ESPECIALLY IN REGARD TO THE SO-CALLED "THIRD VOLUME"
The Secret Doctrine, H. P. Blavatsky's masterpiece, was begun in India in 1879 but owing to her pre-occupation with the activities connected with the establishing of Theosophy in that country, the editing and writing for her magazine The Theosophist, and her immense correspondence, little was done for several years. The Secret Doctrine was intended to be an enlarged and improved rendering of Isis Unveiled which, according to the Master K. H., writing in 1882, "really ought to be re-written for the sake of the family honour," and in which everything is "hardly sketched — nothing completed or fully revealed." (The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, 130, 131.) About 1884 she took up the task of re-writing Isis and a full page notice appeared in The Theosophist for February of that year with a proposed title page running as follows:
The Secret Doctrine, a new version of Isis Unveiled with a new arrangement of the matter, large and important additions, and copious notes and commentaries, by H. P. Blavatsky, Corresponding Secretary of the Theosophical Society, assisted by T. Subba Row Garu, Councillor of the Theosophical Society."
Subba Row, however, gave little assistance and withdrew from the undertaking long before the book was published.
H. P. Blavatsky wrote a few chapters in India — a more or less preliminary Draft — but they were not included in the final publication in 1888. Many years after her death they were printed in The Theosophist for 1931-2-3. During her visit to Europe in 1884, William Q. Judge, her old friend and trusted disciple, spent some weeks with her in Paris and at the chateau of the Count d'Adhemar, at Enghien, and was able to give help in the preparation of The Secret Doctrine which she said was of the greatest use to her. In Lucifer, July, 1891, Mr. Judge eloquently describes his experiences with H. P. Blavatsky during his stay at Enghien, and says:
It was with a feeling of some regret that we left this delightful place where such quiet reigned and where H. P. B. was able to work amid the beauty and the stillness of nature. It cannot be blotted from the memory, because there our friend and teacher was untroubled by the presence of curiosity seekers, and thus was free to present to us who believed in her a side of her many-sided nature which pleased, instructed and elevated us all.
It was very different, however, when she returned to India where the distressing condition of Theosophical affairs made any progress impossible. It was not until she settled in Wurzburg, Germany, that she could concentrate on The Secret Doctrine. The Countess Wachtmeister lived with her and gave her the most devoted care, attempting to shield her from intrusion, but this was not always possible and the work was several times delayed. Reminiscences of H. P. Blavatsky and The Secret Doctrine by the Countess, an enthralling narrative by a constant observer who was at her side for months at a time, describes the remarkable way the book was written and the active part the Masters took in providing the information contained. Many "phenomena" occurred in the most matter-of-fact way, as a part of the regular method of communication between the Master and his chela and not in the slightest degree for the edification of the inquisitive or the skeptical — who were not present!
The Countess Wachtmeister was greatly impressed by the enormous number of quotations from books — including many very rare ones — that H. P. B. introduced into her manuscripts of The Secret Doctrine. The number of books she could carry in her travels was very limited. How did she get the quotations? The Countess writes:
Her manuscripts were full to overflowing with references, quotations, allusions, from a mass of rare and recondite works on subjects of the most varied kind. Now she needed verification of a passage from some book only to be found in the Vatican, and again from some document of which only the British Museum possessed a copy. Yet it was only verifications she needed. The matter she had.
In regard to the verification of one of these Vatican quotations, the Countess had to obtain the services of a friend who, in a roundabout way succeeded in having the original document examined. H. P. B.'s version was correct except in two words which in the original were so blurred as to be almost illegible. Furthermore, the Countess writes, in discussing the images which H. P. B. copied from the records in the Astral Light:
Such visions often present the image of the original reversed, as it might be seen in a looking-glass, and though words can, with a little practice, be read easily . . . it is much more difficult to avoid mistakes in figures. . . .
