These notes & corrections by anyone apply to any of HPB's writings.

In SD volume one, page 475, under the section title is an untraced poem that mentions "nether world" etc.  It is from Zanzibar: City, Island and Coast by Richard F. Burton, vol. 1:481

For those who would like to dip into this exotic text:

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I agree with the need to double check these things - that makes a lot of good sense.  At the same time it's possible that HPB quoted that short passage from Schlagintweit because the phrase “the reflection which analyses itself” was pertinent to the idea and teaching that she wanted to convey. Whether the sanskrit term should have been spelt differently may be neither here nor there.

HPB develops this idea of the ‘self-analysing reflection’ in a number of places. For example, when comparing the aims of the Gnostics as expressed in the Pistis Sophia with that of the Guatama Buddha’s teaching, HPB writes:

“. . the solution of the two systems was identical in that they traced the Cause of Sorrow to Ignorance, and to remove this, pointed out the Path to Self-knowledge. The Mind was to instruct the Mind: “self-analyzing reflection” was to be the Way. The Material Mind (Kāma-Manas) was to be purified and so become one with the Spiritual Mind (Buddhi-Manas).”  (CW XIII 40, italic emphasis added.)

The notion of the ‘self analysing reflection’ also makes sense when we consider that the “Occult philosophy teaches us that the human mind (or lower Manas) is a direct ray or reflection of the Higher Principle, the Noëtic Mind.” (CW XII 411)

In another place HPB writes:

‘. . in the act of self-analysis, the Mind becomes in its turn an object to the spiritual consciousness. It is the overshadowing of the Mind by Buddhi which results in the ultimate realization of existence —i.e., self-consciousness in its purest form.’ (SD II 96)

This “self consciousness in its purest form” is non other than the Paramartha which HPB tells us is synonymous with “the reflection which analyses itself” (SD I 44). Why is this important? Because:

‘The condition of Paranishpanna, without Paramartha, the Self-analysing consciousness(Svasamvedana), is no bliss, but simply extinction (for Seven Eternities). Thus, an iron ball placed under the scorching rays of the sun will get heated through, but will not feel or appreciate the warmth, while a man will. It is only“ with a mind clear and undarkened by personality, and an assimilation of the merit of manifold existences devoted to being in its collectivity (the whole living and sentient Universe),” that one gets rid of personal existence, merging into, becoming one with, the Absolute,* and continuing in full possession of Paramartha.’ (SD I 53-54, italic emphasis added)

So Schlagintweit may well have made mistakes with sanskrit words and spelling, and so might HPB. Yet, she appears to have had good reason for the use of the phrase “self analysing reflection”, and this might just be the important thing.


Thanks, Nicholas - another one is by Paul Williams,  "The Reflexive Nature of Awareness: a Tibetan Madhyamaka Defence." - I'd forgotten that I had this book! :-)  The whole book is a study of svasamvedana (rang rig in Tibetan) which Williams defines as "literal 'self-awareness', understood here as consciousness aware in some sense of itself rather than consciousness aware of a Self, an atman . ." (page 3)

Amazon has this book with the option to "Look inside."


If you look at Emil Schlagintweit's 1863 book, Buddhism in Tibet, p. 35, you will see the source of HPB's statements on svasamvedana. The errors in HPB's footnote to The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 44 fn., and especially p. 48 fn., cannot entirely be attributed to Schlagintweit. When HPB says in the latter place that "'Paramarthasatya' is self-consciousness in Sanskrit, Svasamvedana, or the 'self-analysing reflection' . . . " she has misunderstood Schlagintweit. Check it out. Paramarthasatya means ultimate truth, not self-analyzing reflection. Nor is HPB right in saying in the former place that "Paramartha is the synonym of the Sanskrit term Svasamvedana, or 'the reflection which analyses itself.""

Svasamvedana, self-analyzing reflection, was refuted by Nagarjuna in his Bodhicittavivarana, verse 30, by Santideva in his Bodhicaryavatara, chapter 9, verses 15-29, and is one of the key points refuted by Tsongkhapa among the eight he picked out. Among Madhyamikas, only the early Svatantrikas such as Santaraksita accepted even its relative reality, let alone its ultimate reality. We are here dealing with more than just a wrong term.

The terms svasamvedana and svasamvedya have often been confused, especially in their abbreviated Tibetan translations, which are identical (rang rig). Even Paul Williams confused them in his book referred to, The Reflexive Nature of Awareness. See the review article on this book by Matthew Kapstein, titled, "We Are All Gzhan stong pas," especially p. 115, available online.


As you know, Yao's book ends where the Madhyamaka critique of svasamvedana begins, so to get this critique one must use other sources. Besides the Nagarjuna and Santideva references already given, here are a couple for Tsongkhapa. Tsongkhapa's critique of it can be seen in the chapter, "Refutation of Self-Consciousness," in Daniel Cozort's book, Unique Tenets of the Middle Way Consequence School, pp. 153-180. This is in Cozort's own words. In the words of two Gelugpa commentators, as translated by Cozort, it is in the sections on pp. 369-389 and 439-447. In Tsongkhapa's own words as recorded by his disciple rGyal tshab, and as translated by David Seyfort Ruegg, it can be seen in the book, Two Prolegomena to Madhyamaka Philosophy, pp. 220-226. It is the fifth of the eight crucial points refuted by Tsongkhapa. It is, as translated by Seyfort Ruegg, "Non-acceptance of self-cognition (svasamvedana, svasamvitti)."

To clarify my statement that "Among Madhyamikas, only the early Svatantrikas such as Santaraksita accepted even its relative reality," even Bhaviveka, who is regarded as the founder of the Svatantrika Madhyamaka school, rejected it. Santaraksita brought it in in a limited capacity because of his Yogacara sympathies.

The Tibetan writer Shakya Chokden, who also had Yogacara sympathies, tried to bring it in and harmonize it with Madhyamaka by redefining it. Unlike Santaraksita, who gave it only conventional reality, Shakya Chokden gave it ultimate reality. This can be seen in a recent book, Visions of Unity: The Golden Pandita Shakya Chokden's New Interpretation of Yogacara and Madhyamaka, by Yaroslav Komarovski. It should be noted, however, that Shakya Chokden was rejected by the Gelugpas just as much as Dolpopa was, and the writings of both of them were banned by the Gelugpas.


David;  I am not quite sure i understand where the bone of contention is here.  I do have an idea though.  Could you send me an email with the issue explained as succinctly as possible and let me contact Nandini to see if she might weigh in.  It might be fun to find out what she thinks but she is adverse to computers and I will need to call her and read her your points.  She has a lifetime of SD study to go along with teaching all the various philosophical schools of India, personal friend to the Dalai Lama, and a background in Sanskrit.  Maybe she could help.  Game?


Thanks, Nicholas, for these corrections. I have marked them in pencil in my copy of the SD.


In SD 2,2,24, The Cross and Pythagorean Decade,

she references Jean-Marie Ragon quite a bit - Chapter 2 of his Maconnerie Occulte (Puissance des Nombres d'apres Pythagore, 426):

page 575 of the SD is pretty much all Ragon translations - various bits re-assembled (also about half of pages 574, 576, 581, 583) -  I'd say half of the translations are literal and the other half are more interpretative - bits removed, bits added, more theosophical terminology - she gives a good picture of what's in the Ragon chapter, which is basic neoplatonic occult Pythagorean number and word symbolism.


I do find BdZ's references very helpful-  although I must confess, I usually use the notorious Adyar 6-volume edition, mainly because it's so pretty and physically handy ;-)

A minor correction - on page 92 - it references sections 9 and 10 of book 1 of the Sefer Yetzirah, but the actual  passage contains sections nine to twelve.


Casady, you say the "notorious" Adyar 6-volume edition. What to you mean by "notorious"? Thanks.


I'd say that it was more my subjective opinion - I'm actually not that well-informed on how notorious it really is - but I guess that I was mainly alluding to the debate regarding whether the 1897 volume 3 should be considered as part of the Secret Doctrine - and also to the debate as to the actual quality of said vol.3 - Peace.


Thanks. I didn't know.


It has been hard to find out anything about Taraka Raja Yoga (Tāraka-rāja-yoga), spoken of inThe Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 157, and elsewhere. So it may be worthwhile to now post what I found some years ago. Taraka Raja Yoga apparently comes from a text called the Raja Yoga Bhashya (Rāja-yoga-bhāṣya). It is usually regarded as a commentary (bhāṣya) on the Mandala Brahmana Upanishad (Maṇḍala-brāhmaṇopaniṣad). Its authorship is usually attributed to Shankaracharya (Śaṅkarācārya), although this has been doubted. It was published in Sanskrit in the Government Oriental Library Series, Mysore, in 1899. It was translated into English by R. Ananthakrishna Sastri and published serially in The Theosophist, 1896. I have scanned this translation and uploaded it here.


Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by barbaram on September 6, 2013 at 9:20pm

Thank you, David, for sharing information on various ancient sacred texts.  It is much appreciated.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 9, 2013 at 4:53pm

It may also be worthwhile to upload the Sanskrit text of the Maṇḍalabrāhmaṇopaniṣad and its commentary, the Rājayogabhāṣya, since probably someone is looking for it. It is not available at Google Books or at the Digital Library of India or anywhere else that I could find. The book is very rare. In the 1990s I traveled all the way to Cleveland to photocopy the one copy then known to be held in the U.S., but was only allowed to have photocopies of a few pages of it. Some years later I went to the University of Chicago Library and printed out a copy from their microfilm of it that they had obtained from the India Office Library in London. The print quality of this printout from microfilm is not very good, but is the best I could get. I have now scanned this and uploaded it here. At least the original Sanskrit text is now available.

Permalink Reply by Casady on September 19, 2013 at 10:13am

Thanks for sharing- always nice to have such rare Sanskrit works - David Birch from Oxford gives a translation from the opening paragraph in his paper, The Meaning of Hatha in Early Hatha Yoga:

 The [Haṭha] Yogas spoken of earlier are performed with exertion of the body, (whereas) this 
(Rājayoga) effortlessly yields the goal of human life, in the form of liberation (pūrvoktāyogā
dehaprayāsakārāḥ |ayaṃtu nirāyāsena mokṣarūpapuruṣārthapradaḥ).

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 9, 2013 at 5:30pm

The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 623:

"Let the reader remember these “Monads” of Leibnitz, every one of which is a living mirror of the universe, every monad reflecting every other, and compare this view and definition with certain Sanskrit stanzas (Slokas) translated by Sir William Jones, in which it is said that the creative source of the Divine Mind, . . . “Hidden in a veil of thick darkness, formed mirrors of the atoms of the world, and cast reflection from its own face on every atom. . . . .”"

This Sanskrit quotation was quite unfamiliar to me. Today one can quickly search a huge mass of printed material with the help of Google Books. It turns out that this quotation is from Persian rather than from Sanskrit, and was translated by E. B. Cowell rather than by Sir William Jones. It is from the Yusuf by Jami. It appeared in The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Review, fourth series, no. 1, May 1845, p. 25, under "Correspondence," "Persian Poetry," and is available for free download from Google Books. The whole quotation is:

DEAR SIR,--I send you a short passage which I met with in the
Yusuf of Jami. Amidst much that is rude metaphor, surely there is
much that is just and fine, particularly towards the end. Literally
translated, it is as follows:--

The heavens are a point from the pen of God's perfection;
The world is a bud from the bower of his beauty;
The sun is a spark from the light of his wisdom,
And the sky is a bubble on the sea of his power.
His beauty is free from the spot of sin.
Hidden in the thick veil of darkness,
He made mirrors of the atoms of the world,
And threw a reflection from his own face on every atom!
To thy clear-seeing eye, whatsoever is fair,
When thou see'st it, is a reflection from his face.

Surely there is something beyond mere Oriental bombast in this:
Coleridge has an idea very like that at the conclusion.

I am, dear Sir, yours faithfully,
Ipswich, April 14, 1845. E. B. COWELL.

Permalink Reply by Casady on September 19, 2013 at 9:50am

I think David Pratt covers certain elements related to that, although I don't think he mentions CSG's datings:

Permalink Reply by Casady on September 21, 2013 at 12:02pm

He gives 3102 BC - citing both HPB and TSR. Here's some more info:

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 21, 2013 at 12:47pm

The traditional date of 3102 B.C.E. for the beginning of the Kali-yuga is well established in use across India since at least the time of the astronomer Āryabhaṭa (born 476 C.E.), and it would take overwhelming evidence to overthrow it. The date of 2449 B.C.E. for the inauguration of the reign of King Yudhiṣṭhira, which is regarded as having occurred near the beginning of the Kali-yuga, is derived from a verse by the astronomer Varāha-mihira (lived 6th century C.E.), assuming that the Śaka era he referred to is the Śālivāhana era. Prabodh Chandra Sengupta (not Probodh, and he usually used Sengupta rather than Sen Gupta) felt that he had confirmed the 2449 B.C.E. date by taking astronomical data from the Mahābhārata and calculating the astronomical positions described, showing that they match the 2449 B.C.E. date in general. He had no hesitation in rejecting the 3102 B.C.E. date, because he, like some Western scholars before him, believed that this date had been back-calculated. That is, it was not due to an actual observation of an astronomical conjunction then, but was determined much later by calculating backwards. Others, however, did not find his evidence for circa 2449 B.C.E. to be overwhelming, or even acceptable.

