For years I’ve been maintaining a list of books in which my own are cited as a page on this blog. There has been such a strange polar opposition between Pell Mellers and my early books on Theosophy that I doubted this would ever happen. But at last my most recent book has been cited as recommended reading in a reference book, the Sage Encyclopedia of African Cultural Heritage in North America, edited by Mwalimu J. Shujaa and Kenya J. Shujaa. The citation appeared following an entry about Iroquois-African connections, which were significant in early Bertie County history.
But otherwise, since publication Pell Mellers has sold far more copies than all my earlier books combined, yet has been ignored by scholars. This Sage reference book is, however, entry #236 in my list, so authors’ interest in my SUNY Press books has been astonishingly consistent and diverse. Fewer than 35 of these have referred to Edgar Cayce in Context, meaning that more than 200 have cited The Masters Revealed and its sequel Initiates of Theosophical Masters. Almost once per month for more than 15 years a new book appears citing one or both of these studies of Theosophical history, which appears to be roughly the frequency of sales of them in that time period. Many are scholarly studies but there are also popular works, most recently Michelle Goldberg’s The Goddess Pose, a very successful biography of yoga pioneer Indra Devi.
What explains this great disparity? TMR and Initiates focus on an international cast of characters on four continents, containing masses of biographical data about individuals known to history. Citations come from authors all around the world, whereas Pell Mellers is not a study of even statewide or county-wide range; it’s about one small part of one rural county and all the characters are hitherto unknown. The Cayce study is an intermediate case in that the subject is at least of national significance. But the world of academic scholarship in Religious Studies has barely discovered Cayce, whereas Blavatsky and her disciples receive an ever-increasing amount of scholarly attention in many countries.
The rewards and punishments of authorship are equally unpredictable, and thanks to the Melungeon Heritage Association, Pell Mellers has been the means of getting acquainted with many people who have become lasting friends. That and the fact that readers continue to discover it and find it relevant to their own family history is reward enough, but seeing it cited in a scholarly encyclopedia is all the more appreciated because so long in coming.