent a lawyer to tell me she did not want me around any longer. In this she was certainly justified -- I was of no use as a husband or father to my children." He and Agnes had been married about nineteen years at the time. He was forty-nine years old, and everything was now destroyed. It was clear to one and all that he was a hopeless alcoholic, and as he said in his lead, "my wife rightly refused to put up with it any longer."
Rich tried to deal with this blow by going back to the island of Nantucket where he had drunk so happily, as he remembered it, in summers long ago, but there was no happiness there now, so finally he got a tiny little room on Beacon Street in Boston where he lived alone (Ld 17). This period of separation from his wife lasted a total of nine nightmarish months (Ld 9). He drank to try to mute the voices and feelings of the inner hell within his own mind: remorse, dread, guilt, shame, anger, hurt feelings, resentment, jealousy, envy, and the feeling of utterly hopeless futility. It was like the worst kind of bad dream -- the kind that leaves us temporarily filled with total horror and terror even after we awaken -- but when he woke up after drinking himself into oblivion, this waking nightmare would descend on him and would not go away until he started drinking again.
Hitting bottom: Spring 1942
Toward the end of those nine months, Rich finally hit his first bottom, and decided, in total desperation, that he had to reach out once again to whatever kind of God actually ruled this universe, and make a naked plea for help (Ld 19).
"While I was drinking alone in the room on Beacon Street in Boston, I became disgusted with my life and suddenly decided I would do something about it. I talked with some members of the Oxford Group, and the next morning, in my lonely room, I prayed to God to show me how to live a better life. I went to Jim's home in Newtonville for two weeks until I had sobered up."
It was the Spring of 1942. His father died that year, and he went up to his wife at the funeral and, in typical alcoholic fashion, swore a mighty oath that he was off of alcohol forever. "She took me back on the basis that I would never drink again -- I fully believed I never would." (Ld 19) Of course it could not last long. Rich had his second slip. When we read the passages about slips in the Twenty-Four Hour book, it is important to remember that Rich was talking about something which he himself knew about at first hand.
Finding A.A. -- May 1942 -- early Boston A.A.
This time he really hit bottom, and as he tells us in his lead (Ld 19), "after one week of drinking, I walked into the A.A. clubroom at 306 Newbury Street in Boston." He had finally come to the people who had the real answers. This was in May of 1942, and Rich never drank any kind of alcoholic beverage again for the rest of his life (Ld 20). After the painful nine-month separation, he and Agnes got back together, and ever since that point, Rich said (Ld 9), "I have enjoyed a happy married life and the companionship of my children. Joining Alcoholics Anonymous was the best thing I had done in my life since I started drinking at the age of twenty."
In May 1942, A.A. had not been established in Boston for very long. The story of how A.A. got to that city actually began with Marty Mann, the first woman to get sober in A.A., who had been forced (by Harry Tiebout, the psychiatrist) to read one of the advanced multilithed copies of the Big Book while she was being confined at Blythewood Sanitarium in Greenwich, Connecticut. The recent book by Sally and David Brown tells her story in detail. She resisted the program at first however, and did not go to her first A.A. meeting until April of 1939, the same month the Big Book actually came off the presses. The Boston connection arose because Marty subsequently brought a man named Paddy K. to Blythewood, and Paddy decided to start working the A.A. program, and then started the first A.A. group in Boston. And one of the first two Bostonians whom Paddy brought in was Jennie B., the first woman to get sober in that city, the daughter of a Back Bay family (see note 3). In spite of his snobbiness back in his drinking days, Rich had to respect a group which included people like Jennie.
