There’s a lot to be said regarding the nature of the spiritual experience, but for now I just want to focus on Dr. Silkworth’s perception, that of an outside observer of men who experienced this dramatic change.
On page xxxi, he relates a couple of cases in which men who were beyond human aid were dramatically transformed after undergoing this psychic change. The important point is that there was something remarkably different about these men, something that could be observed directly.
We’ve all experienced it. The hopeless newcomer who keeps trudging back to meetings, drinking sporadically, never seeming to “get it.” And then, one day, there is this noticeable transformation. We’ve all seen it and we all recognize it. But what exactly is it that we see, that Dr. Silkworth saw?
In Bill’s talk at Guest House, he makes this observation:
And this was the awful dilemma into which I was cast by my friend Ebby, bringing, on the one side, all of this bad news, but on the other side, the spectacle of his own release, and that was the word to use. He didn’t say he was on the water-wagon; the obsession had just left him as soon as he became willing to try on the basis of these principles, and, indeed, as he became willing to appeal to whatever God there might be. And this was reducing the theological requirements an awful lot.
Well, I went on drinking about three weeks, and in no waking hour could I forget the face of my friend, a spectacle of release as I looked out through a haze of gin into his face, as he pitched this “synthesis” at me.
Bill saw in Ebby an inescapable “spectacle of release.” And at no time could he get it out of his head. The “attraction” of AA is in the faces of those who have been released. Bill likens it to the joy of the survivors of a shipwreck.He observes later in the book “that cheerfulness and laughter makes for usefulness,” and that newcomers would not be attracted if they saw no joy in our lives.
So I guess I can sum it up like this: that “something” we see when someone undergoes that psychic change is nothing more nor less than the face of a prisoner released from bondage. My first impression of AA was that these people smoked a lot, drank a lot of coffee, and were just too damned happy. And that was what I couldn’t get out of my head.
The real lesson and challenge for us who have been at this thing for a while is to remember that we’re being watched. We’re being watched by people who want a way out but aren’t sure they want our way. So smile, laugh and spread that joy around. When I hear a room full of AAs laughing, I think I hear a hint of God’s laughter as He welcomes his lost children home.