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re "poison letter."

Sep 27, 1994 04:18 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

Paul Johnson,

JHE>  You are playing with words.  There is what you meant, what
> you wrote, and what I inferred.  What you meant and what I
> inferred are equally valid interpretations of what you wrote.

PJ> HMMM.  What I meant, I KNOW.  What you inferred, you
> INTERPRETED from an ambiguous phrase.

     As a matter of fact, there has been for years an intense
debate in literary circles as to whether the writer of a text
really "knows" what they have written, and if the
"interpretation" does not have, in many ways more validity than
what the writer might "believe" he meant.  I'm just pointing this
out as a matter of background, and not as the point of my

     The fact that you admit that you wrote an "ambiguous
phrase", means that it is open to more than one interpretation.
Since I'm not telepathically plugged into you, I can only
interpret the phrase according to the context before me.  That my
interpretation was not the same as the meaning that you intended
doesn't change anything.  I doubt if anybody has ever written
anything that is read with *exactly* the same meaning as the
writer *thinks* was intended anyway.  In other words, writing is
an imperfect mode of communication.  We have to put up with what
we perceive to be misreadings or our writings and try to correct
them, as you are doing here.  But this isn't really the point of
my argument either.

     The bottom line is that your "ambiguous" phrase led me to
the interpretation that you were trying to attribute credibility
to your hypothesis without the evidence.  Since I had read it
that way, I was confident that others had read it that way too.
Therefore I felt it my obligation to answer it.

PJ>  There's an important
> difference here.  And a message for me as well as you (which
> Eldon recently pointed out.)  Before rushing to punish someone
> for what you interpret him/her as having meant, it is best to
> make sure that your interpretation is correct.  This would save
> a lot of wasted energy and hurt feelings.  I will try to
> remember this in future and not shoot from the hip as I feel
> you have done.

     I'm sorry that you feel "punished."  Given the problems that
I have raised above, how can one be expected to query every
statement to assure that they have the author's intended meaning?
Once a statement is published, it is there for everyone to read,
whether it be right, wrong, intended or unintended.  The
responsibility is with the writer to assure that what he writes,
reflects as unambiguously as possible what he intends to
communicate.  It is not the not the reader's responsibility to do
this for him, nor would it even be possible.  Once the statement
is published, then the damage is already done.  If there is a
mis-reading, then, of course, the author has every right to
correct it.

> inferences, (or any one else's for that matter) don't come in a
> "void."  They are based upon our whole history of interchange.
> Your last postings were intent upon showing Judge guilty in
> this poison letter incident.

PJ> This is a reading of motive (intention) that is absolutely
> wrong.  I'm by no means intent of showing Judge guilty; I was
> intent on showing that HSO did indeed refer to the poison
> question.

     Thank you for your clarification.  Once again, until you
clarify your intent, I can only go by what I infer in your
writing.  You chose to post a passage from Nethercot repeating
the poison letter story as historical fact, without appending any
explanation that you were only "showing" that Olcott had
"referred to the poison question."  How can you honestly expect
me or anyone else to read that post in any other way then that
you were posting evidence that Judge way guilty of writing this
letter?  It is pretty obvious that this was Nethercot's intent
when he wrote the passage in the first place.  Frankly, your
quoting of that passage *without* such a statement of
clarification, was at best, a very indirect and misleading way of
getting your intent across, and I would be very surprised if
anybody got it.

PJ> My focus in what I am writing is Olcott's motives
> for arranging such an elaborate journey through India with
> Besant.  The Judge case will receive a paragraph or two as
> background for the main part of the section, an account of the
> trip.

     Thank you for making this clarification too.  By the way,
how can you write about anyone's motives--let alone Olcott's
concerning this visit?  If I were the President of a world
organization receiving as a guest, one of the most important
members in another section, who is visiting the Headquarters for
the first time, I think that I would also roll out the red
carpet.  I would also give her a grand tour, and make sure that
my guest made contact with everyone of importance connected with
the Organization.  Sounds like good management to me.

     I think that it is quite ironic that you have lately
complained so extensively on this net about people misreading
your motives, while at the same time you are engaged in
writing a work where you will discuss Olcott's motives.

JHE> How can you possibly write on the Judge case without access
> to such a basic, vital and primary document as this?  That's
> almost like researching the holocaust without taking Hitler
> into account. I can think of a half dozen people (all of whom
> you know) who would have provided you a copy of this document
> if only you had asked.

PJ> As stated, I did not set out to write "on the Judge case."  I
> am writing on Besant's journey through India.  The Judge case
> came in as background material.

     Nevertheless, whether researching your thesis or background
to it, how can you do this research without source materials?

PJ> After reading Nethercot, I realized I needed to find more on
> the "poison letter" issue and started looking through ODL.  You
> dissuaded me from thinking I would find anything there; Herb
> revivified the search.

     Yes, I recall writing that if you found it in ODL, I would
be "real impressed."  And I was.  My gosh, paging through all
those memoirs for a passage on a poisoned letter is real
impressive.  But I was also "impressed" in another way.  I really
didn't expect Olcott to sink so low as to bring that one up
again, especially since it was never part of the formal charges
against Judge in the first place.  Its only original use was to
slander him through the gossip vine--an effective tool of
character assassination that remains in tact to this day.  On the
other hand, I shouldn't have been so "impressed."  It was
Olcott's pattern to wait until people were dead and then publicly
rip them apart.  Safer that way, I guess.