The first regular A.A. meeting in Boston was begun in March 1941, only fourteen months before Rich came into the program. It is important to note that the first Boston A.A. meetings were held at the Jacoby Club at 115 Newbury Street. Early Boston A.A. was linked to the Jacoby Club in the same way that the earliest history of A.A. in Akron and New York was intertwined with the history of the Oxford Group. The Boston A.A. group obtained its own meeting place in June of that year, at 123 Newbury Street, but the same end of the block, and they kept up their connection with the Jacoby Club. Both groups were located only two blocks away from the Public Garden and Boston Common in the heart of downtown Boston, which meant that they were only two blocks away from Emmanuel Episcopal Church at 15 Newbury Street, where the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club had first begun. The A.A. group then moved four and a half blocks further west shortly before Rich came in, and had just started meeting at 306 Newbury Street. They had just made their final break with the Jacoby Club, but many of the comparative old timers at the first meetings Rich attended had come into the A.A. program when the Jacoby Club linkage was still intact (see note 4).
The Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club were started in Boston in the first decade of the twentieth century, and had demonstrated a good deal more success than the Oxford Group in not only getting alcoholics sober but keeping them sober. In fact, in the 1940's, thoughtful students of alcoholism treatment would tell you that an alcoholic's best bet was to join either A.A. or the Jacoby Club, which both worked, because psychiatry only worked in two or three percent of the cases. The Jacoby Club believed that alcoholism could be treated only by combining real spirituality with techniques that dealt with psychological problems, using what they called moral suggestion techniques. They also realized that fellowship among recovering alcoholics was absolutely vital to success and made this the centerpiece of their program.
The teaching of Richmond Walker's Twenty-Four Hour© book is really much closer to the spirit of the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club than it is to the spirit of the Oxford Group. Rich had tried the Oxford Group, and had not been able to obtain permanent, long-term sobriety there.
Renewal and the taste of heaven
Boston-style A.A. worked. When he walked into the A.A. clubroom on Newbury Street in May 1942, Rich was a man who had fallen into total hopelessness. What he found there was like a pool of fresh water to a man dying of thirst (Ld 19, 24H 4/29 and 4/04). He saw people who had gone through the same hell which he had, but had managed to recover. Working the program required a great faith, but it was not a blind faith. We could see a demonstration (an Emmet Fox term, see note 5), right before our very eyes, that this kind of faith actually worked (24H 4/22).
"People believe in A.A. when they see it work. An actual demonstration is what convinces them. What they read in books, what they hear people say, doesn't always convince them. But when they see a real honest-to-goodness change take place in a person, a change from a drunkard to a sober, useful citizen, that's something they can believe because they can see it." He saw people at his first meetings there in Boston who had genuinely changed (an Oxford Group term), and he had to admit to himself that whatever they were doing, it actually worked (April 25).
So Rich's life story turned from one of tragedy into a story of renewal. He had found new life. But a total personal transformation of that sort required real work on his part. As he says in the reading for January 18, we alcoholics have to re-educate our subconscious minds (an Emmanuel Movement and Jacoby Club idea).
"The new life can't be built in a day. We have to take the program slowly, a little at a time. Our subconscious minds have to be re-educated. We have to learn to think differently . . . . Anyone who tries it, knows that the old alcoholic thinking is apt to come back on us when we least expect it."
How do we re-educate the subconscious? One way is to take a meditational book like Rich's and read from it every morning when we first get up. The Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club had had great success with what they called the moral suggestion technique. Rich's method embodied richer and more sophisticated techniques for doing this. The subconscious mind is especially susceptible to impression at that point, and the effect will start building up over time, even if ten minutes after we read the passage, we seem to have forgotten all about what it was talking about. The subconscious will not have forgotten, not if it was a book like Rich's, which was especially designed to contain images and metaphors and ways of speaking which spoke directly to the subconscious. That is why early A.A.'s found his book to be the most powerful meditational work they had ever encountered.
The principles of this new way of life were eternal, heavenly principles (24H 1/10): "I pray that I may learn the principles of the good life. I pray that I may meditate upon them and work at them, because they are eternal." They are the taste of heaven itself. When we stay in the Now, and live by these eternal values, we ourselves are living in the eternal life of God. So Rich made the daring statement (24H 1/25):
"I do not look upon [God's promise of eternal life] as referring only to the after-life. I do not look upon this life as something to be struggled through, in order to get the rewards of the next life. I believe that the Kingdom of God is within us and we can enjoy "eternal life" here and now."
