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.


  1. Hmmm...while I think this new "Thomas" is wide of the mark on some points, he says 64 of the 70 sayings in Gary's book are exactly the same as the Nag Hammadi translation (exactly the same) and the rest show only minor differences. It shouldn't be hard to prove or disprove plagiarism if one is willing to look closely. I haven't got a copy of the translation of the manuscript discovered in 1945, but you should have. The work isn't very long. Is it almost exactly the same as Gary's version or not?

    My mind isn't closed. I'm open to new information, but you do not refute the accusation against Gary here. I'm not convinced by arguments along the lines of "this is hairsplitting." A new rendition by the author in English would have a new voice and show clearly different wording, so the answer should be fairly obvious and objective.

  2. Hi, thanks for your comment. It is the nature of translations that there is no "the translation" of the text. However for example the Patterson/Meyer translation seems to have been made with a deliberate intention of staying close to the original text, and from that standpoint it would be hard to come up with anything much different from that translation, if that was your intention. Having said that, I don't consider it my calling to refute the spurious accusations that are at issue here, other than to say they are irrelevant from the standpoint of what Pursah is trying to say, namely her differences with the received texts and translations are the focus of her contribution to this material in English, and she seems clearly uninterested about being very original in areas where she feels the received text is OK.
    My interest frankly is with those specific insights, comments, and edits, and even more with the holistic impression that she creates with her selection of 70/71 Logia, out of the collection of 114.
    The line of inquiry of whether the sameness with other versions of passages which she does not explicitly modify is problematic and rises to the level of plagiarism seems fraught with problems to me, because the Pursah version does change up the word choices to me. Also please note that I'm not Gary, and I wasn't there. I'm sure we will have his account of the matter in due course, to hopefully provide his side of the account.

  3. Okay, if I wish to have enough information to make an informed decision about whether there was plagiarism, I shall clearly need to inquire further. Personally, I don't see the problems you hint at with pursuing such an inquiry; if what Thomas says is true, he has a prima facie case. I'm just interested in the truth.

  4. By all means. That kind of truth is just clearly not what interests me, and I would not have the time and energy to pursue it, though implicitly in my book you'll find some careful observations on the various edits, variations and word choices for each of the Logia. Unless somebody were paying me for it, I would not be interested in sorting things out on the textual level, beyond what's already available there. My gut instinct is that the plagiarism case would fail based on lack of materiality, but I'm not an IP lawyer.
    The only truth which interests me at all is appreciation for the wholeness and coherence of the Pursah version, and secondarily also as a comment on the path of distortions and corruptions. One should also note that Pursah fundamentally discusses the issues of the original Aramaic traditions, and not the translations at all, which is another reason why this issue is just a rearguard action, the purpose of which remains utterly unclear to me. Evidently, as I pointed out in my original post (though not in so many words), Bruce MacDonald is majoring in a minor, and entirely misses the point - even more so because his own approach is so entirely unrelated that it's hard to fathom what could be won from his gratuitous attack on Gary. At the end of the day, MacDonald is off in a parallel universe somewhere, and does not speak the same language as Gary. I'm sure someone could do a Ph.D. thesis on these translation differences, but it's no more relevant than the choice of colors for the cover.

  5. I am not a specialist, but I came up to the same conclusion as yours for the same reason as Bruce MacDonald's that it is verbatim.

    Pursah recommends us to compare her version with the current version to know which part is omitted and changed, and Meyer and Patterson's is a most famous translation. That simple fact told me Bruce MacDonald must have get it twisted.

    I surveyed MacDonald's other articles to know what made him misunderstand the simple fact, and I found his claim that he is a true reincarnation of St. Thomas and Gary Renard was once Simon Magus. I don't care what he believes in himself,it's free, but too absurd for me is that he seriously insists Simon Magus(Gary, he means) made up A Course In Miracles... Fortunately, that joke made it easy for me to forgive.

    I summed it up into the entry below;

  6. Hi, On a different note it is interesting to me that Bruce McDonald not only disavows Gary's / Pursah's work, he also disavows A Course in Miracles completely. In his biography (which is linked to the Circle of Atonement tab that asserts Gary's plagiarism) Mr. McDonald states that, based on his personal experience with Jesus, he knows that Jesus would not have authored ACIM. I find it interesting that Circle of Atonement would find Mr. McDonald a source of creditable information.

