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The G. R. S. Mead Collection
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