James Arther in his book, Occult Chronology (Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1943;, discusses Sengupta’s “additional note” to the Adyar edition of The Secret Doctrine in his section, “The ‘Real Yuga’ Theory.” He questions it and then notes that another writer, C. Panigrahi Bharadwaz, protested it in a series of articles in The Observer, Cuttack. I have not seen this publication, but I have seen (and have copies of) other rebuttals of Sengupta’s view in Indological journals. The question of the date of the Bhārata war described in the Mahābhārata, after which the Kali-yuga began, has been much debated for well over a century now. Proposed dates range from 5306 B.C.E. to 950 B.C.E. Nonetheless, the 3102 B.C.E. date finds more supporters than any other date. Sengupta had published the evidence that he found in support of the 2449 B.C.E. date in a couple of articles in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Letters, right around the time the Adyar edition of The Secret Doctrine was published. This material was later incorporated into his 1947 book, Ancient Indian Chronology (University of Calcutta).

Sengupta made many important contributions to the history and elucidation of ancient Indian astronomy. Some of these are mentioned in my postings on the Āryabhaṭīya (June 10, 2012) and on the Sūrya-siddhānta (May 15, 2012) on the Book of Dzyan blog ( In this case, however, I do not think his evidence can stand against the traditional date of 3102 B.C.E. Many “proofs” of dates based on astronomical calculations have been put forward, and many of these differ greatly from each other. This has shown the unreliability of these calculations as proof. Then, the particular Śaka era used by Varāha-mihira from which the date 2449 B.C.E. is calculated is much in question, because he is referring to Vṛddha-Garga, who probably lived before the Śālivāhana era began. Moreover, no era starting in 2449 B.C.E. is known to have ever been used in India, while the Kali-yuga era starting in 3102 B.C.E. has been widely used. Sengupta and Western scholars point out that we have no evidence for the Kali-yuga era being in use before the time of Āryabhaṭa (born 476 C.E.). Therefore, Āryabhaṭa must have invented it by back calculation. Sengupta sums up (1947, p. 45):

“The astronomical Kali-reckoning is a mere astronomical fiction created by Āryabhaṭa I, for a definite astronomical purpose, is an unreal thing as it was unconnected with any real astronomical event, is the result of a back calculation based on incorrect astronomical constants. It never could have existed before 499 A.D. and thus cannot truly point out the time of any historical event prior to this date. Thus the Āryabhaṭa tradition that the Bhārata battle was fought in 3102 B.C. is totally indefensible—is a pure myth.”

Negative evidence, however, is weak, especially in that remote period. Who knows what discoveries may occur to upset this? Let us recall that, based on negative evidence until the early 1800s, dinosaurs were a myth.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 22, 2013 at 9:38pm

[[Re-posting this here, from the SD group]]

Agreed up to this point, David.

But later we see that work was being done on Vol 3 by HPB after the publication of vols 1 and 2, meaning that the material set aside early on (in draft MS form) is not the same (though some material may have carried through) as what HPB was preparing for Vol 3 in 1889. There were many steps between BK's statement here and the publication of "Vol 3" by Ms. Besant, and those steps aren't necessarily sequential (i.e. the steps don't necessarily follow a single MS from BK's statement to Besant's publication).

What we see is this: right up to almost the moment of HPB's death there is an MS of Vol 3 being worked on by her, and in April of 1891, one month before her death, she says it is "almost ready". She then dies, and this "almost ready" MS suddenly turns into a mass of papers, half-finished articles, out-of-order writings, ES instructions, etc., etc., etc., that somehow need a further 6 years of compiling and editing to make ready for press!?!? Something just isn't "kosher" about that. ;)

The question is: is the "Vol 3" published by Besant the same as the Vol 3 that had begun to be prepared (and at least nearly finished, if not finished outright) by HPB, after vols 1 and 2 had been published, and up to her death? And this is where my opinion is "no, it is not the same."

HPB's statement in April 1891 is, to me, quite conclusive:

Two years ago, the writer promised in The Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, p. 798, a third and even a fourth volume of that work. This third volume (now almost ready) treats of the ancient Mysteries of Initiation, gives sketches--from the esoteric standpoint--of many of the most famous and historically known philosophers and hierophants (everyone of whom is set down by the Scientists as an impostor), from the archaic down to the Christian era, and traces the teachings of all these sages to one and the same source of all knowledge and science--the esoteric doctrine or WISDOM RELIGION. No need our saying that from the esoteric and legendary materials used in the forthcoming work, its statements and conclusions differ greatly and often clash irreconcilably with the data given by almost all the English and German Orientalists....Now the main point of Volume III of The Secret Doctrine is to prove, by tracing and explaining the blinds in the works of ancient Indian, Greek, and other philosophers of note, and also in all the ancient Scriptures--the presence of an uninterrupted esoteric allegorical method and symbolism; to show, as far as lawful, that with the keys of interpretation as taught in the Eastern Hindoo-Buddhistic Canon of Occultism, the Upanishads, the Puranas, theSutras, the Epic poems of India and Greece, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Scandinavian Eddas, as well as the Hebrew Bible, and even the classical writings of Initiates (such as Plato, among others)--all, from first to last, yield a meaning quite different from their dead letter texts.—Lucifer, April 1891 (CW 13: 145-6):

This is her statement as to the contents of Vol 3 one month before her death, and at a point when the MS was "almost ready". The question to ask ourselves is this: does this seem to be a valid and accurate description of the "Vol 3" published by Ms. Besant in 1897?

While some materials from the old drafts and scattered papers used in the 1897 volume may have been early portions of work done for HPB's vol 3, her above description of her "almost ready" MS bears only a very partial relation to Ms. Besant's volume. If someone gave me the above description of an upcoming book and then handed me the "Vol 3" as we have it now today, I'd be mighty disappointed, and would note (as other theosophists have) that Vol 3 drastically fails to live up to the standard HPB gives in this description.

It seems more likely than any other conclusion (to my view) that the "almost ready" MS isnot the same as the mass of scattered papers Ms. Besant eventually compiled into a "Vol 3" six years later.

My two (or was it ten?) cents. ;)

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 23, 2013 at 12:16pm

I vacilated on this issue over the years.  I think David is right to remind us HPB's stated original intentions for the planned structure of the SD.  With regards to whether the third volume published is the third volume intended by HPB, I think Daniel Caldwell has done some valuable research on this which I found persuasive.  But I have to say my reasons for keeping a doubt are the same as those which Nicholas expressed, i.e. as to the quality of some of what is written. But I confess this doubt rests only upon a subjective feeling.

This is the first time I've considered the point that Jon raises above, which I think is an important one, even though not conclusive.  At present I am in agreement with the last paragraph above, by Nicholas.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 22, 2013 at 10:00pm

Now that these posts have been moved, I'll delete the ones in the SD group to avoid duplication. Thanks for copy/pasting Nicholas.

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on September 23, 2013 at 4:19pm
If we may assume for the moment that Volume III was prepared but is now missing, the interesting subject is 'why' it hasn't been published to date. HPB said:

“Until the rubbish of the ages is cleared away from the minds of the Theosophists to whom these volumes are dedicated, it is impossible that the more practical teaching contained in the Third Volume should be understood. Consequently, it entirely depends upon the reception with which Volumes I and II will meet at the hands of Theosophists and Mystics, whether these last two volumes will ever be published, though they are almost completed."

“Should the present volumes meet with a favourable reception, no effort will be spared to carry out the scheme of the work in its entirety.”

So in effect she stated that Vol.III (IV?) would not be published until we are ready for it. If V.III is ready and if it hasn't been published because we're not ready for it, then why aren't we ready for it? What has Humanity missed in our reception of Volumes I and II?
Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 23, 2013 at 8:50pm

When I made my little post that started this discussion, I did not expect this response. I actually thought that ever since the publication of Daniel Caldwell’s article, this question had been settled. It seemed to me that only those whose view on this had long since been made would fail to be persuaded by the extensive evidence he provided. I will not rehearse this evidence, except for one brief quote for the benefit of those who do not have the time to go through Daniel’s article. It is from Archibald Keightley, April 29, 1889:

“The third volume of The Secret Doctrine is in MS. ready to be given to the printers. It will consist mainly of a series of sketches of the great Occultists of all ages, and is a most wonderful and fascinating work. The fourth volume, which is to be largely hints on the subject of practical Occultism, has been outlined but not yet written.” (Wachtmeister, 1893, p. 84)

The otherwise inexplicable prevalence of the view that vol. 3 of The Secret Doctrine we have is spurious can only be attributed to one thing. Weaving in and out of the various reasons given that it is spurious is an implied accusation that Annie Besant was less than honest. This is a serious accusation, especially toward someone who was one of the most honest people ever known. Where is the proof of this? Insinuation will not do for a charge this serious.

This started long ago, with the splitting of the Theosophical Society during the time of William Judge. This naturally produced suspicion and ill-will between the two sides. Boris de Zirkoff came up in the Theosophical line in which the idea that Besant tampered with vol. 3 was prevalent. It seems to me that this affected his otherwise clear view of history, on this particular point. His excellent work in carefully editing Blavatsky’s writings is exemplary, correcting countless references and a number of errors in these writings. In doing this, even he was criticized by some Theosophists for tampering with Blavatsky’s texts. But let us look at what he says about Besant in his “Introduction” to vol. 14 of Blavatsky’s Collected Writings, which is on the contents and authenticity of vol. 3 of The Secret Doctrine. He writes, p. xliii:

“She says in regard to the Sections under the general title of ‘The Mystery of the Buddha’ that she included them with ‘some hesitation,’ because ‘together with some most suggestive thought, they contain very numerous errors of fact, and many statements based on exoteric [not esoteric, as is misprinted in the online version] writings, not on esoteric knowledge.’ This general trend of ideas is repeated several times and enlarged upon. It is curious, to say the least, that anybody from among the then recently acquired followers of H. P. B. would have had the temerity of pointing out the alleged errors of H. P. B.’s statements and of comparing them with an implied, even if not actually expressed, correct knowledge on his or her part of what the true esoteric doctrine was on any subject under consideration.”

"Considering that the Sections entitled ‘The Mystery of the Buddha’ contain some of the most recondite teachings of the Esoteric Philosophy, including certain tenets merely hinted at and which do not occur anywhere else in the entire literary output of H. P. B., not even in The Secret Doctrine, any statement implying greater knowledge concerning these mystical tenets is both ridiculous and unfair.”

But do Besant’s statements imply “greater knowledge concerning these mystical tenets,” or imply a “correct knowledge on her part of what the true esoteric doctrine was”? As I read this, she is only saying that “they contain very numerous errors of fact, and many statements based on exoteric writings.” She says more fully about these Sections (her “Preface,” pp. xix-xx):

“In ‘The Mystery of the Buddha’ a further difficulty arose; some of the Sections had been written four or five times over, each version containing some sentences that were not in the others; I have pieced these versions together, taking the fullest as basis, and inserting therein everything added in any other versions. It is, however, with some hesitation that I have included these Sections in the Secret Doctrine. Together with some most suggestive thought, they contain very numerous errors of fact, and many statements based on exoteric writings, not on esoteric knowledge. They were given into my hands to publish, as part of the Third Volume of the Secret Doctrine, and I therefore do not feel justified in coming between the author and the public, either by altering the statements, to make them consistent with fact, or by suppressing the Sections. . . . The reader must here, as everywhere, use his own judgment, but feeling bound to publish these Sections, I cannot let them go to the public without a warning that much in them is certainly erroneous. Doubtless, had the author herself issued this book, she would have entirely re-written the whole of this division; . . .”

That they contain “many statements based on exoteric writings,” and thus “very numerous errors of fact,” is something that is verifiable by anyone who can and will read the exoteric writings. It does not necessarily imply any claim to esoteric knowledge. What is unfair is to attribute this claim to Besant, and then to extrapolate that, since she thinks she knows more than Blavatsky, she therefore altered Blavatsky’s writings.