It was a biblical statement which Rich was citing -- Luke 17:21, "the kingdom of God is within you" -- but Rich carried it out to its full radical conclusion. He was teaching a realized eschatology as opposed to a future eschatology, to use the terminology which the Christian existentialist theologian Rudolf Bultmann was expounding at the University of Marburg over in Germany at that time. Or to use the terminology of the history of religions scholar Mircea Eliade, Rich was using language about the end time as a symbolic way of talking about how we could learn to cross through the barrier which separates ordinary profane space and time from the realm of sacred space and time at any time that we wished to (see note 6). The two realms actually coexist simultaneously. Where is heaven? Heaven can be right here and right now, if we are willing to grow enough spiritually to enter it.
The move to Florida
Rich helped in the formation of the A.A. intergroup in Boston, and at some point moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, where he also helped in the formation of the A.A. intergroup there (see note 7). He said that (24H 2/20–2/21) "my main business now is keeping sober. I make a living in business, but that's not my main business. It's secondary to the business of keeping sober." He became one of the great heroes within Florida A.A., which is why I am so pleased to have the opportunity to talk about him here in Fort Lauderdale.
Twenty-Four Hours a Day
Rich talked in his lead (Ld 24) about writing the Twenty-Four Hour© book in 1948 (see note 8). It has a page for each day of the year, with each page divided into three sections. The large print section at the top is called the Thought for the Day: some of this material was adapted by him from a work he wrote earlier, called For Drunks Only, and he also included an extended selection of excerpts from the Big Book as part of the large-print section for one period of the year. The section in smaller print that followed was called the Meditation for the Day, and then at the very bottom of the page was a short Prayer for the Day.
God Calling by Two Listeners
For the small print sections at the bottom, Rich drew heavily on a book he had discovered, entitled God Calling© by Two Listeners, which had been edited and published by A. J. Russell, one of the most famous Oxford Group authors (see note 9a). The book had a strange origin. One of the two women (whose names are unknown to this day) explained in an introduction how they were inspired to begin their spiritual exploration:
"In the autumn of 1932, I was sitting in the lounge of a hotel when a visitor, quite unknown, crossed over and handing me a copy of For Sinners Only© asked if I had read it. I answered no, and she left it with me. On returning home, I bought a copy for myself. I was curiously affected by the book and . . . . there came a persistent desire to try to see whether I could get guidance such as A. J. Russell reported, through sharing a quiet time with the friend with whom I was then living. She was a deeply spiritual woman with unwavering faith in the goodness of God and a devout believer in prayer, although her life had not been an easy one. I was rather skeptical, but, as she had agreed, we sat down with pencils and paper in hand and waited . . . . To this day, I cannot obtain guidance in this way alone. But with my friend a very wonderful thing happened. From the first, beautiful messages were given to her by our Lord Himself, and every day from then these messages have never failed us . . . .
"Certainly we were not in any way psychic or advanced in spiritual growth, but ordinary human beings who had more suffering and worry than the majority and who had known tragedy after tragedy. [And yet] always, and this daily, He insisted that we should be channels of love, joy, and laughter in His broken world . . . .
"We, or rather I, found this command difficult to obey; to others it might have been simple. Were we to laugh, to cheer others, to be always joyful when our days were pain-racked and our nights tortured by chronic insomnia, when poverty and almost insupportable worry were our daily portion . . . ? Still came this insistent command to love and laugh and bring joy to the lives we contacted. Disheartened, one of us would gladly have ceased the struggle and passed on to another and happier life . . . . [Yet] He encouraged us daily . . . . Continually He exhorted us not to lose heart and spoke of the joy that the future held for us . . . . He stressed, most strongly of all, the immense power given to two souls praying together in close union and at one in their desire to love and serve Him."
