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Re: House of cards reply

Dec 16, 1996 02:04 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

>JHE quoted TM in a post about the Caldwell piece, but I had
>never seen TM's (Tim Maroney?) original post which for some
>reason didn't come in a digest.  Can anyone forward it to me?

Yes, Tom Marony originated the post.  You already have it,
because I reposted his entire comment.

>One thing quite inexplicable about Mr. Caldwell's
>publicity for his piece is his claim that he has prepared an
>"in-depth and scholarly analysis debunking the thesis of
>Johnson."  What thesis?  There are 32 people nominated as HPB's
>Masters in TMR, and Caldwell devoted the entirety of his 42 page
>argument to attacking my case for two of them.  So his
>"debunking" attempt is in fact focused on two hypotheses only,
>and he doesn't even state what "the thesis of Johnson"

Critical essays on books, or even short pieces always limit their
comments to a very few aspects of a given work.  The reason is
obvious.  It took Caldwell months of research and 42 pages to
discuss two people in your book.  At that rate, for him to
discuss the other thirty would take volumes and years to write.

>JHE asks "Are we reasonably to expect any more than this?"
>after agreeing with TM that Mr. Caldwell's language and
>attitude are snide, personal, rabid, etc.  My answer is yes,
>indeed, we have a right to expect criticism of books that is
>neither snide, personal nor rabid in tone.  Certainly I have not
>seen any such level of hostility directed at any other author
>in my 18 years of Theosophical membership, so I imagined that I
>had a right to expect it not to be targeted at me.  John Algeo
>disabused me of that delusion (his TH review being much more in
>the snide pejorative category than his AT one).

My point was that I believe the tone of Caldwell's critical essay
was within the normal limits of what is being published today.
My opinion is based upon my experience over the past several
years of daily reading books and articles of literary criticism
and rhetoric.  Perhaps you are right--Theosophists should be more
restrained in their writing than the rest of the literary
community, but obviously they are not.  John Algeo is a very well
known and established scholar, a retired professor, and an
authority in linguistics and English Literature.  Over the years,
he and has published many critical articles in refereed literary
journals, published a literary journal of his own, was a member
of the committee that developed the MLA guidelines used in
academic writing, and published a lead historical article on the
development of the English language in a major dictionary.  I
assure you that Algeo's review of your book was professionally
written and within normal limits concerning its pejorative tone.

>As in the case of Dr. Algeo, I have tried to make my response a
>model of the tone of discourse that Theosophists *should* have a
>right to expect.  That is, free of personal insults and appeals
>to authority, addressing one's opponent in a respectful and
>patient manner, dealing with the issues at hand thoroughly
>within the limits of reasonable length.

Good for you!  Now Theosophists have a model of what you believe
to be the proper tone of a critical article.  Let's see if they
follow your example, or if they continue to follow the norms.
But my experience with Theosophists is that like most people,
they don't take very kindly to people telling them what they
"*should*" do.

Actually, the only thing I see to be unusual about the
circumstances surrounding the publication of your book has been
the extraordinary efforts you have made to defend it and to
criticize others who have been critical of it.  It is hardly
typical behavior for authors to carry on public debates with
their critics.  Rather, they embrace both the critical and the
friendly reviews in the joyful knowledge that their book is being
read and debated.

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