Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gary in the News Again?

All terms are potentially controversial, and those who seek controversy will find it. 2 Yet those who seek clarification will find it as well. 3 They must, however, be willing to overlook controversy, recognizing that it is a defense against truth in the form of a delaying maneuver. 4 Theological considerations as such are necessarily controversial, since they depend on belief and can therefore be accepted or rejected. 5 A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. 6 It is this experience toward which the course is directed. 7 Here alone consistency becomes possible because here alone uncertainty ends. (ACIM:C-in.2)
 Spring has sprung, and criticism of Gary's work is circulating again, and once more in connection with the Circle of Atonement. Yet another author with new material on Thomas has come on the air, one Bruce F. MacDonald, Ph.D. His Thomas book can be found here: The Thomas Book, and his unfortunate criticism of Gary's work is here: Bruce MacDonald's contentions on "GaryRenard's Stolen Gospel". Predictably, a number of people have come to me in recent days for comment on this material, because of my own book on the subject - to which this blog is dedicated. (I am slowly moving my material here, from my Xanga blog at

Curiously, the author relies once again on the discredited journalistic drive-by shooting that appeared in the form of a series of articles in Miracles Magazine a few years ago, for which to my knowledge at least Jon Mundy, the publisher of said magazine, has publicly apologized at one point. I have perused the website on MacDonald's book a bit, and it seems to me that he comes from a very different frame of reference than Gary does, and it's not clear to me what purpose could possibly be served by his pretty pointless accusation of plagiarism. Simply put, it is very hard to be original in these types of translations, and I say that after following Thomas translations in 4 languages for the past 40 years. You either believe Gary's explanation of how he received the translated text which is published in his books, or you don't. That much is a personal decision. I will have no truck with any one who chooses not to believe Gary's story, but it does not overly bother me either. To each his own, I simply am not interested in the controversy. For me at least, this gratuitous attack on Gary hardly enhances the credibility of what the book might have to say. On the most practical level, it simply represents another viewpoint, and if disbelief in Gary's work is part of that viewpoint, so be it.

Almost every word choice and turn of phrase in the Pursah version could be traced to one translation or another, and I have most of them here on my shelf, and have studied those differences in the process of writing my book. However it was my conclusion at the time of writing my book, that it was pointless to study a comparison of the Pursah material with the historical texts, except to become aware of when she makes deliberate changes, or offers unique and different word choices. In other words, the informational value is in the deliberate differences, not in the parts that are the same as, or similar to other translations. Prior to the appearance of Gary Renard's Your Immortal Reality, Gary once told me that Pursah's favorite translation was actually Meyer's own translation, and NOT the one he did with Patterson. Be that as it may, the controversy seems pretty petty to me. Either you believe Gary's story or you don't, and the need to pick an argument with him has little to do with the content of his books. By the same token, MacDonald's book may contain valuable information for some people, regardless of the controversy, it does however simply come from a totally different frame of reference than does the Course. I see no need to make a fuss over that.

Looking at the Pursah material as Gary has published it, and the way she frames her historical argument on the state of the text, her point is that some of the Logia are more corrupted than others. It is in line with that observation that I would suggest to pay attention to the informational value of when Pursah chooses to make different choices than the standard text, and/or different choices in terms of the translation. The material contribution that the Pursah text makes in that regard consists of the dismissal of about one third of the collection which we have in the form of the Nag Hammadi text (which dated from the 4th century CE), which she declares to be corrupted beyond all recognition. For the rest of the material she simply thinks that some of it was transmitted to us relatively unscathed, and in that respect it makes complete sense that the only possible issue could be about a word choice here or there, but in some instances she makes some very interesting edits, which amount to a correction of the historical Thomas text tradition. Her criticism is entirely focused on the reliability of the Nag Hammadi text tradition, and not so much on the translations, although, again, she makes some interesting word choices here and there.

Aside from the above, which makes sense if you choose to believe it, and no sense at all if you don't, there is really very little to say about this matter. From a standpoint of the Course, there is really nothing else to it, except that it may be another forgiveness opportunity for some, or simply random noise for others. I would doubt if it is worth anybody's while to really track down word for word where every word choice in Pursah's version occurs in the translated material based on the historical text. Of course, Meyer and Patterson might decide to sue Pursah for plagiarism, and call Bruce MacDonald as an expert witness, who knows.

On yet another level, we might keep in mind that the entire Coptic language, which died out in ca. the 7th century CE, consists of a couple of hundred books, a few dictionaries, and a couple of hundred modern scholars arguing over the fine points. So how easy would it be to come up with yet another original new translation after forty years? Not very, and sameness and hairsplitting differences tend to prevail except for some fancy translations which are highly interpretive. Along those lines, I feel that the Meyer/Paterson translation is about the most neutral version that's out there, in other words, if you weren't consciously trying to be unique and different, you would end up with something along the lines of that translation. The point is to address the content, and that is what Pursah's version does, never mind if you agree with it or not. And again, she states clearly that some of the Logia were pretty much in tact, so a high degree of correspondence with existing translations is to be expected. The crux of her argument is about the whole that emerges with her edits, starting with paring back the collection from 114 to 70/71, and then doing some further edits, some of which are pretty drastic and thought provoking. She is not trying to fix what isn't broken, which is exactly the temptation that exists for translators who have to somehow prove their originality.

Lastly, seen with the Course in mind, the accusation of plagiarism is a classic ego ploy. The ego is a second stringer by definition, for it is the thought: "What if I could play God by myself?" And since projection is the primary defense, it will therefore always accuse everyone else of plagiarism. Somehow magically believing that  this way it will get away with it, that nobody will notice that it is the very ego thought itself which was not original at all. This is merely the archetypical pattern of blaming others for what we secretly accuse ourselves of, and as experience will show us, projection will not solve the problem, but it perversely reinforces the cycle of sin, guilt, and fear, and keeps us in the ego's hell. Once we recognize it for what it is and instead of defending it, we turn it over to the Holy Spirit, it becomes instead a step on the way Home to Heaven, a miracle, that brings us closer to accepting the atonement for ourselves. Conversely, it is a call for Love, and thus another failed attempt to hide the self-accusation of utter un-originality of the ego, and worse, that nothing really happened, that the thought did not even accomplish anything, which is the essence of Salvation, of accepting the atonement for ourselves.

Meanwhile, in other news, as seen this morning in my travels in the Fordham section of the Bronx, I saw on the safety helmet of a construction worker the following summary:

1 cross
3 nails +
4 given

Of course it's up to us if we want to spend our time with the cross and the nails or with the forgiveness.