In the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, the terms “Spiritual Experience” and “Spiritual Awakening” have become synonymous. The 1st edition of Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” published in 1939 used the term “Spiritual Experience” in Step 12; later editions changed the term to “Spiritual Awakening.” In Bill’s Story, his spiritual experience is described on page 14 in Chapter 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous’ basic text. A more detailed explanation can be found where Dr. Jung carefully described the concept to Rowland H. on page 27 in Chapter 2 – There Is A Solution.
Because of confusion regarding the meaning of the terms, Appendix II was added to the Big Book fifty years ago to explain that a Spiritual Experience is relatively sudden, lasting only minutes or perhaps a few hours while a Spiritual Awakening is a gradual transformation that can take days, weeks, months or even longer; Prof. William James described a spiritual awakening as an experience of the educational variety. In his writings, Bill W. explained the difference, noting that among AA members who perform all the spiritual exercises described as “the steps”, experiences like his are far less common than spiritual awakenings.
In any event, the result is the same; the individual has a personality change sufficient to recover from alcoholism.
For further explanation, see Appendix II — “Spiritual Experience” on p 567 in the book Alcoholics Anonymous.
It begins: “The terms “spiritual experience” and “spiritual awakening” are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms…”