Sunday, August 3, 2014

Current work

I wrote this for my personal blog. Mr. Schulz asked me to post it here too. So, herewith, is my rambling post ...

            I continue to research our last chapter. (Don’t get all excited. We’re writing it out of order.) Our outline for it will change. Parts of it will be tucked into other chapters, and part of it may become a separate chapter. That’s not unusual. Since ours is original research, changes will come as we see persons and events more clearly.

            In volume one, we deconstructed a myth based on Russell’s Adventist associations, introducing our readers to Literalist belief and its influence. The last chapter of volume two discusses the place of Christian Mysticism in the broader movement and within the Watch Tower movement especially. We will not give this the space given to Literalists. Its influence, while distinctive, was narrow. We want to explain it in a few paragraphs without leaving our readers puzzled, outraged, or with many unanswered questions.

            Christian Mysticism is rooted in First Century sects. Paul speaks of them with disfavor. I believe one of the Seven Letters (in Revelation) does as well. But we start with the late 18th Century. The 1790s were closer in time to our story than World War I is to us. We take this narrative up to Russell’s personal experience. Striking a balance between needed detail and equally needed brevity is difficult. I may need a double dose of hot coffee and chocolate!

            Christian Mystics invariable urged chiliastic belief. The principal actors in our story had first hand contact with mystical belief, rejecting most of it, but adopting its characteristic belief in specially appointed last-days messengers.

            So … we have a partial first draft of this section. It’s interesting but needs work –

both more research and clarification. This, more than most of our story, will need unquestionable clarity. It will make some uncomfortable and unhappy. (We seem to have that effect on some.) Because Christian Mysticism is often associated with “spirit manifestations” and prophecy, we want to clearly define the very narrow way it touched believers in the 1870-1890 period. I don’t want the point misused by polemicists or rejected by current adherents. I want a “just the facts, ma’am,” clearly stated, unequivocal explanation.

            Writing is hard work.

            Current historiographic practice is to rehash all the analysis done by others. This is a carry over from dissertation writing. A rehash proves that you consulted all the appropriate material. Unfortunately, (or conveniently, depending on your viewpoint) it allows writers to escape responsibility for their opinions. Reflexive, passive voice writing plagues academic writing. We avoid passive voice and third person reflexive writing. It’s poor work, even if it is the standard among British and UK influenced academics. We assume responsibility for our conclusions. We won’t blame others for them, and if we share them with those who preceded us we will credit them or note the similarity. But we avoid the long “he said, they said, it said” summaries characteristic of many writers.

            In this last chapter we are forced to review the research of others to a greater extent than usual. I wish there was an alternative. There isn’t. We confront opinions widely held by sociologists (who think of themselves as scientists because they love graphs and charts) and historians of the millennialist movements. When applied to the movements we consider, some of their theories are partially correct. Others are wholly false but accepted uncritically by four or five generations of writers. They are, what ever the quality of the theory, an issue we cannot avoid.

1 comment:

roberto said...

That is all new for me.
It will be interesting discover the issue