(Judge ever so cross. Was hoping for a guilty and wrap up. Court Reporter)
JUDGE Involution-Odyssey. The Defendent Involution-An Odyssey has been cleared by a majority verdict on the first Charge.
The Trial addresses the Second Charge Against the Book
The Second Charge
That you Odyssey acted without deliberation, or discernment in harnessing the Author to a lifelong service and made promises of reward that you have not fulfilled. How do you plead?
BOOK. Not guilty on both counts
PROSECUTION. Let us dispense with the easy one first. How many beautiful copies of yourself have been sold?
BOOK. Sold? Probably about 100. Given away? About the same.
(Blimey! A fuss about a limping loss. CP)
PROS. Not a resounding success are you? Given to whom?
BOOK People the Author thought would be interested, Authors of alternative science, and others of spiritual bent who might review and endorse.
PROS How much do you cost to print and send someone who might be interested?
BOOK A little under ten pounds.
PROS So the Author cast you upon the waters at a personal cost of about a thousand pounds. She has faith in you even if we don’t. How many of those lucky recipients replied or reviewed?
BOOK Initially four.
PROS Presumably the Author had selected them? Not a great endorsement of your worth. Not even gratitude for a relatively expensive book.. You may stand down. I call my first witness on the second charge. Professor ANON.
(Behold the aesthete! Looks like a Vampire, never seen the sun. Only comes out at night. CP) Shhh…
Professor ANON. I understand you agree to appear on condition of anonymity. Please tell the court why you were selected as one of these unfortunate recipients?
ANON Let me see? It could be be because I head up the educational programme of a very prestigious Institute ( so Rare we are almost bleu CP), or maybe because I am a poet with a poetic open vein and the author thought I might be infected by her poetry, which I have to say hardly qualifies… Or maybe because I am also Critic with fine forceps for the phoney, and then I am an Essayist able to sustain a Marathon. Or it might be because I hold readings of poetry from various traditions to gatherings and I suppose she hoped…
PROS Clearly a modest man of parts… How did you react to the work? What was your opinion?
ANON Frankly, (well maybe not very frankly) it was hard to form any opinion. Opinions need meat to chew upon. It is certainly not poetry, but it does not have the clarity of prose either. It purports to put forward a scientific hypothesis but grasping it is problematic because it uses the same word ‘Involution’ for two very different processes, the enfolding and encoding of experience, and the manifestation of that encoded memory through the scientific recovery of it. I made a serious effort to grasp the book, and read it twice, but in the end abandoned it. I got glimpses but then they evaporated… most frustrating…
(Pompous git. Needs his dose of blood presto.CP)
PROS Not easy for you then? What is the purpose of your Institute ? Its mission if you like?
ANON Well! That would be telling. If forced to be rough I’d say roughly ‘To foster a bridge between the perennial philosophy, science and poetry’ but it’s much more complex than that….
PROS I am sure it must be. It is not a characteristic of the Perennial Philosophy that the experiences giving rise to it are ephemeral?Is that not also the characteristic of poetry- to allude or suggest but not quite define? So you would not consider this book of scientific allusion a contribution to that bridging endeavour?
ANON Well I have been working on almost identical ideas for a number of years, so it is not new to me. Limited in value would be my opinion. If I were her supervisor I would suggest the author would have been better writing a scientific hypothesis in scientific terminology so that her thesis might have been debated amongst those of us able to evaluate it. As it is, it will remain unread and understandably so. Unfortunate but there it is.
PROS So, as a promoter of the perennial, and elusive you would have preferred instead a defined and argumentative hypothesis. No further questions.
DEFENCE COUNSEL Can you clarify how you came to be approached to read this work in the first place?
ANON The Author, I believe, had researched the Institute of which I am a Director. We are the only one of its kind. She wrote to ask me to give an opinion
DEF And you agreed to receive a copy?
ANON I did, somewhat apprehensively, and rightly so, as it turned out. She turned quite nasty..
DEF Dr ANON I have a copy of an email written to the author in which you said and I paraphrase… I read the comments from Koestler, Lorenz and others…they were less than unequivocal. None of them offered to use their influence in getting the work published, and one word from them would have undoubtedly done the trick. You recall the instance? You took your appraisal of its likely merits before you saw it? Simply because she had self-published?
ANON Well in my position one does take the opinions of others before embarking on what may prove a pointless waste of time. There’s very little of it about. Time, I mean. One of them, (I think it was Koestler) expressed his doubts about the likelihood of publication.
DEF Yes. He said ‘I am less certain about publication’ Does that not imply it would be difficult, rather than unwise? In the same letter Koestler also said ‘ ‘To expand your thesis would undoubtedly be worthwhile‘ Interesting that you selected only the doubt but not the validation. How did you know of these other authorities; Koestler, Lorenz etc?
ANON The Author had made an completely unsubstantiated claim in her letter that they had supported her thesis.
DEF You did not believe her? So she afforded you the stick with which you then beat her?
ANON No, no. Their letters suggesting approval were not full endorsements. Had they been so, given the authority of both eminent men, the earlier work would have been published when it was first written in 1970. They were simply being kind as one is in private letters to a needy supplicant…
DEF Was it kind in your first letter to the author when you said ‘It always seems to me dubious to quote people’s letters: they feel compelled to be polite and so say positive things that they certainly would not stand by in print. I would not like my letters quoted to all and sundry?.That is quite a generalisation. It does convey your doubts before you even saw the work. Were you aware that the Author had personally known Konrad Lorenz through her first husband’s work with him at the Max Planck Institute?
