Theosophical Notes, December 1954.
Something More About Anonymity
In the past, we have had occasion to say something about the principle of anonymity and its philosophical basis. As time has gone on, new aspects have appeared with regard to our own position. In one way or another, the identity of the "senior Editor" of this publication has become known here and there; on occasion because anonymity has been set aside for an individual or a small group, in order to say something for the cause of Theosophy in quarters inaccessible to a disembodied voice.
It is a fact, on the one hand, that often a personal meeting will sweep away, like mist before the morning sun, misunderstandings and frictions that might endure and grow unreasonably in absentia. Still, we are all victims of ancient affinities, and often indeed our impressions of a person are conditioned, more than anything else, by forgotten or overlooked experiences of childhood. It is hard, for instance, for one Theosophist to feel unkindly toward anyone wearing a mustache; and this reaction traces plainly as print to the fact that some of his boyhood heroes happened to wear them. On the other hand, he is over-awed by a beard, and this traces to a tough Scotsman who had him under the thumb one summer, and succeeded in the rare feat of scaring him into working like the devil. While seemingly personal meetings have had no ill effects with us, such correspondence in some cases has not resulted too happily.
There is unquestionably a curse on the nama rupa * even when it only appears as a signature. Differences of opinion, and small habits of expression that make no great trouble when correspondence is anonymous, sometimes take on a special life so soon as a name is signed, even when nothing at all is known of the personality of the writer. It has been our experience, not only in connection with Notes, but in a period of previous years, that differences amicably adjustable in correspondence anonymous on one side or the other, can become irritating if there is a name to affront the eye. We have a theory that if personal identification is set aside, the influence of the higher nature can come nearer the surface undisturbed by material matters. And for all that, should not that portion of the nature that is concerned with Theosophy, and hence is the only portion of proper concern to other Theosophists, be best discernible without the mask of personality? There may be many reasons why the Mahatma or Adept never uses his own name.
There are some to whom anonymity is something sinister, concealing cowardice or some other unworthy motive. It is partly justified by the uses made of anonymity in the past; but it is also often a reflection on the character of the person who objects. He puts himself in the place of the anonymous one, and being unable to comprehend a worthy motive for himself in that position, draws conclusions accordingly. There are some who need a name, and if possible, a form, to love or hate. A signature
* "Name and form;" a term which seems to connote more than the literal meaning of the words, referring to the complete circumstances of the anchorage of the soul in the material world.
will do, in default of anything else, for the concentration of rancor; and the principle involved is basically that of the voodoo doll trick. Others, perhaps, suspect that one who tries to conceal his identity has something about his personality that should well be concealed. We would not wrangle over that question farther than to say that while we have no claim to beauty, there are no indications that people find us repulsive either; and our daily bread comes from a position involving friendly relations with a large and heterogeneous number of people.
Every real Theosophist must have in mind the time, however distant, when he will enter forever the ranks of the ultimate in anonymity; the "Stones of the Guardian Wall", who in complete self-abnegation serve humanity and save it, unhonored and unthanked, unknown save each to a few of his own kind. A significant passage in The Secret Doctrine reveals that the higher the Adept, the fewer, even of his own order, know of his existence as a person.
We wonder how often certain among our fellow-Theosophists, who seem fond of having their names in public places, give thought to the period of transition from the realm of nama rupa to that of Nirmanakaya, or how hard that will be if all the habits of life lead to another direction previously. No man has the slightest ability to know where the shoe of self-abnegation will pinch until he puts it on once and for all. Many a man derides anonymity in Theosophy, sure that he too could and would so write if there were any just occasion for it, and without a qualm; and yet who would find the real entry into permanent anonymity unendurable. The writer was once connected with an "anonymous" Theosophical publication which had contact with some of the "Big Names" in literature and publicity. Many of them were ready and willing to contribute - provided their names could appear. Some would even settle for a pseudonym; but the final sacrifice, the abnegation involved in a purely anonymous work merged indistinguishably with that of other unknowns - never! The laborer, they seemed to feel, is worthy of his hire, and a public name laboriously obtained should be enjoyed. (But how fragile the beams of any public platform, how phantasmal the fame that competes with today's public trivialities!)
So we say, without fear of successful contradiction, that no man knows himself until occasion arises to put forth effort without identification or recognition, and until he actually tries it. At the same time, it has been demonstrated to us many times, that humble people who can and will do that, can produce work so far beyond anything that might be expected of them, that its origin will never be suspected. The sacrifice of name and form releases the Self for work of its own kind.
It also tears off subtle disguises. There was once a young Theosophist on a crusade for the unity of the Movement, with what he considered the purest of motives. Without much success in that particular objective, he did find that he could "make friends and influence people", and sway audiences. Then he came upon a place where he wanted to work; saw that the work was real and necessary, and better than he could do through other channels; but across the road stood the dread gate of
"anonymity". During a long and dreadful night it was revealed to him that all along he had deceived himself. He wanted to save the Movement; but secretly, more important than the saving was the objective that he should be known as its savior. On such occasions one understands the meaning of life seeming "utterly dissolved". It was a night, and cheap at the price, but hard enough to pass so that many strange phenomena of pride and vanity that have obstructed the work, acquired a new meaning and significance to this victim, who saw that save for the grace of Karma, there went he also.
In time, anonymity pursued becomes a comfort itself, and a habit; and so to be watched with caution. But the principle forever endures; and one who would know himself with celerity afforded by few other channels, will do well to try it!