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Dialogue in the Age of

Criticism

 

Chapter Six

     Before getting into David's sixth chapter, I'd like to complete a point. In the last chapter I raised the issue that our worldviews can help us focus on a subject to reveal new understandings, and yet those same worldviews can also limit us from relating to others.

     Throughout David's book, he looks at Paul Twitchell and ECKANKAR critically from the position of academia, especially in this chapter. He also approaches the subject, as we have seen, from the standpoint of Radhasoami and Sant Mat, as well as from the bias of some Christian fundamentalists. Earlier in the book, David also acted as critical investigative reporter, approaching Paul's life from that perspective. In later chapters we will even find David takes up the role of analytical and social psychologist and approaches Paul's teaching from that particular angle.

     To review a subject, such as the founding of a religion, from many viewpoints is an admirable thing. But, unfortunately, never once does David approach Paul from Paul's own point of view. How is it possible to ever understand anyone, especially when it comes to something as intimate as their spiritual teaching, without ever exploring the subject from that individual's perspective?

     This is such a significant point that I don't see how we can overlook it. If we are ever going to understand another person, or a spiritual teaching, it can only be accomplished by first coming to know them from their own vantage point. If we cannot understand their view, how can we ever expect to understand them?

     Yet there is implied in David's approach a subtle, unstated belief: That just like any scientific analysis, a spiritual teacher or a religion can be studied from the outside. That somehow an outsider can be more objective.

     This opinion is actually a widely held one. Though often unstated and invisible, it is a belief system and worldview all its own. Unfortunately, this practice has produced a culture that is incapable of public dialogue on spiritual matters. Who wants to offer their intimate spiritual feelings to other people who examine and critically judge their beliefs without ever trying to understand their point of view?

     So we quickly learn that it is a mistake to openly discuss religious matters in our society unless we are amongst friends, or others who think like we do. As a result, our culture becomes fractured into a thousand sub-cultures, each its own cult with its own worldview, each cut off from the treasures of understanding others. For there is no true understanding of others without first moving to the perspective of the person or teaching we are trying to understand.

     Joseph Campbell, the well-known author and teacher of mythology, once made a very interesting observation. After years of studying the myths and religious beliefs of other people, he realized that their traditions, their rituals and their spiritual practices could only work within their teaching. Trying to analyze their practices from some other belief system was like trying to take some bit of software code out of one program and run it in another software routine. It simply won't work.

     Yet this mistake is made all of the time. And when the code fails to work, or in this case when the spiritual teaching doesn't make sense, most people will assume it is the software that is bad, never realizing it will only run properly in its original program, with its original context.

     Somehow, the whole idea of being objective has become completely twisted around. People have come to think that being objective means not accepting the viewpoints of others, but critically analyzing them instead. For some reason they actually believe this is the key to objectivity.

     On the contrary, such thinking only reinforces our own belief systems and prevents us from understanding others.

     The whole point of scientific observation is to learn how to set aside our own beliefs and our own biases, so that we can see things more clearly as they are. It is not the prejudices of others that threaten our deeper perceptions, but our own beliefs, which color everything we see.

     There is no accomplishment to being objective about the beliefs of others. We are naturally objective about them. It is our own beliefs that can blind us. It is often the things we take most for granted, the expectations that go unexamined, which prevent us from seeing what is right before our eyes. This is also the cause of why we can sometimes be misled by others - not because of what they tell us, but because of our own mistaken attitudes and expectations.

     The spiritual path, according to ECKANKAR, is a path of personal inner exploration. We grow and learn spiritually from real inner experiences, not just faith. How can we really know about the subtle realms that exist until we delve into them?

     It is easy to be fooled by our imagination and past beliefs. We naturally see what we want to see, but once we make contact with the spiritual currents that stream down from the higher worlds, the very causative forces of Life, then we can enter into real spiritual knowledge. Therefore we must learn to move from one state of consciousness to another, and we must learn to see from other viewpoints and belief systems, if we are ever going to really understand spiritual truth.

     This leads us back to David's sixth chapter. David calls this chapter, "Lost Antecedents. Retracing the Roots of Eckankar." He begins this way:

     To retrace the teachings of Eckankar to their origin is, in some ways, to rediscover the actual religious influences upon Paul Twitchell's own life.  For Eckankar, although it has its basis in many different religious traditions, is, in the final analysis, a "Paul Twitchell" creation.  In creating his new movement, Twitchell drew extensively from his own personal experiences.  He took grafts (each of varying degrees) from the many mystical and occult groups he had encountered, finally blending his knowledge of these traditions into what is now known as Eckankar--the ancient science of soul travel.

     While several movements have had a major impact on Twitchell's development of Eckankar, three spiritual traditions were of primary importance:  1) Theosophy, as founded by Madame Blavatsky; 2) Self-Realization Fellowship, as presented by Swami Premananda; and 3) Dianetics and its religious outcome, Scientology.

     But of all the religious movements to have an effect on Twitchell's development of Eckankar, no tradition had as much influence as the Sant Mat tradition of North India.   Twitchell first encountered the tradition through the auspices of Kirpal Singh, founder of Ruhani Satsang, a spiritual movement entirely based upon Sant Mat.

     I think David uses the correct word when he says these teachings that Paul studied had an "influence" upon him. But the picture that David paints in this chapter, in fact throughout his whole book, is one of Paul taking pieces of teachings and stitching them together to make a new religion. Or "blending" them together, as David says above. This is a perfect example of David trying to characterize ECKANKAR from an outside viewpoint.

     But Paul Twitchell has described the origins of ECKANKAR in very different terms. Paul has taken great pains to show that the teaching of ECKANKAR is something that has existed down through the ages, manifesting itself in different ways through different cultures and different times. Therefore, according to Paul, these other teachings like Theosophy, Radhasoami or Gnosticism had captured and expressed some essential element of that living teaching he called ECKANKAR.

     In other words, Paul was not trying to piece together elements of different teachings to make some new religion, but was recognizing something that existed beyond religion and is the source of religion. He was not making some kind of scarecrow, with a bit of straw from this teaching, the nose and eyes from that teaching, and a piece of cloth from over there. Paul was writing about something from the whole. Something that expressed itself through many forms and many states of consciousness.

     I find it amazing how different Paul's perspective is from David's on something even as simple as the influence of other teachings. And how different the results. It often seems as if David is examining some dead thing like a forensic researcher, dissecting and searching for clues to a crime. Paul, however, is writing about something very much alive, conscious and filled with beauty. Paul is describing a Lover who has left her traces and veils across the spiritual teachings of the world. Paul collected and gathered those veils so that he could return them to Her, to whom they belong. David, however, sees those threads as if Paul was stealing them, and never seems to see Her at all.

     David likes to think that his perception is based upon objective facts, but the point here is that this will never help anyone understand ECKANKAR or Paul Twitchell. It tells us far more about David than it does about Paul. Therefore it is hardly objective, and in fact even worse, it is very distorting.

     For example, one of the basic assumptions that underlies David's whole argument that ECKANKAR was largely derived from Sant Mat is based upon David's belief that the books of Paul Twitchell define the teachings of ECKANKAR. If the writings define the religion, as David seems to believe, then if you can show writings that are the same, this will also show that the teachings are the same.

     Unfortunately, this assumption of David's is seriously flawed.

     Paul made it incredibly clear, stating it over and over again, that the writings represent only a small portion of the teachings of ECK. The majority of the path is an inward one, unique to each person, and that most of the training takes place within the experiences of one's own personal life, both on the inner and in the outer. Once contact with the spiritual current, known as the ECK, is established, the path begins to unfold on an individual basis. This is universally known by ECKists. The books and writings are mere hints. They are simply the ends of a thread, which we can follow back to their origin to understand their true meaning.

     Therefore, the matter of plagiarism, which David focuses on in chapter six, becomes much more to David than merely a matter of plagiarism. David uses it, rather, to try proving that ECKANKAR is an offshoot of his own teaching, Radha Soami. Here is what David wrote:

     The greatest influence the Radha Soami faith, the parent of Ruhani Satsang, had on Paul Twitchell and Eckankar came in the form of a book entitled The Path of the Masters.   The work was first published in France in 1939; its author was Julian P.  Johnson...

     The striking similarities between Twitchell's work and Julian Johnson's earlier writings are astounding.  Three of Twitchell's books, The Tiger's Fang, Letters to Gail (both volumes), and Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad , appear to contain almost verbatim excerpts from Johnson's 1939 work, The Path of the Masters .

