Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Craft of Dishonest Quotation - 4

So far I have been addressing those dishonest quotations where the quotation has been ripped out of context to seem to say what it does not.

A second type of this abuse of quotations is where a quotation is given, ostensibly of Westcott, which is in fact Westcott quoting a third party.

One of these is to be found on P. 234, where we have a long series of quotations. One reads:

“Some by diligent obedience have been raised to the loftiest places in the celestial hierarchy.”

Unhelpfully, Riplinger does not give each of these quotations a footnote, but uses one to reference all of them. On checking, however, I found the quotation on P. 228 of History of Religious Thought. While Mrs. Riplinger implies that it conveys Westcott’s thought, in fact it appears in a long descriptive passage describing the philosophy of Origen! What is incumbent upon Mrs. Riplinger is what she has not done – to prove that Westcott held Origen to be correct in this matter!

Another example of this sort of quotation is on P. 520, where Riplinger says that Westcott:

“Writes that this ‘truth’ stems from Plato’s ‘… communion with a divine and super-sensuous world… [with] those beings who occupy a middle place between God and man… [A]ll fellowship which exists between heaven and earth is realised through this intermediate order… these spirits are many and manifold.”

All this would be pretty heretical if it’s true that Westcott believed this. The trouble is, he didn’t. This is a composite quotation taken from two different pages of History of Religious Thought. They are, however, both taken from the same essay, on ‘The Myths of Plato.’ The first part, “communion with a divine and super-sensuous world”, comes from P. 2, the context is:

“At the same time it will shew that they [i.e. the myths of Plato] are not, in essence, simply graceful embellishments of an argument, but venturous essays after truth, embodiments of definite instincts, sensible representations of universal human thoughts, confessions of weakness, it may be, but no less bold claims to an inherent communion with a divine and supersensuous world.”

Note that Riplinger has omitted the words “claims to” from Westcott; so that it appears he is saying that Plato really was in contact with another world, rather than simply that Plato claimed to be in contact with one. The next part of the quotation is “those beings who occupy a middle place between God and man.” The context is found on P. 7 of History of Religious Thought, where we read:

“The narrative is given by the ‘sage Diotima’ in answer to Socrates, who had spoken of Love as a glorious god. She said, - ‘He is no god, Socrates, but a spirit, a great spirit, one of those beings who occupy a middle place between gods and men; for God himself can hold no intercourse with man, and all the fellowship which exists between heaven and earth is realised through this intermediate order, which bridges over the chasm between them. These Spirits, then, are many and manifold, and Love is one of them.’”

Please note that the passages Riplinger quotes are from Westcott’s quotation of Plato. They are Plato’s words, not Westcott’s! This makes sense, as Westcott was a Christian, and believed in the Incarnation of the eternal Son of God, that God Himself came into history in the Son. As will be seen as this essay unfolds, Westcott was an orthodox Trinitarian, a fact that means he certainly did not agree with Socrates! In fact the Plato quotation is part of Plato’s story of the Birth of Love, which is given as an example of an allegoric myth. Yet the whole composite quotation is given by Riplinger as Westcott’s own words, with no indication that any part of it is actually a quotation from Plato! If Westcott really believed this to be true, we are led to the inescapable conclusion that he believed the whole of the ancient Greek mythology, which we shall see is an absurd idea! The whole thing is a manufactured quotation as well, of course, Westcott never said it, he said some of the words, but not in that context! More of those to come!

She also abuses quotations about others to this end. So, on P. 448 she claims that Westcott lost his voice, citing quotations from Westcott’s Life, claiming:

“Westcott’s biographer cites that in 1858 ‘he was quite inaudible’ and by 1870 ‘his voice reached few and was understood by still fewer…’”

(In passing, I note that this is one of the points where Riplinger shows she is able to give quotes from different pages of a book separately). We are referred to P. 198 and P. 272 of the Life for these quotations. What strikes one on examination of these is first of all that both are from Westcott’s earlier life, not later, leading one to wonder if he had in fact never had the voice Riplinger suggests he had lost. However, on referring to P. 272, we find that Riplinger has omitted a most important part of the passage she is quoting. The full passage is as follows:

“His voice was not yet a force in the chapel. It reached but a few, and it was understood by still fewer.”[1]

Apart from the fact that Riplinger has altered the form of the part that she does quote, more seriously she omits the suggestive not yet. It would be more accurate to say, then, that Westcott found his voice, rather than lost it! The quotation has been trimmed to fit the purpose for which Mrs. Riplinger intends to use it.

[1] Life Pp. 272-3. Emphasis added.

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