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Brenda's questions re: ARE

Jun 26, 1998 08:01 AM
by K Paul Johnson

Dear Brenda,

First question first: the official pub date is the first week of
September, but that allows several weeks to get to stores.  I'm
hoping to have my copies by mid-August.

The second question is much harder.  I was never "someone" in
TSA terms.  Sure, I had spoken annually or so to a couple of
local lodges and once each to a couple more.  And had showed up
at a few conferences.  But had never been published in any
Adyar--sponsored forum or even visited Wheaton.  Nor had I ever
spoken to any Adyar-sponsored event above the local level.
Had 30 or so pieces in Pasadena or independent Theosophical publications from
about 1981-91, though.  I guess you could say I was fairly visible
within the movement, but it was really being published by SUNY Press
that made me "arrive" in TSA terms.  That is, being a recognized name.
Unfortunately, I simultaneously "arrived" on the s--- list, in
the dog house, as persona non grata, etc., throughout the
movement, not unanimously or even to a majority, but on the part of enough
highly vocal and nasty people that it was pure hell to experience.

I have also been a complete nonentity as far as ARE is concerned.
Have visited the HQ a zillion times, but attended no conferences.
Have been a faithful study group participant three different
times, once right there in Va. Beach, but that was the extent of
involvement.  The difference seems to be that with ARE you can be
a nonentity within the group, bypass them and get published by a
university press, and write more critically/skeptically than has
ever been published within the organization, without arousing the
kinds of hostility and ostracism that has been the case with
Theosophy.  I think that's largely because they're generally a
much more optimistic and eclectic group, much less defensive in
attitude.  The leaders take a much more nuanced and objective
view of Cayce than Theosophical leaders do of HPB, IMHO.

Also, TSA tends to be paranoid about any perceived "up and
coming" new influence and wants to strangle it in its cradle,
perhaps because the existing powers that be are so lacking in
the ability to convey anything new and exciting that they feel
threatened by creativity in members.  A subtheme of Initiates is
how many of the truly creative and significant figures of the
first half-century of Theosophy bailed out or were pushed out.
Whereas with ARE there is a large appetite for novelty, a steady
stream of new writers with new approaches, a leadership that
reaches out to such people rather than pushes them away.  Which
makes me a very small and nonthreatening fish in a big and
crowded pond.  OTOH, getting published by SUNY and raved in the
NY Times Book Review suddenly made me a big fish in a small and
fairly unpopulated Theosophical pond.  Thus, someone to be "dealt
with" in the usual way, being treated scornfully and dismissively
by leaders and their admirers.  Surely more than a
hundred people have been down the same road before me.

The lesson I take from this is to carefully avoid getting much
involved in any spiritual organization again.  Sure, I might
speak at the next Congress if asked, or to local or regional
groups.  But only in the immediately wake of the book's
publication, after which a quick return to anonymity if possible.
As to your other question, no I wasn't on the program this year.
But if Jesus doesn't come on September 30, perhaps next year I
can get the time slot taken by Kirk Nelson this time.

BTW one weird note is that he and I are astrological cousins if
not twins, born the same week.  So I think it's funny that he'll
be beating the drums for a literal interpretation of Cayce,
predicting the second coming, the same month that I'll be coming
out with a much more critical and questioning approach to Cayce's
accuracy.  Come October, one of us will look a lot more credible
than the other :)


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