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In Search of Agreement

Dec 21, 1994 09:27 AM
by K. Paul Johnson

Dear Liesel and friends,

A book I read recently on conflict in relationships posits a
process that I think I see a lot on the net.  "Spin-outs" and
"spin-ins." What the author is talking about is mainly married
couples in conflict, but it applies generally.  A spin-out is an
argument in which A says something that pushes buttons of anger
or hopelessness in person B, who responds with something that
alienates A, who retorts with a comment that further infuriates
B, etc.  Arguments definitely, in my observation, go through
stages where everything each person says just makes things worse,
like going down a spiral staircase.  Spin-ins are resolution
conversations in which people gradually get closer by a
step-by-step process based on finding points of agreement.

Whenever disputes occur on theos-l or other groups, I tend to
more inclined than some to pour fuel on the flames at first,
rather than stifle the conflict.  But I also want to come out of
it still friends, and having learned something in the process.

Nothing is more capable of producing spin-outs than discussions
of CWL.  I hope I can talk about them without causing another
one.  Our fragmentation as a movement is due to a series of
spin-out disputes, and maybe the resolution of our disputes can
be facilitated by the spin-in model.

Basically I see three sources of problems in discussion of CWL.
First, and most sensitive with your ULT friend, is strong
feelings people have about the contradictions between his
teachings and HPB's.  These are numerous, touch on many points
central to the philosophy, and tend not to be discussed
objectively by any parties to the dispute.  The archetypal ULT or
Pasadena person will dismiss any points of variance between CWL
and HPB by assuming that of course she is always right and
therefore he is wrong whenever he varies from her.  My view is
that it is certainly hypothetically possible for him to be right
and for her to be wrong, and therefore there is something unfair
in attitudes toward him in certain quarters.  On the other hand,
the approach of CWL's partisans (as far as I have observed) is to
paper over the cracks, dismissing the obvious and crucial
divergences as either nonexistent or miniscule.  To my view, this
is spin-out #1.  It is infuriating to ULT and Pasadena types to
see/hear Adyar folks ignore/deny/sweep under the carpet
divergences that they know exist.  It is equally infuriating to
CWL's admirers to see his detractors make a priori assumptions
that he must be wrong whenever he conflicts with their party
line.  I'd rather see healthy dialogue on this than avoidance;
don't know that there's a single other person who feels this way.

Spin-out #2 is on the issue of accusations against CWL from
pubescent boys on the issue of masturbation and actual sexual
contact.  The facts are that CWL admitted not just advising
masturbation, but giving "indicative action" involving touch, and
that some boys accused him of fullfledged sexual contact with
them.  In America in 1906 and Australia in 1922, this provoked
huge scandals that produced large volumes of documentary
evidence.  CWL's partisans say that he was unjustly accused; this
may be possible to some extent, but even what he admitted to the
TS investigating committee was enough to send him to prison.
CWL's admirers have generally treated this issue as "garbage"
that should be censored.  I would just point out recent
disclosures in the Catholic Church to suggest that this problem
is very widespread, and religious organizations' ability to
deny/ignore obvious evidence is also well established.  Here,
what is infuriating to many in the movement is the pervasive
silence and refusal to even discuss the issue rationally on the
part of CWL's admirers.  I cannot state strongly enough that
Gregory Tillett is not a diabolical attacker of Theosophy.  He
started his research with a favorable inclination, was well
treated by John Coats during his research in Adyar, and states
his conclusions without rancor or sensationalism.  The fact that
no Adyar-affiliated journal reviewed his book speaks poorly for
our intellectual honesty and freedom.  The fact that both Dora
and Radha made vague allusions in print to an unnamed book making
unspecified false allegations was more disturbing than if they
had just remained silent.  Here I would say the anti-CWL side of
the spin-out is a common attitude among them is that if indeed he
was guilty, that this proves the entire Adyar TS a lost cause,
dominated by the Dark Brotherhood, completely evil.  This seems
to be changing at last, however.

Which leads to the third point.  Apart from the actual facts pro
or con CWL, the attitudes and behavior of each side tend to
further alienate the other.  CWL's critics are seen by his
admirers as people who want to constantly drag his name through
the mud, humiliate the TS, prevent forward movement to a
harmonious environment in which all views are respected.  But his
admirers are seen by his critics as enemies of intellectual
freedom who try to shout down evidence that they cannot factually
debate, who resort to emotional abuse rather than reasoned
discussion in order to intimidate their opponents, and want to
defend their hero at any cost.

Well, here all I can say in hopes of forestalling attacks all
around is that I'm willing to wait.  On the one hand, this issue
must be calmly and objectively addressed by Theosophists if we
are to move forward in the next century unfettered by buried
trauma.  On the other hand, there's no point in someone like me
trying to promote that process when both sides are still more
inclined to shouting matches than fraternal conduct.  My own
interest in Theosophical history is almost entirely focused on
the nineteenth century, so it won't frustrate my personal agenda
if I don't live to see CWL discussed rationally.  But I hope it
will happen sooner rather than later.

Dunno where you get that idea that I think historians are
infallible, so I'll let than one pass as a straw man.  About the
Pandora's box reference, I'll close by quoting HPB very
imperfectly, since I don't have the CWs at hand.  She said "now
every bogus or swindling society claims to be directed by
`Masters', some of them supposed to be far higher than ours.  Had
we not rushed into notoriety publishing all we knew and heard,
this desecration would never have occurred.  But it is useless to
lament over what is done, and we can only hope that in spite of
our mistakes, we have made it possible for some to approach the
real Masters more closely."

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