Besant is very clear about what she did. As she wrote in her “Preface” to the 1897 vol. 3, p. xix: “With the exception of the correction of grammatical errors and the elimination of obviously un-English idioms, the papers are as H.P.B. left them, save as otherwise marked.” Was this fearlessly honest woman, one who when she came to Theosophy publicly admitted that she was wrong about what she had earlier built her reputation on, lying here? If so, where is the proof of this serious charge? It does not exist except in imagination and allegation.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 24, 2013 at 8:17am

If we do not have the real volume 3, then the one we have is spurious. The view is that what we have is “disjecta membra” or scattered fragments, no doubt written by Blavatsky, but not what she intended as volume 3. Then Besant irresponsibly palmed off this spurious volume 3 as the real volume 3. The facts, however, when collected and lined up in chronological order as Daniel Caldwell has done for us in his article (not hazy memories from 30 or 40 years later), show otherwise. As for the Wurzburg manuscript, the agreement of the contents of this 1885-1886 “first draft” (as Jinarajadasa called it) with the volume 3 published in 1897 clearly demonstrates the truth of what the Keightleys said, that volume 1 of the Secret Doctrine became volume 3. The reason for their disagreements is equally clear.

The Wurzburg manuscript is not what Besant used as the basis of volume 3. The Wurzburg manuscript is a segment of a copy of HPB’s original manuscript made by two copyists, and sent to India for correction by Subba Row. It was sent in segments, and the other segments are lost. Daniel estimates that this segment represents about a third of the original. The chapters found in it correspond to about a fourth of the chapters in volume 3. Given the fact that about half, the second half, of the Wurzburg manuscript is on the stanzas of Dzyan, this proportion of corresponding chapters is exactly what we would expect. The disagreements between the wording of this first draft and the wording found in volume 3, which was based on the final manuscript that HPB left, can surprise no one. They are not due to Besant’s alleged tampering. HPB was famous for continuously changing and revising her writings, right up to the last moment, and even after they had gone to press. See the two appendices in Constance Wachtmeister’s 1893 book, Reminiscences of H. P. Blavatsky and “The Secret Doctrine” (available for free download from Google Books): “Mr. Bertram Keightley’s Account of the Writing of ‘The Secret Doctrine’,” and “Dr. Archibald Keightley’s Account of the Writing of ‘The Secret Doctrine’.”

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on September 24, 2013 at 9:53am


Please accept my apology for what must have sounded like my implying that Ms. Besant was less than honest.  That wasn't the intention of my post as I don't and couldn't know about her.  I was only attempting to initiate a discussion concerning 'if we've not yet seen V.III, then why?'.  I should have been more thoughtful before posting, as I know this subject matter (where is V.III?) is not universally agreed to. 

However, this new line of conversation is interesting in another way.  Namely, that I think people, and perhaps this has been evident in the Theosophical history, can have good motives, be highly spiritualized, and perhaps even have real and direct contact with the White Brotherhood from time to time, but also present material to the theosophical community which is not fully accurate or in line with what the WB would agree is ready for publication or discussion, or which is accurate.  I would imagine that this happens in every theosophical setting or lineage.  It may even be inevitable. 

We're all students, and we sometimes get ahead of ourselves.  I know that I do. Something to watch I guess.  



Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 24, 2013 at 11:23am

Don, Thank you for your kind post, which was very thoughtful. My reply was not at all directed toward you, nor to others here like my humorous friend Nicholas, who I certainly do not want to see tarred! The idea that Besant was less than honest has been pervasive in a part of the Theosophical movement since at least the early 1920s when Stokes wrote many articles about this, and right up to the present. This being a discussion forum on Secret Doctrine Notes, that any interested student may read, it seemed to me to be the time and place to discuss this issue in its broader setting in the Theosophical movement.

The question you raise is a good one, “If we have not yet seen vol. 3, then why?” I think we have seen vol. 3, since it was written by HPB first, as the Wurzburg manuscript shows. But our lack of readiness may well be why we have not seen vol. 4.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 24, 2013 at 12:09pm

Hi David. I see there is some passion behind this issue. ;)

I think you are perhaps placing too much stock on early statements about SD3. The quote above from A. Keightly is from well before HPB's death. I think we can all safely assume that the MS intended to become Vol 3 was indeed in their hands at that time, and was subsequently worked on by HPB up until at least April of 1891. From my perspective, it is from that point forwards that investigations need proceed.

What I'm pointing out, is that there does not appear to be a clear sequential line from this original MS (as of April 1891) to the finished product published by Ms. Besant—even if some material from it (or drafts of it?) did in fact make it into her published "Vol 3", which it appears some, even a fair amount, did (even if edited, as Nicholas points out). I'm not insinuating that she lied; perhaps she indeed believed that what she had was the original and "almost ready" MS of HPB, perhaps good portions of it were, but there is simply not enough to validate that HPB's MS simply became the Vol 3 published 6 years later (which the wording in your original post seems to indicate). Daniel did some fine research, I recognize that and am grateful for it, but his conclusion is not justified in my view. Let me repeat: in my view. And I do not put my view forward as fact. I put it forward as my view. None of us were there. None of us were Ms. Besant in our past lives and retained the memory. ;) We are attempting to explore something based on scraps of comments, records of letters, source-documents where available, etc., and from what I've seen it is far too much, in my view, to approach the issue as though it is known by any of us, or settled once and for all by any one's research, however convincing it may be to some.

Furthermore, our investigation has nothing to do with old Theosophical "allegiences" or petty personality battles: those belong in the past. That nonsense has driven theosophists apart for far too long. I say "Enough!". Let it rest, and let us move on. The Theosophical Movement will become increasingly impotent if we continue to concentrate on such nonsense.

What Daniel has done is line up chronologically certain quotes from a handful of individuals and has drawn a conclusion from these and from his own investigations of source-material. Other, contrary views are given by other theosophists who have likewise done thorough investigations of the same materials. And, in addition to this we have a near complete silence (after the publication of Vol 3 by Besant) on the matter from several key theosophists who would've had first-hand knowledge of HPB's MS and were in a position to clearly state one way or another its relation to the MS in her possession in 1891. If anyone has such quotes, let's say from both keightly's, for instance, making a definite statement on this, please bring them forward.

Now, in the interest of fairness and transparency, I'll settle my own personal view on Ms. Besant in regards to her work and writings, so as to not leave my own statements to give any seeming insinuations. My personal view is that Ms. Besant was a well-intentioned and courageous person and did her best under the difficult circumstances she inherited (how many of us would've performed well in such an impossible situation!?). I do not believe she is guilty of outright falsity or conscious deception—that does not seem to have been part of her character, from what I've seen—,but I do believe she was influenced by others around her who may have been less than honest themselves. Take, for instance, Mr. Mead's explanation of how the ES instructions came to be included in the SD3: he clearly states that his actual intention was to kill the ES itself by the publication of the instructions, and that it was this that drove him to convince Ms. Besant to include them. I wonder if he made this intention clear to her at the time!? It is highly doubtful. I don't believe Ms. Besant herself shared Mr. Mead's motive. Yet he convinced her; she was influenced to publish that which she had sworn, under occult oath, never to share with another. I feel sadness in my heart even thinking of what she faced in such decisions! But I feel she did her best, and that is all any of us can do. I cannot say I would've performed like a sage under similar circumstances.

Many other examples of Ms. Besant's actions demonstrate that, as well intentioned as she may have been, she was also influenced by others, and perhaps not always leading to good results. Simply put: she was human. As are we. When I look at her character, I see some shining attributes, and I also see some of the same faults I see when I look in myself. This is my personal view of her, in a nutshell. I have a lot of respect for her, have no interest in calling her a liar (my arrogance does not run so deep), and wish the Ego that was that brave woman all the best in continuing the work when the time again comes (if indeed it hasn't already). Let us not forget that K.H. himself clearly indicated to her that she had been under less than noble influences for some time (see his final letter to her). But, by the very fact of that letter being sent, how could any of us imagine that she had previously been outright lying, deceiving or acting against her own better judgment? Would KH continue to encourage and watch over someone who was consciously deceptive as she has been portrayed by some? (questions to ask ourselves).

Now, is her character, or my personal view of it the reason why I dismiss the SD3 as not the same as the MS that was "almost ready" in 1891? Absolutely and emphatically not. My reasons are simpler than that: I simply do not see a straight-line continuance between that MS and the final publication 6 years later. An "almost ready" MS doesn't simply revert back to a series of scattered and incomplete drafts, and it certainly doesn't need ES Instructions added in order to bulk it up. In the end, I agree with Mr. Mead that it would've been better that these drafts/MS be published as articles in Lucifer. And I am happy that Nicholas and others have brought such materials into the CW series.

It is absolutely clear (to me, at least), that while portions of what we have as "Vol 3" right now were indeed part of drafts of the Secret Doctrine, they do not represent (nor live up to in the least) HPB's own description of that MS in the month before her death. This cannot be overlooked.

Another possibility exists, however. Perhaps HPB exaggerated the "readiness" of the SD3 MS, and perhaps her description was about material she had not yet put down on paper, but had the outline in her mind. In that case, we might surmise that if it were not ready, nor nearly ready for the printers, that it ought not to have been brought to press as though it, with additional edits by others, was worthy of being in the SD series. A collection of drafts from Tolkien, while interesting and valuable when posthumously published, certainly do not live up to the Lord of the Rings as a completed work. And HPB's drafts, if they were still in such a condition of unreadiness as that which Ms. Besant inherited seem to have been, ought not be presented as though they are equal to, or worthy of their position in a completed series, and a magnum opus at that, such as theSecret Doctrine is.

One last note: the intention of Theosophy Nexus is to study theosophy, not to drag up old and tired prejudices in regards to the "politics" of the Theosophical Society or other organizations, nor are we interested in dragging up old and pointless allegiances or battles. Sifting through old theosophical material is certainly valuable and is a large part of the work being done these days, but there is a line to be drawn between this and indulging in old libels or attaching ourselves to past personalities.

In approaching our exploration of SD3, let us try to keep in mind that we here are aftertruth, not slander, nor are any of us (I hope) interested in spitting on our forerunners. But we make a rather large mistake if we settle ourselves into a position that is reliant upon "real" and "unreal", "spurious" or "not spurious". The world, and the situation we are examining, are not so black and white. As time marches forward the truth gathers to it reams of fiction as a snowball rolling downhill, and when we peer into the past, with our exceedingly limited powers of perception, it is that snowball we are looking at, struggle as we may to see through to the diamond at its core. Nicholas and myself and others have been attempting to share our personal views on the subject, gathered from our own (in some cases quite extensive) investigations, and I believe we have been doing so in the interest of that diamond, however feeble may be our attempts to do so. Let us continue this investigation along those lines, or not continue it at all. And please, let us not attempt to read through the lines of text from other members and assume we understand their internal positions, opinions or motives. Let us stick to what was said. Let there be no "straw men" here to argue against.

If we are going to be a brotherhood, and if we are to make Nexus a profitable venture for ourselves and humanity, then let us act as such.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 25, 2013 at 10:00am

Jon, the graciousness of your reply impresses me as being truly exemplary, especially when to all appearances my post on Besant and volume 3 was directed toward (or against) you and Nicholas. This was a big failure on my part, not to make it clear that the posts by you and others here were only catalysts for my post. My post was directed toward a view that is pervasive in an entire segment of the Theosophical community, and that is so influential that it has resulted in the Theosophical Publishing House removing volume 3 (or 5) from their edition of The Secret Doctrine, the only one in which it was ever published. Today, anyone coming toThe Secret Doctrine finds only the 2-volume edition. This, and only this, is what newcomers think The Secret Doctrine is. Yet Blavatsky clearly wrote material that she once intended to precede the stanzas, in order to show that the secret sciences are not a myth, but were known even to some early church fathers, for example. A large segment of this material has been preserved in the Wurzburg manuscript, and this material forms about a fourth of volume 3.

In reply to your query: “we have a near complete silence (after the publication of Vol 3 by Besant) on the matter from several key theosophists who would've had first-hand knowledge of HPB's MS and were in a position to clearly state one way or another its relation to the MS in her possession in 1891. If anyone has such quotes, let's say from both keightly's, for instance, making a definite statement on this, please bring them forward.” Daniel in his article (part 6 in the online edition) gives a quotation from a letter of Bertram Keightley that does make a definite statement on this. It was written on December 6, 1922, from Lucknow, India, and addressed to Charles Blech, a French Theosophist:

“As regards the matter intended by H.P.B. for future volumes—besides the two first published under her own supervision—all this material has been published in the third volume which contains absolutely all that H.P.B. has left in manuscript. [quoted in The O. E. Library Critic, July 4, 1923]”

On your main point, that vol. 3 does “not represent (nor live up to in the least) HPB's own description of that MS in the month before her death.” Her description given then does not differ, in my estimation, from her similar descriptions given earlier of the material she was then writing, material that was copied at the time and is now found in the Wurzburg manuscript. The stanzas of Dzyan are unique. Nothing compares to them. But they and their commentaries form only a third of the two volumes of The Secret Doctrine. The remaining two thirds, on symbolism and on comparisons with modern science, respectively, also do not compare to the sections on the stanzas. I see no difference between these two thirds of volumes one and two and the material in volume three.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 25, 2013 at 10:52am

Thanks for the clarification David. Reflecting back I should've been able to see that your post was directed to a larger field than just Nicholas and myself, but perhaps my personal response is of value anyway.

