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Daily Theosophy Glossary – A

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(Sanskrit; Tibetan: chos mngon pa’i mdzod; English: Treasury of Abhidharma) is a key text on the abhidharma written in Sanskrit verse by Vasubandhu. It summarizes the Sarvāstivādin tenets in eight chapters with a total of around 600 verses. The text was widely respected, and used by schools of mahāyāna Buddhism in India, Tibet, and the Far East.

Vasubandhu wrote a commentary to his own work, called the Abhidharma-kośa-bhāsya. In it, he critiques the interpretations of the Sarvāstivādins and others of the tenets he presented in that work. This commentary includes an additional chapter in prose refuting the idea of the “person” (pudgala) favored by some Buddhists. However, later Sarvāstivādin master Samghabhadra considered that he misrepresented their school in the process, and at this point designated Vasubandhu as a Sautrantika (upholder of the sūtras) rather than as an upholder of the Abhidharma. (from Wikipedia)


A term which unfortunately is much abused and often misused even in theosophical writings. It is a convenient word in Occidental philosophy by which is described the utterly unconditioned; but it is a practice which violates both the etymology of the word and even the usage of some keen and careful thinkers as, for instance, Sir William Hamilton in his Discussions (3rd edition, p.13n), who apparently uses the word absolute in the exactly correct sense in which theosophists should use it as meaning “finished,” “perfected,” “completed.” As Hamilton observes: “The Absolute is diametrically opposed to, is contradictory of, the Infinite.” This last statement is correct, and in careful theosophical writings the word Absolute should be used in Hamilton’s sense, as meaning that which is freed, unloosed, perfected, completed.

Absolute is from the Latin absolutum, meaning “freed,” “unloosed,” and is, therefore, an exact English parallel of the Sanskrit philosophical term moksha or mukti, and more mystically of the Sanskrit term so commonly found in Buddhist writings especially, nirvāṇa, an extremely profound and mystical thought.

Hence, to speak of parabrahman as being the Absolute may be a convenient usage for Occidentals who understand neither the significance of the term parabrahman nor the etymology, origin, and proper usage of the English word Absolute — “proper” outside of a common and familiar employment.

In strict accuracy, therefore, the student should use the word Absolute only when he means what the Hindu philosopher means when he speaks of mokṣa or mukti or of a mukta — i.e., one who has obtained mukti or freedom, one who has arrived at the acme or summit of all evolution possible in any one hierarchy, although as compared with hierarchies still more sublime, such jīvanmukta is but a mere beginner. The Silent Watcher in theosophical philosophy is an outstanding example of one who can be said to be absolute in the fully accurate meaning of the word. It is obvious that the Silent Watcher is not parabrahman. (See also Mokṣa, Relativity)



(Hebrew) ’Ādām [from ’ādām to be red, ruddy] Used in Genesis for man, original mankind; the Qabbalah enumerates four Adams. The Archetypal or Heavenly Man (’Adam Qadmon) is the prototype for the second, androgyne Adam. From these two emanates the third Adam, preterrestrial and innocent, though still further removed from the divine prototype Adam Qadmon. The fourth Adam is “the Third Adam as he was after the Fall,” the terrestrial Adam of the Garden of Eden, our earthly sexual humanity (Qabbalah Myer 418).

With regard to the elohim bringing man forth “in their own image” (tselem), Blavatsky says: “The sexless Race was their first production, a modification of and from themselves, the pure spiritual existences; and this as Adam solus. Thence came the second Race: Adam-Eve or Jod-Heva, inactive androgynes; and finally the Third, or the ‘Separating Hermaphrodite,’ Cain and Abel, who produce the Fourth, Seth-Enos, etc.” (SD 2:134). Again, “finally, even the four ‘Adams’ (symbolizing under other names the four preceding races) were forgotten; and passing from one generation in to another, each loaded with some additional myths, got at last drowned in that ocean of popular symbolism called the Pantheons. Yet they exist to this day in the oldest Jewish traditions, as the Tzelem, ‘the Shadow-Adam’ (the Chhāyās of our doctrine); the ‘model’ Adam, the copy of the first, and the ‘male and female’ of the exoteric genesis (chap. i); the third, the ‘earthly Adam’ before the Fall, an androgyne; and the Fourth — the Adam after his fall, i.e. separated into sexes, or the pure Atlantean. The Adam of the garden of Eden, or the forefather of our race — the fifth — is an ingenious compound of the above four” (SD 2:503).


(Sanskrit) [from adhi over, upon + the verbal root sthā to stand upon] A basis, seat, or focus of action (cf BG 3:40, 18:14). Often applied to a principle or element which inheres in another principle; i.e., the active agent working in prakṛti would be Adhiṣṭhāna. Also, precedent, rule, as when used as a name for one of the ten pāramitās (rules of conduct).

Adhiṣṭhāna-deha or -śarīra (-body) is a subtle intermediate body with which the departed is clothed after death.


(Sanskrit) [from ādi first, original + the verbal root budh to awaken, perceive, know] First or primeval buddha; the supreme being above all other buddhas and bodhisattvas in the later Mahāyāna Buddhism of Tibet, Nepal, Java, and Japan. In theosophical writings, the highest aspect or subentity of the supreme Wondrous Being of our universe, existing in the most exalted dharmakāya state.

“In the esoteric, and even exoteric Buddhism of the North, Ādi-Buddha (Chogi dangpoi sangye), the One unknown, without beginning or end, identical with Parabrahm and Ain-Soph, emits a bright ray from its darkness.

“This is the Logos (the first), or Vajradhara, the Supreme Buddha (also called Dorjechang). As the Lord of all Mysteries he cannot manifest, but sends into the world of manifestation his heart — the ‘diamond heart,’ Vajrasattva (Dorjesempa)” (SD 1:571). Ādi-buddha is the individualized monadic focus of ādi-buddhi, primordial cosmic wisdom or intelligence, synonymous with mahābuddhi or mahat (universal mind). Otherwise expressed, ādi-buddha is the supreme being heading the hierarchy of compassion and our solar universe; the fountain of light running through all subordinate hierarchies and thus the supreme lord and initiator of the wisdom side of our universe.

The Great Brotherhood of the mahatmas on earth, through their chief, the Mahāchohan, is the representative on our globe of ādi-buddha. Because of this, Tibetan Buddhism recognizes the continuous “reincarnations of Buddha” — not that Gautama Buddha is thus reimbodied but that ādi-buddha through its human ray perpetuates itself by reflection in fit and chosen human beings. As ādi-buddha is the individualized divine ideation of our universe, all-permeant and omnipresent, those individuals who raise themselves to become self-consciously at one with a ray from ādi-buddha are de facto “reincarnations,” greater or minor imbodiments of the cosmic buddha. Ādi-buddha manifests through the hierarchy of the celestial buddhas or dhyāni-buddhas, these again manifest through the manuṣa-buddhas and in lesser degree through human individuals who, though great, are inferior to the manuṣa-buddhas.


(Sanskrit)  [from ādi first, original + buddhi from the verbal root budh to know, perceive, awaken] Original or primordial buddhi; the cosmic essence of divine intelligence imbodied in ādi-buddha, the divine-spiritual head of the cosmic hierarchy of compassion, “the spiritual, omniscient and omnipotent root of divine intelligence” (SD 1:572). Ādi-buddhi or dharmakāya is “the mystic, universally diffused essence . . . the all-pervading supreme and absolute intelligence with its periodically manifesting Divinity — ‘Avalokiteśvara’ . . . the aggregate intelligence of the universal intelligences including that of the Dhyān Chohans even of the highest order” (ML 90).


(Sanskrit)  [from ādi first + budh wisdom] Primordial wisdom; the first or nameless deity (SD 1:xix, 54n; 2:48).


(Sanskrit) First or original element. See bhūta.


(Sanskrit) First or Original Lord. The first of the 24 Jain Tīrthaṅkaras (lit. makers of a shallow passage) or “Jain Buddhas” of the present downward half-cycle or avasarpinī (Theosophically the Fifth Root-race) whose name was Ṛṣbha (lit. ‘bull’) and who is said to have lived 8,400,000 years. Twenty three other  Tīrthaṅkaras followed succeeded him in; the latest and last for  the present downward half-cycle lived about 2600 years ago in North India as Lord Mahāvīra one of Ādinātha’s erstwhile disciples.