G. R. S. Mead relates many striking instances of H. P. B.'s employment of astral vision for similar purposes during the time he spent at her side as secretary; and Bertram Keightley independently corroborates the same in his account of the preparation of The Secret Doctrine in London after H. P. B. had left Wurzburg. He writes:
Quotations with full references, from books which were never in the house — quotations verified after hours of search, sometimes at the British Museum for a rare book — of such I saw and verified not a few.
He also, to his great inconvenience, found that "the numerical references were often reversed, e.g., p. 321 for 123, illustrating the reversal of objects when seen in the astral light."
During her long stay in Wurzburg H. P. B. was closely confined to her apartment owing to ill health and had no opportunity of visiting libraries, the Countess having to do all her errands. She was very poor at this time of crisis when some of the most violent attacks on her reputation were being made, but, knowing how much she had to do and how little time was left to her to write, she absolutely refused to accept a large salary to write for the Russian journals. The Countess Wachtmeister suggested that she devote a part of the day to the Russian work, but she answered:
No — a thousand times no! To write such a work as The Secret Doctrine I must have all my thoughts turned in the direction of that current. It is difficult enough even now, hampered as I am with this sick and worn-out body, to get all I want, how much more difficult, then, if I am to be continually changing the currents into other directions.
H. P. B. told the Countess Wachtmeister that the four volumes of The Secret Doctrine "would give out to the world as much of the esoteric doctrine as was possible at the present stage of human evolution," but that "it will not be until the next century when men will begin to understand and discuss the book intelligently." Although the "next century" is not yet half through, the effect of H. P. Blavatsky's work is already becoming plainly evident in modern thought.
During the Wurzburg period H. P. B. corresponded with W. Q-Judge about the progress of The Secret Doctrine. In one letter, dated March 24, 1886, she writes:
I wish only you could spare two or three months and come to me at Ostende where I am emigrating again. . . . I want you badly for the arrangement of Secret Doctrine. Such facts, such facts, Judge, as Masters are giving out will rejoice your old heart. Oh, how I do want you. The thing is becoming enormous, a wealth of facts. . . .
Unfortunately, he was unable to leave America at that time.
In 1887 she moved to London, where two well-qualified and utterly devoted Theosophists, Dr. Archibald Keightley and Bertram Keightley, gave invaluable help in the preparation and publication of her greatest work, a tremendous task. They also provided much, perhaps most, of the financial backing necessary. Without their indefatigable energy and self-sacrifice the world would possibly have had to wait a long time for The Secret Doctrine.
The first edition appeared in 1888 in two volumes, the publishers being The Theosophical Publishing Company, Limited, London; William Q. Judge, New York; and the Manager of The Theosophist, Madras. It was printed by Allen, Scott and Co., London.
The sales were so large that a second printing was soon called for. This has been strangely called the Second Edition, but it was only a reprint of the original with the words "Second Edition" stamped on it. In 1893 George R. S. Mead, well known as a classical scholar and a former secretary of H. P. B., and Mrs. Annie Besant edited and brought out a really new edition in two volumes. It was called the "Third and Revised Edition" though strictly speaking it was the second edition. The original text was considerably revised by the editors, and much criticism was aroused in certain quarters by many changes considered unnecessary and in some cases unjustifiable. However this may be, this edition cannot be called a verbatim or entirely faithful reproduction of the original as written and published by H. P. Blavatsky. In defence of the numerous alterations in the 1893 edition it has been said that H. P. B. was so anxious for accuracy that she corrected and added to the paged proofs of the original edition to the last minute even though it cost hundreds of pounds. These changes were, however, made by the author herself and were authoritative. It is quite a different matter when the author is dead. This widely circulated Third Edition was published by The Theosophical Publishing Society, London; The Path Office, New York; and The Theosophist Office, Adyar, and printed by the H. P. B. Press, London.
