The Fallacy in Another Johnsonian Argument: Part I
Nov 06, 1997 09:12 PM
I am attaching below a very rough draft of an article I have
just finished writing. Some students of Theosophy
may find my observations of some interest.
The Fallacy in Another Johnsonian Argument: Part I
by Daniel H. Caldwell
In his GNAT article, K.Paul Johnson writes as follows in an attempt
to rebut one of my HOUSE OF CARDS criticisms:
"A summary paragraph in *The Masters Revealed* [TMR]
explains the crucial elements of the evidence presented thus far:
'There were two points in the history of the TS at which
the Masters Morya and Koot Hoomi appeared as solid
historical personages rather than elusive semi-ethereal
beings. At both of these points, the same triangular
configuration is apparent: the Founders of the TS, the
Maharaja Ranbir Singh, and an Amritsar Sikh Sirdar are found
working in collusion. In October and November 1880, the
Founders' trip to the Punjab to meet these figures coincided
with the beginning of the Mahatma correspondence. In November
1883, Olcott's trip to Lahore and Jammu again involved Punjabi
Sikh Sirdars and the Maharaja of Kashmir.'
[Then Johnson elaborates on the TMR quote:]
Several factors distinguish the quality of this evidence [as cited
above from TMR] from the alleged visits *to* the TS Founders *by*
M. and K.H. cited as counterevidence by Mr. Caldwell. It is far more
feasible to follow known people making documented journeys to
known locations by known means than to follow unknown persons
making undocumented journeys by unknown means which are
allegedly miraculous in some cases. I have followed HPB and
Olcott to Northern India and determined as best I could whom
they met there and why (having literally retraced their steps
when possible); I welcome and invite alternative explanations
of these journeys and relationships. But instead Mr. Caldwell
offers only "evidence" which is entirely useless in identifying
prototypes for M. and K.H., which in some cases sounds more
like apparitions or stage magic than normal encounters, and
which therefore is more truly a "house of cards" than anything
I have proposed. . . ."
[End of Johnson's comments]
My analysis of some of his comments is as follows:
What is K. Paul Johnson's argument?
As I read Johnson, part of his argument goes something like this:
Johnson attempts to establish two different and separate categories
The FIRST CATEGORY involves evidence of the Masters
appearing as "solid historical figures." Johnson
has included in this category evidence of "known people
making documented journeys to known locations by known means."
In other words, Johnson writes that he has "followed HPB and Olcott
to Northern India and determined as best I could whom they met
there and why." He asserts that "in October and November 1880,
the Founders' trip to the Punjab [was] to meet these figures [i.e.
Maharaja Ranbir Singh and an Amritsar Sikh Sirdar]. . . .In November
1883, Olcott's trip to Lahore and Jammu again involved Punjabi
Sikh Sirdars and the Maharaja of Kashmir."
The SECOND CATEGORY involves evidence of the Masters
appearing as "elusive semi-ethereal beings." Into this
category Johnson places the "alleged visits *to* the TS Founders *by* M. and
K.H. cited as counterevidence by Mr. Caldwell." This evidence (Johnson
contends) involves "unknown persons making undocumented journeys by
unknown means which are allegedly miraculous in some cases.
. . . Mr. Caldwell offers only 'evidence' . . . which in some cases sounds
more like apparitions or stage magic than normal encounters. . . ."
Now I ask the reader, are these two categories legitimate or artificial?
I must admit that Johnson is quite clever in coming up with ingenious
rebuttal arguments. But does this Johnsonian argument hold water or just
alot of hot air?
I have appended at the end of this article EIGHT CASES involving
Colonel Olcott's encounters with the Masters. Cases A through
F were cited in my last article and I add too additional cases which
are essential to Johnson's present argument and my analysis thereof.
Two of these cases fall under Johnson's first category of evidence:
CASE G: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING A MASTER AT
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE IN AMRITSAR ON OCTOBER 26, 1880
CASE H: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING MASTER
KOOT HOOMI IN NOVEMBER, 1883 ON THE OUTSKIRTS
OF LAHORE, INDIA
I assume that Johnson would put 5 of the remaining 6 cases in the
second category consisting of "alleged visits *to* the TS Founders
*by* M. and K.H. cited as counterevidence by Mr. Caldwell."
Those 5 cases are:
CASE B: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING MORYA IN CEYLON
CASE C: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING MORYA AT BOMBAY
CASE D: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF SEEING MORYA AT BOMBAY WITH
SIX OTHER WITNESSES
CASE E: MORYA COMES TO BOMBAY ON AUGUST 4, 1880
CASE F: CASE F: MORYA COMES ON HORSEBACK TO BOMBAY IN JULY, 1879
The only remaining case is:
CASE A: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING OOTON LIATTO
IN NEW YORK CITY
Into what category would Johnson place the "Ooton Liatto" case?
This is a good question and I would love to know Johnson's answer
and his reasoning. I will return to this question at the end of this
So far, I have attempted to elucidate what Johnson's argument is
and I have tried to illustrate it with the relevant cases. Now I will attempt
to show that his argument is fallacious and that the two categories of
evidence are artificial and really don't hold up to close scrutiny.
