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Judge, Olcott, and argument

May 05, 1998 07:37 AM
by K Paul Johnson

I find it saddening that there are so many hot button issues with
Theosophists where it is impossible to conduct calm, friendly
discussions in which all points of view can be aired in a
mutually respectful environment.  The ideal of discussion, as
opposed to argument, is a win/win proposition where everyone is
open to learning new information and modifying his/her views.
Reading Tannen's The Argument Culture has helped me to understand
some of the bitter disappointment I've experienced in recent
years; I've never wanted *acceptance* of my views but hoped for
*discussion* of them in a brotherly, exploratory manner.  Found
that ten times more outside Theosophical ranks than within.

Recently, Frank, I was quit disappointed by the tone of your
remarks concerning my assertion that HPB's knowledge continually
expanded during her public career and that this is clearly
visible in the body of her writings.  When you asked "what
evidence" there is for this conclusion, I thought you wanted a
discussion, and offered some leading reasons for taking this
view.  But your response was hostile and dogmatic in tone, making
it clear that you saw this as a win/lose argument, not a win/win
discussion; that you were completely right and had nothing to
learn from me, and I was completely wrong and not worth
discussing the matter with.  That was particularly disappointing
because in the past you had always been cordial and it was rather
startling to have you take such an unfriendly tone.  I felt
slapped in the face.

But then I realized that I wasn't the issue, and that the real
hot button was whether we take Judge or Olcott as a more reliable
witness to HPB's life and teachings.  I could give you a long
explanation as to why the evidence provided by Olcott, although
biased like that from any source in the direction of making him
look good and his opponents look bad, is more reliable to the
historical researcher than the ex post facto claims made by
Judge.  But while I'm strongly interested in this question as a
mental puzzle, I don't have the strong feelings about it that you
seem to, am certainly not willing to argue rather than discuss,
and thus feel thwarted in having any kind of constructive
conversation about it.  That's a bummer, but no worse than
learning how hard it is to have friendly, win/win discussions
about the Masters with Theosophists of differing views.

There is a whole laundry list of issues that Theosophists debate
and fight about but cannot seem to calmly discuss.  Leadbeater's
relationships with his pupils, HPB's untruths, Judge's
dispute with Olcott, and on and on.  All things I'd like to
discuss, but have been flamed for trying to.  All issues that are
fundamental to the evolution of the Theosophical movement.  How
did we get into this mess?

By way of contrast, I can't think of a single argument about
Cayce, which of his followers was right and which was wrong,
who's got the true gospel, who betrayed whom, etc., that I've
ever observed online, in print or in person in 20 years of ARE
association.  What karma makes one movement so peaceable and the
other so combative?  Hmmmm.  Hope I'm not about to import
Theosophical karma into the ARE with my new book.


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