I think one thing we can all see, and hopefully accept (as simply being a result of imperfect human beings doing their best), is that there are several key issues within the larger theosophical community that indeed hold us back as a Brotherhood. Among those is certainly, and perhaps foremost, the many varying personal views on individuals such as Ms. Besant, Mr. Judge, Mr. Olcott, etc., etc., and the many issues that the society faced following HPB's passing. And these issues certainly do continue to play their role, as sad as that is. And certainly there are individual theosophists who let such views impact their approach to works such as the SD 3 (along with much else).

Personally, I think it is the right move to put forward the SD 1 and 2 as the only completed books in the series, and to hold SD3 separately. I see it as movement in the right direction that Nicholas and others have made sure to include those materials in the CW series, so that they are available to students. I do believe it is important with any author to respectfully draw a line between all that they published within their lifetime (and thus had the opportunity to comment upon, post-publication), and materials published posthumously, and I feel this line is now drawn appropriately by the inclusion of material in the CW series.

Of course, we can disagree on this, and that is ok. As Nicholas has said, if one does indeed view the SD3 as holding its rightful place as part of the series, they need only place it aside them on their bookshelf and proceed. I see your point in regards to new students, but as I agree with the decisions made to remove it from the SD series, I, of course, see it as ok.

Thanks for reminding me of the quote from B. Keightly. I'm still searching for one from A. Keightly, which I feel would be of equal value.

On another note, I wish to simply express that Theosophy Nexus is, in one sense, an attempt to help theosophists move past some of the debilitating divisions, prejudices, etc., that have had such a great harm on the movement over the last 100+ years. We have members from all major organizations, and house a wide array of views on TS history, theosophical personalities, etc., and yet I believe we have all demonstrated clearly over this past year that these things need not continue to divide us. In any given group study on Nexus we have ULT students, TSP and TSA students, Loma students, etc., etc., all participating together admirably. We wish for nothing more than for this to continue.

In order to do that, we all must be careful—as the old saying goes, we must walk together as those who are crossing an iced over stream. When we come to issues like these, which we all recognize to have an undercurrent of past divisive problems, we must try, as best we all can, to place our brotherhood above those issues and allow them to atrophie from disuse. It is exceedingly important, for the movement as a whole, that we all choose our words very carefully when approaching these hot-button issues.

This is, of course, not directed solely towards yourself, David, but as a general reminder to everyone participating.

I'm happy to find your (David) reply here so thoughtfully composed, and apologize for my part in misunderstanding your previous post and its directive.

I hope we can all continue this investigation in such a way as to demonstrate to everyone what is possible when students of theosophy come together in mutual support.

Thanks all.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 25, 2013 at 8:52pm

The publishing of Boris de Zirkoff’s edition of The Secret Doctrine by the Theosophical Publishing House in 1978, replacing their 6-volume edition, was a huge step forward. Despite the excellent work done by his predecessor editors, G. R. S. Mead (3rd edition, 1893) and Josephine Ransom (4th or Adyar edition, 1938), Boris’s edition brought it to a new level of accuracy. Moreover, the whole Theosophical movement was now literally on the same page, all using the pagination of the original 1888 edition; and this is no small matter for reference purposes. The dropping of volume 3 (or 5) is something that I admired the Theosophical Publishing House for being bold enough to do. At the time, I, too, agreed with this choice. It was not until Daniel Caldwell’s 1995 article, “The ‘Myth’ of the Missing Third Volume of The Secret Doctrine,” that I actually looked with any care at the evidence, which I found convincing in favor of volume 3.

Although not my personal area of interest, I could easily see how the articles on Western precedents for the sacred sciences that fill most of volume 3 would provide helpful background for many readers. My own area of interest is the Eastern materials, and especially the Book of Dzyan. In this volume we have the only real source of information on this book, and it makes sense that this information would or should accompany the stanzas translated from it that form the basis of The Secret Doctrine. As for how to restore volume 3, in the present complex situation, I do not know.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on September 24, 2013 at 10:17am
2 people have alerted me to this discussion on SD Vol. 3 (1897).

I am too occupied right now on several Blavatsky projects
to write anything new but I give below links to 4 postings
I did in Aug. of this year to another chat room.

I hope this posting of mine appears in the right subject thread.

Daniel Caldwell
Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 25, 2013 at 10:54am

Thanks Daniel. Your investigations are much appreciated! I haven't time to go through the links at the moment, but will have soon and will make sure to go through them.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 24, 2013 at 8:49pm

A corollary to the “disjecta membra” view is the suggestion that the quality of the material published as volume 3 is not up to the level of the material published as the first 2 volumes ofThe Secret Doctrine. This is admittedly subjective, based on individual perspective and experience. In my own experience, it was material in volume 1 that woke me up to the fact of the existence of “very numerous errors of fact,” as Blavatsky always said there would be, and “many statements based on exoteric writings” found in The Secret Doctrine. I had a particular interest in her statements relating to Tibetan Buddhism, and had all but memorized these statements as found in her comments on stanza 1, slokas 6 and 9. Then while perusing a book in a university library in 1978, I read those very same statements. I felt sick to my stomach. The book was Buddhism in Tibet, by Emil Schlagintweit, published in 1863. She had clearly taken her statements from this book when annotating this stanza. Note well that nothing from the stanza is found in Schlagintweit’s book, only her annotations. But these annotations appear to be her own presumably esoteric statements, not “statements based on exoteric writings,” in this case Schagintweit’s book. I will show this, but first, a disclaimer.

I do not claim any esoteric knowledge whatsoever, stated or implied. I claim that I am able to read, and that I have read a number of exoteric writings. When I find in exoteric writings published before The Secret Doctrine statements that are also found in The Secret Doctrine, statements that are often demonstrably erroneous due to the imperfect knowledge of those early writers, I can call them “errors of fact” with no implication of esoteric knowledge on my part. This, I assume, is just what Besant did in her statements regarding volume 3 quoted above. Now, to proceed to the evidence from Schlagintweit’s book.

Schlagintweit’s book was what was available on Tibetan Buddhism in HPB’s time, her only source on this from which to annotate the stanzas. The Keightleys reported that when HPB gave them the manuscript of The Secret Doctrine to prepare it for publication, there were very few annotations on the stanzas. So they asked her to provide more, gave her blank sheets for this purpose with questions written at the top in compliance with her wish, and she did provide more annotations. Schlagintweit’s book, being a pioneering work written when almost nothing was known about Tibetan Buddhism, contains many inaccuracies and errors. These found their way into The Secret Doctrine by way of HPB’s annotations, as the following will show. Besant apparently alluded to similar errors based on exoteric writings found in volume 3. Since the errors copied from Schlagintweit are in volume 1, I am unable to see any difference in the level of quality between volume 3 and the undisputed volumes of The Secret Doctrine, as has been suggested.

Stanza 1.6: “Paranishpanna (absolute perfection, Paranirvana, which is Yong-Grüb).”

Schlagintweit, p. 34, 35: “limited to Parinishpanna, or to that which has the character of absolute perfection”; “Parinishpanna (Tib. Yong grub).”

SD 1.42: “Paranishpanna is the absolute perfection to which all existences attain at the close of a great period of activity, or Maha-Manvantara, and in which they rest during the succeeding period of repose. In Tibetan it is called Yong-Grüb.  Up to the day of the Yogāchārya school the true nature of Paranirvana was taught publicly, but since then it has become entirely esoteric; hence so many contradictory interpretations of it.  It is only a true Idealist who can understand it. Everything has to be viewed as ideal, with the exception of Paranirvana, by him who would comprehend that state, and acquire a knowledge of how Non Ego, Voidness, and Darkness are Three in One and alone Self-existent and perfect.”

Schlag. pp. 34-35: “Parinishpanna, ‘completely perfect,’ or simply ‘perfect,’ is the unchangeable and unassignable true existence, . . . . it is necessary that man view every thing existing as ideal, because it is dependent upon something else; then only—as a natural consequence—he arrives at a right understanding of the Non-ego, and to a knowledge of how the voidness is alone self-existent and perfect.*” “*These technical terms were introduced by the Yogāchārya school.”

SD 1.43: “The three periods — the Present, the Past, and the Future — are in the esoteric philosophy a compound time; for the three are a composite number only in relation to the phenomenal plane, but in the realm of noumena have no abstract validity. As said in the Scriptures: ‘The Past time is the Present time, as also the Future, which, though it has not come into existence, still is’; according to a precept in the Prasanga Madhyamika teaching, whose dogmas have been known ever since it broke away from the purely esoteric schools.”

Schlag. p. 44: “The three periods: the present, the past, and the future, are compounds, correlative to each other. The Buddha has declared: ‘A harsh word, uttered in past times, is not lost (literally destroyed), but returns again;’ and, therefore, the past time is the present time, as is also the future, though as yet it has not come into existence.”

SD 1.44 fn.: “In clearer words: ‘One has to acquire true Self-Consciousness in order to understand Samvriti, or the “origin of delusion.”’ Paramārtha is the synonym of the Sanskrit term Svasam-vedana, or ‘the reflection which analyses itself.’ There is a difference in the interpretation of the meaning of Paramārtha between the Yogāchāryas and the Madhyamikas, neither of whom, however, explain the real and true esoteric sense of the expression.”

Schlag. pp. 35-36: “Samvriti is that which is the origin of illusion, but Paramārtha is the self-consciousness* of the saint in his self-meditation, . . .” “*Sanskrit Svasamvedana, ‘the reflection which analyses itself.’” “A difference prevails between the Yogāchāryas and the Madhyamikas with reference to the interpretation of Paramārtha; . . .”

SD 1.48: “During that time not only the Dhyani-Buddhas are one with Alaya in Soul and Essence, but even the man strong in the Yoga (mystic meditation) “is able to merge his soul with it” (Aryasanga, the Bumapa school).”

Schlag. p. 40: “This idea of the soul, Ālaya, is the chief dogma of the Yogāchārya system, which is so called because ‘he who is strong in the Yoga (meditation) is able to introduce his soul by means of the Yoga into the true nature of existence.’” “Āryasanga and his successors managed to endow their doctrines with such splendour, that the Nāgārjuna school with the principles taught by it (which had been adopted by the Madhyamikas, Tib. Bumapa) . . . .”

SD 1.48: “Thus, while the Yogāchāryas (of the Mahāyānā school) say that Alaya is the personification of the Voidness, and yet Alaya (Nyingpo and Tsang in Tibetan) is the basis of every visible and invisible thing, and that, though it is eternal and immutable in its essence, it reflects itself in every object of the Universe ‘like the moon in clear tranquil water’; other schools dispute the statement.”

Schlag. p. 39: “The Contemplative Mahāyāna (Yogāchārya) system.” “. . . the most important dogma established by this theory is decidedly the personification of the voidness, by supposing that a soul, Ālaya (Tib. Tsang, also Nyingpo), is the basis of every thing. This soul exists from time immemorial, and in every object; ‘it reflects itself in every thing, like the moon in clear and tranquil water.’”

SD 1.48: “The same for Paramārtha: the Yogāchāryas interpret the term as that which is also dependent upon other things (paratantral); and the Madhyamikas say that Paramārtha is limited to Paranishpanna or absolute perfection; . . .”

Schlag. p. 35: “A difference prevails between the Yogāchāryas and the Madhyamikas with reference to the interpretation of Paramārtha; the former say that Paramārtha is also what is dependent upon other things (Paratantra); the latter say that it is limited to Parinishpanna, or to that which has the character of absolute perfection.”

SD 1.48: “Parikalpita (in Tibetan Kun-ttag) is error, made by those unable to realize the emptiness and illusionary nature of all; who believe something to exist which does not — e.g., the Non-Ego.”

Schlag. p. 34: “The three characteristic marks are the following: Parikalpita (Tib. Kun tag), Paratantra (Tib. Zhan vang), and Parinishpanna (Tib. Yong grub). Parikalpita is the supposition, or the error. Of this kind is the belief in absolute existence to which those beings adhere who are incapable of understanding that every thing is empty; . . . The error can be two-fold; some believing a thing existing which does not, as e. g. the Non-ego; . . .”

SD 1.48-49: “And Paratantra is that, whatever it is, which exists only through a dependent or causal connexion, . . .”

Schlag. p. 34: “Paratantra is whatever exists by a dependent or causal connexion; . . .”

