Bill Wilson’s White Light Experience

In December of 1934 Bill Wilson was in Towns Hospital off Central Park in NYC for what would be his last detoxification. During this hospitalization Bill had a dramatic “spiritual experience.” Bill describes this dramatic experience in his history of A.A. (1957, p.63):

“My depression deepened unbearably and finally it seemed to me as though I were at the bottom of the pit. I still gagged badly on the notion of a Power greater than myself, but finally, just for the moment, the last vestige of my proud obstinacy was crushed. All at once I found myself crying out, ‘If there is a God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything, anything!’

Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in my mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing. And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, ‘So this is the God of the preachers!’ A great peace stole over me and I thought, ‘No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are still all right. Things are all right with God and His world.”

Bill W.’s Spiritual Experience from Language of the heart pg. 275

In “Language of the Heart” Bill W. writes again about his white light experience at the Towns Hospital.
“As most AAs have heard, I was the recipient in 1934 of a tremendous mystic experience or “illumination.” It was accompanied by a sense of intense white light, by a sudden gift of faith in the goodness of God, and by a profound conviction of his presence. At first it was very natural for me to feel that this experience staked me out for somebody very special.

But as I now look back upon this tremendous event, I can only feel very specially grateful. It now seems clear that the only special feature of my experience was its electric suddenness and the overwhelming and immediate conviction that it carried to me.
In all other respects, however, I am sure that my own experience was not in the least different from that received by every AA member who has strenuously practiced our recovery program. (Bill is trying desperately to let us AA’s know that a spiritual experience of the educational variety spread out through time is just as valuable, and it may be.  But then again not all AA’s go on after getting sober to start a miraculous movement of their own categorized as one of the most effective life changing movements of the century effecting millions in a good way Bill DID NOT WANT TO BE WORSHIPPED AS A GOD BECAUSE HE KNEW HE COULD NOT LIVE UP TO SUCH…IT WAS NOT FAIR TO HIM THEN NOR IS IT FAIR TO HIM NOW.  Propping Bill W. up as perfect reveals our own lack of emotional balance.)

Most AA’s must be comforted by the fact they have received a spiritual experience of the educational variety which has kept them sober .

Let’s face it, Bill W got his spiritual experience while lying desperate in a hospital room not while working the steps in AA, and it kept him sober for years.  Not to mention it drove him to start the program of AA.  I believe Bill got the experience because he had an obvious calling.  He was the man for the job appointed by our Higher Power and was infused with power and faith so he would be capable of helping millions.  His writings were inspired.  I do agree we all have the right to a God breathed spiritual experience if we seek it.  But not all of our calling is the same.  One person may save the alcoholic the other may save the entire Earth.  But clearly the key is seeking God with your heart.

How do we get a spiritual experience like Bill W did?

Notice what Bill said; “All at once I found myself crying out, ‘If there is a God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything, anything!”

Read the words and gain the knowledge but take a step further to wisdom by doing what Bill W. did.  Get desperate enough to reach out with your heart and God will answer with His Spirit.

But still let’s not worship the messenger here as so many AA’s do.  Bill was human like us and was no stranger to false humility.  He constantly downplayed his own value so as not to be seen as vain and prideful.  He guarded against false pride in a not-so-healthy way.  By being dishonest with himself and others.  True humility does not lie or belittle one’s self in a dishonest fashion.  True humility means we are aware of our own character defect patterns so we can guard against them.  Humility doesn’t downplay it’s good character.  Humility does not invalidate it’s good traits.

Why am I qualified to write about spiritual experiences in this way?  Well I have had plenty of my own even one of the dark variety during an overdose.  Not because I am better than anybody.  But rather because I was as desperate as Bill W.  and I asked God the same thing….”are you there?  Do you exist? And will you PLEASE HELP ME?  My most intense spiritual experience is shared here.  But also read the chapters on dreams and visions.  These too are spiritual experiences.  I also know the AA brand of spiritual awakening.  All these events are equally bless-ed.