     Yet, it is Twitchell's 1966 book, The Far Country, [note: David is mistaken about the date here. The Far Country wasn't published until 1970. DM.] which raises the serious question of his originality.  The work, amazingly, contains well over four-hundred paragraphs from Johnson's two books, The Path of the Masters and With a Great Master in India, without so much as a single reference note to them.  It is likely that almost one-half of The Far Country is not of Twitchell's pen.

     Realizing that it is incontrovertible that Twitchell was intimately acquainted with Johnson's books (even Eckankar's former President, Dr. Louis Bluth, admits that he loaned his Radha Soami books to Paul Twitchell) [Note: this would have been years after Paul wrote The Far Country. DM] the real question that arises is, "Did Twitchell knowingly plagiarize from them?"  Although there are two contrasting viewpoints on this question, the inevitable answer is:  Yes, he did--unmistakenly so.

     There has indeed been quite a debate over whether the similarities between the writings of the two authors is accidental or intentional, and while of course each person should make up their own mind about this matter, I do think the evidence is quite conclusive that Paul did use sections of writings from other authors, of which Julian Johnson's books were just one source.

     This has come as a shock and surprise to many ECKists, and David Lane certainly does deserve credit for uncovering this information and making it well known, although there have been others who have noticed and pointed out such things before. However, once again, it is in David's interpretation of what this means where I find huge errors and distortions, and his approach of uncovering great crimes misses the most fascinating spiritual lessons that surround the matter.

     I'm not going to go into the many examples of Paul's copying that David has supplied. It is easy enough for anyone to take Julian Johnson's book, The Path of the Masters, and Paul Twitchell's book, The Far Country, to see for themselves. While the two works don't immediately seem that similar, a real study does show what David is referring to. A large portion of Paul's book is almost identical to passages from Johnson's book.

     One of the strangest things about this is how different the two books really read. When I first heard about David's articles on ECKANKAR, I immediately found a copy of Julian Johnson's book to compare for myself. Although on my first reading I could recognize a few passages here and there, overall I thought the similarities between the two books were minor. It was only after I read David's extensive comparisons that I could see how many passages were involved.

     When I first began studying ECKANKAR, I read The Far Country straight through, almost in one sitting. After I finished it, I turned right around and read it through two more times. Paul wrote the book as a series of dialogues between himself and the ECK Master, Rebazar Tarzs, and not only did I find it insightful, and inspirational, but it was also very easy to read. However, I must say that every time I've tried to read The Path of the Masters, I've found it very tedious. The complete volume is rather long, over 550 pages (which explains the reason for an abridged version.) Julian Johnson's writing is certainly clear enough, and in places quite interesting, but it is written like a scholarly text, and I've always found it very dry.

     Anyone who is an experienced writer can see the huge differences in approaches taken by Paul and Julian Johnson in their books. Julian treats his work like a history lesson in the form of a monologue. Paul's work shows the dynamic teaching relationship between the Master and the student through the form of dialogue. Julian tries to tell all the points he wants to get across, like a philosophy lecture. Paul demonstrates and shows his teaching through the interaction of questions and answers, imbuing his book with a sense of adventure and discovery. Julian shares the knowledge he has gained as something that he learned in the past. Paul shows himself in the process of learning and realizing the depths of the teachings. Julian is representing the principles of a tradition known as Sant Mat. Paul is exploring the underlying spiritual truths of all religion.

     In other words, Julian wrote his book like an academic manuscript, which is probably why only about 5000 copies had been published during its first 20 years in print. Paul, however, portrayed himself as a protagonist in a drama that any seeker could identify with. He created a sense for the reader of being there with the Master, and he captured both the physical sensations as well as the emotional interactions while dealing with the philosophy of the spiritual path. It's no wonder that The Far Country sold, from what I remember, around 50,000 copies in its first five years.

     These differences are important to remember, and relevant to this discussion of plagiarism, as we will see later.

     Reading David's comments, you might think that all, or even many of Paul's books contain borrowed materials to the same extent as The Far Country, but this isn't true. Although most of Paul's books, as far as I know, do contain some passages, even if only a few sentences or a paragraph here and there copied from other authors, showing that this practice of Paul's was not unique to The Far Country, still, these other cases are insignificant compared to The Far Country. In fact, if The Far Country had never been printed, I doubt any controversy over plagiarism would have been raised at all.

     If we remember that Paul had authored over sixty texts, as David has told us, then this portion of The Far Country that David is referring to would account for around 1% of Paul's writings, and from what I've seen all of the other passages borrowed would amount to less than this. However, rather than just studying this matter from the outside, let's try to delve into Paul's viewpoint to get a better understanding of what really happened. Why would Paul have copied?

     One of the most interesting things that I find about this is the timing of when The Far Country was written. According to Paul, he wrote the book shortly after meeting Gail, when he moved down to San Francisco, which would have been in 1963-1964. This is the same year Paul gave his copy of The Tiger's Fang to Kirpal Singh, and introduced Gail to Kirpal, which resulted in Gail being initiated by Kirpal.

     It seems quite likely, then, that Paul wrote The Far Country with the idea that Kirpal might publish it, or at least give it his blessings, just as he hoped for The Tiger’s Fang. We know that Paul still felt close to Kirpal during this time. Paul thought Kirpal was sympathetic with his work, and still had friendly relationships with Kirpal’s satsangis. Therefore, it looks as if Paul had other Sant Mat students in mind when he wrote The Far Country, which means students that were familiar with The Path of the Masters. Referring to some of the principles of Sant Mat, then, appears to be a part of what Paul was trying to do, as he went on to illuminate and show a broader vision of these principles from the standpoint of an ageless teaching.

     Then what was Paul's purpose in writing the book? This is really an interesting question. To answer it, we must remember that Paul wrote The Tiger's Fang in 1957, but did nothing with the book until he offered it to Kirpal Singh in 1963. Paul wrote Dialogues With The Master around 1956, from the references I have seen, but didn't publish it until 1970. Paul also wrote The Flute of God in 1959, but didn't put it into print until 1966, in the Orion Magazine series. This pattern is similar to Paul's writing of The Far Country in 1963, which wasn't published until 1970.

     In other words, it appears that Paul wrote these early manuscripts as a part of his own spiritual growth and training. Actually, this is consistent with how he portrays these books. Perhaps Paul used writing as a way of clarifying his own understanding, to help him comprehend the subtle relationships taking place between the inner and outer spiritual path, or to better appreciate the new inner teachings that he was learning. As Paul had said before, by trying to teach others we can often learn the most for ourselves, so Paul was also writing these manuscripts as if to help explain these things to others as well. Apparently, it was many years later when Paul thought he should publish these manuscripts. I find this a very different picture than the one that David has painted.

     This leads to another interesting fact that can give us an insight into Paul's viewpoint. Although David does not appear to be aware of it, the standard of journalism, during the days when Paul was writing these books, was not only very accepting of plagiarism, but actually encouraged the practice. It was standard procedure for journalists to copy materials from other writers, rewrite it in some way, present it as new, and conceal the source. Does this shock you?

     Whenever we look behind the curtains at the practices of industries that we are not familiar with, we will often find things that surprise, disappoint or shock us. This is because we do not yet understand the point of view of those cultures. We are still trying to judge them from the outside.

     An article appeared in USA Today on Monday, May 10, 1999, called "New era brings new diligence on plagiarism.” It was written by Phillip Meyer, who holds the Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Here are a few quotes:

     From 1927, when it first adopted a code of ethics, until 1984, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) had no written rule against plagiarism.

     C.D. MacDougall, whose 1938 book Interpretative Reporting was once the standard text, advised concealing the source of rewritten material in order to make it seem original.

     Newspapers don't steal important stories without verifying, he said, but they "do borrow for rewriting purposes and often without waiting to verify minor items."

     Meyer goes on to explain how things have changed since then, giving examples that show how inconsistently the idea of plagiarism is treated even today:

     One of the basic rules of fairness in our culture is that a person should not be punished for acts that were not against the law at the time they were committed. But morality is socially defined, society changes its mind, and we don't all learn about it at the same time.

     Director-screenwriter James L. Brooks expressed it in a line for William Hurt, playing a reporter in the 1987 movie Broadcast News. Accused of crossing an ethical line, Hurt says, 'It's hard not to cross it. They keep moving that little sucker, don't they.'

