Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

The Myth of the "Missing" Third Volume of The Secret Doctrine
by Daniel H. Caldwell

Part 6


Is Volume III of The Secret Doctrine as published in 1897 the same (more or less) as the manuscript originally known as Volume I in 1886-1887 and later reordered and known as Volume III from 1887 to 1891?

A most telling piece of information to help us answer this question concerns the extant Volume I of the Wurzburg Manuscript.

Most of the material in this extant Volume I is also to be found in Volume III of 1897. And the material from Volume I of the Wurzburg Manuscript left out of Volume III of 1897 either was incorporated into Volume I of The Secret Doctrine as published in 1888 or was published in the pages of Lucifer during HPB's lifetime or soon after her death.

Furthermore, since it was discovered from primary source documents of 1886 that the original Volume I contained the articles "Egyptian Magic," "The Idol and the Teraphim," and "A Mystery About Buddha," is it not of some significance that these three articles also turn up in Volume III of 1897?

But what happened to the two sections of essays and twenty-six appendices (missing in the extant Wurzburg Manuscript) but certainly an integral part of HPB's original Volume I manuscript of 1886-1887?

If most of the extant Volume I Wurzburg Manuscript ended up in Volume III of 1897, is it not reasonable to suggest that the remaining two sections and twenty-six appendices (with several exceptions) probably also ended up in Volume III of 1897?

Also consider the following fact. Both H. P. Blavatsky and Bertram Keightley described the third volume as dealing with the lives of great occultists. A considerable amount of material in Volume III of 1897 deals with the lives of Simon Magus, St. Paul, Peter, Apollonius of Tyana, St. Cyprian of Antioch, Gautama the Buddha, and Tsong-kha-pa. And one of the essays in Volume III of 1897 is entitled "Facts underlying Adept Biographies."

Let us review two of HPB's descriptions of the contents of the third volume. First, in The Secret Doctrine (1888, 2: 437), HPB wrote:

In Volume III. of this work. . .a brief history of all the great adepts known to the ancients and the moderns in their chronological order will be given, as also a bird's eye view of the Mysteries, their birth, growth, decay, and final death--in Europe. This could not find room in the present work.

Also in The Secret Doctrine (1888, 1: xl), HPB pens the following:

In that [third] volume a brief recapitulation will be made of all the principal adepts known to history, and the downfall of the mysteries will be described; after which began the disappearance and final and systematic elimination from the memory of men of the real nature of initiation and the Sacred Science. From that time its teachings became Occult, and Magic sailed but too often under the venerable but frequently misleading name of Hermetic philosophy. As real Occultism had been prevalent among the Mystics during the centuries that preceded our era, so Magic, or rather Sorcery, with its Occult Arts, followed the beginning of Christianity.

With those lists of content, compare the descriptions given by HPB in her letters of 1886, cited above, with the most relevant parts recapitulated here:

...the undeniable historically proven facts of the existence of Adepts before and after the Christian period, of the admission of a double esoteric meaning in the two Testaments by Church Fathers, and proofs that the real source of every Christian dogma rests in the Aryan oldest MYSTERIES during the Vedic and Brahmanic period, proofs and evidence for it being shown in the Exoteric as well as Esoteric Sanskrit works. [July 14, 1886, to Olcott]

...a rapid sketch of what was known historically and in literature, in classics and in profane and sacred histories--during the 500 years that preceded the Christian period and the 500 y. that followed it: of magic, the existence of a Universal Secret Doctrine known to the philosophers and Initiates of every country and even to several of the Church fathers such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and others. who had been initiated themselves. Also to describe the Mysteries and some rites; and I can assure you that most extraordinary things are given out now, the whole story of the Crucifixion, etc. being shown to be based on a rite as old as the world--the Crucifixion on the Lathe of the Candidate--trials, going down to Hell etc. all Aryan. The whole story hitherto unnoticed by Orientalists is found even exoterically, in the Puranas and Brahmanas, and then explained and supplemented with what the Esoteric explanations give....[March 3, 1886, to A. P. Sinnett]

These various excerpts from HPB describe fairly well some of the material in Volume III of 1897 as the title headings of the following essays from that volume show:

3. The Origin of Magic

4. The Secrecy of Initiates

5. Some Reason for Secrecy

13. Post-Christian Adepts and Their Doctrines

14. Simon and his Biographer Hippolytus

15. St. Paul--The Real Founder of Present Christianity

16. Peter--A Jewish Kabalist. not an lnitiate

17. Apollonius of Tyana

18. Facts Underlying Adept Biographies

19. St. Cyprian of Antioch

28. The Origin of the Mysteries

30. The Mystery "Sun of Initiation"

31. The Objects of the Mysteries

32. Traces of the Mysteries

33. The Last of the Mysteries in Europe

34. The Post-Christian Successors to the Mysteries

43. The Mystery of Buddha

44. "Reincarnations" of Buddha

49. Tsong-kha-pa; Lohans in China

The focus of this paper has been on primary source documents (various letters, articles, and the Wurzburg Manuscript) written during the years 1885-1897.

