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comments regarding theosophical lit. on internet

Jul 25, 1994 07:07 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker

This is by Eldon Tucker


Here are some miscellaneous comments regarding computerized
theosophical materials.

Regarding the indexes that Bing did at Wheaton a few years ago, he
did that work as a paid employe of the TS, and there may be some
question as to ownership of the material. The copyright might
belong to the TS, if it is considered a "work for hire." I've seen
a copy of the indexes, but permission from both Bing and John Alego
would probably be necessary for any electronic posting of them.

There is no electronic index to The Secret Doctrine that I know of,
but there is one to the Blavatsky Collected Writings. This was done
in Wordperfect 5.1 by Dara Elkund and Nicholas Weeks (I helped a
little with some computer assistence). Copyright on that index
belongs to TPH Wheaton.

I called John Algeo and suggested that he look into getting TPH
Wheaton, London, and Adyar to release their copyrights on
theosophical classics--at least in electronic form. If the
literatuare could be put into the public domain, as far as its
electronic format goes, then the materials could be computerized
and go out on the Internet, etc. He mentioned that he would bring
the matter up at the July board meeting. I then wrote up several
pages of notes for him to review, and sent a copy to Don, Mike, and
John Mead.

The work of putting the theosophical works into computer format has
a lot of editorial detail to it, that goes beyond computer issues
of what software to use and how to retrieve and access it. The
basic materials need to be captured in a generic word-processor
format, and corrected and reviewed. After that, multiple ways of
formatting the materials for distribution can be done, including
Braille, large-print listings, Adobe Acrobat electronic books,
Wordperfect files, hypertext, etc.

I'd estimate that the time to scan and correct the text of a book
to the printed page to be about 20 percent of the total time to
prepare it in electronic form, and this before any working on
indexing it! I'm currently working on Esoteric Budhism by A.P.
Sinnett as an experiment. I'm correcting spellings and
standardizing theosophical terms, and coming up with a spelling and
capitalization list. When I get a copy of Adobe Distiller, in a few
months, I'll see how it looks as an electronic book.

The advantage of distribution using Adobe Acrobat is that it is
computer and display independent. It provides an electronic book
with images that will take on any resolution. The $50/unit retail
cost would drop a lot if we distributed electronic books, and got
a quantity discount on pricing for copies of Acrobat that we
distributed with the books.

Regarding indexing, the simplist form is a concondance. A file of
words and phrases are build, and the wordprocesser generates an
index based upon it. The next form is where phrases are
individually marked, and take you to the index (like in hypertext
links). The most comprehensive form is a conceptual index. A
knowledgable theosophical scholar reads each page and writes
phrases that represent the concepts represented on that page. Those
concepts are assembled into an index. The index is sorted and
considerable editorial work is done to identify and consolidate
entries that use different words but mean the same thing. This form
of index is what was used with the Blavatsky Collected Writings. We
could really use some grant money to pay someone like Dara Eklund
or Nicholas Weeks to spend a couple of years going through the rest
of Blavatsky's works and the classics to create an overall index.

A final comment on idexes is that you might not only want to go to
a particular page, but also to see highlighted the passage referred
to. This requires that the beginning and ending of a passage
referred to is maked with each index entry, and that the indexing
software support such a scheme.

Regarding theosophical texts that are computerized, I have some.
Vic Hao Chin, the head of the TS in the Phillipines is working on
some. He just publisted The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in
chronological order; that is a wordprocessor file that he might be
asked to release. Theosophical University Press has many books in
electronic form; these could be formatted for release as well, when
they get to it. I'm trying to see that Point Loma Publications will
get their works in computerized form, someday to be available over
the Internet as well.

Until computer technology gets a bit better, though, I don't see a
computer file replacing a good book to read... It's just not the
same sort of experience. But in a few years the computer screen
will have the same quality of appearance as a book's printed page,
and if the laptop's not too heavy, I may change my mind.

I have a computerized Secret Doctrine, in Wordperfect 5.1, with
most of the symbols as EPS graphics. Only the first few hundred
pages of each volume are cleaned up; there is a lot of scanning
errors. When I scanned it, Omnipage was not as good, and it was
very difficult to correct scanning mistakes. There was a lot of
effort spent on it that could have been saved! It's nice, though,
bad as it is, to go a search on some term, and see a number of
passages with what I am looking for...

It's important again to state that most of the work ahead in the
computerizing of Theosophy is editorial, and requires coming up
with and working with a style guide to materials. I'll post my list
of terms and corrections that I came up with in working on Esoteric
Budhism in a few days as an example.


If there's someone out there who's good with Coreldraw, I have a
set of EPS graphics that came from symbols in The Secret Doctrine.
I did some work in Coreldraw, but they need additional work, and it
would be very helpful if we could get them into our own postscript
font. (We could add astrological symbols and other glyphs to the
font and distribute it with our electronic texts.)


There's a lot most to write about, but I'm running out of time...

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