     In MacDougall's day, the line didn't move much. Information was scarce, and recycling maximized its use. Today, originality is more important.

     And plagiarism is easier to spot.

     Similarities in the work of different authors get caught because technology helps information break out of once-closed networks. People with an interest in a narrow topic are seldom content with a single source. They use the Internet to search and compare.

     Therefore, it is quite clear that in Paul's day this practice of what we call plagiarism was encouraged in the field of journalism, and journalism was Paul's trade for over 25 years. This, I believe, gives us an insight into Paul's viewpoint and perspective. If this shocks us, it is not because it is a reflection on Paul's character. This is simply a matter of learning something we didn't know, and trying to judge a past era from today's sensibilities. In other words, we are back to the problem of paradigms.

     If we want to see from Paul’s viewpoint, we need to understand his training and the practice in his line of work, in his day and age. However, during that same time period, while journalism - the research and writing for newspapers - favored plagiarism, the realms of academia and literature saw it very differently. This is where we it starts to get confusing.

     I’ve experienced this conflict of ethics every time I’ve changed careers. It is not easy to see outside our own paradigm. Our culture and beliefs surround us so completely they are often invisible.

     For example, when I first began working in the publishing business. One of my jobs was to work with artists, outlining the illustrations we needed for articles we were publishing. I was disillusioned to find that the artists, especially the most productive ones, would as a practice copy a great deal of their drawings from other illustrators. It didn't seem right to me at the time. I had always thought that all artists should work hard at being creative and original, and that copying was wrong.

     Even though the illustrations that these artists produced did not look exactly like the artists they had copied from, (in fact, if you weren't familiar with the original illustrations, you wouldn't even realize the drawings weren't completely original) still I felt disappointed. It changed my concept of the originality of artists, and art in general.

     However, as time passed, I began to see the wisdom in these methods. The artists I worked with were always looking out for interesting illustrations. They would clip out drawings and styles that they liked and keep them in their files or in the back of their mind. This was, in fact, a form of highly creative gathering and learning, so that when a job came along they had a rich library of creative concepts to draw from. This is what enabled them to turn out new illustrations proficiently.

     Therefore, I came to understand the wisdom of this practice and could then see from the perspective of their worldview. In other words, to build upon and recreate the work of other artists is an artistic and creative act in itself, and advances the arts for all of society.

     Here's how painter Adam Grosowsky recently put it, in an article that appeared in the January 22, 2000 edition of The Oregonian:

     Copying has so much stigma attached to it, but in the history of art it's the fastest way to learn information. The history of painting is based on copying...Every great painter copies in the first 10 years of his career - Degas, Picasso and down the line. But I try to give my paintings something of me that makes them my own so that it isn't slavish imitation.

     In fact, the very origin of art is imitation. The imitation of nature and life around us. Powerful memories and images we experience beg to be captured and saved, or recreated and retold. It is through imitation that we learn. Originality, therefore, is not the opposite of imitation, but the product of it.

     Thomas Mallon, in his book on plagiarism, Stolen Words, shares a famous quote from T. S. Eliot:

     "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion."

     Mallon continues:

     One would be tempted to dismiss paradoxes like these as more clever than true if one didn't find similar sentiments being so often expressed by creators in so many different arts. Virgil Thomson's disciple Ned Rorem has said, "One imitates what one loves. You steal what you admire, then feel so guilty about it you try to disguise it." Less penitent is Martha Graham, who in one of her notebooks declares: "I am a thief - and I am not ashamed. I steal from the best wherever it happens to me."

     …What's understood, though, is that what's harvested is ploughed back, used to seed the next step in the cycle of creation. It is not put unchanged onto the dinner table by someone who pretends he's been cooking all day.

     In fact, not only are the same sentiments, but apparently even the same words are expressed by other artists. While researching this chapter I discovered that according to the Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, from Columbia University Press, 1995, they credit Lionel Trilling for writing in Esquire magazine, September 1962:

     Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.

     Well, I think this makes the point quite clear: We all borrow from others and from life. Even the greatest artists and writers absorb what they see and hear around them. Copying is a part of our creativity.

     William Burroughs, the US author, put it this way in his work, The Adding Machine, 1985, according to The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations:

     Out of the closets and into the museums, libraries, architectural monuments, concert halls, bookstores, recording studios and film studios of the world. Everything belongs to the inspired and dedicated thief…Words, colors, light, sounds, stone, wood, bronze belong to the living artist. They belong to anyone who can use them. Loot the Louvre!…Steal anything in sight!

     However, the point that Mallon made, and is hidden within the words of the others here, is that an artist’s work is not imitative if they first digest what they see and hear. Once it becomes a part of them, when they cast it back out in the form of their own creation, then it contains that spark of originality we prize so highly in great art. The originality, the unique expression comes from the artist’s new use of what they have taken in. If they first make it their own, then it becomes a new tapestry even if it is still woven from old threads.

     Therefore, what I learned by working with illustrators was that we should strive for originality, but nothing is completely original. We borrow threads, but the whole cloth should still capture something new in some way.

     Years after my work with artists, I began a career as an electronics design engineer and went through a similar experience. I never realized the extent to which engineers go through in copying the designs of others. Once again, it was my ideal that was shattered. Design engineers regularly "reverse-engineer" products from other companies, and use the new design concepts they learn in their own designs. It is not uncommon for a large part of a circuit to be copied, including sometimes the old design's weaknesses as well. These things are easy for engineers to spot, because the choices of components and the values of those parts are almost infinite in variation. When a whole section of a schematic is the same, you know that one has been copied from the other.

     I had the feeling of disillusionment when I saw this practice. It didn't seem ethical at first. But over time I came to see the wisdom of this as well. Although I would never make a complete copy of someone else's design, it is very different to study the designs of others, copy tricks and ideas someone else has developed and improve on them, or combine them with other new circuit elements to produce a better or new product. In fact, this is exactly the process that drives innovation and technical advancement. Our modern technical age would have screeched to a halt if engineers were required to be completely original, rather than building on the creations of others.

     Through my varied careers, I've come to see that accountants often judge other people by how balanced they are. Artists judge others by their creativity. Politicians judge by the position of power and influence that people have, and scientists judge people by their clear thinking and intelligence.

     Most people, then, are like ships that pass each other in the night. They are unable to see each other as they really are, or understand the ethics that they live by. They do not make the effort to understand other outlooks and other states of consciousness, or other eras in time, but judge things from where they sit. So much of life is missed in this way. The spiritual student must be careful not to stop until they have real understanding instead of mere opinions, such as these.

     After I first published this chapter, some people were so surprised by this practice of journalism that they found it hard to believe. How could journalism actually encourage plagiarism, when we've all been taught in school that copying is wrong? So, I decided to do a little more research.

     A recent book, Perspectives on Plagiarism, published by State University of New York Press in 1999, explores growing concerns by educators over the teaching of plagiarism and offers us an insight. An essay from this book, by Rebecca Moore Howard, called The New Abolitionism Comes to Plagiarism, explains:

     What the printing press made possible was writers' sustaining a living without benefit of noble patrons. With wide distribution of texts and with a larger literate public, the conditions for independent authorship were nearly in place.

     This brought about a whole new idea, according to Howard, where an author had rights to their own creations. In fact, as Thomas Mallon points out in his book, Stolen Words:

     In the modern world an author typically hungers for recognition, but in the medieval one anonymity was prized, leading him to suppress his identity, or to claim that his stories were things he dreamt rather than consciously invented.

     Mallon then quotes from Edward Condren, a professor of Middle English literature at UCLA:

     "I suppose there was some little thing…having to do with his desire to remove himself from any proximate posture of rivalry with God as the creator of something."

     So, writers who started claiming credit and rights to their creations were a whole new development, and as Rebecca Moore Howard goes on to explain in her essay, this was not a simple shift in culture:

     But the one [development] that is most significant for the place of plagiarism in intellectual hierarchy today is the premise that the writer is capable of producing an original text, one of a kind…

     [T]he possibility of original writing…became a tenet of nineteenth-century literary theory. That tenet, in turn, became valuable during the dark hours…when the plebeian tastes of the masses and their voracious appetite for newspapers and "little reading" threatened to topple the long-standing intellectual hierarchy of the privileged. No longer was intellectual hierarchy marked by one's ability to read and write; practically everyone could do that. And the newly educated masses were not kneeling at the alter of the esoteric texts written by the traditionally literate; instead, they were subscribing to dime novels. During those dark hours, it became necessary to assert a hierarchy of literacies…

     Yes, those were dark days indeed, when people would read anything, including the lowly writing of journalists in newspapers, and enjoy it all, not knowing any better. So, as Rebecca Moore Howard points out, a group was formed "dedicated to the preservation" of a literary hierarchy. In other words, they wanted to separate "the intellectually weak from those with the power of reflection." Howard explains:

     And during those same dark hours, it became necessary to find pedagogical ways [formal means of instruction] of civilizing the newly literate masses. Composition instruction was born…

     They [the students] were assigned to study not newspapers, little reading, and dime novels, but the esoteric texts of the highly literate.

