A. Trevor Barker

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A. Trevor Barker, from frontispiece of The Hill of Discernment, 1941.

Alfred Trevor Barker (b. October 10, 1893- d. July 17, 1941) was a Theosophist, writer, and lecturer. He is well-known in the Theosophical world for his transcription, compilation and publication of the The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett and The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett.

Early life and education

A. Trevor Barker was born at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, on October 10, 1893. Barker was well educated, and referred to as "Dr." but nothing is known about his education. He married Virginia, also an active Theosophist, with whom he had four children.

Theosophical work

Dr. Barker joined the Theosophical Society based in Adyar, Chennai, India, but resigned from this organization in 1925. During this time he transcribed and published The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett. In 1926, he published The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett.

On July 30, 1930, he joined the Point Loma society, soon becoming the President of its English Section for a number of years.[1] It was Dr. Barker who suggested London as the place to hold the commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of H. P. Blavatsky's birth that Gottfried de Purucker was planning. On June 24, 1931, Dr. Barker chaired the Centennial Conference, which was well attended by leading representatives of the principal Theosophical Societies.

Dr. Barker was also editor of The English Theosophical Forum and instrumental in the editing of The Complete Works of H. P. Blavatsky begun by Rider & Company of London, in 1932.

The Mahatma Letters

Barker's most important contribution was the transcription, compilation, and publication of the The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett. Mr. Sinnett, recipient of many letters from the Masters known as Koot Hoomi and Morya, had died in 1921. His correspondence with the Mahatmas and with Helena Petrovna Blavatsky passed on to Maud Hoffman, who had tended him with a daughter's devotion during his last illness.[2]

It is not clear how Dr. Barker started working on this project. Grace Knoche wrote:

Just what prompted Trevor Barker to contact Maud Hoffman, executrix of the estate of the late A. P. Sinnett who had died in 1921, is not known. It is of record that the Mahatma as well as the Blavatsky letters had been bequeathed by Mr. Sinnett "solely and unconditionally" to Miss Hoffman, and that she in turn had allowed this young man the "great privilege of undertaking the whole responsibility" for their transcription and publication in book form.[3]

It is on record that Dr. Barker and Maud Hoffman were co-students of P. D. Ouspensky in 1921,[4] which could explain how he obtained her permission and support to transcribe these letters and publish them in book form.

Dr. Barker published The Mahatma letters to A. P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. & K. H. through T. F. Unwin Ltd. in London, in 1923. Three years later he published The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett.

One of Trevor's last actions was arranging for the depositing of the originals of the The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett in the British Museum, in the Department of Select Manuscripts.[5]

Connection with Gurdjieff's teachings

A. P. Sinnett's legatee, Maud Hoffman, and Dr. Barker knew each other by 1921. According to James Moore they both became pupils of P. D. Ouspensky at 38 Warwick Gardens, Kensington, during the autumn of that year. In the autumn of 1922 they became residential pupils at Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, at Fontainebleau-Avon. There, Dr. Barker was part of a small group that included Ouspensky's and Gurdjieff's wives.[6]

Later years

By 1937 Dr. Barker's health was in a deteriorating condition. Mrs. Elsie Benjamin, secretary to Dr. de Purucker, met Barker at the time. She wrote:

All during that time Trevor was a very ill man, and his illness particularly taking the form of deep depression and excessive fatigue. . . .[7]

Owing to the very trying circumstances in England, Mrs. Virginia Barker and the four children left the country in the fall of 1940 and went to the USA, to the state of Washington.[8]

Dr. Barker died after a very brief illness on July 17, 1941, in Torquay, Devon, England. His lectures and some writings were compiled into the book The Hill of Discernment by Gottfried de Purucker, who wrote in the preface:

With the death of A. Trevor Barker on July 17th of this year, the spontaneous wish was expressed by his many friends all over the world that his lectures and writings might be gathered together for publication in some permanent form. The present work, THE HILL OF DISCERNMENT, is an answer to this widespread desire. It contains in large part all the available addresses given in various parts of England, mainly to Theosophical groups and lodges, to European Conventions of the Theosophical Society, and to various 'fraternization' meetings with the Phoenix Lodge and other Lodges of the Adyar T. S. in England. [9]

Writings

In addition to his editorial work, Dr. Barker wrote for his Theosophical audience.

Books and pamphlets

Articles

The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists over 100 articles by or about Dr. Barker. The Theosophy World website offers 25 articles, and here are other digital resources:

Additional resources

Notes

  1. "In Memoriam." The Hill of Discernment. Point Loma, Calif.:Theosophical University Press, 1941.
  2. James Moore, Theosophical History Vol.3 No. 3, (July 1990), 77.
  3. Grace Knoche, "Foreword to the Combined Chronology of Margaret Conger," [1]
  4. James Moore, Theosophical History Vol.3 No. 3, (July 1990), 78.
  5. "In Memoriam." The Hill of Discernment. Point Loma, Calif.:Theosophical University Press, 1941.
  6. James Moore, Theosophical History Vol.3 No. 3, (July 1990), 78.
  7. Michael Gomes, The Canadian Theosophist, Vol. 68 No. 5 (Nov.-Dec., 1987), 117.
  8. Anon., In Memoriam--A. Trevor Barker, Vol 19 No. 3 (Sep. 1941), p. 222
  9. "Compilers' Preface." The Hill of Discernment. Point Loma, Calif.:Theosophical University Press, 1941.