In the age of the internet and information-on-demand, we can click on a link to a webpage or Wikipedia entry to read and learn about all manner of subjects in our vast world – including the biographies of famous people and lesser knowns who contributed to our world. John Starr Cooke’s Wikipedia entry is available on demand 24/7 by a simple click of your mouse button but what you will read is not the full story. Other websites omit his role from the discourse.
It’s worth pausing to reflect on our ability to understand and interpret historical events and the life of any individual.
Napoleon Bonaparte said, History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.
Another classic line (falsely attributed to Churchill) but always held true down the ages: history is written by the victors and framed according to their prejudices and bias.
An academic resource, ‘What is historical interpretation?’, explains:
“Historical interpretation is the process by which we describe, analyze, evaluate, and create an explanation of past events. We base our interpretation on primary [firsthand] and secondary [scholarly] historical sources. We analyze the evidence, contexts, points of view, and frames of reference.” (Source: https://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/slatta/hi216/hist_interp.htm)
The obvious problem when interpreting controversial or marginalized figures is that subjective bias – personal likes and dislikes – distorts the picture, the analysis, and attempts at objectivity.
Unusual or misunderstood words and concepts can trigger associations that are: 1) unthinkingly drawn or ‘downloaded’ from the collective group mind, and/or; 2) distorted by the personal subconscious / unconscious pool and memory bank.
Factually incorrect and biased interpretation of word and concept points you down a path leading away from a more fair and truthful appreciation of the events or person under question.
We are also disempowered by a general laziness to carefully consider what confronts us. According to Pulitzer finalist Nicholas Carr (The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains), most of us are operating inside a technological environment “geared toward keeping us distracted” which mitigates a “slower, more contemplative mode of thought.”
Despite what one can find through electronic sources and obscure books or journals, much digging is still required, followed by even more sifting of the material (an often thankless job but enjoyed by true historians). Threads of information must be collected and followed back to original sources (where possible). Original sources can be contaminated either by officialdom (what the powers-that-be have determined) or by someone’s personal version of events, including that recalled at a distance of half a century or more.
Even if sources are not intentionally misleading, the version of events will always be partial. It’s like contemplating all religions, holy sites, myths, and legends – you know that underneath lies the stories of what actually happened but a lot of the earth has to move first.
With a cast of thousands, all with their own back stories and asides, a tidy reasonably accurate narrative is hard to construct – unless you’re happy to digest a Wikipedia entry without further ado.
When researching any important historical figure, like John Starr Cooke and the milieu in which he moved (alternative spirituality, unconventional ideas & lifestyle, the counterculture, antiwar struggle etc.), we need to work harder to avoid the pitfalls of misinterpretation, cognitive bias and dismissal based on prejudice and false data.
We risk missing the crucial facts of the matter and the central focus of what this is ALL ABOUT – which, in the case of John Starr Cooke, is outlined in the website section ‘Life, Mission, Legacy’.
Anyone can have a ‘take’ but if our ‘take’ at Royal Maze doesn’t resonate, then it’s best you move on and come back when you are ready to get on this path.
We’ll leave you with this more poetic ‘take’ on John’s mission – the central focus of what he was about:
Into the Maze You Have Stalked. What is the Maze? The binder and the freer of ONE.
He knows that he writes his own Destiny and therefore unwinds it even as he writes it. He unwinds the thread of the Cosmic Spider as he pursues his Path toward the ONE goal: the Knower or the Self.
Will you join us?
Omitting John Star Cooke
We can provide many examples of incomplete history. The reasons for this are explained above but the omission usually happens due to ignorance or poor research. Perhaps the researcher wanted to present a nice ‘clean’ and acceptable (according to contemporary tastes) picture of an event, period of history, or personal influence.
Examples of omitting any mention of John Starr Cooke (JSC) can be found on this list of web pages. For reference, please read our presentation of John’s role in the counterculture here.
Not one mention of JSC on the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love website:
Sheila Weller’s article ‘Suddenly That Summer’ in Vanity Fair asked: “Who were the true movers behind the Haight-Ashbury happening that turned America on to a whole new age?” No mention of JSC:
Unfortunately and inexplicably, there is no mention of JSC on the Wikipedia entry for Michael Bowen (excepting for one reference to his unnamed “mentor”):