(Sanskrit)  [from ādi first + tattva thatness, essence] Original principle; used in theosophical literature to denote the first or highest of seven tattvas or principles in the descending arc of nature’s structure; in the numeration of the kosmic principles āditattva corresponds to the First Logos.

Aditi (Sanskrit) Aditi [from a not + diti bound from the verbal root da to bind] Unbounded, free; as a noun, infinite and shoreless expanse. In the Vedas, Aditi is devamātri (mother of the gods) as from and in her cosmic matrix all the heavenly bodies were born. As the celestial virgin and mother of every existing form and being, the synthesis of all things, she is highest ākāśa. Aditi is identified in the g-Veda with Vāc (mystic speech) and also with the mūlaprakṛti of the Vedānta. As the womb of space, she is a feminized form of Brahmā. The line in the g-Veda: “Daka sprang from Aditi and Aditi from Daka” has reference to “the eternal cyclic re-birth of the same divine Essence” (SD 2:247n). In one of its most mystic aspects Aditi is divine wisdom.

Aditi has correspondences in many ancient religions: the highest Sephirah in the Zohar; the Gnostic Sophia-Achamoth; Rhea, mother of the Greek Olympians; Bythos or the great Deep; Ambā; Surāraṇi [from sura god, divinity + araṇi the disk in which fire is kindled] The matrix of the gods; applied to Aditi, the mother of the gods. A somewhat similar term, Suravani [from avani the earth, whether as the cosmic element or our grossly material globe] is applied to the earth as the mother of the gods or Aditi. The term sura, equivalent to deva, shows that these beings are in intimate connection with Sūrya (the sun), and thus are solar entities. ; Chaos; Waters of Space; Primordial Light; and the source of the Egyptian seven heavens. Sometimes she is linked with the Greek Gaia, goddess of earth, to denote dual nature or the mother of both the spiritual and physical: Aditi, cosmic expanse or space being the mother of all things; and Gaia, mother of earth and, on the larger scale, of all objective nature (cf SD 2:65, 269).

Āditya (Sanskrit) [belonging to, issuing from aditi unbounded expanse] The Ādityas are the Sons of Aditi, space; in the Vedas a name for the sun; also referred to variously as five, seven, eight, and twelve in number. The eighth āditya (Mārttāṇḍa) was rejected by Aditi, leaving seven son-suns, each manifesting a particular solar energy (cf RV 10, 72, 8-9). “ ‘The Seven allow the mortals to see their dwellings, but show themselves only to the Arhats,’ says an old proverb, ‘their dwellings’ standing here for planets” (SD 1:100).

The Brāhmanas and Purāṇas generally reckon twelve ādityas. In a preceding manvantara they were called tuṣitas, but when the end of the cycle was near they entered the “womb of Aditi, that we may be born in the next Manvantara; for, thereby, we shall again enjoy the rank of gods.” Hence in the present seventh manvantara, they are known as ādityas (VP 1:15). When the pralaya (dissolution) of the world comes, twelve suns will appear (MB 3:3, 26; Dict. Hind. 3). The twelve ādityas are the twelve great gods of the Hindu pantheon; also, the twelve signs of the zodiac or twelve months of the year.

The ādityas are the sustainers of the solar divine life which exists in all things, and in our present Vaivasvata manvantara they are the divine solar pitṛs (fathers) — not the lower or lunar pitṛs — which incarnated in early humanity. “The wise call our fathers Vasus; our paternal grandfathers Rudras, our paternal great grandfathers, Ādityas . . . ” (Manu [Laws of Manu] 3:284).


The word means one who is “skilled”; hence, even in our ordinary life, a chemist, a physician, a theologian, a mechanic, an engineer, a teacher of languages, an astronomer, are all “adepts,” persons who are skilled, each in his own profession. In theosophical writings, however, an Adept is one who is skilled in the esoteric wisdom, in the teachings of life.


(Hebrew) [from ’ādōn lord] My Lords; through usage, Lord, a plural of excellence. Originally a sort of appeal or prayer to the hierarchical spiritual powers of the earth planetary chain, and more particularly of the planetary spirit of the earth itself; later it became a mere substitute for the unutterable name of God, usually for Tetragrammaton (YHVH).

“As the inner nature of YHVH is hidden; therefore He (YHVH) is only named with the Name of the Shekhinah, Adonai, i.e., Lord; therefore the Rabbins say (of the name YHVH); Not as I am written (i.e., YHVH) am I read. In this world My Name is written YHVH and read Adonai, but in the world to come, the same will be read as it is written, so that Mercy (represented by YHVH) shall be from all sides” (Zohar iii 320a). Adonai is rendered Lord in the Bible, although it means “my Lords”; whereas ’elohim is translated God in the English Authorized Version.

In the Sephirothal scheme, the Divine Name of the Sephirah of Malchuth was ’Adonai. The Gnostics taught that Iurbo and Adonai were names of Iao-Jehovah, who is an emanation of Ilda Baoth. According to Origen the Gnostics considered Adonai the genius of the sun. Blavatsky writes: “Both Aidoneus and Dionysius [Dionysus] are the bases of Adonai, or ‘Jurbo Adonai,’ as Jehovah is called in Codex Nazaraeus. . . . Baal-Adonis of the sods or Mysteries of the pre-Babylonian Jews became the Adonai by the Massorah, the later-vowelled Jehovah” (SD 1:463).


[from Hebrew ’ādōn lord] Title of the Babylonian god Tammuz, whose cult was imported into Asiatic Greece. A beautiful youth beloved of Aphrodite, he was killed by a boar. Aphrodite was so grief-stricken that the gods of the lower world allowed him to spend half of every year with her on earth. His death and resurrection were symbolized in annual festivals.

He is one of many symbols of the mystic Christ, the God made man. Though the son of Father and Mother, he is identical with the Father. Adonis is identified with both Osiris and Horus; with the Semitic Thammuz in Ezekiel, Athamaz, Tamaz, and ’Adam Qadmon (SD 2:43-4); with the Indian Aditi; and the Hebrew Adon or ’Adonai. Adonis is spoken of as both a lunar and solar god, since what is solar from one point of view may be lunar from another — for instance, he may represent the sun in a lunar system. Adonis is connected with the solar year, as shown in the allegory of his six-months alternation.

Advaita Vedānta

[Sanskrit, from a not + dvaita dual from dvi two] Nondual; the Advaita or nondualistic form of Vedānta [from veda knowledge + anta end] expounded by Śaṅkarācārya teaches the oneness of Brahman or the paramātman of the universe with the human spirit-soul or jīvātman, and the identity of spirit and matter; also that the divine spirit of the universe is the all-efficient, all-productive cause of the periodic coming into being, continuance, and dissolutions of the universe; and that this divine cosmic spirit is the ultimate truth and sole reality — hence the term advaita (without a second). All else is māyā, in proportion to its distance from the divine source.

The greatest initiates and yogis since Śaṅkarāchārya’s time are reputed to have come from the ranks of the Advaita-Vedāntists. “Yet the root philosophy of both Advaita and Buddhist scholars is identical, and both have the same respect for animal life, for both believe that every creature on earth, however small and humble, ‘is an immortal portion of the immortal matter’ — for matter with them has quite another significance than it has with either Christian or materialist — and that every creature is subject to Karma” (SD 1:636; cf 2:637). From ETG)


Aeon, Aion

(Latin) Aion (Greek) [from aion time] An age, a period of time; used alone, equivalent to the word logos, but the usual meaning includes a spiritual being considered as an emanation from the divine essence and also a period of time which is brought about by the existence of this spiritual being.

