The Higher Power and the Occult.

Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, the cofounders of AA, embraced and promoted a variety of spiritual experiences. Both men practiced spiritualism and believed in the validity and importance of contacting and conversing with the dead (necromancy, which the Bible forbids).1 The AA biography of Wilson says:

It is not clear when he first became interested in extrasensory phenomena; the field was something that Dr. Bob and Anne Smith were also deeply involved with. Whether or not Bill initially became interested through them, there are references to séances and other psychic events in the letters Bill wrote to Lois [Wilson’s wife] during that first Akron summer with the Smiths, in 1935.2

Wilson and his wife were also conducting regular séances in their own home as early as 1941. They were engaging in other psychic activities as well, such as using an Ouija board.3

Wilson also acted as a medium or what is now referred to as a “channeler.” He would lie on a couch in a passive receptive manner and “receive” messages (in a manner similar to that of the occultist Edgar Cayce) while another person would write them down. His wife described it this way:

Bill would lie down on the couch. He would “get” these things. He kept doing it every week or so. Each time, certain people would “come in.” Sometimes, it would be new ones and they’d carry on some story. There would be long sentences; word by word would come through.4

It is interesting to note that in 1938, between the séances at the Smiths’ and Wilson receiving messages while in a prone position in the 40s, Wilson wrote the AA Twelve Steps. He was lying in bed thinking. The official AA biography of Wilson describes it this way:

As he started to write, he asked for guidance. And he relaxed. The words began tumbling out with astonishing speed. He completed the first draft in about half an hour, then kept on writing until he felt he should stop and review what he had written. Numbering the new steps, he found that they added up to twelve—a symbolic number; he thought of the Twelve apostles, and soon became convinced that the Society should have twelve steps.5

Whether creating the Twelve Steps involved occultic activity, Wilson and Smith’s commitment to spiritualism was intrinsically tied to their creation of and leadership in AA.

A regular participant in what they referred to as their “spook sessions” said:

I was a problem to these people, because I was an atheist, and an atheist is, by definition, a materialist. . . and a materialist is, by definition, someone who does not believe in other worlds. Now these people, Bill and Dr. Bob, believed vigorously and aggressively. They were working away at the spiritualism; it was not just a hobby. And it related to A.A., because the big problem in A.A. is that for a materialist it’s hard to buy the program.6

Many Ways to God?

Wilson’s interest in spiritual matters was all-inclusive, all except faith in Jesus as the only way. For a while Wilson seriously considered becoming a Catholic. He described his relation to the church this way:

I’m more affected than ever by that sweet and powerful aura of the church; that marvelous spiritual essence flowing down by the centuries touches me as no other emanation does, but—when I look at the authoritative layout, despite all the arguments in its favor, I still can’t warm up. No affirmative conviction comes.7

Wilson did not want to attach AA to any one faith. The official AA biography of Wilson declares:

Bill felt it would be unwise for A.A. as a fellowship to have an allegiance to any one religious sect. He felt A.A.’s usefulness was worldwide, and contained spiritual principles that members of any and every religion could accept, including the Eastern religions.8 (Emphasis added.)

Wilson could not have believed in the “faith once delivered to the saints” because he did not believe Jesus’ words when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Wilson complained, “The thing that still irks me about all organized religions is their claim how confoundedly right all of them are. Each seems to think it has the right pipeline.”9 (Emphasis added.) Obviously, according to Wilson, Jesus is not the only “pipeline” to God.

The Wide Gateway of AA.

When Wilson first formulated the Twelve-Steps, Step Two was: “Came to believe that God could restore us to sanity.”10 Wilson had had a religious experience he thought was God. Therefore, such a statement seemed natural. However, he met with opposition from those who were close to him in the AA movement. Thus he changed the wording of Step Two: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Wilson believed that those concessions regarding references to God were:

. . . the great contribution of our atheists and agnostics. They had widened our gateway so that all who suffer might pass through, regardless of their belief or lack of belief.11 (Italics his, bold added.)

And indeed the gate is wide. The “Power greater than ourselves” can be anybody or anything that seems greater than the person who takes Step Two. It can be a familiar spirit such as Carl Jung’s Philemon. It could be any deity of Hinduism, Buddhism, Greek mythology, or New Age channeled entities. It could be one’s own so-called higher self. It could even be the devil himself.

The extreme naiveté of Christians comes through when they confidently assert that their higher Power is Jesus Christ. Since when did Jesus align Himself with false gods? Since when has He been willing to join the Pantheon or the array of Hindu deities? Jesus is not an option of one among many. He is the Only Son, the Only Savior, and the Only Way. All Twelve Step programs violate the declarations of the Reformation: Only Scripture; Only Christ; Only Grace; Only Faith; and Glory to God Only. Instead they offer another power, another gospel, another savior, another source, another fellowship, another tradition, another evangelism, and another god. Jesus’ majesty and His very person are violated by joining Him together with the gods of the wide gate and the broad way. Jesus emphatically stated that His gate is strait and His way is narrow. He is the only way to life, while all other ways lead to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).

Notes for “Twelve Steps to Another Gospel?”
Pass It On: The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1984, pp. 156, 275.
Ibid., p. 275.
Ibid., p. 278.
Ibid., pp. 278-279.
Ibid., p. 198.
Ibid., p. 280.
Ibid., p. 281.
Ibid., p. 283.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid., p. 198.
11 Ibid., p. 199.