Reply to “Rich Dubiel Meets Glenn C.”

Editor’s Note: Today we feature the second response by Glenn C. to his interlocutors in our roundtable. Stay tuned for more this Thursday!

WashingtonWe would be severely disparaging of scholars in American History and American Studies if all they ever published about the period of the American Revolution were biographies of George Washington. This is not to minimize the importance of the first president, but there were many other people who also made major and necessary contributions. And yet AA history studies has at times tended to focus so much on Bill Wilson and his small circle of close associates, that one has to look far for studies on many other people and topics.

Rich Dubiel’s 2004 book The Road to Fellowship: The Role of the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club in the Development of Alcoholics Anonymous, was however one of the major works which endeavored to significantly broaden the history of the AA movement. [1] I have tried to contribute to the wider history of AA myself in some of the books I have written and in the materials I have posted on the Hindsfoot Foundation website. So I was thrilled when Ernie Kurz had Rich contact me, and I realized that Rich and I were like-minded souls in so many ways. His book expanded my own horizons enormously. I tremendously enjoyed every minute of getting the book ready for print. And it was a book that was going to have an impact.

Rowland Hazard, Not in 1931

The first bombshell that Rich’s book dropped was when he proved that the “orthodox” or traditional AA answer to when Rowland Hazard III was psychoanalyzed by Carl Jung — 1931 — could not possibly be correct. He showed from a detailed analysis of correspondence and financial records in the Hazard family papers that there was no time in Rowland Hazard’s busy schedule during 1931 in which he could have spent an extensive period in Switzerland undergoing treatment by Jung. What made this a bombshell was that if Rowland could not have gone to Jung in that year — the date given in all the older AA literature — then did he in fact undergo treatment by Jung at all? Was the whole story only a myth?

But in 2006, two years after Prof. Dubiel’s book came out, two other excellent researchers (Cora Finch and Amy Colwell Bluhm), working totally independently, established that Rowland had in fact arrived in Zurich in May 1926 — five years earlier than the traditional date — and wrote back to his family about how well his sessions with Jung were progressing. It was only the date that was wrong, not the fundamental fact of his undergoing treatment by Jung.

Amy Colwell Bluhm, Ph.D., a good Jung scholar, published her findings in a journal article called “Verification of C. G. Jung’s analysis of Rowland Hazard and the history of Alcoholics Anonymous.” [2] Cora Finch’s equally good article can be read online in a piece called “Stellar Fire: Carl Jung, a New England Family, and the Risks of Anecdote.” [3] Finch’s work, combined with Prof. Dubiel’s book, gives a detailed picture of Rowland Hazard’s life and struggles with alcoholism.  Finch’s researches also put to rest another piece of what had become AA “orthodoxy” to many AA members. The Joe and Charlie tapes said that Rowland Hazard first tried to make appointments with Freud and Adler. When neither of them would take him as a patient, he decided to go to Carl Jung for help. But Finch shows that in fact Rowland Hazard had two family members who were already in connection with Jung and heartily recommended him, which means that Jung was in fact almost certainly Rowland’s first choice. [4]

The central subject of Dubiel’s book was of course the EMJC (the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club), [5] which was the only other movement during the first half of the twentieth century which had the success rate of AA in treating alcoholics (as even the people in the New York AA office readily agreed back at that time). The EMJC movement was begun in 1906 by the Rev. Dr. Elwood Worcester (1862-1940), rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston, who established a clinic at his church which worked with great effectiveness on chronic alcoholics from 1904 until his retirement in 1929.

Jacoby-Club-ArticleThe Jacoby Club was started in 1908 by Ernest Jacoby, a rubber merchant who was a member of the church, who began sponsoring Saturday night get-togethers, patterned on Worcester’s program, as “a meeting place for Boston citizens recovering from alcoholism.” It continued to operate for many years after Rev. Worcester retired from his pastorate in 1929, and the Jacoby Club was still helping alcoholics get sober with great effectiveness in Boston when AA first arrived in that city.

Rich Dubiel also traces the indirect influence of the Emmanuel Movement on early A.A. through Rowland Hazard III and Richard R. Peabody, and the more direct influence of the Jacoby Club via early Boston A.A., which first began meeting regularly in 1940–1941 in the Jacoby Club quarters at 159 Newbury Street, just west of the Public Gardens and Boston Common.

In the same way that New York and Akron AA began by meeting together with non-alcoholics at Oxford Group gatherings, the first AA meetings in Boston were held jointly with Jacoby Club members. The influence of this early Boston-style EMJC-influenced AA was subsequently passed on to the rest of AA through the second most published Alcoholics Anonymous author, Richmond Walker and his Twenty-Four Hours a Day book. Walker had first tried to get sober through the Oxford Group — Prof. Travis has written about the influence of the Oxford Group on him, beginning in 1939 — but Walker was unable to achieve lasting freedom from drinking there. He did not achieve real sobriety until he joined the little AA group in Boston in May 1942, right after the alcoholics began meeting separately from the Jacoby Club, which meant that all the AA “old-timers” in Boston AA who were teaching him had in fact learned the AA program in Jacoby Club meetings. [6] Rich’s work was a fountainhead of major AA spiritual and cognitive-behavioral psychological ideas, many of which still remain to be explored by younger historians of Alcoholics Anonymous in greater detail.