In the Gnostic systems it signified the various creative powers issuing from the demiurgic Logos, and varying in degree from the most spiritual or ethereal planes to the most gross. Valentinus held that a perfect aion called Propator, equivalent to the First Logos, existed before bythos or the spatial deep (equivalent to the Second Logos). H.P. Blavatsky explains that it is “Aion, who springs as a Ray from Ain-Soph (who does not create), and Aion, who creates, or through whom, rather, everything is created, or evolves” (H.P. Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine Vol 1 page 349). This twofold use of a word to denote a period of time and a deific power, also appears in Manu[1] and in the names of the Biblical patriarchs and the periods assigned to their respective lifetimes. (See G. de Purucker: Fountain Source of Occultism p. 194-5 for more detail)

Aether, Ether (Greek) [from aitho shining, fire] The upper or purer air as opposed to aer, the lower air; the clear sky; the abode of the gods. In Classical antiquity it denoted primordial substance, Proteus or protyle, the unitary source both of all substances and energies, the mask of all kosmic phenomena. Often used loosely to embrace a domain which extends from the All-Father himself down to the atmosphere of our earth. Vergil speaks of “Jupiter omnipotens aether,” and Cicero describes aether as the ultimate zone of heaven encircling, embracing, and permeating all things. At one time a member of the pantheon and object of veneration, at another the quest of the alchemist in search of the “absolute element” which would give him power over nature, and finally a hypothetical medium of science for conveying light waves.

Sometimes aether is used in translating the Sanskrit ākāśa, which has the same etymological and philosophical meaning. Here it is an element or principle coming after manas and kāma [mind and desire] and before the astral light and ether. Again, it is a high aspect of ākāśa, having itself also seven subordinate aspects. There are in kosmic space at least seven aethers or prakṛtis, which exist one within the other in a rising scale of spirituality. Collectively they may be called spirit-aether or ākāśa.

Generally in The Secret Doctrine it is the fifth kosmic element from below, a link between kosmic mind or mahat and the lower manifested world, the vehicle of the former and the parent of the latter. Looking at aether in a more general kosmic way, it is the field of activity of the kosmic Third Logos, Brahmāprakṛti, and therefore the great womb of manifested being, the treasure house of all kosmic types, forth from which they flow at the opening of manifestation and back into which they will again be ingathered at the beginning of kosmic pralaya. It is in consequence the great mother-substance out of which all the hierarchies are built. It interpenetrates everything, lasting from the beginning of the universal manvantara to its end, and indeed, may be said to continue, in its most spiritualized form throughout kosmic pralaya as the seed-house or storehouse from which everything will flow into manifestation again when the new period of kosmic activity arrives. Considered as the cosmic mother of all things, aether in its highest feminine aspect is the same as the Vedic Aditi or the Hera or Juno of Greece and Rome. Thus in one sense it is also mulaprakṛti, the generator or producer of the seeds of beginnings and things. The Old Testament refers to aether as the kosmic waters. In its highest parts it is mystically alaya (the kosmic spirit-soul) or what in Northern Buddhism is called svabhavat, more mystically ādi-buddhi. See also Ākāśa



Canonical texts of Jainism based on Mahāvira’s teachings. Mahāvira’s preaching were orally compiled by his disciples into various Sūtras (texts) which were collectively called Jain canonical or Āgamic literature. Traditionally these sutras were orally passed on from teachers (ācāryas or gurus) to the disciples for several centuries. The scholars date the composition of Jain Āgamas at around 6th to 3rd century BCE. While some authors date the composition of Jain Āgama starting from 6th century BCE, noted indologist Hermann Jacobi holds that the composition of the Jain canon would fall somewhere about the end of the fourth or the beginning of the third century BCE. The general consensus among scholars is that the earliest portions of Jain canons were composed around 4th or 3rd century BCE. This is also in agreement with Jain tradition according to which the Āgamic literature and the Pūrvas were passed from one heads of the order to his disciples for around 170 years after the Nirvana of Māhavira. However with time, it became difficult to keep the entire Jain literature committed to memory. According to tradition, there occurred a twelve years of famine around 350 BC where it was extremely difficult for the Jain ascetics to survive during this time. Under such circumstances they could not preserve the entire canonical literature. The Pūrvas or the ancient texts were already forgotten and lost after the famine. According to Śvetambara (White-dressed) tradition, the Āgamas were collected on the basis of collective memory of the ascetics in the first council of Patalipūtra under the stewardship of Ācārya Sthūlabhadra in around to 463–367 BCE. However, the Digambara (Wind-clad, nude) Jain sect maintains that after the famine, the entire Jain canonical literature became extinct.

The Āgamas were composed of the following forty-five texts:

  • Twelve Angās
  • Twelve Upanga āgamas (Texts that provide further explanation of Angās)
    • Aupapātika
    • Rājapraśnīya
    • Jīvājīvābhigama
    • Prajñāpana
    • Sūryaprajñapti
    • Jambūdvīpaprajñapt
    • Candraprajñapti
    • Nirayārvalī
    • Kalpāvatamsikāh
    • Puspikāh
    • Puspacūlikāh
    • Vrasnidaśāh
  • Six Chedasūtras(Texts relating to the conduct and behaviour of monks and nuns)
  • Four Mūlasūtras (Scriptures which provide a base in the earlier stages of the monkhood)
    • Daśavaikālika
    • Uttarādhyayana
    • Āvaśyaka
    • Pindaniryukyti
  • Ten Prakīrnaka sūtras(Texts on Independent or miscellaneous subjects)
    • Catuhśarana
    • Āturapratyākhyanā
    • Bhaktaparijñā
    • Samstāraka
    • Tandulavaicarika
    • Candravedhyāka
    • Devendrastava
    • Ganividyā
    • Mahāpratyākhyanā
    • Vīrastava
  • Two Cūlikasūtras(The scriptures which further enhance or decorate the meaning of Angas)
    • Nandī-sūtra
    • Anuyogadvāra-sūtra



(Sanskrit) [from the verbal root ag to move tortuously, wind] Fire; as god of fire, one of the most revered of Vedic deities. As mediator between gods and humans, from whose body issue “a thousand streams of glory and seven tongues of flame,” Agni represents the divine essence or celestial fire present in every atom of the universe. Often used synonymously with the ādityas. The three chief gods of Vedas are Agni, Vāyu, and Sūrya — fire, air, and the sun — whose elements respectively are earth, air, and sky. One of the four lokapālas or world-protectors, Agni is guardian of the southeast quarter, and in the Ṛg-Veda as Matarisvan, messenger of Vivasvat, the sun, Agni brought down the “hidden fire” for humankind. To “kindle a fire,” therefore, is synonymous to evoking one of the three great fire-powers or “to call on God” (SD 2:114).

Fire is spoken of as the Primary in the Stanzas of Dzyan: “The Spirit, beyond manifested Nature, is the fiery breath in its absolute Unity. In the manifested Universe, it is the Central Spiritual Sun, the electric Fire of all Life. In our System it is the visible Sun, the Spirit of Nature, the terrestrial god. And in, on, and around the Earth, the fiery Spirit thereof — air, fluidic fire; water, liquid fire; Earth, solid fire. All is fire — ignis, in its ultimate constitution, or I, the root of which is 0 (nought) in our conceptions, the All in nature and its mind. Pro-Mater is divine fire. It is the Creator, the Destroyer, the Preserver. The primitive names of the gods are all connected with fire, from Agni, the Āryan, to the Jewish god who ‘is a consuming fire’ ” (ibid.).

In the Purāṇas, Agni is variously a rṣī of the fourth manvantara, the name of a kalpa, and also a star


(Sanskrit) A compound of two words: agni, “fire”; svad, “to taste” or “sweetened,”  Therefore, literally one who has been delighted or sweetened by fire. A class of pitṛs: our solar ancestors as contrasted with the barhiṣads, our lunar ancestors.

The kumāras, agniṣvāttas, and mānasaputras are three groups or aspects of the same beings: the kumāras represent the aspect of original spiritual purity untouched by gross elements of matter. The agniṣvāttas represent the aspect of their connection with the sun or solar spiritual fire. Having tasted or been “sweetened” by the spiritual fire — the fire of intellectuality and spirituality — they have been purified thereby. The mānasaputras represent the aspect of intellectuality — the functions of higher intellect.

