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Theosophical Glossary Not By HPB

Its Editor, G.R.S. Mead,
Misused Helena P. Blavatsky’s Name

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

H.P. Blavatsky (left) is not the author of the Theosophical Glossary

Everyone can buy from Theosophy Company and other publishers the volume “Theosophical Glossary”, whose authorship is wrongly ascribed to Helena P. Blavatsky.
The main founder of the theosophical movement died in May 1891. In the Preface of the Glossary’s first edition, dated January 1892, its editor G. R. S. Mead frankly admits that the volume is “almost entirely posthumous”. H.P.B. only saw in proof 32 of its 389 pages.
Henry S. Olcott soon made a review of the Glossary, and it was published at “The Theosophist” (India), in April 1892 (pp. 444-445). Olcott wrote that if H.P.B. had lived to bring out the Glossary, she would have been much more careful with its contents. Olcott listed a number of mistakes present in the volume, and added:
“Permitting the work to be hurried out with so many errors of omission and commission in its Sanskrit department, are we not playing into the hands of Prof. Müller and other Sanskritists who concur with him in calling us a lot of pseudo-scholars?”
One example of pseudo-scholarship in the Glossary should be given here. It shows the arrogance and occult disinformation which would soon lead Mr. Mead and his colleague, Mrs. Annie Besant, away from true theosophy. 
In the entry on “Fakir”, Mr. Mead pretends to know better than the author of “Isis Unveiled” and indulges in “correcting” that masterpiece of esoteric philosophy. Mead writes:
“Fakir (Arab.) - A Mussulman ascetic in India, a Mahometan ‘Yogi’. The name is often applied, though erroneously to Hindu ascetics; for strictly speaking only Mussulman ascetics are entitled to it. This loose way of calling things by general names was adopted in Isis Unveiled but is now altered.”
Indeed, Initiates have a “loose”, or rather a flexible, living, dynamic relationship with words.
They prefer a direct use of words, giving them many shades of meanings according to each context.
They leave the dead-letter approach in the study of esoteric philosophy to those who are attached to shallow views of life and literature.
While it is acceptable that editors look for exactitude in terms, they should respect the way Initiates as HPB and the Masters of the Wisdom use words.
In “The Mahatma Letters” the term “Fakir” is used several times and in every instance it has the same general meaning as used in “Isis Unveiled”.[1] Because Mead could understand nothing of occult teachings, he tried to correct the sacred teachers of our mankind.
In spite of its mistakes, the “Glossary” is useful. It certainly should not bear H.P. Blavatsky’s name as its author.  In the book “The Dream That Never Dies”, one finds an article by Boris de Zirkoff, on Mead’s Glossary. [2]
Under the emphatic title “Who Played That Trick on H.P.B.? - The Puzzle of The Theosophical Glossary”, Boris makes a detailed examination of Mead’s volume and shows many of its mistakes. “The definitions of the Days and Nights of Brahmâ”, for instance, “are entirely wrong”: and this is a key topic in theosophy.
According to Boris, “a partial survey of the first four letters of the Glossary has revealed no less than 40 mistranslations out of about 300 terms, a very high percentage indeed.”
The Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, republished Mead’s Glossary in 1930. The action was possibly right for that particular point in history. Mead’s Glossary was better than nothing.  However, it was already known by then that G.R.S. Mead had directly participated with Annie Besant in the distortion of and tampering with the original edition of “The Secret Doctrine”. If that had been taken into due consideration, the Theosophy Co. could have abstained from adopting Mead’s Glossary.
There are significant success stories in the history of the theosophical movement. It was fortunate that in the late 1970s the Theosophical Society, Adyar, abandoned the spurious Besant/Mead version of “The Secret Doctrine”. 
The same destiny may be waiting for Mead’s Glossary. The theosophical literature is capable of renewing itself, and the reading public deserves other and better reference books than Mead’s.
The best esoteric Glossary available has been around for quite a few years. It is the comprehensive online TUP edition of the Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary, an electronic version of a Working Manuscript.  G. de Purucker is its Editor-in-Chief. Geoffrey Barborka is the Editor and Project Manager, and Grace F. Knoche the Editor. The Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary is reliable and well-documented. It points to its sources. It is free from pseudo-theosophical fancies and focuses on real philosophy. One should recommend it to readers and researchers. [3]

A Gradual Progress in Esoteric Literature

Evolution and self-improvement in theosophical literature are rather slow. Changes take time to spread over various languages.
Mead’s Glossary is still the best-known theosophical reference book available in Portuguese language, for instance. And it is helpful, in spite of its many mistakes.  As the volume uses Helena Blavatsky’s name, it is considered by many as a classic. However, this creates an aura of relative falsehood around it.   In future editions Mead’s “Theosophical Glossary” could well be published with his name as the author. Such a decision would make it become more accurate, at least on its front cover.   
G. R. S. Mead’s mistake is far from being an isolated fact. It is equally incorrect to publish under HPB’s name any summaries of her works which (well-intentioned as they may be) were not penned by her and are quite different from what she wrote.  An example among others is the Summary of “The Secret Doctrine” made by Michael Gomes. Mr. Gomes uses the same title as the original work, and his volume is intensely yet unethically ambiguous about its authorship.  
While it may be a temptation to some to misuse the name of famous authors, responsible editors refrain from that out of respect for the public.
They know that readers have a right to immediately know whose words they will read,  and whose books they will possibly buy.
[1] See for instance the TUP edition of “The Mahatma Letters”, Letter XXIX, p. 224, and Letter LIV, and Letter LVI (first paragraph), and Letter CXXXIV (the Prayag Letter).
[2] “The Dream That Never Dies - Boris de Zirkoff Speaks Out On Theosophy”, Point Loma Publications, 237 pp., 1983, San Diego, CA. See pp. 81-85. The article was first published in the winter of 1967-1968.
[3] The “Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary” is available at http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/etgloss/etg-hp.htm .
On the dharma and duty of the esoteric movement, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.
Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.
Theosophical Glossary Not By HPB

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