Excerpts from Must Read Books & Articles on Mental Health Topics
Books, Part XI

Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous- Ernest Kurtz
Chapter III. Independent Existence: November 1937- October 1939, pp. 59-82

When Dr. Bob Smith had first attained sobriety and had embraced Bill Wilson's largely unformed ideas in June 1935, A.A.'s co-founders did not advert to their implicit debts to the influences of Carl Jung, William James, Dr. William Silkworth, and the Oxford Group. By November 1937, however, Wilson and Smith felt that they had a "program," and so they were able to think more explicitly about the ideas they had drawn from these diverse sources.
    These ideas remained understandings of persons/alcoholics rather than of any thing/alcoholism. The concept fundamental to Alcoholics Anonymous continued to be the pragmatic one of the alcoholic rather than any speculative reaching at some direct comprehension of alcoholism. Their tentative understanding of alcoholism as "an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer" obviously described the alcoholic rather than analyzed the malady. The core perception of the drinking alcoholic's problem as "selfishness" likewise remained unchanged. Indeed, its further grasp at depth and the spelling out that followed from that grasp furnished the vehicle for Wilson and Smith to deepen their thinking about a "program." Within months, Bill, seeking to set forth in writing what they had agreed about "How It Works," baldly summed up his and Dr. Bob's understanding of the alcoholic's dire condition: "Selfishness - self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. . . . First of all we had to quit playing God. . . . The alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so"
    "Though he usually doesn't think so." If there be an example of intentional understatement in self-confessed extremist Bill Wilson's extensive writings, it lies concealed in that "usually." Especially in the unsuccessful phase of their efforts with drinking alcoholics, Bill and Bob had early and clearly isolated the obstacle inhibiting those who failed to grasp their ideas and so to attain sobriety--denial, denial fundamentally of being "an alcoholic." This denial, Wilson and Smith had learned from their failures as well as from their successes, tended to be expressed in especially two contrary insistences: the "claim to be able to drink like other people"; and the "exceptional thinking" that insisted that even though the problem-drinker's outward experience seemed to place him in the alcoholic camp, he was somehow "different"--an exception. The problem lay in the implications of "being different." Did identity flow from the ways one was like other people, or the ways in which one was unlike them? And to just which "other people" did one look in achieving identity, whether by likeness or unlikeness?'
    The new program's first problem thus became the image it presented of "the real alcoholic." Slowly, from early 1938, Bill and Bob and their fellow admitted alcoholics progressively developed two ideas on which they had thus far relied only implicitly. These understandings concerned how the alcoholic "hit bottom" and the process by which a newcomer "identified" with admitted alcoholics. Neither the phrase hitting bottom nor the word identifying appeared in the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous for another fifteen years. When they finally did emerge, "hitting bottom" and "identifying" were terms that Alcoholics Anonymous immediately recognized as well summarizing how the program and fellowship had begun and worked--clear witness to the unconscious depth of the concepts .
    "The real alcoholic" continued to be understood as described by Dr. Silkworth. "At some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink." But "loss of control" could be and, of course, was denied even more easily than was "alcoholic behavior." Perhaps so, intuited the early A.A.s from their own abundant experience, but the denial was only external. Their own personal histories amply testified to the fact that, indeed, the greater the external denial, the more deeply and painfully clutched the internal confusion, fear, and dread--especially of the specter of insanity. At some deep level, however buried, they knew from their own experience that the drinking alcoholic knew that he was out of control. And so the external realization could come through the internal, and hitting bottom became understood not as loss of employment or family, not as "sleeping in the weeds," or even immediately as the felt inability to not drink, but as the sense of being "really licked" and hopeless in the terms, the concepts, and especially the feelings that Bob E.'s visitors had shared with him. As Bill Wilson summarized it in telling his own story: "No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self-pity." On another occasion, Wilson summarized explicitly what he and Dr. Smith had discovered: "You must always remember that 'hitting bottom' is the essence of getting hold of A.A. - really." The profound depth of this realization was perhaps best testified to in the theme chosen by A.A.'s co-founder on the occasion of his first published "Christmas Greeting to All Members":

Nor can men and women of A.A. ever forget that only through suffering did they find enough humility to enter the portals of that New World. How privileged we are to understand so well the divine paradox that strength rises from weakness, that humiliation goes before resurrection: that pain is not only the price but the very touchstone of spiritual rebirth.

