Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

The Myth of the "Missing" Third Volume of The Secret Doctrine
by Daniel H. Caldwell

Part 4


We can now trace the history of the third volume from 1888 to HPB's death in 1891 by citing various published documents.

April 3, 1888---HPB wrote to the Second American T.S. Convention:

The MSS. of the first three volumes is now ready for the press. (CW 9: 247).

1888---HPB wrote about the third volume in Volumes I and II of The Secret Doctrine (1888):

Even the two volumes now issued do not complete the scheme, and these do not treat exhaustively of the subjects dealt with in them. A large quantity of material has already been prepared, dealing with the history of occultism as contained in the lives of the great Adepts of the Aryan Race, and showing the bearing of occult philosophy upon the conduct of life, as it is and as it ought to be. Should the present volumes meet with a favourable reception, no effort will be spared to carry out the scheme of the work in its entirety. The third volume is entirely ready; the fourth almost so. [1: vii]

But if the reader has patience, and would glance at the present state of beliefs and creeds in Europe, compare and check it with what is known to history of the ages directly preceding and following the Christian era, then he will find all this in Volume III. of this work.

In that volume a brief recapitulation will be made of all the principal adepts known to history, and the downfall of the mysteries will be described; after which began the disappearance and final and systematic elimination from the memory of men of the real nature of initiation and the Sacred Science. From that time its teachings became Occult and Magic sailed but too often under the venerable but frequently misleading name of Hermetic philosophy. As real Occultism had been prevalent among the Mystics during the centuries that preceded our era, so Magic, or rather Sorcery, with its Occult Arts, followed the beginning of Christianity. [l: xxxix-xl]

Read by the light of the Zohar, the initial four chapters of Genesis are the fragment of a highly philosophical page in the World's Cosmogony. (See Book III., "Gupta Vidya and the Zohar") [1: 10-1]

The explanation with regard to the "Anupadaka" given in the Kala Chakra, the first in the Gyu(t) division of the Kanjur, is half esoteric. It has misled the Orientalists into erroneous speculations with respect to the Dhyani-Buddhas and their earthly correspondencies, the Manushi-Buddhas. The real tenet is hinted at in a subsequent Volume, (see "The Mystery about Buddha"), and will be more fully explained in its proper place. [1: 52n]

Therefore the meaning of the "fairy tale" translated by Chwolson from an old Chaldean MSS. translated into Arabic, about Qu-tamy being instructed by the idol of the moon, is easily understood (vide Book III.) Seldenus tells us the secret as well as Maimonides.... The worshipers of the Teraphim (the Jewish Oracles) "carved images and claimed that the light of the principal stars (planets) permeating these through and through, the angelic VIRTUES (or the regents of the stars and planets) conversed with them, teaching them many most useful things and arts." [1: 394]

If one studies comparative Theogony, it is easy to find that the secret of these "Fires" was taught in the Mysteries of every ancient people, pre-eminently in Samothrace.... There is no space to describe these "fires" and their real meaning here, though we may attempt to do so if the third and fourth volumes of this work are ever published. [2: 106]

In Volume III. of this work (the said volume and the IVth being almost ready) a brief history of all the great adepts known to the ancients and the moderns in their chronological order will be given, as also a bird's eye view of the Mysteries, their birth, growth, decay, and final death -- in Europe. This could not find room in the present work. Volume IV will be almost entirely devoted to Occult teachings. [2: 437]

These two volumes should form for the student a fitting prelude for Volumes III. and IV. Until the rubbish of the ages is cleared away from the minds of the Theosophists to whom these volumes are dedicated, it is impossible that the more practical teaching contained in the Third Volume should be understood.

Consequently, it entirely depends upon the reception with which Volumes I. and II. will meet at the hands of Theosophists and Mystics, whether these last two volumes will ever be published. though they are almost completed. [2: 797-8]

These descriptions by HPB of what was in the unpublished Volume III of The Secret Doctrine correspond fairly well with what she says in her letters of 1886 in describing the original volume I.

April 29, 1889---Archibald Keightley was quoted in an interview in the New York Times, p. 5:

The third volume of 'The Secret Doctrine' is in manuscript ready to be given to the printers. It will consist mainly of a series of sketches of the great occultists of all ages, and is a most wonderful and fascinating work. The fourth volume, which is to be largely hints on the subject of practical occultism, has been outlined, but not yet written....

November 21, 1889---HPB wrote in a letter to N. D. Khandalavala (Theosophist, August 1932, 626):

[I] have been able to write my S.D., "Key," "Voice," and prepared two more volumes of the S. Doctrine.

February 1890---HPB wrote in a letter to her sister Vera (Path, December 1895, 268):

I must put the third volume of the [Secret] Doctrine in order, and the fourth -- hardly begun yet, too.

