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Using ascension-research.org as a source
The site claims to have no affiliations with any organization but is registered by Allen Buresz of Natural Health L.P. in Virginia. Checking the Virginia company records online, no such limited partnership has been registered as active. Consequently the registration is suspect with apparently false information. The site appears to be another rambling self-published and self-promotional site with no claim as to status or validity. It does not meet the guidance for wp:reliable sources and should not be used as a source, ever, by anyone.—Ash (talk) 07:48, 12 September 2009 (UTC)
This site is copyright of Hilary Hargreaves & Mark Brittain and is registered to Hilary Hargreaves of Bournemouth, UK with a full address on the registration record. The site appears to be an enthusiast amateur site but also exists to sell a range of "spiritualist" courses (tariff list here: http://www.schoolofinnerlight.co.uk/workshops/workshopsoffered.htm). The site makes no claim of expertise or official affiliation. The site fails to meet the requirements of WP:RS or WP:ELNO and should not be used as a source or link unless on an article about their group (if it were notable).—Ash (talk) 21:53, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
I'm the main writer of this article, having written most of sections 1 to 10 (up to and including "Ascended Master Morya"). I appreciate the efforts of Ash to prevent the article from being used to promote organizations or for commercial purposes. I'm somewhat less appreciative of his giving multiple tags that call the objectivity and fairness of the whole article into question, especially as this was done without any discussion here. I would be happy if Ash or others could give concrete examples of peacock terms, bias, and ideas not verifiable in the sources cited. Also, what significant viewpoints have been excluded? --Asiaj (talk) 23:51, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
- Taking these tags one at a time:
- Fansite - the article includes a lot of quotes which it mostly repeats uncritically (i.e. not balancing these sources with other critical sources). I suggest the level of quotes and the way they are presented does not meet the guidance of WP:QUOTE. My example is the section "Blavatsky’s First Encounter with Master Morya" where the fairly long section is 95% quotation, none of which suggests she was making it up. Literally taking one minute to search on Google News gave me this independent reliable critical source:Talking to the Dead and Other Amusements; MADAME BLAVATSKY By PAUL ZWEIG October 5, 1980. This source explicitly states "The names of her particular mentors, Koot Hoomi and Master Morya, have entered into the folklore of occultism. For decades after H.P.B.'s death, psychics continued to receive communication from them. They remained the Theosophical Society's ultimate source of authority. Yet H.P.B. invented them out of whole cloth. The letters, supposedly precipitated at a distance by mental power, were written by H.P.B. herself. Known as the Mahatma letters, they had a way of falling from ceilings onto the heads of people H.P.B. needed to impress. Koot Hoomi made ghostly appearances now and then to convince doubting followers of his factual existence. All of this was engineered with dogged persistence by H.P.B., who had a genius for arranging phenomena of the sort.". It is true that there is minor mention of criticism (including in the lead) but by not achieving a balance of sources throughout the text, the article appears to be for fans of Morya and Blavatsky rather than an encyclopaedic article.
- Peacock terms - The lead uses the wording used by the Theosophical Society, "teachings", and this word is used without qualification in the text giving false weight to what might be "writings" (by "authors" rather than "masters"). Most of the text of the article (perhaps 90%) is quotation which is littered throughout by peacock terms which remain unqualified.
- Bias - This is based on the bias of using the flood of "new age" published sources that a search on Google Books provides, particularly where published by organizations with the key aim of promoting theosophy (you cannot expect Summit University Press, Theosophical Publishing House, The Summit Lighthouse or The Agni Yoga Society to provide much in the way of unbiased material). The ease of finding such promotional literature has lead to a biased article. Preferably when we look at the sources we should see a balanced list demonstrating an attempt to address this natural bias in searchable publications.
- Unpublished synthesis - I'm removing this, though the article brings together so many quotations, the lack of analysis probably makes this an unfair tag to include. I had made the assumption that with the high level of quotes this would be more of an issue.
- May not include all viewpoints - This is the same issue of balance and I am certain there are a number of critical viewpoints that, if mentioned, have been overwhelmed by the amount of evidence included from promotional sources.—Ash (talk) 08:58, 18 September 2009 (UTC)
- I appreciate your prompt reply. I haven't time to reply in full, so I will address the most immediate points. But before doing so I would like to point out that I have taken some of your criticisms to heart and modified passages in the initial paragraph with the purpose of reframing the article as a whole.
