BLTC Press Titles

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Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Fragments of a faith forgotten

by George Robert Stow Mead



Some years ago I published in magazine-form a series of short sketches, entitled Amongst the Gnostics of the First Two Centuries, drawn from the polemical writings of the Church Fathers. I have since then been asked repeatedly to rescue them from the oblivion of the back-numbers of a Review, and publish them apart. This I was for long unwilling to do because I had planned a large work, to comprise a number of volumes, and to be called Round the Cradle of Christendom, the materials of which I was collecting and gradually publishing in magazine articles, with the intention of gathering them all finally together, revising, and printing them in book-form. This, however, would have meant the work of many years, work that might never be completed (for no man can count on the future), and which would, therefore, have remained in the form of an apparently disconnected mass of articles, without plan or purpose. I have, therefore, decided to publish a pioneer sketch —a programme as it were—the outlines of which I hope to fill in with more detailed work in a series of volumes, small or large as the importance of the various subjects demands.

The second of the three main divisions of the present volume, then, consists, for the most part, of matter already published; it has, however, been throughout carefully revised. For the rest, I have endeavoured to give the reader a bird's-eye view of the whole field of early Gnosticism. I have, therefore, added to the above-mentioned articles the main material to be derived from the Uncanonical Acts and the Coptic Gnostic works, and have prefaced the whole with a general introduction, dealing mainly with the background of the Gnosis. To all of this I have appended a short conclusion and some bibliographical indications to help the student. The treatment of the subject is, therefore, new, in that no one has previously attempted to bring the whole of these materials together.

These sketches are not, however, primarily intended for the student, but are written for the genera] reader. I have throughout endeavoured my best to keep the interests of the latter always in view, though I hope at the same time to have given the student the assurance that the best authorities have been invariably consulted. I have, therefore, on the one hand, explained many things with which the scholar is generally supposed to be already familiar, and, on the other, have strenuously resisted the temptation to learned annotation, to which the subject readily lends itself in every paragraph, but which would swell this volume to ten times its present size. I have, then, written so that the man of one language only may read from the first to the last page, without being forced to regret his igno ranee of other tongues; for I believe that the subject is of profoundly human interest, and not one of merely academical importance. It is true that the difficulty of the subject is at times so great that even with the best will in the world I have entirely failed to make the matter clear; but this is also true of every other writer in the field. The nature of these sketches, however, is such that if one paragraph deals with a subject which is beyond our comprehension, another is simple enough for all to understand; so that when the general reader comes to a difficult passage he need not lose courage, thinking that greater difficulty is to follow, for it frequently happens that just the opposite is the case.

A.bove all things I would have it understood that whatever views I have expressed in these pages, they are all purely tentative; my main object has been to hand on what the earliest Christian philosophers and teachers wrote and thought. They seem to me to have written many beautiful things, and I, for my part, have learned through them to sense the work of the Great Master in a totally new light.

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