SD 1.48 fn.: “‘Paramārtha’ is self-consciousness in Sanskrit, Svasamvedana, or the ‘self-analysing reflection’ — from two words, parama (above everything) and artha (comprehension), Satya meaning absolute true being, or Esse. In Tibetan Paramārthasatya is Dondampaidenpa. The opposite of this absolute reality, or actuality, is Samvritisatya — the relative truth only — ‘Samvriti’ meaning ‘false conception’ and being the origin of illusion, Maya; in Tibetan Kundzabchi-denpa, ‘illusion-creating appearance.’”

Schlag. pp. 35-36: “. . . Paramārtha is the self-consciousness* . . .” “*Sanskrit Svasamvedana, ‘the reflection which analyses itself.” “. . . which is above all (parama) and contains the true understanding (artha).” “Samvritisatya (Tib. Kundzabchi denpa) and Paramārthasatya (Tib. Dondampai denpa), or the relative truth and the absolute one.” “Samvriti is that which is the origin of illusion, . . .”

SD 1.49: “But what is the belief of the inner esoteric Schools? the reader may ask. What are the doctrines taught on this subject by the Esoteric ‘Buddhists’? With them ‘Alaya’ has a double and even a triple meaning. In the Yogāchārya system of the contemplative Mahāyānā school, Alaya is both the Universal Soul (Anima Mundi) and the Self of a progressed adept. ‘He who is strong in the Yoga can introduce at will his Alaya by means of meditation into the true Nature of Existence.’ The ‘Alaya has an absolute eternal existence,’ says Aryāsanga — the rival of Nagārjuna.”

Schlag. pp. 40, 44: “This idea of the soul, Ālaya, is the chief dogma of the Yogāchārya system, which is so called because ‘he who is strong in the Yoga (meditation) is able to introduce his soul by means of the Yoga into the true nature of existence.’” “The Ālaya has an absolute eternal existence; . . .”

These, I think, are enough to show that The Secret Doctrine, the undisputed volume 1, does indeed contain “many statements based on exoteric writings, not on esoteric knowledge,” as Besant said about volume 3. There is no difference between them in this regard; aside from the stanzas of Dzyan, their level of quality is the same. I have no more time to point out the “very numerous errors of fact” in the above quotations from Schlagintweit. Suffice it to say that Schlagintweit’s book was wonderful in 1863 when it came out, when knowledge of Tibet was no greater than knowledge of darkest Africa; it was still OK in 1888 when Blavatsky quoted it, but it was not OK after 1900 when correct information about Tibetan Buddhism started coming out from direct sources. For Theosophists not to recognize the exoteric source of this information found in The Secret Doctrine, and to regard it as esoteric information coming from the Theosophical Mahatmas, Mahatmas who are supposed to live in Tibet and have inside information about Tibetan Buddhism, surely does make those Mahatmas look bad. Thank you, Annie!, for your perceptive statements made already in 1897.

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 25, 2013 at 6:33am

David, the simple fact is that some members here disagree with you about the so called SDIII.  Making a long and such a detailed list of HPB's mistakes, as you perceive them, in SD I will not alter that. The fact that two books contain mistakes and teachings from exoteric sources doesn't in itself make them equal in quality. Such a comparison doesn't show anything conclusive one way or another.

Nor do sweeping generalisations about those who hold a different view on this matter to yourself add anything helpful to the debate. The proposition that anyone who still has a doubt about SDIII necessarily believes Annie Besant is dishonest is too silly even to dispute.  The idea that "only those whose view on this had long since been made would fail to be persuaded by the extensive evidence he [Daniel Caldwell] provided" is simply ad hominem.

I have a lot of respect for Daniel's thoroughness.  His research into this matter is excellent and highly persuasive. But it is not conclusive.  In a number of places he makes his own interpretations with regards to material and information given and comes to a conclusion which he believes best fits the information available. That's the best anyone can do, but that doesn't mean everyone need agree.

We should also note that in his conclusions Daniel also comments that the 'issue of editing the manuscript of Volume III (1897) needs to be carefully researched. Alice Cleather, a member of HPB's Inner Group, expressed grave concerns about this editing.

'Take next the alleged "safeguarding" of H. P. B.'s "unpublished manuscripts." Those who were responsible for the so-called Volume III, had a strange and unusual conception of the meaning of the word "safeguarding." It so happens that while it was being set up I was able actually to peruse one or two of the familiar long foolscap sheets which H. P. B. always covered with her small fine handwriting. They were mutilated almost beyond recognition, few of her sentences remaining intact; and there were "corrections" not only in the handwritings of the editors, Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead, but also in that of others which I was able to identify. More than this I cannot say without abusing confidence; but the wrong done to my Teacher compels me to say this much.' 

(From "H.P.Blavatsky - A Great Betrayal" by Alice Leighton Cleather, 1922.)
Whatever significance we may give to Cleather's statements, Besant's statements or any others made by people close to HPB at that time is a matter for the researcher to judge for themselves as impartially as they can.  Clearly there was not even universal acceptance among HPB's own pupils (members of the Inner Group) that the Volume III that was published was that which HPB intended.
Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 25, 2013 at 8:52am

I view the issue of quality from a different angle than you seem to, David. HPB was clear in that she was merely putting together a noseguay of culled flowers. I don't dismiss the quality of that noseguay because HPB didn't grow every flower in her own pot from her own seed. Anyone can go about and gather wild flowers to make a bouquet, but only a well trained florist arranges them in such a way as to create true beauty, symmetry, etc., such that the effect on the observer runs deep within.

HPB used exoteric materials available in the west to help her provide a tool by which the dedicated student might themselves unveil esoteric knowledge within themselves. The SD is not itself esoteric (aside from the stanzas and a few commentaries); whether it leads to esoteric knowledge is dependent upon the student, and if one has not yet recognized this, than no one else can prove it to them. It is this feature (the SD as a profound tool for unlocking hidden wisdom within ourselves) that is the basis of its quality as a completed work.

This quality cannot be gauged by scholastics; it can only be gauged individually by each sincere student, and thus, as Nicholas said earlier, it is necessarily subjective. A list of the works quoted or drawn from by HPB in no way effects the quality of the work on a deeper level, any more than scraping the foam off the top of a latte changes the liquid beneath.

There is a reason the SD (1 and 2) have remained central in theosophical studies and the SD 3 has fallen aside to gather dust on bookshelves, and that reason is not prejudice; it is quality. It is that too many students have glimpsed the true value of the 1888 publications due to the experience of inner unfoldment that has accompanied its study, and no other work equals those two volumes in this regard.

If we trust the statements of the masters KH and M (again, up to each student to judge for themselves), we are told that the SD 1 and 2 are the product of themselves and HPB in collaboration. These volumes have the imprint of mahatmas on them; their particular style of teaching, of drawing the student's mind inwards and upwards. To my view the third volume as published by Besant just doesn't have that, nor does any other work published by theosophists or the TS from day one until now; at least none that I've come across.

I don't reject the posthumously published writings of HPB, but I absolutely reject their place among the SD. I do this for the same reason that  I would reject pieces of bronze among nuggets of gold: it is not that bronze is not valuable in its own right, but it is simply not gold.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on September 25, 2013 at 10:22pm
"If we trust the statements of the masters KH and M (again, up to each student to judge for themselves), we are told that the SD 1 and 2 are the product of themselves and HPB in collaboration. These volumes have the imprint of mahatmas on them; their particular style of teaching, of drawing the student's mind inwards and upwards"

I believe "the statements of the masters KH and M" actually would apply to all three volumes of the SD.

When Madame Blavatky came to London in 1887, she brought with her the SD manuscript consisting of THREE Volumes. Or as Bertram described it:

"A day or two after our arrival at Maycot [in May, 1887], H.P.B. placed the whole of the so far completed MSS. in the hands of Dr. [Archibald] Keightley and myself....We both read the whole mass of MSS.--a pile over three feet high--most carefully...and then, after prolonged consultation, faced [HPB]...with the solemn opinion that the whole of the matter must be rearranged on some definite plan....

Finally we laid before her a plan, suggested by the character of the matter itself, viz., to make the work consist of four volumes....

Further, instead of making the first volume to consist, as she had intended, of the history of some great Occultists, we advised her to follow the natural order of exposition, and begin with the Evolution of Cosmos, to pass from that to the Evolution of Man, then to deal with the historical part in a third volume treating of the lives of some great Occultists; and finally, to speak of Practical Occultism in a fourth volume should she ever be able to write it.

This plan was laid before H.P.B., and it was duly sanctioned by her.

The next step was to read the MSS. through again and make a general rearrangement of the matter pertaining to the subjects coming under the heads of Cosmogony and Anthropology, which were to form the first two volumes of the work. When this had been completed, and H.P.B. duly consulted, and her approval of what had been done obtained, the whole of the MSS. so arranged was typewritten out by professional hands...." [in Reminiscences of H. P. Blavatsky and The Secret Doctrine, by Countess Constance Wachtmeister et al., Quest edition, 1976, pp. 78-9; also quoted in de Zirkoff, SD Intro., 41]

So all three of these volumes would be covered by the statements of the Masters.

Or am I missing something here?


Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 25, 2013 at 11:10am

Yes, this is great. There are a few other works that HPB used heavily, and similar lists could be made. It's very informative. I know for myself I've read more Max Muller than I ever cared to because so much of it is used in the SD. ;)

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 25, 2013 at 11:46am

Nicholas, you are quite right.  It is useful to know these different sources which HPB draws upon, often without letting the reader know(!).   I wish she had. 

My only reservation is that we should not assume that where there are errors in the source material quoted that it is always the case that HPB has simply incorporated this error into the SD without knowing any better.  No doubt sometimes that is the case - a mistake is just a mistake.  However, it may also be the case that HPB draws upon this source material to highlight a teaching point she is seeking to make, or she is seeking to draw our attention to a more fundamental idea of Theosophy.  Also, she quite often adds something to the original source material that places it in the larger context of Wisdom Religion.  

Our earlier discussion in this thread re 'the self-analysing reflection' is a case in point.  Schlagintweit, whom she quotes, may well have got his sanskrit wrong and so might HPB as she admits it is not her strong point.  However, as you know, to my mind it is the teaching on 'the reflection which analyses itself'  that is important at that point, not the sanskrit or the source (Schlagintweit) from which it came.  This theme is developed in other parts to the SD as I mentioned in my earlier post.  It is also implicit in those places where she discusses Leibnitz and his Monads & so on.  For example:

'Let the reader remember these "Monads" of Leibnitz, everyone of which is a living mirror of the universe, every monad reflecting every other, and compare this view and definition with certain Sanskrit stanzas (Slokas) translated by Sir William Jones, in which it is said that the creative source of the Divine Mind, ... "Hidden in a veil of thick darkness, formed mirrors of the atoms of the world, and cast reflection from its own face on every atom. . . . ."'  (SD I 623)

We find a similar theme in neoplatonism where The Intelligence (Nous, the Divine Mind) is said to  contemplates itself and therein are the Divine Forms which apprehend every other Form within themselves.  Plotinus' says that the Soul must rise to this stage (of the Intelligence which contemplates itself) before it can consciously apprehend that which is beyond Nous, the Good (the One) from which All comes.  We might compare that with what HPB writes:

"The condition of Paranishpanna, without Paramartha, the Self-analysinging consciousness (Svasamvedana), is no bliss, but simply extinction (for Seven Eternities)."  (SD I 53) 

So to my mind, I think we would miss an important aspect of the teaching if we just viewed her quote from Schlagintweit as HPB's ignorance in quoting from a person who didn't know his sanskrit or the correct translation of "svasamvedya" and thus we change the meaning from 'the self analysing reflection' to "personally known wisdom".

Permalink Reply by Casady on September 25, 2013 at 6:53pm

Nice comparison between Buddhism and Neoplatonism - Self-thinking is an important aspect of neoplatonism going back to Plato and Aristotle - (Plotinus' Ennead 5.3 being a fine example), related to the notion of reversion, which can be considered part of a triple movement of remaining, procession (proodos) and reversion (epistrophe).

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 27, 2013 at 12:33pm

Thanks Casady, I keep hoping that at some point you might feel able to add something from that perspective to our Key to Theosophy study, especially as HPB has explicitly made the link between theosophical doctrines and neoplatonism in our current study. 

Just as a BTW - the comparison above is not so much about comparing buddhism with neoplatonism as showing that HPB used the buddhist material to make her own teaching point about the self analysing reflection, which is a key part of the Theosophical doctrines. That we find her same teaching in neoplatonism, particularly in Plotinus supports what she explaining, at least to my mind.

