The Theosophical Society in Australia

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Biography Blavatsky Book Reviews Consciousness Indology Pamphlets Periodicals

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

Introduction    Isis Unveiled    The Secret Doctrine



Picture of HP Blavatsky
HP Blavatsky

HP BLAVATSKY is one of the most significant figures in the modern theosophical movement. She was a co-founder, in 1875, of the Theosophical Society. Her published works have provided a solid basis and inspiration for the study and exploration of concepts associated with theosophy. She was a prolific writer. Apart from her major published works and numerous still unpublished letters, a large part of her work is contained in 14 large volumes: H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, complied by Boris de ZIRKOFF. For text online see Links to Theosophical Texts Online.

A significant number of her letters have been included in The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky vol I 1861-1879, edited by John ALGEO and others and published by Quest Books TPH Wheaton, 2003. See also Book Reviews.

HP Blavatsky’s first major work was:

Isis Unveiled: A Master Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, 2 vols, published in 1877. For text online see Links to Theosophical Texts Online.

This was followed by:

The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, in 1888, vol I cosmogenesis and vol II Anthropogenesis. For texts online see Links to Theosophical Texts Online.

The Key to Theosophy: A clear exposition, in the form of Question and Answer, of the Ethics, Science and Philosophy for the study of which the Theosophical Society has been founded, in 1889. For text online see Links to Theosophical Texts Online.

The Voice of the Silence, a book of mystical precepts, in 1889. For text online see Links to Theosophical Texts Online.

For From the Caves and Jungles of Hindustan H.P. Blavatsky used the pseudonym Radda-Bai. This is based on her experiences during extensive travels in India. For text online of the partial edition of 1892, reprinted 1908 (318 pages) see Links to Theosophical Texts Online. The full BCW edition 1975 (660 pages plus index) is not available online.

Following are some selected publications covering Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine and other relevant publications.


Isis Unvelied

BLAVATSKY, HP: Isis Unveiled: A Master Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology. vol I: Science 628 pages, vol II: Theology 708 pages. JW Bouton London & NY 1877. For text online see Links to Theosophical Texts Online.

Isis Unveiled made a sensational impact when first published and continues to be a source of fascination and information for many. Published just two years after the founding of the Theosophical Society, it comprehensively covers philosophical, religious, scientific, mythological, allegorical and symbolical facts and theories, pointing to the antiquity of the occult tradition. Some of its chapter headings are: phenomena and forces; theories respecting psychic phenomena; some mysteries of nature; cyclic phenomena; Egyptian wisdom; inner and outer man; psychological and physical marvels; realities and illusion. It is a book that may be read at random or from cover to cover.

The birth of Isis Unveiled was dramatic and raises some interesting issues. Colonel Henry Olcott, a co-founder of the Theosophical Society, who was with Madame Blavatsky when she was writing it, gives an interesting account of the background to its writing in his biographical work Old Diary Leaves, vol I, published in 1895. In 95 pages he discusses many of those issues. One example: in considering how Blavatsky was able to refer to such a large number of reference sources when she seemed to have access to only a moderate library he asks:

“Whence did HPB draw the materials which comprise Isis, and which cannot be traced to accessible literary sources of quotation? From the Astral Light and by her soul-senses, from her Teachers — the “Brothers”, “Adepts”, “Sages”, “Masters”, as they have been variously called. How do I know it? By working two years with her on Isis and many more years on other literary work.”


Selection of its title added some drama. Originally it was to be called the Veil of Isis but it was not known before a substantial number of printing plates had been prepared that another book of this title has already been published. The title Isis Unveiled was then chosen. In The Theosophist of August 1931, C Jinarajadasa notes:

“The whole of the first volume in the 1st edition and in all the subsequent editions printed from the same stereo-typed plates, even as late as 1886, bears inside on each even page at top the title The Veil of Isis. But in the 2nd volume the title is Isis Unveiled. Evidently the whole of the 1st volume had been set up and stereo-typed before it was decided to change the title.”

An Abridgement of Isis Unveiled by Michael Gomes was published in 1997, 274+ pages. For details see Book Reviews.


