The Secret Doctrine Commentaries: the Unpublished 1889 Instructions

Some books are eagerly awaited by only a select group. This book is one of them. That doesn’t diminish their worth to their audience though: in this case theosophists who study The Secret Doctrine by H.P. Blavatsky seriously.

Blavatsky had her own Secret Doctrine study-group in London in 1889. They discussed her Magnum Opus pretty much as we do today. With tangents, questions, and lots of discussion of terminology. This book is the best record we have of that and it is simply fun to read. For me it brings back the fascination I had with theosophy 15 years ago when I first picked up The Secret Doctrine.

From the perspective of theosophical history this is an important work as well. It shows the limitations of the previously published ‘Transactions of the Blavatsky lodge’. That book was much more edited than this one is. In this one we get a feel for Blavatsky the human being: funny, not all-knowing, yet deeply profound.

Like one would expect from Michael Gomes, this book has a good historical introduction, footnotes to clarify the conversation and a copious index. There are three appendixes. The first contains the content missing from the notes themselves, as published in the Transactions. The second has a historical overview of the known participants of each meeting. The last appendix is a paper read before the Blavatsky Lodge by William Kingsland, best known as one of Blavatsky’s biographers.

Let’s close off with some quotes:

Nothing manifested or having form or name or number can cross beyond the ring which divides the immutable and the manifested from the ever-present and immutable. Now, do put this into your wise heads, my dear children. There is the difference between the immutable and the manifested, and the ever-present and the immutable; and you cannot cross this line and you cannot – it is impossible – nothing that is within this domain can pass into the other, the beyond. It is impossible, at least in our philosophy. (p. 387-388)

An atom is not a man. An atom does not get into flirtations, and courtship and marriage, and pass through the Bankruptcy Court, and become a magistrate, and the Lord Mayor; nothing of the kind. An atom is a well-behaved being, and what one atom does almost every other atom does. There are certain little variations, but it is nothing. But to come and tell you what I mean there, and give the life and adventures of an atom – which means, simply an impossibility. (p. 398)

The early Christians until the beginning of the third century would not hear of temples, or rites, or ceremonies, or churches or anything of the kind. That which is called a church in Paul is simply a gathering and an assembly in a room; there were no churches, no rites, nothing at all. You know what this {Minucius} Felix says: he says, “you say that we are not pious because we have not temples, and this, that, and the other, but we cannot have a temple, for where is the temple that is large enough to contain the Almighty and the Absolute?” This is his argument, that went dead against the temples. [Gomes ads a note about the historical details] (p. 168)

This book is only available at the publishers: The Secret Doctrine Commentaries: the Unpublished 1889 Instructions, transcribed and annotated by Michael Gomes