As I go through my analysis, I ask the reader to refer to the details of each
case as given at the end of this article. By looking at each case in some
detail, the reader can determine whether Johnson's argument is convincing
or falls apart "like a house of cards" and whether my own counterargument
is convincing or "full of holes."
In the FIRST CATEGORY, Johnson maintains he used only evidence involving
"people [Olcott & HPB/Olcott, Damodar & Brown] making documented
journeys [from Bombay or Adyar] to known locations
[Amritsar, Lahore] by known means [train, carriage, on foot, etc.]."
And he assures us that he has "determined AS BEST I COULD [???]
whom they met there and why."
In the SECOND CATEGORY Johnson asserts that Caldwell used evidence
involving "alleged visits *to* the Founders [Olcott, HPB] *by* M. and K.H.",
i.e., "unknown persons making undocumented journeys by unknown
means [what about on horseback?? See Case F]" to Bombay or Colombo.
First some general observations for the reader to think about and then I
will turn to some of the cases and ask relevant questions.
In the FIRST CATEGORY of evidence, Johnson says he is including
"known people making documented journeys to known locations by known means."
This sounds very impressive but what does it really mean?
The one person Johnson's statement applies to in each case considered is
Henry Olcott. And in all eight cases appended to this article, the sole
witness or principal witness to the Master was Olcott. Therefore, *does it
really matter where Olcott was physically*? Does it really matter
whether Olcott was at Bombay, Amritsar, Colombo or Lahore?
In ALL of these cases, we can DOCUMENT historically the time,
the place and the means of transportation by which Olcott got to
the LOCATION where the encounter with a master took place.
For example, in Case E, Olcott and HPB had returned on July
24, 1880 to Bombay from a journey to Ceylon. Olcott states
that he meet Morya in HPB's room on August 4, 1880. In other words, we can
historically document Olcott's and HPB's movments and whereabouts for this
encounter. It is true that we don't know the real name of this Master or how he
travelled to Bombay on that occasion. [But compare Case F where Olcott said the
same Master came "in full day light, and on horseback." Here we know
the means of transporation used by the Master.]
But let us COMPARE AND CONTRAST this August 1880 meeting with
Olcott's encounter with "one of the Masters" at the Golden Temple at Amritsar
on Oct. 26, 1880. This case (G) is in Johnson's FIRST CATEGORY. But as I
pointed out in my HOUSE OF CARDS, Johnson has no historical documentation
to confirm Thakar Singh's presence at the Golden Temple that day. In fact, he
has no historical records indicating that Thakar Singh was even in Amritsar
on Oct. 26th. And even if Thakar Singh was in the city, does this mean
that this "unnamed Master" at the Golden Temple WAS Thakar Singh? Even
Johnson concedes (?) in his GNAT article the following:
"I absolutely do not assume that these passages refer to Thakar Singh
Sandhanwalia, as is proven in the very passage in which Mr.
Caldwell accuses me of that. How could I write "One might find
dozens of names to choose from" while assuming that the
passages refer to a particular person? I very explicitly made
the point that I OFFER ONLY A HYPOTHESIS, that other candidates
are possibilities, but that there are reasons to consider
Thakar Singh the most likely. This is one of several cases
where my world of infinite shades of grey gets caricatured by
translation into Mr. Caldwell's world of black and white." Caps
And where did this Master come from? And how did this
"unnamed Master" travel to the Golden Temple?
Does Johnson know the Master's mode of transporation?
Johnson has no knowledge of how the Master travelled to
the Golden Temple.
Where is Johnson's evidence and documentation?
Unproven hypotheses and speculation are not evidence.
It seems to me that Olcott's "meeting" with this "unnamed Master" could just as
easily be placed in Johnson's SECOND CATEGORY of "unknown persons
making undocumented journeys by unknown means." In other words, the
Master's appearance at the Golden Temple is as "undocumented" as the other
Master's appearances at Bombay.
Let us now examine Case H involving Olcott's account of meeting Master
K.H. in November, 1883 on the outskirts of Lahore.
Which category does this case belong in? Johnson would probably place it in
the FIRST CATEGORY. But I contend that it could just as easily be placed
in the SECOND CATEGORY of "unknown persons making undocumented
journeys by unknown means."
How did the Master KH come to Olcott's camp on the outskirts of Lahore?
And where did he come from? He was reported to be walking up to the
tents but other than that Johnson can say nothing based on evidence.
And who was this Master KH visiting Olcott, Damodar, and Brown?
Johnson has nothing called "evidence" or "documentation" to show
that Thakar Singh was the Master "K.H." visiting the three Theosophists.
Was Thakar Singh even in Lahore on that date? Johnson has no evidence;
but he only has suppositions of "infinite shades of grey".
