Feb 01, 1995 08:21 AM
by Eldon B. Tucker
Regarding Libraries -- Eldon Tucker
It was me...
Over the past few years I've heard a number of stories, some
first-hand, regarding researchers being denied access to the
archives of theosophical organizations. Now that I stop and
reflect upon what I've heard, the Olcott Library was not
mentioned in this context.
As head librarian, you're certainly in a position to make a
statement about your policy, and I'm glad to hear that the
materials are open to researchers.
Let's consider what I've said, your response, and the general
With my message, I make mention of a new theosophical research
and library organization. I mention how Point Loma
Publications is allowing it to copy its rare archives, and
challenge the other theosophical groups to open their archives
to the general public.
The important issue hear is permanent public access to the
materials. The various theosophical organizations are
political organizations. Depending upon their current
leadership, there may be a policy of openness, like with John
Algeo with the American Section, but it may not always be this
way. I'm not sure that the past history of the various
theosophical groups shows that this openness has always
existed. With a change of leadership, some time in the future,
there's always the risk that the openness could end. This is
where independent, neutral research facilities have their
I'm glad, again, to hear that my call to open up the Olcott
Library is unnecessary. It is too much to hope that the same
statement could be made by Pasadena, the ULT, and Adyar?
The issue of open access to research materials is certainly an
important one, as I'm sure you'd agree. Is it an issue that is
entirely unnecessary, for the various theosophical groups? Is
the status quo at the various groups in support of complete
openness? If a scholar, for instance, called the Pasadena T.S.
and wanted to see all of the Judge letters, would he granted
access? Or do we need to understand why, at times, the
openness is not present, and raise it as a concern?
Your balanced response is appreciated. I understand that the
official position of any organization, regardless of how open
their archives are, is that they are restricted for reasons of
safety of the materials and not secrecy. When groups keep
materials from the general public, they may not come out and
say that they are doing such a thing. You make it clear,
though, that the Olcott Library is open, and that openness
should stand as an example for the other theosophical
libraries and archives.
It is good to "air out" what we hear and are led to believe.
Information, once out in the open, can be subject to
correction. What is really bad are things privately said that
never see the light of day, and can't be challenged and
On "theos-l", we have a free marketplace of theosophical
ideas. There will be times, for any of us, when we read
something that strikes close to home, and we feel a strong
reaction. I'd say that "total unfounded accusations" and "wild
statements based on hearsay and rumor" show your quite natural
reaction. You see something incorrect and want to set the
record straight. I think that the record has been set straight
regarding the Olcott Library.
The issue of openness among the theosophical groups, and the
need for free access to information, is a weighty one, and
must be continually be raised, lest our T.S.'s end up, one
day, merely as metaphysical churches, with a carefully
scripted belief system and "true" version of history.
Regarding the use of "Wheaton" to refer to the HQ of the
American Section of the T.S. [Adyar]: it's quite standard to
do. Since joining the T.S. in August 1965, and subsequently
living in different parts of the country, I've heard "Wheaton"
used much more often than other names like "Olcott."
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