Jan Nicolaas Kind – Brazil
What’s in a Name?
In the various Theosophical traditions, different approaches are used when referring to speakers and authors. It is very interesting to compare them in order to come to a better understanding of those diverse ways of doing things.
In the United Lodge of Theosophists, names for speakers and writers aren’t used. When I asked a Lodge friend for the reason, I received the following explanation:
In his book The Friendly Philosopher, Robert Crosbie, in the section “In The Beginning” wrote this: “Let ULT flourish on its moral worth alone. The work we have to do, the knowledge we have to give out, depends on no other names than those of the true Teachers, H. P. B. and W. Q. J. Associates must learn to look to Them, to point to Them and to the Masters whom They served. Nothing else will restore the Movement. Unity is the key note of our attempt, and living persons, if made prominent, will detract from that attempt, will be attacked, to the injury of the Movement. So we will keep their names out of consideration.”
As to why articles are not signed, Crosbie continues: “What is at the root of the schisms that have disrupted the Theosophical Society that H. P. B. left? Personalities every time. What is the opposite and corrective of Personality? Nothing less than impersonality which seeks nothing for itself and everything for the Cause of Theosophy pure and simple. There is no worldly fame, glory or profit in such a course, yet it, and it alone, removes every obstacle that might intervene between the Message of Theosophy and those who desire to study and apply it on its own merits. For that reason, and that reason alone, are the magazine Theosophy and ‘The United Lodge of Theosophists’ conducted anonymously.”
To an editor of a magazine trying to bring Theosophists from the various traditions together, this strict approach is sometimes rather confusing. It was, nevertheless, possible to find some sort of solution for it. Certain associates of the ULT have no problems in having their name mentioned, whereas others have, so each case is looked at separately, and the author is specifically and respectfully asked.
I believe that what Crosbie wrote at the time was, and still is, spot on. Personalities, egos, and in particular ambition should have no place in the world of spirituality. Many of the problems and upheavals in the past, but also the ones we see in our day, have been are rooted in a desire to have and not to be. Actually ambition combined with spirituality, in whatever subtle form, turns into something very ugly. How far one can actually take impersonality is an enduring question since it can be revealing and refreshing indeed to see a real face behind an article or an idea.
In other Theosophical traditions, names, titles, or basic background information about speakers and authors are often given to accommodate the reader or listener. It is considered to be helpful to know more and be informed about those who write and lecture. In Theosophy Forward, the magazine, we keep that info to a minimum. A name and a country are usually sufficient, because many of the authors are known and need no further introduction. In the series of mini interviews, more personal info is given because the purpose of that series is to provide an opportunity for both known and lesser known Theosophists to introduce themselves, irrespective of their function or tradition.
If there is one thing Theosophy teaches, it is that we need to let things go, we need to get rid of the shackles of attachment. All that we possess on this plane is Maya and only temporarily relevant, if relevant at all. Names, titles, achievements, diplomas, status, medals, and trophies may be nice to keep somewhere hidden in a cupboard to go through, or look at once in a while, but ultimately that is not what Theosophy is about; it is about detachment and being humble!
Yet, and this is the paradox, you see that within certain Theosophical circles some apparently seem to have lost sight of basic Theosophical principles, in ambitious but at the same time ludicrous attempts to impress fellow seekers. It seems that some have egos as big as pompous glass cathedrals that really have gone over the top showing themselves.
A glass cathedral
So on the one hand, we have students who do not want to be mentioned or even referred to in their talks or articles, which is doubtless respectable, but on the other hand there is an example of the complete opposite. A Theosophist of the Brazilian Section (TS Adyar) who was giving a talk on the subject of astrology was introduced as follows * — to be absolutely correct I first reproduce the Portuguese text in full:
Engenheiro Civil pela UFRGS (1), mestrando em Filosofia pela UnB (2), astrólogo (3), presidente do Sindicato dos Astrólogos (4), conselheiro internacional da Sociedade Teosófica (5), ex-presidente da Sociedade Teosófica no Brasil (6), bispo da Igreja Católica Liberal (7), com diversos programas gravados e veiculados pela TV Supren em todo o país (8). [The numbering is mine.]
Here is the English version:
B.S. in Civil Engineering at UFRGS (1), MBA student of Philosophy at UnB (2), astrologer (3), president of the Astrologers Union (4), international advisor of the Theosophical Society (5), former president of the Theosophical Society in Brasil (6), bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church (7), with several recorded programs broadcast by TV Supren all over the country (8).
Not only is this presenter introduced making use of eight (8) titles and or activities, but a part of the introduction is inappropriate. The fifth “title,” in Portuguese conselheiro internacional da Sociedade Teosófica, when translated into English comes down to International Advisor of the Theosophical Society,which is flat out wrong. His real and official function title there is Additional member of the General Council, in plain Portuguese that is Membro adicional do Conselho Geral.
Ah well, according to this lavish curriculum, the presenter has to be extremely well versed on astrological subjects and far beyond. Anyone can, of course, freely choose the way he or she wishes to be made known to an audience, but this text clearly speaks for itself; no further commentary is needed...
For those interested in the name of this distinguished speaker . . .
Sorry but no, after all, what’s in a name?
* Please note that this particular announcement was made public in October 2013