In 1895, a large and comprehensive Index to the "Third Edition" was published as a separate volume. As the paging had been changed from that of the original a key was included for the convenience of those who had the original edition. The publishers were The Theosophical Publishing Society, London; The Path Office, New York; The Theosophical Publishing Society, Benares; and The Theosophist Office, Adyar.
Until 1909 no other editions of Volumes I and II of The Secret Doctrine were produced, but in that year a new edition was published by the Aryan Theosophical Press, Point Loma, California (since then moved to Covina, California, and known as the Theosophical University Press) under the direction of Katherine Tingley. This is virtually a reprint of the original 1888 edition with a scholarly transliteration of Sanskrit words according to an accepted standard, some corrections of faulty Greek and Latin and of obvious typographical errors, and the occasional substitution of square brackets in place of parentheses for clearness. No changes were made in H. P. Blavatsky's language and no passages were eliminated. This is the standard edition still being published by the Theosophical University Press, Covina.
As the demand for H. P. Blavatsky's works increased, yet another edition of The Secret Doctrine appeared. This was in 1925 when The Theosophy Company of Los Angeles published a photographic facsimile of the two authentic volumes, bound in one volume. This excellent edition provided opportunity for the study of H. P. Blavatsky's masterpiece in exactly the way she left it, without change or correction, even though in this way many typographical errors are perpetuated.
As the demand continued to increase, new editions and new printings have been printed from time to time, but there is no reason to enumerate them here, and The Secret Doctrine has been translated into many foreign languages.
THE ENIGMA OF THE "THIRD VOLUME"
We must now consider the puzzling problem of the so-called "Third Volume" about which so much controversy has raged. Subtitled "Occultism," it was published in 1907 by The Theosophical Book Concern, Chicago; The Theosophical Publishing Society, London; and The Theosophical Publishing Society, Benares. It was compiled and edited by Mrs. Besant alone, from writings left by H. P. Blavatsky.
Is this "Third Volume" of The Secret Doctrine, properly so-called? Is it the one to which H. P. Blavatsky referred when she said that a third and most of a fourth volume were written, or is it merely a compilation of more or less incomplete articles left by her, some of which she intended drastically to alter or re-write at some future time, presumably as part of the third or fourth volumes? After considerable research in the records at the Theosophical Headquarters at Covina, the following interesting information has been found which shows the conflicting nature of the evidence.
That, according to H. P. Blavatsky herself, a third volume and at least part of a fourth were written is supported by her own plain statements. In her letter to the American Convention of 1888 she writes:
Now with regard to the Secret Doctrine, the publication of which some of you urged so kindly upon me, and in such cordial terms a while ago, the MSS. of the first three volumes is now ready for the press; and its publication is only delayed by the difficulty which is experienced in finding the necessary funds.
On examining the original edition of The Secret Doctrine we find many corroborations of the definite statement just quoted.
(1)In the Preface of Volume I we read:
A large quantity of material has already been prepared, dealing with the history of occultism as contained in the lives of the great Adepts of the Aryan Race, and showing the bearing of occult philosophy upon the conduct of life, as it is and as it ought to be. Should the present volumes meet with a favorable reception, no effort will be spared to carry out the scheme of the work in its entirety. The third volume is entirely ready; the fourth almost so.
(2)Volume I, xl: "Such a point. . . . cannot be offered in these two volumes. But if the reader has patience. . . . then he will find all this in Volume III of this work."
(3)Volume II, 437: "In Volume III of this work (the said Volume and the IVth being almost ready) a brief history of all the great adepts. . . . will be given. . . . Volume IV will be almost
entirely devoted to Occult teachings."
(4)Volume II, 797, closing paragraph of the book:
These two volumes only constitute the work of a pioneer so that these two volumes should form for the student a fitting prelude for Volumes III and IV 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
(5)Volume II, 106:
There is no space to describe the fires . . . though we may attempt to do so if the third and fourth volumes of this work are ever published.
