these are some snippets from
Bill Wilson's Talk to the Manhattan Group, NYC, 1955
first of all,there was the kitchen table which stood in a brownstone house which still bears the number 182, Clinton Street, Brooklyn. There, Lois saw me go into the depths. There, over the kitchen table, Ebby brought me these simple principles now enshrined in our Twelve Steps.
there were but six steps: We admitted we couldn't run our lives; we got honest with ourselves; we made a self-survey; we made restitution to the people we had harmed; we tried to carry this story on to the next; and we asked God to help us to do those things. That was the essence of the message over the kitchen table. In those days, we were associated with the Oxford Group.
Clinton Street also saw, on its second floor, in the bedroom, the writing of the Twelve Steps. We had got to Chapter Five in the book, and it looked like we would have to say at some point what the book was all about. So I remember lying there on the bed one night, and I was in one of my typical depressive snits, and I had an imaginary ulcer attack. The drunks who were supposed to be contributing, so that we could eat while the book was being written, were slow on the contributions, and I was in a damn bad frame of mind.
I lay there with a pad and pencil, and I began to think over these six steps that I've just recited to you, and said I to myself, "Well, if we put down these six steps, the chunks are too big. They'll have to digest too much all at once. Besides, they can wiggle out from in between, and if we're going to do a book, we ought to break those up into smaller pieces."
So I began to write, and in about a half an hour, I think, I had busted them up into smaller pieces. I was rather pleasantly surprised that, when numbered, they added up to twelve -- that's significant. Very nice. At that point, a couple of drunks sailed in. I showed them the proposed Twelve Steps, and I caught fits. Why did we need them when six were doing fine? And what did I mean by dragging God from the bottom of the list up to the top?
Meanwhile the meetings in the front parlor had largely turned into hassles over the chapters of the book. The roughs were submitted and read at every meeting, so that when the Twelve Steps were proposed, there was a still greater hassle.
Because I'd had this very sudden experience and was on the pious side, I'd lauded these Steps very heavily with the word "God." Other people began to say, "This won't do at all. The reader at a distance is just going to get scared off. And what about agnostic folks like us?"
There was another terrific hassle, which resulted in this terrific ten-strike we had: calling God (as you understand Him) "the Higher Power," making a hoop big enough so that the whole world of alcoholics can walk through it.
So, actually, those people who suppose that the elders of AA were going around in white robes surrounded by a blue light, full of virtue, are quite mistaken. I merely became the umpire of the immense amount of hassling that went into the preparation of the AA book, and that took place at Clinton Street
Well, of course, the book was the summit of all our hopes at the time; along with the hassling, there was an immense enthusiasm. We tried to envision distant readers picking it up and perhaps writing in, perhaps getting sober. Could they do it on the book?
All of those things we speculated on very happily. Finally, in the spring of 1939, the book was ready.