The Big Book

AA Original Manuscript Reveals Debate on Religion

After being hidden away for nearly 70 years and then auctioned twice, the original manuscript by AA co-founder Bill Wilson is about to become public for the first time next week, complete with edits by Wilson-picked commenters that reveal a profound debate in 1939 about how overtly to talk about God.

(Thank you for the head’s up, Cherokeebride!)

  • SoberPJ

    From a business perspective, this is just Hazelden trying to raise some cash and controversial press helps create interest. Who would buy a copy if it was just like the BB?

    Here's why Hazelden is doing it now rather than later… ( I hope it formats correctly)

    2005 2006 2007 2008

    Total Revenue $87,598,730 $101,784,997 $104,744,758 $87,477,523

    Total Expenses $80,471,762 $87,750,138 $95,320,519 $97,844,608

    Excess/ Deficit $7,126,968 $14,034,859 $9,424,239 ($10,367,085)

    Total Fund $168,037,868 $186,634,080 $197,639,425 $159,588,259

    Take a gander. Their fortunes are declining. Revenue is back to 2005 levels and the total fund is back to before that. They need a financial miracle and it will come in the form of a $65 Big Book and probably an audio series and other various and sundry capitalistic paraphenalia – hats, t-shirts. I keep talking about an AA contraction and this is further evidence of it happening. They can't stop it. Cat's out of the bag – it's faith-healing woo woo that is useful for a small percentage of those who try it and the medical community is looking for better solutions. AND, they are finding them.

  • true believer

    I remember when this manuscript came up at auction in New York a few years ago. Some of the AA’s I knew suggested that we should take measures to protect the document from public ownership. I saw it as a good investment as a unique historical document that could be resold at a latter date. I think it went for around 100k at the first sale and haven’t followed it since. Orange ya’ glad they’re going to make it public?

  • xty

    I found the Washington Post article to be awkward. The existence of, the sale of, the details about this manuscript are news enough. The article's "spin" is that the discussions /annotations / tensions around the spiritual language in the BB is somehow new. We all know what AA is. And they were writing a book which BillW describes as (paraphrased) "necessarily about controversial subjects." So they debated the suitability of language with an eye toward "getting through" to a bigger percentage of folks. So what? As the article puts it, as some sort of "tease" – "Addicts…are about to find out, the Bible was edited." Yeah, and guess what? The Bible was edited too.

    non sequitur: The idea that's on my mind the past couple of days, as I detox from AA, is that I will miss going to detox meetings, as they are close to my heart since I've been in them so much. It then occurred to me that the only way a sober person can visit and share in a detox is if they are with an AA group. Isn't that weird? If I just haven't drank for 4 years, and I asked if I could come in to be available to support and talk with anyone there who wanted it, they would look at me like I had two heads. Maybe I will explore this "after I get a year again."

  • tintop

    xty, It is my strong advice that you write off AA. AA/12 step is an intellectual, moral andspiritual dead end. AA/12 step is a nothing; a mere space holder.

  • SoberPJ

    Pure news only sells a little bit – an old BB with annotations, wow. Controversy sells a lot because it keeps the conversation going and these days it is real cheap to get extra exposure with blogs and FB and twitter and Digg and YouTube, etc… So, they create a BB religious controversy and send it spinning off into the Weboshpere…. If the response is not enough, do it again, only this time use quotes from the best comments you can find from both sides( preferably celebrities). He said, she said.. tell us what you think, get involved – you jack up the volume and we sell more stuff. Simply formula really … and it works.

  • Marco

    Most interesting article. Actually, if i'm not mistaken there was an atheist guy in the early AA circle that discussed the Big Book. It was partly because of him that the AA Big Book watered down all the God bullshit., I beleive. Can't remember his name though.


  • Ez

    65 bucks a copy, buy 'em by the pound!

    Anyway, check the 'comments' from this story by ABC

  • Jim


    I believe the man you are speaking of was named Jim Burwell.