Observe that she says "if the third and fourth volumes are ever published," not "ever written." So, in addition to H. P. B.'s explicit statement to the American Convention of 1888, before the publication of the book, we have five equally clear statements given in The Secret Doctrine itself.
Before testimony confirming H. P Blavatsky's statements about the actual existence of the third and part of the fourth volumes is offered, it is necessary to mention certain omissions and changes that Mrs Besant and G. R. S. Mead made in their 1893 edition of The Secret Doctrine in the passages just quoted.
(1) The sentence after the word "entirety" deleted.
(2) The words "Volume III of this work" deleted, and replaced by "a future volume of the present work."
(3) The entire paragraph deleted.
(4) The words "Volumes III and IV" deleted and replaced by "other works," and the last words "though they are almost completed" deleted.
(5) The words "third and fourth volumes" deleted and replaced by "the rest."
So it appears that the information given by H. P. Blavatsky in the original edition and several times repeated, regarding the third and fourth volumes was carefully removed in the 1893 edition. What can the reason have been?
Now for a few corroborations of H. P. B.'s statements that the third volume was ready and the fourth in preparation.
Dr Archibald Keightley, one of H. P. Blavatsky's closest friends, writes in a letter to The New York Times and quoted in The Theosophist, July 1889, describing her activities in London:
The third volume of The Secret Doctrine is in MS ready to be given to the printers. The fourth volume, which is to be largely hints on the subject of practical Occultism, has been outlined but not yet written . . . the actual work of writing will not be commenced until we are about ready to bring it forth.
It turned out, however, that although the third volume was written it had to be put aside for a while, for Claude Falls Wright, Mr. W. Q. Judge's secretary, writes in The Path, February 1891, that
H. P. B. has within the last week or two begun to get together the MSS (long ago written) for the Third Volume of the Secret Doctrine: it will, however take a good twelve months to prepare for publication.
Presumably when H. P. B looked over the manuscript she saw an opportunity for making changes and improvements such as she had made in the first two volumes up to the last moment.
In The O. E. Library Critic, April, 1927, the editor publishes the statement that the Angarika Dharmapala, the eminent Buddhist leader, friend and pupil of H P. B., said that G. R. S. Mead told him that the missing volumes of The Secret Doctrine had been written but had unaccountably disappeared. Mead was closely associated with H. P. Blavatsky for some time before her death, but had no connection with the publication of the first two volumes of The Secret Doctrine.
In regard to the existence of the MS of a third volume "ready for the printers," as Dr Keightley writes to the New York Times, evidence is at hand that no such considerable mass of material has ever been found, nor was such seen by the Keightleys, who had the greatest opportunity of knowing the facts of the case: a fourth volume is still more difficult to explain. For instance, we learn from Bertram Keightley that he and Dr Keightley went through the entire MS. of The Secret Doctrine and devised a plan for its arrangement in which H. P. B. fully concurred. The book was to be published in four volumes (1) The Evolution of Cosmos (2) The Evolution of Man (3) Lives of Great Occultists (4) Practical Occultism. The plan was never fully carried out for lack of material, we are told. Bertram Keightley writes in The Theosophist of September, 1931, in regard to the two completed volumes:
After this was done, there still remained a certain amount of matter over mostly unfinished fragments or "Appendices" or bits about symbolism, which could find no suitable place in the selected matter or — more frequently — were not in a condition or state for publication. Of course we asked H. P. B. about this matter as it was she herself — not Arch, or myself — who had set it aside for the time being. She put this left over matter in one of the drawers of her desk and said that "someday" she would make a Third Volume out of it. But this she never did, and after H. P. B.'s death, Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead published all that could possibly be printed — without complete and extensive revision and re-writing — as part of Volume III in the revised edition.
We find no evidence here of a Third Volume, "ready for the printers."
