Thomas Paterson Brown '60
Deceased June 6, 2012
Paterson Brown—usually known as “Pat” or “TP” when he was at Amherst—died on June 6, 2012 in Guatemala, where he had lived for several years with his long-time partner Luz Garcia. He was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors after collapsing during a visit to his brother Crosby in his home state of Missouri in January 2012, and received radiation and chemotherapy there for two months before returning to Guatemala where he died and was buried next to Luz’s father.
Pat came to Amherst from Kirkwood, Missouri where he had been an Eagle Scout and had excelled in track. He continued to excel academically at Amherst, and was a leader in whatever he undertook; at Beta Theta Pi he was rushing chairman and, in his senior year, president. A Philosophy major, he was co-editor of the Amherst Review, Coordinator of the National Student Association, and a member of the Christian Association, Harlan Fiske Stone Law Society, and Philosophy Club.
Much of the information that follows is excerpted, or summarized, from Pat’s extraordinary resumé, which can be accessed in its entirety at (www.metalog.org/files/cv.html). Crosby continues to maintain the entire website (www.metalog.org) to publicize Pat’s lifetime of translations of the gospels of Thomas, Philip, and Truth, and his research on the Shroud of Turin. Other anecdotes concerning Pat’s life are based on remembrances received by email or in phone conversations with classmates, and some of these remembrances are appended in their entirety at the end of this piece.
Classmates and fraternity brothers who knew Pat at Amherst describe him as brilliant, articulate, a natural leader, even charismatic. One classmate remarks that he fully expected Pat to be a US Senator from Missouri within 20 years; another (a fellow Philosophy major) observed that Pat “was quite articulate and a wonderful and clear writer (often rare among philosophers).” John Lord, with whom Pat, Tom Elder and I roomed senior year, recalls taking a “Symbolic Logic” course with him that year, and says “TP got the only ‘B’ from Joe Epstein in that class. (I believe that there were a couple of Cs and the rest of us were down in the 60s or below.) TP just sailed through - thoroughly enjoying himself.” By his own account, however, even as he excelled at whatever he did, Pat was tormented by “existential student anxiety”, and began making “weekend excursions to Boston folk-music coffeehouses and West Village (NYC) beatnik scene.”
Soon after graduation Pat married Joan Carpenter (Smith, ’60) and the couple sailed for England where Pat would study Philosophy at University College, London, and earn a PhD in 1963. The title of his thesis was “The Logic of God—an analysis of divinity as an essentially evaluative rather than a descriptive concept, with an examination of some typical criteria of specifically religious evaluation: transcendence, eternity, pan-creativity, omniscience, omnipotence, supreme moral authority.” His marriage apparently didn’t last very long (he makes no mention of it in his c.v.), but he continued to dabble in the beat scene while in England, and took part in the “Aldermaston March” of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament led by renowned philosopher Bertrand Russell.
On completing his graduate studies Pat accepted an appointment as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Binghamton. With some time to spare before starting to teach, he returned to St. Louis and applied to his draft board for Conscientious Objector status, but was denied, and, as he put it “avoided conscription by briefly continuing studies at St. Louis University and Washington University.” He spent the summer of 1963 living on the Zuñi Indian Reservation in New Mexico.
Pat would stay at SUNY for four years, including a couple of visiting faculty stints at UCLA and the University of Alberta, Calgary. By all accounts he was an up and coming academic and his reputation as a philosopher of religion grew steadily. He also, by Paul Dodyk’s recollection, married for a second time during this period, to a young woman Paul describes as “a rather voluptuous student of his”, the wedding ceremony taking place in an orchard in upstate New York in “distinctly sixties” attire and officiated by Amherst College chaplain David KIng.
Then in 1967—in his own words—he abruptly “retired from university teaching, renouncing all possessions, left the house carrying a guitar and three books . . . [and] never looked back.” He had “turned on, tuned in, and dropped out”, in the now famous phrase (attributed to Timothy Leary) of the ‘60s. As Paul Dodyk aptly puts it, “while most Amherst graduates of our vintage seem to have been relatively unaffected by the cultural revolution of the sixties, that was not true of TP. He embraced it (or maybe more accurately it captured him) without reservation and abandoned conventional life for a decidedly alternate lifestyle.”