This was the kind of message that could actually speak to struggling, tormented alcoholics. Rich decided to take it and use it freely in the small print sections in each day's meditation in his own compilation. He had to shorten the work enormously, and eliminate references to calling on the name of Jesus or contemplating Christ on the cross. Instead of prayers to Jesus, he turned it all into prayers to God instead, which was very, very important in the A.A. context. He clarified passages that were difficult to understand, and often almost totally rewrote the material.
He also added copious material of his own which was vitally important, explaining what the concept of a higher power was really about, for the help of alcoholics who literally did not have the foggiest idea of what was actually meant by the word God (see note 9b).
Perhaps the best way of summing up what Rich actually did would be as follows: God Calling was a nice little work of early twentieth-century Protestant piety, replete with the sentiments of the popular hymns from that period, hymns like "I walk in the garden with Him, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear, whispering in my ear, the Son of God discloses." It was nice, but not exceptional. Rich remolded it, reshaped it, added copiously and cut away equally vigorously, and came out with what I would regard as one of the ten or fifteen true classics of spiritual literature -- a masterpiece, measured by the standards of the past three or four thousand years, and including both eastern and western spiritual writings.
Publishing the book
Rich finished putting the Twenty-Four Hour© book together in 1948, and at first handled the printing and the distribution on his own. He did not place his name on the book in any way, merely putting at the very back the simple words "Compiled by a member of the Group at Daytona Beach, Fla." The book sold over 80,000 copies during the first ten years alone (Ld 24), which means that over 10,000 copies a year were eventually having to be packaged and shipped out year after year, just to keep up with the demand. It did not take long for Rich to become totally overwhelmed by the task. In 1953, he asked the New York A.A. office if they would take over this job, but his request was turned down. In their defense, New York was desperately short on money, staff, and space; they also already had their hands full with the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions©, which came out in April of that same year. They only just barely managed to cobble together a financial deal to get that vital book published. The next year, 1954, Patrick Butler at Hazelden offered to take over the mammoth job of printing and distributing Twenty-Four Hours a Day© to keep the book available. Mel B. says that this was the publication that got Hazelden started as a major publisher of recovery materials (see note 10). As of 1994, nearly six and half million copies of Twenty-Four Hours a Day© had been sold, and the little book is still doing fine today.
Rich regarded himself as the teacher of an intelligent faith in the Great Intelligence behind the universe. In language partly similar to Emmet Fox's (see note 11), he says for June 21st that:
"Intelligent faith in that Power greater than ourselves can be counted on to stabilize our emotions. It has an incomparable capacity to help us look at life in balanced perspective. We look up, around and away from ourselves and we see that nine out of ten things which at the moment upset us will shortly disappear. Problems solve themselves, criticism and unkindness vanish as though they had never been."
God was, he said in the language of the Platonic philosophers, "the Great Intelligence behind the universe," which meant that we do not have to sacrifice our own minds and intellects in order to talk about God. But God, as any good Platonist knows, is infinite and eternal, which means that to approach him, we must rely on faith and intuition and feeling and vision, not the language of the scientists. Ultimately, we can only be saved by faith alone.
When Rich gave his lead at Rutland, Vermont, in 1958, he was around sixty-six years old and knew that his days were fundamentally numbered, so he talked about not only life but also death, in deeply moving fashion. Death was returning to God, and that was where faith alone could carry us across the great divide which separates our world of space and time from the realm of the eternal ideas and the infinite reality which lies beyond all else (Ld 26, see note 12):
"Above all, my faith in the Great Intelligence behind the universe, which can give me all the strength I need to face whatever life has to offer, is the foundation of my present life. When I die, my body will return to dust. Heaven is not any particular place in the sky, but my intelligence or soul, if it is in the proper condition, will return to the Great Intelligence behind the universe and will blend with that Great Intelligence and be at home again whence it came. My problem, in what is left of my life, is to keep my mind or intelligence in the proper condition -- by living with honesty, purity, unselfishness, love, and service -- so that when my time comes to go, my passing to a greater sphere of mind will be gentle and easy."