The evidence of Mrs. Besant and Mr. Mead must also be examined. In the Preface to Volume III as published six years after H. P. Blavatsky's death, Mrs. Besant writes:
The task of preparing this volume for the press has been a most difficult and anxious one and it is necessary to state clearly what has been done. The papers given to me by H. P. B. were quite unarranged and had no obvious order. I have therefore taken each paper as a separate section, and have arranged them as sequentially as possible. . . . This volume completes the papers left by H. P. B. with the exception of a few scattered articles that still remain and that will be published in her own magazine Lucifer.
In the same Preface Mrs. Besant writes that the Buddha series (on pages 376 to 385) "were given into my hands to publish as part of the Secret Doctrine." In view of the above statements by Mrs. Besant that the papers generally were given to her by H. P. B., and that the Buddha pages were given into her hands, the following information is difficult to explain and only adds to the mystery of the original papers left by H. P. B.
A Mr. W. Mulliss of the Hamilton Spectator, Ontario, Canada, interviewed Mrs. Besant on October 6, 1926 at Los Angeles, California, on behalf of his own and several other newspapers. From the report in the O. E. Library Critic of June 1938 we quote:
Mr. Mulliss. Your critics have insisted that somebody or other has deliberately suppressed the Third and Fourth Volumes of The Secret Doctrine to which H. P. B. makes reference in the First Volume of The Secret Doctrine. What have you to say to this? Do you regard the Third Volume of your edition of The Secret Doctrine entitled "Occultism" as containing any of the matter intended for the Third and Fourth Volumes?
Mrs. Besant. I was appointed H. P. B.'s literary executor, and the matter from which I compiled the Third Volume of "Occultism" in The Secret Doctrine published under my direction was compiled from a mass of miscellaneous writings found in her desk after her death. These I took under my own charge.
Mr. M. Did Mead help you in the compilation of these articles?
Mrs. B. No. The papers came absolutely under my own hand and Mead had nothing to do with them.
Mr. M. Well what about the material for the Third and Fourth Volumes?
Mrs. B. I never saw them and do not know what became of them.
Obviously, from the above, Mrs. Besant, at the moment at least, did not claim her compilation called "Vol. Ill" to be the one mentioned by H. P. B.
When we turn to G. R. S. Mead's testimony we find it still more confusing. He writes in Lucifer, July 1897:
It is somewhat a novel form of experience for the present writer who has edited in one form or another almost all that H. P. B. has written in English, with the exception of Isis Unveiled to find himself turning over the leaves of The Secret Doctrine as one of the general public for with the exception of pp. 433-594 he has seen no word of it before. But other work has prevented his sharing in the labor of editing the MS., and the burden has fallen on the shoulders of Mrs. Besant.
The pages he mentions are the private Instructions given by H. P. B. to her pledged students. He continues:
The editor was bound to publish these [various writings] but we entirely share her private opinion, that it would have been better to have printed them as special articles in LUCIFER than to have included them as part of The Secret Doctrine.
However this may be, the reader will hardly be edified when he compares the above paragraphs by Mead with his considered statement made after he left the Theosophical Society and seemingly felt free to express opinions which are, to put it mildly, rather startling when coming from a man who held a high character for sincerity when he was still working harmoniously with W. Q. Judge. He writes in The Occult Review for May 1927, as quoted in The O. E. Critic, June 1927:
Next, I come to Vol. III. With this I refused to have anything to do whatever. I judged the disjecta or rejecta membra from the manuscript or type-script of Vols. I and II not up to standard, and that it would in no way improve the work. They could, I thought, be printed preferably as fugitive articles in Lucifer but they could not possibly be made into a consistent whole. Mrs. Besant, who put a far higher value on everything H. P. B. had written than I did, persisted in her view and by herself edited the matter for publication, but even when every scrap that remained had been utilized, it made a very thin volume. I therefore persuaded her to add the so-called Instruction of what is known as the "Esoteric Section" or Eastern School; which had hitherto been secret documents. My argument was that the "occult teachings" as they were deemed by the faithful, were now in the hands of hundreds, scattered all over the world, some of whom were by no means trustworthy, and that it was highly probable that we should some day find them printed publicly by some unscrupulous individual or privately circulated illegitimately. Fortunately, Mrs. Besant agreed, and they were included in Vol. Ill, save certain matter dealing with sex questions. A load of anxiety was lifted off my mind. I thought that the making of these "Instructions" accessible to the general public might possibly put an end to this unhealthy inner secret school. But this hope, alas, was not to be fulfilled.
