AA’s Bill Wilson’s meditation, visualization

In Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA, writes: “We want the good that is in all of us, even the worst of us, to flower and grow. Most certainly we shall need bracing air and an abundance of sunlight; nothing much can grow in the dark. Meditation is our step out into the sun. How, then, shall we meditate?”[1] (Bold mine)


According to Wilson, “The actual experience of meditation and prayer across the centuries is, of course, immense. The world’s libraries and places of worship are a treasure trove for all seekers.”[2]

Wilson, in other words, was open to meditative knowledge wherever it could be found–whether in Hinduism, Buddhism, distant libraries, the local Catholic church, or anywhere else.

After introducing his readers to the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, he writes, “As beginners in meditation, we might now reread this prayer very slowly, savoring every word and trying to take in the deep meaning of each phrase and idea. It will help if we can drop all resistance to what our friend says. For in meditation, debate has no place. We rest quietly with the thoughts of someone who knows, so that we many experience and learn.”[3]

Then what? Wilson writes, “As though lying upon a sunlit beach, let us relax and breathe deeply of the spiritual atmosphere with which the grace of this prayer surrounds us. Let us become willing to partake and be strengthened and be lifted up by the sheer spiritual power, beauty and love of which these magnificent words are the carriers. Let us look now upon the sea and ponder what its mystery is; and let us lift our eyes to the far horizon, beyond which we shall seek all those wonders unseen.”[4]

Was this significant? According to AA historian Glen C., “Bill W. then introduces a new technique in the 12 & 12, on page 100, where he suggests using guided imagery and visualization to help calm ourselves down when we are upset, angry, and anxious.  This was not part of traditional western spirituality, but modern psychologists have now come to realize how effective this is, and frequently recommend this as a good way to re-center ourselves.”[5] (Bold mine)

No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an agent of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves and servants of righteousness… (2 Corinthians 11: 14-15) 


1. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg. 98

2. Ibid., pg. 98

3. Ibid., pg. 99-100

4. Ibid., pg. 100

5. Twelve Step Meditations, Part Three,under title of “Guided Imagery,” by AA historian Glen C. http://westbalto.a-1associates.com/FOR%20THE%20NEWBY/twelvestep_meditation.htm

Bonus: What spirit (?) was given credit for helping Bill Wilson write this book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions? Article: http://mywordlikefire.wordpress.com/2008/09/24/seances-spirits-and-12-steps/

Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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