     In other words, this was all about esthetics, or developing a taste for higher art. These educators wanted to teach students a more cultured form of writing. They wanted to train them how to develop their own "voice" as writers, which meant not copying from others.

     I find it interesting to note that this change Rebecca Moore Howard is talking about took place during the Victorian Era. This makes sense that they would take such an extreme position: For writing to be considered your own, you must rid every last vestige of anyone else’s words. This fits right in with those puritanical times.

     In his book, Music – Its Secret Influence Throughout the Ages, Cyril Scott explains how the music of Handel helped create a reverence for tradition “run riot”. It was this that led to the creation of the Victorian sense of morals and ethics. Here is how he put it:

     Now reverence and the idea of sacredness are, of course, very closely allied, but it so happens that an exaggerated idea of sacredness gives rise to an equally exaggerated idea of unsacredness: it is this latter idea which caused many of the Victorians to regard all worldly pleasures, so called, as sinful. The theater, the opera, were regarded as unsacred – therefore, to derive enjoyment from them was “to indulge in an enthusiasm which leads astray, which leads to the tasting of a pleasure which is of the forbidden tree…”

     Nor can we fail to trace the same cause at the back of all prudery, especially in matters of sex: prudery being nothing more than the result of a perverted sense of reverence. Though sex was a necessary, if enjoyable, evil, it was, the Victorians imagined, not officially countenanced by God, and hence all reference to it in print and in mixed society was prohibited…

     The variants of all this are well known…classical statuary was fitted with fig-leaves; synonyms were employed to veil the supposed impropriety of certain words; sudden excursions into Latin were customary in scientific books; it is unnecessary to elaborate further.

     Apparently, it was out of this Victorian Age that we inherit the belief that to borrow another person’s words, without crediting every single case, is an act tantamount to sin. It came from a pure ideal of literature that could be held up and revered. Unfortunately, the result is that all other forms of writing are considered immoral, no matter how uplifting or educational they might be.

     Obviously, newspaper writing, the field of journalism, never tried to appeal to an exclusive culture, or the elite intellectuals. Thus, plagiarism in journalism was never a serious issue until the early 1980's, when TV news began to transform journalism into a form of entertainment, and personal computers made it easy for people to search for information and track down sources. Suddenly, intellectual property became valuable beyond anything ever known in the past, and, as Phillip Meyer wrote above, it became much easier to spot copying. Thus, the line of ethics shifted again, and today it is important in journalism to credit and identify their sources.

     There is another factor in journalism that made things different than literature. The newspaper was historically considered the voice of the people. The stories and opinions reported were not supposed to be new or original works of art, but the dialogue of the community. It was not the author who was important, but the news itself. Therefore, it was proper to reuse and copy the words and research of others, because these are a part of the community's own voice.

     This might strike us as strange today, but it is our modern day ideas that have changed. Thus, the whole study of plagiarism is far more a study of paradigms and cultures than most people realize. That’s why an exploration of this subject is so interesting, and shows us a greater picture about ourselves. Looking back across history gives us an overview that expands an understanding of our own cultures, and how they have developed.

     For example, before Gutenberg's time, imitation was treasured. Most history before the printing press was passed on verbally through the telling and retelling of stories and myths. How could the stigma of plagiarism even exist in such a context? Obviously, it didn’t.

     No one imagined they could own a story.

     Some of the early tales passed on by word of mouth evolved through generations and were recorded in writing, such as Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey, or the Arabian 1001 Nights Tales, or Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. These were not considered original works of art, like we think of writing today. They were stories that had been refined over many retellings and crafted by the talents of many storytellers.

     The same is true of almost every major religious text. The Bible is well known to be copies of stories told long before, re-crafted to credit the tribe of Israel or the life of Jesus. For example, evidence shows that the exodus of the Jews from Egypt never took place, but was the retelling of a story about another people in another land long before. The idea of the Virgin Birth and the Three Wise Men are all much older tales written into The Bible long after Jesus had died.

     James Thomas Zebroski, in his essay, Intellectual Property, Authority, and Social Formation, from the book, Perspectives on Plagiarism, wrote:

     I simply want to make the case that what we presently would label as plagiarism was the norm rather than the exception in the cultures that produced the New Testament. Burton Mack notes that, with few exceptions,

     "The writings selected for inclusion in the New Testament were not written by those whose names are attached to them.

     "…anonymous authorship of writings intended for use in social institutions such as schools, temples, and royal bureaucracies was the standard practice in the scribal traditions of the Near East.

     "…in the early period of collecting lore, interpreting teachers, and trying out new ideas to fit the novel groupings spawned by the Jesus movements, many minds, voices, and hands were in on the drafting of written materials."

     The Bhagavad Gita can also be shown to be the work of many authors, not just one as is popularly taught. The same is true of the Tao Te Ching. The author of this ancient Chinese text was supposed to be Lao Tzu, but in fact that name merely means Wise Old Man, and is most likely a composite of many authors and many scribes.

     The Guru Granth Saheb, the bible of the Sikh religion, is well known as a compilation of Sufi and Hindu mystics simply put together and rewritten into one text, some of which are credited. And the Koran draws extensively on the Jewish and Christian traditions, and in fact is recognized as a continuation and retelling of those earlier teachings.

     This whole rich history and process of religious writing is likely to be lost in our modern time if such practices become named plagiarism and considered equivalent to theft (even though nothing in fact is stolen away from anyone). I think it is a sad commentary on the effects of our modern Age of Criticism that the real value, talent and creativity that is a part of refining, rewriting and weaving together teachings of spiritual wisdom is not recognized or given the credit that it deserves. 

     But Paul understood the history of religious texts. He recognized the value of the writings that he borrowed from and the worthy purpose of connecting them to something larger. That's probably why Paul, in 1971, said that he expected in 25 years, or so, that others would rewrite his books and change what he had written. He said that he was not opposed to this, because as times change so do the words need to change.

     Our modern idea of plagiarism is not only at odds with historical times, it is also estranged from many non-Western cultures in the world today, especially those with stronger ties to the past. This has become a cause for growing concern amongst educators. It shows clearly, that the idea of plagiarism is more a cultural paradigm, than a fundamental principle of ethics.

     C. Jan Swearingen, in her essay, Originality, Authenticity, Imitation, and Plagiarism, published in Perspectives on Plagiarism, wrote:

     ...growing numbers of multicultural students...enter the college classroom believing that truth, wisdom, and cultural artifacts such as art and literature are cultural community property, the result of years of accumulated wisdom transmitted by venerated leaders and by oral traditions, many of them religious.

     "The notion of stealing ideas or words is not only modern, it is also profoundly Western. Students from Middle Eastern, Asian, and African cultures are baffled by the notion that one can 'own' ideas" (McLeod). In these cultures, as in the cultures of some indigenous American cultural groups, the notions of collaborative writing and learning do not have to be taught...What does have to be taught to such students, with difficulty, and often without success, are the notions of originality, authorship, autonomy as a writer and thinker, and plagiarism. Plagiarism relies on the notion of exclusionary ownership, a kind of intellectual land-rush model in which the first to stake a claim on a concept, term, title, or even idea from that moment forward must be cited as its author.

     It was not that long ago when the majority of our songs were folk songs, and the majority of our stories were folk tales. I find it interesting that around this same time in the early 1980’s, when the line concerning plagiarism shifted in journalism, also marks the near death of folk songs in the Western world. Today we clearly value professional art and treat folk art as the art of amateurs. We have become a commercially driven society. So we forget how much of our culture used to spring from the well of folk art, folk stories and folk songs.