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on September 25, 2013 at 9:39am
Your comments are interesting and remind me of why I'm dedicated to Theosophy. The true authors of the SD I think, were aware of our need to develop mental capabilities, namely intuition, to offset what had become in the West a too-strong of tendency to think along more linear, 'scientific', materialistic lines. The Mahatmas, I believe it has been said, knowing the danger of that trend, determined that such a course of materiality needed to be checked. The check would be to instill the capacity of intuition in the minds of humanity throughout the West, mainly.

I believe their intention was to use the SD commentaries, however incomplete and even 'factually' inconsistent, as a vehicle to develop that intuition. Perhaps that has been done in other theosophical works as well, but certainly it seems to me present in the SD based on what I understand. How exactly that development works in our mind, seems a great question to pursue. Your discussion certainly helps along those lines - and so, thank you.
Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 25, 2013 at 11:00am

Thank you Don. Much appreciated.

I do think there is another "level" to the SD that must enter into any discussion of the line between vols 1&2 and 3. The role of the Mahatmas in the SD is a mysterious one, but one that I think each student can consider on their own. As it was then, the question of Mahatmas (in every respect) must be an individual one, and this is one reason why I see the "SD quality" issue as such a subjective one.

My previous post is, of course, meant solely to provide my personal view of the matter, however flawed it might be. And I very much appreciate your input on this as well.

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 25, 2013 at 12:29pm

Jon and Don - valuable thoughts. Thank you.  

As I understand it, the commentaries which accompany the stanzas are not meant to be entirely esoteric but include statements on related themes from many of the worlds spiritual traditions.  These are necessarily exoteric.  It appears that one of the aims of The Secret Doctrine is to show that there is a commonality between the seemingly contradictory beliefs held by different traditions, and that this commonality has its roots in the once universally known Wisdom Religion. 

HPB quite often pulls together quotes and passages from other sources in such a way that points us towards a deeper meaning underlying those exoteric doctrines.  Perhaps this is as much as she is allowed to do, at times, by way of helping the student uncover as much as can be revealed of the esoteric doctrine.  We have to put two and two together ourselves.

At other times HPB can be very definite as to the teaching of the Trans-Himalayan esoteric school to which she belongs. For example:

“The Solar System, brought into existence by these agencies, consists of Seven Principles, like everything else within these centres. Such is the teaching of the trans-Himalayan Esotericism. Every philosophy, however, has it own way of dividing these principles.”  (SD I 110)

We should probably sit up and pay attention at those points!

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 25, 2013 at 12:16pm

Very interesting!

A few things stand out to me. That HPB may have given Ms. Besant permission to publish the ES instruction, or may have herself intended to use them in Vol 4 is an interesting possibility. Can't recall if I've read other views that support this: have others?

Mr. Pryce seems to take the position that HPB did, in fact, exaggerate the "almost ready" statement about the MS. This is, in my view, a definite possibility. And in such a case, I think we'd have to be willing to admit that, at best, SD3 represents an incomplete/unready presentation.

Overall, I get the feeling from Mr. Pryce that in his view Mr. Mead and Ms. Besant did their best with what they had available to them (both in terms of materials and knowledge/skills). I share this view.

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 25, 2013 at 1:28pm

Thanks for the Pryse link, Nicholas - very interesting.  There seems no end to the contradictory views, accusations and counter accusations that circulated among those people, fortunate enough to be HPB's circle.  It seems advisable not to take any at face value.  

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on September 25, 2013 at 11:13am
Jon, you raise 4 issues that should be carefully explored and throughly discussed:

Issue A:  

"...there does not appear to be a clear sequential line from this original MS (as of April 1891) to the finished product published by Ms. Besant—even if some material from it (or drafts of it?) did in fact make it into her published "Vol 3", which it appears some, even a fair amount, did (even if edited, as Nicholas points out). I'm not insinuating that she lied; perhaps she indeed believed that what she had was the original and "almost ready" MS of HPB, perhaps good portions of it were, but there is simply not enough to validate that HPB's MS simply became the Vol 3 published 6 years later (which the wording in your original post seems to indicate....."

"...I simply do not see a straight-line continuance between that MS and the final publication 6 years later. An "almost ready" MS doesn't simply revert back to a series of scattered and incomplete drafts...."

Issue B:

"...HPB's drafts, if they were still in such a condition of unreadiness as that which Ms. Besant inherited seem to have been, ought not be presented as though they are equal to, or worthy of their position in a completed series, and a magnum opus at that, such as the Secret Doctrineis...."

"...while portions of what we have as "Vol 3" right now were indeed part of drafts of the Secret Doctrine, they do not represent (nor live up to in the least) HPB's own description of that MS in the month before her death. This cannot be overlooked...."

"An 'almost ready' MS doesn't simply revert back to a series of scattered and incomplete drafts...."

Issue C:

"The quote above from A. Keightly is from well before HPB's death. I think we can all safely assume that the MS intended to become Vol 3 was indeed in their hands at that time, and was subsequently worked on by HPB up until at least April of 1891. From my perspective, it is from that point forwards that investigations need proceed."

"...while portions of what we have as "Vol 3" right now were indeed part of drafts of the Secret Doctrine, they do not represent (nor live up to in the least) HPB's own description of that MS in the month before her death. This cannot be overlooked...."

Issue D:

"None of us were there. None of us were Ms. Besant in our past lives and retained the memory. ;) We are attempting to explore something based on scraps of comments, records of letters, source-documents where available, etc., and from what I've seen it is far too much, in my view, to approach the issue as though it is known by any of us, or settled once and for all by any one's research, however convincing it may be to some."

In my next posting I will look at one of these issues and ask for clarification and additional input.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 25, 2013 at 11:34am

Thank you Daniel. Very happy you're willing to engage with us on this subject. I may be traveling over the coming days, but will do my best to clarify if/when needed.

My own investigations are not nearly as detailed as your own, or Nicholas's and others, I'm sure, so I'm glad to benefit from you all.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on September 25, 2013 at 1:45pm

I will direct the question to you but anyone can shed light on the issue.

First the issue:

Issue B:

"...HPB's drafts, if they were still in such a condition of unreadiness as that which Ms. Besant inherited seem to have been, ought not be presented as though they are equal to, or worthy of their position in a completed series, and a magnum opus at that, such as the Secret Doctrineis...."

"...while portions of what we have as "Vol 3" right now were indeed part of drafts of the Secret Doctrine, they do not represent (nor live up to in the least) HPB's own description of that MS in the month before her death. This cannot be overlooked...."

"An 'almost ready' MS doesn't simply revert back to a series of scattered and incomplete drafts...."

Jon, I must say that the above statements by you seem somewhat puzzling to me.

First of all, I'm not sure exactly what you are referring to. I mean I have a vague sense of what you are trying to say....I think....maybe.... but I'm not sure how you came to this conclusion.

What do you exactly mean by "draft", or "incomplete" or "scattered" or "unreadiness".

A draft as compared to what? Or "unreadiness" as compared to what? etc.

Furthermore, do you have a few specific examples that would illustrate your conclusion?

Details and specifics are of vital importance.

If I'm trying to understand your reasoning as to how you came to this conclusion, I must say I am in the dark.

How do you judge or assess that a partucular piece of writing by HPB is but a draft...not a finished piece? How do you dertermine that a certain article or section by HPB is incomplete or scattered? Or in a "condition of unreadiness"? What criteria or standard are you using?

Or is this just based on some kind of intuition?

You may have a good point...maybe..but I have no clear idea of how you arrived at your conclusion and I have no idea of what specific details were involved in your assessment or what you compared...

Your point may be well taken, but I have nothing to go help me understand your point.

Can you provide some specifics, etc.? You may have hit upon a very important point but I have no idea what you are basing your conclusion on and how you arived at your conlusion.
Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on September 25, 2013 at 2:40pm
Complete versus Incomplete??

From my paper on SD Vol. III (1897):

"From the above 1890-1891 statements (either written by HPB herself or by her London students) a reasonable conclusion can be drawn that HPB had finally decided to publish the third volume of The Secret Doctrine and was, in fact, working on the third volume manuscript during the months preceding her death.

In light of this conclusion, it is difficult to understand what Boris de Zirkoff meant when he wrote (in SD Intro., 71) that "no outright positive or negative answer can be made to the oft-repeated question whether a completed Manuscript of Volumes III and IV ever existed."

Setting aside de Zirkoff's reference to Volume IV, there is no reason to doubt that a manuscript of Volume III existed during the last years of HPB's life. Furthermore, had she lived, HPB would probably have added and deleted material from the manuscript; she would probably have rewritten and reedited the material even more. But at the time of her death, this manuscript was as "complete" as HPB could make it. What more could be expected?

Quoted from:

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on September 25, 2013 at 11:56pm
In the extant 1885-1886 Secret Doctrine Wurzburg manuscript one finds a number of sections/articles/chapters that later were published by Annie Besant in 1897 in SD Vol. III.

See a detailed list of these at:

But notice what Boris de Zirkoff himself ALSO ADMITS was in HPB's original 1885-1886 manuscript.

I quote Boris' own words:

...conclusive evidence shows that Sections XXVI and XXVII [ of SD, Vol. iii, 1897] had been written by H.P.B. in 1885, as part of the First Draft [of the SD] .... 
 [However, these may now be found as two articles in B.C. W., Vol. VII, pp. 105-34 and pp. 230-40.]

Boris continues:

The first thing that presents itself for consideration is a rather large portion of [Secret Doctrine] Volume III [1897] covering pages 376-432, and consisting of Sections XLIII-LI, a total of 56 pages, or about 1/8th of the amount. The material in these Sections hangs together better than anything else within this Volume, and it is evident that a unitary thread runs through it. The title given to Section XLIII, “The Mystery of the Buddha,” could have been chosen equally well as a title for this entire portion of the Volume, as this is the main subject of which it treats.
There is excellent evidence available of the fact that either this entire material, or at least a portion of it, had been written prior to 1888, as H. P. B. speaks in The Secret Doctrine (Vol. I, p.52, footnote; and top of page 118) of a section or chapter entitled “A Mystery About Buddha,” and “The Mystery About Buddha,” and refers the student thereto: she points out, however, that this is to be found in “a subsequent volume.”
The highly metaphysical nature of the teachings contained in these sections, and the fact that some of them outline certain aspects of the Occult Tradition not even touched upon by H. P. B. in any other of her writings including the two original volumes of The Secret Doctrine would logically make the student feel that here indeed is a portion of the text originally intended for a Third Volume of this work...."
Notice what Boris says above about THE VALUE  of this "Buddha" material.
Bottomline:  All of the above material was in the original 1885-1886 Secret Doctrine manuscript.
In other words, HPB wrote all of the above material for her Secret Doctrine and Annie Besant included this material in Volume Three of the SD published 1897.
Therefore why "demote" and "devalue" this material and relegate it to a "Miscelleneous" status in the Collected Writings series?
Or why totally reject this material as the Theosophy Company has in the following statement?
"...a spurious ‘Third Volume’ of THE SECRET DOCTRINE... [was] issued in 1897, six years after the death of H.P. Blavatsky. Compiled from miscellaneous papers found among her effects, this volume forms no part of the original SECRET DOCTRINE written by H.P.B.”
Obviously, this Theosophy Company statement is just plain wrong and has mislead generations of students.  

Food for thought.
Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 28, 2013 at 9:16am

Thanks for everything you've shared here Daniel. You've given me a lot to read through, that will undoubtedly help refine my perspective.

I'll try to simply summarize quickly my current viewpoint, which will hopefully answer your earlier question for me. I don't think I'll have much more to say on the subject (especially now that I've arrived in California and am up to my ears in work).

In any case, here's how I currently see things.

We have the statement from HPB in April 1891 that the SD3 was "almost ready" along with her description of what SD3 would be and its purpose. There is then about a 5 week period before her passing, during which she may or may not have worked on the MS further. (this is why de Zirkoff says that there's no indication that it was finished: i.e. the only way to know if the MS was completed by its author would be for her to have done so during this 5 week period, and neither she nor anyone else gave any indication that this had been done. So, the MS that was "almost ready" in April 1891 may or may not have ever been completed. I imagine that if she had definitely finished the MS, there would've likely been mention of the fact in Lucifer in May or June 1891, something like: "HPB passed away, but in her final days she was able to finish the MS of the SD3, which will now be sent to the printers", or some such thing. But nothing like this was done.).

So, the state of affairs at her death is that the last mention of the MS by its author, is that it is "almost ready"—i.e. there is an MS that she had been working on for some years, that may or may not differ in some ways from the earlier drafts of material meant to be included in SD3, and that this MS is almost, but not quite, completed. I see from this point two possibilities:


The MS was indeed almost ready when HPB passed away, or perhaps even "completed" during that 5 week period. Now, to me an "almost ready MS" doesn't include multiple drafts of the same sections (as Besant had to deal with), doesn't require additional material to be added to it, etc.. What I'm saying is that, to me, an MS that is called "almost ready" by its author gives me the impression that it would be at a stage of being polished so that if someone else were given it they could bring it to the printers without a great deal of editing needing to be done. But, as we see, a further 6 years of editing was needed, additional material was added, etc.. in short: it seems that what Ms. Besant received wasn't really all that "ready" after all.