Notice that in that last sentence, he refers to the four central Oxford Group virtues: Honesty ("Is it true or is it false?"), Purity ("Is it right or is it wrong?"), Unselfishness ("How will this affect the other fellow?"), and Love ("Is it ugly or is it beautiful?"). But then he adds a fifth major virtue, Service: service in the spirit of the St. Francis Prayer, but above all service to the A.A. groups and his brother and sister alcoholics, the kind of service which will maintain and deepen the bonds of fellowship which give us the experience, strength, and hope which we must have in order to survive. He preaches fellowship and service from one end of the Twenty-Four Hour book to the other, and he lived as he spoke, desiring no fame or recognition for himself, not even putting his name on the book. All the book says, with humble simplicity, buried at the end where you might not even notice, is the little phrase: "Compiled by a member of the Group at Daytona Beach, Florida."
He died about seven years after giving that talk, on March 25, 1965. He was seventy-two years old at that time, with almost twenty-three years sobriety.
David W. (Daytona Beach A.A. Archives) has some financial records from the period when Rich was publishing the little black book himself. One year it made a profit of $2,000 and some odd cents. Rich donated the $2,000 to the intergroup. The New York A.A. office had just sent around a plea for additional financial support, because they were in desperate straits at that time, so the intergroup promptly sent the $2,000 to New York. David says that, based on his investigations, neither Rich nor his heirs ever made a penny of personal profit off of the sales of Twenty-Four Hours a Day©.
Based on the researches of David and other Florida A.A.'s whom I have talked to, it appears that Rich was probably for many years what the Florida people call a "snow bird": he would go back to New England for the hotter months and keep up his links with friends and family there -- which is presumably why he was able to give his lead at the A.A. meeting in Vermont in 1958 without having to travel too far -- but then he would return to Daytona Beach for the colder months. But it is clear that, by the time the Twenty-Four Hour book was published, he had come to regard Florida as his real home.
In the Twenty-Four Hour book, Rich said that (2/20–2/21) "my main business now is keeping sober. I make a living in business, but that's not my main business. It's secondary to the business of keeping sober." David W. says that, on the basis of his research, by the end of his life Rich had gotten an inheritance from his brother, and was basically living during his retirement years on the investment proceeds from those funds.
The "second book"
I cannot help but think that reading Rich's little black book as their "second book," surpassed in importance only by the Big Book itself (which was of course the all-determining and foundational source), was one of the things that helped A.A. to grow and prosper so much during its greatest growth years. It is clear that, back in those days, people could form a good A.A. group simply by getting a copy of the Big Book and doing what it said, even if they had no personal contact with anyone already in the program from elsewhere. But it seems to me that the people who also read the little black book formed even better A.A. groups. It told you how to keep the fellowship strong and healthy, and inspired you to commit yourself even more deeply to A.A. service work. It reminded you over and over that loyalty to your group, and to A.A. itself, was one of the primary virtues, and would give you life abundant. The members who were the most dedicated also frequently carried the little black book with them instead of the Big Book, for instant help in times of spiritual crisis -- that was one of the other things they found it especially useful for.
I think it is significant to note how early A.A. in Indiana and Michigan treated three different groups of material. You had to have a copy of the Big Book: you read from it and quoted from it at meetings, and used it to define the essential principles of the program. Rich's little black book was the only book not coming out of New York which was universally acknowledged by the early tradition as appropriate to read from at official A.A. meetings, and to quote from freely when speaking at meetings -- but it was not the "defining" book on matters concerning essential program principles. That was the all-important distinction. Many early A.A.'s in the United States and Canada also read Ralph Pfau, the third most published early A.A. author, who had produced his little Golden Books under the pseudonym of "Father John Doe" to preserve his anonymity and maintain the spirit of the Twelve Traditions. But in Indiana at least, when small groups would meet in someone's home to read and study the Golden Books, or to listen to phonograph records of Father Ralph speaking, they felt that it was not appropriate to call these little groups "A.A. meetings" in the official sense. And the Golden Books were certainly never regarded as "defining" statements of official program principles. So there were three levels of importance, and three different kinds of ways that A.A. people could use wise and healthy spiritual literature. Richmond Walker's Twenty-Four Hours a Day© was the major work at the level of the second tier of importance.
