As mentioned in my last post, it’s time to find out more about our esteemed author, Mr. Preston Harold. This is where the fun begins. The author of the introduction to the 3rd edition of the book (published in 1973, it was originally published in 1967), Winifred Babcock, tells us about him on the “About the Author” page:
Preston Harold is a pen name. Neither Mr. Heard, Mr. Barrie, myself, nor anyone else connected with publishing the Harold manuscript knows who or what the author was. They know only that he is deceased, and they are confident his identity can never be made known. The anonymous author was convinced that truth makes its own way, because it enlists the aid of those whose hearts resound accord as they are presented with it. To him, THE SHINING STRANGER must and could withstand this test.
So our author is a mystery. Like the wind, the spirit, we know not from whence he comes nor where he goes. It is obvious the author wished it to be this way. The reader will have no appeal to a “higher” authority. The weight of the words will stand on their own. The reader will him or herself be the ultimate authority to which he or she will turn upon for verification of truth. The author believed truth makes “hearts resound accord,” and therefore sets men free (John 8:32). We will see how this ties in with Jesus and his mission as we take our steps through Harold’s work.
In his introduction to the first edition of the book, Gerald Heard says:
It was the author’s desire to let the work speak for itself (Preston Harold is a pen-name.) The manuscript was given to Michael Barrie and me. Although I do not agree with all this book has to say, I believe it should be published, and that other efforts to discover a new meaning in Jesus’ teachings will be made…
I, too, am aware of the limitations of this book, and of the criticism that may justly be directed against it… A work of such scope, however, is necessary to accomplish the objective Harold saw to be essential, an objective he took from Jesus’ command: “Either make the tree good and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by his fruit.” To accomplish this objective, Jesus’ revelation must be posed against the vast body of twentieth century knowledge, an overwhelming task for one man to undertake.
The reader will have to decide what sort of fruit Harold’s work will bear. Heard tells us the ultimate objective of our author:
Harold’s effort was not to challenge every theology and many prevailing theories so much as it was to restore man’s faith in Jesus by presenting Jesus’ idea of man, based upon the authority of his own words as reported in the Gospels. Harold believes Jesus’ idea of man is valid and that humankind can accept it wholeheartedly because in his view Jesus’ teaching is congruent with the “given data” of science and human experience, and through Jesus’ ability to tap the fount of truth in his own unconscious, he was able to reveal the true nature and psychological operation of each human being. How near THE SHINING STRANGER comes to stating a valid interpretation of Jesus and a valid idea of man, each reader must decide for himself. Probably, the book will stir up violent controversies, but whatever the reaction of its readers, it will do one thing: it will force them to re-think their whole position in regard to Jesus and Christianity.
As far as I know, this book never stirred up any type of controversies, violent or other. I had never heard of it until the day I stumbled upon it. Perhaps it was just too overwhelming when it was released in 1967. Perhaps people just weren’t very interested. A Google search for “The Shining Stranger” or “Preston Harold” brings up scant information apart from the books published by the Harold Institute, which Institute itself yields little to no information. Maybe this is as it should be. However, one of the objectives of this blog will be to make this work better known and appreciated, and each of you reading this are helping to make that happen. Thanks for coming along for the journey!
In my next post, we’ll cover the main points of Harold’s interpretation of who Jesus was, and how he understood his mission. Hold onto your hats, it gets windy! Until next time, peace…