     If you are beginning to see the complexities lurking behind the idea of plagiarism, you aren't alone. Discussions about plagiarism have mushroomed lately, especially amongst educators. In the introduction to their book, Perspectives on Plagiarism, Buranen and Roy point out that the number of articles with plagiarism in the title at the University of California Library database "nearly doubled from 1990 to 1992, and almost doubled again from 1992 to 1994.

     Lise Buranen, in her essay, But I Wasn't Cheating: Plagiarism and Cross-Cultural Mythology, from the book on Perspectives on Plagiarism, wrote:

     Plagiarism is a vastly more complex issue than we as teachers may recognize and certainly far more complex than we customarily suggest to students; too often, we tell students "Don't do it," and perhaps we give them some mechanical guidelines to follow, telling them where to put the commas and quotation marks, and maybe how to introduce quotes or paraphrases with "According to..."

     But as we have no doubt learned from our own writing, and, if we think about it, from our teaching, it is not always easy to know where to draw the line: Do we cite our sources in the classroom, giving credit for the information we use in handouts or other course materials, or for things we might have borrowed, stolen, or adapted from colleagues, handbooks, or journal articles? Should we give such credit? How are these cases different from our students' collaborative efforts? Or are they? Clearly the answers to these questions depend at least in part on where we are in the academic hierarchy; whether an act is considered plagiarism is related to the amount of power we possess.

     Rebecca Moore Howard, in her essay I quoted from earlier, describes "patchwriting" as "copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one-for-one synonym-substitutes." Howard writes:

     Now, let us do a little bit of soul-baring here. Who among us has not patchwritten? Who does not still do it from time to time? Lying? Deceit? Ignorance of citation conventions? Patchwriting is a textual activity that we all take part in…

     George L. Dillon's recapitulation most resonates with my own point of view: "Finding one's language, one's voice…is not finding something which is out there, or in here, but is forged dialogically in response to the already written and in anticipation of the hearer's responsive word - it is forged on the borderline." Can we, from this perspective, even not patchwrite? The answer, of course, is "no."

     Again, Dillon: "Finding one's voice is…not just emptying and purifying oneself of other's words…but also an admitting, an adopting, an embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses." We all patchwrite, all the time. There is no "my" "own" language; there is only the shared language, in its shared combinations and possibilities. When I believe I am not patchwriting, I am simply doing it so expertly that the seams are no longer visible - or that I am doing it so unwittingly that I cannot cite my sources. Indeed, as Susan Stewart points out, if we were to comprehensively cite our sources, we would be involved in what she calls "a full (and necessarily impossible) history of the writer's subjectivity."

     Guy Debord, the French philosopher, makes the point more directly in his work, The Society of the Spectacle (1967, from the Columbia Dictionary of Quotations):

     Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author’s phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with a better idea.

     So, the whole foundation of plagiarism is a complex mix of paradigms and cultural practices. Laurie Sterns, in her essay, Plagiarism, Process, Property, and the Law, from the book Perspectives on Plagiarism, tries to sort though the many conflicting ideas to summarize the modern viewpoint:

     Given this interdependence of human creative efforts, the idea of plagiarism is something of a paradox. Why condemn an author for borrowing from another if such borrowing is inevitable and even fundamental to the creative process?

     The answer lies in the kind of borrowing an author does. The only legitimate borrowing is that which proceeds to transform the original material by means of the borrower's creative process. The obligation of the author to make an original contribution parallels Locke's view of the origin of property: "Whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joyned to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property."

     The essence of the modern understanding of plagiarism is a failure of the creative process through the author's failure either to transform the original material or to identify its source…

     People despise plagiarism not because it results in inferior work - indeed, by drawing from others plagiarists may produce better works than they could by themselves - but because it is a form of cheating that allows the plagiarist an unearned benefit…

     Plagiarism is, then, a failure of the creative process, not a flaw in its result. Although imitation is an inevitable component of creation, plagiarists pass beyond the boundaries of acceptable imitation by copying from the work of others without improving on the copied material or fully assimilating it into their own work…

     So, when we look at the passages that Paul copied from other authors, how can we miss the obvious fact that every use of these materials was put into a completely new form, producing a completely new work that never strikes us as a copy or imitation of the original? Therefore, did Paul not improve and assimilate what he used? Did he not "joyn" it with his own work?

     When we inherit our culture without understanding its purpose, we can become lost in a strange land, where our reactions don’t fit any longer. At times like this it is important to get back to the core. So, let’s step back for a moment and ask ourselves: What is really the heart of this plagiarism issue?

     Isn't the proper giving of credit the whole fundamental basis for plagiarism? Just like at work: We all know the value of giving a person credit for the work they do. It is unfair when others are credited for the work of someone else, even if it is unintentional. So, we try to develop the practice of giving credit to the right people, and sharing credit others. Sometimes even with small things, it is worth knowing and appreciating those who have contributed.

     In the same way, we honor our mother and father to give them credit for the love they gave us, and the sacrifices they made to raise us. We may remember a saying they taught us, from time to time, or a lesson we learned from them, but in fact our whole life has been shaped by them. Every day we use something they gave us without giving them credit, just as we draw from God with every breath we take, and with every beat of our heart.

     Is it possible to credit everyone for everything we have received? Wouldn't we have to stop every moment to do so? Our life would begin to look more like a patchwork of other people's lives, and no longer our own.

     I believe that a real study of this whole issue shows us that, indeed, it all comes back to giving credit to others. In other words, it is an act of appreciation to give credit. However, this should never be treated like an exact practice that can be dictated by outer rules. Why turn it into a mechanical process? It is best when it is sincere. We give credit because we want to honor others. Therefore, it is an individual act that we each must decide for ourselves. This, of course, is exactly what we mean by ethics.

     Now, let’s take a look at this historical example from Thomas Mallon’s book, Stolen Words, and see if it doesn’t make more sense:

     About twenty-five years ago, Robert Merton, that literate sociologist, wrote a charming book called On The Shoulders Of Giants, in which he attempted to trace the ultimate origin of the aphorism often credited to Sir Isaac Newton: "If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Merton wound up finding forms of the saying practically everywhere, and when dealing with the seventeenth century felt compelled to note how "it is quite in keeping with the practice of the time to charge, and be charged, with plagiarism. Can you think of any one of consequence in that energetic age who escaped unscathed, either as victim or alleged perpetrator of literary or scientific theft, and typically, as both filcher and filchee?"

     As Merton discovered, even a simple statement like the one made by Sir Isaac Newton was hardly original, and this in fact was Newton's exact point: We owe much to those who came before us. But how can you possibly credit them all?

     Mallon’s comments about the seventeenth century raises another interesting fact. During that time, plagiarism was often charged over the theft of ideas. To give an example, apparently the first popular book on fishing, called The Compleat Angler was published in 1657. Now, who could even write a second book on fishing without being called a plagiarist? If a story seemed even remotely similar, that was good enough for accusations of plagiarism, which is why the cry of plagiarism was so rampant during that age. It literally took centuries until it became obvious that ideas, themes, plots and titles could not belong to certain people. They are a part of our whole culture. This is obvious to us today, with thousands of adventure stories, romances, and mystery books published every year. So, our modern charges of plagiarism generally focus on the expression itself, not the idea or the information it contains. In other words, we all owe credit to literally millions of people who have come before us, who have shaped our culture and our world. It is impossible to give credit to everyone we owe. So, what we do instead is give back to the world through our own work and our own re-creations.

     In the fields of music, art, architecture and engineering, we find a much more balanced and practical approach. The charge of plagiarism is rarely aimed, even though it is easy to find musical passages similar in other songs. Artistic elements, architectural structures and technical innovations are commonly copied and rarely credited. The concern is not so much over what was borrowed, but what has the artist contributed? What new and original element have they added?

     As an ECKist on alt.religion.eckankar recently said:

     Imagine if every song, every symphony, that borrowed phrases from somewhere else, had to pause in mid performance to provide footnotes. The beauty of the music would be totally lost. Imagine if a composer were required to add lists of references. Would that enhance the experience of listening to the music in any but a purely intellectual way?

     So, we do not give credit all the time, but when our debt to others is felt sincerely, and it feels appropriate. I think it is a shame that the Victorians turned it into a mechanical process, to avoid some kind of literary sin.

