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A Review of The Secret Doctrine


By William Q Judge

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The Secret Doctrine, by Blavatsky, is a work whose aim is stated as follows: "To show that Nature is not a fortuitous concurrence of atoms, and to assign to man his rightful place in the scheme of the Universe; to rescue from degradation the archaic truths which are the basis of all religions; and to uncover, to some

extent, the fundamental unity from which they all spring; finally, to show that

the occult side of Nature has never been approached by the Science of modern


This is a high aim, a great claim to advance. Whether both are fully sustained

must be left, not alone to the judgment of individual readers, but to that large

verdict of "humanity and the future generations," to which the author appeals.

Meantime, the just critic recognizes that these claims are ably put forth, in a

work of great erudition and power. The publication of a book like this has, in

itself, an emphatic significance. The attention of thinkers has in late years

been directed to the evolution of thought, its laws and its results. Of these

last The Secret Doctrine is a tremendous one. It marks the acme of the

theosophical movement; that movement which urges a search after truth in every

department of life, while predicting the final and essential unity of the whole.

It shows the most advanced phase of religious development and points out its

future course; not alone concerned with the beliefs of the present; refusing

indeed to recognize that present as a separate fact, but showing past and future

interwoven into one eternal now, and all religions, all sciences, proceeding

from one primeval belief, which afterwards became differentiated, along the path

of evolutionary progress, into forms which are various facets of the one truth.

The writing of this work is sufficient evidence for a demand for it, and however

we may take issue with some of its teachings, we must recognize the breadth and

beauty of its aim; also three facts concerning it:


First, it is a great event in literature per se.


Second, it is not the outcome of the mental or other experience of any one

person. No human brain could singly conceive a scheme so vast, so complex in details, so simple of base. It is evidently an aggregation beginning far back

in archaic times.


Third, it is thrown into the arena where science and religion, where matter

versus spirit, are warring, as the sceptre of the king was thrown into the

lists to bid contention cease. It logically reconciles the combatants in

proving their basic unity, in saying to the materialist: All issues from the

one substance which is eternal, -- and to the [believers in] spirit: That one

substance is vivified by the co-eternal undetermined potency called Spirit, of

which our word "will" is the nearest expression.


A work which can do us this service in a rational manner, while bringing the

testimony of all recorded time to sustain its teachings, certainly deserves

careful attention. The need of unity is the great tendency of our time. It is

displayed in art, literature, religion, mechanics, industrial enterprise and

international law, by efforts towards co-operation, arbitration, in a word --

unity. To find this need met in the religious field without empiricism or

dogmatism, without attempt at scientific limitations or theological form,

attacks our innate sense of justice, and inclines us to weigh before we reject.

The basis of this remarkable work is the "Book of Dzyan," an archaic Ms. unknown

to the western world and secretly preserved in the Far East. Stanzas from it are

given, with ancient and modern commentaries, followed by learned references and

explanations. The whole is supplemented by addenda showing the respective

positions of modern scientists and occultists, their agreements and their

differences. To persons wishing to be well informed on such questions without

the need of reading many books, these last are invaluable as giving a bird's-eye

view of the modern situation by well selected quotations from writers of

established reputation. Vol. I treats of Cosmogenesis; Vol. II of

Anthropogenesis. The stanzas are weird, magnificent. They have the grand calm of

classics, joined to that subtle, soul-stirring quality which is of all time and

conveys the aroma of the orientalist, to the student, from their own inherent

literary quality, quite apart from that deeper interest with which their

teachings invest them for the bold explorer into the mysteries of Being.

Altogether the book is a fascinating one. The style is abrupt and full of

variations which show the work of different minds and sustain the author's claim

to the aid of Tibetan adepts. For all these reasons it is sure to be much read,

much abused and hotly defended.


William Q Judge First Published 1889


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