H. P. Blavatsky's major work, The Secret Doctrine, is both the most basic of all Theosophical books and the most difficult to use. Its wealth of detail and breadth of scope are breathtaking, if not intimidating, for many readers. Any assistance in providing easier and more effective access to this Theosophical monument is good karma. Two works of excellent good karma have recently become available: a new index to the book by John Van Mater and an Electronic edition with a search program from Vic Hao Chin.

A New Index

The Secret Doctrine: Index
By John P. Van Mater. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1997. Softcover, viii+433 pages.

Indexes are valuable tools. Shortly after the publication of The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky was praising two students who had "indexed it for themselves, classifying the contents in two portions-the exoteric and the esoteric" (Lucifer 6 [1890]: 333--5). The two indexes hitherto most widely available have been that published by the Theosophy Company in 1939 and that, in the de Zirkoff edition, published by the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, in 1979, which superseded earlier Adyar indexes.

The new index by John Van Mater has some distinctive and noteworthy features. A pervasive difference is its ordering of subentries under a main entry. For example, the main entry for the term "Race(s)" spreads over four columns and includes more than a hundred subentries. Subentries must be ordered somehow-but how?

The two earlier indexes listed subentries in the order of their volume and page numbers. That order gives the index user an overview of the sequence in which the topics are covered in the book. Also if the user wants to look up all the subentries for a given topic, the page numbers are in the most convenient order for doing so.

The Van Mater index orders subentries alphabetically by a keyword in the subentry. This has the advantages of bringing together subentries dealing with the same aspect of a topic and of letting the user quickly scan long entries for the particular aspect of a subject that is of interest. Each system of ordering has its own virtues and uses; it is good to have both available.

Other noteworthy features of the Van Mater index are its identification of the language source of foreign terms (mainly Sanskrit, of course) and its very helpful cross-references. For example, the entry for mulaprakriti (omitting the diacritics) begins:

Mulaprakriti (Skt.) See olso Pradhana, Prakriti,
Primonal [sic for "Primordial"] Matter, Svabhavat

If one consults the four cross-references under mulaprakriti, other cross-references appear under them and their further cross-references, namely aether, akasa, anima mundi, astral light, daiviprakriti, elements, ether, Father-Mother, hyle, ilus, protyle, world soul. By tracing the web of such cross-references, one can get a fair coverage of a given subject.

Van Mater ends his index with an appendix listing and translating foreign phrases used in The Secret Doctrine. This is especially helpful for us monolingual Americans. The phrases range from the preface's De minimis non curat lex (l:viii "The law does not concern itself with trifles") to a complaint of Euripedes about aoidon hoide dustenoi logoi (2:764 "those miserable stories of the poets"). The last foreign phrase in the book, Satyan nasti paro dharmah (2:798 "There is no religion higher than truth," the motto of the Theosophical Society) is entered in the main index, so is omitted from the appendix.

This volume, both in form and content, has the high quality typical of Pasadena publications. It is a significant and very welcome addition to the array of tools for the study of Theosophy. Students of The Secret Doctrine are in debt to John Van Mater and the Theosophical University Press for this excellent: work.

An Electronic Edition

The Secret Doctrine: Electronic Book Edition. Ed.
Vincente Hao Chin, Jr. Quezon City, Philippines; Theosophical Publishing House, 1998. 5 floppy disks, 7.5 megabytes harddisk space.

The Philippines Section of the Theosophical Society, under the presidency of Vic Hao Chin, has brought turn-of-the-century technology to the study of The Secret Doctrine by producing an electronic version of Blavatsky's work.

Currently available on 5 high-density floppies, the text uses the pagination of the 1888 edition (as all modern studies do). It installs on a hard disk, runs under Windows 3.101' Windows 95, and requires 7.5 megabytes of hard disk space for its storage. It includes a search program that allows the reader to look for any word or phrase used in the text (other than special characters or words in diagrams or illustrations).

A search produces a list of sections in which the specified word or phrase is to be found, identified by volume, part, section or chapter numbers, and the title of the section. The sections are ordered in the list according to the frequency with which they contain the word or phrase, with the most abundant use first. For example, mulaprakriti is used in 22 sections of the book, most often in volume 1, pan: 2, section 12 entitled "The Theogony of the Creative Gods," where there are 12 uses, and next most often in the Proem of volume 1, where there are 11 uses, and so on.