One human soul touching another
David W. says that when Rich first began writing the material which shows up in the small print sections at the bottoms of the pages, he never intended to publish a book. He prepared these little meditations simply for himself, and carried them around on little cards. Other people at the A.A. meetings in Daytona Beach saw some of these, and were so impressed by the depth and profundity of what they said, that they finally talked him into putting them together into a book, so other people could use them too.
I think this is one of the things which gives the small print sections in the Twenty-Four Hour book so much power: they were not written by someone "preaching at" us, and trying to tell other people what the author wanted them to believe. They are simply the very private and very personal jottings of a person of extraordinary spiritual depth, reaching out simply for himself, to try to touch God and feel his presence and open himself up to the workings of God's healing and empowering grace. When he finally agreed to publish these little private prose poems and personal exercises in guided imagery, he opened up his own soul to us. He does not "teach at" us, but invites us to accompany him on his own spiritual journey, as a soul-mate and a trusted friend. When we open up the little book to read the selection for the day, what Rich is really saying to us is, "This is what I see and hear and feel and touch when I pray and meditate and try to draw closer to the living presence of the Great Intelligence behind the universe. What do you yourself see and hear and feel and touch?" He says to us, "This is what I learned when I thought about these particular images and principles, which helped me to grow spiritually. What have you learned about this part of the spiritual life by this point in your spiritual journey and how do you plan, on the basis of that new insight into these universal spiritual thoughts, to start living and acting a little differently today?"
Along with Bill W. and the other good old-timers, Rich is saying to everyone who reads his little volume the same essential words which conclude the first major section of the Big Book (page 164 in the 3rd edition):
"Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.
"May God bless you and keep you -- until then."
24H = Richmond Walker, Twenty-Four Hours a Day©, Compiled by a member of the Group at Daytona Beach, Fla. (Center City MN: Hazelden Foundation, 1975 [orig. pub. 1948, 1st Hazelden edit. 1954]).
Ld = Richmond Walker, lead given at an A.A. meeting in Rutland, Vermont, in 1958, paragraph number in the text as given in the Northern Indiana Archival Bulletin 4 (No. 1, 2001): 1–4. See the foreword to the 40th Anniversary Edition of Twenty-Four Hours a Day© for the date and location where Rich gave this talk.
1. Mel B. (Toledo, Ohio), special foreword to the 40th Anniversary Edition of Twenty-Four Hours a Day© (Center City MN: Hazelden Foundation, 1994).
3. Pass It On: The Story of Bill Wilson and How the A.A. Message Reached the World© (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 1984), pp. 203, 210–13, 257–8.
4. See Richard M. Dubiel, The Road to Fellowship: The Role of the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club in the Development of Alcoholics Anonymous©, Hindsfoot Foundation Series on the History of Alcoholism Treatment (forthcoming, Fall 2003).
5. See Emmet Fox, The Sermon on the Mount©.
6. This is actually the Platonic concept of participation. As the twentieth-century theologian Paul Tillich has pointed out in his writings on religious symbolism, the material thing which is the shadow or symbol (the "icon" or holy image in the Greek) does not just point toward something else from the outside (like a signpost beside the road which points the way to the Grand Canyon), but participates in that higher reality to which it leads our minds.
7. Foreword (p. iii) to the edition of Twenty-Four Hours a Day© printed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hazelden Foundation (no actual date given). This version is a reprinting otherwise of the original 1954 Hazelden edition.
