Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.
The Myth of the "Missing" Third Volume of The Secret Doctrine
by Daniel H. Caldwell
S.D. Volume III: Differing Views by Present Day Theosophists
The first edition of this paper was originally published in The American Theosophist (Wheaton, Illinois) in the Late Spring/Early Summer 1995 issue, pp. 18-25. I was surprised by the amount of interest shown in the paper. A number of Blavatsky students wrote to me agreeing with my thesis. Nevertheless, several other readers totally disagreed with the view expressed in my paper. One of the dissenting students promoted the "disjecta membra" theory which was probably first advanced by the well-known Theosophist, G.R.S. Mead.
In 1897, Mead, who was H.P.B.'s personal secretary during the last two years of her life, wrote regarding the newly published Volume III of The Secret Doctrine:
It is somewhat a novel 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 Volume III of The Secret Doctrine as one of the general public, for with the exception of pp. 433-594 [consisting of H.P.B.'s Esoteric Papers] he has seen no word of it before. . . . What, then, is the first impression. . . [of this Volume III]? We cannot disguise the fact that the first feeling is one of disappointment. The spirit of the stanzas and commentaries, which for the theosophist make the two first volumes stand out a head and shoulders beyond all other theosophical literature, is entirely absent. The pages [of Volume III] are eagerly scanned for the discovery of a new gold-mine of the nature of stanza or commentary, but with the exception of one or two paragraphs none is to be found. In fact, until we come to p. 359 and 'The Mystery of the Buddha,' the sections on which fill pp. 359-432, we find but disjecta membra-sections, the majority of which were evidently excluded from Volumes I. and II. because of their inferiority to the rest of the work. The editor [Mrs. Besant] was bound to publish these, but . . . it would have been better to have printed them as separate articles in Lucifer, than to have included them as part of The Secret Doctrine. One thing is almost certain, that had Mme. Blavatsky lived, these sections in their present form would not have formed part of her great work. They represent her in her least important capacity. Lucifer, July, 1897, 353-54.
Ted. G. Davy (a Blavatsky student and former longtime editor of The Canadian Theosophist) accepts Mead's "disjecta membra" theory. In other words, he rejects my thesis as outlined in this paper. In personal correspondence with me, Davy expressed his views as follows:
I have re-read your paper. . . and my opinion regarding Vol. III has not changed, being still inclined to accept Mead's 'disjecta or rejecta membra' theory. . . . Judging by its quality alone, I doubt if much more than ten per cent of its content is material that was intended by H.P.B. for her Vol. III. After she wrote the S.D. and the Key, until a few months before her death, her Lucifer articles maintained a comparable standard, which is in stark contrast to most of what was thrown together in the published Vol. III.....
Recently, when doing a bit of research on the ancient Druids, I noticed that some paragraphs on pp. 258-59 of Blavatsky's CW XIV are very similar to passages in S.D. II, 759-60. Perhaps there are other examples of such duplication, which would bolster the disjecta theory.
Richard Robb, publisher of Wizards Bookshelf and organizer of the July, 1984 "Secret Doctrine Symposium" in San Diego, California, also disagrees with my thesis concerning Volume III:
I have your article on the SD, 'Volume III' , so called. . . . An in depth refutation of your thesis must be based on more than mere written evidence. If you were familiar with the thrust of the SD in toto, the underlying appeal to higher mind and intuition, you could see in a flash that the so called 'Volume III' reads like an extension of Isis. . . a marshalling of physical facts, bereft of the 'koan' of Prof Hannon. The lives of the adepts are NOT given in 'Vol. III.', only mentioned briefly. So called vol. III is used in part in the actual SD., it being a complete rewrite, earlier bits would naturally be included. HPB did not rewrite the whole SD in less than a year. As stated, when thinkers have assimilated the first two vols., the 3rd volume will appear. Thus it must be MORE esoteric than the first two volumes, not less as is the case in the Wurzburg/Volume III material. . . .
Referring again to your article on "SD III," I have just come across something which seems pertinent. Concerning HPB's statements about divination by Qutamy in Nabathean Agriculture, that he received his revelation from an idol of the moon, who got it from 'Saturn', etc., Volume II, p. 455, reads: "Even the mode of divination through 'the idol of the moon' is the same as practised by David, Saul and the High Priests of the Jewish Tabernacle by means of the Teraphim. In Volume III, part II of this present work, the practical methods of such ancient divination will be found." Now, we know that such theurgy is definitely not in Besant's Volume III. Moreover, it is inconceivable that the crass world at large would have such power dropped into their hands in their present materialistic condition. It must wait for a new era, when attitudes are very different, and knowledge will be used unselfishly. This passage alone convinces me that we don't have the real Volume III, plus there are other passages, which have absolutely left no room in my mind for the Besant Volume III possibility. We don't even have portions of the real Volume III. It is simply being held for the right time, which seems obvious to me.
In order to evaluate properly the views of Mead, Davy and Robb, I would suggest that the interested student carefully reread what was previously written in the main text of this paper concerning the contents of Volume I of the Wurzburg Manuscript. Special attention should also be given to Bertram Keightley's confirmed testimony where he informs us that (in 1887) the order of the volumes of The Secret Doctrine manuscript was rearranged. Volume I became Volume III.
Moreover, I repeat what was written earlier in this paper: "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." This chronological key was illustrated with relevant citations from 1886 through 1891 documenting H.P.B.'s writing of what eventually became Volume III.
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