Clicking on any given line of the list takes one to the corresponding section of The Secret Doctrine, in which every occurrence of the word or phrase is highlighted for ease of location. The click of a button takes the user from one highlighted use to the next. The text, in whatever amplitude the user desires, can be blocked and copied to a document in the word processor of the user's choice.

If a student wants to know what The Secret Doctrine says about any term or how it uses any expression, this electronic edition is the fastest, most thorough, and most accurate way to find the answer. Through it, one can produce an exhaustive list of every occurrence in The Secret Doctrine of whatever word or phrase one wants to investigate. And because its text can be copied and pasted to another document, it is the easiest way to get quotations, long or short, from the book.

Plans are currently underway to put the program eventually onto a CD with various supplementary materials. However, the electronic edition now available is excellent and highly useful. No serious student of The Secret Doctrine should be without it. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., and his co-workers are owed a very great vote of thanks for their work in producing this electronic version.

The Future

Electronic, globally searchable texts will not put primed indexes out of business-at least, not yet. But they will transform how such indexes are designed and what they are used for.

The availability of computer searches through an electronic text largely obviates the traditional use of printed indexes, which has been to find places in a text where a given word is used and a given subject is discussed. It is pointless to look up a word manually in one printed book, note down the references given for that word, look up each reference in another book, and then copy (either by hand or xerography) the quotations one wants.

That is an obsolete research technique. Instead, one types the word or expression of interest into the electronic program, which then produces in the blink of an eye all occurrences of the word or expression, and one can electronically copy any passages one wants. Such electronic research reduces dramatically the time and effort spent in looking for information.

The existence of electronic texts will significantly alter the design and use of printed indexes, and the electronic texts will themselves evolve as new technology becomes available and as the needs of users call for evolving forms of presentation. Vic Hao Chin's electronic Secret Doctrine is the first, not the last, step in the new technology, just as John Van Mater's index is a transitional step to the new format such indexes will assume. Eventually, the two technologies-electronic text and printed index- will blend.

The key to the future of indexing is in John Van Mater's liberal use of cross-references. Vic Hao Chin's electronic text can be searched only for specific words or phrases used in the text. Thus, if one is interested in what The Secret Doctrine has to say about mulaprakriti, one can direct the program to produce all uses of that word. And it will do so, quickly and reliably. But the electronic program will not, at present, lead one on to synonyms or related terms. That's where the cross-references come

in. In a world of electronic searches, the most valuable part of the \/an Mater index are its cross-references. Future indexes need to amplify and elaborate such cross-referencing; they need to become not so much indexes to the text as thesauruses of related terms, which can be searched for by the computer program.

For example, the Van Mater index includes the complex of cross-references indicated above:

aether, akasa, anima mundi, astral light, daiviprakriti,
elements, ether, Father-Mother, hyle,
ilus, mulaprakriti, pradhana, prakriti, primordial
matter, protyle, svabhavat, world soul

To these might be added other related terms, such as the following (all of which appear in subentries under one or another of the cross-referenced terms):

aditi, aethereal, akasic, alaya, archaeus, asat,
celestial virgin, chaos, cosmic ideation, cosmic
matter, cosmic soul, cosmic substance, devamatri.
devil, dragon, eternal root, fobat, Holy
Ghost, honey-dew, hydrogen, illusion, isvara,
kshetrajna, Kwan-yin, life principle, light of
the logos, limbus, lipikas, logos, magic head,
magnes, maha-buddhi, mahat, matter, Mother,
Mother-Father, nahbkoon, Nebelheim, noumenon,
Oeaohoo, oversoul, parabrahman, picture
gallery, plastic essence, plenum, precosmic
root substance, prima materia, primordial substance,
Ptah, purusha-prakriti, root principle,
serpent, shekinah, sidereal light, Sophia, space,
svayambhu, undifferentiated matter, universal
mind, universal principle, universal soul, unmanifested
logos, unmodified matter, vacuum,
veil, waters of space, web, yliaster, Ymir

To be useful, such related terms would need to be organized into a branching tree of interlocking relationships. The best way to store and access such a tree structure is electronic. Eventually, the thesaurus-index toward which the Van Mater book has made a first step should be incorporated into the search program for the electronic text of The Secret Doctrine so that a user can search automatically not only for specific terms but also for related terms that the user may not even be aware of.

In sum, the two works under review here, the printed index and the electronic text of The Secret Doctrine, are splendid productions that will serve very well the needs of their users for the proximate future. They also point enticingly toward a more, though perhaps not very, distant future in which their technologies will be combined to afford students an unparalleled and previously unimaginable opportunity to study this foundational text of Theosophy.



June 1998