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Re: Madame Blavatsky's Baboon

Nov 05, 1996 11:22 AM
by K. Paul Johnson

Thanks for an interesting post, to which I append a few notes
of agreement or digression:

According to Tim Maroney:
> I agree with Mr. Johnson that it is ethically questionable to impute base
> motives without evidence. Almost all books are in fact meant to be paying
> propositions:

One irate Theosophist accused me of "making a living" off my
"attacks" on HPB.  Since the modest royalties from the SUNY
books *almost* precisely equal the losses on their self-published
predecessor, I would have to survive on about -$100 per year
since 1990 for this to be true.  So Doss's accusation hit a
sore spot.  Washington has surely done much better, but if he
were choosing a topic on the basis of potential income he would
*never* have picked Theosophy.

> events -- they are more narrowly drawn historical studies. The panoramic
> view presented by Washington is one that I have not seen before.
Fair enough; I hasten to say that I regret being dragged by F.
Crews into criticizing another author's work, but his method of
negative comparison left no choice.  Washington's book has many
virtues; it is very well written and approaches the subject in
a way that can attract the non-specialist reader.  He gives
more credit to HPB's learning than most previous skeptical
books about her do, and is never really mean-spirited despite all
the ridicule.
> so on. This makes his work hard to rely on, and while I have found many
> interesting tidbits for my own research, I feel obliged to check the
> sources on all of them rather than citing Washington directly.
> Despite this, I cannot (strangely enough) completely agree with Mr.
> Johnson that the book is not well researched.

Could we agree on an A for breadth and a D for depth?  Even setting aside my
own priorities it seems awfully sloppy of Washington to base
his entire description of the Masters on post-HPB sources and
attribute that description erroneously to her.  If the book had
been submitted prepublication to some critical and knowledgable readers, many
of the errors could have been corrected.  Some of my harshest
critics have been people who felt they should have been
consulted and would have improved my depth of coverage and
analysis.  OTOH getting cooperation from Theosophists was a rocky road from
start to finish, including these very people.  Nevertheless, learning from
past experience, I am making sure that my Cayce ms. will be available to as
many experts in the field as care to give it a critical reading.  Hopefully
Washington is aware of his missteps and will learn from them.

PS-- and thanks for the kind word!

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