THEOSOPHY, Vol. 15, No. 8, June, 1927
(Pages 340-347; Size: 26K)
(Number 9 of a 13-part series)


G. R. S. MEAD, once one of the well known minor figures in the making of theosophical history, has contributed a signed article to the May, 1927, Occult Review, in which he discusses "Facts about 'The Secret Doctrine'."

Mr. Mead's statements fall naturally into several divisions: (a) what he has to say about the "Third and Revised Edition;" (b) in regard to the so-called "Third Volume;" (c) about the missing genuine Third and Fourth Volumes; (d) his remarks on H. P. Blavatsky; and (e) his remarks on Wm. Q. Judge. In this article we shall deal with his "facts" in connection with "The Secret Doctrine."

(a) The Original -- that is to say the First and Second -- editions of "The Secret Doctrine" were issued in the fall of 1888. Both were printed from the same type, the words "Second Edition" being added to the title-page of the last printing. By 1892 both the Original Editions were very scarce, high-priced, and obtainable only at second-hand. The great increase in theosophical activities made a new edition imperative.

Both Mr. Mead and Mrs. Besant had joined the London "Household" in the early spring and summer of 1889, had entered the "Esoteric Section," were the Secretaries of its "Inner Group," and Mr. Mead was, in addition, one of H.P.B.'s private secretaries. After the death of H.P.B. Mrs. Besant became Editor of Lucifer, with Mr. Mead for sub-editor. Mr. Mead was General Secretary of the British-European Section of the T.S., an ex-officio member of the General Council of the T.S., and also Editor of the Vahan, the Sectional organ. Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead were by nature, by education, by association and reputation, well fitted to undertake the colossal task of bringing out a new edition of "The Secret Doctrine." The result of their labors was the "Third and Revised Edition," which bears on its title-pages the date of 1893, but actually the first volume was not issued till July, 1894, and the second in December of the same year. The "Third and Revised Edition," therefore, came out during the height of the "Judge Case," on which the attention of all Theosophists was centered. Then followed the break-up of the Parent society; the death of Mr. Judge; the accession to the purple of Mrs. Tingley; the fierce rivalry between Mrs. Besant and Mrs. Tingley as "Successors" of H.P.B. and Mr. Judge. In such circumstances, superadded to the human tendency to take things at face value, it was inevitable that much should be accepted as true which was false, and much regarded as false which was true.

Moreover, in bringing out the "Third and Revised Edition," Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead had jointly signed a Preface, the first paragraph of which reads:

"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."
Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead go on to say specifically what those "minor points of detail in literary form" are which they have "striven to correct." They instance "awkward phrases, due to imperfect knowledge of English" on the part of H.P.B.; "most of the quotations have been verified, and exact references given;" "a uniform system of transliteration for Sanskrit words has been adopted;" "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."

More this Preface is studied, more it must be regarded as a formal guarantee of the authenticity of the "Third and Revised Edition." It was taken at face value and was not publicly questioned until the fall of 1897, three years after it was issued.

(b) In July of 1897 the so-called "Third Volume" was issued, accompanied by a Preface signed by Mrs. Besant, who had "edited" it. During the throes of the "Judge Case" and its aftermath Mrs. Besant had heralded this "Third Volume" by declaring, in the controversy over the famous "Prayag Letter," that the "Letter" was "not genuine," and that its chief content would be "proved false by the forthcoming publication of the third volume" of the "Secret Doctrine" which, she declared, "was placed in my hands by H.P.B."

The "Third Volume," when published, proved so manifestly inferior to the Original two volumes that Mrs. Besant felt constrained to accompany it with a Preface in which, with the assumed authority of superior knowledge, she alternately praised and belittled H.P.B. Mr. Mead wrote a review of this "Third Volume," signed with his initials, for Lucifer, in which he told the truth about its contents -- that they consisted of manuscript thrown aside by H.P.B. during the composition of the first two volumes, of other "literary remains," and of material from the "E.S.T. Instructions." Being dependent in more ways than one on Mrs. Besant, Mr. Mead, having salved his conscience by intimating the truth about the "Third Volume," salved Mrs. Besant and himself by copious remarks about H.P.B.'s literary and personal defects and inadequacies. Read in the light of present knowledge of the facts, it is clear that Mr. Mead's review and Mrs. Besant's Preface were both in the nature of an alibi carefully prepared in advance for contingencies.

This was too good an opportunity for the Tingleyites to ignore. For once they had a chance to tell the truth without danger to Mrs. Tingley and to the manifest discredit of Mrs. Besant, her rival theosophical Pope. James M. Pryse, then an ardent supporter of Mrs. Tingley, and who had been in London during the period of preparation of the "Third and Revised Edition," promptly wrote an article for Mrs. Tingley's Theosophy in which he reviewed Mr. Mead's review of the "Third Volume" and told what he knew of the "Third and Revised Edition" to boot.

