Posted by: judy | April 4, 2009

‘Bill W’ and Henrietta Seiberling: the road Bill didn’t take

Curious to rethink my public school version of American history, which placed FDR and the New Deal on a celestial pedestal for saving America; I ordered and finally began reading a book which rested on my reading pile for several months.

The Forgotten Man, A New History of the Great Depression
by Amity Shlaes

and learned . . .

upon receiving the book, Shlaes is a Senior Fellow in Economic History,
Council on Foreign Relations.

Although I considered pitching it based on the author’s connection to CFR, I chose to begin reading. Conveniently, in the front of the book, is a ‘Cast of Characters’ and a ‘Timeline’.


Nestled in the ‘Cast of Characters’ is this:

William ‘Bill’ Wilson, Small Time Wall Street Stock analyst and alcoholic. Without work in the Deptression, he joins “Doctor Bob, another alcoholic, in founding Alcoholics Anaymous. In the second half of the 1930’s, Wilson pens AA’s Big Book.

Fascinated, I thought, “What is the significance of Bill Wilson in a book about the Great Depression”. Now I was thoroughly interested.

Quickly, I found the answer on page 14

Bill W. the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, who taught Americans that the solution to their troubles lay not with a federal program but within a new sort of entity — the self-help community.

RED FLAG: The note I wrote in the margin a few weeks ago: 
“Satan is so cunning.”

A common practice when reading a theologin’s or pastor’s interpretation of Scripture and the conclusions they draw from it; is to ask yourself: Does this reflect the ‘Character of God’ as revealed through Scripture? I find this is the surest method to determine ‘Truth’.

Couldn’t the same method be used to determine Evil? For our eternal benefits, Scripture clearly describes Satan and Evil.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a  roaring lion seeking someone to devour. (1Peter 5:8)

Satan, being an opportunist, saw the chance to lay the foundation of a prison so great, so strong, so ‘transparent’ that generations would be forever in his bondage.

Cloaked in the Amercian Spirit of  ‘I Can Do It’, Alcoholics Anonymous is born.

May, 1935 enter Henrietta Seiberling.

Wilson discouraged and down from a failed business deal is introduced to Henrietta Seiberling by a local minister. Henrietta had tried to help another alcoholic, a doctor named Robert Smith.

Shlase says of Wilso-Smith meeting, ” The meeting changed their lives . . . the traditional answer — going to a clergyman or a doctor — did not seem to work for them . . . they could build a new village, a community of alcoholics.

These are a few excerpts from Henrietta’s personal letters regarding Bill W:

 I feel very sure that God has His Guiding
Hand on our works,
It looked for a while as
if Bill Wilson would like to crowd God out

but we know that it is up to us to seek more &
more of God’s power to help other people to know
this way of Life & our fellowship. You certainly
are doing your part & thank
God, all those who have glimpsed the real vision
are doing theirs.



But, Clarence, I have made one big whale of
a surrender of Bill & his schemes –
& all thought of him & the possibilities of what
harm he could do just left me in the most
amazing way. I don’t have to try to “not think
of him” again, I just don’t – He is completely
consigned to God by me & I know He can
handle him –
We will be closely knit –
even with his taking the money & trying to take
the book. I am sure he will need our pity
& compassion because he has put himself
apart from the real fellowship
more and more I see that the 16th Chapter of Luke that I
read in answer to my asking to
understand Bill & what he was doing, illuminated
the situation – He has put himself with the
“children of darkness” – he has his henchmen &
ingratiates himself with those in the dark –
Let us keep ourselves “children of the Light”
& keep serving God, instead of “Mammon.”
Bill has made his choice – Read the chapter over.

 While Henrietta is recognized for her role in the ‘founding’ of AA. I suspect she might not be pleased to be associated with what it has become today.

Seiberling added the religious dimension that both Dr. Bob and Wilson resisted initially. The two thought that this might turn the alcoholics away. To which, Seiberling replied, “Well, we’re not out to please the alcoholics. They have been pleasing themselves all these years. We are out to please God. And if you don’t talk about what God does and your faith, and your guidance, then might as well be the Rotary Club or something like that. Because God is your only source of Power.”

Shlaes seemed to omit the deep chasm created by the ‘spiritual’ differences of Wilson and Seiberling. In her own words, Henrietta, clearly believed that any and all ‘recovery’ would be through the power of the Triune God.



  1. Judy, this article surely has put things together.
    Henrietta has writen a book and I sent for it last night. I will let you know after I read it. This too may answer some questions.
    Just think if the group worshipped Jesus as much as they do AA, what a blessing for people. I am really saddened. Mom

  2. […] Uncovering the shrouded past of Alcoholics Anonymous Posted on April 6, 2009 by mywordlikefire They’re at it again.  Check out these Holy Spirit directed believers as they pursue the truth about Alcoholics Anonymous.… […]

  3. Great article. Hope to see more. May Christ our King continue to use the two of you in this very deceptive area.

  4. as to the reference to “self help community”, you show plainly that you either did not read the big book, or missed much of it in the reading. the main thrust of the book refers to finding a higher power which will solve ALL your problems. is it not true that god works through people? these wriings seem to be pretty narrow minded in my opinion.

    • Welcome, Bob!

      How is quoting the phrase ‘self-help community’ from Shlaes’ book evidence that Judy is not familiar with AA’s Big Book or the ‘main thrust of the book’? Your statement seems illogical to me.

      In response to your question, ” is it not true that god works through people?, I would answer by saying it depends on which god you are speaking of. If it is the god of AA, then the the answer is no.

      Only the truine God of Holy Scripture, is capable of changing people’s hearts and lives, bring them to salvation and hope. His Son is Jesus and by His death, burial and resurrection He offers the only way to ‘solve ALL your problems’.

      May He stir your heart to turn to Him in repentence today!



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