Bill Heaton, another St. Louis native, was working there at the time and sharing a house with Pat’s brother Crosby when Pat showed up from New York with his radically changed lifestyle—no second wife to be seen. He moved in and caused a good deal of disruption while introducing Bill and Crosby to a side of St. Louis nightlife quite foreign to them. They grew increasingly concerned about their reputations in the St. Louis business and social community, and after six months they had to ask him to leave—whereupon Pat climbed on a motorcycle purchased with his severance pay from SUNY and hit the road west.
Pat spent the next twenty years or so wandering, as it were, in the wilderness of the counterculture. In the process he acquired a following, and within a few years of leaving St. Louis he had organized and become the leader of a commune, which he called the Christ Brotherhood. Starting initially in Eugene, Oregon, over the next decade the group migrated to various other western locations (Santa Fe, Boulder, and Missoula) before returning to Eugene. It is impossible to know at this date who comprised the group or what Pat hoped to lead them to, but given its name and his evidently continuing obsession with the Gnostic gospels it clearly had a distinctly religious cast to it.
That was the era of such phenomena, of course—who can forget the Moonies, the Hare Krishna, or the Jonestown massacre (1978)—but by the end of the seventies the Vietnam War was over, and Americans were soon to elect Ronald Reagan as President; cults had become passé, and ordinary folk were tired of the counterculture. And so it came to pass that (as reported in the Corvallis, Oregon Gazette-Times on October 14, 1984) Pat “was arrested in October 1981 after Oregon authorities, acting on tips from former members, raided several Christ Brotherhood homes and took 14 children into custody. Although five of the children said they had been molested by Brown, he was tried only for raping and sodomizing the 14-year-old daughter of a sect member. During his trial in Lane County Circuit Court, Brown, who represented himself, refused to respond specifically to the charges ‘because Christ himself didn’t do so.’ He told pre-sentence investigators that Oregon’s sexual abuse laws did not apply to his sect and that he was ‘not being accused of anything which is wrong in God’s eyes’.”
Pat was convicted, and sentenced to five years in Oregon State Prison. Writing in the Eugene Register-Guard some ten years later, in the immediate aftermath of the Branch-Davidian shootout in Waco, Texas, columnist Don Bishoff opined that “Brown was not a dynamic personality . . . more like a laid back, stereotypical, long-haired hippy,” whose “religious mixed message was that the world would come to a nuclear end in 1988 and that free love among group members—and with young girls—was OK.” By the time Bishoff was writing (1993), Pat had served two years in prison before being paroled, violated parole and left the country, been arrested in Greece, extradited, and returned to Oregon in 1988 where he would serve the final two years of his sentence. The attorney who represented Pat in later court proceedings stressed to Bishoff that there was little similarity between Pat Brown and cult leaders like David Koresh, saying that “Brown made no claim that he was the messiah or ordained by God . . and to my knowledge, Paterson abhorred violence.”
During his nearly three years “on the lam,” Pat traveled to Spain, Morocco, Israel, Egypt, and Greece, continuing his lifelong research into the Gnostic gospels, achieving a major breakthrough in 1988 when he finally assembled the necessary resources for their translation from the original Coptic. Following the completion of his prison sentence he traveled again, this time to Russia and the Ukraine, before returning to Guatemala. By 1993 he had completed his translation of the Gnostic Gospels into Spanish; from 1998-2000 he again resided in Spain and Greece, where he formatted and uploaded the Metalogos website at the University of Athens Computer Center. But for the most part, he appears to have resided first in Guatemala and later in the Andes of southern Peru from about 1992 onward.
It was from there that Pat traveled—largely by bus—to Amherst for the Class of 1960’s 50th Reunion; his longtime companion Luz Garcia (pictured with him in the Reunion Book) planned to accompany him, but she encountered difficulty enroute with the Mexican border authorities while trying to cross from Guatemala into Mexico, and Pat had to continue on alone, arriving in Amherst a few days before Reunion Weekend. And although he seemed to many classmates to be ill at ease during his stay with us—perhaps not surprisingly given the nomadic and ascetic life he had led for more than 40 years—he wrote the following to his fellow Betas about six months later: “The Reunion was wonderful, but—like this life in general—far too short; we’ll have to get together more at length in the proverbial Next Movie (the Apocalypse, it increasingly appears, not being a parable).”
