Re: THEOS-ROOTS digest 245
Dec 18, 1996 11:44 AM
by K. Paul Johnson
According to firstname.lastname@example.org:
> I don't understand. I pulled you into a debate with Caldwell by
> posting my remarks on theos-l, because it was "roots material"?
> Don't most subscribers get all theos-xxxx anyway? Or is this all
> based upon some kind of agreement between you two?
No, I just wasn't on roots because I didn't want to be
harassed, but when I saw the exchange on theos-l the knowledge
of what was being said on roots dragged me in.
> >"debunking the thesis of Johnson," when in fact he was
> >attacking just two out of 32 proposed identifications of
> >Masters, and did not even identify "the thesis" he was
> >allegedly debunking.
> Fact? Sounds like the real "fact" is that you and Dan just see
> his essay differently.
He acknowledges he's only dealing with two out of the 32, and
nowhere *in* the piece claims to be debunking anything called
"the thesis." That claim only appeared later. So the number
of Masters discussed in his piece and the claims made in it are
indeed a matter of fact. The disagreement appears to be about
what can be claimed to have been accomplished after the fact. (Surprise!).
> Nor was mine. My point was that critical essays always deal with
> aspects of a work--never with the entire thing. Caldwell
> challenged your thesis by bringing into question selected points.
> This is standard operating procedure.
As with Algeo, I find my rebuttal to Daniel taking up just about half the
length of the original critique. So your SOP is true enough
both ways. The problem, as I see it, is when a critic writes,
in essence, "There are some good things and some bad things
about this book. I'll grudgingly acknowledge the good things
in one paragraph, even if they constitute 90% of the book (i.e.
in my case the historical and biographical information) and
then spend 90% of my essay attacking the 10% of the book that I
hate." There's not an ethical system in the world that could
justify that kind of negativity, AFAIK.
> academic journals either. Caldwell's essay and Algeo's extended
> essay published in Theosophical History were in the style of
> critical essays published for academic journals. So we are
> talking about apples and oranges here.
I am somewhat familiar with such essays as well, and can only
say that I agree with Tim Maroney about the unacceptability of
Daniel's tone in any scholarly setting. You are right about
Algeo though; the "take no hostages" approach in its latter
portions is at least balanced by an objective first half. He
did indeed fall within the guidelines of a *certain* kind of
academic writing. But no such attack has ever appeared in
*Theosophical History* on anyone else's book. (My Richard-Nafarre
piece made accusations of plagiarism, which is
pretty damning, but was otherwise balanced-- and quite brief.)
Perhaps if TH had previously run an ordinary scholarly review of TMR (say
like Mike Ashcraft's of Initiates, which I have no objection
to), it wouldn't look so odd to give Algeo 15 pages in
which to attack relentlessly. As you may know, the viciousness
of what Algeo did was more in the behind-the-scenes
manoevring than in the review itself. He sent me supportive,
friendly, encouraging email just a few weeks before the positive
Quest review came out. The gist then was "Don't be bothered by
all these attackers; they don't amount to a hill of beans." When
I emailed him to express my appreciation for Joy's review, he replied
that his own opinion was less favorable, but that he was open to discussing
it with me. I wrote one friendly response to some of his points, and
then got a very short snippy answer, telling me he was
writing two negative reviews and making it quite clear that he
wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. The TH review contains-- no, is in
fact largely based on-- a distortion of something I wrote to
him in good faith thinking he was really open to discussion.
As it turns out, he was just drawing me out to try to get
something to use against me. I've never had someone's tone
change from cordial to cool to hostile in the course of 6 weeks
before! Which relates to my naivete, see below.
> >lucky target of that one was!)
> You mean compared to reviews written for the popular media? That
> is mixing apples and oranges again.
I have read every review that has ever appeared in TH, the
journal in which Algeo reviewed me. That's not just comparing
apples to apples, it's the same apple!
> If I'm not mistaken, William and Loftus Hare were originally
> Theosophists. I have a couple of books by written Theosophists
> dedicated to criticizing their book "Who Wrote the Mahatma
> Letters?". I recall other instances too, but they were shorter
> than 15 pages.
