As bizarre and tabloidesque as it sounds, Bill Wilson, co-founder of the religious organization Alcoholics Anonymous was a fervent spiritualist who believed in the power of Ouija boards and even channeled the other side in order to divine the details of the controversial twelve step program. Along with Wilson’s connection with the dead, he studied with Aldous Huxley in LSD experiments and even wrote letters to the deceased Carl Jung.
When looking at the origins of various organizations it’s always incredible how many of them were influenced by things that make their inception read like a strange occult novel. After he met Aldous Huxley at Yale University he began medical experimentation with the drug Lysergic Acid diethylamide along with his wife Lois and his spiritual advisor and friend Ed Dowling, a priest from the area. During the experience he claims to have undertaken a great spiritual journey and even wrote about it as confirmation to then deceased legendary psychologist Carl Jung of whom he was a great admirer.
When he was attempting to develop a system to cure addiction, Wilson turned to a Ouija board and made contact with a 15th century monk named Boniface, according to “The Soul of Sponsorship: The Friendship of Father Ed Dowling, S.J. and Bill Wilson in Letters” written by Robert Fitzgerald. This entity told Wilson, in what he and his wife had set aside as a room exclusively for divination, how to make a program that would succeed. Later as information of the source of the 12 step program leaked into the gradually thriving Alcoholics Anonymous group, many members considered it a massive scandal and several even left over the controversy. Despite this, Wilson and Lois held hundreds of seances in the presence of interested friends and contacted many different entities that guided their movements within the organization.
Sadly, Wilson’s own life ended as a result of complications through emphysema, which attacks the lungs as a result of years of cigarette smoking. He left behind a legacy that largely doesn’t repeat the aspects of strangeness that occurred in his life. Of course at the time LSD was being considered widely as a cure for many illnesses including addiction before Timothy Leary started to encourage masses of people to turn on, tune in, and drop out in the 1960’s. As for the Ouija Board, many influential people turned to the board for guidance, including the brilliant G.K. Chesterton and poet James Merrill.
It still comes to mind, who or what was the entity that ultimately wrote the 12 step program used even today in Alcoholics Anonymous? Was it a mere facet of Wilson’s subconscious guiding him in a focused meditative manner? Or was it something else moving his hand and guiding future generations of recovering alcoholics from beyond the grave? Of course many will say that Ouija boards are dangerous if you don’t know how to use them. There is no shortage of stories of those who thought contacting an evil entity would be fun, but ended up fighting for their sanity as they soon found themselves in the grips of a nightmarish and malevolent presence.