As I expressed on your talk page, the article seeks to present the narratives about Morya, not to weigh arguments about his existence or lack of it. As I suggested, the readers of such an article are likely to have an anthropological, an historical, or a personal interest. For the first two scholarly types, I have laid out an objective narrative about narratives which hopefully can prove useful for reference or even research. Since I clearly indicate disbelief in at least some of those narratives, I think it would be hard to make the case that I'm somehow trying to persuade the reader to accept them. If anything, juxtaposing several accounts would seem better designed to encourage readers (especially those with a personal or quasi-religious interest) to ask which, if any, of these stories merits trust. I fail to see that the content promotes belief or worship of Masters or contains the sort of "extensive bias" of which your tag accuses it.
I tried several minutes, but did not have your good fortune in accessing the Zweig article by title on Google or Google News. Could you kindly send me the link? The paragraph you quote comes across to me as an intemperate ad hominem attack similar to the numerous ones that Blavatsky's many enemies made during her lifetime; but since you assure me that Zweig is "reliable," I will be eager to see the documentary and other evidence on which he anchors his impassioned conclusions. After all, such evidence is what we need to base assertions on, isn't it, not hearsay or assumptions? We surely can't point to his character or his Ph.D. as evidence that Zweig is reliable, since a few years before penning the essay that you quote (if the date is correct), he might have been assuring us that Swami Muktananda can communicate with beings on Jupiter.
You say that you are "certain there are a number of critical viewpoints" that could have been included. Unfortunately, I have no such certainty. Gregory Tillett is the only scholar I know who has done sound research that debunks theosophical claims. There may be more out there, and I would be grateful to you for introducing them to me so that I (or others) might incorporate their well verified findings into the article.
According to an online dictionary teachings are "doctrines that are taught," "something taught by a religious or philosophical authority." If somebody claims that certain words were transmitted to them by the Angel Baloni or revealed to them in the Akashic records, calling them "teachings" is accurate. And please try a word check to see how 'teaching" is actually used in the article. In over half the 15 instances it appears, it refers to the "Ascended Masters Teachings" or the Agni Yoga teachings, both of which are revelatory teachings said to be transmitted orally, not authored. It also appears twice in a book title, once in a quote, and twice in reference to what Ledbeater taught about masturbation. Sorry, but I think it's quite a stretch to say that I've used "teaching" as a peacock term. But in recognition that the word might be taken to convey that what was taught came from some higher being or whatever, I did remove it from the initial paragraph and once from the Agni Yoga section. I also did some rewording in the latter to make it read more neutrally.
You suggest that the article is littered with peacock terms, presumably words that have much flashier feathers than teaching. Would you be good enough to point them out, so that I may evaluate them and make changes where they seem appropriate?
To summarize: I have taken your points seriously and responded by making some changes in the article. To do a better job, I am kindly requesting that you please acquaint me with: the link to the Zweig article; the scholars or writers who have numerous well-founded critical viewpoints; and the peacock words that are littering the article. Finally, I appreciate your removing the tag. You're right, the article is short on analysis. --Asiaj (talk) 01:54, 19 September 2009 (UTC)
- You have made some edits to the benefit of the article. It still fundamentally fails WP:QUOTE as rather than being an "objective narrative" it is in practice a long collection of quotes, mostly from publications promoting one viewpoint. If rather than being more than 90% of the article, the quoted text came down to below 50%, this would go a long way to addressing the issue.
- Zweig - According to the New York Times, Paul Zweig is the author of Adventurer, Three Journeys: An Automythology and other books. The article referenced was published in The New York Times, October 5, 1980, with the title "Talking To The Dead And Other Amusements" which is a critical review of "Madame Blavatsky The Woman Behind the Myth" by Marion Meade. If you think this is a bad source then I suggest you take another look at WP:RS and consider that if the argument you make against Zweig is based on his complete publication history and rejecting him if there is any potential bias, then the vast majority of the sources published by biased organizations devoted to promoting their views repeatedly quoted in this article would fail that same argument.
