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More Comments on Theosophical Books

Jan 27, 1995 01:20 PM
by Eldon Tucker

More Comments on Theosophical Books - Eldon Tucker

We seem to be talking about two types of theosophical books:
(1) the classics, and (2) the introductory and
interpretative. There seems to be general agreement that the
later kind of books be revised frequently to reflect the
manner of expression of `modern' times, changing as often as
`modern' changes, which is more often than we might think.
Opinion seems divided on the first type of books.

Liesel mentions that the classics should be left in the
language that there were written in. I'd generally agree,
with a few exceptions. For the classics, we'd leave the
manner of expression alone, even if some of the material is
now seen as foolish or offensive. The part of the books that
has gone stale was the materials related to the idiom of the
day, reflecting the biases, prejudices, and popular
misconceptions of the 1800's. This material was not the
Teachings themselves, but the attempt, `timely' when the
book was written, to relate the Teachings to popular

Nicholas talks against paraphrasing, modernizing, and
condensing theosophical books, and gives a quote telling us
that the path is difficult. The quote tells us that the path
cannot be made easy for us, we have to do the work
ourselves. I'd agree that we have to do the work, but on the
other hand, in the effort to help others and to propagate
the Philosophy, I'd say that we should write lucidity, not
cryptically, and make whatever efforts are possible to
facilitate the process of spreading the light. The quote
also mentions an esoteric truth to the effect that those
whom know keep silent, and those who talk don't know. This
doesn't mean that we don't work for the enlightenment of
others, seeking to spread the Esoteric Philosophy. I'd say
the meaning is that we share what is rightfully ours to
give, that which we have made a part of our lives, under
appropriate circumstances, and keep our lips sealed
otherwise. That is different than never saying anything.

Dr. Bain mentions that there should be no cover-ups of
blunders in our books by purging the offensive materials in
later editions. I'd agree that the contents of the books
remain intact. When we republish the theosophical books, we
want to make the media of the written book as transparent as
possible, to allow the communication of the contents of the
books, not the purging or sanitization of the contents. And
how out of date must a book be to need translation, when in
the same language? Certainly, with the exception of a few
obsolete words, there's no need to do anything to books from
the 1800's, other than, perhaps, correct spellings and
standardize theosophical terms (e.g. always spell and put
accents on kamaloka the same way throughout the various

Jerry H-E is quite clear in his views, which are stated in a
"must do" form. Jerry mentions that the reader must make the
mental effort to adjust to the period of writing of a book,
or he's just too d**n mentally lazy. He says that a reader
must be willing to go through this effort. I'd ask: Why? The
logical conclusion of this argument would be that we cannot
know eastern philosophy without first making the mental
effort to learn Sanskrit and Tibetan, and study literature
in its native language. Why do we require people to make an
extra effort to study something? Is it because we did it the
hard way, and it would be unfair for others to have it
easier? Jerry also mentions that the old books should be
left unaltered, that we have no business editing an author's
work after he is dead. When this is done, I'd agree that the
new edition should mention what has been changed. But I
wouldn't not stick to an absolute, black-and-white, all-or-
nothing approach that admits to no shades of gray. I'd say
there are valid arguments for slight alterations in spelling
or typography that are justifiable. If absolutely nothing
may be changed, then the Boris edition of The Secret
Doctrine, for instance, has to be rejected in favor of a
photographic facsimile. I'd prefer Boris' edition, although
it could not be computerized, because of copyright

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