“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” Oscar Wilde
The use of the alter ego has a long and respected history. Writers have often chosen to publish under pseudonyms for a variety of reasons.
George Elliott wished to be taken seriously as a writer when women were unlikely to be respected. George Orwell may have wished to escape his upper class origins as he sought credibility as a chronicler of low life. The comedian Ronnie Barker hid behind the name Gerald Wiley when submitting scripts to to his colleagues for consideration; he was both nervous of their judgement and kindly in permitting them to criticise improve or reject his offerings without fear of personally offending him.
Popes, monks and nuns frequently assume new names to mark their passing into a new persona as they hope to be made new. Even Members of the House of Lords acquire new identities when they move into the “other place”.
The practice goes back even further. St Paul may well not have written Paul’s letter to the Hebrews; many scholars regard this as an acolyte’s attribution. There is a lively controversy continuing periodically over whether the middle class William Shakespeare hides the identity of an aristocrat too ashamed of his low life metier to write plays openly.
On todays internet we have both Archbishop Cranmer and Guido Fawkes referencing forebears for greater or lesser purposes, and so when Brother Ivo was invited to contributed to Cranmer’s cyber ministry team, it was an easy decision to follow in such footsteps.
The Alter Ego has attractions. If one wishes to be judged on the content of current writing, unencumbered by past decisions, actions, opinions or even mistakes, an alternative persona has much to commend it. An ecclesiastical persona is especially attractive for a blog addressing,inter alia, biblical or moral issues.
So Brother Ivo came into being.
He is a better man than the author. He speaks plainly, but as befits a man of christian austerity, he tries to curb his tongue and his ego. Imperfect as he is in either guise, his aspirations will inevitably end in failure, but that is no reason not to make the attempt.
This would not be much of a blog however if the author were utterly constrained and consistent. Those familiar with Brother Ivo from his contribution to Cranmer’s blog will know that there may be be humour, discursion and sometimes righteous indignation.
Whilst considering alter egos, Brother Ivo recalled the recent rather fine series of Reith Lectures presented by the artist Grayson Perry who was engaging, knowledgeable, entertaining and above all interesting as he delivered his witty and thought provoking observations upon the role of Art in todays world and the failing s of the Art Establishment. He did so in his alter ego persona of “Clare”
This seems a fine albeit unlikely model for this blog. Mr Perry is both original and interesting.
Mr Perry has “Clare”. This author has “Brother Ivo”.
Brother Ivo is not as racy as “Clare”, but is similarly complementary to his real life author. “Clare” is the transexual persona of Grayson Perry; Brother Ivo is the author’s “Trans-theological counterpart”, which only goes to show what a very strange world we live in!
Brother Ivo hopes you will return regularly, and that we shall enjoy each other’s company from time to time.
Follow Brother Ivo on twitter @BrotherIvo