    A further problem immediately arose. If "hitting bottom" was such an internal phenomenon, how could anyone transmit to another this sobriety-inducing and so life-saving realization? Wilson's and Smith's answer was based on what they had learned at the time of their initial meeting with each other, and that answer's elaboration has already been glimpsed in the description of how Bob E.'s bedside visitors treated him. The telling of personal experience--internal personal experience laid the foundation for saving identification. The antidote for the deep symptom of denial was identification marked by open and undemanding narration infused with profound honesty about personal weakness.
    The process of identification was offered without any demand for reciprocity or for anything else. The sober alcoholic told his own story out of the conviction that such honesty was required only by and necessary only to his own sobriety. This example was evidence of the A.A. understanding that honesty was necessary to get sobriety. Rather than any direct attack upon the mechanisms of denial or the evidence of self-centeredness, the carrier of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous demonstrated literally and vividly the essential necessity of honesty to his own sobriety. This honesty basic to identification concerned precisely the speaker's weakness and vulnerability: he bared his internal torment while drinking--in this very act becoming further vulnerable--now even to this listener.
    The therapeutic power of this process of identification arose from the witness it gave, a witness to the healing potency of the shared honesty of mutual vulnerability openly acknowledged. The healing response to this invitation, this witness, lay in the act of surrender--the necessary foundation for "getting the program" of Alcoholics Anonymous. By November 1937, the outward manifestation of surrender had come a long way from Bill Wilson's tortured but private abdication of his "inquiring, rational mind." For Dr. Bob Smith, the act of surrender promised on the morning of that day ("I am going to go through with it") had been embodied in his post-operative activities of 10 June 1935. The surgeon, in his realistic economic fears so cravenly desirous of clinging to whatever tattered remnants endured of his medical reputation, had finally "let go" only when he sought out, confessed to, and promised restitution to those whom he had harmed throughout his years of a alcoholic drinking. Perhaps because Dr. Bob's final surrender had come only as a dangerously delayed phenomenon, the Akron co-founder tended to make the explicit act of surrender a dramatic and required beginning. Surely Bob E.'s description of his "making surrender," a description virtually identical with those offered by other early Akron A.A.s, pointed in this directions
    By November 1937, then, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith had come to some understanding of hitting bottom, identification, and the surrender resulting from the conjunction of these two key concepts and practices. As Wilson returned again from Akron to New York City, superficially the problem facing him with the yet unformed program of Alcoholics Anonymous concerned the proposed projects of hospitals, missionaries, and the book about which the Akronites had been so hesitant. More deeply he wondered, as his train's clickety-clack provided a soothing rhythmic background for his ponderings: if Dr. Bob's greater numerical success was due to the explicit, Oxford Group style "making surrender," how would his New Yorkers receive this intelligence? So recently and so self-consciously separated from the Oxford Group, harboring among their number at least one militant non-theist, acutely hostile to the very words surrender and conversion in their wariness of religion, they would hardly return readily to so religious a practice as kneeling to "make surrender." Was it possible to have both rapid numerical growth and openness to skeptics such as he himself had been if dramatic conversion experiences like his "hot flash" about which the New Yorkers warily joked were the exception rather than the rule?
    Bill's head began to ache, and he rested his wearied brain on a more congenial Akron catch-phrase: he would just have to meet this perplexing problem, like that of the proposed projects, "a day at a time." Fortunately, handling the superficial problem would furnish the solution to the deeper one. The pragmatic philosophy of immediately treating people's behavior in preference to investigating directly underlying causes was beginning to penetrate the fellowship and program of Alcoholics Anonymous on more than one level.
    Always one to accentuate the positive, Bill Wilson stepped off' his train at Grand Central more buoyed by the slim Akron majority favoring the proposed projects than burdened by the awareness of deeper problems. Wilson did not realize it at the time, but this was the beginning of' what would be for him a lifelong task within Alcoholics Anonymous. He had become "the man in the middle," and so his became the difficult role of mediating between different understandings of Alcoholics Anonymous by those who were Alcoholics Anonymous. For now, despite all his own vaunted "twin-engine drive" and promotional instincts, Bill found that his own zeal for the projects so grudgingly accepted by the Akronites was wildly surpassed by the enthusiasm of many of the New Yorkers, and especially by that of Hank P.
    Wilson explained the concerns of the Akronites, who were--he had to point out often--a solid numerical majority of the new fellowship. But the New Yorkers, flushed with self-confidence, revealed no inclination to learn. They agreed that a book was the first appropriate and most important endeavor. Led by Hank and newcomer Jim B., most even seemed to feel that this project's most significant effect would be the education of the benighted Akronites.
    On one matter, Wilson saw the possibility of agreement. A major worry of the Akron alcoholics was the financial condition of Dr. Bob Smith: threatened with bankruptcy, he seemed certain to lose his home by foreclosure of its mortgage. Bound to Oxford Group principles as they, were, the Akronites harbored no thought of selling their program or even of making a profit from the book which would set it forth, but they were convinced that such faithful, aggressive evangelism would, in God's providence, attract the support which the program and its cofounders needed. The New Yorkers shared a similar attitude toward "professionalism," as an incident earlier in the year had revealed.
    In mid-1937, the financial situation at 182 Clinton Street had become acute. Lois Wilson's income as an interior decorator was barely sufficient to support her husband and maintain their home. Its pitiful inadequacy, even without the added burden of live-in drunks most of whom made no contribution towards board, came home to Bill with the realization that some of the sober alcoholics who were coming each week to the Tuesday evening meetings were back on their feet financially and were earning good money back in the world of business. So it was that when Charlie Towns, the entrepreneur who ran Towns Hospital, one day met Wilson making corridor rounds in search of prospects, the proposition that he presented struck Bill as more than merely attractive. "'Look here, Bill, said he, I've got a hunch that this A.A. business of yours is someday going to fill Madison Square Garden . . . Look, Bill, don't you see you're getting the bad end of the deal? All around you, these drunks are getting well and making money, but you're giving this work full-time, and still you're broke. It isn't fair."
    These sentiments uncannily summarized many of Wilson's own thoughts. But then Towns continued with a proposal that offered an opportunity to do something. "'Why don't you move your work in here? I'll give you an office, a decent drawing account, and a very healthy slice of the profits. What I propose is perfectly ethical. You can become a lay therapist, and more successful than anybody in the business."' Bill later recorded that at this prospect he had been "bowled over." The Oxford Group-trained co-founder felt "a few twinges of conscience" over his rising, hopeful enthusiasm, but Towns' stress on "ethical" and his own guilt over the burden Lois had shouldered quickly relieved these.  That very evening happened to be meeting night at 182 Clinton Street, and no sooner had the group assembled than Wilson burst into the story of his opportunity. As he explained its details and implications, however, Bill's ardor shifted to uneasy misgiving before the stolid impassivity of his hearers. "With waning enthusiasm, my story trailed off to the end. There was a long silence."  Finally, a spokesman for the for once quiet group cleared his throat. "'We know how hard up you are, Bill . . . it bothers us a lot [But] don't you realize that you can never become a professional? You tell us that Charlie's proposal is ethical. Sure, it's ethical. But what we've got won't run on ethics only; it has to be better. Sure, Charlie's idea is good, but it isn't good enough. This is a matter of life and death, Bill, and nothing but the very best will do."
    And so Bill Wilson, having heard for the first time the voice of what he would later term and praise as "the group conscience," had obeyed it and had politely declined Towns' generous offer. Now, some six months later, Bill knew that he need have no fear that any difference in attitude towards "professionalism" could jeopardize the tenuous unity between the New York and Akron contingents of the fellowship. If anything, he realized, this shared, Oxford Group-derived understanding might furnish the sound basis for cementing the threatened unity. Wilson adjusted his argument to meet the needs of the situation at hand. The special importance of a book, he pointed out, would be to demonstrate that the program was not the property of professionals, was not for sale.
    Given this sense and this concern, prior funding for publication was imperitive. Since one advantage that the New Yorkers enjoyed from their very location as well as from the personal pasts of many of them was possible access to persons of wealth, Bill noted, their immediate responsibility was clear. They could more than pull their weight in the agreed upon projects--even all three of them--by obtaining the funds necessary to implement them.  The problem of' obtaining money, without strings attached became primary. The New York alcoholics drew up a list of wealthy prospects. In the alcoholics' hopeful expectation, the startling fact that they--sober--could approach potential donors who knew them to be hopeless drunks would provide the best proof possible of the worth of the program they were promoting. To their very real astonishment, then, they obtained neither one cent nor a single promise of support. "Some of the wealthy exhibited mild concern and sympathy, but they were not really interested. Almost unanimously they seemed to think that tuberculosis, cancer, and the Red Cross were better charity investments. Why should they try to revive a lot of down-and-out alcoholics who had brought their troubles upon themselves? In great dejection we finally saw that drunks as objects of large charity might never be a popular cause."
    Angry and depressed, Wilson vented his spleen to his brother-in-law, Dr. Leonard V. Strong, in a "diatribe about the stinginess and shortsightedness of the rich." Bill had chosen his listener well and perhaps craftily. Leonard Strong was a close friend of Willard Richardson, the deeply religious man who administered the private charities of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. After hearing out his wife's brother, the doctor called his well-placed friend, and the next day introduced Wilson to him in person. Richardson, an ordained minister, showed interest, and so in late December a meeting was arranged, to be "held in Mr. Rockefeller's private board room." Besides Richardson, Bill Wilson and Leonard Strong, in attendance were to be: Albert Scott, Chairman of the Trustees of Riverside Church; Frank Amos, an advertising man close to Rockefeller; and A. LeRov Chipman, an associate who looked after some of Rockefeller's personal affairs. Dr. William Silkworth, Dr. Bob Smith, and some of both the Akron and the New York alcoholics were also to attend.
    The meeting proved historic but began awkwardly. As the Rockefeller coterie waited to hear the presentation of the strangers who had attracted their attention by such a round-about route, the alcoholics for once sat mute--awed as much by the trappings of the room as by the wealth and power of their hosts. Finally, someone suggested that each alcoholic tell his story. The successive tales of misery, degradation, hopeless compulsion, and finally sober salvation made a deep impression. When the last alcoholic ended his pilgrim's tale, Albert Scott, who had chaired the meeting, stood up at the head of' the table and exclaimed, "Why, this is first century Christianity! What can we do to help?"
    The longed-for and eagerly sought-after moment had come. Wilson spoke up, "going for broke." He mentioned the need for money, for paid workers, chains of hospitals, and especially literature, stressing the urgency as well as the worthiness of his appeal. Dr. Silkworth and the rest of the contingent--even those from Akron had been moved by Bill's plea and the proximity of assistance--enthusiastically seconded all the points made, noting with satisfaction nods of agreement among the assembled advisors to great wealth. But then Albert Scott spoke up with yet another question, one which followed up his earlier query from an unanticipated direction: "Won't money spoil this thing?"
    Discussion resumed along lines not very different from those first laid down in Akron a month before. Toward its end, agreement was reached that whatever the final decision, the enterprise--yet unnamed--surely needed some money. Frank Amos offered to investigate, proposing that his findings could then serve as the basis for a direct presentation to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Wilson and Smith, still hopeful and enthusiastic, suggested that Amos look first at Akron--it was the older and larger group, and Dr. Bob's financial needs were the more pressing.
    Conflicting memories veil the outcome of this journey, the next step in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. According to Henrietta Seiberling, she and others convinced Amos that money would indeed "spoil this thing," and he so reported to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who agreed. In Bill Wilson's memory Amos returned from Akron as enthusiastic as were the New York alcoholics, and "he recommended that Mr. Rockefeller grant us $50,000just as a starter." Wilson reported that "Uncle Dick" Richardson became just as enthusiastic, finding in this "conjunction of medicine, religion, and a great good work" something uniquely worthy of the Rockefeller beneficence. It was John D. himself, according to Wilson, who expressed again the concern of Albert Scott. On the basis that money would spoil any attempted living out of first century Christianity, the world's richest man flatly refused to fund the enterprise. One concession, however, Rockefeller did make: $5,000 was placed in the treasury of Riverside Church to furnish necessary temporary assistance to Bill and Dr. Bob Smith.
    Bill Wilson had, at the time of' these early 1938 events, come to his perception of the necessity of "deflation at depth" for the individual alcoholic. He had not yet extended this insight to the newly formed and yet unnamed group of non-drinking alcoholics that would become Alcoholics Anonymous. Sensing that Richardson, Amos, Chipman, and Strong were not in complete agreement with Rockefeller, Wilson sought further meetings with these four, hoping through them to continue soliciting other persons of wealth. From this beginning came--in the Spring of 1938--the Alcoholic Foundation, which eventually evolved into the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous. Among its first trustees were Richardson, Amos, Chipman, and Strong, and thus began the long and later troublesome tradition that made a majority of the organization's trustees non-alcoholics. In the circumstances of this origin was rooted another important development in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. Because of the legal impossibility of defining "alcoholic," the group formalized itself under a simple trust agreement rather than by seeking any kind of legal charter.
    The Spring of 1938 was further significant, but not because of any success of the Foundation as its end had been conceived. The money raising efforts "fizzled out. . . . It looked like the end of the line. But the idea of a book remained. Bill Wilson, whose writing experience had been confined to the company reports which he had submitted to Wall Street brokers during his 1920s personal heyday, found that he did not know how to begin a work of the scope contemplated. Weighed down by many grand ideas and hopes, he felt driven by a need to tell it all, and the impossibility of this for a time inhibited him from even beginning. Dr. Bob advised, as always, "Keep it simple." Trustees Frank Amos and LeRoy Chipman requested promotional literature for their fundraising efforts; and in reply to Wilson's query about what they wanted, the non-alcoholic trustees pointed back to the fact that their own interest and enthusiasm had been awakened first by what they had heard at the December 1937 meeting--the stories of the assembled alcoholics. Wilson therefore produced what became the first two chapters of' Alcoholics Anonymous: "Bill's Story" and "There Is A Solution." Whether these were drafts for a book or promotional literature was not quite clear to Bill. What became increasingly clear was that whether primarily because of the titillating view of the underside of human life afforded, or primarily because of the potential for identification, or primarily because a pragmatic people responded to and thrived upon experience, the main marketable commodity that any alcoholic had to offer was his story. Himself a product of all that pragmatism, Bill Wilson did not think in terms of "primarilies."
    A similar realization took place among the New York alcoholics. Their Oxford Group origins had acquainted them with the long religious and psychological tradition of the usefulness of confession. For the Oxford Group, this carried some connotation of "public"--although there was the distinction between "sharing for confession" which was private and "sharing for witness," which, of its nature, was public. A difference of opinion over this distinction, indeed, had been one factor in the New York alcoholics' departure from the Oxford Group, as had been the increased "group guidance" which Wilson found especially oppressive.
    But the separation from the Buchmanites having taken place, the alcoholics had to decide what was to be done at their own meetings. Aimed as this early experience was at potential adherents with whom some identification had to be established, the telling and re-telling of "stories" began un-self-consciously to develop into the practice that best embodied the core therapeutic process of what would soon become Alcoholics Anonymous. The book itself furthered this development. The remote internal pull to the publication of 41coholics Anonymous was Bill's and Dr. Bob's November 1937 vision. The proximate external push came from an early fall 1938 meeting arranged by trustee Frank Amos between Bill Wilson and Eugene Exman, religious editor of Harper Brothers publishers. As attractive as Bill found the $1,500 advance promised him, the more promotionally-inclined New York spokesman for the rapidly developing "group conscience" decided that the fellowship should own its own book, and further that if it had enough merit to prompt an advance from Harper's, the book could solve their financial problems and so show up the thus far unproductive Trustees and Foundation. The decision was made to form a stock company, and "Works Publishing, Inc." was born.
    In 1953, Works Publishing, Inc. would become A.A. Publishing, Inc., and finally, in 1959, A.A. World Services, Inc., but its original name bore a telling significance in the early history of Alcoholics Anonymous. According to most of the New York alcoholics at the time the name "Works Publishing" was chosen, "This name derived from a common expression, used in the group, "It works." According to the early Akronites, the "Works" in "Works Publishing" reflected the St. James quotation that had played such a prominent part in the "infusion of spirituality" during that first summer of 1935. The book was to be the first of the fellowship's "works" following out the Jamesian call to live faith externally--by works. Both interpretations were true--each in its own way. Perhaps Wilson even consciously used the ambiguity inherent in the word Works. It reflected the New Yorkers' fascination with and promotional stress on proven results; at the same time, it reassured the Akronites still hesitant about even this project. They would be encouraged when they heard this echo of "Anne Smith's favorite quote.
    Meanwhile, through the final months of 1938 and into 1939, Bill Wilson labored at writing. As he slowly roughed out the chapters, Wilson read them to the weekly meeting at his Clinton Street home and sent them as well to Dr. Bob for comment by the Akronites. In New York especially, there was heated discussion. Thus it was a not-very-serene Bill Wilson who, after much hesitation and even stalling, finally set out to put down in words the heart of the program through which he and close to one hundred other alcoholics had achieved sobriety. Sprawling on his bed in an "anything but spiritual mood" one evening, Wilson poised his yellow pencil over the school tablet propped before him. Quickly, lest he block, he scrawled the words "How It Works" across the top of the page, then paused to meditate about the six-step procedure which his associates at the previous meeting had agreed pretty well summed up what they had learned from the Oxford Group:

1. We admitted that we were licked, that we were powerless over alcohol.
2. We made an inventory of our defects or sins.
3. We confessed or shared our shortcomings with another person in confidence.
4. We made restitution to all those we had harmed by our drinking.
5. We tried to help other alcoholics, with no thought of reward in money or prestige.
6. We prayed to whatever God we thought there was for power to practice these precepts.

    Too preachy, too goody-goody, he winced; also too complex and even unclear if one did not know the teachings of the Oxford Group. In any event, it was certainly no way to begin this chapter, and--against his will--the echo of "Oxford Group" reminded Bill again of the difference between the Akron and New York approaches. His correspondence and telephone conversations with Dr. Bob, and especially the surgeon's increasing leadership in Akron, had somewhat soothed that difficulty, but the problem remained unsolved. Quickly, before that thought could overwhelm him, Wilson began to write, seeking to set down a theme of hope--something on which all could agree. "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path." Bill's pencil began to fly over the paper, and his thoughts continued to flow as he wrote a paragraph beginning:

Half measures will avail you nothing. You stand at the turning point. Throw yourself under God's protection and care with complete abandon.
Now we think you can take it! Here are the steps we took our program of recovery:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that God could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly on our knees asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

    Wilson paused. His intention had been to "break up into smaller pieces . . . our six chunks of truth . . . to be as clear and comprehensible as possible, [leaving] not a single loophole through which the rationalizing alcoholic could wriggle out." Almost idly, he began to number the new steps: "They added up to twelve. Somehow this number seemed significant. Without any special rhyme or reason I connected them with the twelve apostles. Feeling greatly relieved now, I commenced to reread the draft. Debate began almost immediately, as visitors arrived and Bill completed his first rereading aloud to them. Three points of view emerged. "Conservatives . . . thought that the book ought to be Christian in the doctrinal sense of the word and that it should say so"; "liberals" who "had no objection to the use of the word 'God' throughout the book, but . . . were dead set against any other theological proposition"; and the "radical left wing . . . the atheists and agnostics" who "wanted the word 'God' deleted from the book entirely. . . . They wanted psychological book which would lure the alcoholic in. Once in, the prospect could take God or leave Him alone as he wished." Caught in this apparently inescapable cross fire, Wilson asked for a truce. Despairing of' satisfying everyone, he finally secured temporary agreement that he would be the final judge of what the book would say.
    Wilson returned to his writing only to discover another problem. The most important parts of any book that sought to capture the attention and to change the habits of readers, he realized, were the beginning and the end. The beginning, after one false start, had posed no problem. His own story, after all, was the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous. But how to conclude tortured him--briefly. Bill's first efforts proved invariably too "preachy" - a quality that over the years jarred many when they came to the conclusion of the substantive part of the book ,A1coholics Anonymous, for neither Wilson nor A.A. ever did solve this problem:

Abandon yourself' to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.
May God bless you and keep you - until then.