     Thomas Mallon puts this whole matter in a larger perspective, in his recent 2001 edition of his book, Stolen Words, when he addressed new events that had come to pass since his book had first been published:

     Easily the most - and least - upsetting plagiarism revelation in the years since this book's initial publication involved the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose academic work, including his 1955 doctoral dissertation for Boston University, was eventually found to contain sizable portions of unattributed borrowing. Scholars with the King Papers Project at Stanford University were ultimately quite forthright in presenting their findings, but while the problem was coming to light they experienced a range of conflicting emotions. As the Wall Street Journal reported on November 9, 1990: "Several student-researchers wondered why the information should be probed. Some resigned. One summer intern broke down in tears when she found out. Megan Maxwell, who joined the project as a Stanford undergraduate and became assistant archivist after graduation, says her initial reaction was anger, 'a combination of "why didn't anyone catch him?" and "Why didn't he know better?"'"

     Having developed a slightly Draconian reputation on the subject, I can't say I enjoyed appearing on television to discuss the King plagiarism with both an interviewer and the civil-rights leader's biographer, David Garrow (Bearing the Cross). But in the end the case was a no-brainer. If it made one revere King somewhat less - and it did - one was still left admiring him perhaps more than anyone else one could think of. In fact, the matter may have had a salutary effect on thinking about plagiarism, by introducing a moral proportionality that few other instances of the offense have provided. As one editorial put it rather nicely: "Whether or not, as a student, he wrote what he wrote, Dr. King did what he did."

     In other words, it was the most upsetting case because Dr. Martin Luther King is so highly revered, but it is the least upsetting because Dr. King's accomplishments are defined by the changes he brought to our world, and the effect he has had on the lives of millions. As a visitor to alt.religion.eckankar, who went by the name of Jimco, said:

     Would any of us blunt Dr. King’s historical and cultural importance, his impact and validity because of “plagiarism”?

     If we see Paul in a less flattering light, and realize now that we have given him credit for passages that were first written by someone else - that is natural. We discover the same thing if we closely study the life of any spiritual leader. We soon find they are very human. We see their physical limitations when we work with them side-by-side. I have seen the truth of this from personal experience.

     However, here is the real question: If this humanness prevents us from seeing the greater spiritual essence of another person, especially a spiritual leader - then how will we ever see our own greater essence in the face of our own human nature? How will we ever see that God and Truth can be found in all things, including our own humanity?

     So, when David Lane tries to use plagiarism as a way of making it look like Paul copied all of ECKANKAR from other books (especially of course his own Radhasoami books), or even worse that Paul was intentionally trying to deceive others - when all the evidence shows that Paul dedicated his life to building a new spiritual teaching out of the fabric of ancient cloth and inner knowledge - when we see David doing this, we see that he is just trying to discredit Paul and ECKANKAR.

     If we want to see this from Paul's viewpoint, rather than from the outside, we would naturally wonder what Paul would have said if he had been confronted by the fact that sentences, paragraphs, and in the case of The Far Country sometimes pages, were borrowed from other writers?

     Well, according to the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, which David referenced earlier in his book, Dr. Bluth, who had been aware of Sant Mat books, confronted Paul with exactly that question. Why had Paul done it? To quote the SCP Journal:

     Twitchell told him that the only reason he copied from other works was "to save time." He rationalized that other masters had expressed some aspects of Truth as well as it could be done, so it was not worth the time to rephrase their formulations. This appeased Bluth.

     When Millie Moore, one of Paul's first students, read an early version of my manuscript, she gave me a call, on March 26, 2000, because she wanted me to know that this whole matter was not something new. She said:

     "Those of us in the beginning, who studied with Paul, we knew about Johnson's books. Paul admitted that he gleaned from other writers. After all, that's where Paul met Gail, in a library, because he was always reading. But that had nothing to do with why we were there. It was being in Paul's presence. You couldn't be in his presence and not see the miracles happening all around him. We just wanted to be with him."

     In other words, as Mallon said about Dr. Martin Luther King, the issue of plagiarism pales in the face of what Paul accomplished and what he was communicating. Millie puts it in the right perspective. None of these issues really matter, because Paul, himself, was transmitting those rare spiritual currents upon which the inner teachings are based. You had to be blind not to see it.

     It is not hard to understand that there are always those who will criticize Spiritual Teachers. They will always find something they feel is at fault, because most people still live in the confines of their own experience, and have a difficult time judging truth and ethics from anything but their current point of view.

     Rumi once said that God causes some to see the glass as full, and they will drink their fill. But others, God causes to see the glass as empty. How can we blame them for criticizing the empty glass? After all, to them the glass is empty. They do not know what they are missing.

     Aside from our own personal feelings on this whole matter, another question naturally arises: How did the author, Julian Johnson, feel about Paul Twitchell making use of his book, The Path of the Masters? Julian Johnson's point of view might change the way we see this matter. Unfortunately, as David reports, Julian Johnson died accidentally during a heated argument with another Radhasoami satsangi in 1939, shortly before his book was published. So, he never even lived to see his own book make it to print.

     If we cannot find out about the author's response, then what about the inheritor of his copyrights?

     Here is an excerpt from the book, "Thus Saith The Master," published in 1974. It is a record of Charan Singh's answers to certain questions that he was asked during his 1970 round-the-world tour, shortly after The Far Country was published by Paul. Charan Singh was not only the recognized copyright holder of Julian Johnson's books, but was also the living Master of the Radha Soami Beas Satsang, and David Lane's own Guru as well.

     Q: 27.  Master, in Las Vegas there is a man by the name of Paul Twitchell, who has written a book in which he makes many references to Sant Mat without using the term "Sant Mat," and which includes some of the names. Are you aware of him? He teaches the Sound Current.

     A:  I have read the book. I don't want to say anything against anyone. But, I personally think that what he has written was taken from our books. There is hardly a word in the book which is not referred to in any of our books.

     Q:  He was very clear to omit the term "Sant Mat." Everything else was Sant Mat, but he didn't use the term "Sant Mat."

     A:  If you study this book and then study "Philosophy of the Masters" and Professor L. R. Puri's book, "Mysticism, Part II," you will see that the words are exactly the same. The sentences have not even been changed. But, that may also be his own experience; I can't say anything about it.

     Q:  I see good in most things, including myself, and I always thought that perhaps it was part of the Creator's plan that a man like Paul Twitchell should be here to help effect spiritual development.

     A:  Well, if it is part of a Divine Plan, the Lord knows His own ways and means of pulling a soul. I've nothing against this gentleman. I've nothing against anybody. As long as he talks about the teaching and talks about the same Lord, talks about the same thing, it is acceptable to us. It's much better than talking about the worldly things.

     Charan Singh seems to be mistaken about which Radha Soami books The Far Country resembles, but he does seem well apprised of the issue and it sounds clearly as if he is saying that it is acceptable to him. A Radha Soami satsangi posted the above quote on the Internet newsgroup, alt.religion.eckankar, and said this:

     "I was always impressed by the neutrality and charity of Charan Singh's approach to this entire question, and felt it a guidepost for his students in how to most usefully and lovingly look upon the matter."

     I think that is very well said. Charan's quote illustrates another principle of Radha Soami as well. Their definition of what is good and what is bad is based upon a very simple matter: Is that thing helping lift and return you back to the pure positive God worlds, or is it causing you to turn your face toward the world and away from God? If something helps you return to God, then it is good. If it pulls you away from God and turns your attention toward worldly things instead, then it is bad. This seems to be why Charan Singh felt that this matter was acceptable to him, because Paul's books were giving out truths about the path back to God.

     This is similar to Paul's own definition for The Law of Ethics, from the 1973 edition of the ECKANKAR Dictionary:

     Actions that are for the benefit of all.

     It is interesting that none of the copyright holders that Paul borrowed from have ever registered a complaint. Perhaps this is an indication that, like Charan Singh, they had higher ethics at heart, which even further vouches for the value of their works.

     However, this brings us to a point that is often misunderstood and should be clarified to eliminate confusion: Plagiarism is a very different matter than copyright infringement.

     Laurie Stearns, in her essay, Copy Wrong: Plagiarism, Process, Property, and the Law, from the book, Perspectives on Plagiarism, writes:

     People commonly think of plagiarism as being "against the law." But with respect to plagiarism, the law and literary ethics intersect only imperfectly. Plagiarism is not a legal term…

     The law…has had a difficult time understanding plagiarism…Hardly a single modern lawbook contains an entry for plagiarism in its index…One bewildered jury, uncertain exactly what the attorneys and the judge meant by "plagiarism" and other terminology used in a trial, sent the bailiff out for a dictionary during its deliberations.