Most of these testimonies were given either during the same time HPB was writing and editing The Secret Doctrine or within several years of the events narrated, when we would still expect the participants to remember accurately various details and the true course of events.

An attempt has also been made to present the evidence in chronological order so that the reader might discern the natural flow of events related to the writing and editing of "The Secret Doctrine" manuscript.

The reader should also be aware that there are testimonies that give accounts conflicting with the ones cited in this article. Most of the contrary evidence was given either by individuals who were not directly involved in the writing and editing of the SD manuscript or by witnesses writing in the l920s and 1930s (some thirty or forty years after the actual events).

It is not surprising that a person's recollection of events several decades earlier would contain contradictions and inconsistencies. The reader who would like to examine these conflicting accounts should consult Boris de Zirkoff's "Historical Introduction" to The Secret Doctrine (especially pp. 61, 63-6, 71) as well as his survey of the third volume (1897) in CW XIV (especially pp. xxxi-xxxii, xxxiv-xl). See also the Appendix to this paper.

One correspondent, reading the first draft of this article, wrote to me in reply:

In view of the inconsistency of the statements made by those who were familiar with HPB's work at the time; also the contradictory--even self-contradictory-- nature of some of them, I do not see how it is possible to reach a conclusion on Vol. III on the strength of these statements, as you and Boris [de Zirkoff] have attempted to do.

In reply, I would ask what historical event of any importance does not involve contradictory and inconsistent testimonies?

Consider the contradictory (pro and con) statements of people who knew HPB personally and made statements about her psychic powers and the existence of her Masters. Emma Coulomb, Richard Hodgson, Vsevolod Solovyov, Hannah Wolff and others gave very different, contradictory, and negative accounts about HPB compared to those of Henry Olcott, Constance Wachtmeister, William Judge, Annie Besant, and others who testified to the genuineness of HPB’s claims.

Do these contradictions mean that one cannot reach a reasonable conclusion concerning the genuineness or not of HPB's psychic powers and the existence of her Masters? Historical research is undertaken, at least in part, to try to sift through the evidence (pro, con, and neutral) of an event or series of events, to scrutinize the primary sources, to weigh the evidence (including contradictions), and to attempt to reach reasonable conclusions as to what most probably happened or did not happen.

Another topic not considered in this article has been the 'editing' of HPB's manuscript of the third volume for publication. Annie Besant in her preface to the third volume clearly stated:

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. In a few cases I have filled in a gap, but any such addition is enclosed within square brackets, so as to be distinguished from the text.

Nevertheless, some students of HPB's writings have voiced concern about how much Besant and her assistants may have edited the manuscript. James M. Pryse in a review of the third volume of The Secret Doctrine (Theosophy, New York, September 1897, 314-6) wrote:

If it had been printed as H.P.B. wrote it, then Theosophists generally would have prized it; but Mrs. Besant and others having edited it, they will regard it with a just suspicion.

(It should be noted that, some thirty years later, Pryse reversed his view on this subject.)

Another personal student of HPB's, Alice Leighton Cleather (H.P. Blavatsky: A Great Betrayal, l922, 75), testified:

It so happens that while it [Volume III] was being set up [for publication] 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 hand-writing. They were mutilated almost beyond recognition, few of her sentences remaining intact; and there were 'corrections'.

More recently, Nicholas Weeks, who helped in the preparation of the manuscripts of volumes 13, 14, and 15 of HPB's Collected Writings, has expressed similar concerns to me (private correspondence):

When we were working on BCW 14 we found many differences or changes between the "First Draft" [the Wurzburg Manuscript] and "SD III" [1897]. Some of the most radical are included in the Index to 14. see "Wurzburg MS Interpolations." On pp. 104 & 266-67 of BCW 14 are two examples of HPB's typically sharp criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church that did not appear in "SD III" [ 1897]. I find it impossible to believe that HPB deleted them, or approved of their removal. Thus the question arises, how many other "corrections" and "innovations" were made that HPB would not have permitted?. . . Without the "Wurzburg MS" there would have been not even a clue as to any tampering having occurred.

The issue of the editing of the manuscript of Volume III (1897) needs to be carefully researched in the future.

Returning to my thesis, I conclude this section with a relevant quotation from a letter of Bertram Keightley (written from Lucknow, India on December 6, 1922 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]

If any Theosophist was knowledgeable about the contents of HPB's third volume, it was Bertram Keightley.

For the various reasons outlined in this paper, I am inclined to believe that Volume III of The Secret Doctrine as published in 1897 was the real Volume III intended by HPB during her lifetime.

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