    Such or a similar conclusion, Wilson felt understandably, might move a few readers to jump up and shout "Amen." It was hardly likely, experience had taught, to induce many to try the program. In that realization, however, gleamed the light of a solution. "Experience had taught" that what made the program work was the telling of their stories by now sober alcoholics. In the weeks during which Bill Wilson wrestled with the problem of how to conclude, he was reading what he had written to those who gathered at his home each Tuesday evening. From this practice and experience emerged the obvious solution of "the story or case history section" which not only concludes but comprises well over half the bulk of Alcoholics Anonymous. The main criticism that his hearers offered Wilson was that there was not enough "evidence in the form of living proof" that the program did indeed work. The decision to include a segment, "The Doctor's Opinion," in which Dr. Silkworth set forth his understanding of alcoholism and his endorsement of Alcoholics Anonymous was one step to meet this concern. But this piece, too, when submitted, ended by speaking of prayer and "mental uplift," and so it ultimately served as informal preface rather than substantive conclusions.
    Meanwhile, the telling of stories emerged in another, less direct, fashion as the best "evidence in the form of living proof " and--more--the very thing that made the program work. As the weeks of Bill's manuscript reading wore on, a division arose which seemed to threaten the unity of the New York group itself. The "oldtimers" who dated from 1936 and early 1937 shared Bill's enthusiasm for publication. They looked forward each week to hearing the work-in-progress and to discussing if not arguing over Bill's ideas and presentation. Those more recently arrived and savoring the glow of new sobriety longed to share this experience with their former drinking companions--and besides, they were being told that this, indeed, was the only way in which they could keep their own sobriety. But to bring some drunk quavering in the early stages of withdrawal, or even someone recently discharged from Towns Hospital and half-hopefully seeking the "new way of life" of which he had heard, all the way over to Brooklyn to hear arguments about a book "just didn't work." Nobody else was getting sober, and according to what they had been taught, their own sobriety was being endangered.-""
    And so story-telling took on two sharper functions: as a reinforcement for "Remember When," especially useful when the "when" experience wasn't vividly present to them in the person of some still-shaking sufferer; and as both the bait to attract and the means to convey the message that "this program works" to whatever suffering contacts they could "scoop," in their colorful term. Even after they had left the Oxford Group, the nameless members of the fledgling fellowship continued to receive word of mouth referrals and requests for help. They responded and each told his own story, but each also experienced the frustration of alcoholic exceptionalism. Whether the response was phrased, "But you're different" or "But I'm different," these "'Twelfth Step calls" which attempted to carry the message even before the formulation of the 'Twelfth Step produced few new recruits. From this experience derived one specific of later A.A. practice: Twelfth Step calls were always to be made by at least two people. From this experience also came powerful impetus in a direction already marked out, the centrality of each drinker's story, especially at open meetings. Inclusion of a "story section" in Alcoholics Anonymous was, therefore, not a mere afterthought, but an experiential lesson learned in several diverse ways. While "How It Works" might contain the heart of the program, "How do you get it to work?" was a prior question, and one which could be laid hold of only by having the ex-drinkers tell their stories.
    Given the announced intention in each of the three editions of Alcoholics Anonymous to demonstrate through the story section the variety of people who had found sobriety in A.A., the limits to the diversity actually portrayed is instructive. In the first edition, eighteen of the twenty-eight stories were furnished by "Akronites who had substantial sobriety records for testimonial materials. At the time, of course, there were hardly enough "recovering alcoholics" to allow Wilson--and the others concerned with the breadth of the program--to choose among them. The problem was met by editing to accent different phases of the drinkers' common experience .
    For example: only thirteen of the twenty-eight stories indicated anything of childhood religious background, but of these, ten revealed very intensive training. Similarly, of the fifteen who mentioned education, eight clearly testified to college attendance, while the remaining seven stressed the fact that they did not even "finish school." Twelve--nine of these not having indicated early religious training--recalled their initial cynicism that any religious approach could help them.
    Social or economic class was less easily masked, for a common "bottom experience" was the loss of livelihood. Nineteen of the twenty-eight stories clearly revealed at least middle-class status: one doctor (Smith), three engineers, five in managerial or executive positions, two editors, six who owned their own businesses, plus a driver of Cadillacs who had supported "playgirls" and a woman who had frequented "teas" and "bridge parties.
    A special facet of the "bottom experience" of most alcoholics who successfully got the A.A. program was the painful awareness of dissonant behavior, that is, behavior under the influence of alcohol that clashed with ideals derived from social, educational, and religious background. Beyond being fired or losing their own businesses through drinking, five reported serious automobile accidents; eight, asylum hospitalization; and four, family break-ups. Also recounted were one suicide attempt, one case in which the drinker intentionally set fire to his own home, and instances of missing one's own engagement party, one's mother's funeral, and the birth of one's child.
'I'he almost perfectly typical story of Bill D., "A.A. Number Three," was not included. His "credentials," in fact the usual ones for "getting the program" in these early years, were apparently too blatant: highly respectable upper middle-class background, above average education, intensive youthful religious training which had since been rejected, and former social prominence recently nullified by such behavior as his assault on two nurses. Despite the omission of Bill D.'s story, Wilson and the others surely did wish to convey in their book the important point that such people could be alcoholics. The program of "Alcoholics Anonymous" would attract few customers as long as the term "alcoholic" evoked only the stereotyped image of a Skid-Row bum with a few days growth of beard, half-empty bottle of muscatel protruding from the top pocket of his ragged, too large overcoat, as in baggy trousers and outworn shoes he rummaged through a trash-barrel in search of the newspapers that would furnish that night's mattress and blanket. In the futures however, an even more troublesome problem would arise. Granted that the respectable, middle-class types portrayed could be alcoholics, were such the only type able to profit from the therapy of Alcoholics Anonymous? This concern, only latent in 1939, provided one motive for expanding the story section in succeeding editions of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous.
   By the end of January 1939, Wilson was ready to rush the book to press. Then, mindful of the dual origins of the program, .someone sounded a note of caution: alcoholics could be awfully critical people. What if the book contained medical errors, or--worse--proved offensive to some religious faith? So, four hundred multilith "loan copies" went out for evaluation. Comments were offered, but the most significant result occurred within the group itself. Wilson had written on the cover page of the multilith printing Alcoholic's Anonymous [sic) but many in New York--and more in Akron--found this unacceptable as a title. True, after leaving the Oxford Group in 1937, the New Yorkers had begun referring to themselves as a "nameless bunch of alcoholics," and by October 1938 some informally used the term "Alcoholics Anonymous." But from the time of the early 1938 financial endeavor, the search for a happy euphemism had led the non-drinking alcoholics to refer to themselves in writing as "The One Hundred Men Corporation," calling attention to the point that this was not a fluke enterprise--that the number of recoveries was substantial.
    A majority of the group in New York--and just about all in Akron--also felt it most important to transmit hope, and so the title The Way Out became very popular. For a time, Bill Wilson later confessed, he was attracted to this title because he contemplated expanding it to The Way Out: The B. W. Movement. Vigorously slapped down by the few on which he tested the idea, however, Bill began leaning toward Alcoholic Anonymous, in time carrying most of the New Yorkers with him but totally failing to convince the Akronites. Finally, a New York oldtimer, visiting his family farm in Maryland, was asked to investigate titles in the Library of Congress. He responded by telegram: "Library of Congress has 25 books The Way Out, 12 The Way . . . None Alcoholics Anonymous. All agreed that they deserved a better fate than being the thirteenth "'The Way," much less the twenty-sixth "The Way Out," and thus the book--and eventually the society--received its name.
    The distributed multiliths returned, but the readers' comments produced few alterations in the final text. One striking and significant change came at the suggestion of a New Jersey psychiatrist, Dr. Howard. Most of the "we haves" and "we trieds" that many new readers found so attractive after years of being preached at and ordered to were originally "yous" and "musts." It was Dr. Howard who suggested that the insanity and death so vividly portrayed in the book as consequences of alcoholism were so persuasive that no further force was needed. Thus A.A.'s debt to the medical profession deepened.
    From the world of religion," Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick returned his copy without criticism, expressed deepest satisfaction wiith it, and sent a favorable review of the book which he encouraged A.A. to release as it wished. Morgan R., the group's first Catholic adherent, presented the manuscript to a friend on the New York Archdiocesan Committee on Publications. That committee, Morgan reported, "had nothing but the best to say of our efforts. From their point of view the book was perfectly all right as far as it went. A very few editorial suggestions understood as for improvement rather than as criticism were readily and gratfully incorporated, especially in the section treating of prayer and meditation. Only one change was requested: at the conclusion of' Wilson's own story, he "had made a rhetorical flourish to the effect that 'we have found Heaven right here on this good old earth."' The committee gently suggested changing "Heaven" to "Utopia": "'After all, we Catholics are promising folks something much better later on!"'
    This reminder of his tendency to extremes and grandiosity made it easier for Wilson to accept a final change now more insistently demanded by the "radicals" among the New York group. These few, led by Hank P. and Jim B., became adamant in pressing their concern that there was "too much God" in the Twelve Steps. Bill had learned the dangers of his tendency toward "too much" from Dr. Howard and from Morgan's Catholic contacts. He apparently also was aware that at least one Catholic priest in Cleveland, although happy to see his parishioners sober, had forbidden two of them to journey to Akron to participate in what was to him obviously a religious gathering not under Catholic auspices. And so, Wilson accepted the utility of compromise:

. . . In Step Two we decided to describe God as a "Power greater than ourselves." In Steps Three and Eleven we inserted the words "God as we understand Him." From Step Seven we deleted the expression "on our knees." And, as a lead-in sentence to all the steps we wrote these words: "Here are the steps we took which are suggested as a Program of Recovery." A.A.'s Twelve Steps were to be suggestions only.