- For critical views, I find it odd that you claim there is a lack of sources. A quick search on Google Books provides the following useful published critical viewpoints and summaries specifically with regard to demonstrating that Blavatsky was a fraud: Martin Gardner (Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?: Debunking Pseudoscience), Richard Hodgson (Society for Psychical Research), Mark J. Sedgwick (Against the modern world). To limit sources by saying it has to be a "scholar" in the subject is again odd as that is not a requirement from WP:RS and if you apply that test then most of the supporting sources would have to be removed.
- On peacock terms, I have to repeat my point that 90-95% of the text of the article is quotes. These quotes are littered with peacock terms. By uncritically repeating all these lengthy quotes the peacock terms are unqualified.—Ash (talk) 06:28, 19 September 2009 (UTC)
- Thank you for your prompt reply. First, your assertion that the article is 90-95% quotes is totally lacking in objectivity. Without the notes and so forth, the article has about 7700 words. Remove the quotes and that number goes to somewhere between 3900 and 4000. Thus, the quoted text is already down to below 50%. What made you imagine it was so much more?
The stated goal of the article is to present the narratives about Morya, which share the "one viewpoint" that he exists. The article is objective because it simply presents what people have said with little comment or analysis. That's all that I thought I could do, and I still think so. If there was more reliable research on this question, I would have referenced it, whether it was supportive or critical of these narratives. That I'm not peddling a "biased" theosophical view is shown that I cited Tillett who is a fine scholar. But as for the "critical" biographers of Blavatsky, they may meet Wikipedia's Reliable Sources standards, but it doesn't mean their research is well grounded and therefore worth citing in an article.
Please read what I write with care and without bias. I never claimed that there is a lack of sources, but that there was a lack of sound, well-grounded critical sources like Tillett. Nor, by the way, did I state or infer that the source has to be a "scholar." I'm a writer myself, not a scholar.
The Hodgson Report, which you claim is "useful"--You know because you read it, right?--was so clearly biased and shoddy that it proved useful in winning converts to the theosophical cause. The Society for Psychical Research itself has denounced and retracted the report. Are you suggesting that I cite that as a "reliable source"? But you might still insist that it has some value by presenting a different perspective on Blavatsky and the Masters. I understand that point, but have to disagree, and please pay attention to the reason why, because it's the crux of what I've been trying to communicate, thus far unsuccessfully.
At least some of the narratives I cite about Morya are clearly delusional or make-believe. Maybe all of them are. But they are presented in the article as stories and nothing more. So it doesn't matter that they are unobjective--of course, they are--nor does it matter that those publishers only publish works that confirm these stories. But if I cite Zweig or Meade or Peter Washington or the countless other scholars or writers who claim Blavatsky was a fraud who made the Masters up--and I've read several of them--there's a big difference. They are also telling stories--narratives without reliable supporting evidence, which may be true or false--but those stories are disguised as objective assessments, and therefore tend to deceive most readers, especially those who are already inclined to be skeptical.
I can make this assertion with confidence because I'm familiar with most of the pertinent material and documentary evidence and the logical issues involved. This is a subject that I know a lot about. Good scholarship or analysis means taking the strongest case against one's position--naturally, a case based on good evidence and logical arguments--and responding to that honestly and effectively. Again with the exception of Tillett, none of the "critical" writers I have read even come close to doing that; most don't even try. They constantly ignore evidence or pooh-pooh it without really responding to the problems it poses. On the other hand, their seeming skepticism disappears when quoting contemporary or other sources that attack Blavatsky. They accept hearsay evidence almost without question. The false charges leveled against another 19th-century superstar, Franz Liszt, show how vicious, groundless, and self-sustaining such distortions can be--and Liszt was just an innovative musician, not a prophet spreading controversial religious and scientific ideas.
Almost certainly a great deal of this negligence has to do with the assumption that stories about Masters and psychic phenomena must be false. The verdict is delivered before the evidence is even examined, and that presumption of guilt determines what evidence is selected and how it is viewed. On the other hand, like hundreds of millions of Asians, I assume that human beings with supernormal powers do exist, but I'm also well aware that charlatans do. In Blavatsky's case I haven't seen certain direct evidence that her Masters were real, but nor have I seen good evidence that she faked phenomena. Certainly I would welcome a study that confronts all the evidence honestly and marshals every argument possible to make the case that Blavatsky was fraudulent and/or delusional. Tillett did that with Leadbeater, and as far as I'm concerned, he's made a very strong case that Leadbeater was a pathological liar. Not being exactly inspired by Leadbeater, Tillett didn't form a mutual masturbation ring by quoting other critical writers who quote other critical writers…, but conscientiously analyzed documentary evidence and the facts about Leadbeater's life. But has anybody done the same with Blavatsky's life? Or with, say, the Roerichs'? Not that I know of. Have you read a book that does that? If so, please tell me it's title, by all means. But if you did read the Hodgson Report and you're satisfied with it as a source, that tells me that you yourself are biased or not interested enough in the subject to examine why the report was criticized and rejected by the SPR.