Thereafter Mr. Pryse deserted Mrs. Tingley and Mr. Mead deserted Mrs. Besant, each going his separate way to pastures new; Mrs. Besant and Mrs. Tingley also changed their tactics if not their strategy and spent their energies in hunting new converts instead of ruining themselves in trying to ruin each other's pretensions, following in this respect the eminent example of the augurs of old who were said to "greet each other with a smile, as they passed upon their separate errands."

Then followed the long years of a conspiracy of silence on the part of all the theosophical profiteers, for each had found that to expose the others was but to expose himself. The increasing series of extravagances, the declining and the rising cycle of the Theosophical Movement, at last produced such gross discrepancies and contradictions that here and there members of all the many theosophical sects began to take notice. Mr. Martyn and Mr. Prentice of Australia, Dr. H. N. Stokes of the O. E. L. Critic, and Mr. A. E. S. Smythe, General Secretary of the Canadian Section of Mrs. Besant's society, and editor of the Canadian Theosophist, were notable examples of many who began to voice questions and protests, each within his limitations and environment. Meantime The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, The Theosophical Movement, and a photographic facsimile reproduction of the Original Edition of "The Secret Doctrine," supplied authentic and indisputable evidence, first, of the consistency of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge; second, of the gross inconsistency in fact and philosophy of those who had been associated with them and who after their death had with unchallenged effrontery corrupted alike the truth of history and of Theosophy.

Certainly the occult failures and pretenders, the "disjecta membra" of the Theosophical Movement -- to quote from Mr. Mead's chaste and erudite remarks on Mrs. Besant's "Third Volume" and give them a fresh application -- certainly the lot of these renegade and spurious theosophists "is not a happy one." Writhing, as they must, in view of the past created by themselves, and the present, in which that dead and buried past has come to life, he would be no Theosophist who would deny these unhappy shades their last chance to "communicate" before they return to the limbo of final disintegration. Hence Mr. Pryse's letter to the Canadian Theosophist, which was followed by much discussion in succeeding numbers of that publication, and which was considered in THEOSOPHY for December, 1926. Hence, too, Mr. Mead's communication to the Occult Review. Evoked from his theosophical limbus by the storm raging among the spectres, it is but natural that Mr. Mead should seek to defend himself, as did Mr. Pryse, and as must the others. No one and naught accuse them but the accusing facts. How else, then, are they to defend themselves except by a "plea in avoidance?"

Mr. Mead's article is not so much the evidence of a witness as the testimony of one of the Defendants, driven from cover and forced to take the stand in self-defence. One can well believe his opening statement:

"It is with much reluctance that I intervene in the controversy....over the revision of....(the) Secret Doctrine. For eighteen years I have kept silence...."
Examination of his article will show anyone that Mr. Mead is, none the less, a tell-tale witness, by the facts he omits as well as by those he discusses; by what he claims as well as by what he denies. Being a Defendant more than a witness, Mr. Mead needs to have his motives, his credibility and competency as well as his testimony, carefully weighed by those who, unlike himself, have regard for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Bearing in mind the quotation already given from the Preface to the "Third and Revised Edition," and the indisputable fact that that edition contains more than forty thousand alterations, corruptions, and omissions, it will be seen that Mr. Mead now confesses out of hand his gross literary mendacity, for he says:

"I am responsible for by far the major part of this revision of the original edition of The Secret Doctrine, and have no excuse to make except that I did not execute the task more thoroughly....

"Had I the job today, when my equipment is more extensive and judgment riper, of re-editing this first revision, and had I the liberty of blue-pencilling out what is plainly untenable, the bulk of the matter would be very considerably reduced. And this proceeding would be in keeping with such competent of, for instance, the now long deceased T. Subba Row, the most learned member the T.S. ever had....and the view of another learned Brahmin, recently Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University, who agreed with me that the work would be greatly improved by being cut down by half. In any case, why should I have regarded the major part of the material as in any way sacrosanct?"

Why, indeed, should Mr. Mead regard anyone or anything as "sacrosanct" -- except himself and his own opinion? And especially when he fortifies himself by referring to the ex-Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University, as in agreement with himself? But why did not Mr. Mead name this "learned Brahmin" -- very learned and very Brahmin indeed? We will supply the name of this hear-say witness cited by Mr. Mead. He is Professor Gyanendra N. Chakravarti, with whom Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead were very intimate indeed during the "revision" of the Secret Doctrine -- so intimate that from then on both Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead were themselves revised editions of their former theosophical selves. They revised their opinions of Theosophy, of H.P.B. and Mr. Judge, and of many other matters as well as the Secret Doctrine during that fateful epoch. But why did they not say so then, instead of thirty years later, if their revised opinions were correct, if any moral honesty remained in them? Why did they continue to mislead and deceive honest if ignorant students by posing as defenders of Theosophy and H.P.B., and as purifiers of the Society? Above all why did they not boldly proclaim their new and learned Brahmin guide from the house-tops?