The agniṣvattas and mānasaputras are two names for the same class or host of beings, and set forth or signify or represent two different aspects or activities of this one class of beings. Thus, for instance, a man may be said to be a kumara in his spiritual parts, an agniṣvātta in his buddhicmanasic parts, and a mānasaputra in his purely manasic aspect. Other beings could be called kumāras in their highest aspects, as for instance the beasts, but they are not imbodied agniṣvāttas or mānasaputras.

The agniṣvāttas are the solar spiritual-intellectual parts of us, and therefore are our inner teachers. In preceding manvantaras, they had completed their evolution in the realms of physical matter, and when the evolution of lower beings had brought these latter to the proper state, the agniṣvāttas came to the rescue of these who had only the physical “creative fire,” thus inspiring and enlightening these lower lunar pitṛs with spiritual and intellectual energies or “fires.”

When this earth’s planetary chain shall have reached the end of its seventh round, we, as then having completed the evolutionary course for this planetary chain, will leave this planetary chain as dhyān-chohans, agniṣvāttas; but the others now trailing along behind us — the present beasts — will be the lunar pitṛis of the next planetary chain to come.

While it is correct to say that these three names appertain to the same class of beings, nevertheless each name has its own significance in the occult teaching, which is why the three names are used with three distinct meanings. Imagine an unconscious god-spark beginning its evolution in any one solar or mahā-manvantara. We may call it a kumāra, a being of original spiritual purity, but with a destiny through karmic evolution connected with the realms of matter.

At the other end of the line, at the consummation of the evolution in this mahā-manvantara, when the evolving entity has become a fully self-conscious god or divinity, its proper appellation then is agniṣvātta, for it has been “sweetened” or purified by means of the working through it of the spiritual fires inherent in itself.

Now then, when such an agniṣvātta assumes the role of a bringer of mind or of intellectual light to a lunar pitṛ which it overshadows and in which a ray from it incarnates, it then, although in its own realm an agniṣvātta, functions as a mānasaputra or child of mind or mahat. A brief analysis of the compound elements of these three names may be useful.

Kumāra is from ku meaning “with difficulty” and mara meaning “mortal.” The significance of the word therefore can be paraphrased as “mortal with difficulty,” and the meaning usually given to it by Sanskrit scholars as “easily dying” is wholly exoteric and amusing, and doubtless arose from the fact that kumara is a word frequently used for child or boy, everybody knowing that young children “die easily.” The idea therefore is that purely spiritual beings, although ultimately destined by evolution to pass through the realms of matter, become mortal, i.e., material, only with difficulty.

Agniṣvātta has the meaning stated above, “delighted” or “pleased” or “sweetened,” i.e., “purified” by fire — which we may render in two ways: either as the fire of suffering and pain in material existence producing great fiber and strength of character, i.e., spirituality; or, perhaps still better from the standpoint of occultism, as signifying an entity or entities who have become one in essence through evolution with the aethery fire of spirit.

Mānasaputra is a compound of two words: mānasa, “mental” or “intellectual,” from the word manas, “mind,” and putra, “son” or “child,” therefore a child of the cosmic mind — a “mind-born son” as H. P. Blavatsky phrases it. (See also Pitṛs, Lunar Pitṛs)

Ahakāra [Sanskrit, from aham ego, I + kāra maker, doer from the verbal root kṛ to do] I-maker; conception of egoity or I-am-I-ness. In its lower aspect, the egoistical and māyāvi principle, born of avidyā (ignorance), which produces the notion of the personal ego as being different from the universal self. In Sakhyā philosophy ahakāra is the third emanation: from prakṛti (primal nature or substance) issues mahat (the great), standing for universal mind, which in turn produces ahakāra, selfhood, individuality; from ahamkāra come forth the five tanmātras, the subtle forms of the elements or principles and “the two series of sense organs” (Sakhyā-Sūtra 1:61).

In the Bhagavad-Gītā (7:4), prakṛti manifests in eight portions — “earth, water, fire, air, ether [space: kham-ākāśa], mind [manas], understanding [buddhi] and egoity, self-sense [ahakāra]” — all of which relate to the object side, which gives an erroneous sense of identity or egoity.

As universal self-consciousness, ahakāra has “a triple aspect, as also Manas. For this conception of ‘I,’ or one’s Ego, is either sattva, ‘pure quietude,’ or appears as rajas, ‘active,’ or remains tamas, ‘stagnant,’ in darkness. It belongs to Heaven and Earth, and assumes the properties of either” (SD 1:335n).


Nonviolence, harmlessness. This can be interpreted as external: non-killing, non-harming of other beings, or internal: not to disturb the prānas, internal streams of life force through the body, caused by thoughts or emotions. It is an important part of Jain (the predominant ethical principle), Buddhist and (partly) of Hindu lifestyle. Patañjali, the author of the Yoga Sūtras mentions ahimsā as the first

Ahura (Avestan) [from the verbal root ahu conscious life; cf Sanskrit asura] The lord of life, the one life from whom all proceed; as daevas who were originally gods of the Aryans changed to demons among the Iranian branch of the Aryans, asura also changed to demons among the Indians. In the earlier Vedas, asura is especially used for Varuna, the ruler of the heavenly sphere. “The Mazdean Scriptures of the Zend Avesta, the Vendidad and others correct and expose the later cunning shuffling of the gods in the Hindu Pantheon, and restore through Ahura the Asuras to their legitimate place in Theogony . . .” (SD 2:60-1).

Blavatsky gives a human interpretation of Ahura: “The Magian knew not of any Supreme ‘personal’ individuality. He recognized but Ahura — the ‘lord’ — the 7th Principle in man, — and ‘prayed’, i.e. made efforts during the hours of meditation, to assimilate with, and merge his other principles — that are dependent on the physical body and ever under the sway of Angra-Mainya (or matter) — into the only pure, holy and eternal principle in him, his divine monad. To whom else could he pray? Who was ‘Ormuzd’ if not the chief Spent-Mainyu, the monad, our own god-principle in us? . . .

“And wisely does it [the occult doctrine] explain to us that Ahura is our own inner, truly personal God and that he is our Spiritual light and the ‘Creator of the material world’ — i.e., the architect and shaper of the Microcosm — Man, when the latter knows how to resist Angra-Mainyu, or Kama — lust or material desires — by relying on him who overshadows him, the Ahura-Mazda or Spiritual Essence. . . . Ahura-Mazda is also the Father of Tistrya, the rain-bestowing god (the 6th principle) that fructifies the parched soil of the 5th and 4th, and helps them to bear good fruit through their own exertions, i.e., by tasting of Haoma, the tree of eternal life, through spiritual enlightenment” (BCW 4:520-23).

Ahura-Mazda (Avestan) Aura-Mazda (Old Persian) Auhr-Mazd (Pahlavi) Hormazd, Hormoz, Ormazd, Ormuzd (Persian) [from Avestan ahura lord of life from the verbal root ahu conscious life + mazda the creator of mind, remembering, bearing in mind from the verbal root man to think + da the creator, bestower; cf Pahlavi dehesh creation] The lord of life and creator of mind; the immutable light, the uncreated supreme deity of the Mazdean system. Pythagoras said that “the Iranian Magis consider Ahura-Mazda a being whose body is of light and his soul is of truth.” He is referred to as the maker of the material world and father of the six Amesha-Spentas. In later Persian literature similar descriptions of the supreme creator have been given. Ferdowsi refers to him as the lord of jan (consciousness) and kherad (intellect).

Regarding the dualistic cosmic system of the Zoroastrians — good and evil — Blavatsky comments: “No more philosophically profound, no grander or more graphic and suggestive type exists among the allegories of the World-religions than that of the two Brother-Powers of the Mazdean religion, called Ahura-Mazda and Angra-Mainyu, better known in their modernized form of Ormuzd and Ahriman. Of these two emanations, ‘Sons of Boundless Time’ — Zeruana-Akrana — itself issued from the Supreme and Unknowable Principle, the one is the embodiment of ‘Good Thought’ (Vohu-Mano), the other of ‘Evil Thought’ (Ako-Mano). The ‘King of Light’ or Ahura-Mazda, emanates from Primordial Light and forms or creates by means of the ‘Word,’ Honover (Ahuna-Vairya), a pure and holy world. But Angra-Mainyu, though born as pure as his elder brother, becomes jealous of him, and mars everything in the Universe, as on the earth, creating Sin and Evil wherever he goes.

