Over the years, as a psychiatrist in Zurich, Switzerland, Carl Jung treated many people with a variety of mental health challenges and disorders. In 1931 he treated an American, Rowland H., who suffered from chronic alcoholism. His treatment was unsuccessful as Rowland’s condition became hopeless over time. He came to the conclusion the only possible cure was a spiritual experience.
Rowland took Jung’s advice to heart and joined the Oxford Group, a Christian evangelical movement in the United States. About 1934, he met Ebby Thacher at an Oxford meeting and shared the treatment experiences he had with Carl Jung and his advice to seek a spiritual transformation.
Ebby had found relief from his alcoholism in the simple spiritual practices of the Oxford Group which was an attempt to return to First Century Christianity. The program Ebby described to Bill involved taking a personal moral inventory, admitting to another person the wrongs done, making amends and restitution, and making a genuine effort to be of service to others. In order to obtain the power to overcome these problems, Ebby had been encouraged to call on God, as he understood Him for help.
Bill was deeply impressed by Ebby’s words, but was even more affected by Ebby’s example of action. Here was someone who drank like Bill drank – and yet Ebby was sober, due to a simple religious idea and a practical program of action. The results were an inexplicably different person. A miracle sat directly across the kitchen table from Bill. It was a message of hope – that God would do for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Ebby carried the message of the Oxford Group to Bill with great care and dedication—that recovery from alcoholism was possible using spiritual principles, but only if it was combined with practical actions. Bill Wilson never took another drink, and left Towns Hospital to dedicate the rest of his life to carrying the message to other alcoholics.
As a result of his own conversion experience from the Oxford principles and practices,, Bill W. adopted and adapted five of the fundamental principles into A.A. (self-survey, confession, restitution, service, and prayer/meditation). Ebby became the living proof these fundamental practices provided a conversion experience, which could result not only in sobriety but a new way of living.