    Having argued over virtually everything else concerning their book's writing and publication, the newly sober alcoholics were hardly about to pass by in staid silence the one final opportunity for debate over their work: what price was to be charged for it? Stockholders Wilson and Hank P. argued for a price of $3.50. The book, in their view, was not only to spread the program, but to support its operations. Others, however, wondered--loudly--how many alcoholics needing the program would be able to spend that amount on a book in the spring of 1939. The prices they suggested ranged from $2.50 down to $1.00. Bill's telling of the tale had Hank finally winning out, but a touch of the Wilson humor appeared in the final compromise: "As a consolation to the contestants, we directed Mr. Blackwell to do the job on the thickest paper in his shop. The original volume proved to be so bulky that it became known as the 'Big Book.' Of course the idea was to convince the alcoholic that he was indeed getting his money's worth."
    If, after this happy outcome, Bill Wilson, alcoholic author, needed further deflation, he received it. A presumably promised and implicitly relied upon supportive article in The Reader's Digest did not come to be, the bank foreclosed the mortgage on the Clinton Street home, evicting Bill and Lois; all attempts through the summer of 1939 to obtain national magazine publicity for Alcoholics Anonymous failed; and despite a barrage of twenty thousand postcards unleashed upon every physician east of the Mississippi River and timed to coincide with the appearance of a New York alcoholic on nationwide radio, only two book orders materialized. Further, Hank began to manifest the first signs of his later paranoia, and the spreading suspicion that he had begun or would begin drinking again soon proved frighteningly accurate. Even Ebby the man who had brought to Bill Wilson the seed of what was to become Alcoholics Anonymous--had gone back to drinking and showed no sign of interest in stopping, even for "a day at a time." Through the hot summer of 1939, despite the fact that its program had finally been crystallized and published, the situation of Alcoholics Anonymous looked bleak indeed--and especially to its more inclined-to-enthusiasm and leaning-on-hope New York branch.
    Different yet related developments in Akron were as profoundly shaping the rapid evolution of the fellowship into Alcoholics Anonymous. Four significant occurrences are noteworthy, and all were separations: of the alcoholics within the Oxford Group: of the visiting Cleveland alcoholics from their Akron base: of Dr. Bob Smith's practice with alcoholics from Akron City hospital: and finally of' the newly self-conscious Alcoholics Anonymous from any Oxford Group association. Almost immediately upon Bill Wilson's departure from Akron in November 1937, and probably related to the co-founders' conversations, the Akron surgeon began to invite the alcoholics attending each Wednesday's Oxford Group meeting at the Williams home to gather separately, from the nonalcoholic Oxford Groupers after the regular session. The distinction between "closed meetings" (those for alcoholics only) and "open meetings" (those which non-alcoholics were welcome to attend) had not yet entered A.A. consciousness. Yet in New York at Clinton Street each week, after the "regular meeting" usually attended also by wives, alcoholics who wished to ask private questions about the program adjourned with Wilson to a smaller upstairs living room. The nature of the questions asked and the obvious utility of this practice in the all-important matter of honesty had no doubt led Bill to urge it upon Dr. Bob. In any case, by early 1938 the Akron alcoholics were meeting briefly but separately each week after the regular Oxford Group meeting.
    Early 1938 had also brought the first commuting Clevelanders to Akron each Wednesday evening. These men, after being sobered up by Dr. Bob at Akron City Hospital, had usually spent a few weeks in Akron--sharing the daily round of camaraderie that characterized these years. Eventually, however they had to return to their families an--if lucky--their jobs in Cleveland, and when they did so, the loss of that intense feeling of fellowship proved painful. Thus began the practice of the Clevelanders making the seventy-five mile round-trip by car each Wednesday, a further testimony to the importance they attached to this meeting.
    Growth in Cleveland was at first very slow, but by early 1939, nine to twelve of that city's alcoholics were making the journey each week. At this point there emerged both a problem and an opportunity. The dynamo powering the Cleveland effort, Clarence S., was a zealous pigeon-pursuer, one who at times literally hauled his prospects off bar stools. Given the nature of Cleveland's population as well as Clarence's open-minded zeal, roughly half of the alcoholics making the weekly journey turned out to be practicing Roman Catholics. Some of these, when first approached by Clarence, had shied away from "the religion" they perceived in his message. But in the agony of their active alcoholism, in their desire "to do anything" to get sober, and on his assurance that the Akron gatherings were in no way a "religious service," they had agreed to give it a try.
    Those who did give it a try got sober. Furthermore, despite all Clarence's assurances, some of them began again to worry that what went on at the Williams's in Akron each week was "a Protestant religious service." They needled Clarence about this on the drive back to Cleveland each week, and eventually at least two of them carried their concerns to their parish priest--who promptly pronounced Catholic attendance at the Wednesday meetings a violation of Church law and so forbade his charges to attend.
    Meanwhile, the mutililith draft of the text of Alcoholic's Anonymous had been circulating among the Akronites, and by mid-April of 1939 the first printed copies became available. Clarence at once borrowed from the title of the draft the name by which he began to refer to his group. This was not "the alcoholic squadron of' the Oxford Group" but "Alcoholics Anonymous," apparently the first clear use of the term as a specific and exclusive name. The mere change of name did little to allay Catholic suspicion, but the availability of a written and published program afforded another option. At the Williams's home on Wednesday, 10 May 1939, Clarence--with the approval of his traveling companions--announced that this would be their last visit to the Akron meeting. On the next evening, interested alcoholics were invited to a new meeting to be held each week in Cleveland at the home of Abby G., the most recently sober of the visitors. This would be a meeting, Clarence declared, of "Alcoholics Anonymous."
    The Akronites--alcoholics and non-alcoholic Oxford Grouper--were shaken by this development, and the situation remained confused for the next three years. Clarence S. was an abrasive personality. Many expressed less than regret at his departure and predicted that there would soon be further problems in Cleveland. In this they proved correct, but the difficulties within Cleveland A.A. did not move any alcoholics to return to Akron or to renew connections with the Oxford Group. Yet the Clevelanders did continue to send their "really difficult cases" back to Dr. Bob in Akron for treatment. Some of these, after their release from the hospital, continued the practice of remaining in Akron for a time in order to absorb the intensive daily fellowship. Having developed strong bonds of affection and especially a sense of loyalty to T. Henry Williams, a few of these, even after they had returned to Cleveland and had joined a group there, continued to journey to Akron each week for the Wednesday meeting--even after, in late 1939, Dr. Smith and most of the Akron alcoholics had separated from the Oxford Group setting of the Williams's home. Only in 1942, under the impact of World War II gasoline rationing, did the visits of this significant minority cease.
    Meanwhile yet another unforeseen occurrence took on significance because of early A.A.'s wariness of Roman Catholic opinion. Dr. Bob Smith had treated his alcoholics, under varying diagnoses, at two hospitals--Akron City and Green Cross. Hospitals at the time were reluctant to admit alcoholics under any diagnosis, less over moral or treatment concerns than because of the blunt fact that alcoholics rarely paid their bills. In the spring of 1939, administrators at the Akron City and Green Cross Hospitals, noting that Dr. Smith's mysterious patients owed over five thousand dollars, began scrutinizing his admissions more carefully.
    Since 1934, Dr. Bob had been on the visiting staff of St. Thomas Hospital, a Catholic institution in Akron. Much of his practice there was in the emergency room, and he had often lamented over coffee with the gentle nun who was the hospital's admissions officer the ravages caused by alcohol-related accidents and fights. In the course of one such conversation, in the spring of 1939, A.A.'s medical co-founder confessed his own alcoholism to this nun, Sister lgnatia of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine who staffed the facility. If the sister was surprised by this admission, she was less shocked by the request that followed it. "Sister, these people need medical treatment - I know. Do you think we could smuggle at least a couple who I'm sure I could help in here?" In later years both Sister lgnatia and Dr. Bob Smith relished a specific descriptive word and an ironic circumstance in describing the events of the next months. The sickly nun and the alcoholic surgeon cherished the thrill of "bootlegging" alcoholics into St. Thomas--most often under the diagnosis of "acute gastritis." And, to prevent discovery of their deception, they ensconced their patients who were in the most acute stages of withdrawal in the hospital's "flower room" - a nook previously used only for patients who had died and were awaiting removal to the morgue or funeral parlor."
    Soon, the nun saw some of the amazing results of Dr. Smith's ministrations and sought to learn more about his technique. Chatting with the endless stream of visitors who daily stopped by to visit her charges, Sister Ignatia learned of the Oxford Group connection and in this found another cause for possible concern if she were to ask the Sister Administrator openly to admit Dr. Smith's alcoholics. She took her problem to a young assistant pastor from the neighboring St. Martin's parish, a priest whose newly ordained zeal touched her heart and upon whom she was in the habit of calling when obvious alcoholics seemed in need of spiritual ministrations
    Father Vincent Haas listened quietly and carefully. Yes, it was wonderful what Dr. Smith was doing. He himself knew only frustration in his efforts at counseling alcoholics and their families--they just didn't seem to hear him. Yes, of course he would look in on one of "those meetings"--if Dr. Smith approved. So it was that one evening in early 1940 Father Haas trundled off to the King School where, by that time, the alcoholics were meeting. A profoundly spiritual man who saw the whole world through the prism of deep faith, the young priest found less "primitive Christianity" than "a movement just like the early Franciscans." Entranced, enthralled, and enthusiastic, he reported this perception and the warm welcome accorded him not only to Sister Ignatia but (at her urging) to her administrative superior, and Dr. Bob's St. Thomas practice found secure footing and sure support. The few Clevelanders who were visiting the King School each week of course carried this news back to their city and thus laid to rest the lingering bogey which still haunted some of that metropolis's more scrupulous Catholic alcoholics.
    Accidental circumstances had dictated that the first exposure of Father Haas was to "Alcoholics Anonymous" at the King School rather than to "the alcoholic squadron of the Oxford Group" at the Williams's home. Despite the departure of the Clevelanders, in the year 1939, "the alcoholic squadron of the Oxford Group increased in numbers and noise--until we took the place over." Bob E. gives the best account. "Instead of being the alcoholic squad of the Oxford Group, we were the main body there and we had the most to say and we were kind of running the thing." The committed Oxford Group members did not make this surrender easily. Bob E. says, "They had us in silence, listening for guidance half the time. . . . That's the way it started. That made the drunks very restless. We couldn't stand that--get the jitters, you know. As we increased in numbers and influence, that was almost cut out. They could see where their fundamentals were not being adhered to."
    Two further problems exacerbated the rapidly deteriorating situation. When the book A1coholics Anonymous was published and distributed, some in the Oxford Group complained that the program was "being commercialized." These Groupers had no use for the alcoholics' pride in their literary venture. Also, not only were the alcoholics themselves feeling uncomfortably crowded sprawled across the floor and on thirty folding chairs in the Williams's living room, but Clarence Williams spoke to Henrietta Seiberling about her increasing anxiety over "what was happening"--to her home as well as to Oxford Group principles.
    Finally, in late October 1939, most of the alcoholics left the Williams's home and began meeting at the home of Dr. Bob and Anne Smith. The friendship among Henrietta Seiberling, Clarence Williams, and Anne Smith had seemed about to snap under the strain from the two factions in the Group. The most poignant yet apparently accurate memory recalled: "We pulled out rather suddenly. There were some hot conversations on the telephone; it was a 3-way thing between Clarence, Annie--the women decided it, as was usually the case in a thing like that. 'Hen' and Clarence and Annie decided right there and Doc went along with Annie. But we pulled out all of a sudden without any warning and so we had no place to go, so we held our meeting from October to December at Doc's house. The Smith home, however, soon also became overcrowded with "between seventy to eighty people in my small living room and dining room." Before long, the alcoholics moved to the King School
    For a time some of the Akron Oxford Group had difficulty accepting the separation. T. Henrv Williams, of whom all factions always spoke most highly, finally shared some of his own pain and confusion with Bill and Lois Wilson. After apologizing for his delay in writing, he explained:

