There has been a noticeable decline of historical writing about H.P. Blavatsky in theosophical journals. This may be due in part to the diminution of existing theosophical periodicals. The Theosophist out of India, started by Blavatsky in 1879, is still around. But in America, Sunrise magazine, the successor to W.Q. Judge’s Path started in 1886, has ceased publication. As has Theosophy magazine from the United Lodge of Theosophists/Theosophy Company in Los Angeles. The once notable Canadian Theosophist has dwindled away. An attempt was tried to create a Canadian successor in Fohat, but this too has ceased publication.
Theosophical History, where one could rely on such writing, has gone from a quarterly to an occasional annual. Insight, once The Theosophical Journal of England, has recently been transformed into Esoterica, a journal that seems to be headed the way of the Quest from Wheaton, Illinois, and the Theosophical Society headquartered there, which can only be classified as Blavatsky oriented in the most general sense.
So we were pleasantly surprised to see the June 2010 Theosophy in Australia, the organ of the Theosophical Society there, and one of the few remaining readable theosophical journals in English, carrying a lengthy article by Michael Gomes on “The Making of The Secret Doctrine.” The article originally appeared in The Theosophist on the centenary of The Secret Doctrine in 1988, and has been reprinted and translated in French, Dutch, and Swedish over the years. That it appeared 22 years ago doesn’t matter at this point, because it is about the best we can expect in this day and age from a theosophical journal.
Gomes’s article holds up pretty well and conveys something of the formative events in the making of The Secret Doctrine without overwhelming the reader with dates and names. And here lies the ability of a good historian—knowing when to stop. Reading his contribution reminded us of a commentator’s remarks in recent issue of the London Review of Books:
Historians are like reliable local guides. Ideally, they will know the terrain like the backs of their hands. They recognise all the inhabitants and have a sharp eye for strangers and imposters. They may not have much sense of world geography and probably can’t even draw a map. But if you want to know how to get somewhere, they are the ones to take you.