In his introduction to his translation of the Gospels of Thomas, Philip, and Truth—revised only weeks before he died—Pat had the following to say about his mentors:
“My long-term thanks are also due to two of my undergraduate instructors: the poet Robert Frost, for his advice to partake only in what is worthy of one’s time; and Prof William E. Kennick, for his example of the highest standards in philosophical analysis. To Bertrand Russell, while I was studying in London and had the opportunity to demonstrate with him in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, I am indebted for his fearless example in confronting the Establishment—whether political, military or religious—for the sake of the truth.”
He also placed the following quotation (from Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano) below his image at the head of his online curriculum vitae: “Balancing, teetering over the awful unbridgeable void, the all-but-unretraceable path of God’s lightning back to God.”
This would be an apt metaphor for Paterson’s life, and it’s tempting to suppose that he may have intended it as his epitaph. We can only hope that Pat found the truth he was seeking during a lifetime of relentless and restless searching. He will forever remain an enigma to us, but he was without question one of the most interesting members of the Class of 1960, and he deserves to be remembered both as we knew him at Amherst, and for the extraordinary religious and philosophical quest that preoccupied him throughout his life.
Dave Wood, 1960
Dave Mace’s remembrance: It was clear to me from the beginning that TP marched to a different drummer. He had been an outstanding athlete in high school near St. Louis, but when he arrived at Amherst he gave up sports to pursue the life of the mind. This endeavor soon led him to philosophy and more importantly to the home of Bill Kennick where they spend hours together smoking their pipes and discussing important subjects. TP and I shared study space together in a spare room in a house occupied by our Chaplain, David King. What I most remember is that TP could knock out a 10-page paper in History, Poli Sci, English or Philosophy in a single evening (with footnotes). The same endeavor took me a week. I remember well attending TP's wedding in New York and afterward going to the pier to see him and Joan Carpenter off to England where he earned a degree in Philosophy. That marriage lasted only a short time, but TP was never without female companionship (although I don't think he ever married again.) I remember, too, that my brother in law Roger Hull '59 invited TP to his island in Canada for a week of fishing. After we arrived on the island we learned that TP possessed an illegal substance which if discovered by the border authorities would have landed us all in prison. Roger Hull was a newly ordained minister and I had just passed the New York Bar. We both imagined our careers down the drain because of TP's illegal trafficking. Another memory is a visit my family and I made outside Santa Fe New Mexico where TP was the head guru of a group of half clothed young people and their various children. They invited us for lunch, but Rosemary, my wife, declined because she was not sure what they mixed in with the soup. When I told my children TP was my college roommate, my eldest son said "Dad, you have a lot of explaining to do." I remember, too, receiving a call in my Wall Street office from a reporter in MIssoula, Montana wanting to know if I knew TP Brown. He had been arrested for having sexual relations with a minor and was on his way to prison. Finally, I have received countless letters over the years extolling the virtues of the Gospel According to Thomas. This study was a lifelong work of TP's and most of what he wrote was difficult to understand. My last encounter with TP was at our 50th reunion. In some ways we started talking as we did 50 years ago about family and friends. However, it was clear to me that life had taken its toll on TP and he lacked the sparkle and wit he possessed when I knew him as a student. My final thought about TP was the same thought I had when I first met him. A very gifted person who, for reasons I will never understand, choose a different path that led him to some dark places that we may never know about. May God rest his soul.
