Content Blind but not Tone Deaf
Jan 04, 1995 11:44 PM
by Arthur Patterson
Dear Theo-l Net Partners,
Within the first few weeks of being on the list, I remember
sensing that like all vibrant organizations, Theosophy has its
divisions, scandals and disputations. Less than perfect leaders,
less that perfect followers, and less than perfect structures are
t he bane of all organizations. I think, however, that those
organizations which seek to do the most amount of consciousness
raising have a particularly hard time coming to grips with these
For seventeen years as a denominational leader, in an evangelical
setting, I have weathered many controversies. Some I haven't
weathered at all because I was, unfortunately, at the center of
them. Accusations of power mongering, scandal, and misunderstan
dings have lead to the same sort of responses which I have read
on the Theos-l list lately. It makes me think that the
"content", or what I like to see as the "presenting problem", is
not as important as it first appears. In this case it is the
discrediti ng of an honored leader CWL or conversely the
discrediting of CWL's character. I see beneath the flinging of
"facts" something more subtle going on. It is the clash of
values and loyalties.
Since I can make the rightful claim to know nothiing about the
facts, I am in the advantageous position of reading the tone
alone. It is I suppose like being spiritually deaf only hearing
the body language. Perhaps I am not picking it up exactly as it
is but I feel that maybe what I sense "tone wise" might help
ameliorate the tension somewhat. I can only hope.
The first thing I hear is a group of very knowledgeable people
who have disciplined themselves well enough to become living
transmitters of the traditions that they are loyal to. Behind
each individual, I sense many others who would share that
person's vi ewpoint. The Theos-l list is made up of leaders and
I sense that the quest for the Universal Siblinghood is a
difficult one, given the history of the movement. Yet, I sense
that peace and reconciliation are at the center of this group's
desires. In fact, I imagine that it is hard advocating Theosophy
were it not so. To devour one another in disputes is not a
living witness to the Wisdom of the Ages. I think it was Jerry
who mentioned that the movement gets discredited by the
incendiary nature of the fellowship.
It is very helpful that in a group of predominantly intellectual
types, we have members who are concerned with Feeling values.
These values are not driven by purely subjective emotions but by
deeply felt convictions. What I have noted is that with every s
hriek of pain that some have felt there is an invitation to
healing at a depth level. To leave aside the differences and
learn to "treat each other better", in a spirit of forgiveness is
a grand goal, indeed.
Equally important are those dedicated to pushing this historical
business through and not avoiding, or changing Reality, to suit
our loyalties. These people are valueable contributers to the
process. I see them as historical physicians perhaps even Bards
who wield the mighty power of the historical Word.
All this seems so positive, when we don't factor in the
possibility of what Paul said about motivation. We suspect each
other's motives when we are trying to balance what appears to be
the opposite sides of truth. Reading motives is difficult and
takes th e discernment of Solomon. I find that witholding
judgment is difficult. When I am sure that I have at least part
of the truth and that the truth doesn't appear to be valued by
others I get defensive. I think Paul said it correctly when he
*Misunderstandings play a crucial role in generating hostility.
My own experience suggests that the times I feel most angry are
after I receive hostile treatment on the basis of
misunderstandings about my intentions or meaning. By the same t
oken, I have witnessed the unfortunate consequences of my own
misunderstandings of others.*
I would like to see the values underneath the positions that have
been stated be affirmed by the whole group. I was intrigued by
the value that Liesel brought up concerning the honor toward the
*if the dead ones are watching over us, let's ask for their
blessing, & not for a curse. They'll give it. Most sincerely.*
What I get out of that is Liesel genuinely believes in the
reality of the afterlife and we must approach this whole
controversy with respect for the dead and the living as part of
the process. It is not a matter of dispassionate historical
analysis but o f relationship. I can imagine that a sort of
disregard for time is congruent with a Theosophical
historiography. The past is now and intersects with the future
as well. Therefore the talk that this controversy is "in the
past" is irrelevant since it not o nly effects the present but
intersects with it.
Once our values are mutually affirmed we can get on with the
process of discerning the gift that CWL has given us regardless
of his weakness. I am not in any position to judge his morality
but I would suggest to those who think that he couldn't have fal
len because he was spiritually insightful are not being reality
based. People of great giftedness can be paradoxically people
with great weakness such as Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr.
etc. One does have to look to great leaders to see that we are
treas ures in clay vessels. We are a paradox of great spiritual
perception and a great ability to deceive ourselves. Holding the
paradox in ourselves and others only deepens our spirituality; it
doesn't spoil it.
Those who believe that if a person is morally weak, his or her
insights are blighted and beyond any value are similarly naive.
CWL could speak the truth even if he had the failure that they
fear. I should think that the value of his spiritual teaching
sh ould be judged apart from this moral question entirely.
Moralism is not the filter through which to view spiritual
teachings. The moral effect of the teaching confirms the
spiritual truth but weakness doesn't cancel truth out since
spiritual teaching is beyond individuality. Surely, unless we
wish to form a personality cult around leaders, we have to move
to such a position.
In conclusion, I think that the values we hold should be mutally
affirmed and understood in dialogue with one another. Second,
recognize that any idea of human perfectability is liable to lead
to illusion. Third, CWL's spiritual teaching should be evalua
ted apart from any attempt at moralism. Fourth, that the
character of CWL should be open to critical investigation by
historical methods and not be seen as in any way invalidating the
gifts that his teaching has bequeathed on those who honor him.
This was written as I said in the full awareness that I am deaf
to the content of the questions involved but perhaps I have read
the tones. Even if not it was an attempt to understand what I am
hearing. Any comments and suggestions are welcome.
Under Your Mercy,
Arthur Paul Patterson
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