GEORGE ROBERT STOW MEAD (1863-1933) was born at Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England. He came from a military family—his father was a Colonel in the Royal Army Ordinance Corps—but he chose to follow an academic career instead. From King’s School, Rochester, he went up to St. John’s College, Cambridge, to study mathematics but changed to Classics, in which he graduated with a B.A. degree in 1884. In that same year, he joined the Theosophical Society and determined to devote his life to the cause of Theosophy.
During his vacations, Mead worked as a volunteer at the London headquarters of the Theosophical Society, and on one of his visits, in May 1887, he first met H. P. Blavatsky. He was at once captivated, and two years later H.P.B. repaid his devotion by giving him her absolute trust and appointing him her private secretary. In addition to handling H.P.B.’s correspondence, Mead also edited most of her later published works and acted, without acknowledgment, as assistant editor of her magazine, Lucifer, for which he had written anonymously since the first volume.
While working closely with the Theosophical Society, Mead also published many of his own works: The World Mystery(1895), Plotinus (1895), Orpheus (1896), and Pistis Sophia (1896), of which, Pistis Sophia was the most significant. Not long after, Mead published his two major works, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten (1900) andThrice Greatest Hermes (1906). They exemplify all that is best in his dedicated, scholarly, but eminently readable studies of the spiritual roots of Christian Gnosticism and, more generally, of personal religion in the Greco-Roman world. But while his work encompassed much more than this, Mead was equally at home with Sanskrit texts, Patristic literature, Buddhist thought, and the problems of contemporary philosophy and psychical research. He devoted his intellectual energy to the complex interplay of Hellenism, Judaism, and Christianity.
By 1906, when the first book from the Echoes from the Gnosis series (The Gnosis of the Mind), was originally released, Mead had published eight works on various aspects of the early Christian world and on “The Theosophy of the Greeks.” These together with his remarkable translation of the Hermetic books had established his reputation as one of the foremost English scholars in his chosen field. Over a period of fourteen years, his books had introduced Theosophists and others with an interest in esoteric pursuits to the obscure and difficult religious literature of the Greco-Roman world. And Mead’s books continue to enlighten contemporary audiences who still share those same pursuits today.