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SD 3rd Edition

May 21, 1998 04:44 PM
by Dr A M Bain

W. Dallas TenBroeck <> writes
>Historically this happened soon after HPB's death in 1891, when
>in 1893 the "Third and Revised Edition of the S D" was issued in
>London. On proofing it with the original (1888) edition, over
>40,000 unmarked alterations are to be detected.  No statement was
>made then that those changes had been made -- nor were they
>marked.  And in some cases the whole meaning is changed from the

Not altogether true:

>From the Preface to the first edition:

"The writer ... is fully prepared to take all the responsibility for
what is contained in this work, and even to face the charge of having
invented the whole of it. That it has many shortcomings she is fully
aware ..."

London, October 1888.

....*and* ....


IN preparing this edition for the press, we have striven to correct minor
points of detail in literary form, without touching at all more important
matters.  Had H. P. Blavatsky lived to issue the new edition, she would
doubtless have corrected and enlarged it to a very considerable extent.
That this is not done is one of the many minor losses caused by the one
great loss.
   Awkward phrases, due to imperfect knowledge of English, have been
corrected; most of the quotations have been verified, and exact
references given - a work involving great labour, as the references in the
previous editions were often very loose; a uniform system of
transliteration for Sanskrit words has been adopted.  Rejecting the form
most favoured by Western Orientalists as being misleading to the
general reader - we have given to the consonants not present in our
English alphabet combinations that approximately express their sound-
values, and we have carefully inserted quantities, wherever they occur,
on the vowels.  In a few instances we have incorporated notes in the
text, but this has been very sparingly done, and only when they
obviously formed part of it.
   We have added a copious Index for the assistance of students, and
have bound it separately, so that reference to it may be facilitated.  For
the great labour in this we, and all students, are the debtors of Mr. A. J.

                                                                ANNIE BESANT.
                                                                G. R. S. MEAD.
LONDON, 1893.

G.R.S. Mead was, for a time, HPB's *personal private sectretary* and
the generosity of the inclusion of Annie Besant's name at the foot of the
above is a tribute to his nature, for Mead was the scholar, not Besant;
only Mead had the ability to follow, let alone facilitate the use of
Sanskrit terms, and he had the greatest respect for the "Old Lady."

R.A.Gilbert, respected TS historian tells us,

"Mead also acted as H.P.B.'s private secretary and, although he was
young and unknown, she trusted him absolutely." [from a recent Essay
posted to theos-l]

... and Mead himself stated:

"She handed over to me the charge of all her keys, of her mss., her
writing desk and the nests of drawers in which she kept her most
private papers.  She further, "absolutely refused to be bothered
with her letters, and made me take over her voluminous
correspondence and that too without opening it first herself.
She not only metaphorically, but sometimes actually, flung the
offending missives at my head ! I accordingly had not only to
read them but to answer them as best I could; for ... she would
wax most wrathful and drive me out, whenever I pestered her to
answer the most pressing correspondence or even to give me some
idea of what to reply in her name." ["The Theosophical Review, Vol.
XXXIV, April 15th, 1904].

R.A.Gilbert again:

"He [Mead] was now one of the Society's foremost members. He had
officiated at H.P.B.'s funeral in May 1891 (she had died on May 7th, in
the arms of Laura Cooper who would later become Mead's wife),
impressing Theosophists and non-theosophists alike. W.S.  Ross
(Saladin, of The Agnostic Journal) reported that Mead - "a young
gentleman of refined features and much spirituelle of expression" -
"read an impressive address impressively" in a "silvery voice [that] rose
and fell in melancholy cadence."

"The Theosophists, however, paid too little attention to Mead's

"Much as we love and reverence our leader, our devotion to the work
must not rest on the transient basis of affection for a personality, but on
the solid foundation of a conviction that in Theosophy itself, and in it
alone, are to be found those eternal spiritual principles of right thought,
right speech and right action which are essential to the progress and
harmony of mankind."

"It was to be the cult of personality that led to the most damaging feuds
within the society and that ultimately drove Mead from it."
>Unfortunately it is this "3rd and Revised Edition" that the Adyar
>T S continues to print, and from it most of the translations into
>foreign languages have been made.
>So you can understand the value of the ULT work, when in 1925 the
>Original 1888 Edition of the S D was photographically issued by
>the ULT, and students could contrast it with the altered edition
>of 1893.  Over the years, since then, the various "Theosophical
>Publishing Houses" have been forced to reprint the Original 1888
>edition.  Accuracy has been restored and made available again to

>From R.A. Gilbert again:

"...the long awaited third volume of The Secret Doctrine, H.P.B.'s
largest and most ambitious work, appeared - to the delight of most
theosophists and the disapproval of Blavatsky fundamentalists. Mead
and Annie Besant had issued the revised Third Edition of The Secret
Doctrine in 1893, but Mead "refused to have anything to do
whatever" with the third volume. He thought that the fragments
of which it was composed were much inferior to the first two
volumes, but did improve it by persuading Mrs. Besant to
incorporate the Instructions of the Esoteric Section of the T.S.
Revision of volumes I and II had been another matter; the text
already existed and all that was needed was : "to correct minor
points of detail in literary form, without touching at all more
important matters," while "Awkward phrases, due to imperfect
knowledge of English, have been corrected; most of the
quotations have been verified, and exact references given ..."

So ... what has been restored is the accuracy of the first *printing*
(useful indeed for comparison) but not neccessarily the accuracy of all
of its contents.  There has surely been too much "polarization" of
opinion in these matters, and it was the *scholar* and private secretary,
G.R.S.Mead. who performed to most valuable service for the third
edition of the SD, whilst also expressing his unhappiness at the issuance
and content of the "third" volume so desired by Annie Besant, and
regarding which he attempted at least a damage limitation exercise.

To his dying day, Mead defended HPB's detractors, and upheld her
integrity.  Such a man, in his capacity as a scholar and editor, would
never have wilfully distorted HPB's work, which, by her own admission,

"... has many shortcomings." - shortcomings that the abilities recognized
in Mead by HPB herself enabled him to revise her main work to such
good effect.

Alan Bain, 22nd May, 1998

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