A NOTED DIVINE REVIEWS "ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS"
By ELRICK B. DAVIS
In a recent series, Mr. Davis told of Alcoholics Anonymous,
an organization of former drinkers banded together to beat the
liquor habit. This is the first of two final articles on the subject.
When 100 members of Alcoholics Anonymous, the extraordinary fellowship
of men and women who have cured themselves of "incurable"
alcoholism by curing each other and adopting a "spiritual
way of life," had established their cures to the satisfaction
of their physicians, families, employers and psychotherapists,
they published a book.
It is a 400-page volume of which half is a history of the movement
and a description of its methods, and the other half a collection
of 30 case histories designed to show what a wide variety of persons
the fellowship has cured. It is called "Alcoholics Anonymous,"
and may be bought for $3.50 from the Works Publishing Co., Box
657, Church Street Annex Postoffice, New York.
The name of the publisher is that adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous
for its only publishing venture. The address is "blind"
because the name "Alcoholics Anonymous" means exactly
what it says. The price of the book is "cost," 50 cents
a volume less than one of the country's soundest old-line book
publishers would have charged if the fellowship had accepted that
house's offer to publish the book and pay the society 40 cents
a copy royalty on sales.
Among the first reviews of the book to see print was that written
by the Rev. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick for the Religious Digest.
That review so attracted at least one well-known Cleveland minister
that he obtained a copy of the book, got in touch with the Cleveland
chapter of the society, and plans to preach a sermon about the
Dr. Fosdick is himself the author of seventeen books. His review
of "Alcoholics Anonymous" follows:
"This extraordinary book deserves the careful attention of
anyone interested in the problem of alcoholism. Whether as victims,
friends of victims, physicians, clergymen, psychiatrists or social
workers there are many such, and this book will give them, as
no other treatise known to this reviewer will, an inside view
of the problem which the alcoholic faces. Gothic cathedral windows
are not the sole things which can be truly seen only from within.
Alcoholism is another. All outside views are clouded and unsure.
Only one who has been a alcoholic and has escaped the thraldom
can interpret the experience.
"This book represents the pooled experience of 100 men and
women who have been victims of alcoholism-and who have won their
freedom and recovered their sanity and self-control. their stories
are detailed and circumstantial, packed with human interest. In
America today the disease of alcoholism is increasing. Liquor
has been an easy escape from depression. As an English officer
in India, reproved for his excessive drinking, lifted his glass
and said, "This is the swiftest road out of India,"
so many Americans have been using hard liquor as a means of flight
from their troubles until to their dismay they discover that,
free to begin, they are not free to stop. One hundred men and
women, in this volume, report their experience of enslavement
and then of liberation.
"The book is not in the least sensational. It is notable
for its sanity, restraint and freedom from over-emphasis and fanaticism.
"The group sponsoring this book began with two or three ex-alcoholics,
who discovered one another through kindred experience. From this
a movement started; ex-alcoholics working for alcoholics, without
fanfare or advertisement, and the movement has spread from one
city to another.
"The core of their whole procedure is religious. They are
convinced that for the helpless alcoholic there is only one way
out-the expulsion of his obsession by a Power Greater Than Himself.
Let it be said at once that there is nothing partisan or sectarian
about this religious experience. Agnostics and atheists, along
with Catholics, Jews and Protestants, tell their story of discovering
the Power Greater Than themselves. 'Who are you to say that there
is no God,' one atheist in the group heard a voice say when, hospitalized
for alcoholism, he faced the utter hopelessness of his condition.
Nowhere is the tolerance and open-mindedness of the book more
evident than in its treatment of this central matter on which
the cure of all these men and women has depended. They are not
partisans of any particular form of organized religion, although
they strongly recommend that some religious fellowship be found
by their participants. By religion they mean an experience which
they personally know and which has saved them from their slavery,
when psychiatry and medicine had failed. They agree that each
man must have his own way of conceiving God, but of God Himself
they are utterly sure, and their stories of victory in consequence
are a notable addition to William James' 'Varieties of Religious