Another question, more difficult still of honest answer by Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead, remains to be asked. Bearing once again in mind that the MASTER "K.H." gave to Dr. Hubbe-Schleiden in 1884 a Certificate that the Secret Doctrine would be, when completed, the work of Himself and his Brother MAHATMA, a Certificate that must have been known to Mr. Mead, for it was published by Mr. Judge in his Path at the very time Mr. Mead was revising the Secret Doctrine; bearing in mind that the same MASTER confirmed this Certificate in a "precipitated" Letter to Colonel Olcott which was published in Lucifer in 1888, and reproduced, in its germane portion, over the signature of Mrs. Besant and Mr. Judge in the Path at the very time Mrs. Besant was in America in company with Chakravarti in 1893 -- bearing all this in mind, one must naturally inquire of the all-sufficient Mr. Mead why these MASTERS did not select Subba Row, or Chakravarti, or himself to write or transmit the Secret Doctrine in the first place? All were alive, all were members of the T.S., all were "learned" theosophists and occultists before H.P.B. wrote the Secret Doctrine.

H.P.B. lived for nearly three years after the "Secret Doctrine" was published. There is no record that she ever asked anyone to "revise" it for her, nor that MASTERS were dissatisfied with it, as were Subba Row, Chakravarti, Mrs. Besant, and Mr. Mead, or that THEY were dissatisfied with either H.P.B. or Judge. If consistency means anything, if gratitude means anything, if truthfulness and honor mean anything, then MASTERS are unequivocally behind H.P.B. and Judge, and all their works, and THEY have so testified more than once. To the contrary, how must Mr. Mead and his cabal appear in THEIR sight?

But, in fact, we know Mr. Mead's answer to these questions. He no longer believes in the MASTERS of H.P.B., any more than he believes in H.P.B. as THEIR Messenger. He believes H.P.B. was a "powerful medium," and her writings and other works to have been mediumistic performances and claims. This is the belief today, and has been for years of G. R. S. Mead, who was once a Pledged Probationer of the "E.S.T." and member of the "Inner Group." Why does he not say so in so many words? Why did he not say so in 1893? Because then it would not have profited him, but the reverse. Now, like Babaji, as shown in the H.P.B. Letters, or like Coues and Solovyoff, himself an Occult failure, he would, if he could, destroy those who tried their best to save him from himself. Mr. Mead does not forget, though he has tried for years to make the public forget, that he is himself the Defendant in the case.

(c) In various places in the Original Edition of the Secret Doctrine are references to two additional volumes besides those published, together with clear intimations of their contents. These references were deliberately dropped from the "Third and Revised Edition," with no hint of the fact in the Preface signed by Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead, with no subsequent statement or explanation by them until they were forced to plead guilty or not guilty to the charge of literary mendacity.

On the subject of these genuine missing volumes of the Secret Doctrine, Mr. Mead now says in the Occult Review:

"The repeated statement made by H.P.B. in the first edition, that material for an additional volume, or two volumes, was already largely in existence and in process of completion, is not in accordance with fact. Doubtless, had Helena Petrovna had the time and health, and had she lived longer, she could have 'delivered the goods,' and written herself, or had dictated or written through her, a series of additional volumes. But in sober reality, her repeated categorical statement on the matter is, to say the least of it, a 'terminological inexactitude' which, in a generous spirit, may be ascribed to her 'Russian,' enthusiastic, imaginative, and psychical temperament. That my old friend Dr. Archibald Keightley, who typed out the MS. of Vols. I and II so assiduously respects this statement is no proof of independent testimony. He simply trusted to H.P.B.'s assertions in those volumes. He certainly never saw any more material than what was found on H.P.B.'s decease and is now printed in Vol. III. There are numerous similar enthusiastic misstatements, or confusions of psychic probability with physical fact, to be found elsewhere in Mme. Blavatsky's voluminous literary output."
The extract just given shows to what lengths Mr. Mead goes in his plea in self-defence. Put in plain English, he pronounces H.P.B. to have been either irresponsible in her categorical statements regarding the missing 3rd and 4th volumes, or guilty of unvarnished repeated falsehoods. There is room for no other conclusion -- unless it is Mr. Mead's own statements on this matter which are as irresponsible and untruthful as his "editing" of the "Third and Revised Edition," and his signed Preface thereto. That this is the fact we propose to show -- not to expose G. R. S. Mead, who can be amply trusted to do that for himself, but for the sake of Truth and those who seek it.