So, option 1 is that HPB was being accurate in her description of the MS being "almost ready", or that she may have even completed the MS before her passing, and in either case I question: why, then, was what Ms. Besant received so obviously not ready?

This is the view that leads to the idea that perhaps the SD3 completed (or near completed) MS was removed (by someone) and what remained were the previous drafts of that MS (or sections of that MS), which were handed to Ms. Besant. The idea isn't all that far fetched to my mind: it's entirely possible that this is what happened (several students had access to her room after her death; the Mahatmas could easily have removed it (if desired); HPB herself could've had it removed; etc.: several possibilities), and given our lack of knowledge of events of that time I've left myself open to that idea: I don't embrace it as truth, but I do think it's entirely possible.

All this leads to OPTION 2:

HPB was exaggerating, or was getting a little ahead of herself, when claiming that the MS was "almost ready". In this case, let us say that what Ms. Besant received was indeed all that had been done on the MS by HPB, with no materials missing whatsoever—that everything HPB had in her possession was handed to Ms. Besant as is.

In this latter case, which is likewise entirely possible, it seems to me that, given the state of the materials when Ms. Besant received them, we must then admit that the SD3 represents, at best, incomplete/unfinished writings. What Ms. Besant had to work with was definitely not a completed work, ready for the printers, nor does it seem to have been anywhere near that stage of completeness.

Now, in either of these options, my view is that the material would have been better published as something like "The unifinished writings of HPB", or serialized in the periodicals, or some such thing. To my mind, if what HPB left behind was in such a state as to require 6 years of further editing, and, in the eyes of its editors needed material added in order to bulk it up, it's hard for me to view such a work as part of the completed SD series. At the very least, we can all admit that what was published by Ms. Besant was not completed or signed off on by its author, and that alone draws a line of distinction between the first two volumes and the third. This is not to say the writings aren't valuable, but just that they don't represent work completed by its author, as SD 1 and 2 do.

This is my view at present.

However, my overall view is this: this issue is "small potatoes", and is solved not through investigations and conclusions that people are left to accept or reject, but rather by each individual through their own experience of the materials. The material of SD3 can be purchased and studied, either as a distinct volume, or as part of the CW series, and each student can gauge for themselves the value of such material, and its role in the unfoldment of theosophical knowledge within themselves (the only true test of a work's value, in my view). There need not ever be a unanimous view as to the questions we've been discussing here, and disagreement doesn't mean that some are right and some are wrong (we're probably all wrong in many ways).

My objective in originally replying to David was simply to point out that it (his original post) seemed misleading, in that it seemed to oversimplify the issue, and I think it's wonderful that we now have gathered material here so that interested students can inform themselves. That's really all that is important to me.

So, I don't think we need to convince each other, or debate further. But, of course, if there is an obvious hole in my reasoning above, please feel free to point it out. :)

Thanks for everyone for their participation here, and for remaining brotherly and civil.

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 27, 2013 at 4:55am

Daniel,  thanks for what you’ve shared.   My questions to you and others about all this material are fairly basic I’m afraid.  I ask them as someone whose primary interest is to study the teachings given out by HPB and Mahatmas and also as someone who doesn’t have the same level of expertise or information to hand on the historical side of this subject that you, Nicholas, David and others might have. 

a) Putting aside the issue of whether the material in the 1897 SD III (ed. Besant) was intended as the volume III referred to by HPB, is there any reason to doubt that all of the material in the 1897 SD III comes from HPB’s notes and articles found after her death?

b)  To what extent can we be confident that the material as published in the 1897 SD III is the material as HPB left it - aside from the organising needed to put it in book form?

Question ‘b’ is really asking what do we know about the level of editing carried out prior to publication and also of the type of editing that may have taken place, e.g. simple proof reading, or, editing of the ideas presented, removal of passages etc.  I prefer to study HPB’s writings as she intended them to be read - mistakes and all - not as corrected by others.  Where there are perceived mistakes deemed to be important, I would rather these be listed separately in footnotes or addenda so that I can judge for myself.  (See, for example, my recent post in this thread re  HPB and Schlagintweit - ‘the reflection which analyses itself’.)

These two questions are the most important to me and not whether the 1897 SD III is the volume III HPB intended.  That's not to diminish the importance others attach to the latter issue.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on September 28, 2013 at 12:34pm
Thanks Peter and Jon for your questions and comments.
I will try to address them but one item or issue at a

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on September 28, 2013 at 12:38pm
Composing, Writing & Copying the Secret Doctrine Manuscript

In this day and age of computers, scanners, photocopiers, typewriters, etc., some of us may not be that aware of the laborious and time-consuming effort it took Madame Blavatsky to compose, write, and edit her Secret Doctrine manuscript.

Madame Blavatsky spent years writing her magnum opus so when she moved
to England in May 1887 her original manuscript of the The Secret Doctrine
was quite large.

Bertram Keightley describes this original manuscript in HPB's own handwriting as follows:

"A day or two after our arrival at Maycot [in May, 1887], H.P.B. placed the whole of the so far 
completed MSS. in the hands of Dr. [Archibald] Keightley and myself....We both read the 
whole mass of MSS.--a pile over three feet high--most carefully...."

No doubt, it was quite a impressive stack of handwritten manuscript pages.  And imagine 
how much labor and time it took Madame Blavatsky to write all of page 
at a time!

Bertram's reference to "the whole of the so-far completed MSS." is, of course, to the original Secret Doctrine manuscript, written during the period 1884 through April, 1887, which was of course in HPB's own handwriting.

Bertram goes on to say that this massive original manuscript was divided into three parts or volumes:
Volume I: History of some great Occultists

Volume II: Evolution of Cosmos

Volume III: Evolution of Man

Now as early as Dec. 1885 Madame Blavatsky wanted to send a copy of her developing Secret Doctrine manuscript to India so that T. Subba Row could read it and give feedback, etc.

Of course, Madame Blavatsky was not foolish enough to send her original manuscript through the postal system.

In a letter written sometime after Dec. 5th, 1885, H.P.B. writes the following to Franz Hartmann:

"The dear Countess Wachtmeister is [now staying] with me, and copies for me, and does what she  can in helping....Now, as you know, occupied with [writing] my book [the Secret Doctrine]...."

In a letter dated Jan. 6th, 1886, H.P.B. tells Col. Olcott the following about her writing of the Secret Doctrine:

"Countess [Wachmeister is] here. . . . Master [Morya] and Kashmiri [Koot Hoomi] dictating [to me] in turn.  She [the Countess] copies all...."

Now stop and think about the nature of this copying.  Imagine how laborious and tedious and time-consuming it must have been to make just one copy of just a portion of HPB's Secret Doctrine manuscript.

I give in the link below a facsimile of the only known extant page of HPB's original Volume II handwritten manuscript on Cosmogenesis:

And here is an enlarged version of the same page:

Now sit down and try to write in longhand an accurate and readable copy.

How long would it take you to make a copy?

Furthermore, would you have a problem reading and deciphering some of Madame Blavatsky's handwriting, some of the words?

Now imagine Madame Blavatsky giving you just 100 of her original manuscript pages and asking you to make a fair, accurate and readable copy.

How many hours and how much effort would it take you to do such a task?

I have myself transcribed a copy of many of HPB's unpublished letters and it is no easy task, I can assure you.  And I was using a typewriter and in more recent years a computer instead of simply making a copy in longhand.

How many of you have read the partial transcription of the Secret Doctrine Wurzburg manuscript that was published in the early 1930s in the pages of The Theosophist?


The Theosophist August 1931 and October 1932 to November, 1933; vol.52, pt.2, pp. 601-7; vol.54, pt. l, pp. 27-36, 140-50, 265-71, 397-401, 538-42, 623-8, and pt. 2, pp. 9-14, 137-43, 263-6, 391-5, 505-9, 633-7; vol. 55, pt. 1, pp. 12-6, 143-6.

Another listing with more details of this material can be found at:

Imagine yourself making a copy in longhand of all this material --- but NOT from the printed version in the Theosophist which would still be a laborious chore and  task --- but from HPB's own handwritten manuscript.

How difficult would this copying be and how many scores and scores  of hours would this job take you?

Also how readable and accurate would your copy be?  Remember you are making a copy in longhand.

So as you ponder that, let us then see how HPB edited and expanded her own previously written 


I could give you the testimonies of several people who actually saw her at work doing this editing but instead I will give you some visual examples.

First a simple example:

On this page she makes only some minor corrections plus at the top she did some "scissor and pasting" corrections.  

Now look at this page:

It would appear that she cut out two sections of one of her manuscript pages, pasted those two sections on a new page and wrote alot of new text.

Now consider this facsimile:

This manuscript page is from the Secret Doctrine done sometime after May 1887 AFTER the Keightleys had typed a fair copy of HPB's handwritten manuscript on Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis.

Notice in this example that she is using her pair of scissors and paste and then writing her additions and corrections in longhand.

I have several other examples of her editing and this is her way of editing her manuscript, i.e., taking some her original manuscript pages and adding minor corrections but in some cases taking a page of her handwritten manuscript and cutting it up, using some portion of it but pasting the cut-out text on a new blank sheet of paper and then writing in longhand additional text, etc.

Since writing in longhand was laborious and time-consuming, Madame Blavatsky found this method of editing the best method to avoid needlessly rewriting what she had previously put down on paper, etc.

So Madame Blavatsky used blank paper, her pen and her scissors and paste to write, rewrite and edit her original manuscript.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 28, 2013 at 9:35pm

Note: This is a general reply that I have been putting together for a few days, and is not a response to anyone here.

A very relevant question is how did volume 3 of The Secret Doctrine come to be seen as not authentic, for this apparently was not the case during the first twenty-four years of its life. This view can be traced to a particular source, just like the still widely prevalent view that Blavatsky is an “impostor” can be traced to the Hodgson Report. This source is a group of articles by H. N. Stokes published in his magazine, The O. E. Library Critic, starting in 1921,* beginning with the section, “Annie Besant’s Corruption of the Secret Doctrine” (vol. 11, no. 5, Oct. 12, 1921, pages unnumbered). This view was furthered in a book by Alice Leighton Cleather published in 1922, titled H. P. Blavatsky: A Great Betrayal,** in which she quotes Stokes, in her chapter, “Tampering with H. P. Blavatsky’s Writings” (pp. 71-82). This view was also furthered in an anonymous serial article in 1922, “The Theosophical Movement,”*** saying, for example, in reference to Besant, “Why did she concoct this spurious ‘Third Volume’ in the first instance?” (Theosophy, vol. 10, no. 11, Sep. 1922, p. 340). The hostile attitude shown toward Besant in these writings, in which her motives are regularly impugned (to say nothing of her character), is such that facts are made subservient to this preconceived attitude. Dr. Vernon Harrison’s evaluation of the Hodgson Report as “a highly partisan document forfeiting all claim to scientific impartiality” is equally applicable here. Yet it is this material that formed the basis of the still widely prevalent view that volume 3 is not authentic.

That these writings are how this view started is stated by both Stokes and Besant. Stokes lists his pamphlet, “Corruption of Original Blavatsky Texts by Mrs. Besant,” as “containing the first public exposure of Mrs. Besant’s tampering with The Secret Doctrine and The Voice of the Silence” (O. E. Library Critic, vol. 12, no. 24, July 4, 1923). Besant commented in her editorial, “On the Watch-Tower” (The Theosophist, vol. 43, March 1922, p. 534): “A wild theory has just been started in the U.S.A. that the second edition [i.e., the third edition] of The Secret Doctrine, brought out by the London T.P.H. after H.P.B.’s death, was not as H.P.B. wanted it. The insinuation is made that H.P.B. was ‘edited’ by those in charge of the second edition. The trustees to whom she left the safeguarding of her printed books and unpublished manuscripts were all her own pupils, who had lived with her for years, and they made only such changes as she had herself directed, which consist mainly in the correction of verbal and grammatical errors, and the arrangement of the material of Vol. III. Of the making of rumours there seems to be no end, seeing that for every rumour there are some ready to believe. The theological credulity of ‘I believe because it is impossible,’ undergoes many reincarnations and transformations.”