The Secret Doctrine

BLAVATSKY, HP: The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, vol I Cosmogenesis 676+ pages, Anthropogenesis 798+ pages, Theosophical Publishing Co London/New York 1888. For text online see Links to Theosophical Texts Online.

The Secret Doctrine is probably the best known, most significant and most influential publication that has emerged from the modern theosophical movement. Volume I deals with the evolution of the cosmos and volume II with the evolution of humanity. It is a complex and challenging work and requires careful study and persistence from any serious student of that body of thought variously called, among other things, theosophy, the ancient wisdom, the perennial philosophy, the wisdom religion, esoteric philosophy or the esoteric tradition.

The Secret Doctrine has been reprinted in a number of editions since 1888, including in facsimile form. Abridgements are also available, for example, in 1967 Quest Books USA published An Abridgement of The Secret Doctrine, edited by Elizabeth Preston and Christmas Humphreys. Many publications and articles have also been produced which attempt to explore and elucidate the ideas contained in it. The Campbell Library’s collection contains many of those works and below are just some of them.

BLAVATSKY, HP: An Invitation to ‘The Secret Doctrine’ — including “The Secret Doctrine and Its Study” by Robert Bowen and “The Writing of The Secret Doctrine” by Kirby Van Mater. Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, 1st edition, 1988. For text online see Links to Theosophical Texts Online.

The essence of The Secret Doctrine is here conveyed in Blavatsky’s own words through its Three Fundamental Propositions and her Summing Up from vol. I, and Preliminary Notes and Conclusion from vol. II. Included also are the Preface, and the Stanzas of Dzyan which are the basis of The Secret Doctrine. The sections by Bowen and Van Mater are also useful readings for any student of the work.

BLAVATSKY, HP: Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge of The Theosophical Society. Discussions on the Stanzas of the first volume of The Secret Doctrine, Theosophical University Press, Pasadena. First published in two parts in 1890 and 1891, they were condensed from the original discussions. For text online see Links to Theosophical Texts Online.

In 1889, the Blavatsky Lodge of The Theosophical Society in London provided the opportunity for members to discuss with H. P. Blavatsky matters relating to certain ‘Stanzas’ of The Secret Doctrine. These Transactions are the outcome of shorthand notes of comments on the esoteric philosophy made by Blavatsky and others at those weekly meetings. With minor modifications this edition was published in 1946, 118 pages.

ALGEO, John: Getting Acquainted with The Secret Doctrine, A Study Course, Olcott Institute, Theosophical Society in America, 3rd ed 2007, 60 pages:

A very useful guide for any student of The Secret Doctrine, this course provides a comprehensive approach to its study. As Algeo writes: “This course is merely one approach ... based on the Bowen Notes, which purportedly record Blavatsky’s own advice. It borrows freely, however, from the wisdom and practice of many others”. Also included are comprehensive lists of publications to help with the reading and study of The Secret Doctrine.

BARBORKA, Geoffrey A: The Divine Plan. Written in the form of a Commentary on H. P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine, 2nd edition, 1964, 564 pages:

A guide-book for students of The Secret Doctrine. Barborka reorganises Blavatsky’s material and adds his own comments and interpretations. He analyses and explains unfamiliar terms used.

BARBORKA, Geoffrey A: Peopling of the Earth: A Commentary on Archaic records in The Secret Doctrine, TPH Wheaton 1975, 233 pages. Exploration of vol II of The Secret Doctrine: ‘Anthropogenesis’.

BARBORKA, Geoffrey A: The Story of Human Evolution: Written in the form of a Commentary on The Stanzas of Dzyan, TPH Adyar 1979, 147 pages. Explores vol II of The Secret Doctrine: ‘Anthropogenesis‘.

BOWEN, Robert: Madame Blavatsky on How to Study Theosophy — The Secret Doctrine and Its Study, TPH Adyar 1960, 17 page booklet. For text online see Links to Theosophical Texts Online.

Said to be extracts from notes made by Bowen when he was a pupil in Blavatsky’s study circle from 1888 to 1891. Originally printed in Theosophy in Ireland in 1932, they contain principles that can be applied not only to the study of The Secret Doctrine, but to all theosophical studies.

De PURUCKER, G/KNOCHE Grace F (ed): Fountain-Source of Occultism, A modern presentation of the ancient universal wisdom based on The Secret Doctrine of H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophical University Press Pasadena 1974, 744 pages. For text online see Links to Theosophical Texts Online.

An interpretation of the ancient wisdom as set out in The Secret Doctrine. De Purucker covers a vast range of subjects: galaxies and solar systems, invisible worlds, meditation, yoga, psychic powers, Buddhas, sleep and death, space and time, karma, ethics — to name a few. The contents originated in twelve booklets of instruction privately printed in 1936 and to which de Purucker added much fresh material on various subjects.

HANSEN, Virginia (ed): H. P. Blavatsky and The Secret Doctrine — commentaries on her contributions to world thought, a Quest Book TPH Wheaton, 2nd ed 1988, 240 pages:

This book commemorates the centenary of the publication of The Secret Doctrine. It contains a range of articles from various authors under the following section headings:

  1. H. P. Blavatsky and the Inner Side of The Secret Doctrine
  2. Some Secret Doctrine Concepts
  3. The Theosophical View of Consciousness
  4. Science and The Secret Doctrine
  5. H. P. Blavatsky’s Influence on Science and the Arts.

Some of the contributors are: John Algeo, Adam Warcup, Michael Gomes. F. L. Kunz, Boris de Zirkoff, Christmas Humphreys and Hugh Murdoch.

MILLS, Joy: Living in Wisdom — Lectures on The Secret Doctrine, Uitgeverij Theosofische Vereniging in Nederland Amsterdam 1994, 57 pages:

Lectures given at the International Theosophical Centre in Naarden, Holland in 1988 celebrating the centenary of the publication of The Secret Doctrine. “The entire purpose of this remarkable work was to awaken a new mode of thought”, writes Mills. Among other things, she discusses what she perceives as mythological aspects of its contents, particularly in reference to the origin and development of human beings. Also emphasised are the ethical conclusions to be drawn from such study.

REIGLE, David: The Books of Kiu-te or The Tibetan Buddhist Tantras A Preliminary Analysis, Secret Doctrine Reference Series, Wizard Bookshelf, San Diego, 1st ed 1983, 70 pages:

The Books of Kiu-te are said to be a series of occult works which include The Book of Dzyan, from which, it is claimed, a number of stanzas were translated and which form the basis of The Secret Doctrine. The existence of The Books of Kiu-te has been a mystery, however David Reigle claims that “by simply tracing the reference H. P. Blavatsky gave when referring to these books, they have now been positively identified”. In this book he sets out to support his claim.

REIGLE, David and REIGLE, Nancy: Blavatsky’s Secret Books — Twenty Years Research, Wizard Bookshelf 1999, 181 pages.

This book

“was prepared in order to make available some materials relating to the search for Helena P. Blavatsky’s ‘secret books’. The ‘Book of Dzyan’ is what she calls the secret source of the stanzas forming the basis of her published book, The Secret Doctrine; and the ‘Book of the Golden Precepts’ is what she calls the secret source of her published book, The Voice of The Silence. Our research has focused on these two books”.

VARIOUS: Symposium on H. P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine: Proceedings. Held at San Diego California 1984. Seventeen papers from four countries. Wizards Bookshelf 1984, 111 pages:

The published papers range widely — from A Secret Doctrine Bibliography by John P. Van Mater, through Science and The Secret Doctrine: Some Interesting Parallels ... and Some Important Differences by W. D. McDavid, to H. P. Blavatsky and Sir William Crookes: Influence of The Masters by Dr Ralph Hannon.

WOOD, Ernest: A “Secret Doctrine” Digest — The laws and facts of nature and life as taught by H. P. Blavatsky in her monumental work entitled ‘The Secret Doctrine’ with explanations where necessary, TPH Adyar 1956, 480 pages

Wood writes that “no attempt has been made to compare these teachings with any current or ancient philosophy, or with the religions of to-day. [Readers may make their own comparisons with their own religion or beliefs] on which the present work may throw much new light”.

OTHER SELECTED PUBLICATIONS by and about HP Blavatsky: see Biography.

All of the works described above are available in the Campbell Library


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