|Saving the Earth|
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We were able to write this extensive and intimate history of the Creative Initiative movement only because several of the most senior leaders of the group gave us unrestricted access to their personal papers and many more agreed to long hours of oral history interviews. They were both candid and generous in their cooperation, and the result, we hope, gives the reader an unprecedented inside view of the intellectual, institutional, and spiritual evolution of a new religious movement. It was their hope, and ours, that we would chronicle the more than fifty years of experimentation and change that finally led this local group to blossom into a truly national movement.
A small group of Creative Initiative veterans reviewed the manuscript and gave us numerous suggestions concerning both fact and interpretation. Although we incorporated many of their points into the text, the final product reflects our scholarly interpretation, which, in significant ways, is at odds with their view of themselves. From their perspective, one of the major faults in the book is our failure to explore what could be called the "religious poetry" of the movement. They quite correctly believe that we have not explored the spiritual meaning of the new religion for the individual, or felt and appreciated the inner peace and sense of purpose it brought to so many of its adherents. Perhaps because we did not experience the personal transformations that they experienced, perhaps because we viewed this enterprise from the perspective of social scientists and, perhaps, in the final analysis,
because we were skeptical outsiders and not spiritually driven insiders, the final product pleases us more than it does them. They also disagree with our emphasis on growth as a major focus of the group, feeling that such concerns have always been secondary to their primary goal of education. Finally, our friends in Creative Initiative are not entirely happy with our evaluation of their candor in presenting their religious position to the public.
We would therefore like to take this opportunity to apologize to any past or present members of the movement who may be offended by anything we say or fail to say. We have tried to be as complete and honest as possible, but a book like this involves a great deal of interpretation. As Creative Initiative itself taught in many of its courses, the way we see the world is a function of our personal "frame of reference," and we make no claims that what we have written here is anything but our own interpretation.
We have brought two complementary perspectives to this study. Steven Gelber is a social historian with a special interest in nineteenth-and twentieth-century America. Martin Cook, a professor of religious studies, specializes in philosophical theology and American Protestantism. Steven Gelber is responsible for all the historical research for this book, including the papers of Henry B. Sharman and those of Creative Initiative. The authors conducted most of the interviews jointly, although each of us did some alone. Gelber wrote the Introduction and all subsequent chapters, except chapter 3, of which Cook was the primary author. Each of the authors is responsible for the interpretations in the sections he wrote, but both of us have reviewed the entire manuscript.
We will not thank individually all the people who allowed us to interview them; they are listed in the notes. Our lack of individual thanks, however, in no way diminishes our deep appreciation for their time and honesty in exposing the most personal aspects of their lives. Special mention should be made, however, of some people connected with Creative Initiative who went beyond allowing themselves to be interviewed and gave unsparingly of their time and their ideas. Emilia and the late Harry Rathbun, whose papers provided us with the wealth of material we used, not only opened their long and fascinating lives to us through these papers and personal interviews but were also instrumental in encouraging others to do likewise. Jim and Wileta Burch also shared many of their Creative Initiative materials with us and, with their colleague Yale Jones, spent hours reviewing the manuscript. Creative Initiative librarian, Jackie Mathes, and their internal historian, Beverly
Sorensen, were invaluable guides through various aspects of Creative Initiative history.
Del Carlson, who was a mainstay of Sequoia Seminar prior to 1962, not only spoke candidly to us about his experiences there but also shared his personal journals and tapes from the 1940s and 1950s. Don Dodson, assistant academic vice-president at Santa Clara University, was always supportive and instrumental in helping us obtain internal grants to cover research costs. Donald Kirkey generously shared his unpublished work on Henry B. Sharman and the Student Christian Movement of Canada and allowed us to use invaluable material he had collected relating to the dispute at the last meeting at Camp Minnesing. We also wish to thank Melinda Bihn who assisted us with our four hundred questionnaires by entering the statistical data into the computer and helping us sort out the thousands of pages of narrative responses. Kang Hoang was our able transcriber of many hours of interview tapes. Finally, we owe a special debt of gratitude to our colleague Catherine Bell who read and commented in detail on the entire manuscriptâand some sections more than once. Her thoughtful suggestions added substantially to whatever strengths this study has.