I have a question.

Is it ok for someone to stand as an authority figure pseudonymously?

How far would you trust someone only identifying themselves using a pseudonym?

Google has banned the practice while others allow it.  It kind of strikes me as being a spiritual question because it gets to two issues, identity and accountability. 

Your thoughts, please.

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This one frustrates me.  I can't use a pseudonym in a letter to the editor - and my name is printed.  Alongside text messages and facebook comments that are completely anonymous.

 

If I was John Jones, no problem.  There are four of them registered in our Central Library.  But there are currently five people in the whole of New Zealand, and nobody at all in Australia, with my sirname, spelt that way.  So anything public that any one of us does is immediately relayed to all the others, and often identified with them.  To the point that articles to a local spiritual magazine were published under my Ex-husband's name.  As he's a local spiritual teacher, and my approach is completely different, that was frustrating for both of us.

 

Also, I wear many hats.  It isn't always all that convenient for me to be identified as something weird when that hat is a poke bonnet and I'm in period costume at the local historic mission station teaching the children of the local Christian school how different life was for an 1830s missionary among the Maoris. 

 

Consequently, whenever possible, I do use a pseudonym.  (Vyon, when on the internet.)

Historically, use of pseudonym has been in prcatice in literature for considerations other than spiritual. On Theosophical or other Spiritual sites, use of a pseudonym primarily indicates that the person behind that pseudonym has something to hide, which is not really consistent with spirituality.

And the use of that pseudonym to attack others totally exposes the intentions behind that pseudonym. The least we can do is to condemn such behavior and try to ensure that such things do not happen here. Almost in every discussion members express diverse opinions and that is what makes our discussions worthwhile to read but attacking a fellow member hiding behind a pseudonym is totally inapprpriate and unacceptable.

Sorry, but I don't buy this "Setting up of authorities that are beyond the reach of ordinary rational explanation," bit, especially when applied to the so-called "Masters."  Who is "setting up" someone as an "authority"?  Who is doing "rational explanation" and on what grounds - and is it "rational" or is it simply a preconceived idea that the person doesn't exist because they, like millions upon millions of other people, can't be traced historically.  Nor would I expect to be able to, because the teachers in question state in their own writing that their adventure was not acceptable to their peers.

The judgement about whether someone is an "authority" is with the reader, who has frequently been instructed to use their ordinary rational mind about the message.  Whether it's me, or a hundred year ago spiritual teacher - both using pseudonyms for exactly the same reasons - our our involvement in Theosophy doesn't go with the day job.  The rational explanation is applied to the message.  As is the judgement about whether the message is relevant.  As is the judgement about whether someone is going to act on it.  And if it's a rational, relevant and enactable statement, then it doesn't matter whether it was said by someone who used a Hebrew prefix on an old Indian dynastic name, or HPB,  or whether it was said by me in the Twenty-first century. 

Even for people who hide behind a pseudonym to abuse somebody, that isn't new, or confined to the internet.  In my research into the history of Theosophy I've been reading heaps of abusive Letters to the Editor from those extremely prolific authors: "Anonymous" "Concerned Christian" and "Concerned Reader," among other more creative titles.  It's still abuse, however it's delivered, and whatever the name attached to it.

But when my use of my own name on something immediately impacts on the career and future of someone living at the far end of our country, then I will use a pseudonym.  I'll also use one, as I have already said, when it's almost certain that my work will immediately be credited to someone else and then misrepresent them.

 

Someone wrote the Hermetic scriptures, or rather a series of someones, and attributed them to Hermes.  This is the use of a pseudonym compounded by the lack of any known historical antecedent.  It doesn't weaken the claims of Hermeticism as a belief system that there was no historical Hermes and a bunch of authors attributing works to him.  But it certainly does not add any credibility that "Hermes said so." 

Ghost Land claims to be the memoir of an author using pseudonyms, not just for himself but almost everyone else.  It has something of the same status in the CofL as a source book for the "Brotherhood teachings" that later Theosophical books have for the TS.  But with the major difference that Chevalier Louis and friends never became objects of devotion.  Belief vs. disbelief in the adepts doesn't really exist as a meme in the CofL in my observation.  My latest blog post at historyoftheadepts is slightly modified from an earlier version here, and goes into the implications of this issue for Emma's career.

The same applies to most of the New Testament and nearly all of the Gnostic works when it comes to writings attributed to an author who may or may not have written them.  There is a third option, not so far discussed here.  In the ancient world it was common to attribute the writings of the students to to the master or the school of thought, which is what would have happened with the Hermetic writings.  The same applies to a lot of the American university systems now.  Because the copyright of the entire University output belongs to the "State Board of Governers" when I try to verify whether the originator of a particular quote on the internet is a first-year or Doctoral Student, or the Professor or head of his department, all I can discover is that the Copyright is held by the "Minnesota State Board of Governors" or some-such.  I can't even discover which of 26 Universities the quote came from. 

That's considerably more annoying than the use of pseudonyms.  At least there I can reference the pseudonymous work as "Attributed to Hermes in"  ... or "Attributed to  Koot Hoomi in The Mahatma Letters."  Then it is less of an issue who "Koot Hoomi" actually was, and the emphasis is back on the quote, not its originator.



Joe Fulton said:

You have been a member of the TS, and the ES?  If you have then you know that my first statement is absolutely true, if not I understand. 

The rest of your comments I agree with.

 

I've been a member of the Theosophical Society for over fifty years, and come from a family with six generations of Theosophical membership.  I also have a BA Hons in Religious Studies and History, which included a major project on Countess Wachtmeister and the establishment of the New Zealand Section of the Theosophical Society.  I was never living in aplace that had an ES, and would have been unlikely to have joined it because I don't believe the secrecy in a spiritual path is relevant in this age.  Fair enough when you'd have been burnt at the stake for it.

I find little difference between the guru-worship of Theosophical teachers that I was brought up with and the guru-worship of modern manifestations of the same thing that we indulged in during the 1960s and 70s, and the guru-worship of such contemporary teachers as Ramtha and A J Miller now. 

Therefore, I see no reason why the so-called "Theosophical Masters" should be singled out as being different from the above. 

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