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Questions of Motive

Sep 26, 1994 09:58 AM
by K. Paul Johnson

Hello Everyone.

This post is several things in one, but mostly a plea for help
and advice.  Before getting to that there will be some
complaining and maybe self-pity, but I hope to lighten up on
those elements as much as possible.  The problem, briefly stated,
is this: I don't have a clue as to how to deal with the kinds of
attacks I have received on my alleged motive for my research and
writing.  And they are bound to multiply in the next few months
as the book is disseminated.

Immediate cause for distress is a conversation Saturday at a
Theosophical meeting in Va.  Beach.  Ron Banister was the
speaker, leading a lively discussion of subtle bodies in
Theosophical teaching, with a group of 20-25 people.  (Quite
enjoyable, information, worthwhile.) I came with two friends;
five or ten people old friends I hadn't seen in years were there
and I very much wanted to hug, visit, celebrate publication (most
of them had held my hand through the initial research years ago).
But there was only about 15 minutes after the meeting before we
had to leave because one of my friends had to be somewhere.  The
entire period was taken up by an interrogation, gradually
becoming an inquisition, by one lady I had never seen before.
And the whole gist of it was to demand that I defend my motives
against an attack that was only gradually made clear.

She started out asking "what was your basic motive, apart from
making money, in beginning to write this book?" To which I
replied, "Money was the last thing on my mind." She gave a
knowing look to the lady beside her at this point, as if to say
"now we know he's a liar." (For the record, my income for In
Search of the Masters totals about $3700, my expenses, including
travel, postage, supplies, printing, etc., $9100.  Not counting
$15000 in lost income for the period in which most of the writing
and travel took place, or more than $4000 in taxes for selling my
house and not buying a more expensive one, etc.  etc.  Maximum
income I can expect from the SUNY books is about $2500 each; thus
financially my writing career has been a disaster.) But I said
nothing about this, and replied "I didn't set out to write a
book, but just a series of articles on various aspects of HPB's
life-- which gradually coalesced into book form." Then she said,
"But what motivated your interest in the subject?" My answer,
"The same thing that motivated my becoming a Theosophist 16 years
ago-- a sense that HPB was the most profoundly mysterious figure
in religious history I had ever encountered, and an urge to solve
some of the puzzles she poses." Next question: "is your approach
more biographical, historical, spiritual...?" Answer: "I'm a
librarian, not a trained historian, and my leisure reading taste
tends to biographical works, so..." Question: "So you intend this
as leisure reading?" Answer "Lord, No!" Question, "How would you
deal with living subjects about whom you were writing such
demeaning things?" (RUSH OF ANXIETY) "Demeaning!? I don't
consider my treatment of any of these figures demeaning."
Question-- "but your approach is negative." Answer-- "Not at all.
My thoughts and feelings about HPB, the Masters and Theosophy are
overwhelmingly positive.  But perhaps I can be positive about a
reality somewhat more mundane that what Theosophists have
believed." I don't recall what she said next, but I said "Are you
asking me what I would say to HPB if I could meet her?" "Yes."
"That I have spent years of my life trying to understand her,
that to the extent this has succeeded, I intend it as a gift to
her; to the extent that I have misunderstood, I apologize, and
hope that others may profit..." Well, I may be leaving out lots,
but essentially this was the end; the lady left with her friend
asking "are you going to buy the book?" to which she replied
quite emphatically "NO!"

So I had been engaged in a game of "defend your sorry heretical
ass" with someone who rejected everything I said, apparently due
to some preconceived ideas about the book, my motives, etc.  She
"won" by exiting the interaction just as convinced as before that
she wouldn't read the wicked book.  The cost was that I lost all
opportunity to engage in positive interaction with the other
folks around, or to sell any books to those who might have wanted
them.  But more importantly, the cost was a plunge into despair
about people's proclivity for imagining evil motives for my work
and demanding that I defend myself, only to reject whatever I can
say in self- defense.

What are my conscious motives? To find the truth about HPB's
Masters to the extent of my ability, to share this information
with others for the progress of knowledge, to rehabilitate her
and Theosophy's reputation among people who have long assumed the
Masters to be nonexistent.  What are my unconscious ones? I don't
know; if I did they wouldn't be unconscious.