Paul Dodyk’s remembrance: I was saddened to hear of TP's passing. His was a singular journey. Since TP was our roommate during our senior year - - - not sure why, maybe because Giles Gunn left the Beta house (as unthinkable as that may be for those who remained in the brotherhood of kai) left to become a resident advisor in the dorms - - - I have copied them on this email to prompt any further recollections. TP is one of the most extraordinary persons I have ever met - - - certainly among the most intelligent, thoughtful, charming (I am tempted to say charismatic) people in my acquaintance. From Amherst days I recall in particular the better part of a day I spent hiking around Quabbin with TP at a time when he was deeply troubled about the transition he was going through at Amherst, troubled in part because he was in the process of leaving behind many beliefs that he brought with him from St. Louis and in part for other reasons beyond his or my understanding. I spent a fair amount of time with TP the year after he married Smithy Joan Carpenter (a regular Beta visitor to my recollection) and came to England. He had a very fine apartment in the Mayfair district in London where he studied religious philosophy at the University and we saw each other in London and Oxford. I gather that he was very favorably regarded by the faculty there - - - indeed seen as somewhat of a phenomenon by some. He developed an abiding interest in the gnostic gospels - - - many of which had been unearthed in Egypt at the close of World War II - - - and pursued that interest throughout his life. I saw a bit of TP in the years that I taught at the Columbia Law School in 1960s, as did Roger Hull who was then pastor of the Broadway Presbyterian Church at the time. During those years, TP was quite an ambitious academic, teaching at SUNY. I used to get calls and letters from him advising that he was successively the No. 10, the No. 8, the No 5 religious philosopher in the country. It was during that period that Delight and I went to TP's second wedding to a rather voluptuous student of his in an orchard in western Massachusetts, the service performed by the Amherst chaplain, the garb of TP and his barefoot bride distinctively 60s. While most Amherst graduates of our vintage seem to have been relatively unaffected by the cultural revolution of the sixties, that was not true of TP. He embraced it (or maybe more accurately it captured him) without reservation and abandoned conventional life for a decidedly alternate lifestyle. It was about that time that I lost touch with TP, hearing by the grapevine that he had left SUNY to establish a religious community in the West. Not long thereafter, I received an urgent telephone call from the rather agitated wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, for whom I had worked, during which she asked me to go and " rescue " the young daughter of a close friend who had apparently joined TP's community which she described in rather dark and alarming terms. Since Roger Hull was then serving at a church in San Francisco, I asked him to stand in, which he attempted, in my recollection to no avail, as the young woman emphatically did not want to be "rescued". Of TP's subsequent activities, I have only unreliable, fourth-hand accounts, which my regard for his memory requires mto suppress. TP certainly lived life on his own terms. Whether that proved to be a good thing for him I cannot say. I hope that you find this of some use and that it may spur my roommates' recollections of TP in his finest days.
Bill Forgie’s remembrance: TP was an articulate, self-confident and contagiously enthusiastic philosophy major – even charismatic, as others have said. I got to know him as we were both working on theses in the philosophy of religion under Bill Kennick. During spring break that year we took off south to write our theses in warmer weather on the beaches of Florida. Kennick was much distressed with the quality of the drafts we thus produced, but somehow we rallied and ultimately turned in decent work.
I saw a lot of TP when he was a starting assistant professor at SUNY Binghamton while I was still a graduate student at Cornell. During this period he published a couple of first-rate articles in the Philosophical Review, (at that time the leading journal in the discipline), one on Thomas Aquinas’s doctrine of “necessary being,” the other on the concept of infinite causal regression. Both of these papers continue to be anthologized today.
We lost touch once he left academe and began to “live beat” - as he once later described his new life style. Later in the early 70s we reconnected when I was teaching at UC Santa Barbara and TP was hitchhiking up and down the west coast, dropping in on various friends where he would stay for days at a time. He was traveling very light, without money and even without his glasses. (“I wasn’t born with them,” he explained.) Once he traumatized my wife (she had never met him) when he showed up at our door (I was away) with about a dozen others traveling in a run-down van, most of them stoned and travelling with a puppy not yet house-broken, asking for a place to sleep.
When TP was arrested on serious charges I was asked to write a character reference for him. I emphasized the TP of Amherst days, not his commune or beat self. I have no idea whether the letter had any impact on his sentencing.
Jim Rooney’s remembrance: I spent a lot of time with Pat at our 50th and was disappointed that he wasn't allowed to make a presentation of his work on the Thomas gospel. We had worked together on the Amherst Review and became friends. He was a deep thinker. I was always taking the easy way, but I could appreciate and admire his desire to really get to the bottom of things. (A bit like Ahab and his whale) Over the years I got his long communications and did my best to make sense out of them. I loved getting his pictures from the Andes. He definitely wanted to be as close to Heaven as he could get. I have no doubt that he's there now--an even purer spirit than he was able to become while here on earth.
I was so glad to hear from you, and hope we’ll see one another soon. Yes, I have been living for years in a Cross communion (not to be confused with Rajneesh’s). What we’re doing is best summed up in this paper, which maybe you’ll want to reproduce in the class book….
All the best