Dr. Sam Shoemaker
Dr. Sam Shoemaker
For the past several weeks, “Here’s To Your Health,” has mentioned a few of the many medical doctors and psychiatrists who contributed to the foundation of AA. Bill Wilson also said there were several theologians involved in AA’s beginning, one of them was Dr. Sam Shoemaker, and here are some of Sam’s comments: We know the first thing that got into Bill’s mind as offering any hope for a solution to alcoholism was talking with some men in whom there was the beginning of a real religious experience (spiritual awakening). Rolland Hazard and Ebby Thatcher had begun to find this through the old Oxford Group. Much of its work centered in my old parish, Calvary, on Gramercy Park in New York.

It began to be clear quite early in the life of AA that Dr. C. G. Jung’s simple declaration that modern science had no answer for alcoholism was true. But the problem was: how to translate the spiritual experience into universal terms without it evaporating into mere generalities. And so, immediately after Step One, which concerned the unmanageable-ness of life, came Step Two: We came to believe in a power greater than ourselves that could restore us to sanity. The basis of that belief was not theoretical; it was evidential. Right before us were people in whose lives was the beginning of a spiritual transformation. You could question the interpretation of the experience, but you couldn’t question the experience itself.

In the third and fourth chapters of Acts is the story of the healing of a lame man by Peter and John. A lot of ecclesiastics wanted to know how this came about. The Apostles told them it was through the name of Christ that this man was healed. The story says, “And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” Now you can fight a theory about an experience, but you’ve got to acknowledge the experience itself.

AA has been supremely wise in emphasizing the reality of the experience, and acknowledging that it came from a higher power than human, and leaving the interpretation pretty much at that. Here was evidence of spiritual power!

Also there are the agnostics and atheists, who disbelieve in God altogether. Those who deny God, deny Him because of their despair at not finding Him. AA simply tells people to turn their wills and lives over to the care of God as, “they understood Him.” That left the theory and the theology, to the churches to which people belong, maybe that’s what we all do at the point where religion changes for us from a mere tradition to a living power. God is more willing to help us than we are to be helped. God does not trespass on man’s freedom, and we can reject Him as long as we like. But when we open the spiritual door, we shall find Him always there. We first lean on another human being who seems to be finding the answer, and then we lean on the Higher Power that stands behind him.

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