It was truly a ponderous document and displayed research in a very extended field, requiring diligence, familiarity with the various topics, as well as a purpose to be fair to the writer. Regarding myself as morally obligated to act for the advantage of Mr. Bouton, I showed no favor beyond what I believed justice to demand. I regarded it a duty to be severe.
...[Mr. Bouton] placed the manuscript again in my hands, with instructions to shorten it as much as it would bear. This was a discretionary power that was far from agreeable.... While abridging the work, I endeavored in every instance to preserve the thought of the author in plain language, removing only such terms and matter as might be regarded as superfluous, and not necessary to the main purpose.
...In this instance...I had aimed only to shorten without marring the work....
I would hesitate, likewise, to be considered in any noteworthy sense as an editor of the work. It is true that after Mr. Bouton had agreed to become the publisher, I was asked to read the proofsheets and make sure that the Hebrew words and terms belonging to other languages were correctly given by the printer, but I added nothing, and do not remember that ventured to control anything that was contributed to the work....
...When the printer had placed everything in type, I was employed to prepare the index.(6)
Both Dr. Wilder and Madame Blavatsky agreed to the role that Dr. Wilder played in the production of Isis Unveiled except his failure to mention "Before the Veil." Without any available evidence, I hesitate to give a reason for this omission.
Perhaps as a reward for his work on the Isis, Colonel Olcott appointed Wilder a Vice-President (along with Dr. John A Weisse) in his Foreign Order No. 1, dated January 17, 1879. Whether he was in this office prior to this date is difficult to determine since records are unclear. We know, however, that in a letter published in H.P.B. Speaks(7) there is mention that he was to be elected before H.P.B.'s and Olcott's departure for England and India on December 18, 1878.
Wilder was not to remain in office for very long. In a letter addressed to the President ad interim Major Gen. Abner Doubleday, dated November 26, 1879, he wrote that he could not "retain it consistently or benefit (sic) to the Society itself, which requires a more efficient and capable officer."(8) The note, as abrupt as it is, is understandable since he served as Secretary of the National Eclectic Medical Association(9) from 1876 to 1895, editing and contributing many articles in its "Transactions" during those years, as well as retaining the position of Professor of Psychology in the United States Medical College from 1878 to 1883. Still, he remained in the Society and served on the General Council throughout the 1880s, which indicates his position within the Society at the time of the publication ofThe Key toTheosophy in 1889.
Why Dr. Wilder chose as his source the prominent Lutheran theologian and church historian Johann Lorenz von Mosheim (1694--1755) as his source for Ammonius Saccas and his disciples one may never know. True, Mosheim, unlike those before him, did not view the Church as a Mystical Body but rather as a secular institution that was open to historical investigation according to positivistic principles. Thus his chef-d'oeuvre, the Institutiones historiae ecclesiasticae, is primarily a descriptive narrative--based on the sources available to him--of Church history intended more as a textbook rather than an interpretive tome. Nonetheless, he was a devoted Lutheran Christian who served as Professor of Theology in Helmstedt who helped found the University of Göttingen in 1747 and who served as its Chancellor from that date on.
In brief, Mosheim, Wilder, and the Edinburgh Encylopoedia of 1830--the latter mentioned inThe Key to Theosophy on pages 5 and 7--are the sources for the opening pages ofThe Key, the same pages from which Dr. Siémons takes his cue for the present study. It is a wonder that there exists no previous work known to me that has examined this critical section of The Key and the place of these three sources therein. After all, it is the most accessible book toTheosophists and non-Theosophists alike regarding the place of the Modern Theosophical Movement within the broad scope of theosophical history, thus giving it an importance that few other Theosophical books share. Thus the importance of this present study, which helps to place the opening section ofThe Key in an intellectual historical context. For this Dr. Siémons is to be congratulated.
Dr. Jean-Louis Siémons is well qualified to undertake a study of this sort. Besides engaging in a scientific career as a Professor of Biophysics at the Institut National Agronomique, Paris, he has devoted a lifetime of study and research in the philosophies and mysticisms of both East and West. Dr. Siémons became an Associate of the United Lodge of Theosophists nearly fifty years ago and has undertaken the translation of the fundamental texts of Theosophical literature. He is also a writer of several well-known books on reincarnation, death and post mortem states, including La Réincarnation, Revivre nos vies antérieures, Témoignages et preuves de la réncarnation, and Mourir pour renaitre. In 1988 Dr. Siémons also contributed a valuable study on the origins of the term Theosophy, entitled Theosophia in Neo-Platonic and Christian Literature (2nd to 6th Century A.D.), for the former Theosophical History Centre (London). He remains an active lecturer, both in France and other countries, devoting himself mainly to making the original doctrines of Theosophy better known, and to offering the general public a broader and more accurate view of what the modern Movement launched by Mme. Blavatsky stands for.
The present work formed the subject-matter of a paper given by Dr. Siémons in London on the 15th of July 1988 at the Third Conference of the Theosophical History Centre at the Theosophical Society Headquarters, 50 Gloucester Place.
3 Col. Olcott knew of Dr. Wilder but not vice-versa.. Wilder writes that "I did not recognize him [when Olcott visited him at his home in 1876], as I had never had any occasion to make his acquaintance, but he having had some governmental business with one of my emplyers several years before, had known me ever since." This passage appears in "How 'Isis Unveiled' was Written." The Word [New York], 7/2: 77.
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