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John Algeo's letter

Feb 14, 1997 02:15 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

>>>Also it would be interesting to see Algeo's letter and
>>>Tillett's response. What is it that Algeo did not like in
>>>Tillett's papers and some others. Is he responding in his
>>>private capacity or speaking for TSA? Is it the new facts dug
>>>up by Tillet and others or their interpretations or
>>>conclusions? If Grace Knoche got too much attention, so what.
>>>Did Algeo want all attention for himself?
>>Algeo's letter specified that it was not for publication.
>>Since it was written by him as the President of the TS, it may
>>very well be a public document.  On the other hand, I think
>>Algeo's wishes should be respected here.

>  In a situation some time ago, when there was an e-mail
>correspondence from an individualm (not from,
>I felt that the communication was indeed an official one as it
>came from an official address. When I requested the individual
>that I would like to post it here, I was told that the writer
>did not want it to be posted. Then I put the writer on notice
>that in future if any e-mail comes from an official e-mail
>address, I reserve the right to post it here since when it comes
>from an official address and dealt with official matters.
>As I see it, when the msg originates from an official e-mail
>address, there is no reason for secrecy in most cases.

When Paul Johnson reported on the Algeo letter in question, his
action, perhaps inadvertently, raised some very interesting
ethical issues.  Personally, I'm glad that he did create such an
opportunity for these issues to be raised, because I believe they
are important for Theosophists to consider.  The question Doss
has raised here is whether or not Algeo's letter should be
published on theos-l.  Less important than the answer to this
question, is the reasoning behind the decision one might come to.
For instance, Doss' argument seems to be based upon legality--
whether or not a communication from an official source should be
public.  Another question he might have raised (though it doesn't
apply to Algeo's letter) is whether a messages sent via e-mail, a
non-private method of sending messages, should be private.  Doss'
reasoning seems very solid and is one way of looking at the
issue.  However, there are several other ways, some of which I
would like to suggest below:

Using Kolbergs scale of ethics, we can consider the issue from at
least five different levels.

Level 1: Beginning with the lowest level, Algeo's letter could be
published for reasons of revenge, or as an expression of anger or
rage.  But I think most of us would consider this a poor reason.
Besides, I don't know of anyone who is angry at Algeo for writing
the letter.

Level 2 concerns a payoff of some kind.  As far as I know, no one
has offered to pay or bribe anyone into publishing the letter.
If it was published because of a bribe, I would guess that most
people on this list would think badly of the situation.

Level 3 concerns loyalty.  To use myself as an example, I am a
member of TSA and an associate of THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY.
Therefore, I might feel obligations of loyalty to these
organizations not to publish the letter.  Doss, on the other
hand, is a member of TSA and may feel that the letter is outside
of his bounds of obligation to it.  Paul, on the other hand, is
no longer a member of TSA, nor is he associated with THEOSOPHICAL
HISTORY, therefore, a conflict of loyalty might not be an issue
at all with him.  On the other hand, circumstances sometimes
require that we break our bonds of loyalty.  For instance, when
there is a conflicting legal issue.

Level 4 concerns the law.  In my case, I would look to the J.D.
Salinger litigation of about ten years ago.  The courts
determined that Salinger has legal ownership to all letters of
any kind that were written by him, regardless of whom they were
sent, or who is in possession of them.  Therefore, I would have
to operate under the belief that I do not have the legal right to
publish someone's letters without their permission.  Someone else
may not be aware of that litigation, or may have an entirely
different view of what it means.  For instance, they might feel
that this ruling would not apply to corporate letters written on
the corporation letterhead.  Therefore, they may feel no legal
constraints whatsoever.  On the other hand, the law is not the be
all and end all either.  Sometimes a greater good may be served
by breaking the law.

Level 5 concerns considerations of the greater good.  Well, here
we have room for all kinds of discussion.  One might believe that
publishing the letter would enlighten the theos-l audience as to
the nature of TSA politics, and help to bring about some reforms.
But one would also have to consider the possible consequences and
damage that might come from such an act.

IMO, a solution that would appear to satisfy all of the legal and
ethical issues would be to get permission from Algeo himself to
publish the letter.  His reply, whether positive or negative, in
itself might be instructive.

   |Jerry Hejka-Ekins,                      |
      |Member TI, TSA, TSP, ULT                |
         |Please reply to:   |
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