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Revelatory EventsThree Case Studies of the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths$
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Ann Taves

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691131016

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691131016.001.0001

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(p.89) Chapter 4 Stories
Revelatory Events

Ann Taves

Princeton University Press

In 1934, Bill Wilson (1895–1971), a (failed) stockbroker, had an ecstatic experience of a blinding white light while hospitalized for alcoholism, which he associated with the feeling of a “presence” and which gave rise to a vision of a “chain reaction of alcoholics, one carrying this message and these principles to the next.” The vision led to the anonymously authored “Big Book” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 1st edn., 1939) and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (1953) of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). This chapter analyzes how Wilson told and retold his story publicly in the context of AA in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. It traces the emergence of a gap between Wilson's personal version of his story and his public account of AA's beginnings.

Keywords:   Alcoholics Anonymous, AA, Bill Wilson, revelation, spiritual experience, vision

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