Theosophical Glossary Sources

By David Reigle on May 31, 2017 at 1:55 pm

The Theosophical Glossary by H. P. Blavatsky, published in 1892, draws its definitions from many sources. Comparatively little of it was written by Blavatsky herself. Boris de Zirkoff laboriously located the source references for a large number of its entries, and he hand-wrote these in his copy of this book. These source annotations are of great value for students of Theosophy. They show what was merely copied from then existing sources, as opposed to Blavatsky’s own definitions. His annotated copy thus nicely complements the listings of Secret Doctrine References that were made available on the website of the Theosophical Society, Pasadena, or Theosophical University Press, and the extensive supplement to these prepared by William (Bill) Savage (see blog posts of Jan. 24, 2016, and June 30, 2016).

We are very fortunate that this labor of Boris de Zirkoff did not die with him. He left his books to the Theosophical Society in America, and his annotated copy of The Theosophical Glossary is now in its Archives. Janet Kerschner and Michael Conlin spent a lot of time and effort in making a scan of this book, which they have kindly made publicly available here:

They received much assistance from Richard Robb in identifying the bibliographic sources referred to. Boris in his annotations had used brief abbreviations and brief titles that were known to him, but were not spelled out in full. A detailed listing of these, along with much other helpful information, is found at the Theosophy Wiki entry on The Theosophical Glossary, here:

To me, it is a very great boon to have access to the knowledge of where any particular entry in Blavatsky’s Theosophical Glossary came from. This allows us to evaluate its accuracy. I am extremely grateful to Boris de Zirkoff for tracing these sources, and to all involved in making this information publicly available.

Category: Uncategorized | 2 comments

  • Jon Fergus says:

    Thanks for this update and the link to de Zirkoff’s glossary. I also find Daniel Caldwell’s post on theos-talk quite valuable.

    Just want to add that as part of my work for I’ve been transcribing some of the source-material that de Zirkoff identifies (many of which also appear in the SD references put together by the TS Pasadena). We’ll make as many of these source books as we can available in paperback and html format (some can be found on other websites already of course). This should help theosophists more easily verify the definitions used in the glossary with additional context, though it will certainly take some time to finish the project.

    Many of the source titles—in particular (in my opinion) the works by Anson, Bonwick, MacKenzie, Myer, Skinner, Mathers, and King—are quite valuable resources for their respective traditions.

  • Robert Hütwohl says:

    Thanks David for this and deep thanks to Janet, Michael and Richard, beginning with Boris. The Glossary was one of the first theosophical books I purchased, but over time, as I absorbed its definitions of terms which I had never heard of before, I became wary of the sources for those definitions. Now, this will help immensely towards contributing a new-found respect for it.

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