Mr. Alan Donant's Article on Colonel Arthur L. Conger
by David Green
In Mr. Alan E. Donant's article titled "Colonel Arthur L. Conger," as first published in Theosophical History (January, 1998), one finds the following assertion regarding Colonel Conger's "role in the dismissals from the headquarters staff at Covina":
"On October 22, 1945, Colonel Conger was elected by the Cabinet as the Leader of the Theosophical Society. At this time he was confined to a wheelchair by Parkinson's disease. It was a prejudice against this illness that lay at the heart of the turmoil to come." page 45. Italics added.
Mr. Donant gives no evidence and testimony to support his claim about the alleged "prejudice".
Now consider these two additional statements by Mr. Donant:
"Resignations from positions of responsibility of these and other members of Colonel Conger's administration were asked for after nearly eight months of their continuous, public expression of dissatisfaction."
"Some of these individuals did have strong differences with Colonel Conger and his Theosophic policies. Some even attempted to become more organized in their dissatisfaction."
Surprisingly, no details, no evidence and no testimony are given to document the "dissatisfaction". Why was there "dissatisfaction"? Dissatisfaction about what? It is all a mystery in Mr. Donant's article.
And how do the strong differences and dissatisfaction relate to the alleged prejudice against Colonel Conger's illness? Mr. Donant doesn't answer this question either.
Mr Donant spends several pages refuting the statements of Dr. Gregory Tillett, who was not a participant and eyewitness to the 1946 turmoil. Yet Mr. Donant fails to quote extremely pertinent passages from an account by an actual participant in the events.
Mr. Donant refers to this account as "Appendix IV of the Point Loma Publications edition (1975) of C. J. Ryan's book H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement." He quotes one extract from this essay but fails to mention that the appendix titled "Later Point Loma History" was written by W. Emmett Small. This appendix reflects the views of Mr. Small as well as those of Mr. Iverson L Harris. Both Mr. Small and Mr. Harris were participants in the "turmoil". Both were on the Cabinet of the Covina T.S.; both voted to elect Colonel Conger as Leader. And both were dismissed months later by Colonel Conger.
According to Mr. Small's account, the turmoil and the dissatisfaction had nothing to do with a prejudice against Colonel Conger's illness. What really "lay at the heart of the turmoil to come" was in fact Mr. Conger's claims in regards to being the new head of the Covina T.S. Esoteric School.
Mr. Small writes:
"The position that Colonel Conger was elected to fill, it should be emphasized, was one of purely exoteric and administrative authority. An E.S. Council at the time was directing the activities of the Esoteric Section. . . . . . . .Within three months of his election Col.Conger assumed headship of the E.S., declaring he held the same status as H.P.B. did. Within the next few months he had summarily dismissed from office all who did not immediately acknowledge him in this capacity, even though they had conscientiously asked for more time to give it careful and full consideration. Those so uncharitably and swiftly deprived of former duties and responsibilities included, among others, the Chairman [Iverson L. Harris] and the Secretary [W. Emmett Small] of the cabinet. . . . . . . . . . ." pages 363-4
Mr. Donant's omission of Mr. Small's relevant testimony indicates that his essay contains a one-sided and biased account of the turmoil surrounding Colonel Conger's T.S. administration.
It is somewhat of a surprise to find that in the newly revised edition of the Conger article recently posted on the TUP Online website, Mr Donant has changed the statement (quoted at the beginning of this article) to read:
"For a few, it was a prejudice against this illness and his being head of the ES that lay at the heart of the turmoil to come." Bold added.
The phrase "and his being head of the ES" has been mysteriously added to the revised edition. Mr. Donant does not indicate why he has made this significant change in his thesis. Also, in the revised article, Mr. Donant adds no new evidence and testimony about Colonel Conger "being head of the ES" and how this related to the "turmoil to come." Quite strange. No doubt, Mr. Donant has full access to many documents that would clarify this significant change he has made in his thesis. Why doesn't he share those with his readers? Very curious and strange.
Mr. Alan Donant's article is quite one-sided in its presentation of the events surrounding the 1946 turmoil. This is all the more regrettable because the article first appeared in Theosophical History--- a scholarly journal edited by Dr. James Santucci. I would have thought a more balanced assessment would have appeared in such a publication. I don't take sides in this controversy but do ask for a more thoughtful, balanced essay on the subject than Mr Donant's.
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