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Sep 05, 1995 00:43 AM
by K. Paul Johnson

According to
> Dear Mr. Johnson,

Please don't call me that. Either make it Paul, or hey you.
I'm not here to have formal exchanges of the sort implied by
use of Mr.

> Your bitterness surrounding the reception of your book is understandable, but

That requires some explanation. The bitterness is only
partial, given that reception of the book has been way beyond
my wildest dreams. Here are some aspects of the experience of
writing the book that have been decidedly sweet:
1. Three major Theosophical publishers each devoted about a
year to considering the manuscript of my first book. Even
though it was rejected, there is some evidence of openness in
the willingness to consider it.
2. The publisher, SUNY Press, decided to publish on the basis
of readers' reports from scholars unknown to me, and has
promoted the book quite well.
3. 7 of 8 reviewers thus far has been favorable, including Joy
Mills, Claire Walker, John Cooper, Edward Hower, all FTS.
4. A rave in the New York Times Book Review is the best
possible reward for my years of labor.
5. Sales are quite respectable, with the book in its fourth
(small) printing.
6. I received help and advice from a great many Theosophical
scholars, named in the acknowledgments.
7. My research has been presented to Theosophical groups in
D.C., Baltimore, and Oakland CA with little or no apparent
objections from anyone in the audience. Indeed, in face to
face encounters, Theosophists (Adyar) have always been quite
marvellous to me, and I have nary a complaint.
So what's to be bitter about?
1. No book on Theosophy published since I became a Theosophist in 1978 has
attracted nearly the same level of negative reaction as The
Masters Revealed. Angry letters to the editor, hostile letters
to me, attacks on theos-l, and most recently John Algeo's two
scathing reviews, all add up to an unprecedented level of
2. After 17 years in the movement, I no longer feel secure
that there is any Theosophical headquarters-- Pasadena,
Wheaton, Adyar, etc.-- where I can feel at home and not expect
to be made unwelcome, at least by a chill in the air.

> your condemnation of the TS and ULT and any other Theosophical groups is very
> striking.
It was on one issue, the presence of fundamentalism, that I was
condemning certain aspects of the Theosophical movement. There
is much to praise in all of the groups.
> You are a very able critic, and much of what you say has some merit. But can
> you be constructive with equal ardor?
Yes. As a matter of fact, my books are evidence of that.
 What do you see as valuable in
> Theosophical work today?
Most everything that's being done. Especially The Quest
magazine and the publishing programs of the various groups.
 I see you quote HPB as an authority, re: her
> messages to Americans on psychic development, and yet you rail against her as
> a hero-image. This vacillation makes it difficult to give your perspectives
> full consideration.
Perhaps you could clarify that, as you're not being fully clear. I
neither quote her as an authority (in fact I simply mentioned
that she had predicted certain developments, as a matter of
interest) nor rail against her in any way. What you take as
"railing against" is my objection to the way Theosophists regard
HPB and not anything she herself did. She is indeed heroic,
and deserves to be regarded as such. If you had experienced
some of the things I have in the last year, you would have
personal reason to object to the idealization and reverence
directed toward HPB. Alas, violence is the shadow of
reverence. People who revere something or someone feel
obliged, encouraged, or at least permitted to punish anyone who
does not show the same reverence. I don't think HPB would
admire many of the things that have been said to, by and about
me by her self-styled defenders. Ridicule is a weapon that has
no place in Theosophical discourse, and yet it has been rather
abundantly heaped on my work. So there's bitterness, sure.
But in fact the majority of Theosophists seem to be OK with my
work-- SOMEBODY's buying it-- and it's only a handful of
self-appointed avengers who feel strongly enough to speak out
against it. A handful is, however, enough to inflict a large
measure of pain. But there does seem to be some principle of
equal and opposite reactions here, so I figure for every kind
word my work receives there has to be a mean one to balance it.

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