Have been waiting trying to think through what to tell you and still do not know what to say. The boys are all free, white, and twenty-one. Therefore I have nothing to hold them here. Bob came over and insisted that the boys were not satisfied and felt we were unfriendly and insisted they meet elsewhere. He also insisted I make a statement telling them they were free to leave. . . . Do you think we would turn the boys out after what it has meant to us? Our door is open and we love everyone of the boys and they will always be welcome.

    By late October 1939, Alcoholics Anonymous had come into a clear existence of its own. The book presenting its program had been published. Its final separation from Oxford Group sponsorship had been successfully completed. Most importantly, a new group flourished in a new city under the sole name "Alcoholics Anonymous," and without any direct impetus from either of A.A.'s co-founders."' Yet there were also problems. Differences of opinion about publicizing the book as well as about financing the other projects persisted, especially in New York. Tensions and controversies over the Oxford Group connection smoldered, especially in Akron. And in Cleveland, there began to appear the first hints that the further development of Alcoholics Anonymous--both that desired and that feared--not only would continue, but would continue to be beyond the fellowship's own total control.
    Sober as well as drunk, the members of Alcoholics Anonymous were learning they were limited and therefore needed others. But that need of others was also limited. Alcoholics Anonymous had been born--now it needed not only to grow but also to mature. Yet as was the case with the sobriety of its individual members, A.A.'s growth had to precede its maturity. In its growth as fellowship over the next two years, Alcoholics Anonymous honed its awareness of its style of needing others. By doing so, A.A. set the stage for its further development as program.


A Beautiful Mind- Sylvia Nasar
Chapter 44: A Man All Alone in a Strange World: Roanoke, 1967-70

"And then a Plank in Reason, broke, And I dropped down, and down -- And hit a World, at every plunge. . . . "  Emily Dickinson, Number 280