     In other words, plagiarism is not a crime, and has never been considered a crime. It is a matter of ethics, not law.

     Copyrights are what define the intellectual property that an author, artist or musician can rightfully own. Plagiarism is concerned with the ethics of credit and originality - or the proper recognition of authorship, not ownership.

     Another fact that often surprises people is that copyright law intentionally limits the rights of the author. For example, copyright law does not grant ownership to words, phrases or paragraphs, because this would unfairly restrict new and original creations. It would turn our own common language into a form of private property. For this reason, you also cannot copyright ideas, titles, themes or plots.

     In fact, copyright law is really designed to protect against the copying of a whole work, without permission.

     Thomas Mallon writes in Stolen Words:

     In Litchfield v. Spielberg (9th Circuit 1984), the court ruled: "To constitute infringement of expression, the total concept and feel of the works must be substantially similar."

     …The history of copyright actually has more to do with piracy than plagiarism. Laws are far more useful in protecting authors against wholesale printings of their books by publishers with no rights to them than they are in stopping the dead-of-night authorial theft of a passage here and a paragraph there.

     For this reason, it is unlikely that a charge of copyright infringement based on Paul's writings could have held up in court, even if such a complaint had been filed. Paul's books, as a whole, are clearly original and do not look in any way like the whole of the books he borrowed from, which is also one of the reasons why this matter of plagiarism was hardly even noticed until many years after Paul died.

     This explains another limitation of copyright law: There is a limited time period allowed for a claim of infringement to be filed. If a charge of copyright infringement is not raised within six years of infringement, the opportunity is lost. After more time than that has passed, or if a copyright holder acknowledges the copying is okay with them, the law considers these both the same as the granting of permission. And once permission has been granted, it cannot be revoked.

     In the days when Julian Johnson's books were first published, copyright laws were even more limited. His book had to be submitted to each of the Copyright Offices in the countries where he wanted protection, and then with some countries like the United States, the copyright had to be renewed in the 28th year. There is no evidence that Julian Johnson's books, however, were ever submitted to the US for copyright protection, or anywhere outside of India, in fact.

     I bring up these points about copyright only to show that copyrights are not, and have never been the issue here. This is not a legal matter or an issue of ownership, but a question of ethics.

     This leads to another interesting point. Although David, coming from his background of Radha Soami, feels absolutely certain that ECKANKAR is mainly derived from his own teaching, he does not seem to realize how often other people coming from other religions have felt the same way about their own teachings. Most ECKists who have been with ECKANKAR for many years have met dozens of interested seekers who have claimed that ECKANKAR was the same as Theosophy or Sufism or Gnosticism; that Paul's writings were the same teachings they had read in the writings of Gurdjieff or Ouspenski, or from Esoteric Christianity. Whether coming from the field of Metaphysics or Spiritual Psychology, Paul brought the concepts, and in some cases quotes from some of the best writers, so these readers commonly felt that ECKANKAR was like their own teaching.

     This is a remarkable thing in itself. The experience these readers all saw is actually a reflection of one of the great principles of ECK. Paul wrote about it often: that wherever the seeker starts, the ECK meets them there. They don't need to change themselves to fit the path - the path will adapt to fit them. The teachings will begin from whatever point they may happen to be and will lead them on from there.

     In other words, this experience of the familiarity of the ECKANKAR teachings is at least partly due to the fact that Paul did mix the teachings of these other fields into his own, and this was not just accidental. Therefore, Paul's teaching parallels the same exact way that everyone experiences the Path of ECK: as a spiritual source not limited or contained by any paradigm or any religious tradition, and yet the essence of them all.

     Paul's writing leads the reader to the view of the whole, but starts with words and concepts familiar to many paths. Today such a practice would be frowned upon, because we want everything to be original. But if we are trying to understand this from Paul's viewpoint, then this is something we should see from the whole of his vision, as well as his own perspective. Most likely, this explains why Paul didn't feel the need or see the reason to go back to The Far Country and try to rewrite the words he had first written down seven years before he published it.

     David reported that Paul produced about 60 texts in 5-6 years. That's almost one per month. Yet, Paul knew that even though it was endangering his health, he had to get this done. Therefore, he was not only "saving time," as Dr. Bluth reported, but more importantly Paul was racing against a deadline to lay down in print as much of the teaching as he could gather together. He didn't try to take the time to tie up all the loose ends, or explain everything in detail. Yet he never lost sight of the whole.

     For the reader who is interested in looking at how wide-ranging Paul's use of other materials really is, outside of the Radha Soami references that David has offered, here are a few of the books I have run across that turned out to be more than just a little bit familiar sounding:

     In The Way of the White Clouds, by Lama Govinda, a book about Tibetan Buddhist teachers, you will find the exact description Paul used when approaching Lai Tsi's cave in The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad. In Walter Russell's book, The Secret of Light, you can hear the words of Brahm speaking to you, just like the words Brahm spoke in The Tiger's Fang. Read Darkness and the Deep, by Vardis Fisher, and you will see the origin of creation as Paul wrote about it in the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad. A book by Edouard Schure, called The Great Initiates contains some of the same sweeping historical overview as The Spiritual Notebook. Manly Palmer Hall's Karma and Reincarnation covers the whole subject of nidanas that you will find in The ECK Vidya. Besides these, there are a few pages in The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James, some sections from Ouspensky's The Fourth Way and In Search of the Miraculous, passages from Neville Goddard's The Power of Awareness and Awakened Imagination, and even The Bible has been a source for Paul. Lai Tsi's contemplation seed in the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad looks very similar to one of the Psalms.

     These are just some of the books that I've run across, or have been brought to my attention by other ECKists. All of these, however, are small sections, perhaps a few paragraphs, or a page or two at most, always modified to fit. I only know of one other published book of Paul's, besides The Far Country, in which large sections were copied, and that is The Art of Teaching, by Gilbert Highet, which was used extensively, and modified, in Paul's Spiritual Instructions for the ECK Satsang Classes, a little booklet to assist those who wanted to teach an ECK class. The booklet has long been out of print.

     Running across words from Paul's writings in other books surprised me at first, but I now find it an enjoyable discovery. It is like running into a "Paul Twitchell Seal of Approval," which were the humorous stickers that Paul stuck in books he liked, in his cliffhanger days. It is always interesting to see the books that Paul read, because it is like finding another piece to this fascinating puzzle of the steps he took on his way to ECKANKAR.

     From the above list, we see how wide-ranging were Paul's sources. In Letters to Gail, Paul goes on to reference a huge number of books that he recommends and credits, and this represents probably only a small fraction of what he read. Yet, even though we can see this from our own point of view, we should also be able to understand that to David Lane it seemed as if all of ECKANKAR was derived from his own teaching, since he recognized so many similar words. David simply saw this from his own vantage point. However, it is hardly an accurate "retracing the roots of ECKANKAR," as David calls this chapter.

     There is another subject that I would like to raise here at this point. I think it will go toward showing us more about Paul and his way of seeing the world, as well as putting this whole subject of plagiarism in perspective.

     In Letters to Gail, Paul wrote in his letter dated December 6, 1962:

What I have to say in all seriousness is: The greatest advantage of spiritual alertness (awareness) is not to be trapped in any position with anyone or anything! You can be trapped by religion, churches, jobs, people who depend on your love, etc., but be watchful! It is usually the feeling element within the person that traps him!

     There is no question that Paul practiced what he is preaching here. He was quite a character, as his Cliffhanger writings show, and he had no intention of being trapped.

     Does this leave some people with the impression that Paul was breaking the patterns of society? I would say most definitely, yes. So we shouldn't be surprised that some might want to turn on Paul to criticize him.

     I caught a great glimpse of this many years ago, when I ran across the carbon copy of a letter in Paul's files, written to a news reporter who had been hounding Paul for an interview. The letter was basically informing the reporter that Paul was too busy for interviews, that Paul spent most of his time in the highest states of consciousness, and that some of the strange things about him were that he had no reflection in the mirror, and cast no shadow on the ground. The letter was signed by a name I have never heard of, and probably never existed. Paul was obviously having his fun.

     However, I really had to laugh when I ran across the article this news reporter finally wrote. He was so proud of his journalistic accomplishment. He had spent weeks tracking down Paul's house in California, and waited outside until one day he caught Paul leaving.