     As for my off remark that resulted in "dissuading" you from
looking further in ODL, I'm sorry that you gave me so much power,
yet I afraid that I can't take responsibility for your decision
either.  But, why were you looking for this in Olcott's memoirs
in the first place?  Why didn't you go to the source materials
generated from the Judge case itself?  Once again, I don't
understand why you research secondary materials when you should
be searching the primary ones?

PJ>  When I
> found what HSO wrote, THEN I realized that it pointed to yet
> another source I needed-- Garrett.  As a librarian, the first
> course of action that occurred to me was to get it on ILL, not
> survey my friends to find out who might have it.

     Then why didn't you do that in the first place?  Garrett is
the primary source, not ODL.  How could that not have been
obvious to you?

JHE> And if Michael Gomes tells you that he has no information
> that can help your case, are you going to conclude that he is
> hiding information from you?
PJ> This is a gratuitous attack on my psychological state-- an
> accusation of paranoia.  Which I may have in some cases but not
> regarding Gomes.

     Interesting interpretation of my question, but not my
intent.  My question is a fair one considering that fact that you
yourself wrote that Gomes might not tell you.

PJ> I was told by a friend that MG had reported finding
> evidence in the Adyar archives that was damaging to Judge, but
> refused to elaborate.  Therefore, I thought he might choose to
> withhold material because he was planning to publish it himself
> in some future work.  He doesn't owe it to me to share his
> findings, although he has already been quite generous.  If he
> says he has no information that can help me, I'll believe him.
> But what I expected was that he would just decline to reveal
> the alleged discoveries.

     I think this is a fair answer.  Thank you.  As for what you
were told, I'm familiar with what you are talking about, but you
didn't get it quite right.  Gomes has information that could be
"used" against Judge by someone intent upon proving his guilt.
That doesn't mean that the information itself "proves" anything
against Judge.  Information can be used to put people in a bad
light or a good one, depending upon how it is used.

PJ> No evidence has been shown that such a "threat" was ever
> made.

PJ> But Jerry, you just provided the evidence!  A telegram
> threatening "grave danger" followed by a letter from Judge and
> another allegedly from M., making it even clearer that both
> were warning Annie not to go to India because of some
> unspecified harm that might befall her.  I call that a threat--
> it was certainly effective in changing her behavior on the
> basis of evoking fear.

     Now it is my turn to point out a mis-reading on your part.
My statement that no evidence has been shown of such a "threat"
was in the context of the Poisoned letter.  By "threat" I was
talking about the alleged threat of "grave danger" that Olcott
planned to poison Besant.  In my reading, the main point that
Garrett was trying to get across in the passage I reproduced for
you, was that the inferrence of poisoning came from *outside* of
the text.  If you just wanted documentation of letters trying to
dissuade Annie from going to India, you didn't have to go to
Garrett for that.  That fact is well documented in the original
charges.  Read on to my next statement, and you will see the
context you missed in the preceding one:

JHE> Garrett, reproduces the text of the letter and shows that
> the words "poison" or "poisoning" do not appear, and to infer
> this from the text was really a far out thing for them to do.
> With all of the evidence to the contrary, how in the world can
> you conclude that a "threat" was ever made?

> PJ>  Which means either that M,
>> through Judge, was genuinely warning Besant to stay away from
>> Olcott, or that Judge was producing fraudulent letters to
>> dissuade Annie from going to India (look at the power
>> struggle of the time for clues as to why) or-- maybe-- that
>> the letter wasn't a genuine Mahatma letter but also not
>> deliberate fraud-- self-deluded mediumship.  The latter seems
>> somewhat less credible than option 2, because of the
>> self-serving implications of Annie's believing it and thus
>> remaining more allied to Judge and less to Olcott.

JHE>    The only thing that has so far been documented in this
> discussion is that Besant received letters asking her not to go
> to India.  Whether the letters are genuine, fraudulent, talks
> of poison etc. is all speculation on your part that goes far
> beyond the evidence.

PJ> All I did above was sketch 3 logical possibilities and
> suggest that one of the three seemed more likely than another.
> Speculation, yes, but clearly such.  "Seems somewhat less
> credible" sounds speculative as all get-out to me.  But to
> avoid your buzz saw in the future you can be damn sure I'll
> NEVER leave out those two crucial words "to me."

     My expectation is that when a one writes speculations, in
order to be productive to the dialogue, they be limited to the
evidence at hand.  This reminds me of a Lodge meeting in 1976,
when I was reporting on the findings of the Viking Landers, which
had photographed the Martian surface in high and low orbit as
well as from the ground.  They found no canals, cities or
Martians, as described in Leadbeater's fifty page account in his
book, ~The Inner Life~ (This account is now expurgated from the
latest edition).  Thus I concluded that the photographs threw
doubt upon Leadbeater's description.  A member of the Lodge
sagely replied that the evidence does not throw any doubt upon
Leadbeater's account at all, because the Martians simply didn't
want us to photograph them.  Therefore they created a "mayavi"
for the camera, to make it appear that the planet was
uninhabited.  His answer was indeed a "logical possibility" but
it is also what I call speculating beyond the evidence.

Jerry Hejka-Ekins

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