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Jul 05, 2006 08:14 AM
by carlosaveline

Dear Friends, the important document below may helps us understand at least in part the ethical problems in the Adyar TS in the USA, which led to the slandering of HPB in the first volume of "The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky".  Such an editorial policy, by the way, was clearly disapproved by Ms. Radha Burnier, the Adyar TS international president since 1980.  As we all know, Theosophy cannot be separated from Ethics.  

[ FOHAT, 5/1, Spring 2001, pp. 21-23 ]
Dr. Gregory Tillett's Statement Regarding Dr. 
John Cooper’s Compilation of the Collected 
Correspondence of Madame Blavatsky

Dr. Gregory Tillett
Since the death of my esteemed colleague and friend, John Cooper, many people have contacted me and others regarding the future of the volume of Madame Blavatsky’s correspondence which John had compiled and edited (and for which he was posthumously awarded his Ph.D.).
The first volume of the HPB correspondence was originally compiled with the intention that it would be published by the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, and John had entered into a contract with that publisher.
Following John’s untimely death on May 12, 1998, his widow, Shirley, received a number of letters and telephone calls regarding the volume of the HPB correspondence, and John’s library and archives. She found many of these communications intimidating and intrusive, and, in a least one case, received a letter which was rude and threatening. John’s family therefore asked me to act as literary executor on behalf of his estate, and to undertake all correspondence and discussions regarding the proposed publication of the HPB correspondence, and John’s library and archives.
Acting on behalf of John’s family, on June 29, 1999 I wrote to Dr. John Algeo, of the Theosophical Society in America, in response to a number of letters from him to Mrs. Cooper. I advised Dr. Algeo that I was acting on behalf of the family, and that neither Mrs. Cooper nor John’s children wished to be involved in future discussions regarding the proposed publication other than through me as their agent. I both faxed and mailed this letter to Dr. Algeo, and, when I had not received a reply by August 24, 1999, I again wrote to him, again faxing and mailing the letter.
Dr. Algeo replied on August 24 (by fax), but appeared to believe that, with John’s death, all rights in the material he had collected for the proposed volume had passed to the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, and that John’s family (as the beneficiaries of John’s estate) had no rights in the matter. On the same day, Dr. Algeo wrote to Mrs. Cooper advising that he proposed to visit her in October, 1999. Dr. Algeo also wrote to me again on August 30 advising that he intended to visit Mrs. Cooper “to get whatever material I can pertaining to the HPB letters.”
Having consulted with John’s family, I replied to Dr. Algeo (sending my letter by e-mail, fax and post) on September 3, 1999. I advised Dr. Algeo that John’s family did not wish to be involved in any correspondence regarding the proposed volume, or in relation to John’s vast collection of material on Theosophical history, and that they had asked me to deal with all such matters. The family had considered having their attorney write to Dr. Algeo to make a formal request that he desist from troubling Mrs. Cooper with further communications, but I advised them that this would surely not be necessary.
I advised Dr. Algeo that Mrs. Cooper did not wish him to visit her, and that the family would not release any material to him. I again advised Dr. Algeo that I was acting as the agent of the family, and that any further and future communications in the matter of the proposed volume and John’s library and archives would therefore have to be with me. I advised Dr. Algeo that, since he was proposing to visit Australia, I would be happy to make myself available to meet with him in the hope that any difficulties in the publication of the HPB correspondence could be resolved.
On behalf of John’s family, I had taken legal advice from an American attorney, and I advised Dr. Algeo that his advice (no less than the advice I had also received regarding the Australian legal position) was that John’s rights in the proposed volume (and as referred to in John’s contract with the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton) had now passed to his beneficiaries (his “legal successors” in the words of the contract), and that decisions made by the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, with regard to changes it apparently intended to make (including apparent proposals for deleting or amending correspondence) from the first volume, could not occur without the consent of John’s family. I set out the family’s position regarding matters to do with the copyright of the manuscript of the proposed volume in some detail, and asked that any proposals for changes to the manuscript be forwarded to me as soon as possible.
I also indicated that the family would provide whatever assistance it could give to facilitate the publication of the first volume (which already exists in manuscript form), and of subsequent volumes (for which John had already collected a vast amount of material). I indicated that the family hoped that the correspondence could be published in the Collected Writings series. However, I advised Dr. Algeo that any such cooperation would require consultation with the family, and not arbitrary decisions by the Theosophical Publishing House of which the family was simply informed.
I also noted that Mrs. Cooper had received what can only be described as an offensive and aggressive letter from an eminent American Theosophist, who is a member of an “Editorial Board” apparently appointed by the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, to take control of the publication of John’s manuscript of HPB correspondence (ignoring the provisions of the contract between John and the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton).
