The writings of H. P. Blavatsky

Boris de Zirkoff – USA

Theosophy BdZ 320 2

[Note from the editor: this article written by de Zirkoff in 1949, is significant because of its historical content, while the author also makes mention of the collaboration between various Theosophical organizations and their leaders]

The writings of H.P. Blavatsky and of her Adept-Teachers are the cornerstone upon which the modern Theosophical Movement rests.

Upon this cornerstone has been erected a superstructure which, although imperfect in many respects, has nonetheless withstood the attacks of entrenched materialism, and of the forces of obscurantism which have attempted from time to time to obliterate or disrupt the Movement as a whole.

These writings are of primary importance because they present in systematic form the ageless tenets held in custody by the Trans-Himalayan School of Esotericism, for which no substitute can be found. These tenets contain the foundation-principles of occult truth which will, in due course of time, serve as the basis for a new philosophy of life the world over, and will give rise here, there and everywhere to new currents of inspiration for bewildered humanity.

Today, three quarters of a century after the inception of her work, the writings of H.P. Blavatsky are being vindicated in world-thought: the startling discoveries of modern science, as well as the deductions of modern psychology, support and uphold a variety of principles and ideas which can be found by any observant student in the pages of The Secret Doctrine and H.P. Blavatsky's other works.

The more H.P. Blavatsky's writings are disseminated in the world, and the better they become known, the sooner will her character and mission be vindicated - an objective towards which every genuine student of Theosophy should work. Thus, can we show our gratitude to her for what we have received through her self-forgetful service.

Considering their intrinsic value and their historical importance, a uniform edition of the entire literary output of H.P. Blavatsky should occupy a commanding position in the forefront of the occult world-literature, a position which the passage of time will serve to enhance beyond our present realization.

It is therefore fitting that the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the modern Theosophical Society on American soil be commemorated by the launching of an American Edition of her Collected Writings. Arrangements have now been completed to publish the initial volume of such an American Edition which will contain her literary output for the year 1883, this material having never yet been published in any collected or consecutive manner.

Theosophy BdZ 320 3

Signature of Boris de Zirkoff, dated  January 16, 1959

The American Edition is to be published by the Philosophical Research Society, Inc., of Los Angeles, California, whose Founder and Director, Manly Palmer Hall, is internationally known to students of occult thought as a brilliant writer and lecturer on occult and metaphysical subjects.

Students of the Ancient Wisdom in many lands will recall that an effort to publish a uniform edition of H.P. Blavatsky's writings was made some years ago. A few words regarding the history of this project may be of interest.

The compiling of material for such a uniform edition was begun by the present writer in 1924, while residing at the Headquarters of the Point Loma Theosophical Society, during the administration of Katherine Tingley. For about six years it remained a private venture of the compiler. Some 1,500 pages of typewritten material were collected, copied, and tentatively classified. Many foreign sources of information were consulted for correct data, and a great deal of preliminary work was done. This formative stage of the plan necessitated an analytical study of the history of the Theosophical Movement, and checking and tracing every available clue, for the purpose of ascertaining the possible existence, and then the actual location, of articles regarding which no specific information existed or whose dates of publication had been wrongly quoted. A far-flung international correspondence was started with individuals and Institutions in the hope of eliciting the necessary information. By the end of the summer of 1929, most of this work had been completed, in so far as it concerned the initial period of 1874-1879.

In August 1929, a suggestion was made to the late Dr. Gottfried de Purucker, then Head of the Society, on the advisability of publishing a uniform edition of H.P.B.'s writings. This idea was immediately accepted, and a small committee was formed to help with the preparation of the material. It was intended from the outset to start publication in 1931, as a tribute to H.P.B. on the Centennial Anniversary of her birth, provided a suitable publisher could be found.

After several possible publishers had been considered, it was suggested by the late Dr. Henry T. Edge - a personal pupil of H.P. Blavatsky's from the London days - that Rider & Co., of London, be approached.

On April 1, 1930, the suggestion was made that this entire work become an Inter-Organizational Theosophical venture in which all Theosophical Societies would collaborate. Since this idea dovetailed with the Fraternization Movement at the time inaugurated by Dr. G. de Purucker, it was applauded, and steps were taken to secure the co-operation of other Theosophical Organizations.

About this time, A. Trevor Barker, Transcriber and Compiler of The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, and his friend Ronald A.V. Morris, began a correspondence with Dr. G. de Purucker and, among other things, advised that they had been for some time working on a plan of collecting

H.P.B.'s writings for a possible series of volumes to be published in the near future. Close contact was immediately established between these gentlemen and the committee at Point Loma. A complete list of their material was received, and in July 1930, the collected material itself, which consisted mainly of articles from The Theosophist and Lucifer. While duplicating to a very great extent what had already been collected, it contained nevertheless a number of valuable items.