“The two Powers are inseparable on our present plane and at this stage of evolution, and would be meaningless, one without the other. They are, therefore, the two opposite poles of the One Manifested Creative Power, whether the latter is viewed as a Universal Cosmic Force which builds worlds, or under its anthropomorphic aspect, when its vehicle is thinking man” (BCW 13:123-4).

Because Maz or Mez in the word Mazda can also be another way of pronouncing myth, Mazda can mean that which is created by Mez, by the hidden truth. Then Ahura-Mazda would mean the life-bearer who is created by the hidden truth.


Ain Soph or ’Eyn Soph (Hebrew) ’Ēin Sōf Also Ain Soph, Ayn Soph, Eyn Suph, Ein Soph, etc. No-thing, the negatively existent one, or the no-thing of space corresponding closely in some respects to the mystical śunyatā of Mahayana Buddhism. Used in the Qabbalah for that which is above Kether or Macroprosopus, i.e., no-thing. “It is so named because we do not know, and it is impossible to know, that which there is in this Principle, because it never descends as far as our ignorance and because it is above Wisdom itself” (Zohar iii, 288b).

Strictly speaking, ’eyn signifies abstract Be-ness or the vast spatial deep in which all existences take their rise. Anything that is existent is a production and exists; and the womb of being or Be-ness, from which existences arise, is not only the cause of all existences but likewise their field of action — the spatial deeps. Often wrongly translated as “nothing”; but Be-ness is certainly not nothing, but essential, full Be-ness itself.



(Sanskrit) The word means “brilliant,” “shining,” “luminous.” The fifth kosmic element, the fifth essence or “quintessence,” called Aether by the ancient Stoics; but it is not the ether of science. The ether of science is merely one of its lower elements. In the Brahmanical scriptures ākāśa is used for what the northern Buddhists call svabhavat, more mystically Ādi-buddhi — “primeval buddhi”; it is also mulaprakṛti, the kosmical spirit-substance, the reservoir of Being and of beings. The Hebrew Old Testament refers to it as the kosmic “waters.” It is universal substantial space; also mystically Alaya. (See also Mulaprakṛti, Alaya)



(Sanskrit) A compound word: a, “not”; laya, from the verb-root li, “to dissolve”; hence “the indissoluble.” The universal soul; the basis or root or fountain of all beings and things — the universe, gods, monads, atoms, etc. Mystically identical with ākāsa in the latter’s highest elements, and with mulaprakṛti in the latter’s essence as “root-producer” or “root-nature.” (See also Ākāsa, Buddhi, Mulaprakṛti)

[NOTE: The Secret Doctrine (1:49) mentions Alaya in the Yogācāra system, most probably referring to alaya-vijñāna, but adds that with the “Esoteric ‘Buddhists’ . . . ‘Alaya’ has a double and even a triple meaning.” — PUBLISHER]

Ālaya-vijñāna (Sanskrit)  [from ālaya abode, dwelling from ā-lī to settle upon, come close to + vijñāna discernment, knowledge from vi-jñā to distinguish, know, understand] Abode of discriminative knowledge; the cognizing or discerning faculty, the mental power of making distinctions, hence the higher reasoning. When used mystically as “a receptacle or treasury of knowledge or wisdom,” it corresponds very closely to the Vedāntic vijñānamaya-kośa, the “thought-made sheath” of the human constitution, the higher manas or reincarnating ego.

In Mahayana Buddhism, ālaya-vijñāna has acquired a somewhat larger and higher significance: ālaya (an abode, in the sense of focus of activity), the prepositional prefix a (meaning position or limitation) with the verb li (to dissolve) signifies solution or coalescence in unity. Used much as the term human monad is in theosophy, equivalent to the higher manas or even buddhi-manas, it therefore signifies the focus or interior organ of consciousness into which is collected at the end of each incarnation the aroma of the higher experiences during that lifetime, thus forming a kind of treasury. It has also been translated in German as Schatzkammerbewusstsein (Treasury-consciousness)


Amenti, Amentet

(Egyptian) The underworld (Tuat), the hidden place or secret region. The 15th or last house (Aat) of the Tuat, called Amentet-nefert (beautiful Amenti) and described as the dwelling place of the gods, where they live upon cakes and ale — in this respect similar to the Scandinavian Valhalla, the heaven world or devachan. The afterworlds were also referred to as Sekhet-hetep or -hetepet (the fields of peace), called in Greece the Elysian Fields, under the dominion of Osiris, lord of Amenti. Some of the texts speak of Amenti as situated far to the north of Egypt, although it is more commonly referred to as the Silent Land of the West. Other texts place it either below or above the earth, and the deceased is pictured as needing a ladder to ascend to the region.

The deceased, entering the domain as a khu, performs the same activities that he did on earth: plowing, reaping, sailing his boat, and making love. On entering Amenti, Anubis conducts the soul to the hall of Osiris where it is judged by the 42 judges and its heart is weighed against the feather of truth. If the soul passes the test, it goes to the fields of Aalu. If the names of the 15 Aats, the 7 Arrets (circles), the 21 Pylons, as well as the gods and guardians of these domains are all known, the deceased is enabled to pass from one mansion to the other, and finally to enter the Night Boat of the Sun, which passes through the Tuat on its way to arise in the heavens. The shades who miss this boat, the unprogressed egos, must remain in the afterworld or kāma-loka, while those who enter the boat are carried to the heaven world or devachan where they wander about until they return to earth for rebirth. This refers to the passing from world to world by the ego proficient in knowledge of the “names,” and thereafter entering the secret or invisible pathways to the sun. The knowledge of the names indicates spiritual, intellectual, and psychic development, by which the ego of the defunct is no longer attracted to the lower spheres, but having knowledge of them correctly answers the challenges and thereafter follows the attraction upwards and onwards.

Writing on the symbol of the egg which is often depicted as floating above a mummy, Blavatsky says: “This is the symbol of hope and the promise of a second birth for the Osirified dead; his Soul, after due purification in the Amenti, will gestate in this egg of immortality, to be reborn from it into a new life on earth. For this Egg, in the esoteric Doctrine, is the Devachan, the abode of Bliss; the winged scarabeus being alike a symbol of it” (SD 1:365).

The mystical and mythologic teachings concerning Amenti were all more or less symbolic descriptions of the series of afterdeath states and adventures experienced by the excarnate entity. Thus kāma-loka, devachan, and the postmortem peregrinations of the excarnate monad are all combined under the one term Amenti.


(Sanskrit) [ from a not + the verbal root to measure + ābhā (ābha) splendor, light from ābhā to shine, irradiate] Unmeasured splendor; mystically, as boundless light or boundless space, one of the five dhyāni-buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism, more often referred to as the five tathāgathas or jinas (victorious ones). Originally these dhyāni-buddhas represented cosmic spiritual attributes and influences emanating from ādi-buddhi, but they have become mythologized as gods, ruling over the central realm as well as the four cardinal directions.

Amitābha of the West, whose Tibetan name is Wod-pag-med (O-pa me) is the ruling deity of Sukhāvati (the western paradise or pure land) and in China and Japan is universally worshiped as Amida-buddha. Esoterically, there are seven dhyāni-buddhas (five only have manifested thus far) who represent “both cosmic entities and the rays or reflections of these cosmic originals which manifest in man as monads” (FSO 507; cf SD 1:108).

The Panchen Lama has been traditionally regarded as the tulku of Amitābha, and the Dalai Lama as the tulku of Avalokiteśvara (Tibetan Chenrezi).

Amitābha corresponds to the First Logos, the Father in the Christian Trinity, the Pythagorean monad of monads, and in the human being to atman. From a philosophical-mystic standpoint, Amitābha also means “no color” or the “white glory,” the primal spiritual element-principle of the solar system, from which are born the seven differentiated “colors” of the manifested prismatic kosmic hierarchies.