The way an interest in Paul Tillich has linked Rich and me is fascinating. Rich has written a piece called “Paul Tillich: Key Philosophical Theologian of the Mid-Twentieth Century,” giving his interpretation of that great figure. [7] For those who do not know who Tillich was, he was a Christian existentialist theologian, a Lutheran, who was forced to leave Germany by the Nazis in 1933, and came to Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he became a colleague of the great American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (the author of the Serenity Prayer) and Harry Emerson Fosdick (one of the first prominent pastors to give public praise to the new AA movement).

I had my earliest training in physical chemistry and nuclear physics, but decided in the summer of 1961 (after doing half of the course work for a doctorate at Iowa State University) to go to seminary instead (at Southern Methodist University). I must admit that at that time, my initial fear was that classes at a Methodist seminary would be no more than glorified children’s Sunday School classes and vacation bible school type material.

paul tillich
Paul Tillich

But an associate pastor at the Methodist Church which I was attending loaned me a copy of Paul Tillich’s Dynamics of Faith, which I quickly followed up with Tillich’s The Courage to Be [8] — both of them masterpieces of modern existentialist thought — and I suddenly realized that the real study of theology, at that level, could be just as intellectually demanding as learning about Einstein’s theory of relativity and the Schrödinger wave equation in my graduate classes at Iowa State.  And then while I was at seminary, I would read from the German existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time over my morning coffee. [9] So I ended up as a Methodist pastor who enjoyed reading existentialist philosophy. Many years later, when I became friends with Ernest Kurtz, I found that he had gone to a Roman Catholic seminary, and was as deeply affected by the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre as I was by Tillich and Heidegger.  So there were the three of us — Rich Dubiel, Ernest Kurtz, and myself — all of us second generation AA, and all of us fascinated with the application of modern existentialist philosophy to the better understanding of the twelve step program.

I am not sure that there was any direct influence of existentialist philosophy and theology on the early AA movement, and suspect that the similarities come from the Zeitgeist of the period right after the First World War. But the common motifs are there: the instruction in AA’s third step to invent our own concept of what Tillich called the “ground of being,” for example, and the instruction in the AA fourth step to likewise create our own set of moral laws (a set of moral imperatives we can actually live with).

“We are not saints,” the Big Book says, and at most “we claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.” And then the fourth through the tenth steps deal in a variety of ways with the problem of guilt and shame. This problem of being overwhelmed by inescapable feelings of guilt is of course a prominent existentialist motif — see Simone de Beauvoir’s The Blood of Others for example. We can see this concern being especially echoed in Ernest Kurtz’s Shame and Guilt, and in his Spirituality of Imperfection. [10]

I have deeply treasured my friendship with Rich Dubiel from the very beginning. Thank you so much, Rich, for enriching my life over all these years, and for just being a good man. I have been blessed.


[1] Richard M. Dubiel, The Road to Fellowship: The Role of the Emmanuel Movement and the Jacoby Club in the Development of Alcoholics Anonymous, Hindsfoot Foundation (Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse, 2004), see and

[2] Amy Colwell Bluhm, Ph.D., “Verification of C. G. Jung’s analysis of Rowland Hazard and the history of Alcoholics Anonymous.” in the American Psychological Association’s journal History of Psychology (November 2006).

[3] Cora Finch, “Stellar Fire: Carl Jung, a New England Family, and the Risks of Anecdote,” see and

4] — message from John Barton.

[5] See Glenn Chesnut, on the Hindsfoot Foundation web site at  and Bob K., “Twentieth Century Influences on AA” at

[6] See Glenn F. Chesnut, “Richmond Walker and the Twenty-Four Hour Book,” a talk given at the 8th National Archives Workshop, September 27, 2003, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at Also see and

[7] Richard M. Dubiel, “Paul Tillich: Key Philosophical Theologian of the Mid-Twentieth Century” (1999), at .

[8] Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith (New York: Harper, 1956) and The Courage to Be (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1952).

[9] Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1962).

[10] Ernest Kurtz, Shame & Guilt, second edition, revised and updated, Hindsfoot (Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse, 2007). Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, The Spirituality of Imperfection: Modern Wisdom from Classic Stories (New York: Bantam, 1992).


2 thoughts on “Reply to “Rich Dubiel Meets Glenn C.””

  1. That Jacoby flier reminds me of the Catch-My_Pal material I’ve seen.
    Does anyone know about the Catch-My-Pal movement’s history in the U.S.?
    “…Catch-My-Pal Union, an almost forgotten temperance movement that swept across the world saving thousands of lives from 1909 right up to World War Two.
    “…the huge contribution the movement made in Europe, the USA and Australia.” (History Armagh – Vol. 2 No. 2 – Feb 2010, by Eric Villiers.)

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: