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In 1924 Katherine Tingley inaugurated within the esoteric body of the Theosophical Society a series of studies in The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky, with Gottfried de Purucker as lecturer. In spite of the fact that he had not studied under Mme. Blavatsky, as had several among those present, she knew of none better prepared than he to interpret this work "from the esoteric standpoint." Moreover, she felt assured that after she was gone he would be there to "carry on these lessons," which ultimately would be published "for later generations."
At the first meeting on January 4th, Katherine Tingley set the tone of the gatherings by appealing to all present to cast aside everything of a personal and limiting nature and "get more in harmony with our higher self — with that part that is eternal and that is trying to open the way for us." Those attending should enter, "as did the neophytes of ancient days, in the spirit of self-forgetfulness," remembering that these studies were not being held primarily to enlarge the intellectual understanding of the student, but rather as an "earnest spiritual effort" to open the heart to the higher consciousness and stimulate the intuition for service in the daily life. After the lectures Katherine Tingley spoke for a few minutes and usually called upon different ones for their comments, herself giving the closing remarks. The members then left as they had come, in silence, which to her had marvelous potency for inner growth.
It was in this atmosphere of reverence for truth and for the lightbringers of mankind that G. de Purucker elucidated the spiritual principles upon which the "secret doctrine" of the ages rests. Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy represents the stenographic record of those lectures given from 1924 to 1927, with periodic interruptions during Katherine Tingley's absence on lecture tours in the United States or Europe. In 1931 the transcripts were turned over to A. Trevor Barker for editing prior to publication in London, the quotations heading the chapters having been selected by Joseph H. Fussell, friend and colleague of the author.
What makes this book significant among the many expositions of The Secret Doctrine that have appeared since 1888? Not least, perhaps, is the inspired treatment of the vast evolutionary process that encompasses the rhythmic rebirth of worlds, of humans, and of every living being, for the purpose of bringing into actuality the fullness of godhood infolded within every god-spark. Propelled by ancient habit we too, in our cyclic descent into earthly life, follow the same cosmic routes traveled by all monads until, the lessons of planetary experience mastered, we graduate as self-evolved divinities. How the One becomes the many, how spirit irradiates every particle of matter, is the old story — now retold with a wondrous clarity so that the reader discovers he has at hand those key-teachings that will enable him to test for himself whether or not any religious or philosophic concept, ancient or modern, is in harmony with "that primeval spiritual and natural revelation" accorded the first thinking humans on earth. Throughout, like a golden sheen on the far horizon of time, he perceives the oneness of humanity's spiritual inheritance and our commonality of divine origin and goal. Further, there is wide scholarship here: not only are the terms from the Sanskrit, Hebrew, and other ancient literatures explained etymologically, but they are given richer interpretation in the light of Dr. de Purucker's knowledge of our early racial history and of the traditional lore and sacred scriptures of Orient and Occident.
For many, however, the greatest gift of all is his restorative trust in the dignity and nobility of man. We are indeed knights errant of eternity, bent on the ancient quest for a wisdom we know exists but which seems ever to elude our grasp. In being reminded of that quest, there is generated a devotion to truth and to the compassionate line of teachers — a devotion that has power to move the soul, to lead us life after life toward those encounters that will purify and strengthen the character and fit us better to serve humanity's cause.
The revision of this second edition has been undertaken with exceeding care and, while the few passages that pertained strictly to the esoteric nature of the sessions have been deleted as have some of the repetitions that are inevitable when a series of addresses is published almost verbatim, the lecture material has been left practically intact.
To have condensed and systematized the presentation would have foiled the intent of the author. Intangibly, yet step by step, he builds atmosphere as he touches on this teaching or that, carries the thought for a distance and then turns to another teaching, seemingly different, yet relevant to the larger picture he is unfolding. In a later chapter or two he may return to the earlier themes, develop them for a time, then again move on to other doctrines. Dr. de Purucker remarks more than once that in this he is deliberately following the ancient esoteric method of imparting sacred truths: repetition of the salient thought, but always with sufficient variation and enlargement of vision to draw the student on so that the mind will not set itself in molds. The mind that remains fluid is more responsive to intuition and the flow of light that may spontaneously illumine the soul when the inner nature is attuned.
It is of interest that the original edition of Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy published in 1932 did not include the first two lectures, but began with the third one. Their omission no doubt was inadvertent; but, providentially, a few years after the author's death Kirby Van Mater, archivist for the Society, turned up the two missing lectures among papers which presumably had been returned with other material to headquarters from the European centers to which Katherine Tingley had sent them in 1924, to be shared with "appreciative minds." The pertinent portions of these meetings are now incorporated as sections i and ii of chapter 1, preceding section iii which originally appeared as the first chapter of the 1932 edition. The present volume is enhanced by their inclusion, for they amplify and deepen Dr. de Purucker's interpretation of the three fundamental propositions with which H. P. Blavatsky opens her magnum opus and which "pervade the entire system of thought" she proceeds to outline.
We acknowledge with gratitude the efficient help of all in our printing and editorial departments, with a special word of commendation to Raymond Rugland for his meticulous care in resetting the entire book in a more readable typeface; to James T. Belderis for redrawing the many diagrams; and to William T. S. Thackara for maintaining excellence in every phase of the book's physical production; for the several proofreadings required, deep appreciation to Elsa-Brita Titchenell, Manuel Oderberg, Ingrid Van Mater, and A. Studley and Eloise Hart; likewise to John P. Van Mater, librarian, for assistance to Mrs. Titchenell and Mr. Oderberg in checking the numerous quotations and references from original sources. It goes without saying that the close cooperation of the editorial committee, A. Studley Hart, Ida P. Moffett, and Sarah Belle Dougherty (who also prepared the enlarged index), made the task of editing the text for publication incomparably lighter.
After a near half-century, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy remains an excellent introductory study of theosophy for today's readers in search of the very truths that disciples of olden times, holding the fuel of devotion in their hands, sought to learn of sages and rishis.GRACE F. KNOCHE April 27, 1979 Pasadena, California
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