Ironically, in the immediately preceding lines, Besant announced the finding of what we now call the Wurzburg manuscript: “Mr. C. Jinarajadasa has discovered among the records of the T.S. much interesting material. . . . Another interesting ‘find’ is the first manuscript of the first volume of The Secret Doctrine, mentioned above. This evidently is the manuscript which H.P.B. sent from Ostend in 1886 to T. Subba Row. The Secret Doctrine, as we now have it, is an expanded version of this first manuscript, though in the later revision some sections are omitted which are in this original draft.  Five of these sections, which were discarded by her from Volumes I and II, appear in Volume III. Some of the Appendices referred to in this MS. of Vol. I similarly appear in Vol. III or elsewhere. One solitary page discovered of another draft—that beginning ‘Commentary on Stanza I’—shows that it is different from the first draft, and from that finally printed. H.P.B. wrote and re-wrote, correcting even when the final page-proofs were ready to be struck off. Mr. R. L. Christie, the Treasurer of the Scottish Section, T.S., is typing the MS. of the first Secret Doctrine, and the T.P.H. is arranging to publish the MS., in the same size as The Secret Doctrine as finally revised by H.P.B. The verbal changes, omissions and re-arrangement of her material by H.P.B. are of very great fascination to students.”

It is after the writings by Stokes and Cleather and anonymous started the view that volume 3 is not authentic that we find the responses to this by Bertram Keightley and James Morgan Pryse. Since Blavatsky had placed the whole manuscript of The Secret Doctrine into the hands of Bertram and Archibald Keightley, and this included what even Stokes regarded as the authentic volume 3 material, the Keightley statement is certainly our most authoritative independent evidence on this. After the writings by Stokes came out, Charles Blech, the General Secretary of the French Section of the Theosophical Society, wrote to Bertram Keightley about this. He published Keightley’s reply in the Bulletin Théosophique, April 1923, pp. 66-67. Its main sentence was quoted by Daniel Caldwell in his article, “The Myth of the ‘Missing’ Third Volume of The Secret Doctrine,” and the whole reply is quoted below. Blech introduced it as follows (English translation from O. E. Library Critic, vol. 12, no. 24, July 4, 1923, available at Daniel’s website: “Mr. Bertram Keightley, to whom we had sent Mr. Stokes’ accusatory leaflet, replied to us from Lucknow, India, Dec. 6, 1922, as follows:”

“As for the printed matter which accompanies your letter, it is simply stupid. First of all, our friend (Mr. Chakravarti by name) has had nothing at all to say about or do with the second edition (the so-called Besant edition) of The Secret Doctrine and it is rather Mr. Mead much more than Mrs. Besant who was responsible for it.”

“As regards the matter intended by H.P.B. for future volumes—besides the two first published under her own supervision—all this material has been published in the third volume which contains absolutely all that H.P.B. has left in manuscript. Mrs. Besant even believed it her duty to publish a certain number of manuscripts which to my mind were not left by H.P.B. in a sufficiently advanced state to really justify the publication of them.”

“These are the facts, but such rumours, such fables and romances are circulated regarding the past history of the T.S., that no one can keep in touch with them. As for attempting to correct them it is simply an impossible task and for my part I gave it up long ago.”

This testimony by Bertram Keightley fully corroborates what Besant wrote in her “Preface” to vol. 3. It moreover confirms what she there wrote about “The Mystery of Buddha” material, which had not been finalized by Blavatsky before she died, and which Besant completed as best she could by piecing together the drafts. The authoritative testimony by James Morgan Pryse, who was the printer for the third edition of The Secret Doctrine, also corroborates what Besant wrote in her “Preface” to vol. 3. This, too, confirms what she there wrote about “The Mystery of Buddha” material. It is this material that was in an unfinished state. The main part of the vol. 3 articles only required to be rearranged. The statement by Pryse was published inThe Canadian Theosophist, vol. 7, no. 7, Sep. 15, 1926, pp. 140-141 (link given by Nicholas earlier:, obviously also in response to the criticisms by Stokes, Cleather, anonymous, and others after them. The excerpts from the statement by Pryse that are relevant to volume 3 are quoted below:

“In justice to Mr. Mead and Mrs. Besant, . . . I wish to state, from my personal knowledge, that the oft-repeated charges that they, or either of them, made unwarranted changes in the revised (third) edition of the S.D., tampered with the manuscript of the third volume, and suppressed the fourth volume, are wholly false, with no foundation whatever in fact.”

“. . . But among the many fantastic legends and foolish fables that have sprung up since the disruption of the T.S. is this malicious accusation brought against Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead, which it would be wrong for me to ignore: for, as I was for four years in the London headquarters, had charge of the printing office, and printed the revised S.D., I naturally had every opportunity to know the facts; whereas this absurd accusation is the fabrication of semi-theosophists who hung on the fringe of the Society, and is being circulated by pseudo-theosophists who were never in any way connected with the original T.S., and who quite evidently have not absorbed its philosophy and ethical principles.”

“. . . When I had finished printing vols. I and II. Mrs. Besant placed the manuscript of vol. iii. in my hands. After reading it, I gave it to my brother John to make a typewritten copy, which he did. It was in an unfinished state, and badly arranged. H.P.B. had rewritten some of the pages several times, with erasures and changes, but with nothing to indicate which copy was the final revision; Mrs. Besant had to decide that as best she might.”

“. . . Living as I did for four years in the family group at the London headquarters over which Mrs. Besant presided, and knowing that both she and Mr. Mead, during all those years, were devoted followers of H.P.B., sincere, honorable, truthful and conscientious, I cannot leave uncontradicted the mendacious statements and insinuations that they, my old comrades, mutilated, corrupted, suppressed or made any dishonest use of the writings left by their teacher, H.P.B.”

This is the evidence of primary witnesses, and it is impartial evidence. Both Bertram Keightley and Pryse had long since left the Theosophical Society. The evidence of Stokes and Cleather and anonymous is neither primary nor impartial. Cleather reports (p. 75) seeing “one or two” pages of the manuscript of vol. 3, on which she was able to identify the handwritings of Besant and Mead and others. However, since Mead had nothing to do with editing vol. 3, the pages she saw would not have been from that volume. As we know, Besant is innocent until proven guilty. The significant evidence from Bertram Keightley and Pryse supports what she said. The burden of proof rests with the prosecution, and the case they made is compromised by their partisanship. I respect Besant as an uncommonly honest person. I may not agree with some things she did or said by 1921 any more than Stokes and Cleather and anonymous did. But this is a different issue, and should not color our perception of the present issue.

* “Back to Blavatsky!” (vol. 11, no. 5, Oct. 12, 1921); “In Answer to Inquiries about ‘The Secret Doctrine’” (vol. 11, no. 10, Dec. 21,1921); and “The Lost (?) Volumes of ‘The Secret Doctrine,’” 2 parts (vol. 12, no. 4, Sep. 27, 1922; vol. 12, no. 6, Oct. 25, 1922). Volume 12 is available at Daniel’s website:

** Available at:

*** This journal volume is available The relevant pages are 339-341. This serial article was published as a book in 1925, titledThe Theosophical Movement 1875-1925 (available at Daniel’s website:, where the relevant pages are 569-572. This material was not included in the shortened and updated version, The Theosophical Movement 1875-1950.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 29, 2013 at 7:03am

Correction of an error that I made in the above: Pryse “had long since left the Theosophical Society,” but not Bertram Keightley.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on September 28, 2013 at 9:39pm

Let us, then, try to extract any relevant facts from the Stokes and Cleather and anonymous prosecution, as a number of sincere students have done. Stokes’ first point, based on the comparison of the first and third editions of The Secret Doctrine made by a group of students (apparently associated with anonymous), is the charge that Besant and Mead as editors made tens of thousands of changes in the third edition of The Secret Doctrine. This is undoubtedly true, and is not in dispute. During the last couple years of Blavatsky’s life, after Mead’s arrival to help, she passed all of her writings to him for editing before she published them. She not only approved of his countless changes to her writings during this time, she specifically asked for them. Why would it be any different afterwards? Here are the relevant excerpts on the editing of vols. 1 and 2 from Pryse’s statement (p. 140):

“As Mrs. Besant could spare but little time from her other Theosophical activities, the work of revision was done mostly by Mr. Mead, who was assisted by other members of the staff in verifying quotations and references.”

“Up to the time of her death H.P.B. regularly passed on to Mr. Mead the articles she wrote for her magazine, for him to correct and revise the manuscripts before sending them to the printer, and therefore he was certainly better qualified than any one else to do the same with her writings that had been published before she had benefitted by his painstaking assistance.”

“In revising the first edition of the S.D. he did precisely the work which he had formerly done on those manuscripts—only that, and nothing more. For it was obvious to any one familiar with the literary and mechanical details of book-publishing that the manuscript of the S.D. had not been properly prepared for the printer, and that the proof-reading had been so carelessly done that even glaring grammatical errors, inadvertently made by the author, had been allowed to stand. No changes were made by Mr. Mead or by Mrs. Besant except such as should have been made in the original manuscript before printing.”

This last paragraph is the same as what Mead himself said, at the beginning of his review of vol. 3 of The Secret Doctrine (Lucifer, vol. 20, no. 119, July 15, 1897, p. 353):

“The revised edition was a work of much labour, and every effort was made by the editors to verify every quotation they could and correct the many errors of form of the earlier issues. The errors of substance the editors had no right to amend.”

This editing took two years, and it was at this point that, as Pryse said (quoted above), vol. 3 was placed in his hands. He gave it to his brother John to type up. In the meantime, Mead began preparing an index to vols. 1 and 2, which, as he tells us (review, p. 353), was completed in 1895. Mead also there tells us (p. 354) that he had nothing to do with editing vol. 3, saying that:

“. . . with the exception of pp. 433-594 he has seen no word of it before. But other work has prevented his sharing in the labour of editing the MS., and the burden has fallen on the shoulders of Mrs. Besant.”

Pages 433-594 are “Some Papers on the Bearing of Occult Philosophy on Life”; i.e., the “Esoteric Papers.” Pryse told us about these being added to vol. 3 (p. 141):

“As it contained far less matter than either of the other volumes, Mrs. Besant told me that she would pad it out by adding the E.S.T. Instructions, since H.P.B. had told her she might do so. These Instructions, it will be noticed, cover the very ground of the proposed vol. iv., of which only a few pages were found, merely enough to mark where H.P.B. had discontinued writing. I am inclined to believe that she intended to incorporate these Instructions in vol. iv., and that she had this in mind when she wrote, too optimistically, that the last two volumes were ‘almost completed.’”

Besant had been too busy with touring and lecturing and writing to do much editing on vols. 1 and 2, and this situation remained the same. So when the editing of vol. 3 fell to her, it is easy to see why it would take considerable time. It is not the case that Besant and company were busily editing (or tampering with) vol. 3 for six years, from 1891 to 1897, as has been alleged. She had other things to keep her busy during this time.

Then there is the question of outside influences on Besant, influences that may have caused her to suppress the real vol. 3. I have no wish to take sides in the so-called Judge case, since I fully respect them both. Let us grant, for the sake of discussion, that Gyanendra Nath Chakravarti gained influence on Besant around 1894, that his influence was not positive, and that it caused Besant to request Olcott as president of the T.S. to formally ask Judge for an explanation of the Mahatma letters he sent out, which started the Judge case. But would Chakravarti’s alleged influence be enough to turn Besant from the duty she had solemnly accepted of publishing the materials that Blavatsky had left? Bertram Keightley’s statement, if not her reputation for honesty in all but the eyes of her critics, indicates that it would not be: “Mrs. Besant even believed it her duty to publish a certain number of manuscripts which to my mind were not left by H.P.B. in a sufficiently advanced state to really justify the publication of them.”

Even though the “disjecta membra” idea is not the basis of the view that volume 3 is not authentic, it has been brought in by Stokes and Cleather and anonymous to help support that view. The “disjecta membra” idea had started with Mead’s 1897 review of vol. 3 of The Secret doctrine, where he wrote (p. 354):

“In fact, until we come to p. 359 and “The Mystery of Buddha,” the sections on which fill pp. 359-432, we find but disjecta membra—sections, the majority of which were evidently excluded from Volumes I. and II. because of their inferiority to the rest of the work.”

But they were not excluded from volumes 1 and 2 because of their inferiority to the rest of the work. Mead did not know that they were moved from the first part of Blavatsky’s manuscript of The Secret Doctrine by the Keightleys, after suggesting this to Blavatsky and receiving her permission to do so. We do not have to rely solely on the statements of the Keightleys about this, although they are quite enough. This is confirmed by the Wurzburg manuscript, only discovered in 1921, where we find many of these same chapters forming the first half of this partial copy of the first draft of The Secret Doctrine. Ironically, this is the very year that the view that volume 3 is not authentic got started. According to the view that the real vol. 3 disappeared without a trace, it is not these chapters that were moved by the Keightleys, but other chapters that have disappeared. Then Mead’s view “that it would have been better to have printed them as separate articles in Lucifer than to have included them as part of The Secret Doctrine” would be applicable. His following statement would be true:

“One thing is almost certain, that had Mme. Blavatsky lived these sections in their present form would not have formed part of her great work.”