Third & Revised Edition © 2011 by Theosophical University Press. First Edition copyright © 1935 by G. de Purucker; Second Edition, 1940. Electronic version ISBN 978-1-55700-215-0. This edition may be downloaded free of charge for personal use. Except for brief excerpts, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial or other use in any form without the prior permission of Theosophical University Press. For ease of searching, words are not accented in this version.
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Foreword to the 3rd & Revised Edition.
To the Reader
Chapter 1: Theosophy: The Mother of Religions, Philosophies, and Esoteric Sciences
Chapter 2: Allegory and Mystical Symbolism
Chapter 3: Worlds Visible and Invisible
Chapter 4: How the One Becomes the Many
Chapter 5: Monads, Souls, and Atoms
Chapter 6: The Evolutionary Pathway to the Gods
Chapter 7: On the Evolution of Human and Animal Beings
Chapter 8: The Turning of the Wheel
Chapter 9: Behind the Veils with Science
Chapter 10: Webs of Destiny
Chapter 11: Heavens and Hells
Chapter 12: Reimbodiment as Taught through the Ages
Chapter 13: How Man Is Born and Reborn
Chapter 14: "Life" in Fact and in Theory
Chapter 15: The Astral Light and the Life-Atoms
Chapter 16: Death — and After: A Study of Consciousness
Chapter 17: Circulations of the Cosmos
Chapter 18: Birth and Before Birth
Chapter 19: Great Sages and the Cosmic Hierarchy
Chapter 20: Pneumatology and Psychology: Mysteries of Man's Inner Nature
Chapter 21: Great Seers versus Visionaries
Chapter 22: The Esoteric Schools
Chapter 23: The Secret Doctrine of Gautama the Buddha
Chapter 24: Some Misunderstood Teachings of the Mysteries
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The original two-volume edition of The Esoteric Tradition was compiled from material dictated by G. de Purucker over the course of some time and contained much that was repetitious. The major task of editing and condensing the text was done by A. Studley Hart and Grace F. Knoche. Spelling and foreign transliterations have also been modernized.
Randell C. Grubb
and the TUP Editorial Staff
October 23, 2011
To those who have bestowed the Priceless,
who have given immeasurably,
and to their Sublime Cause,
these volumes are offered with measureless
reverence and devotion.
(Reprinted from the First Edition)
The writing of these volumes has not been an easy task, and this for a number of reasons, first and foremost among which has been the lack of leisure-hours to devote to it. Dictation proceeded from the first page to the last in a hurry and often at high speed, for it was the only way of producing this work within a reasonable time after its forthcoming publication had first been mentioned by the author in the summer of 1934. Had time been taken to prepare the manuscript in a manner pleasing to the author himself and his co-workers, its appearance might have been delayed for a year or two, or possibly longer. In that event the author would have been able to follow the most excellent advice offered by the genial Horace, the Latin poet, in his Satires, I, x, 73: Saepe stilum vertas, iterum quae digna legi sint scripturus. However, there has been no time to "reverse the pencil" for the purpose of erasing, nor has there been any leisure for revision and for the polishing of phrases.
It is due in large part to the devotion and enthusiasm of a number of friends and students attached to the different departments at the International Theosophical Headquarters at Point Loma, that The Esoteric Tradition now at last is given to its readers. To Dr. Joseph H. Fussell, who read the proof-sheets and offered valuable suggestions; Miss Helen Savage, who did the secretarial work; Mrs. Hazel Minot, responsible for checking and verifying of quotations; Mrs. Guy Ponsonby and Mr. S. Hecht, who prepared the copious index; Miss Elizabeth Schenck, Miss Grace Knoche, and Mr. W. E. Small, who read proof: to these and to all others who have helped in any way whatsoever to forward the publication of this book, the author gives his grateful thanks.
Special mention should be made of the Theosophical University Press, where everyone, the Manager and the Assistant Manager and all others composing the staff, cooperated to devote what time could be set aside from the regular issuing of our various magazines and other routine press-work, to the composition and later printing of these volumes.
As regards a number of citations appearing in this work and taken from books written in languages other than English, mostly in ancient tongues, it may be as well to say that wherever possible the author has used standard or popular translations, but in certain cases where he felt better satisfied with his own renderings, he has done the work of translation himself.
One cannot too often repeat what H. P. Blavatsky pointed out in her 'Introductory' to The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. xix:
It is above everything important to keep in mind that no theosophical book acquires the least additional value from pretended authority.
Every Theosophical book must stand on its own ground of merit, and if it have demerit greater than its merit, by that demerit it will fall — and the sooner it falls the better for all concerned. The present writer feels this fact very strongly in connection with these volumes, his own latest contribution to Theosophical literature; and, although they are for him and his co-workers a labor of pure theosophical devotion and love, he not only expects but desires that these volumes shall speak solely for themselves, and shall stand upon their own grounds of appeal. What is good in them will endure: if there is anything that is not good, let it perish and perish rapidly.