The summer Nash turned forty, in 1968, he looked into the mirror in the bathroom of his mother's apartment and saw what he later called "a cadaver, almost." Hollow-cheeked, sunken-eyed, gray-haired, with his shoulders hunched forward, he looked more like an old man than one just entering middle age. He wrote to a friend: "You should pity me . . . aging and drying processes have taken their toll." Images of death-in-life crowded his mind: in a letter to another friend he invoked the images of the Parsee "Towers of Silence" in Bombay, where followers of Zoroaster leave their dead to be devoured by vultures.
    He had been living in Roanoke for nearly a year. He still had his Rambler and some savings, but eight years of illness had exhausted his former wife and friends and ruined much of his credit with the world. He had nowhere else to go. For him, Roanoke--a pretty little city at the foot of the Appalachians and the headquarters of the Norfolk & Western Railroad -- was the end of the line.
    He lived with Virginia in a small garden apartment on Grandin Road . Martha and Charlie lived a few streets away. No one knew him there. The existence of someone with schizophrenia has been compared to that of the person living in a glass prison pounding on the walls, unable to be heard, yet very visible. Martha recalled in 1994: "Roanoke was not a good place to be. There were no intellectuals there. He'd be too much alone. He would wander around town whistling."
    On many days, he simply paced round and round the apartment, his long fingers curled around one of Virginia's delicate Japanese teacups (a souvenir of her long-ago summer in Berkeley), sipping Formosa oolong, whistling Bach. The sleepwalker's gait and fixed, faraway expression gave few hints of the vast unending dramas unfolding in his mind. "Apparently I am simply passing time visiting my mother," he wrote, "but actually I've been under persecutions which I'm hoping will ease."
    His daily rounds extended no farther than the library or the shop's at the of Grandin Road, but in his own mind, he traveled to the remotest reaches of globe: Cairo, Zebak, Kabul, Bangui, Thebes, Guyana, Mongolia. In these faraway places; he lived in refugee camps, foreign embassies, prisons, bomb shelters. Other times, he felt that he was inhabiting an inferno, a purgatory, or a polluted heaven ("a decayed rotting house infested by rats and termites and other vermin.") His identities, like the return addresses on his letters, were like the skins of an onion. Underneath each one lurked another: He was C.O.R.P.S.E. (a Palestinian Arab refugee), a great Japanese shogun, C1423, Esau, L'homme d'Or, Chin Hsiang, Job, Jorap Castro, Janos Norses, even, at times, a mouse. His companions were samurai, devils, prophets, Nazis, priests, and judges. Baleful deities--Napoleon, Iblis, Mora, Satan, Platinum Man, Titan, Nahipotleeron, Napoleon Shirkelgruber--threatened him. He lived in constant fear of annihilation, both of the world (genocide, Armageddon, the Apocalypse, Final Day of Judgment, Day of Resolution of Singularities) and of himself (death and bankruptcy). Certain dates struck him as ominous, among them May 29.
    Persistent, complex, and compelling delusions are among the defining symptoms of schizophrenia. Delusions are false beliefs, beliefs that constitute a dramatic rejection of consensual reality. Often, they involve misinterpretations of perceptions or experiences. They are thought, nowadays, to arise primarily because of the gross distortions in sensory data and the way thought and emotion are processed deep in the brain. Thus, their convoluted and mysterious logic is sometimes seen as the product of the mind's solitary struggle to make sense of the strange and uncanny. E. Fuller Torrey, a researcher at St. Elizabeth's in Washington, D.C., and author of Surviving Schizophrenia, calls them "logical outgrowths of what the brain is experiencing" as well as "heroic efforts to maintain some sort of mental equilibrium."
    The syndrome we now call schizophrenia was once called "dementia praecox," but, in fact, the delusional states typical of schizophrenia often have little in common with the dementia associated with, for example, Alzheimer's disease." Rather than cloudiness, confusion, and meaninglessness, there is hyperawareness, over-acuity and an uncanny wakefulness. Urgent preoccupations, elaborate rationales, and ingenious theories dominate. However literal, tangential, or self-contradictory, thought is not random but adheres to obscure and hard-to-understand rules. And the ability to accurately apprehend certain aspects of everyday reality remains curiously intact. Had anyone asked Nash what year it was or who was in the White House or where he was living, he could no doubt have answered perfectly accurately, had he wished to.
    Indeed, even as he entertained the most surreal notions, Nash displayed an ironic awareness that his insights were essentially private, unique to himself, and bound to seem strange or unbelievable to others. "This concept that I want to describe . . . will perhaps sound absurd," is the sort of preface of which he was quite capable. His sentences were filled with phrases like "consider," "as if," "may be thought of as," as if he were conducting a thought experiment or realizing that someone reading what he wrote would have to translate it into another language.
    Like all other manifestations of the syndrome, delusions are not unique to schizophrenia; they can be present in a variety of mental disorders, including mania, depression, and a variety of somatic illnesses. But the types of delusions that Nash suffered from are particularly characteristic of schizophrenia, specifically of paranoid schizophrenia, the variant of the syndrome from which Nash apparently suffered. Their content was, as it often is, both grandiose and persecutory, often shifting from one to the other in the space of moments or even including both at the same time. At different times, as we know, Nash thought of himself as uniquely powerful, as a prince or an emperor; at other times he thought of himself as extraordinarily weak and vulnerable, as a refugee or a defendant in a trial. As is quite typical, his beliefs were what is called referential, in that he believed that a host of environmental clues--from newspaper passages to particular numbers--were specifically directed at him and that he alone was capable of appreciating their true meaning. And his delusions were multiple, a particularly common feature of paranoid schizophrenia, although all were organized, in subtle ways, around coherent themes.
    Bizarreness is thought to be especially characteristic of schizophrenic delusions. Nash's delusions were clearly implausible, difficult to penetrate, and not obviously derived from life experiences. Yet they were less bizarre, on the whole, than many delusions reported by other people with schizophrenia, and their connections to Nash's life history and his immediate circumstances, though indirect, were often discernible (or would have been had anyone who knew him well been willing to study in the same spirit as the loyal wife of Balzac's Louis Lambent). Many people with schizophrenia believe that their thoughts have been captured by outside forces, or that outside forces have inserted thoughts into their minds, but such beliefs did not seem to play a predominant role in Nash's thinking. Occasionally, as in Rome, he might think that thoughts were being inserted directly into his mind via machines, or, as in Cambridge in early 1959, that his actions were being directed by God. But, by and large, Nash maintained a sense of himself, or selves, as the primary actor. And many of his beliefs--such as that he was a conscientious objector in danger of being drafted; that he was stateless; that mathematicians belonging to the American Mathematical Society were ruining his career; that various persons, posing as sympathizers, were conspiring, with malevolent intent, to have him incarcerated in a mental institution--were no more implausible than, say, a belief that one is being spied on by the police or the CIA. Thus, in a sense, the breakdown of reality and boundaries between self and outside world had limits for him, even in Roanoke.
    In particular, although Nash later referred to his delusional states as "the time of my irrationality," he kept the role of the thinker, the theorist, the scholar trying to make sense of complicated phenomena. He was "perfecting the ideology of liberation from slavery," finding "a simple method," creating "a model" or "a theory." The actions he referred to are mostly feats of mind, or involve language. At most, he was "negotiating" or "petitioning" or trying to persuade.
    His letters were Joycean monologues, written in a private language of his own invention, full of dreamlike logic and subtle non sequiturs. His theories were astronomical, game theoretical, geopolitical, and religious. And while, years later, Nash often referred to pleasant aspects of the delusional state, it seems clear that these waking dreams were extremely unpleasant, full of anxiety and dread. Before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, he explained, he was a left-wing Palestinian Arab refugee, a member of the PLO, and a refugee making a "g-indent" in Israel's border, petitioning Arab nations to protect him from "falling under the power of the Israeli state.'' Soon afterward, he imagined that he was a go board whose four sides were labeled Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, and Bluefield. He was covered with white stones representing Confucians and black stones representing Muhammadans. The "first-order" game was being played by his sons, John David and John Charles. The "second-order," derivative game was "an ideological conflict between me, personally and the Jews collectively."
    A few weeks later he was thinking of another go board whose four sides were labeled with cars that he had owned: Studebaker, Olds, Mercedes, Plymouth Belvedere. He thought it might be possible to construct "an elaborate oscilloscope display . . . a repentingness function." It seemed to him also that certain truths were "visible in the stars." He realized that Saturn is associated with Esau and Adam, with whom he identified, and that Titan, Saturn's second moon, was Jacob as well as an enemy of Buddha, Iblis. "I've discovered a B theory of Saturn. . . . The B theory is simply that Jack Bricker is Satan. `Iblisianism' is a frightening problem connected to the Final day of Judgement" "
    At this point, the grandiose delusions in which Nash was a powerful figure, the Prince of Peace, the Left Foot of God, and the Emperor of Antarctica were no longer in evidence; instead, the theme became predominantly persecutory. He discerned that "the root of all evil, as far as my personal life is concerned (life history) are Jews, in particular Jack Bricker who is Hitler, a trinity of evil comprised of Mora, Iblis and Napoleon." These were, he said, simply "Jack Bricker in relation to me.'' At another point, he said, referring to Bricker, "Imagine if there would be a person who pats a guy on the back . . . with compliments and praises, while at the same time stabbing him in the abdomen with a deadly rabbit punch." Seeing the picture so clearly, he concluded that he must petition the Jews and also mathematicians and Arabs, "so that they have the opportunity for redress of wrongs," which must, however, "not be too openly revealed." He also had the idea that he must turn to churches, foreign governments, and civil-rights organizations for help.
    In the story of Jacob and Esau, told in Genesis, Nash saw a parable full of meaning for his own life. Jacob and Esau are brothers, the sons of Isaac and Rebekah, who love each other. Esau is the elder, and his father, Isaac, loves him, but Rebekah, their mother, loves Jacob more. As the story unfolds, Esau is twice supplanted by Jacob. First, Jacob tricks Esau into making a bad bargain and selling his birthright. Then, Jacob steals the blessing of the now blind Isaac, who had intended it for Esau. He does so by impersonating his brother. When Esau discovers Jacob's deception, Isaac rejects his claim. "See, away from the fatness of the earth shall your home be/and away from the dew of heaven on high./By your sword you shall live,/and you shall serve your brother;/but where you break loose,/you shall break his yoke from your neck." Esau, full of hatred for his brother, tells himself, "The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my ` brother Jacob:'
