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G. R. S. Mead

George Robert Stowe Mead (22 September 1863, Nuneaton – 28 September 1933,[1][2] London[3]) was an English author, editor, translator, and an influential member of the Theosophical Society as well as the founder of the Quest Society. His scholarly works dealt mainly with the Hermetic and Gnostic religions of Late Antiquity, and were exhaustive for the time period.

Birth and family

George Robert Stowe Mead was born at Peckham,[4] Surrey, England on the 22nd of March 1863. He was born to Colonel Robert Mead, an Officer in the British Army and his wife Mary (nee Stow), who had received a traditional education at Rochester Cathedral School.

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. - [1]

Education at Cambridge University

Having shown academic potential George Mead began studying mathematics at St John's College, Cambridge.[5] Eventually shifting his education towards the study of Classics he gained much knowledge of both Greek and Latin. In 1884 he completed a bachelor of arts degree, in the same year he also began to practice the position of public school master.

Activity with the Theosophical Society

While still at Cambridge University Mead read Esoteric Buddhism by Alfred Percy Sinnett. This comprehensive theosophical account of the eastern religion prompted Mead to contact two theosophists in London named Bertam Keightly and Mohini Chatterji, which eventually led him to join the Theosophical Society.

Mead became a member of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's Theosophical Society in 1884. He abandoned his teaching profession in 1889 to be Blavatsky's private secretary and also became a joint-secretary of the Esoteric Section (E.S.) of the Theosophical Society. The E.S. was for those whom the Theosophical Society deemed more advanced.

G.R.S Mead received Blavatsky's six Esoteric Instructions and other teachings at twenty-two meetings headed by Blavatsky which were only attended by the Inner Group of the Theosophical Society. It was because of the intimacy Mead felt with the Inner Group that he married Laura Cooper in 1899.

Contributing intellectually to the Theosophical Society, at first most interested in eastern religions, he quickly became more and more attracted to western esotericism of religion and philosophy, particularly Neoplatonism, Gnosticism and Hermeticism, though his scholarship and publications continued to engage with eastern religion. Making many contributions to the Theosophical Society's Lucifer as joint editor, he eventually became the sole editor of The Theosophical Review in 1907 (as Lucifer was renamed in 1897).

As of February 1909, Mead and some seven-hundred members of the Theosophical Society's British Section resigned in protest at Annie Besant's reinstating of Charles Webster Leadbeater to membership in the society. Leadbeater had been a prominent member of the Theosophical Society until he was accused in 1906 of teaching masturbation to the sons of some American Theosophists under the guise of occult training. While this prompted Mead's resignation, his frustration at the dogmatism of the Theosophical Society may also have been a major contributor to his break with the society. He had been a member for twenty-five years.

The Quest Society

In March 1909 Mead founded the Quest Society, composed of 150 defectors of the Theosophical Society and 100 other new members. Very intentionally this new society was planned to be an undogmatic approach to the comparative study and investigation of religion, philosophy, and science. The Quest Society had lectures at Kensington Town Hall in central London but its most focused effort was in its publishing of The Quest: A Quarterly Review which ran from 1909-1931 with many contributors.


Among notable names influenced by G.R.S. Mead there can be found: Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats, Hermann Hesse, Kenneth Rexroth, and Robert Duncan. In her celebrated biography of Jung, Deirdre Bair states that Carl Gustav Jung was also influenced by George Mead, himself owning at least eighteen of Mead's books (Bair, 2003, p. 297), but Sonu Shamdasani, 2005, states otherwise, at p. 100, fn 316.


  • Simon Magus (1892)
  • Orpheus (1895/6)
  • Pistis Sophia (1896, 1921 ed).
  • Pistis Sophia at sacred-texts
  • Fragments of a Faith Forgotten (1900 1st edition);
  • Fragments of a Faith Forgotten at sacred-texts.
  • Apollonius of Tyana 1905, at sacred-texts.
  • Thrice Greatest Hermes, vol. 1
  • Thrice Greatest Hermes, vol. 2
  • Thrice Greatest Hermes, vol. 3 (London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1906) at sacred-texts.
  • The Hymns of Hermes
  • The Gnosis of the Mind
  • Commentary on "Pœmandres"
  • Introduction to Pistis Sophia
  • 3rd edition 1931 pp.241- 249 Introduction to Marcion
  • Gnostic John the Baptizer: Selections from the Mandæan John-Book (1924)
  • Did Jesus Live 100 BC?
  • Address read at H.P. Blavatsky's cremation
  • Concerning H.P.B.
  • Doctrine of the Subtle Body in Western Tradition
  • See also


    1. ^ 1891 England Census, showing a household including "Constance Wachtmeister, Manager of Publishing Office; G.R.S. Mead, Author Journalist; Isabel Oakley, Millener; Helena Blavatsky, Authoress; and others"
    2. ^ 1901 England Census, showing "George R S Mead, age 38, Editor and author born Battersea, Surrey and his wife Laura M Mead, age 44, no occupation, born Dellie[sic], India"
    3. ^ Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Clare Goodrick-Clarke (eds), G. R. S. Mead and the Gnostic Quest, North Atlantic Books, 2005, p. 32.
    4. ^ GRO index of births 1863 Q2 vol 1d page 525 Camberwell
    5. ^ "Mead, George Robert Stow (MT881GR)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 

    External links

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