The reader will observe that in the quotations just given Mrs. Besant writes in the Preface to her Volume III that the writings of which it is composed were given to her by H. P. B., and from this we are led to conclude that they were intended for the third volume. But in the interview with Mr. Mulliss Mrs. Besant says that this volume was compiled from miscellaneous writings found in H. P. B.'s desk after her death and that she (Mrs. Besant) never saw the material for the third and fourth volumes and did not know what became of them!
Mead is still more confusing. He writes that he declined to have anything to do with the third volume after judging the miscellaneous writings and finding them not up to standard, yet in his original statement in 1897 he plainly says he had never seen a word of the third volume until it was in print except the strictly private part that he had "persuaded" Mrs. Besant to publish to all the world out of H. P. B.'s Instructions to her most trusted students!
Perhaps it is no wonder that the Masters of Wisdom refrain from giving out the real secrets of occultism, which, in the hands of the unfit and unworthy, however fair-seeming and intellectual, would produce disastrous effects.
As if some puckish sprite desired to make the puzzle of the third volume more difficult, others who claimed to be well informed offered different answers. For instance, Basil Crump, in The O. E. Library Critic for September, 1939, claims that though part of the MSS. of the third and perhaps the fourth volumes of The Secret Doctrine were destroyed by H. P. Blavatsky herself shortly before her death because it did not satisfy her, most of it was saved and taken to India where it is held in safekeeping until the time comes for its release.
In The Canadian Theosophist, April, 1939, Thomas Green, a Theosophist, is quoted as saying that he was employed by the H. P. B. Press in London to set up the type for the third and part of the fourth volumes of The Secret Doctrine, and that H. P. B. had the forms broken up just before they were about to be printed. James M. Pryse who was one time in charge of the press, denies that this was possible, but Mr. Pryse was not working there until eight months before H. P. Blavatsky's death. Almost incredible as the statements of Mr. Crump and Mr. Green appear they are given some plausibility by a remark in The Secret Doctrine, Volume II, 798, where H. P. B. writes:
Until the rubbish of the ages is cleared away from the minds of the Theosophists to whom these pages 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 which Volumes I and II will meet at the hands of Theosophists and Mystics, whether the last two volumes will ever be published, though they are almost completed.
Is it impossible, then, that when she had completed the first two volumes she decided or was instructed by her Master to publish no more, and therefore had the MSS. of the third volume removed and the type broken up? In November 1889 she wrote to Judge N. D. Khandalavala in India that the rest of her life would be devoted to her trusted pupils, to the teaching of those whose confidence she retained and who were sincerely working for Theosophy. She added:
By leaving it [India] I have been able to write The Secret Doctrine, Key to Theosophy, Voice of the Silence, and to prepare two more volumes of The Secret Doctrine which I could never have done in the turbulent atmosphere of India.
Notice the words "two more volumes."
The theory that connects the disappearance of the true third volume with the orthodox Brahmans cannot be omitted. We know, from the storm aroused in those circles by the so-called "Prayag Letter" (See The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, page 461), and by the opposition shown by the learned Subba Row who finally refused to help in the production of The Secret Doctrine, that any further revelation of the deeper meanings of the Hindu Scriptures would have been extremely unpopular with the Brahmans. H. P. Blavatsky writes in The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, page 95:
"Such as Subba Row — uncompromising initiated Brahmans will never reveal — even that which they are permitted to. . . ." She then writes that Subba Row warned her that
you have been guilty of the most terrible of crimes. You have given out secrets of Occultism — the most sacred and the most hidden. Rather that you should be sacrificed than that which was never meant for European minds.