I highly doubt that somebody will read the quotes that you so dislike and be converted to a belief in the Masters. In any case, that is neither the purpose nor the function of the article. I wrote the article because I consider the topic of human potential to be of paramount importance. Whether "Masters" and "Rishis" and "Xian" exist as ideals or realities, the question of their existence and nature ought to be given serious consideration by perspicacious writers and thinkers--and rarely is. Instead the field is left to charlatans and second-rate researchers. Even somebody as intelligent as Paul Zweig fell victim to both, it seems.
Speaking of Paul Zweig, you said that you accessed his article in less than a minute. Since I haven't been able to access it, could you kindly send me the link? The short paragraph you quoted didn't exactly show an impressive grasp of the subject and was also full of snide "crow terms," but I would like to see whether he was contributing to a fact-based discussion or simply venting his opinion.
Also, would you please either be specific about what peacock terms you refer to or kindly remove the tag?
In closing, I'll repeat what I said above: The article is objective because it simply presents what people have said with little comment or analysis. That's all that I thought I could do, and I still think so. If there was more reliable research on this question, I would have referenced it, whether it was supportive or critical of these narratives. And let me add: I realize that people could add citations to sources that are "reliable" under Wikipedia rules but depend on faulty scholarship and hearsay. I don't think this would improve the article. Since you affirm that Gardner and Sedgwick are useful, I will check them out and cite them if they are reliable both under Wikipedia rules (btw, I'm not suggesting that these ought to be changed) and my own standards. --Asiaj (talk) 18:26, 19 September 2009 (UTC)
- That's a rather long comment. Rather than replying to all of your defence against addressing the bias of the article, I shall take the one example and raise it as a new section. As for the rest of your comments, I'll get back to you when I have more time. Oh, as for Zweig's article here's a Google News link as you seem to not be able to search for it yourself; I read the full article using LexisNexis, other tools and libraries are available.—Ash (talk) 18:54, 19 September 2009 (UTC)
Richard Hodgson (Society for Psychical Research) as a source to address bias
Asiaj (talk · contribs) has argued long and hard against including Hodgson's investigation (see above) and yet it is an often reported and referenced document in third party sources that analyse Blavatsky, regardless of how it may be seen as an overly critical attack. Exactly how does it help the bias of this article to deliberately ignore Hodgson's report when this is part of the public response of the time to Blavatsky's writing and a stimulus for later supporters of Theosophy to defend against these accusations of fraud? If you don't want to do your own search, here's a Google News link for relevant news articles.—Ash (talk) 18:54, 19 September 2009 (UTC)
- Excellent idea! When I find the time, I'll prepare a section on Hodgson's charges and the response of theosophists, later members of the SPR, and perhaps writers critical of Blavatsky. Since Hodgson's Report includes most of the charges made before and since, it will provide a good focus.
Now I have a personal request. Perhaps the length of my posting tried your patience, but could you please respond to me with the politeness and assumption of good faith that you ask of others on your User Talk site? I appreciate that you sent me the link for the Zweig article; I'm less appreciative of your suggestion that I don't want to do my own search. As I wrote, I did try and failed. And since I openly admit that, I don't especially need my failure pointed out. Not everyone is as net-savvy as you seem to be. Our discussion has been civil and constructive; I hope it continues to be.--Asiaj (talk) 21:45, 19 September 2009 (UTC)
- I stated the facts, I was not pointing out your failures. It would be constructive to hear some opinions from other editors at this point. I note that almost all of your contributions to Wikipedia are on similar topics to this one; you may find the guidance of WP:SPA helpful.—Ash (talk) 22:23, 19 September 2009 (UTC)