Who is Preston Harold?

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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.

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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…

What in the world is a Shining Stranger?!

About 5 years ago I was browsing in my favorite used book store when I came across a large tome entitled “The Shining Stranger” by a gentleman named Preston Harold.  It was the tagline that caught my full attention: “An Unorthodox Interpretation Of Jesus And His Mission.”  As I scanned through the book, I quickly realized that this was not an unorthodox religious approach, although most of Harold’s religious interpretations are certainly fascinating. Rather, his overall approach to interpreting Jesus’ mission is quite unorthodox.

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On the inside cover of my worn and ratty Third Edition published in 1973 (see photo), at the top in bold print is a heading stating:

A REVOLUTIONARY INTERPRETATION OF JESUS’ MESSIANIC MISSION WHICH OFFERS:

   The answer Judaism can accept–

   The answer Christianity can accept–

   The answer every religion can accept and maintain it’s own integrity.

Ummmm, o.k.  Wow!  Those are certainly some pretty big claims.  Now for some excerpts from the text below the heading…

“The Shining Stranger offers new answers to the controversial questions that divide and plague the world’s religions – new answers to the questions of the relationship between religion, science, and psychology. These answers are so illuminating, unprecedented, and well-founded that they must in time make a tremendous impact upon every faith, and upon man’s view of himself, the universe, and his place in it.”

“As Harold poses the Scriptures and Jesus’ own words, works, and drama against modern knowledge, a new answer to the Messianic question takes shape to reconcile and transcend conflicting views… Mathematics, science, and psychology are shown to be developments in the expression of truth which has been intuitively grasped and poetically stated in the great religions and philosophies.”

How about some claims from some well known individuals quoted on the back cover…

Truly a remarkable work…He has made of Jesus an extraordinary being, whether viewed from a religious standpoint or the ‘laique’ one.  There are passages which are dizzying – as if we were dealing with a being from another planet.- Henry Miller

…a provocative and wide ranging study of the nature of messiahship.  It enables us to see the extent to which the concept of Christhood has altered in the course of the centuries, and it indicates the direction in which further changes are coming.- Dr. Ira Progoff

While I do not agree with many of the author’s conclusions, this book presents interpretations both startling and promising,  A controversial book, it could well bring about as much change in the Christian Western world’s thinking as the findings and books of Charles Darwin of a hundred years ago.- Stella Terrill Mann

A spiritual breakthrough in the Messianic message for our time, a conclusive answer to the quest for a relevant, dynamic faith.- Dr. Marcus Bach

Chapter XVII, in a class by itself, is the soundest exposition of contemporary economics we know. –THE PHILOSOPHER, Journal of the Philosophical Society of England

Quite impressive accolades, no?  Does the book actually live up to them?  That’s what we will explore in this blog.  Along the way we will explore the aforementioned fields of religion, science, and psychology, while also diving into theology, metaphysics, mysticism, gnosticism, the esoteric and occult, music, art, and more.  We will go through the book chapter by chapter, bit by bit, exploring, questioning, and wondering.  I hope you will hop along for the ride.  Before we hit the gas, though, we need to find out more about our author, Preston Harold.  We will learn more about him in my next post.  Until then, peace…