T. Subba Row Collected Writings (review)

Katinka Hesselink, 2003

The well-read theosophist when hearing the name Subba Row, thinks of two things. Firstly his comments on the Bhagavad Gita and second his argument with H.P. Blavatsky on the sevenfold composition of man. Subba Row was seen in his day as an expert in Sanskrit literature. His knowledge of the ancient texts was phenomenal. H.P. Blavatsky considered him her equal in the area of esoteric knowledge. It wasn’t for nothing that she wanted him to edit The Secret Doctrine. He refused because he felt too many Brahman secrets were being revealed in the book.

In the above two characteristics of Subba Row’s personality are clearly shown, being esoteric knowledge and Brahman pride and exclusivity. The last trait eventually made him decide to leave the Theosophical Society, though he kept in touch with Colonel Olcott till the end of his life. The first characteristic ensures his continued influence in theosophical circles. Secretive as he acted, he still wrote extensively for The Theosophist. A large percentage of these articles are available in the various versions of “The Esoteric Writings, T. Subba Row”, published by the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar (which has recently reprinted the volume). In light of the esoteric knowledge of Subba Row this work is very valuable. Even so, Henk Spierenburg has been able to supersede this. He found articles and notes from the Theosophist and letters in the archives in Adyar that had not previously been published. He found quotes from obscure Sanskriet Texts and retranslated them. He created a voluminous index, included the meaning of samskrit terminology and put the articles themselves in chronological order. The result is true to the name “T. Subba Row Collected Writings”. I should not leave unmentioned the extensive biography of Subba Row.

Those who expect the volume the Blavatsky Collected Writings has (more than a meter on the bookshelves), will be surprised. In this case the two volumes add up to a total of 654 pages. The subjects covered range from the seven rays, the logos, mahatmas in Southern India, the charkas, a personal or impersonal God, angels and so forth. All in all these two volumes should not be lacking from the shelves of the serious student of theosophy.


T. Subba Row Collected Writings, Compiled and Annotated by Henk J. Spierenburg, Volume 1 en 2. Point Loma Publications, 2001, 2002. ISBN: 1-889598-30-5 and  1-889598-31-3