Johnson's posting on Theos-l of a list of reviews of his book
Jul 06, 1995 09:36 PM
I will post this on theos-roots although Johnson has posted his
listing of reviews of his book THE MASTERS REVEALED on theos-l.
Johnson gives his "report card" of the reviews that have
appeared. A review gets an A if the review is postive, i.e.
contains no criticism of his book; just praise. John Algeo's
review in THE AMERICAN THEOSOPHIST gets a D-. So you can imagine
how negatively Johnson's assesses the review. Algeo's review in
THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY gets a C- (I don't have Johnson's report
card in front of me!).
So one can conclude that Algeo's reviews are too negative for
Johnson. But let me add a few comments for people's
A *good* book review will show a book's strengths and also its
weaknesses. To bring up a book's weaknesses is not necessarily
"negative". To point out errors and give criticisms of a book is
not necessarily "negative". The only question to ask is: Are the
weaknesses and criticisms valid or imaginary? If the criticisms
are valid and justified, how can the review be considered really
negative? If the criticial points made are unfair because untrue,
then one might say the review was negative, unfair and biased.
According to Johnson's "report card standards", it seems that a
review must be all praising to get an A!
Robert Ellwood in his review of my book THE OCCULT WORLD OF
MADAME BLAVATSKY gave a few criticisms of my book; he also gave
it some praise. I thought it was a well-balanced review. Should
I therefore give Ellwood's review a C? No, I would give it an A
inspite of the criticisms. So Johnson loves John Cooper review
because it is almost, if not all, prasie, but "hates" John
Algeo's reviews because they contain criticisms (too many
In my estimation, John Algeo's review in TH is well-balanced and
excellent. The review gives praise for many aspects of the
Johnson's book but also gives criticism where Algeo believes such
criticism is justified. So I would ask interested readers and
Johnson as well: Are the various criticisms to be found in the
various reviews of Johnson's book justified and valid? If they
are, then the book review is a good review and has done a good
service to readers who may not know as much in order to judge the
merits of the book.
If Johnson or his supporters feel that the criticisms given in
the various reviews are invalid and not merited, than surely is
it not there responsibility to set the record straight? ["there"
is the last sentence of course should be "their"!]
The bottom line is: what are the critiisms based upon? Are they
justified or not? Do the criticisms distort the truth about
The review of Johnson's book in the N.Y. Times Book review was
an A or A+ by Johnson's standards. Must have had lots of praise
for Johnson's book? But again was the praise justified or not?
And as a student of theosophy, I would ask (a larger question
than about Johnson's book or reviews but applicable to these
also) are we as seekers of truth really interested in truth? Or
are we interested in "feeling good" (a kama-manas "situation")?
Truth and facts may conflict with our beliefs and opinions. Some
of us may actually believe in reincarnation because it makes us
feel good, gives us a sense of security, etc, etc., but is that a
good criterion by which we should be seeking for the truth? I
realize that truth should be put in quotation marks: "truth".
And many of us may ask with Pilate? "What is truth?" Many
Christians believe in God, Jesus, heaven and hell, etc, because
on one level it makes them feel good, its makes sense out of
nonsense and gives them security in a very insecure, dangerous
world. But "feeling good" and "having a sense of security" are,
in my opinion, very strange criteria to have in the search for
truth? Every rational and irrational belief in this "believing
world" can be fully justified by such criteria.
Truth (or truth) may be a very hard commodity to come by in our
world, but I would hope that theosophists would be at least
trying very very hard to discover truth versus falsehood, facts
versus nonsense, etc., etc.
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