|Bill and Lois Wilson|
In his personal life, Bill was searching widely to deepen his own spiritual experience, and in his public life was reaching out to those in A.A. who had perhaps not had the sudden enlightenment experience that he had experienced at the very beginning of his personal recovery, his so-called 'wind-on-the-mountain' moment.
|Richard M. Bucke |
Among the most immediate effects of such an experience, according to Bucke, are an overwhelming presence of light, a diminution of the ego into an expansive state of consciousness in which one feels at one with the world, as well as a moral imperative to share this experience with others. Although Bill does not mention this overwhelming light in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous, he more often than not described it in recounting his experience in other forums.
Bill's reluctance to mention the overwhelming light it in the 'Big Book' may have been a prescient knowledge, born of his early unsuccessful work with drunks prior to meeting Dr. Bob, that his sudden and profound spiritual awakening was more than most people could fathom or would experience. Indeed, the 'Spiritual Experience' appendix was added to the second edition of the 'Big Book' in order to assure others that sudden spiritual awakenings such as Bill's were, perhaps, not the norm, and that true spritual insight and acuity could be gained just as readily by an awakening "of the educational variety."
In the July 1962 Grapevine, Bill tackled this issue directly, writing:
"As most AA's have heard, I was the recipient in 1934 of a tremendous mystic experience or "illumination." It was accompanied by a sense of intense white light, by a sudden gift of faith in the goodness of God, and by a profound conviction of his presence. At first it was very natural for me to feel that this experience staked me out for somebody very special."
"But as I now look back upon this tremendous event, I can only feel very specially grateful. It now seems clear that the only special feature of my experience was its electric suddenness and the overwhelming and immediate conviction that it carried to me."
"In all other respects, however, I am sure that my own experience was not in the least different from that received by every AA member who has strenuously practiced our recovery program."
|Aldous Huxley |
Bill, of course, realized that this "Ground of all being" is, indeed, both immanent and universal. On page 55 of the 'Big Book,' when he explains exactly where we might find a God of our own understanding, he writes: "We found this Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that it may be found." (Emphasis added.)
Because Bill came to know that his experience was not exceptional (other than perhaps with respect to its sudden intensity), but that it was in fact a universal potential or reality, he could observe, so many years after his initial enlightenment, that, "we should question no one's transformation - whether it be sudden or gradual. Nor should we demand anyone's special type for our ourselves, because our own experience suggests that we are apt to receive whatever may be the most useful for our needs."
And just so long as we continue to probe the 'deep within' that lies within us all, we too will find "the Great Reality" of our own existence, of our own immanent and transcendental nature.