(Sanskrit) Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist name for universal, primeval wisdom or soul, equivalent to ādi-buddha. Also the celestial name of Gautama Buddha. Tsong-kha-pa is considered a direct incarnation of Amita-buddha (BCW 14:425-8; SD 1:108&n).


(Sanskrit) Universal life or boundless vitality, “with distinct reference to that part of the cosmic hierarchy of our solar system which manifests itself throughout as intelligent, unifying, and all-encompassing vitality issuing from the heart of the sun” (FSO 508).



(Sanskrit) or anattā (Pali) Non-self, non-spirit; as an adjective, destitute of mind or spirit, corporeal. Used of the cosmos it signifies, in contrast to atman which is absolute spirit, its shadow or non-spirit, the corporeal or vehicular side of the universe, often mystically spoken of as the cosmic shadow. In the doctrine of the Buddha it means non-egoity, meaning that there is no unchanging, permanent self in the human being, in contrast to the Brahmanic interpretation of the Upaniṣads that the ātman or inner essence of a human being is a permanent essence identic with Brahman, the Supreme, which pervades and is the universe. Gautama Buddha stresses the nonreality of the self as a separate independent ‘organ’, but does not deny the concept of ātman per se.


[from Greek angelos messenger, envoy, announcer] In the Old Testament, used to translate the Hebrew mal’ach (messenger); in Christian, Jewish, Moslem, and some other theologies, either a messenger of God or one of various hierarchies of celestial beings, the idea of a guardian angel also being familiar. However, the idea of hosts of formative powers, rectores mundi, or other beings between divinity and man, serving as intermediaries or means of communication between man and high spiritual entities has largely vanished from popular Christianity, though Angels, Principalities, and Powers are mentioned by Paul, and the archangel Michael by Jude; while the influence of the Gnostics, Neoplatonists, and Jews on early Christianity gives a wider meaning to the term.

Angels, then, are members of numerous hierarchies of celestial powers, from the septenary formative host that emanates from the formative Third Logos down to the presiding genius or spirit of an atom, acting as intermediaries or envoys between the divine and the human or terrestrial.

Ank, Ankh

(Egyptian) The symbol of life in ancient Egypt, represented as the tau-cross surmounted by a circle, and often called crux ansata (cross with a handle). Usually placed in the hand of every representation of god or goddess; likewise in the hand of the initiant, and again on the mummy. Also the present astronomical planetary sign for Venus; and the ansated cross reversed is the sign of the earth. One meaning of the ankh is “esoterically, that mankind and all animal life had stepped out of the divine spiritual circle and fallen into physical male and female generation. This sign, from the end of the Third Race, has the same phallic significance as the ‘tree of life’ in Eden” (SD 2:30-1).


(Sanskrit) Perhaps better spelled as antaḥkārana. A compound word: antar, “interior,” “within”; kārana, sense organ. Occultists explain this word as the bridge between the higher and lower manas or between the spiritual ego and personal soul of man. Such is H. P. Blavatsky’s definition. As a matter of fact there are several antaḥkāranas in the human septenary constitution — one for every path or bridge between any two of the several monadic centers in man. Man is a microcosm, therefore a unified composite, a unity in diversity; and the antaḥkāranas are the links of vibrating consciousness-substance uniting these various centers.


(Sanskrit) Atom.

As a noun, an atom of matter; as an adjective, atomic, fine, minute. A title of Brahma, conceived as both infinitesimal and universal, thus pointing to the pantheistic character of divinity. Hence, every aṇu is “a centre of potential vitality, with latent intelligence in it” (SD 1:567; cf FSO 273-5, 431). In the Bhagavad-Gītā (8:9) Arjuna is enjoined to meditate on the “seer,” i.e., the enlightened, omniscient One, who is “more atomic than the atom” (anor aniyamsam) and yet “the supporter of all”

In Jainism the soul is represented as being like an aṇu, atomic in size, and seated within the heart, while the jīva (life-monad) is the quickening element that pervades the whole.

Besides meaning a particle of substance, aṇu also means an atom of time, being equivalent to the 54,675,000th part of a muhūrta (48 minutes).

Muṇḍaka Upaniad: Mantra No. 7: That which is supremely expansive, divine, of unthinkable form, subtler than the subtle, much farther than that which is far, and at the same time very near, shines and is seated in the Central Being of those who have the consciousness of That.

Anugītā [from anu after, alongside + gītā sung, chanted, song from the verbal root gai to sing, intone] After-song; chapters 16-92 of the Aśvamedhika-parvan, 14th book of the Mahābhārata that deals with the aśvamedha (horse sacrifice) conducted by King Yudhihira, a rite that stems from the Vedic period.

Like the Bhagavad-Gītā, the Anugītā is a discourse between Krishna and Arjuna, an “after-song” in which Krishna gives a fuller unfolding of teaching with many mystical allusions.

Anupapādaka. See Aupapāduka



(Greek) Also called Phoebus (the pure, shining); son of Zeus and Leto (Latona), the polar region or night, and twin brother of Artemis (Diana). His birth shows the emanation of light from darkness. One of the most popular gods of Greek mythology, he is primarily the god of light, and is also associated with the sun, hence a giver of life, light, and wisdom to the earth and humanity. Apollo and Artemis are the mystic sun and the higher occult moon (SD 2:771). Apollo stands for order, justice, law, and purification by penance. His attribute as a punisher of evil is shown by his bow, with which as an infant he slew Python. He is the deity who wards off evil; the healer, father of Aesculapius and often identified with him; and the god of divination, associated especially with the Oracle at Delphi. The other principal seat of his worship was at Delos, his birthplace. He was also the patron of song and music, of new civic foundations, and protector of crops and flocks. His lyre is the sacred heptachord or septenary, seen in the sevenfold manifestations of the Logos in the universe and man; he is also the sun with its seven planets. He answers in some respects to the Hindu Indra and Karttikeya and in others to the Christian archangel Michael; Janus was the Roman god of light.

Apollonius of Tyana

First-century neo-Pythagorean, known for his ascetic life, moral teachings, and occult powers. His biography is a Hermetic allegory, though based on facts. A theurgist and adept of high powers, he studied Phoenician sciences as well as Pythagorean philosophy. He traveled widely, journeying to Babylon and India where he associated with the Chaldeans, Magi, Brahmans, and Buddhists. His life was spent preaching noble ethics, prophesying, healing, and performing many well-attested phenomena or “miracles.” Before his death he opened an esoteric school at Ephesus. Blavatsky states that he was a nirmāṇakāya rather than an avatāra.


(Sanskrit) Apsaras [from ap water + saras flowing from the verbal root sṛ to flow, glide, blow (as of wind)] Moving in the waters; a class of feminine divinities known as celestial water nymphs, whose location is commonly placed in the sky between the clouds rather than in the waters of earth, although they are often described as visiting earth. These fairy-like wives of the gandharvas (celestial musicians) can change their shape at will, often appearing as aquatic birds. In Manu they are held to be the creations of the seven manus, but in the Purāṇas and the Rāmāyāna their origin is attributed to the churning of the cosmic waters, and it is said that neither gods nor asuras would have them for wives. Since mythologically they were common to all, they are called Sumadātmajas (self-willed pleasurers) — 35 million of them, of whom Kāma, god of love, is lord and king. One of their roles is to act as temptresses to those too ardent for divine status. Only the individual who can withstand the perfumed entreaties of the apsarasas is worthy of full enlightenment. In the Yajur-Veda the apsarasas are called sunbeams because of their connection with the gandharva who personifies the sun.

Blavatsky looks upon the apsarasas as “both qualities and quantities” (SD 2:585) and also as “ ‘sleep-producing’ aquatic plants, and interior forces of nature” (TG 28).

