A Welcome Guide

Book Review by Ina Rijken van Olst

Helena P. Blavatsky, the inspiring force behind the modern theosophical movement, dedicated her remarkable literary talent to writing about esoteric wisdom and explaining the philosophical ideas connected with it. She is best known for her books, especially her masterwork The Secret Doctrine. But the fact is that from 1874 till her death in 1891, besides writing for The Theosophist and Lucifer, she contributed articles to The Path and to various American, Indian, and Russian newspapers and several Spiritualist journals — the sum total of which far exceeds what she published in book form.

Early in this century the need was felt to compile her writings and make them available to the public. It became an inter-organizational project in which all Theosophical Societies collaborated. The result was that before World War II four volumes were published in England under the title: The Complete Works of H. P. Blavatsky. Unfortunately, the plates were destroyed during the war. As the demand for H. P. Blavatsky's writings increased after 1945, the project was resumed by Boris de Zirkoff, the dedicated scholar who initiated the series in the 'twenties. His years of labor resulted in fourteen volumes, H. P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings. Each volume contains a general bibliography, including data about authors, scholars, and public figures mentioned by HPB in the text; a chronology on the whereabouts of HPB and the main events of the theosophical movement; and an index.

Finding and cross-referencing information in this monumental collection has been difficult for many students. A great debt of thanks is due to Dara Eklund aided by Nicholas C. Weeks for combining and expanding the separate indices of the fourteen volumes into one Cumulative Index, now Volume XV in the series.* It consists of 617 pages of entries, plus Appendix I: listing illustrations and facsimiles, and Appendix II: Serials List including archives, annals, journals, and newsletters. The general public as well as the student will find it is easy to use. Entries and subentries give an instant overview by volume and page number of each topic. Whoever is interested in HPB's works will find this index a real asset in facilitating the study of theosophy.

*Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton 1991,647 pages. Volumes 1-14, also published by TPH, average 600 pages each, cloth. All are available from Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, California

Writing the theosophic message was HPB's major task. Her tremendous literary legacy has given seekers after truth a treasure of wisdom to explore, of such abundance and depth that it will continue to illumine our minds and touch our hearts for many lives to come. She was responsible for reviving the ancient theosophic wisdom in an age saturated with the dogmas and fallacies of materialistic science and religion. This was exceedingly difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, theosophic ideas have permeated the thought-life of society in unfathomable ways, and the interest in them is steadily increasing, though it may be centuries before the full scope of her sacrifice will be appreciated by humanity.

Until then we will have to contend with her all-too-numerous imitators, those who make similar claims, using and abusing her teachings. This is why it is crucial to have HPB's original writings available. Only through these can inquirers get the most reliable information about her and her work. These are the criteria by which she should be judged, not the trivial details about her personal life and the phenomena she was able to produce.

The real H. P. Blavatsky and her ideals will become increasingly known to the world as more and more people acquaint themselves with the fruits of her mind and spirit. The fifteen volumes of her Collected Writings will undoubtedly contribute to the knowledge and wisdom that humanity desperately needs. The Cumulative Index is a very welcome aid to those who value HPB's written words.

(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1991; copyright © 1991 Theosophical University Press)

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