Money, argument, logic
May 27, 1997 07:15 AM
by K. Paul Johnson
According to firstname.lastname@example.org:
As the subject has advanced from the morality of fees to the
method of argument, I'll continue one more round here. Hope
this clarifies some things.
> I am being told that the behavior of my Lodge is wrong.
Actually, it was Seattle that was first mentioned as an example
of fees for public lectures. Everyone piled on then, before or
simultaneous to your revelation that NYC did the same. Mostly
in support of Long Beach's policy of *not* charging.
I am being told
> that charging money is automatically morally wrong, and no justification
> is needed to prove that it is morally wrong, and that the burden of
> proof is on me to prove that it is not morally wrong.
Nobody said that as I recall. I certainly have no objection to
charging for classes, or catered dinners, or conferences. My
sole objection is to charging admission to public lectures.
And have never indicated that I expect you to prove that it is
not morally wrong. Just gave my opinion, and tried to explain
it when asked. I also said that I would not participate in a
lodge that did so, or one that excluded the public from all
meetings, which is *far* worse. That's my choice to make.
That is a common
> trick among frauds, because it is well known that you cannot prove a
> negative. I ask people to go in the other direction: demonstrate how
> charging money is morally wrong, and I am answered with circular logic;
> answers which ASSUME that charging money is morally wrong.
There is no way to logically prove a moral principle. I don't
like being called (by implication) a fraudulent trickster,
having had this done publicly by a high TS official. But anyhow,
I think it is tricky if not fraudulent to insist that those who
disagree with you prove their points by logically deducing an
"ought" from an "is"-- since that's impossible. You "win", but
by cutting the Gordian knot.
> essentially stated that it is a matter somehow beyond logic (something
> on the order of it being something that one either understands or one
Precisely. One can use persuasion, by appealing to people's
basic assumptions, to get them to adopt one's moral position.
One can never prove it logically. I could not *prove* to you
that human sacrifice at lodge meetings is wrong.
My "adversaries" launched the first silos.
WHOA. I certainly was not attacking you. If you recall, I
said that the ARE (for which I generally have much higher
regard than the TS, especially the Adyar/Wheaton TS) really
falls down in my estimation in the commercialism department. I
am quite willing to criticize orgs that I identify with when
they behave in ways that violate their own principles. I also
headed a post "New York Special Case?" and suggested that
lodges with high overhead might *have* to charge fees. (Which
still doesn't make it desirable IMO.) Seems
like you identify so closely with the NYC lodge or the
Wheaton/Adyar TS that you feel personally attacked when people
disagree with something it does. That only brings unnecessary
pain and strife.
I am attempting to
> put the conversation on equal ground. As of now, very few here (notably
> Chuck and Titus) even UNDERSTAND my point of view. The rest are too busy
> with knee-jerk attacks against it.
Don't think most are making knee-jerk attacks against *your*
point of view. Maybe knee-jerk assertions of their *own* which
they held before they ever heard of you.
> It is a reference to a previous discussion with him. Not joining the
> E.S. does not automatically make you a bad Theosophist, and charging
> money does not, IN AND OF ITSELF, make a Lodge a bad Lodge. Yet you, he,
> and several others here have been stating just that, and making me, by
I certainly haven't stated that, although you might find it
implied; ditto for Doss. And it isn't charging money in
general that is problematic for me, but charging for public
lectures which are/can be people's first exposure to Theosophy.
> implication, avaricious and greedy. As a matter of fact, I volunteer a
> LOT of time to the Lodge, and several times have been asked to accept
> fees for my work for the Lodge. I have ALWAYS refused.
There was no personal judgment intended in anything I said, and
that probably speaks for most of your "adversaries."
> I could not find your original statement, but, to my recollection, you
> made a statement about people loving money for which, when interpreted
> by my own definitions of money and love of money, could not possibly be
> right. I was therefore asking you to clarify what you meant.
What I meant was (and this comes from observing the ARE) that
people start with the idea that it's OK to charge in order to
cover costs, and then they start deciding what programs to
offer, books to publish, etc. based on what brings in the most cash. Money
corrupts the process by which an organization defines itself.
> Sorry. I meant argument instead of analogy. It is a logical fallacy,
> and does not belong in serious discussion, unless it can be demonstrated
Serious discussion need not be solely logical. Serious
discussion of moral issues can *use* logic, and should not use
*illogic* but can never be purely logical.
> controversial ruling against an unpopular group, a slippery slope
> argument is valid, when coupled with a report of their past history).
OK. The ARE's history indicates that commercialism can get out
of hand. Many feel that the org. has lost something of its
soul in the process. Although in many ways I'd like to see the
TS emulate the ARE, commercialism is not one of them.
> What have I been asked to explain, yet failed to do so, except when I
> asked someone to clarify the question?
It's not that you have been asked and not done so. It's that
you have taken the position that others have to explain
themselves to you. They fall into a defensive mode, and we go
back and forth with that dynamic. This isn't a conscious
choice (I don't think.) It is, however, a pattern of argument
that bothers me a lot. Since I'm one of those people who
easily falls prey to the assumption that I owe others
explanations and defenses, but they don't owe me the same.
> When my practices are attacked as evil or immoral, I certainly do
> expect people to explain their point of view. When you were attacked for
> your book, did you expect anything less?
Yes. I did expect less. I never got explanations or defenses
of where people were coming from. With my handful of
"adversaries" (of whom only one was active on theos-l for long)
I allowed myself to be put in the position of 100% defensive,
and allowed my antagonist to be 100% the prosecutor, judge and
jury. If I ever did ask "Why are you doing this? Where are
you coming from? What do *you* conclude about the Masters'
identities? What's your evidence?" the immediate response was
"the issue isn't me, it's you and your book." Another former friend of this
person later wrote me "He asks a hundred questions and never
> > 3. Then pick whatever points of their explanation
> > you want to challenge, ignore the rest, and further demand that
> > they explain those.
> OK, I will let you off the hook.
A telling phrase, showing that you see me as the defendant and
yourself as the judge.
> > Having been dragged into this game, like a complete idiot, over
> > and over by many people on the Internet, I have at last come to
> > recognize it, and say "Hell no, I won't go."
> DRAGGED into this game? Hell, you STARTED it!!!!!!!
How in the world do you know? I *specifically* was describing
the past. Mostly on alt.religion.eckankar and Talisman, where
irate Eckists and Baha'is often found me an easy prey. I'd
make one critical statement about their religion, and be made
to "pay" for it by dozens of harassing, demanding posts which
insisted that I endlessly defend and explain my position. Only
one Theosophist has played the same game here. I was NOT referring
to you or the current discussion, as is clear in the above
passage. I was saying that I wouldn't get dragged in again.
(This will be my last post in this discussion.)
Moreover, I started no discussion on this issue. Tom brought
up fees, and about five people replied simultaneously.
> Let's take a look what happened from my point of view. First, you make
> a statement about how great it is that some Lodges do not charge for
That wasn't "first." It was in response to Tom.
I point out that, for some Lodges, the New York Lodge in
> particular, doing so is not a luxury, and charging fees in certain
> instances enables the Lodge to perform its duties (by giving the Three
> Objects a public forum, to allow the teaching and discussion of the
> Primary Literature and concepts that have come from it) better than it
> would otherwise. At this point, rather than people saying, "perhaps
> you're right",
Beg your pardon. I *immediately* said that, in reference to NYC
being a special case.
or saying "you're wrong because", I was hit by a stream
> of, "you're wrong, because it's wrong to charge money." When I ask why
> it's wrong to charge money, I get, "If you don't understand now, you
> never will", or "evil people charge money", or, "it's just plain wrong".
You got a lot more than that, but seem to have reduced people's
comments to that. You'll never get logical proof.
> The only response that even comes close to a rational argument was when
> it was pointed out that people might be excluded due to lack of money. I
> pointed out that the New York Lodge does not do this, unless the people
> also have excessive pride.
"Rational arguments" were several. Mine was, in essence, that
the TS should distinguish itself from all the
commercially-oriented New Age groups out there, and be an
example of a different way. JRC's was that since the Founders
and Masters gave freely to create Theosophy, we are obliged to
pass it on freely. Doss's was that (among other things) "it
ain't broke"-- TS lodges have done fine without charging fees
so why introduce them? Alan's was that genuine esoteric
teachers have historically been distinguishable from frauds
precisely by the criterion of charging or not charging fees. Etc.
Bart, I don't have any *personal* feelings on this issue one way
or the other, apart from being unwilling that anyone pay to
hear *me* speak. Your lodge made the choice it felt called to
make, and has every right to do so. I have the right to say
that such a choice would preclude my participation as a speaker
or audience member. And don't have to prove or justify that
choice, any more than you have to prove or justify yours.
Explain, yes, and I think I've done that sufficiently.
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