One of the most significant of the unholy influences that shaped A.A. co-founder Bill Wilson’s spirituality was the Swedenborgian religion.
Swedenborgians do not believe that Salvation is exclusively through Jesus Christ. They love the Bible, even while denying biblical doctrine that Jesus is Savior.
The Swedenborgian religion is founded on the teachings/writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), a brilliant man who made contributions in fields such as metallurgy, zoology, physics, and many others. Demonically deceived, Swedenborg believed that the true meaning of the Bible had been revealed to him by the Lord. It was his destiny, he believed, to explain this new revelation through his writing.
Bill Wilson married into a Swedenborgian family. In fact, according to a biography, “Bill learned that [Lois’ family] were all Swedenborgians, and the mystic aspect of the faith so fascinated them they vowed to explore it more deeply one day.”
Swedenborgian scholar Robert D. Merrill states, “In her autobiography, ‘Lois Remembers,‘ she recounts fond memories of her New Church home life, including her delight in Sunday dinner discussions with the visiting minister and other friends from the church. She tells of the strength and guidance she received from Swedenborg’s teachings… In January of 1918 Bill and Lois were married in the Swedenborgian church in Brooklyn, New York.”
This is not to say that Bill Wilson became a Swedenborgian per se, yet his obsession with spiritualism and view of Christ and the Bible must be attributed, at least in part, to exposure to Swedenborgian teachings. Wilson’s understanding of the Bible was further twisted by his acceptance of the Scripture-quoting but Christ-rejecting teachings of New Thought purveyor Emmet Fox.
These influences are why any reference Wilson made to Christ or the Bible should always be taken with a grain of salt.
Further Swedenborgian influence on Wilson came through William James, who himself came from a Swedenborgian family.
As a quick aside, if you want to read about Swedenborg’s twelve steps, which he wrote about long before Bill Wilson was born, go HERE.
Interestingly enough, Bill’s wife, Lois Wilson, had a grandfather who was a Swedenborgian minister. N.C. Burnham’s Swedenborgian book, Discreet Degrees, can be found HERE.
1. Robert Thomsen, Bill W., pg.85
2. DOCTRINAL RELATIONSHIPS AMONG ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, THE OXFORD GROUP, AND THE NEW CHURCH, Robert D. Merrill