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Re: Bill Meredith's Comments on "possible versus probable"

Mar 07, 2002 10:20 PM
by Bill Meredith

Thanks for responding Daniel. I think I understand your thought processes
better after reading your comments below.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Daniel Caldwell" <>
To: "Theosophy Study List" <>
Sent: Thursday, March 07, 2002 10:37 PM
Subject: Bill Meredith's Comments on "possible versus probable"

> Bill,
> Thanks for your comments on what I wrote about
> "possible versus probable." I will comment below on a
> few of your statements.
> Statement 1:
> I had quoted Barzun and Graff:
"If you receive a letter from a relative that [1]
> bears what looks like her signature, that [2] refers
> to family matters you and she commonly discuss, and
> that [3] was postmarked in the city where she lives,
> the probability is very great that she wrote it."
Bill, you wrote in turn:
> "agreed. But to leap from the probability of an
> ordinary event of everyday life to the probability of
> an extraordinary event not witnessed before nor since
> (i.e. raining inside a room) is a rather large leap
> wouldn't you say? Or are you saying that the same
> evidentiary elements that prove Daniel Caldwell exists
in time and space is sufficient to prove the existence
> of Santa Claus?"
> But I was not specifically writing about proving the
> existence of Santa Claus nor was I focusing on the
> "reality" of the "raining inside a room".

It seemed to me that you were writing to describe the *process* that
'level-headed researchers' use to determine the truth. Did I miss
something? That's *possible* you know. :) Are you saying that the 4 step
process will not work to determine the truth about Santa Claus? Will it work
to determine the truth of rain inside Olcott's apartment? Will it work to
determine the truth about HPB and Serapis? I don't think it will, but I
have been thinking all along that you think it will. Am I wrong?

> A more relevant example would be the question of the
> reality of the visitors in the Ooton Liatto case.
> Take the chart I made which you will find at:

Daniel, why is this more relevant to the validity of the 4 step process
than the determination of any other truth? Do you simply prefer to only run
certain events through the 4 step process and not others? Why would that
> This event is accepted by even Brigitte Muehlegger as
> involving two "real visitors". Even Paul Johnson and
> Steve Stubbs agree with this assessment. Isn't this
> different than trying to prove the existence of Santa
> Claus??

That people probably have visitors is common place. That a specific person
had visitors on a specific date seems an appropriate matter for historical
inquiry. That these visitors cause supernatural events seems a
different matter, deserving of a more stringent *process* than the overly
simply 4 step process. (The scientific method comes to my mind as a
preferable alternative). Hence my reference to Santa Claus.

> Or do you perhaps disagree with the assessment of this
> case made by Muehlegger, Johnson and Stubbs??

Perhaps not. I think it possible that they are right. I also think it
possible that Olcott is right. I think it probable that Olcott had
visitors. I think it probable that Olcott thinks these visitors were
paranormal adepts who performed supernatural events in his presence.

> Statement 2:
> Bill, you wrote:
> "And if you would simply acknowledge the possibility
> or plausibility of alternative positions, we could
> make some progress. If you remain insistent that once
> the level headed researcher has determined which of
the possibilities is probable and taken the audacious
> step of calling that probability 'the truth' that all
> the other possibilities cease to be, then you will
> remain fixed in your beliefs and unable to move beyond
> them."
> Bill, it is hard for me to understand exactly what
> point or points you are trying to make here.
> For one thing, I do NOT believe that "all the other
> possibilities cease to be" once one of the possible
explanations has been deemed most probable in light of
> the existing evidence. Look again at the chart at:
At Step 2 there are at least 5 POSSIBLE explanations
> of Olcott's encounter with the 2 "adepts." At the
> step 2 level none of these possibilities can ever be
> ruled out. They never "cease to be" at the step 2
> level. But what Barzun and Graff are saying is that
the historian must progress beyond step 2 to steps 3
> and 4.

I probably did not explain myself well enough. This process that you are
using to 'teach' us how to be level-headed researchers is narrow and linear
and will not produce the truth about supernatural events. It may satisfy
the requirements of historians looking backward trying to sort out what
'probably' happened in the course of ordinary events, but it will not
substitute for the scientific method in proving or disproving paranormal
events such as materializations.

> I assume that Brigitte Muehlegger had good reasons and
> evidence for her opinion that the 2 "adepts" in
> Olcott's account were "real visitors". I further
> assume that Johnson and Stubbs had equally good
> reasons, etc.

The words are so tricky here. One can agree that Olcott had visitors based
on the 4 step process. On the other hand adepts are paranormal by
definition and their existence should, one would hope, be held to a higher
standard of veracity. The 4 step process can lead to the conclusion that
Olcott thought he was visited by adepts, but in my opinion, it will take
more than Olcott's convictions to conclude that the visitors were paranormal
adepts with supernatural powers.

> In looking at all of their opinions on this Ooton
> Liatto case I get the impression that they all believe
> that at the step 4 level the most probable explanation
> is that real physical men visited Olcott. At step 2
> this explanation would only be one of 5 possibilities.
> At step 2 one could say that all 5 "explanations"
have equal "weight". All are possible. But that's at
> step 2 --- not at step 4.
> I hope this may help to clarify a few of my own
> previous comments.

Yes, Daniel your comments do help clarify things.
You do a tremendous amount of work just on these lists and I thank you for
taking the time to respond to me.


> =====
> Daniel H. Caldwell
> "...Contrast alone can enable us to appreciate things at
> their right value; and unless a judge compares notes and
> hears both sides he can hardly come to a correct decision."
H.P. Blavatsky. The Theosophist, July, 1881, p. 218.
> __________________________________________________

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