I have still not received a reply to my letter (and fax and e-mail) of September 3, 1999.
Dr. Algeo was in Australia recently, and I wrote to him at the Australian headquarters of the Theosophical Society, and faxed a copy of that letter to the National President of the Society in Australia asking that she pass it on to Dr. Algeo. I sought a meeting with Dr. Algeo in an attempt to resolve the outstanding issues raised in my letter of September 3, 1999. I have received a letter from the National President (Ms. Beverley Champion) dated January 22, 2001, acknowledging receipt of the letters for Dr. Algeo, and stating that she gave the faxed copy of the letter to him. I have received no communication from Dr. Algeo.
Having read on Theos-World the suggestion that the first volume of the HPB correspondence was to be published by the Theosophical Publishing House, I wrote to the Theosophical Publishing House informing them that John’s family did not give, and specifically refused, permission for such publication until and unless the issues relating to its rights in the matter were resolved.
I subsequently received a letter from attorneys acting for the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, and the Theosophical Society in America. This letter made a number of remarkable assertions. For example, it asserted that the Theosophical Publishing House and the Theosophical Society in America “currently hold the copyright on the H.P. Blavatsky Letters”, and that “Any obligations or duties of my client under the contract with Mr. Cooper would have terminated upon his death.” Just how copyright can be held on letters written or received over a hundred years ago remains unexplained, as does the question of how any rights in relation to letters found or obtained by John independently of the Theosophical Publishing House can now be claimed by them.
The letter further asserts that John acknowledged that all rights in relation to all letters were held by the Theosophical Publishing House. Although I have searched extensively, I have been unable to find in John’s files any such sweeping acknowledgment.
The letter notes that “It is not the intention of [the Theosophical Publishing House] to utilize any editorial notes or introductory essays of Mr. Cooper with respect to any published work of the H.P. Blavatsky Letters.” This, presumably, means that any volume of HPB correspondence published by the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton will not include any material written by John, any editorial comments compiled by John, or any letters obtained as a result of John’s independent research.
The letter concludes with a predictable legal threat of court action should any attempt be made to publish (other than with the Theosophical Publishing House) any material relating to the HPB correspondence.
I have referred the attorney’s letter to a US attorney (since copyright and contract law may well be different in the USA to Australia).
John’s family is eager for the HPB correspondence to be published, but it will not allow the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, or Dr. Algeo, or anyone else, to simply take over the rights in the publication which the contract between John and the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, specifically declares to lie with John or “his successors”. John spent many years and much effort and money in his collection of and research into the HPB correspondence, as is evidenced by the vast collection of material in his archives. His doctoral thesis (which was, essentially, intended to be the basis for the first volume of the HPB correspondence) provides evidence of the extent of material he gathered independently of the Theosophical Society in America or the Theosophical Publishing House, and of his diligence in ensuring scholarly accuracy and impartiality in presenting the correspondence.
It is entirely probable that Dr. Algeo has no wish to deal with me. However, I am the agent of the estate of John Cooper in this matter, and it will therefore not be possible for the publication of the proposed volume to proceed unless the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, is prepared to communicate with me, to recognize the rights of John’s family in relation to the proposed volume, and to respond to their requests.
John had wanted a clause included in the contract that specifically assigned the right to determine “what is published in the letters” to him (or his successors)[clause 1(g)]. John deliberately had this clause included in the contract. He was (as he told me on several occasions, including on the night before his death, and as he told others) concerned that attempts might be made to inappropriately edit, “censor” or amend the text of the HPB correspondence. As I have written to Dr. Algeo, John’s family is quite willing to consider editorial changes, but it is not prepared to allow them until and unless any proposed changes are explained and justified to them, and approved by them.
Thus, unfortunately, the proposal to publish the first volume of the HPB correspondence remains stalled. Interest has been expressed by several other publishers in the possibility of taking on the project, and this option is currently being explored.
I must say that I have been totally appalled by the arrogant attitude of the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, in this whole matter. The distress that has been caused to Mrs. Cooper is scandalous, and, coming from an organization that lays claim to principles of “Universal Brotherhood” even more so.
The first volume (at least) of the Blavatsky correspondence will — eventually — be published, in its entirety and without ideologically based censorship, whether by the Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, or by one of the other publishers who have already expressed interest in taking over the project. John was a close friend and collaborator of mine for more than twenty years, and I will do all within my power to ensure that his scholarly standards and professional integrity are not diminished after his death.

(Gregory Tillett) 


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