     He approached Paul in his driveway, asked a few shallow questions, which Paul answered evasively, and then concluded his article by saying, "...and there I stood before Paul Twitchell, and looking down, what did I see but his shadow." I am sure Paul had a chuckle over this, because the only thing this reporter wanted was the surface story, and to Paul it made no difference.

     Which reminds me of a similar story that Mark Twain once told. It went something like this: One day, near the last few years of his life, he was approached by a reporter looking to make a name for himself by interviewing the great Mark Twain. When he met with the reporter, Twain immediately saw how young and inexperienced he was. He also realized that the reporter saw him as an old man with one foot in the grave. So Twain started talking to the reporter, and casually mentioned something about his twin brother.

     "What?" the reporter said, "You have a twin brother?"

     "Well, no," said Twain, "he died when we were very young."

     "What was his name?" the reporter asked, thinking he now had a great scoop.

     "Tom," Twain answered. "But the strange thing is that we looked so much alike that to this day no one knows whether it was him that died, or me."

     What a great line, but the reporter bought the whole bit and walked off a little confused, thinking that something about the story didn't sound quite right. It never occurred to him that Twain had more experience with writing, reporting and interviewing than that reporter would ever know, and was just having some fun with a greenhorn.

     The point here, is that both Twain and Twitchell were living in the awakened consciousness, and did what they could to spark that awakening in others. Freedom from the patterns of society was vital to both of them. But what happens when the sleeping people of this planet come along and take them at face value? Well it looks like they are liars, or fools.

     Down through the ages it is the spiritual leaders who have been willing to step outside the social paradigms of the day. They have been the ones to redefine what is relevant, to show the real meaning of life, and to point to the greater spiritual laws.

     Paul once gave a talk he titled, We Are Not Guilty. He said:

     In orthodox teachings we find words that have been pushed down upon us. We find symbols and ideas that say we're bad, because we are not following out a moral code. This moral code is telling us that we have to do something in a set pattern. If we don't follow out this set pattern then we're doomed. We become what is termed, the sinner…

     We are not the guilty ones…

     There are those who say that I am guilty. They want to lay the law down on me and so they make postulates that I am guilty of misdemeanors, behavior, thinking, emotions, and attitudes, and all of these things. But they are wrong.

     We are not guilty.

     This is the greatest pattern that has been thrown at the middle class within the last 50-100 years. Saying to people, especially the middle class who pull themselves up by their bootstraps through hard work - saying to them, "I'm the way I am because you made me this way." This is the wrong attitude. These are people who are trying to trap others to pull them down to where they are.

     When we start moving up into the God states, we are going to be attacked on every possible plane, in every possible way. We don't want to kid ourselves. We have to be prepared for this, because once we become successful, it doesn't matter what we do. We will always have those who are trying to pull us back to their own area.

     This will happen to all people who go into the spiritual field. There will be those who are going to tell us that we are guilty of certain things. We get it in the mail all the time. We get letters from people around the world, always telling us that we are following the wrong path, and unless we get on their path we're doomed…

     When we do create a wrong, we are always in a position to apologize for it, and to try to make amends, but that isn't what I'm talking about. Of course we are wrong in a lot of human situations, that's natural. But what I'm talking about is that element which tries to create the illusion and the delusions that we are in the wrong for taking from somebody else's path, or that we are getting out of step someplace…

     We should not attach any importance to any of this…

     These criticisms are the waves the drive us up to the top. Those who say we're guilty, those who say that we are making terrible mistakes, lift us up instead of pushing us down, because we don't resist them. We don't fight them.

     I noticed this a long time ago, when I was trying to defeat somebody by being snide and critical of them. They seemed to go up and I went down, because they didn't pay any attention to me. They went riding right on up on my own strength and energy. I suddenly discovered what a mistake I was making.

     True spiritual leaders are the inspired ones that can break us out of old belief systems and show us new life-giving vistas and states of consciousness. They are not promoters of the status quo or reinforcers of traditional beliefs. They bring change and new ways of connecting to true sources of spiritual awareness. Like the Sufis say, they teach us to drink the wine of ecstasy and then smash the bottles. However, the key is that we must decide for ourselves what is true and what is right, and act from our own understanding, even in the face of criticism.

     A great misconception clouds humanity. People have confused spiritual leadership with being a good ethical role model. We have come to expect that our spiritual leaders should first and foremost be moral icons. This is a grave mistake.

     In the religious arena, when people are held up as ethical role models, their human qualities are often hidden. This is a very misleading and dangerous practice. It becomes a means of building an external hierarchy by establishing saints and saviors who have attained heights that are beyond our own ability. This is much like the building of a hierarchy of higher and lower literature that others are supposed to follow. Yet, a close study of the lives of these saints shows such levels of perfection were beyond their ability as well. This is not the kind of example we should be creating. We should not be trying to fit ourselves into some kind of external standard of perfection.

     When ECKists have wrestled with the idea that Paul plagiarized, many have come face to face with this very problem, since our culture teaches us to look to religious leaders as moral icons.

     There is a very important lesson here. If you look back at the great historical spiritual leaders of the past, you’ll see that they worked tirelessly to reestablish the path to God. They were not trying to be role models. When Jesus turned over the tables of the moneychangers because it was the Sabbath, or when he stopped the punishment of the prostitute Mary Magdalene, was this because everyone else should go out to do the same things? No, Jesus did this to teach and dramatically illustrate the spiritual law beyond and above the law of mankind. That was the real point of his teachings, but we have a tendency to forget that the moneychangers were not happy with having their tables overturned, and the townspeople did not like someone protecting a prostitute in their community.

     The problem, here, is that when you look at the leaders of the largest religious organizations today, you will find individuals that look and act far more like figureheads and icons than true spiritual leaders. They are indeed acting like moral role models, and most people have come to expect this of their religious leaders, just as the Catholic priest is expected to be celibate and Monks are expected to be recluses.

     It doesn't take long after true spiritual leaders die that their followers begin to deify them, and turn them into gods. They will hold up every aspect of their lives as perfect, to be followed and imitated. This was fine long ago, when the mistakes of great leaders could be forgotten or erased from history. However, this is nothing but the setting up of a moral role model and should never be confused with spiritual leadership. This, in fact, is a sign that the teaching is dying.

     True spiritual leaders see themselves as obeying the eternal law of God, not the temporary, ever shifting ethics of society. Their authority does not come from outside themselves; it comes from inner attainment. And their actions are not all understandable or agreeable to the world.

     This is exactly what Paul was talking about when he said that spiritual awareness keeps us from being trapped by guilt, embarrassment and other emotional trips. This is why he stresses the importance of learning to drop or step outside the social games. These things will only impede one's spiritual growth and keep one far from the treasures that come from nearness to God. Paul was showing us the way of spiritual leadership. He was not trying to be The Leader, but a leader of leaders.

     The Path of ECK is an individual path. It is an individual path, however, not because the teachings are new, but because our true spiritual learning comes from within ourselves. The ECKist's life is tied to Spirit, the ECK, which guides our choices and experiences from within - the same Spirit that has illuminated saints and adepts since the dawn of time.

     Therefore, the spiritual connection that Paul breathed into his books and lectures cannot be copied from others - it must come from within. This inner teaching is what ECKANKAR is all about. It is not the result of tradition, although we can find it in every age. It is not based on books, although it uses the written word to hint at and guide us to that great treasure within. If Paul's teaching seems new, it is a newness that derives from the spiritual force, which expresses itself in a new way in every age.

     Therefore, true understanding springs from our own experiences. These pearls of wisdom are won only at great price. The shoulds and should-nots belong to the social world, not the spiritual path. We must decide for ourselves what is truth. We must decide what is right or wrong for ourselves. Therefore, the path becomes our own through our own effort.

     And is this not the exact lesson of plagiarism? When do the words of others become our own?

     Surely we listen to teachers and read the words of spiritual leaders, but the path becomes ours from our own efforts. When we have transformed those thoughts into the actions of our own life. When we have tested and proven out the reality of the ECK. Eventually we come to know what we know. It is no longer a belief we have adopted. It has become our own.

     Remember Locke's words?

     "Whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joyned to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property."

     In the same exact way, the spiritual path does not become our own until we have taken these teachings and mixed them with our own labor, and joined this with our own experience and understanding. Only then do we know that point within ourselves where Spirit guides us and Life reveals her secrets to us. Then, the path becomes our own.

     This, I believe, is the whole principle of Paul's teaching.

     How different it all looks when we try to see it from his viewpoint.

 

 

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