8. Richmond Walker, The 7 Points of Alcoholics Anonymous©, rev. ed. (Center City MN: Hazelden/Glen Abbey Books, 1989).
9a. God Calling©, by Two Listeners, re-edited by Bernard Koerselman (Uhrichsville OH: Barbour and Company, 1993). One of the two women had what scholars of comparative religion call the gift of ecstatic prophecy (compare the way Mohammed received the verses of the Koran): caught up in a trance, she would deliver the meditations verbatim, while the other woman wrote down the words with a pencil on a piece of paper. But there were also similarities to a phenomenon which the early twentieth century called automatic writing.
9b. An account is given of some of the other major motifs in Rich's spiritual teachings in Glenn F. Chesnut, The Higher Power of the Twelve-Step Program: For Believers & Non-Believers©, Hindsfoot Foundation (San Jose: Authors Choice/iUniverse, 2001), Chapter 5, "Two Classical Authors of A.A. Spirituality," pp. 115-129, and also pp. 81-82 and p. 213 n. 10: maintaining soul-balance, finding inner calm, the prayer without words (a contemplative technique similar to the Hindu discipline called transcendental meditation, but using guided imagery and a Zen-like contemplation of nature instead), faith (trust, courage, and a willingness to commit, based on intuition and feeling, coupled with pragmatic experience), becoming one of the Friends of God, and guidance.
10. Mel B., foreword to the 40th Anniversary Edition of Twenty-Four Hours a Day©.
11. Compare Emmet Fox's Golden Key (described in Chesnut, The Higher Power of the Twelve-Step Program©, pp. 91-96).
12. In Cleveland A.A., it is actually the Four Questions which accompany the Four Absolutes which are at the center of the spiritual path. This helps to avoid the flavor of "absolutism" which made Bill W. apprehensive about that way of speaking about the spiritual life. The kind of absolutism which Bill W. wanted to avoid was the sort of moralistic, Pharisaic rigidity which will either lead us astray into hypocrisy and arrogance and boasting, or commit us to the kind of ruthless perfectionism which leads ultimately to despair. See Bill W.'s letter to McGhee B., 30 October 1940, as quoted in Ernest Kurtz, Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous©, p. 51:
"The principles of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love are as much a goal of A.A. members and are as much practiced by them as by any other group of people, yet we found that when the word absolute was put in front of these attributes, they either turned people away by the hundreds or gave a temporary spiritual inflation resulting in collapse. The average alcoholic just couldn't stand the pace and got nowhere."
See Chesnut, The Higher Power of the Twelve-Step Program©, pp. 58-59, and also 129-133 (discussing the way Father John Doe makes the same point in his Golden Books), on pathological perfectionism as a great spiritual danger, and also as one of the frequent major contributing sources of chronic depression.
In Cleveland A.A. however, it was the Four Questions which were emphasized in actual practice. We are instructed to remind ourselves every morning to go through the day asking the following simple questions before speaking or acting: "Is it true or is it false?" (Honesty), "Is it right or is it wrong?" (Purity), "How will this affect the other fellow?" (Unselfishness), and "Is it ugly or is it beautiful?" (Love). Almost anyone who is dedicated to living the spiritual life could benefit from the exercise of reading these four questions every morning for a month, and trying to live by them throughout the day for every day of that month. See the little pamphlet which the Cleveland A.A. Intergroup still publishes on the Four Absolutes.
Richmond Walker, following Bill W.'s suggestions, omits the dangerous word "absolutes," but does weave an emphasis upon those four great virtues throughout the pages of his little book. So it is clear that his two and a half years in the Oxford Group did have a lasting influence on his ideas. But he learned from his contact with the Jacoby Club too, and added that fifth vital item, the virtue of Service, as of co-equal importance. The continual emphasis in his meditational book on doing A.A. service work and above all on maintaining the fellowship (a Jacoby Club theme), is one of the most important continuing themes in his book. It helped make A.A. vital and strong back during that period of its history.
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