O Lanoo! The Secret Doctrine Unveiled

O Lanoo! The Secret Doctrine Unveiled

By Harvey Tordoff. Illus. Nina O'Connell
Forres, Scotland; Tallahassee, FL: Findhorn Press, 1999. Paperback, 126 pages.

This is a rather curious book by an author whose name is unfamiliar to this reviewer. All we know of Harvey Tordoff is what he himself tells us in the introduction--that he read the abridged version of The Secret Doctrine as a teenager, that he is a retired accountant at present living in the English Lake District, and that he has now read the complete edition of H. P. Blavatsky's most famous work.

Finding The Secret Doctrine a truly formidable work, Tordoff set himself the task of rewriting the basic story. More correctly, we should say that he decided to translate (there is really no other word) the "Stanzas of Dzyan," on which Blavatsky based her two volumes, into a kind of contemporary English. His translation includes, in very abbreviated form, some of Blavatsky's explanations. The result is this slim volume of approximately 10,000 words in the form of an epic "poem." Whereas Blavatsky, in volume 1 of her work, interrupted her commentaries between slokas 4 and 5 of stanza 6, to discuss such topics as the planetary chains, the human principles, the triple evolutionary scheme, classes of monads, and so on, Tordoff summarizes that material in a poetic "aside." And he concludes his epic with an epilogue based on Blavatsky's own conclusion.

The title Tordoff has chosen for his poetic retelling of the stanzas is taken, of course, directly from the stanzas, the term, "lanoo" being simply the mode of address by a teacher to a student or disciple. Black and white illustrations introduce the reader to each section of the text, conveying by means of simple line drawings something of the stanzas' content.

Although it was not Tordoff's intent, or so it seems from his introductory statement, to interpret Blavatsky's work, any rephrasing of the stanzas is inevitably an interpretation of the multilayered meanings of Blavatsky's original translation of these mystical verses from what she claimed to be an ancient tongue she referred to as Senzar. Students of The Secret Doctrine will not all agree, therefore, with the interpretation imposed by the translation or rewording of those stanzas. Nor, of course, does the rephrasing capture the flavor of the words used by Blavatsky, often to express the inexpressible. Just one example, the simplest, may suffice: sloka 2 of stanza 1, as Blavatsky wrote it, is "Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of duration"; for Tordoff this has become: "Time did not exist, / For what is Time / Without a stare of consciousness? / The illusion of Time / Was waiting to be born / With your perception of changing Matter."

O Lanoo! should be read, then, as one student's effort-a commendable one, we must add-to understand Blavatsky's exposition, particularly those magnificent stanzas on which her work is based and which, when read in the form in which she presented them, do indeed stir the heart, excite the mind, and even awaken the intuition, as she intended they would. But if the neophyte, the aspiring student first coming to Blavatsky's work, thinks Tordoff's translation is a substitute for the original, he or she will be mistaken. No rephrasing can compare to the poetic beauty, the lofty vision, the majesty and power of the words given by Blavatsky to those stanzas that provide the basis for the esoteric story of the origins of a universe and of our humanity.


July/August 1999