Access to Great Ideas

By Richard I. Robb

The Secret Doctrine was written for the Western world to stem the tide of abject materialism. No messenger made his appearance in glowing aura to impress the multitude and, if he had, he would probably have been completely ignored. Instead, we have a book designed to gain acceptance in the minds of thinking men for many long years to come. The form and content of the S.D. is such that the student is constantly referred to the thoughts and ideas of hundreds of authors, all of whom are generally tending in the same direction.

Some people have claimed that the 750 and more books cited are merely proofs. But what are proofs? If these references are by sheer weight of numbers designed to force people to believe the validity of the teachings developed in the S.D., then surely the exposition could have been far more explicit and detailed, thus removing from the mind of the inquirer any chance of doubt. But this is not the case. As stated in the Preface, there is simply not room enough to explain the complete scheme of nature in two volumes. It would take a thousand volumes. Moreover, the ideas expressed are often obscure to the Western mind, because we have no background. Background in these areas is best supplied by the very sources that are used, and the reader will discover that there are perhaps 40 or 50 out of the 750+ books referred to that are mentioned with regularity.

When I first became interested in The Secret Doctrine, an interest that was fostered by happenstance -- an encounter with a copy of The Mahatma Letters in a small bookstore in New Orleans -- I felt the work was utterly impossible, that there was little chance that I would ever be able to understand it. However, I found parts so interesting that I continued to read. Whole paragraphs passed without the least bit of comprehension, but occasionally a page really made sense to me.

That was in 1965. Several people told me that the S.D. could not be read per se, but used only as a sort of dictionary or reference work. Be that as it may, I started and read the entire two volumes all the way through. When I had finished, two things were uppermost in my mind: first, that I was utterly ignorant; and secondly, that my education had left me totally unprepared for the study of The Secret Doctrine. Here was a range of knowledge that required effort and scholarly endeavor, books that I had never heard of before, whole subject areas that were foreign to me. As it turned out, I really was motivated to begin my education over again. And in so doing I set out to find some of the books quoted or referred to in the S.D. Of course, these were rather scarce and I didn't locate them immediately. However, after a time I discovered a copy of The Source of Measures on a used book list and sent away for it. The parts of Skinner's treatise that I did understand were an absolute revelation to me. "Why," I thought, "hadn't the Masons made a point of preserving this text, so rare and valuable as it is?" Inquiries of local Masons indicated that they possessed little knowledge of the subject matter. At length, I became convinced of the absolute necessity of preserving the text of The Source of Measures, regardless of cost or its public acceptance. Some day, somewhere, there would be men who would fasten upon these ideas. Though utterly unacquainted with the publishing industry, I did finally succeed in reprinting 535 copies. Response to advertisements was nonexistent. However, a few copies were sold, and I was encouraged to the extent that I considered a second title -- The Book of Enoch. Since then the list of titles has steadily grown.

Thus the "Secret Doctrine Reference Series" (published by Wizards Bookshelf) came into being. It is fundamentally designed to guarantee future generations access to the ideas contained in the already rare and difficult-to-obtain titles of past centuries. These works, if hard to find today, will be impossible to locate a hundred years from now.

There are many whose spiritual longing and philosophical inquiry are too sacred to be exposed among strangers or even among friends who they suspect may have entirely different views. The fact is, it is the written word that allows the student the privacy of his own thoughts, that gives rise to the most profound aspirations and the most intuitive insights It is literature, then due to its impersonal character, its relative permanence and its very silence, that has motivated us.


An abbreviated list of available publications:

(Reprinted from Sunrise magazine, November 1975. Copyright © 1975 by Theosophical University Press)

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