What motives have been attributed to my work?

1) Jean Overton Fuller has written that it is part of an Islamic
takeover plot determined to align Theosophy with Muslim rather
than Buddhist influences, and later that this plot is allied to
the Gurdjieff movement.  (I have never been affiliated with
either Islam or Gurdjieff, nor had contacts with leaders in
either movement.)

2) A prominent figure in Theosophical publishing has suggested
that my work is inspired by the Dark Brotherhood, although to
what end I don't know.  (What can one say to this?)

3) Richard Robb wrote to me that my motive was personal
aggrandizement, the building of an academic reputation, and not
service to the Theosophical movement.  (Small-town public
librarians don't get academic reputations no matter how much they
write; SUNY Press has nary a word about who Paul Johnson is in
either the books or the publicity).

4) Mark Jaqua writes that my writing is motivated by a desire to
use trickery and deception in order to promote a crackpot theory,
so as to mislead the unwary.

5) Jim Anderson suggests darkly that I am on a mission which is
"not good" (therefore evil?) and that I am out to reduce HPB and
the Masters to the confines of "known history." Readers of The
Masters Revealed will find that it explicitly states that it is
intended to be a beginning, not an exhaustive explanation, and
that HPB's spiritual motivations can never be reduced to the
historical circumstances in which she expressed them.

6) Recently, on the strength of two missing, but implicit (IMHO)
words, "to me," Jerry Hejka-Ekins rakes me over the coals as
someone who is attempting to add to the burden of misinformation
and disinformation by coercing people to believe rumors on the
basis of third-hand reports.

OK-- enough complaining.  There's plenty more where that came
from.  The point of this post isn't "why are these people
attributing such evil motives to me" but "what can I say in
response, and how can I not be devastated by such attacks?" Jim
A.  says I insulate myself from criticism.  Well I have plenty of
burn scars to show how little insulation there is.  You can't
spend 16 years in a movement, half of which is devoted to
research and writing of material that you intend to be
constructive and enlightening, and then get attacked in this way,
without being hurt.  Maybe you can; I can't.  I spent the rest of
the weekend worrying about the conversation with that woman; woke
up the next morning worrying about it.  Same with Fuller, Jaqua,
Robb, etc.  Because these people always put me in a no-win
situation.  Anything you can say to try to prove that your
motives aren't evil is taken by them either to 1) prove that
you're lying about your evil motives or 2) prove that you are an
unconscious instrument of evil forces.  They always walk away
having "won," because you can never dissuade them from their view
of you.  If, like Greg Tillett, I could just say "Theosophists
are a bunch of ninnies, who cares?" that would be a solution.
But since the majority of Theosophists have treated me very well,
and I care very much about the movement, this solution won't

When attacks are made on the books directly, on the basis of the
quality of writing, production, logic, research, etc., this is
fine.  Fair or unfair, such criticism is to be expected, and I
welcome it.  But when the attacks become personal, it seems as if
the real motive is to distract attention from any of the normal
concerns about the books by focusing on some imaginary qualities
of the author.

So there are two questions I ask you.  First, what can one say
in response to this line of attack?  I haven't a clue; I'm just
as shocked and vulnerable and defenseless the tenth time it
happens as I was the first.  Second, how can one avoid being
thrown off balance, into emotional pain, despair, etc. by such
attacks?  It is beginning to seem ridiculous to be subject to
such pain on a repeated basis.  Ordinarily, a Theosophical or
Gurdjieffian therapeutic approach would be to rise above the
emotional level to a mental or spiritual perspective, and thus
"see above the fog."  Problem is, these attacks are on my
mental and spiritual being as well as on my emotions, and
somehow that creates a vortex from which I cannot extricate
myself without considerable time and effort.  Any effort at
self-defense seems doomed to attract only more attack (i.e. the
generally hard-hearted response here to my outrage at Jaqua's
accusations) perhaps the answer is to take a vow of silence in
regard to any such questions of motive in the future.

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