David Pratt in his recent critique aptly describes Johnson's "method":
"Johnson's search for evidence sometimes takes on an air of desperation,
and at times he indulges in what John Algeo calls 'Wonderland logic',
whereby lack of evidence becomes evidence (Theosophical History, July
995, p. 244). For example, a report in the January 1884 Theosophist
reports that when Olcott, Damodar, and W.T. Brown arrived in Lahore on 18
November 1883, 'His Highness Raja Harbans Singh and other Sirdars
sent their conveyances to bring the party to their quarters'. Johnson
says that the reference to 'other Sirdars' is 'most intriguing', and
that 'the lack of any mention of Thakar Singh's name seems inevitable
if he was indeed the Master K.H.' (TMR 160) Does this mean
that if Thakar Singh's name had been mentioned, Johnson would have
regarded it as a contradiction of his hypothesis?! Johnson has no
difficulty believing that Mahatma M is based on the Maharaja
of Kashmir, even though the latter is mentioned by name on
several occasions by HPB, Olcott, and Damodar."
And even Johnson in his GNAT "reply" admits:
"In his passage about the visit of Olcott, Brown and
Damodar to Lahore, Mr. Caldwell states that I 'believe Olcott's
testimony at face value.' Not quite; for example I have strong suspicions
about how a message formed in the palm of Olcott's hand. Furthermore,
Mr. Caldwell's passage 'Of course, it was Thakar Singh' is a total
misrepresentation of the spirit of my work; the passage in question contains
no such words. I have simply stated that Thakar Singh is, to
date, the most likely candidate I have found. What I do contend is
that a visit occurring during a journey that is well grounded
in historical evidence, documented by three [Theosophical] witnesses who
portray the Master as arriving and departing in a quite
corporeal manner, is much more solid evidence relevant to
identifying K.H. than is found elsewhere in Theosophical
literature. Furthermore, the coincidence of Olcott, Brown and
Damodar spending their days in Lahore in the company of Sirdars
and Singh Sabha leaders, then receiving nocturnal visits from
Koot Hoomi and Djual Kul, suggests a link between the Singh
Sabha and these Masters."
Notice the various phrases used by Johnson: "the most likely candidate"
. . . "the coincidence of Olcott, Brown and Damodar" . . . "suggests a
It appears to me that Case H could just as easily be placed in the
SECOND CATEGORY of "UNKNOWN persons [i.e. KH] making
UNDOCUMENTED journeys [to Lahore from ?] by UNKNOWN means [okay, he
was walking up to the encampment but beyond that we know nothing of how he
travelled to the encampment!]."
Now let us consider Case A (the Ooton Liatto case). K. Paul Johnson, writing
on this case in TMR (p. 62), affirms:
"The names Ooton Liatto and Hilarion Smerdis have been equally impossible
to find in biographical and historical reference books. While both may be
pseudonyms, THERE IS LITTLE DOUBT THAT TWO REAL ADEPTS VISITED
OLCOTT IN NEW YORK." Caps added.
Into which of the two categories discussed in this article would Paul Johnson
place this Ooton Liatto case?
Does this "Ooton Liatto" case fall into the FIRST CATEGORY of Masters
appearing as "solid historical figures" and of "known people making
documented journeys to known locations by known means"?
Were Olcott and HPB "known people making documented journeys
to known locations by known means"? They were both at *home* in
their New York apartments when Ooton Liatto and his brother adept
dropped in. (Isn't this similar to the Founders being at *home* in Bombay
when the Master Morya dropped by?)
Were Ooton Liatto and his brother adept "known people making documented
journeys to known locations by known means"? I don't think so!
Or does this case fall into the SECOND CATEGORY of Masters
appearing as "elusive semi-ethereal beings" and of "alleged visits *to*
the TS Founders *by. . . [adepts] cited as counterevidence by Mr. Caldwell.
. . [;]. of unknown persons making undocumented journeys by
unknown means which are allegedly miraculous in some cases. . .
[; of] some cases . . .[sounding] like apparitions or stage magic
than normal encounters. . . "???
I would place the "Ooton Liatto" case in CATEGORY TWO. And yet,
Johnson can write that "THERE IS LITTLE DOUBT THAT TWO
REAL ADEPTS VISITED OLCOTT IN NEW YORK."
In light of these observations, it is hard to believe that Johnson can
seriously write (regarding Cases B through F) that
"Mr. Caldwell offers only 'evidence' which is entirely useless
in indentifying prototypes for M. and K.H. [and ] which in some cases
sounds more like apparitions or stage magic than normal
encounters, and which therefore is more truly a 'house of
cards' than anything I have proposed. . . ." !!!!!!!
In summary, Johnson's two so-called separate categories of evidence
collapse like HOUSES OF CARDS.
In ALL eight cases under discussion, Olcott's whereabouts can be
Concerning Case A readily accepted by Paul Johnson, we find that
the CATEGORY TWO definition fits perfectly. All eight cases
can roughly fall into the "category" of "unknown persons
making undocumented journeys by unknown means which
are. . . . [possibly] miraculous in some cases. . . ."
Concerning Cases G and H, we find that Paul Johnson has no evidence
that the Master in these two encounters was really Thakar Singh.
Johnson has only suppositions and suggestions but no evidence
worthy of the name. He has only "unknown persons making
undocumented journeys by unknown means."
(Continued in Part II)
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