G.R.S. Mead

Search the entire library index

The Mead Collection
Collection Index
Brief Introduction 

Echoes from Gnosis
The Gnosis of the Mind
The Hymn of Jesus
The Hymn of the Robe of Glory
The Hymns of Hermes
The Mysteries of Mithra
The Vision of Aridaeus
The Chaldaen Oracles

Complete Books
Pistis Sophia
Apollonius of Tyana
Fragments of a Faith Forgotten
Simon Magus
Gnostic John the Baptizer:
Selections from the Mandæan John-Book
Did Jesus Live 100 BC?

Commentary on Pymander
Introduction to Marcion
Concerning H.P.B.
Authorship of the Gospels
The Synoptical Problem
The Fourth-Gospel Problem
Thoughts on Theosophy

Books in Print
Mead Collection Bookstore
Site design © 1995-2005 Lance Owens. All rights reserved. 

The Gnostic Society Library

Archive | Library | Bookstore | Index | Web Lectures | Ecclesia Gnostica | Gnostic Society

The G. R. S. Mead Collection

A Brief Biographical Introduction

G.R.S. Mead, a highly intuitive and insightful scholar, whose literary activities fall into the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century must be regarded as a pioneer of the first order in the field of Gnostic and Hermetic studies. As the late poet and esoteric student Kenneth Rexroth accurately stated In his introduction to the late 1950s University Books edition of Mead’s Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, the only reason for Mead’s continued neglect on the part of many academicians is the fact that he was a Theosophist. When in 1887, the redoubtable Madame Blavatsky settled in London, the young Mead joined the company of her close associates. In Blavatsky’s circle he learned of the profound mysteries of the Gnostics and of the votaries of Hermes. Soon he became an indefatigable worker in his capacity of translator of Gnostic and Hermetic writings.

In 1890-91 he began the publication in Blavatsky’s journal of his translation of the great Gnostic work, Pistis Sophia, which became the first Gnostic codex to be available in a popular, yet accurate translation at that time and for many years to come. It was followed by various major works, and by an admirable series of small books, collectively entitled Echoes from the Gnosis, published over a period of several years by the Theosophical Publishing House in London. It was in this series of volumes, containing so many veritable gems of Gnostic and Hermetic origin, that The Hymns of Hermes was first published. Over the years not all respected persons felt that Mead could not be valued because of his ‘sinister' connections with Theosophy.

Mead and Blavatsky
Mead with HP Blavatsky, 1891

According to a personal account given to the present writer by Jung’s associate, the Gnostic scholar Gilles Quispel, C. G. Jung made a special journey to London in the last period of Mead’s life to thank him for his pioneering work of translating and commenting on the Gnostic-Hermetic body of writings. What Jung valued in Mead was not only his outstanding scholarship and elegant use of the English language, but first and foremost his affinity toward the experience of Gnosis. Mead wrote about the ancient books of wisdom from the inside, as it were. Precisely because of his association with Blavatsky and her circle he justly felt himself as a spiritual relative of the seekers and finders of Gnosis long ago and far away. In this he was akin to C. G. Jung, who stated to Barbara Hannah that upon encountering the ancient Gnostics he was, at last, among old friends. Academic appreciation for such sympathies is still small indeed, as the Afterword to the third, revised edition of The Nag Hammadi Library in English clearly proves. Richard Smith, managing editor of the work, accuses Blavatsky, Mead and C. G. Jung of appropriating Gnosticism for their purposes, without what he considers appropriate warrant. Unhappily, academic prejudice changes exceedingly slowly in our culture.

The story of modern Hermetic scholarship is a tortuous one. Until the latter part of the nineteenth century the Hermetic literature was most frequently regarded as a forgery perpetrated by Neoplatonists. By the 1850's and 1860's such scholars as Parthey, Artaud, Mènard and others began to question these ideas. In the early part of the twentieth century Reitzenstein published his translation of the Poimandres and proved the Hermetica to be Hellenistic Egyptian spirituality. Mead squarely allied himself with the new view and was proven right. Perhaps the theosophical appropriators’ of ancient traditions were not so badly informed after all!

G. R. S. Mead’s greatest merit maybe said to have been his ability to discern the inner, spiritual meaning of the Hermetic and Gnostic writings. His fervent spirit, stimulated by his theosophic orientation, entered the experiential core of these ancient records and perceived there a timeless message affirming the human potential for transformation and the ultimate insight into transcendence. For this, even more than for his scholarship, we owe G. R. S. Mead a debt of eternal gratitude.

-- Stephan A. Hoeller, Introduction to The Hymnes of Hermes, Phanes Press, 1991, pp19-22

Archive | Library | Bookstore | Index | Web Lectures | Ecclesia Gnostica | Gnostic Society