  7. Hey Roger

    Are you trying to tell me that Renard writes a nearly word for word duplication of the Patterson and Meyer translation, and you even write a book about this duplication and nowhere did either you or Renard acknowledge that "Pursha's Gospel of Thomas" was very similar to if not nearly identical to the Patterson and Meyer version?

    Looks to me like playing fast and loose with sources --after all if you write a book on the Gospel of Thomas you should have been familiar with standard translations like Patterson and Meyer.

    J Lopez

  8. As noted in my post already, the issue in Pursah's treatment is really about the Coptic text, not about the translations. So the items of interest are where she differs from the original with her edits. That is the focus in my book. Whether or not this or that section which she did not edit substantially sounds like one translation or another does not go to the heart of the matter, and you may have seen Gary's response: he did not even know the Patterson/Meyer translation, which would be a necessary precondition for any claim of plagiarism. Thus the big news is that Messrs. MacDonald and Perry accuse Gary of plagiarism, but an accusation is diffent from a proof. On the evidence the claim seems both baseless and irrelevant to me.

  9. "he did not even know the Patterson/Meyer translation, which would be a necessary precondition for any claim of plagiarism."

    Yes, but by your own admission Pursha knew. And clearly if Pursha knew then it was incumbent on Pursha if not Renard to acknowledge the similarity of presentation of The Gospel of Thomas to the Patterson and Meyer translation, and make the case why her translation is new and unique.

    Presenting a nearly word for word duplication of an existing translation as one's own without commenting on similarity or source is pretty much the definition of plagiarism. And dishonest and mis-leading whether done by Renard or done by his ascended master, Pursha.

  10. Dear J. Lopez:
    1) I'm not sure which of my statements you read as saying that Pursah knew. I could hardly "admit" to knowing what Pursah did or did not know, since I would not know what she knew, and I'm not her.
    2) On the other hand, Pursah being an ascended master, might very well know since the mind knows everything, being one, but then that makes the whole discussion moot all over again for altogether different reasons.
    3) The discussion is moot anyway for reasons I've already covered. The whole thing adds up to an allegation, and accusation, by people who simply have an agenda, to discredit Gary and/or the Course, and there is no apparent substance to any of it.
    4) As to the differences, you can make the comparisons yourself, or you can read Gary's response, or you could read my book, where I have in my comments to "form" for each of the Logia commented on the nature of Pursah's edits, which are all in all pretty substantive, starting with dismissing one third of the material.
    5) Here I need to correct myself - Pursah's comments are in reality about what Jesus originally did say in Aramaic. Thus her entire point was that the final version as she gave it in Gary's "Your Immortal Reality" - were you to translate it back from English to Aramaic, would have sounded exactly like she had heard Jesus speak. Therefore her edits pertained to all the corruptions that entered along the way, both in the evolution from Aramaic to Coptic, as much as in the distortion of some Logia, and the addition of others.
    6) When you look at the WHOLE picture, Pursah's point is exactly that her version would have reflected how Jesus really spoke, and have eliminated seeming contradictions that found their way into the material later. She is purposely not trying to be innovative or original in her English text, as she tries to stick to the original Aramaic as closely as she could. What's important is where and why she differs, not where she is the same or similar.
    7) If you had ever translated from a small dead language, where all we have is a few texts and a few dictionaries, and a bunch of scholars arguing, you would understand how pointless this whole argument is. The whole intent of the Patterson/Meyer version in English was to be neutral, and free of any slant, so that's more or less where you would end up if you tried to make as neutral a translation as possible.

  11. 1) I'm not sure which of my statements you read as saying that Pursah knew. I could hardly "admit" to knowing what Pursah did or did not know, since I would not know what she knew, and I'm not her.

    I’m referring to this statement made by you and given by Renard in his defense article.
    “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.”
    If Renard’s remark was accurate and truthful, it follows that that Pursha was aware of and read both the Patterson and Meyers translation and the Meyers translation prior to publication of Your Immortal Reality.
    This statement also establishes that Gary Renard was aware of the Patterson and Meyers translation through Pursha, though it does not establish Renard actually read this translation.

    4) As to the differences, you can make the comparisons yourself, or you can read Gary's response, or you could read my book, where I have in my comments to "form" for each of the Logia commented on the nature of Pursah's edits, which are all in all pretty substantive, starting with dismissing one third of the material.