DEF Or the nature of her correspondence with Koestler?
ANON No. How could I be?
DEF But you did not ask, did you? You simply assumed because you had never heard of her that the claim was spurious. For all you know these eminent men meant what they said. Perhaps not everyone is as ‘kind’ as you are? Are you aware the work has been endorsed, openly and freely on the cover by Ervin Laszlo.
ANON I am now.
DEF Would you say Ervin Laszlo is an eminent man of the calibre of Koestler or the Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz
ANON Yes. But…
DEF Are you also aware that Laszlo tried to get his publishers to take on the publication, as did another endorser, and both failed. Does that in any way give an indication as to the merits of the work?
ANON Probably not. It merely means it is not a commercial proposition.
DEF Rather contradicting yourself aren’t you? So the failure to attract a publisher is not a measure of the merits or value of the work? Yet it was the first assumption that you made, as well as casting doubt on the integrity of the author in quoting them. Would you say that gives an impression of ‘open mindedness’ in an approach? Either towards the book or the Author? Is it,in fact, appropriate to the promoter of the ‘Perennial Philosophy’ which, if anything is about openness and trust, to immediately doubt an account of such perennial experience and relationships with others?
ANON I am an academic. All that was explained before I agreed to consider the work. One can meet a lot of crackpots these days. I was just protecting myself from a possible crackpot.
DEF I see. Author armed with book. Very hazardous.Given that initial reaction, it was generous of her to even continue communication with you. But she still gave you the opportunity to reconsider and sent a copy.
ANON She needed my help, obviously. I am rather well known in the field…
(So are cows and sheep. Slaughter anyone? CR)
DEF So after you had read the work of the possible crackpot, you communicated your negative views about it to the author?
ANON I cannot remember but I expect I did.
DEF Let me refresh your memory. You received the book in early March. It was at the end of August that the author wrote and I quote As I think our preliminary correspondence made clear I was in search of help, support, contacts, dissemination. Since you have been either unable or unwilling to provide even a comment I wonder whether you might be prepared to return the book?. I am very short of copies for review and there are others to whom it could be sent. I will certainly refund the £3.00 postage if you wish.
Did you return the book as requested?
ANON No. I had made copious comments in the margins. It could not have been used for another review. I sent a cheque for the cost of the book instead.
(But not before taking it all in! And not until asked!CP)
DEF. You deface books. That’s interesting. So you were interested enough to copiously annotate this misguided book. Was the cheque banked?
No further questions.
PROSECUTION I would recall the book to answer the first part of this charge. Odyssey, you are charged as follows:
That you acted without deliberation, or discernment in harnessing the Author to a lifelong service. How do you plead?
BOOK Not guilty
PROS. Do you deny the lifelong service required of this Author?
BOOK No, but that was hardly my doing. The witnesses already called have explained the climate of rejection and unreadiness: more specifically, as in the last witness, their personal prejudices against me, I’d invent a new term and call it ‘Bookism’. You need letters behind your name before you write a book as speculative as me…
PROS That brings me neatly back to the first part of this charge: your lack of discernment in selecting this author to carry the ignominy of your claims! She was not an appropriate choice was she? She had no standing in either academic circles or spiritual community. What you call Bookism was directly due to that lack of discernment. Why would she pass muster? It was inhumane to subject her to such judgement was it not?
BOOK There is an expression ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’ It does not mean the superficial interpretation; that if you judge others you will be judged by them. It means your judgement itself enables the measure of your prejudice, your limitations, your preconceived ideas. You have heard a poet saying I am not poetry, a scientific Professor saying I am not science ( or not until he published first) but a few who had similar ideas offering some applause (and who are then disbelieved!) The market is no measure of a book, because it would choose Fifty Shades of Grey as the paeon of value. You will have to do better than that.
PROS No further questions
DEF There was another poet, a Professor of Poetry at Oxford who was approached. Why that one?
BOOK Because she held a temporary Chair for the promotion of poetry in contexts where it is not usually found.
DEF So a History of Science written in poetry would seem exactly what she was paid to promote? What was her opinion?
BOOK She said she did not have time to read the work of ‘other poets’ and declined to accept a copy.
DEF Ah how elastic is the public purse for self-interested people…So why did you choose this Author?
BOOK. She is still here. That’s why.
DEF You mean she has survived?
BOOK No. Not survived. Believed.
DEF In you?
BOOK. Not so much in me, but in the importance of what I contain, an alternative to destructive materialism, an alternative to intellectual argument. More importantly a kind of irreverence to upstage the dogmatic…any dogma…particularly intellectual dogmas. I am about intuition…
DEF Irreverence! You are all about God!
BOOK. God is all there is. That’s what she believes anyway. That’s why I chose her. She never would have joined a ‘prestigious Institute’, or an ‘established congregation’ of any kind. She has nothing to lose, because she has no standing, no pre-established loyalties, and she has been so vilified by the academics she has written a book for everyone else. That stoicism and broader appeal took a lot of training, and dare I suggest, some considerable discernment. I very carefully picked and trained a bloody-minded virtual orphan and made sure she never settled comfortably anywhere. Nobody with good opinions to lose would have written me.
DEF No further questions.
JUDGE (To Jury.)
I direct you to give full weight to the evidence presented today. If you find the defendant acted with right judgement in the selection of its Author you are bound to find it Not Guilty. The question of financial reward as a measure of value I direct you to ignore. Please confer before the next Charge is brought, relating to inappropriate language and timing.