They were entirely devoting themselves to attacking HPB, which
I was not. But that's not in the last 50 years anyhow-- or just
barely. I mention that timeline because in CWL's lifetime God
only knows how long some of the attacks were-- from Stokes, for
> What month and year of "The Theosophist" did it appear? Sounds
> like the same basic kind of strategy they used on Tillett.
Don't know, it was reprinted online and jem told me it had
originally been in the Theosophist. "The Masters Revealed" by
Dara Eklund, sometime early this year I guess. With Tillett
they didn't run a non-review called "The Elder Brother" that
was devoted to saying no one could possibly know whether or not
CWL was a pederast unless they were clairvoyant-- which would be
a parallel to Dara's approach. They just referred to "a book"
that was all wrong. But again, Tillett was not a Theosophist.
> >2. Has any Theosophical book in the last 50 years been attacked
> >as ferociously and longwindedly as mine by Algeo and Caldwell?
> Not that I know of. How is this question relevant?
You are telling me there is nothing unusual about their
treatment of my book, and I'm telling you it's not just unusual
but unprecedented to the best of my knowledge.
> I wasn't aware that Caldwell published his critical essay in a
> Theosophical magazine. I knew that Algeo published a book review
> "The American Theosophist." But it has been the much stronger
> and extensive review that he published for "Theosophical History"
> (an academic journal) that I thought you are complaining about.
Same tone, different length.
> Maybe it is a subjective and inaccurate observation on my part,
> but it seems to me that the overwhelming vast majority of your
Good God! Maybe 25%!
> posts, from the time you stated on theos-l, have been about your
> book; about defending your book; about reviews of your book; or
> about how you feel about being "attacked" concerning your book;
> about positive reviews on your book; about experiences with
> theosophists you have had concerning your book; about how
> different people at A.R.E. are concerning your book etc.
You talk as if I'd written one rather than four. Nobody at
A.R.E. knows or cares anything about my Theosophy books.
> wrong, perhaps someone else who has been following your posts can
> set me straight.
Doubt they will, but you seem to ignore the 75% of my posts
that have had nothing to do with that. Remember that the Algeo
shit didn't hit the fan until the summer of 1995, and probably
75% of my total posts were before that happened. But even
since then, less than half have been as you describe.
> Yes, I recall. But it wasn't "criticism" but meant to be
> friendly advice. At the time, you had already been well engaged
> with Caldwell, then suddenly you wanted to pull out in the middle
> of the debate. I didn't think that looked good on your part. I
> thought you should have finished it.
Wait a minute! Who defines "middle of the debate"? You are
giving the indefatigable Caldwell exclusive right to do so.
I started answering him without any idea that he'd continue to
escalate post after post, never letting up. Finished it? How
could *I* have finished it when you are giving my attacker the
exclusive right to decide when to stop? At the time you said I
should go on until he was exhausted or satisfied. And he never would
have been, and hasn't to this day.
> I looks like it took you a little longer to get over your
Remember that ISM came out in 1990 and it was five years later
that the strong reaction came to hypotheses that had originally been
in that first book. Since in TMR I really tried to trim my
sails and be less speculative, less likely to offend, it was a
shock that *that* was the book that unleashed the deluge.
Plus, some of my explorations about the Masters were in
print as early as 1986. So rather than me taking a long time
to get over my naivete, it might be fairer to say it took the
TS orthodoxy a very long time to decide to go for the jugular.
> My point was that TMR attacked a central dogma of the ES. Your
> hurt reactions to TS members who have attacked you (I'm not
> talking about Caldwell and Algeo now) strikes me a very naive.
Actually, ULT members have been the worst.
> I predicted that if you attack the central dogma of the A.R.E.
> inner circle (whatever that is), you will get the same treatment.
> I stand by that prediction.
They seem not to have one. How's that for naivete? Or maybe
I'd offend them by saying that Cayce was not really
clairvoyant-- but I don't believe that.
> I'm glad that you know better now. But I feel bad for you that
> it was such a long and painful struggle. I take it from the
> above that we are now ex-friends. I'm very sorry to learn this.
That was my conclusion when you ceased private communication
with me 18 months ago, and said you wouldn't even read email
I sent you. I was very sorry then that you chose to say/do that,
but don't know how to be friends with someone who won't talk to
me. If you have changed your mind, please let me know
privately and I'll be glad to resume friendship with you.
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