    Rogier –if a grad student had substantially edited the Patterson and Meyers translation and presented this as his own work without acknowledgment of Patterson and Meyers or acknowledgment of its similarities, this grad student would be flunked for plagiarism. It hardly makes sense for you to argue academics and scholarship when your defense of the charge of plagiarism amounts to “Pursha” (an alleged ascended master) was the originator of the material.
    Perhaps you don't understand the issue of plagiarism. Plagiarism is ripping off someone’s work and presenting it as your own. In musical terms, as a musician, you cannot change a few words of a Guns & Roses song and call it yours, completely new and original. Nor would it make any difference to argue your ascended master gave you the song, or argue your Guns and Roses rip off made a lot of people dance.
    As such McDonald makes a clear prima fascia case that Renard ripped off the Patterson and Meyers translation, did some editing and commentary and presented this as the enlightened work of his ascended master. Again your essential defense against this charge is the alleged ascended master, Pursha, was the originator of this translation and therefore not obligated to note Patterson and Meyers as the source of the translation.
    Even if I concede your and Renard’s sincere belief in Pursha, its makes little sense to blatantly disregard accepted academic and legal protocols on plagiarism based on your and Renard’s personal spiritual beliefs. It makes less sense to blatantly disregard these accepted rules then claim harassment. Clearly Renard as author could have avoided all these charges and controversies by simply acknowledging the Patterson and Meyers translations and its similarities to what he presents as Pursha’s translation and commentary. More –that as an author, Renard was responsible to fully research and be aware of what he presents to the world as his collaborate work with his ascended master. He didn’t do this and now finds himself at odds with accepted protocols on plagiarism and a substantial, well documented charge of plagiarism.
    As such its not surprising that many feel that Renard uses his ploy of ascended masters to make his own rules and play by his own rules.

  12. for J. Lopez - your latest:

    Ref 1) Now you're putting words in Pursah's mouth. The communication from Pursah back when, according to Gary was about the Meyer edition published at Harper. I merely added for emphasis that it did not mention the Meyer/Patterson translation. So that moots the rest of your conclusion.

    Ref 4) If Gary sat down and copied and edited the Paterson/Meyer translation, I guess that would be plagiarism. By now you may have seen Gary's statement, that this was not how the text was arrived at, and that he did not know that translation. Which renders that point moot as well. Moreover we're not in court. Someone has raised a pretty pointless allegation, and that's all.

    This blog, and my book again are dedicated to the substance of Pursah's version of the Thomas Gospel in its own right. The focus is on the holistic appreciation of that version in the context of the teachings of ACIM. I'm not a journalist, nor an IP lawyer, nor do I want to host a talk show. Controversy is not the purpose of this site, so this will be the end of this particular thread, as it adds no value by attempting to treat seriously a set of groundless accusations (in spite of superficial appearances of reasonableness) which add no value to the topic of this site.

  13. Lol. Rogier just saying McDonald's accusations are groundless do not make them groundless.

    Maintaining a completely irrational ascended master ploy does not give anyone the right to rip off academics and present their work as the original work of an ascended master. Which is McDonald's charge.

    This issue and accusation is not going away because you choose to end the dialogue.

  14. Ok, this is final then:

    MacDonals's accusations are groundless only because they lack grounds, not because I say so. They are mere suspicions so far, and as always, everybody is entitled to their own paranoia.

    As far as I'm concerned, accepting Gary's experience of Arten and Pursah as ascended masters is an entirely personal decision: it was for Gary and it is for the reader. Either you do or you don't, but there is no basis to lambaste anyone else for where they stand on that issue.

    MacDonald's "charge" rests entirely on a set of premises that are so outlandish, they render Gary's experiences tame by comparison. And MacDonald or anybody is entitled to harbor whatever suspicions they want against anyone they choose.

    The issue and the accusation will die their own death in due course, I suspect. Over and out.

  15. As far as I know, "The Secret Gospel of Thomas" is public domain. I've had it on my computer for years and expect to put it on the website I work on -
    I also expect to meet Gary one day, have a long talk and, at the end of the day, have a good laugh - about everything.

  16. Surely the point of all this is: the EGO creating a drama. MacDonald does not really exist. This is a great opportunity to practise forgiveness