In May 1930, A. Trevor Barker also suggested Rider & Co., of London, as a possible publisher.

On April 24, 1930, a letter was written to Dr. Annie Besant, President, The Theosophical Society (Adyar), asking for collaboration in the compilation of the forthcoming Series. Her cooperation was secured at the Theosophical Convention held in Geneva, Switzerland, June 28-July 1, 1930, at which she presided.

After a period of preliminary correspondence, constructive and fruitful literary intercourse was established with the officials at the Adyar Headquarters. The gracious permission of Dr. Annie Besant to utilize material in the Archives of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, and the wholehearted collaboration of C. Jinarajadasa (now President of The Theosophical Society), A.J. Hamerster, Mary K. Neff, N. Sri Ram, Sidney A. Cook, and others, extending over a number of years, have been factors of primary importance in the success of this entire project.

The help of a number of other individuals in different parts of the world was soon accepted, and the work of compilation took on the more permanent form of an Inter-Organizational Theosophical project, in which many people of various nationalities and Theosophical affiliations, co-operated.

While work proceeded on various portions of the mass of material already available, the main effort was directed towards completing Volume I of the Series, which was to cover the period of 1874-79. This volume proved, in some respects, to be the most difficult to produce, owing to the fact that material for it was scattered over several continents, and often in almost unprocurable periodicals and newspapers of that era.

Volume I was ready for the printer in the summer of 1931, and sent to Rider & Co., of London, with whom a contract had been signed. Owing to various delays over which the compiler had no control, it did not go to press until August 1932, and was finally published in the early part of 1933, under the title of The Complete Works of H. P. Blavatsky.

A stipulation was made by the publisher that the name of A. Trevor Barker should appear on the title page of the volumes, as the responsible Editor, owing to his reputation as the Editor of The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett and The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett. This stipulation was agreed to as a technical point intended for business purposes only.

Volume II of the Series was published in 1933 also; Volume III appeared in 1935, and Volume IV in 1936. That year Rider & Co. published a facsimile edition of Isis Unveiled, with both volumes under one cover, and uniform with the preceding first four volumes of the Complete Works.

Further unexpected delays occurred in 1937, and then came the world crisis resulting in World War II. During the London "blitz," the offices of Rider & Co. and all the publishing houses in Paternoster Row were destroyed. The plates of the four volumes already published were ruined (as were also the plates of The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett), and, as the edition was only a small one, these volumes were no longer available, and have remained out of print for the last fourteen Years.

During the World War period research work and preparation of material for future publication went on uninterruptedly, and much new material was discovered. Very rare articles written by H.P.B. in French were uncovered and translated for the first time into English. A complete survey was made of all known writings in her native Russian, and new items brought to light. This literary output was secured in its entirety, direct from the original sources, the rarest articles being furnished free of charge by the Lenin State Library at Moscow.

The hardships of the economic situation in England, both during and after the World War, trade it impossible for Rider's to resume work on the original series. In the meantime, the demand for the writings of H.P. Blavatsky has been steadily growing. Some fresh attacks on her personal integrity by irresponsible writers have brought her name to new prominence in various parts of the world. The astounding developments in the world of scientific research have confirmed a number of prophetic statements made by H.P. Blavatsky regarding the nature and structure of the universe. Archeological and other discoveries have upheld many a hint in her writings, so that her character and knowledge have assumed an even more commanding position today than was the case some years ago, and an ever-increasing number of people have been looking forward to the publication of an American Edition of the Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky. To satisfy this growing demand, the Philosophical Research Society, Inc., of Los Angeles, California, has now embarked upon this project. The publication of this American Edition is intended to fill a long-felt need on this continent, upon the soil of which was founded in 1875 the Parent Body of the modern Theosophical Movement. 

The writings of H.P. Blavatsky are becoming with every day more widely known. In their totality they constitute one of the most astounding products of the creative human mind, and must be classified, by friend and foe alike, as among the well-nigh inexplicable phenomena of the age, considering their unequaled erudition, their prophetic nature, and their spiritual depth. Even a cursory survey of these writings discloses their monumental character.

The best known works are of course those which appeared in book form: Isis Unveiled (New York, 1877), The Secret Doctrine (London and New York, 1888), The Key to Theosophy (London, 1889), The Voice of the Silence (London and New York, 1889), Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge (London and New York, 1890 and 1891), Gems from the East (London, 1890), and the posthumously published Theosophical Glossary (London and New York, 1892), Nightmare Tales (London and New York, 1892) and From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan (London, New York and Madras, 1892).

But the general public, as well as a great many later theosophical students, are practically unaware of the fact that H.P. Blavatsky wrote incessantly from 1874 to the end of her life for a very large number of journals and magazines, both theosophical and otherwise, and that the combined bulk of these scattered writings exceeds her voluminous output in book form.

