AA was co-founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. Bill Wilson first came into contact with Swedenborg's writings in the summer of 1915 while falling in love with Lois Burnham. Lois was the granddaughter of the Rev. N.C. Burnham, a Swedenborgian scholar and one of the founders of the Swedenborgian Academy of the New Church in Pennsylvania. Her family was very active in the New Church, and in 1918 Bill and Lois were married in the Swedenborgian church in Brooklyn, New York. After the worst part of Bill's battle with alcoholism and his founding of AA, Lois founded the companion group Al-Anon for support to family and close friends of those afflicted with the disease of alcoholism. Her activities with Al-Anon and her references to her Swedenborgian background are detailed in her autobiography, Lois Remembers.
True to his mission in developing AA as a non-sectarian path to help alcoholics fight their disease, Bill Wilson never mentioned Swedenborg's Writings as a source for his Twelve Steps. However, just as clear is the complete harmony between Swedenborg's teachings on spiritual growth and development and the fundamental principles of the Twelve Steps. AA's Twelve Steps make a wonderful outline of Swedenborg's teachings on the process of repentance, reformation and regeneration.
"(Angels) picture wisdom as a magnificent and finely decorated palace. One climbs up 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 twelve steps into the palace of wisdom signify love in union with faith and faith in union with love." Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence, Paragraph 36.
Twelve-step programs have been a tremendous help to many people, both for those trying to break free from an addition and for their families. The various twelve-step groups all have their foundation in the twelve steps of AA as they are spelled out in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, by Bill Wilson.
Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure to them all.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
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