Works like this present literary venture are badly needed in the world today. The dissemination of Theosophical thought among men can be aided greatly by new presentations of the age-old verities preserved by the Masters of Wisdom and of Compassion from immemorial ages in the past.
One is reminded in this connexion of an important letter written by the Master Kuthumi, dated December 10, 1880, and found in the memorable volume entitled The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, transcribed and compiled by A. T. Barker. The following extract from this letter is found on pages 23 and 24, as changed, however, by the exalted writer's own corrections to be found on pages 425 and 426 of the same book:
The truths and mysteries of occultism constitute, indeed, a body of the highest spiritual importance, at once profound and practical for the world at large. Yet, it is not as a mere addition to the tangled mass of theory or speculation in the world of science that they are being given to you, but for their practical bearing on the interests of mankind. The terms "unscientific," "impossible," "hallucination," "impostor," have hitherto been used in a very loose, careless way, as implying in the occult phenomena something either mysterious and abnormal, or a premeditated imposture. And this is why our chiefs have determined to shed upon a few recipient minds more light upon the subject,. . . . The wiseacres say: "The age of miracles is past," but we answer, "it never existed!" . . . [These truths] have to prove both destructive and constructive — destructive in the pernicious errors of the past, in the old creeds and superstitions which suffocate in their poisonous embrace like the Mexican weed nigh all mankind; but constructive of new institutions of a genuine, practical Brotherhood of Humanity where all will become co-workers of nature, will work for the good of mankind with and through the higher planetary Spirits — the only "Spirits" we believe in. [From here on the italics represent the 'corrections' above referred to.] Phenomenal elements previously unthought of, . . . will disclose at last the secrets of their mysterious workings. Plato was right to readmit every element of speculation which Socrates had discarded. The problems of universal being are not unattainable or worthless if attained. . . . "Ideas rule the world"; and as men's minds receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete the world (will) advance; mighty revolutions (will) spring from them; institutions (aye, and even creeds and powers, they may add) — will crumble before their onward march. . . . It will be just as impossible to resist their influence when the time comes as to stay the progress of the tide. . . . all this will come gradually on; and . . . before it comes they as well as ourselves, have all a duty to perform, a task set before us: that of sweeping away as much as possible the dross left to us by our pious forefathers. New ideas have to be planted on clean places, for these ideas touch upon the most momentous subjects. It is not physical phenomena . . . but these universal ideas that we have precisely to study: the noumenon not the phenomenon, for, to comprehend the latter we have first to understand the former. They do touch man's true position in the Universe, . . . It is not physical phenomena however wonderful that can ever explain to man his origin let alone his ultimate destiny, . . . — the relation of the mortal to the immortal, of the temporary to the eternal, of the finite to the Infinite, etc., etc.
Verily, it is these "universal ideas" that all should study, and which by their influence over human minds will bring about the change in human consciousness that all true Theosophists work for and aspire towards, thus helping in the bringing about of that which the Theosophical Society was originally founded in 1875 to introduce.
Let it be remembered that there exists a universal and really infallible test or touchstone by which any new increments of Theosophical teaching may be tried, and this test or touchstone is universality. Universality here is equivalent to spirituality; and any teaching which can be proved to be universal, in the sense of being accordant with and in concord with all other great teachings of the past — or of the present — has high probability of being a true Theosophical verity; and contrariwise, any teaching which cannot be proved to be inherent in and a part of the great deliveries of Theosophical truths in the past, may by the same token be safely rejected as being new in the sense of different and more or less spurious, because failing to withstand successfully the test just mentioned.
In the future, it is the present writer's hope, if he can find the time and strength so to do, to publish another volume or two containing Theosophical teaching which up to the present time has been kept strictly private. The reason for this decision is the great, indeed enormous, advance in thought that has taken place since the days when H. P. Blavatsky labored in her Herculean fashion to break what she called the "molds of mind." What then was esoteric, at least in certain measure — esoteric simply because it was truly impossible then to state it openly, for it infallibly would have been misunderstood and misused — would in moderate degree be understood today by the more awakened intelligence of modern men; and the consequent larger measure of generous receptivity to new ideas has created an entirely different and indeed fallow field of consciousness, in which it has become the duty of Theosophists to plant seeds of truth. We shall see.
Meanwhile, the two volumes of the present work go to the reading public, whose verdict upon them the author will await with feelings composite of a sense of humor and a great deal of human interest. Nothing in either volume is the offspring of his own brain. His position in this respect is precisely identical with that of every Theosophical writer who is a true Theosophist at heart and who knows what he writes about: Iti maya srutam — "Thus have I heard." "I pass on what has been given to me and in the manner in which I have received it. Not otherwise." Hence the author refuses to clothe himself in the skin of an ass, or — in that of a lion!
G. de P.
International Theosophical Headquarters
Pt. Loma, California
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