Quite aside from numerous other signed statements of H.P.B. herself, there are four categorical references in the Original Edition of the Secret Doctrine to the missing 3rd and 4th Volumes. All four of these references were deliberately expunged by Mr. Mead and Mrs. Besant from the "Third and Revised" edition, without notice and without explanation for the suppression. It must be assumed that H.P.B. who wrote them was the best evidence of their being in existence, whether Mr. Mead or anyone else ever saw the MS. or not. Her positive, unequivocal and repeated statements that Volume III was finished in 1888, and Volume IV "nearly so," cannot be evaded or ignored, then, except on the assumption or the proof that H.P.B. lied about them. Mr. Mead offers no evidence whatever that she did: he merely affirms that he did not see the MS., that no one else did, and that therefore they never existed. H.P.B. had nothing to gain by her statements. Mr. Mead has everything to gain by his. On the basis of direct knowledge, H.P.B. knew what she was talking about. On the basis of his own assertion Mr. Mead doesn't know what he is talking about. He merely affirms that his ignorance is better evidence than H.P.B.'s knowledge. Because Dr. Archibald Keightley, who lived with H.P.B. for the two years while the Secret Doctrine was being written, and who typed out the MS. of the first two volumes for publication -- because Dr. Keightley confirmed H.P.B.'s own statements in respect of the missing 3rd and 4th volumes(1), Mr. Mead simply rules Dr. Keightley and his evidence out as no "independent testimony." Again no proof, no support cited -- simply Mr. Mead's "sacrosanct" word for it. Mr. Mead omits to mention Bertram Keightley's statement, made indirectly and therefore the more powerful. In an address at the Adyar Convention at the end of December, 1890(2), and therefore while H.P.B. was still living, Mr. Keightley spoke on "Theosophy in the West" and in the course of his remarks mentioned the two years residence with H.P.B. of himself and Dr. Keightley. Bertram Keightley says he read "the substance of the two volumes published, and the third still unpublished."

But Mr. Mead, like Mr. Pryse, forgets his own past and more truthful utterances in making his present declarations. He, too, can be impeached out of his own mouth, as well as by the testimony of independent witnesses. In his review of Mrs. Besant's spurious "Third Volume," he mentions that, with the exception of the purloined matter from the "E.S.T. Instructions," he did not even know of the rejected and miscellaneous MS. included in Mrs. Besant's volume until it was published! "With the exception of pp. 433-594 he had seen no word of it before."(3)

Mr. Mead went to live at the London Headquarters in August, 1889, nearly a year after the Original Edition of the Secret Doctrine was published. The missing completed 3rd volume and partly completed 4th volume could have disappeared long before he ever became H.P.B.'s private secretary. They could, likewise, have remained hidden from his all-seeing eye right on the premises after he came, if we have regard to another of his own statements, written under more truth-inviting auspices. In his article "The Last Two Years,"(4) written just after the death of H.P.B. he tells of his experiences while acting as H.P.B.'s private secretary:

"H.P.B. sternly refused all access to her room, and, to make up for this, used to carefully put away the important letters in hiding places so as to give them to me later, while the rest she left to their fate."
At all events, it is evident that H.P.B. was able to keep to herself a good many things which Mr. Mead, like many others, was curious about, and, like them, Mr. Mead speculated as well as pried, and later on enlightened the world with his "editing" of facts as well as philosophy.

Many sincere students have pondered this problem of the missing facts and the missing 3rd and 4th volumes, and not all of them have reached Mr. Mead's conclusions. In fact, some, at least, have what to them if not to Mr. Mead, are the best of reasons for believing that those volumes were completed, are still "carefully put away," and will reappear when the sine qua non conditions for their appearance are complied with. What are those conditions precedent? H.P.B. gave them herself at the close of Volume II of the Original Edition. She there says:

"....these two volumes should form for the student a fitting prelude for Volumes III. and entirely depends upon the reception with which Volumes I. and II. will meet with at the hands of Theosophists and Mystics, whether these last two volumes will ever be published, though they are almost completed."
The reception accorded the first two volumes by Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead, and those who followed them, is well known. But the rising cycle is under way and -- who knows? -- the volumes that Mr. Mead is so sure were never written, may themselves some day confound Mr. Mead, his pretensions and his allies.

Next month we shall consider Mr. Mead's aspersions on H.P.B. and Mr. Judge which also he gives as "facts."

Next article:
The Rising Cycle
(Part 10 of 13)

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(1) The N.Y. Times; reprinted in The Theosophist, July, 1889, pp. 595-601.
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(2) The Theosophist, July, 1891, pp. 584-591.
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(3) Lucifer, July, 1897, pp. 353-360.
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(4) Lucifer, June, 1891, pp. 295-299.
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