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Re: Judge, Olcott, and argument

May 05, 1998 11:56 AM
by Daniel H Caldwell

I agree that these subjects really NEED "calm, friendly discussions in which
all points of view can be aired." ALL OF US need to listen more
and thoughtfully discuss these issues. Who of us can't learn something
new? Although I have been quite critical of some of K. Paul Johnson's
views as expressed in his books, I have also learned a great deal
as a result of reading his works. I do wish he would challenge
his own assumptions (maybe he does!) but ALL of us students of
Theosophy need to challenge in turn our own assumptions. And
calm detailed discussion of the many issues is necessary if
any of us are going to learn something other than what we
THINK we already know. I look to the future. . . .


K. Paul Johnson wrote:

> 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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