Her first polemical articles were published in the best known Spiritualistic journals of the day, such as The Banner of Light (Boston), The Spiritual Scientist (Boston), The Spiritualist ( London), La Revue Spirite (Paris). Simultaneously, she wrote occult stories and other essays for some of the leading newspapers in the U.S.A., including The New York World, The New York Sun, The Dally Graphic, and others.

After she went to India, she contributed to the Indian Spectator, The Deccan Star, the Bombay Gazette, The Pioneer, the Amrita Bazaar Patrika, and other newspapers.

For over seven years, namely during the period of 1879-1886, she wrote serial stories for the well-known Russian newspaper, Moskovskiya Vedomosty (Moscow Chronicle), and the celebrated periodical, Russkiy Vestnik (Russian Messenger), both of Moscow, as well as for lesser newspapers, such as Pravda (Odessa), Tiflisskiy Vestnik (Tiflis, Caucasus), Rebus (St. Petersburg), and others.

After founding her first theosophical magazine, The Theosophist (Bombay and Madras), in October, 1879, she poured into its pages an enormous amount of invaluable teaching, which she continued to give later in the pages of her London magazine, Lucifer, the short-lived Revue Theosophique of Paris, and The Path of New York.

While carrying on this enormous literary activity, she found time to engage in polemical discussions with a number of writers and scholars in the pages of other periodicals, especially the Bulletin of the Society Scientifique d'Etudes Psychologiques, and Le Lotus, both of Paris. In addition, she wrote a number of small pamphlets and Open Letters which were published separately.

In this general survey no more than mere mention can be made of her voluminous correspondence, many portions of which contain valuable teachings, and her private Instructions which she issued after 1888 to the members of the Esoteric Section.

After twenty-five years of unremitting research, the individual articles and notes written by H.P. Blavatsky in English, French, Russian and Italian may be estimated at close to one thousand. While some of them are quite short, others, it should be remembered, cover several serial installments of considerable length. 

As intended from the very outset, the uniform edition of H.P. Blavatsky's writings is arranged in strict chronological order, showing the gradual unfoldment of H.P.B.'s mission and the serial development in the presentation of the teachings.

The entire material has been transcribed verbatim et literatim direct from the original sources. No editing of any kind has been permitted. Obvious typographical errors, however, have been corrected, and quotations introduced by H.P.B. have been checked with the originals as far as was possible to do so. This work alone necessitated a considerable staff of helpers in various parts of the world, as many of the writings quoted could be consulted only in such large institutions as the British Museum of London, the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris, the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., and the Lenin State Library, of Moscow. In a few cases works quoted remain untraceable.

The volumes will contain explanatory footnotes by the Compiler, embodying historical data concerning various individuals and events mentioned by H.P.B. in the text, and a special Biographical and Bibliographical Appendix giving succinct information regarding the many scholars, writers, and historical characters whose writings she quotes from or to which she refers. An analytical Index will give the correct systemic spelling of Sanskrit and other technical terms according to present-day standards.

Succeeding volumes will include a complete and authentic translation into English of the several serial stories which H.P.B. wrote in Russian, and which have never yet been translated in their entirety into any language. English speaking students of H.P.B. will be glad to have therein translated for the first time into English her epoch-making French essays on the origin of Christianity, whose invaluable contents have remained so far a terra incognita to most students.

It has been thought advisable to start the American Edition of H.P. Blavatsky's writings by publishing new material first, i.e., material heretofore unpublished in any collected and consecutive form, leaving the writings contained in the four volumes published earlier by Rider & Co., to be dealt with at a later date, when they can be issued in a revised and enlarged form, including new material recently discovered.

The initial volume will contain therefore the writings of H.P. Blavatsky for the year 1883, a very prolific year in the literary output of the great Theosophist. It will embody invaluable teachings concerning the Nebular Theory, the constitution of the Sun, the origin of classical Civilizations, the nature of the Monad, the auric colors of various ethnic groups, the date and role in history of Gautama the Buddha and of Sri Sankaracharya, the transmigration of Life-Atoms, the projection of the double, Mahatmas and Chelas, etc., and will include several outstanding prophecies concerning the near future.

This volume will also contain the first complete and authentic translation of the original French text of H.P.B.'s famous controversy with Mr. Tremeschini, full of valuable information concerning such subjects as the sonic power of ancient Sanskrit, the after-death states of man and the co-relation of Yugas.

The publication of the American Edition of H.P. Blavatsky's Collected Writings at the beginning of 1950 is launched as a tribute to her memory on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of The Theosophical Society in America. It is the fervent hope of the present writer that this effort, which has had so much thought and labor behind it, will be generously supported by all students of H.P.B., irrespective of their organizational affiliation, for this literary project needs their combined and wholehearted backing and deserves their moral and material help. 

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