Rumors and Reality
Feb 06, 1995 03:19 PM
Rumors and Reality -- Eldon Tucker
Depending upon the source of our information, its accuracy
varies. We are faced with the task of separating truth from
fiction in all walks of life. We can hear, and if not
careful, pass on rumors, hearsay, slander, and white-
washing. How does this happen?
With hearsay, we hear and repeat someone else's story as
though it were factual. That story is presented as "common
knowledge," and has nothing with it to allow its
verification. Untrue or inaccurate depictions of people and
groups are passed on, perhaps with a bit of elaboration,
added by a memory that changes over time.
I read a study a few years ago that was based upon rumors.
It concluded that rumors cannot be denied. A public denial
was perceived by some as additional proof of guilt. The only
way that a rumor could be contained was by giving a twist to
it, by giving it a new meaning or slant that changed what it
said. A story, once circulated, cannot be recalled, but only
altered or reinterpreted. This may be why the public
relations agents of politicians are called "spin doctors,"
since they work to give a spin or twist to public opinion
favorable to their candidates.
With rumors, there are two kinds. There is the type that is
whispered, passed on in secret, perpetuating underground
stories. Then there is the type that is given public
expression. It is better to air out the rumors, to let them
see the light of day, to make them subject to challenge and
correction. A rumor cannot be suppressed by never allowing
it a public airing. There is no way to counteract something,
even if it be to give it a different "spin," if it stays in
Coming back to the subject of truth, of reality, of the
validity of what we think we know, let's consider what
"hearsay" is. With hearsay, we have second-hand information,
information that is not an eye-witness, or first-hand
account of something. There is at least one person between
us and the actual experiencer of the event, one retelling of
a story, subject to reinterpretation or misunderstanding.
The statement "Sally said she heard they hold seances at the
Blacksprings Lodge" would be hearsay, since it appeals to
"common knowledge," but fails to cite a source. The
statement "I heard her tell people at the public lecture to
never read HPB" is first-hand, from the person that
experienced hearing the lecture, and is not hearsay. If
another of us repeated that statement, without giving the
name of the person hearing the lecture, our statement would
then become hearsay.
A similar desire for accuracy drives historians to always
seek source documentation, rather than settle for second-
hand accounts, since there is always the danger of
misunderstanding or inaccuracy in the later writers.
With a rumor, the truth of a person or organization can be
lost. That loss can be for better or worse. Not all stories
that arise are critical. Some stories are uncritical,
unreasonably flattering, and tend to whitewash undesirable
aspects of people. Compare the nice way that HPB may be
depicted at times, as compared to her actual outlandish
personality! Or consider the failings of other historical
characters that we have discussed in the past.
With our study of Theosophy, we are faced with a similar
obstacle in our search for the Truth. Some writers are
"source" in the sense of being direct agents of the Masters,
with their writings sanctioned, if not actually overseen and
subject to correction of the Masters. (HPB's "The Secret
Doctrine," for instance, would have corrections and
additional notes added to it overnight, by the Mahatmas,
while she slept.) Other writers are interpreters or sought
to digest and simplify the deeper materials; they are
secondary-sources, and need to be read with additional care,
subject to comparison and review against the authoritative
When we seek the source materials, though, there are two
kinds of source. First is eyewitness statements or accounts
of something. The authoritative theosophical texts fall in
this category. Second, but also of considerable importance,
is personal experiences. We need to have direct experiences
of the theosophical thought-current, from a deep study of
the literature, as our own first-hand experience of the
Teachings. Both approaches allow us to bypass the rumors,
half-truths, and watered-down speculative literature of the
world and approach Wisdom directly.
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