December 1890---A report (Theosophist, July 1891, 586-7) of Bertram Keightley's lecture "Theosophy in the West" to the annual T.S. convention at Adyar, Madras, India, included the following:

H.P.B. handed over to him [B. Keightley] the manuscript of the "Secret Doctrine," with a request that he should read it through. He read through the substance of the two volumes published, and the third still unpublished.... what would now be the 3rd volume of the history of Occultism was to have been the first volume, while the treatises on Cosmogony and the Genesis of Man were to form a later series.... He then drafted a scheme with the natural and obvious order, namely. the Evolution of the Universe and the Evolution of man, &c. &c. The next thing...was to rearrange ...the manuscript according to the [new] scheme.

January 7, 1891---Claude Falls Wright wrote (Path, February 1891, 354):

H.P.B. has within the last week or so begun to get together the MSS. (long ago written) for the Third Volume of The Secret Doctrine; it will however, take a good twelve months to prepare for publication.

February 1891---Alice Leighton Cleather wrote (Theosophist, April 1891, 438):

H.P.B. has already started on Vol. III.

February 18, 1891---Countess Wachtmeister wrote in a letter to W. Q. Judge (cited in Report of Proceedings, Secret Doctrine Centenary, October 29-30, 1988, 1989, 86):

When Volume 3 [of The Secret Doctrine] comes out this summer I expect there will be a fresh demand for the earlier [two] volumes.

April 1891---HPB wrote in Lucifer (CW 13: 145-6):

Two years ago, the writer promised in The Secret Doctrine, Vol. II, p. 798, a third and even a fourth volume of that work. This third volume (now almost ready) treats of the ancient Mysteries of Initiation, gives sketches--from the esoteric standpoint--of many of the most famous and historically known philosophers and hierophants (everyone of whom is set down by the Scientists as an impostor), from the archaic down to the Christian era, and traces the teachings of all these sages to one and the same source of all knowledge and science--the esoteric doctrine or WISDOM RELIGION. No need our saying that from the esoteric and legendary materials used in the forthcoming work, its statements and conclusions differ greatly and often clash irreconcilably with the data given by almost all the English and German Orientalists....Now the main point of Volume III of The Secret Doctrine is to prove, by tracing and explaining the blinds in the works of ancient Indian, Greek, and other philosophers of note, and also in all the ancient Scriptures--the presence of an uninterrupted esoteric allegorical method and symbolism; to show, as far as lawful, that with the keys of interpretation as taught in the Eastern Hindoo-Buddhistic Canon of Occultism, the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Sutras, the Epic poems of India and Greece, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Scandinavian Eddas, as well as the Hebrew Bible, and even the classical writings of Initiates (such as Plato, among others)--all, from first to last, yield a meaning quite different from their dead letter texts.

May 4, 1891---Annie Besant gave testimony in HPB's case against Elliott Coues and the New York Sun (Michael Gomes, ed., Witness for the Prosecution: Annie Besant's Testimony on Behalf of H. P. Blavatsky in the N. Y. Sun/Coues Law Case, 1993, 23):

There is one other work of hers [HPB's], which I have seen in manuscript, still unpublished; a third volume of "The Secret Doctrine" which is now being got ready for the press under my own eyes. Madame Blavatsky has also in preparation a glossary of Sanscrit and Eastern tongues; those are both in preparation; one of them is already in type and the other is nearly ready for type.

May 8, 1891---H. P. Blavatsky died in London.

From the above 1890-1891 statements (either written by HPB herself or by her London students) a reasonable conclusion can be drawn that HPB had finally decided to publish the third volume of The Secret Doctrine and was, in fact, working on the third volume manuscript during the months preceding her death.

In light of this conclusion, it is difficult to understand what Boris de Zirkoff meant when he wrote (in SD Intro., 71) that "no outright positive or negative answer can be made to the oft-repeated question whether a completed Manuscript of Volumes III and IV ever existed."

Setting aside de Zirkoff's reference to Volume IV, there is no reason to doubt that a manuscript of Volume III existed during the last years of HPB's life. Furthermore, had she lived, HPB would probably have added and deleted material from the manuscript; she would probably have rewritten and reedited the material even more. But at the time of her death, this manuscript was as "complete" as HPB could make it. What more could be expected?

In the twentieth century, many Blavatsky students have chosen to believe that the real unpublished Volume III manuscript of 1887-1891 (the former Volume I of 1886-1887) somehow vanished. Some have suggested that the manuscript was either destroyed by HPB before her death, or--after HPB's death--suppressed by Besant, "dematerialized" by the Masters, or otherwise disappeared.

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