From the archives of some theosophical e-mail lists.

English ?enter=theos-l

Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2001
Author: K. Paul Johnson

Hey Bill,

Not having read the intervening posts, I don't know precisely how you were
attacked, but can offer some comments on the phenomenon in general.

> The attack has now widened to include me.

The reason for that is that these guys are bullies. Meaning, rather than
engage in serious, mutually respectful discussion of different POVs, they
create an atmosphere of intimidation and hostility. Thus the message is
not just "I am totally scornful and dismissive of Johnson's writings" but
also "and if you say anything positive about them I will be scornful and
dismissive of you too, so WATCH OUT!"

I consider myself a serious
> student who is in continuous pursuit of Truth and Wisdom. I also reserve
> wholly and exclusively to myself the power to assign "real value" for my
> Self. Your opinion is nothing but. It can't contain me. Why is their
> such fear of HPB's humaness being found out?

A question I have of course wrestled with a lot. Basically, these
guys and their ilk pretend to themselves that they are "defending HPB"
when in fact they are attacking to defend *themselves and the dogmatic
interpretation of HPB with which they have become wholly identified*.
Here's roughly how it goes:

1. Identification

That is, a certain degree of immersion in HPB's writings and adherence to
her teachings leads to such identifications as "I AM a Theosophist" and "I
AM a disciple of HPB" which in pathological cases become so total that the
person cannot even imagine himself having ideas different from or in
conflict with those of HPB and Theosophy. Which equates to a complete
lack of empathy for anyone with different ideas. This lack of empathy and
inability to think outside the dogmatic box leads to an inability to
communicate civilly with any "unbeliever" on the subject of the dogmatism.
What is weird is that the most vicious attacks by fundamentalist true
believers are always on more liberal adherents of their own tradition
rather than on total outsiders.

2. Inflation

Once identification has occurred, the boundary between self and the object
of worship becomes fluid; in states of exaltation it appears to vanish.
The believer experiences an influx of spiritual power when contemplating
the object of worship/identification. Particulars are expanded to
universals, e.g. HPB is "THE messenger" not just "a messenger" and her
teachers are THE Masters, not just *some* Masters.

3. Misperception of attack

Then, even the friendliest and best-intentioned effort to explain the
spiritual teacher with whom the believer has identified is perceived as a
personal attack, precisely to the extent that it challenges the dogmatic
beliefs about said teacher which have become a central part of the
believer's identity.

4. Retaliation for perceived attack

And thus, imagining hostility, destructive motives, and such on the part
of the person who comes up with a different interpretation, the believer
feels fully justified in launching blistering personal attacks on the
supposed guilty party.

5. Implicit threat to others

And the message behind this is not just "I hate so and so for challenging
what I believe, and am proud and eager to express this feeling" but "If
you step out of line and say anything I disagree with, I am going to hate
and attack you too."

My semi-serious interpretation of people like Dallas and Frank and a bunch
of Baha'is and Eckists I've seen who behave the same way is this: in past
lives they really got off on torturing and killing heretics, and now they
can't get away with that, so they will *symbolically* torture and kill
heretics instead.

Paul Johnson

Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2001
Author: Eldon B Tucker
Subject: getting along in discussion lists

At 08:57 PM 1/10/01 -0500, you wrote:
>Bill Meredith wrote:
> > Frank Reitemeyer wrote:
> > Agreed and supported. What KPJ wrote about the Masters is not new and what
> > is new is not true. It is of no real value for serious students which seek
> > to true knowledge.
> > - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
> > The attack has now widened to include me. I consider myself a serious
> > student who is in continuous pursuit of Truth and Wisdom. I also reserve
> > wholly and exclusively to myself the power to assign "real value" for my
> > Self. Your opinion is nothing but. It can't contain me. Why is their
> > such fear of HPB's humaness being found out?
> I had been largely ignoring this conversation, but I must agree with
>you. The problem we have been seeing is the basic problem in all
>fundamentalism. People take a book of wisdom, take their own
>interpretation of it, and call their interpretation the absolute truth,
>and deny that it is an interpretation.
> Bart Lidofsky

There are simple ground rules for a cordial exchange of ideas. The
rules work even when people hold wildly different opinions. First
is to never assume someone else's motives. Ask them what they are
trying to do, and give them the benefit of the doubt. Even if they
seem to claim better motives now than they appeared to have had,
let them be the better person they want to be.

The second rule is to let people explain themselves when their
writings seem unclear. Don't lock them into one's own interpretation.
This is not a court where the exact words used are legally binding.
It is a forum for the discussion of ideas, where we do someone a
favor when asking them to express themselves in different words, as
they practice making their writing clearer.

The third rule is to acknowledge that other people hold different
worldviews. Others may not be operating with the same assumptions
about life, about the way the universe works, and about what is
true knowledge and experience. Let others have their say from their
own standpoint, without having to cut them down and humble them,
forcing them to accept themselves as our system of thought might
see them. The universe is different to them; let them live in it
without sending an imperial army of ideas to invade it, with the
object of conquest.

Lastly, practice the noble virtues in the exchange. The virtues
aren't just for theorizing about life. Laugh at oneself and others
in a light and friendly manner -- the opposite of ridicule and
mockery. Love them in a brotherly manner -- the opposite of hating
them as enemies. Respect them as fellow seekers -- the opposite of
deploring them with bitter contempt. In other words: have a good
time with friends rather than trying to kill everyone in sight!!!

-- Eldon