In the Purāṇas the apsarasas are sometimes divided into two classes, the daivika (divine or belonging to the devas), hence highly ethereal beings, and the laukika [from loka worldly], belonging to the worlds of manifestation, such as a physical plane. Considered apart from mythologic references, the apsarasas bear a strong resemblance to the undines of medieval Europe, nature forces and elementals appurtenant to all ten ranges of their hierarchical distribution, from the spiritual to the grossly material and physical. Every one of the seven or ten cosmic elements (bhūtas) or principles (tattvas) has its own class of inhabitants.


Arhat (Sanskrit) Arhat also Arhan [from the verbal root arh to be worthy, merit, be able] Worthy, deserving; also enemy slayer [from ari enemy + the verbal root han to slay, smite], an arhat being a slayer of the foe of craving, the entire range of passions and desires, mental, emotional, and physical. Buddhists in the Orient generally define arhat in this manner, while modern scholars derive the word from the verbal root arh. Both definitions are equally appropriate (Buddhist Catechism 93).

As a noun, originally one who had fully attained his spiritual ideals. In Buddhism arhat (Pāli arahant) is the title generally given to those of Gautama Buddha’s disciples who had progressed the farthest during his lifetime and immediately thereafter; more specifically to those who had attained nirvāṇa, emancipation from earthly fetters and the attainment of full enlightenment. Arhat is broadly equivalent to the Egyptian hierophant, the Chaldean magus, and Hindu ṛṣi, as well as being generally applicable to ascetics. On occasion it is used for the loftiest beings in a hierarchy: “The Arhats of the ‘fire-mist’ of the 7th run are but one remove from the Root-base of their Hierarchy — the highest on Earth, and our Terrestrial chain” (The Secret Doctrine 1:207).

Arhat is the highest of the four degrees of arhatship or the fourfold path to nirvāṇa, of which the first three are srotapatti (he who has entered the stream), sakṛdāgamin (he who returns to birth once more), and anāgamin (the never returner who will have no further births on earth).

Arhat is both the way and the waygoer; and while the term is close philosophically to anāgamin, the distinction between the two lies in their mystical connotations rather than in their etymological definitions. Arhat has a wider significance inasmuch as it applies to those noblest of the Buddha’s disciples who were “worthy” of receiving, because comprehending, the Tathāgata’s heart doctrine, the more esoteric and mystical portions of his message.

[In Mahāyāna, the arhat stage is of lower merit than the bodhisattva path (bodhisattvayāna), because the bodhisattva has rejected the nirvāṇa of arhatship in order to return to help all living beings which are still suffering and postpone their nirvāṇa willingly for this purpose. – Ed. DTh]

As early as one hundred years after the Buddha died and had entered his parinirvāṇa, differences in the doctrines and discipline of the Order become manifest. In the course of the centuries two basic trends developed into what has become popular to call the Hinayāna (the lesser vehicle or path) or Theravada (doctrine of the elders), and Mahāyāna (the greater vehicle or path). The Theravada emphasized the fourfold path leading to nirvāṇa, total liberation of the arhat from material concerns. The Mahāyāna held the bodhisattvayāna as the ideal, the way of compassion for all sentient beings, culminating in renunciation of nirvāṇa in order to return and inspire others “to awake and follow the dhamma.” It is this fundamental difference in goal that characterizes the Old Wisdom School (arhatship) from the New Wisdom School (bodhisattvahood) (ETG)


Ark [from Latin arca chest] A chest, covered basket, or other closed receptacle; the womb of nature, wherein are preserved the seeds of preceding ages which at a later date inaugurate and unfold into a new system of evolutionary development. Thus reappears after its periodic rest a new universe, solar system, planet, or being such as man; each such entity being the reimbodiment of a previously living entity. The connection with siṣṭas is apparent.

The ark or argha was used by the high priests in ceremonials connected with nature goddesses such as Ishtar or Astarte: at such times the representative emblem or ark was shaped as an oblong vessel, and occasionally fish-shaped, the most familiar instance being the Ark of the Covenant. Oftentimes a mystical flame representing reproducing life was associated with the ark, which thus became a distinctly phallic emblem of maternal reproduction, and also referred to the spiritually and intellectually generative power of the upper triad working in and through the lower quaternary of the septenary principles of either nature or man.

The crescent moon, because of its curved form, either represented the mystic ark itself or was conjoined with it in various manners, for the moon in archaic teaching was the fecund yet presently dead mother of our earth, the latter being its reimbodiment. Thus the moon stood as an emblem of the cosmic matrix or ark floating in and on the watery abyss of space — just as the ark in the Jewish form of this cosmogonic legend was associated with the flood waters as the bearer of all the seeds of lives. In the view of the later rather materialistic Hebrew rabbis the human womb became the maqom or ark, the place representative on earth of what the moon was in the cosmic sphere.

It was natural in time to connect the ark with a ship, as in the symbolism of the ancient Egyptian boat, on which the chest or typical ark was so prominently placed as the repository or womb of the seeds of lives.

Thus the ark has both a cosmic and a human significance. In one sense it is man himself who is the ark; for, having appeared at the beginning of sentient life, man (as he then was) became the living and animal unit, whose cast-off clothes determined the shape of every life and animal in this round. In its widest sense the symbolism refers to the first cosmic flood, the primary creation, and so the ark also is Mother Nature; but it likewise refers to terrestrial deluges where its application is twofold, for it means the saving of mankind through physical generation, and also cyclic deluges, especially the Atlantean one. The ark is argha in Chaldean, vara in Persian, and is referred to in the stories about Noah, Deucalion, Xisuthrus, Yima, etc. The ark in which the infant Moses is saved is an instance of many similar legends conveying the same root idea. The ark, therefore, is the receptive aspect of the principle of reproduction and regeneration, ranging from the most fundamental Mother Nature to her every correspondence on the various planes.


(Sanskrit) A compound word meaning “formless,” but this word formless is not to be taken so strictly as to mean that there is no form of any kind whatsoever; it merely means that the forms in the spiritual worlds (the arūpa-lokas) are of a spiritual type or character, and of course far more ethereal than are the forms of the rūpa-lokas.

Thus in the arūpa-lokas, or the spiritual worlds or spheres or planes, the vehicle or body of an entity is to be conceived of rather as an enclosing sheath of energic substance. We can conceive of an entity whose form or body is entirely of electrical substance — as indeed our own bodies are in the last analysis of modern science. But such an entity with an electrical body, although distinctly belonging to the rūpa worlds, and to one of the lowest rūpa worlds, would merely, by comparison with our own gross physical bodies, seem to us to be bodiless or formless. (See also Rūpa, Loka)


(Sanskrit) [from the verbal root ṛ to rise, tend upward] Holy, hallowed, highly evolved or especially trained; a title of the Hindu ṛṣis. Originally a term of ethical as well as intellectual and spiritual excellence, belonging to those who had completely mastered the āryasatyāṇi (holy or noble truths, especially the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism) and who had entered upon the āryamārga (path leading to mokṣa or nirvāṇa). It was originally applicable only to the initiates or adepts of the ancient Āryan peoples, but today Āryan has become the name of a race of the human family in its various branches. All ancient peoples had their own term for initiates or adepts, as for instance among the ancient Hebrews the generic name Israel, or Sons of Israel.

Also applied as a title by the ancient Hindus to themselves in distinction from the peoples whom they had conquered.


(Sanskrit) The Noble Path, especially the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism, see below: Āryāṣṭāṅgamārga

Āryasatya (Sanskrit) [from ārya holy, noble from the verbal root to move, arise, attain + satya true, real from the verbal root as to be] Noble truth; in the plural, the four great truths of Buddhism — chatvari aryasatyani [Four Noble Truths] (Pāli: chattari ariyasachchani): 1) dukha — life is suffering; 2) samudāya — origin, cause, craving, egoistic desire (taha) is the cause of suffering; 3) nirodha — destruction, extinction of desire brings cessation of suffering; and 4) āryāṣṭāṅgamārga — the eightfold path leads to extinction of suffering.