    Nash believed that he had been cast out ("I've been in a situation of loss of favor") and ostracized. He was constantly threatened with bankruptcy and expropriation. "If accounts are held for a trustee, in effect, who is as good as defunct, through lack of `rational consistency.' . . .It's as if accounts are held for persons, suffering in an Inferno. They can never benefit from them because it's as if they were supposed to come from the Inferno to the bank offices and collect, but they need, as it were, a revolutionary ending of the Inferno before having any sort of possibility of benefiting from their accounts."
    There is a presumption of guilt. Punishment, penitence, contrition, atonement, confession, and repentance are constant themes--along with fears of exposure and the need for indirection and secrecy--and seem directly connected, but not limited, to his feelings about homosexuality. He refers to "the really dubious things that I have done in all the history of my personal life," including "draft dodging, truancy."
    Arrests, trials, and imprisonment were also recurring themes. Like Joseph K in Kafka's novel The Trial, Nash imagined that he was on trial "sufficiently complete in absentia." He recognizes that "it is as if the accused is his own chief accuser . . the road of self-accusation is a road that leads to death not redemption." He thinks of a "court of inquiry" investigating "the life histories and . . . interactions" of Jacob and Esau, whom he identifies as Bricker and himself.
    These are guilty, fearful dreams. Nash's state of imprisonment did not, it seems, refer to his illness, for he did not regard himself as ill except physically. It was existential. To Eleanor he wrote, "U see, U must sympathize more with the true needs of liberation, liberation from slavery, liberation from `castration,' liberation from prison, liberation from isolation . . . I'm a refugee, in fact, from false symbols and dangerous symbols.." At times, he felt that he was in danger of crucifixion.
    His own needs, he said, were "to be free, and to be safe and for friends." He was always, he said, "in fear of `death' (Indian style) through an Armageddon with Iblis . . . at the Day of Judgement." Even in these very dark hours he clung to a vision of liberation--which later became, more concretely, a wish for sexual liberation. "I'm hoping fervently to be saved (delivered) before reaching 40 in age," he had written a few weeks before his birthday. "One cannot substitute free life and love of the 40s for the lost possibilities of the 20s and 30s and also teens."
    Nash was acutely aware of the passage of time. "It does seem to me that I've been as if the victim of an excessively long wait for liberation. . . . It's as if there wasn't a ransom forthcoming, as if from Kuwait, which would have really substantially shortened the time of waiting for me." He was waiting for deliverance. "I see, it seems surprisingly clearly, how there's as it were, a. time of grace before that time, a precious time of grace which is forever lost if not seized carpe diem and fully effective in its significance." Nash was also hearing voices, voices that frightened him. "My head is as if a bloated windbag, with Voices which dispute within."
    Hallucinations can involve any of the senses--hearing, smell, taste, touch, sight--but voices, one or several, familiar or strange but distinct from one's own thoughts, are the most characteristic of schizophrenia. These are quite distinct from the hallucinations that are part of religious experience, or the humming inside one's head, hearing one's name called occasionally, or hallucinations that occur while falling asleep or waking up. The content of schizophrenic hallucinations can be benign, but they usually involve ridicule, criticism, and threats, typically related to the content of the delusional theme. The integration of voices with thought can produce an acute sense of reality.
    The so-called negative symptoms of schizophrenia are, most clinicians agree, even more crippling than the delusions and hallucinations. The terms used to describe them are derived from the Greek: affective flattening, alogia, and avolition. There was no trace of the sharp looks, the enthusiastic gesturing, the brash body language that announced, "I'm Nash with a capital N. His face was blank, his eyes empty, as if the fires of delusion had consumed everything that was once alive and left an empty husk.
    One would feel comforted if one could believe that Nash, of this terrible time in his life, was at least spared the sight of his own condition. One of the consequences of chronic schizophrenia, noted long ago and verified since by numerous studies, is a curious insensitivity to physical pain. This insensitivity is often so great that there are high rates of premature deaths from physical illnesses among schizophrenics, at least in the era when such people spent most of their lives in institutions. Might there not be a similar dulling that would anesthetize one to psychic pain? Possibly. But for Nash there were moments of lucid self-knowledge, unbearable in their sadness. "So long a time has passed. I feel there are many sad tragedies. Today I feel very sad and depressed."
    It is often difficult to distinguish the effects of disease from those of its treatment. But Nash's condition during the two and a half years he spent in Roanoke was probably almost purely the consequence of his disease. Six years had passed since Nash had received insulin treatments and well over a year since he had been taking neuroleptics regularly. While some of his memory loss was, no doubt, a. result of the insulin treatments of the first half of 1961 and some of his extreme quietness in the early months following his return to Cambridge no doubt reflected the side effects of Stelazine, his condition in Roanoke is a strong testament that lassitude, indifference, and the peculiarities of his thought were primarily the consequences of his illness and not of the early attempts to treat it. The popular view that antipsychotics were chemical straitjackets that suppressed clear thinking and voluntary activity seems not to be borne out in Nash's case. If anything, the only periods when he was relatively free of hallucinations, delusions, and the erosion of will were the periods following either insulin treatment or the use of antipsychotics. In other words, rather than reducing Nash to a zombie, medication seemed to have reduced zombielike behavior.  Nash was clearly among the majority of those with schizophrenia who benefited from traditional antipsychotics. These drugs were the only ones available between 1952 and 1988, when the more effective Clozapine arrived on the scene.
    Peter Newman, an economist at Johns Hopkins, was editing a volume of important contributions to mathematical economics. He wanted to include Nash's NAS note on Nash equilibrium. Newman states: "The first problem was finding him. I found him teaching or something at a small women's college near Roanoke. I wrote to him there to ask his permission to reprint the article. What I got back was an envelope on which my address was written in different-colored crayons. There was also a list of "yous" in different languages. Du, Vous, You, etc., and a plea for universal brotherhood. There was nothing inside the envelope at all. I then asked the in-house editor at the Johns Hopkins Press to call Nash. He did and he said it was the strangest telephone conversation he'd ever had in his life. Then we tried Solomon Lefschetz, since he was the one who sponsored the note. Calling Lefschetz wasn't easy either. Lefschetz only said, "Ah yes. He is not what he was." So I had to give it up. Later; when the book was reviewed, reviewers chided me for not including the Nash equilibrium."
    Nash was constantly fearful that Martha and Virginia would hospitalize him again. As he said in one letter, "It is the mechanism of how all the persons involved would collaborate in hospitalizing me which endangers me and which I fear." Most letters from this period end with a paragraph like the following: "Let me beg (humbly) of U that U will favor the view that I ought to be guarded against the danger of hospitalization in the mental hospital (involuntarily or 'falsely'), . . . simply for personal intellectual survival as a 'conscious' and 'reasonably conscientious' human being . . . and 'good memory retention.'"
    For Nash's mother,Virginia, Nash's illness was something that his sister, Martha, later called, in her tactful and understated way, "a private sorrow." Virginia never talked about it with the few acquaintances she had in Roanoke, mostly people she had met playing bridge, and only rarely with Martha. Her friends couldn't possibly have understood what it was like for her. It was also a practical nightmare. Nash was making so many long-distance telephone calls that Virginia had to put a lock on her phone.
    Martha, whose second child was born in 1969, was at least angry. "It was so frustrating day by day. You wondered, is this ever going to get any better?" She realized, at least, that Roanoke was not a kind environment. "Only one time did I ask for help," recalled Martha. "The minister stopped me after church and told me I should be helping my mother more. He didn't ask whether I needed help. Later on I called and asked would he come to call. He didn't come. The retired minister came but he wasn't the one I wanted."
    Virginia and Nash were nearly evicted from their apartment at one point Martha's voice is still full of outrage thirty years later. There had been a fire that started in the incinerator. Nash was home at the time. He called the fire department. "The landlord accused John of setting it," Martha recalled. He had talked to the neighbors, who were up in arms. They found this large, strange man who walked around the grounds of the apartment complex alarming. It was only by begging that Martha was able to convince the landlord to let Virginia and Nash move back in.
    Virginia died shortly before Thanksgiving in 1969. Afterward, Nash was sure there was something sinister about her death. He also felt that perhaps he had done wrong by going to the corner store to buy her whiskey. Martha recalled, "When Mother died, it was not a good time. We weren't close. He felt threatened. He felt that I would put him in a hospital." At this point, the mother of Nash's first son, Eleanor, got a court order to force Nash to continue child-support payments. When his money had run out, Virginia had taken over the payments. She also left small legacies for both her grandsons. Nash then lived briefly with Martha and Charlie, but Martha found it impossible to cope with her brother. "Once Mother was gone, I couldn't clean with him in my home. I was here with the children and he's wandering around drinking tea and whistling. He'd take ideas and twist them into something strange."
    Martha arranged to have Nash committed right after Christmas. She said: "After Mother died, I was afraid he'd leave town. I was hoping to get the hospital to appoint a committee so he could get Social Security and also get it for his son. We went to a judge. We got a court order. The court sent the police to pick him up. We had my mother's lawyer, Leonard Muse. You could get someone committed for observation. You didn't have to establish anything very drastic. In the hospital they decided whether to keep somebody. De Jarnette decided that John had paranoid ideas but that he was capable of maintaining himself." Nash was released from DeJarnette State Sanitorium in Staunton, Virginia, in February. He wrote a final letter to Martha, breaking off all relations with her because of her role in his hospitalization. Then he boarded a bus for Princeton.