Subba Row was a chela of H. P. B.'s Master, but for all that he was a thorough-paced Brahman, and it cut him to the quick to see some of the teachings so closely guarded within the exclusive portals of the Brahman caste being given to the profane, the mlechchhas. Though he died in 1890 there must have been many left who knew of H. P. B.'s work and who would have been glad to suppress the two last volumes of The Secret Doctrine in view of the possibility of what they might contain, especially the fourth which was to treat of occultism, as we know.
In conclusion, there can be no doubt that H. P. B. intended to write a third volume of her great work and probably a fourth, and that some reason exists to believe that the third and some preparation for the fourth was actually written though nothing was published of all this. The opening paragraphs or even the whole "Introduction" of Mrs. Besant's "Third Volume" may have been intended or even used for the real third volume. The closing words of the first paragraph are significant:
Outside the Theosophical circle, therefore, the present volume is certain to receive at the hands of the general public a still colder welcome than its predecessors have met with.
Although the so-called "Third Volume" contains brief references to some of the topics mentioned by H. P. B. as the main features of Volumes III and IV, it does not fulfill this promise. It has no resemblance to the important and profoundly instructive work which she obviously intended to produce. It is merely a compilation touched up by Mrs. Besant as she thought best.
Although the so-called third volume cannot be accepted as the authentic "Third Volume of The Secret Doctrine" that H. P. B. had in mind, and although most of the best "miscellaneous writings" were published in Lucifer, it is not just to call the volume "spurious" as some over hasty critics have done. It contains much information and valuable teaching which is obviously authentic H. P. B. material, though it displays haste and incompleteness in many places.
Regardless of the problem of putting Mrs. Besant's "Third Volume" in its proper place among H. P. B.'s works, it is more than probable that the "miscellaneous writings" are by no means published just as H. P. B. left them. This conclusion is reached by an examination of the great number of alterations Mrs. Besant and Mead made in their 1893 edition of The Secret Doctrine which anyone can verify by a comparison with the original. Though most of these thousands of changes are of small importance, some are quite significant.
Strong evidence for changes, additions and omissions in the so-called Third Volume is provided by Mrs. Alice L. Cleather in The Canadian Theosophist, December 1937. Mrs. Cleather was one of H. P. Blavatsky's Inner Group of pledged students and she possessed a copy of the original report of the oral teachings received directly from H. P. B. These oral teachings form part of the private Instructions published in the "Third Volume" between pages 433 and 594, which Mead cynically said that he "persuaded" Annie Besant to insert in order to fill it out, and incidentally, as he hoped, to break up her Esoteric School. These Instructions had been entrusted to the recipients under the seal of strict secrecy — perhaps with the object of testing their worthiness!
Mrs. Cleather published a facsimile of page 559 in The Canadian Theosophist mentioned above, on which she marked the large number of alterations made on that single page. They consist of changes in arrangement, construction of sentences, capitalizing, the use of synonyms in place of original words, and above all of omissions and additions. One addition is significant as it seems to reflect psycho-occult teaching that Mrs. Besant is believed to have received from Brahmans after she threw off the restraining influence of William Q. Judge. This addition reads: "The head should not be covered in meditation. It is covered in Samadhi." Hardly one line on this page is left without some alteration.
On summing up all the information to hand on the subject of the so-called "Volume III" it is not easy to find any valid justification for calling this collection of miscellaneous writings by H. P. Blavatsky an integral part of The Secret Doctrine as conceived by H. P. B. and the Masters, although as said it contains most valuable and obviously authentic H. P. B. material. We are, however, in no position accurately to judge how seriously the matter has been revised and altered, or whether H. P. Blavatsky would have permitted much of it to be published without a great number of alterations and additions which she alone was qualified to make.
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