(Sanskrit) [from ārya holy, noble + aṣṭa eight + aṅga limb, division + mārga path, way from the verbal root mṛg to seek, strive to attain, investigate] Holy eight-limbed way; in Buddhism the Noble Eightfold Path enunciated by Gautama Buddha as the fourth of the Four Noble Truths (chattari āryasatyāṇi). Consistent practice of aryashtangamarga leads the disciple ultimately to perfect wisdom, love, and liberation from sasāra (the round of repetitive births and deaths). The Eightfold Path is enumerated as: 1) samyagdṣṭi (right insight); 2) samyaksakalpa (right resolve); 3) samyagvāc (right speech); 4) samyakkarmantra (right action); 5) samyagajīva (right living); 6) samyagvyayāma (right exertion); 7) samyaksmti (right recollection); and 8) samyaksamādhi (right concentration).

Āryasaṅga or Āsaṅga (Sanskrit) Founder of the first Yogācārya school, a direct disciple of Gautama Buddha; also a sage who lived in about the 5th or 6th century, who mixed Tantric worship with the Yogācārya system. The followers of the latter “claimed that he was the same Āryasaṅgha, that had been a follower of Sakyamuni, and that he was 1,000 years old. Internal evidence alone is sufficient to show that the works written by him and translated about the year 600 of our era, works full of Tantra worship, ritualism, and tenets followed now considerably by the ‘red-cap’ sects in Sikkim, Bhutan, and Little Tibet, cannot be the same as the lofty system of the early Yogācārya school of pure Buddhism, which is neither northern or southern, but absolutely esoteric. Though none of the genuine Yogāchārya books (the Narjol chodpa) have ever been made public or marketable, yet one finds in the Yogācārya Bhumi Shastra of the pseudo-Aryāsaṅgha a great deal from the older system, into the tenets of which he may have been initiated. It is, however, so mixed up with Śivaism and Tāntrika magic and superstitions, that the work defeats its own end, notwithstanding its remarkable dialectical subtilty” (TG 323).



(Sanskrit) A word derived from the verbal root as, signifying “to sit quietly.” Asana, therefore, technically signifies one of the peculiar postures adopted by Hindu ascetics, mostly of the hathā yoga school. Five of these postures are usually enumerated, but nearly ninety have been noted by students of the subject. A great deal of quasi-magical and mystical literature may be found devoted to these various postures and collateral topics, and their supposed or actual psychological value when assumed by devotees; but, as a matter of fact, a great deal of this writing is superficial and has very little indeed to do with the actual occult and esoteric training of genuine occultists. One is instinctively reminded of other quasi-mystical practices, as, for instance, certain genuflections or postures followed in the worship of the Christian Church, to which particular values are sometimes ascribed by fanatic devotees.

Providing that the position of the body be comfortable so that the mind is least distracted, genuine meditation and spiritual and actual introspection can be readily and successfully attained by any earnest student without the slightest attention being paid to these various postures. A man sitting quietly in his armchair, or lying in his bed at night, or sitting or lying on the grass in a forest, can more readily enter the inner worlds than by adopting and following any one or more of these various asanas, which at the best are physiological aids of relatively small value. (See also Samādhi)


(Sanskrit) A term meaning the “unreal” or the manifested universe; in contrast with sat, the real. In another and even more mystical sense, asat means even beyond or higher than sat, and therefore asat — “not sat.” In this significance, which is profoundly occult and deeply mystical, asat really signifies the unevolved or rather unmanifested nature of parabrahman — far higher than sat, which is the reality of manifested existence.

Ascending Arc or Luminous Arc

This term, as employed in theosophical occultism, signifies the passage of the life-waves or life-streams of evolving mon ads upwards along, on, and through the globes of the chain of any celestial body, the earth’s chain included. Every celestial body (including the earth) is one member in a limited series or group of globes. These globes exist on different kosmic planes in a rising series. The life-waves or life-streams during any manvantara of such a chain circle or cycle around these globes in periodical surges or impulses. The ascent from the physical globe upwards is called the ascending arc; the descent through the more spiritual and ethereal globes downwards to the physical globe is called the descending arc. (See also Planetary Chain)


(Sanskrit) A word derived from the root sram, signifying “to make efforts,” “to strive”; with the particle a, which in this case gives force to the verbal root sram. Āśrama has at least two main significations. The first is that of a college or school or a hermitage, an abode of ascetics, etc.; whereas the second meaning signifies a period of effort or striving in the religious life or career of a Brahmana of olden days. These periods of life in ancient times in Hindustan were four in number: the first, that of the student or brahmacārin; second, the period of life called that of the grihastha or householder — the period of married existence when the Brahmana took his due part in the affairs of men, etc.; third, the vanaprastha, or period of monastic seclusion, usually passed in a vana, or wood or forest, for purposes of inner recollection and spiritual meditation; and fourth, that of the bhikṣu or religious mendicant, meaning one who has completely renounced the distractions of worldly life and has turned his attention wholly to spiritual affairs.

Brahmāśrama. In modern esoteric or occult literature, the compound term Brahmāśrama is occasionally used to signify an initiation chamber or secret room or adytum where the initiant or neophyte is striving or making efforts to attain union with Brahman or the inner god.


(Greek) Greek form of the Syro-Phoenician goddess Ashtoreth, female counterpart of Baal. The goddess of love and fruitfulness, she was essentially a lunar goddess of productiveness or fertility. The Assyrian and Babylonian form was Ishtar, in Syria Atargates, in Phrygia Cybele, in the Bible Ashtoreth, and in North Africa Tanith or Dido. She was intimately connected in the Chaldean form of her worship with the planet Venus. She corresponds to the Egyptian Isis or Hathor, Greek Aphrodite, and Norse Freya. The Virgin Mary represented on the crescent moon weeping, is taken from similar images of Astarte (BCW 11:96-7).


Astral Body

This is the popular term for the model-body, the liṅga-śarīra. It is but slightly less material than is the physical body, and is in fact the model or framework around which the physical body is builded, and from which, in a sense, the physical body flows or develops as growth proceeds. It is the vehicle of prāṇa or life-energy, and is, therefore, the container of all the energies descending from the higher parts of the human constitution by means of the prāṇic stream. The astral body precedes in time the physical body, and is the pattern around which the physical body is slavishly molded, atom by atom. In one sense the physical body may be called the deposit or dregs or lees of the astral body; the astral body likewise in its turn is but a deposit from the auric egg.

Astral Light

The astral light corresponds in the case of our globe, and analogically in the case of our solar system, to what the liṅga-śarīra is in the case of an individual man. Just as in man the liṅga-śarīra or astral body is the vehicle or carrier of prāṇa or life-energy, so is the astral light the carrier of the cosmic jīva or cosmic life-energy. To us humans it is an invisible region surrounding our earth, as H. P. Blavatsky expresses it, as indeed it surrounds every other physical globe; and among the seven kosmic principles it is the most material excepting one, our physical universe.

The astral light therefore is, on the one hand, the storehouse or repository of all the energies of the kosmos on their way downwards to manifest in the material spheres — of our solar system in general as well as of our globe in particular; and, on the other hand, it is the receptacle or magazine of whatever passes out of the physical sphere on its upward way.

Thirdly, it is a kosmic “picture-gallery” or indelible record of whatever takes place on the astral and physical planes; however, this last phase of the functions of the astral light is the least in importance and real interest.

The astral light of our own globe, and analogically of any other physical globe, is the region of the kāma-loka, at least as concerns the intermediate and lower parts of the kāma-loka; and all entities that die pass through the astral light on their way upwards, and in the astral light throw off or shed the kāma-rūpa at the time of the second death.

The solar system has its own astral light in general, just as every globe in the universal solar system has its astral light in particular, in each of these last cases being a thickening or materializing or concreting around the globe of the general astral substance forming the astral light of the solar system. The astral light, strictly speaking, is simply the lees or dregs of ākāśa and exists in steps or stages of increasing ethereality. The more closely it surrounds any globe, the grosser and more material it is. It is the receptacle of all the vile and horrible emanations from earth and earth beings, and is therefore in parts filled with earthly pollutions. There is a constant interchange, unceasing throughout the solar manvantara, between the astral light on the one hand, and our globe earth on the other, each giving and returning to the other.

Finally, the astral light is with regard to the material realms of the solar system the copy or reflection of what the ākāśa is in the spiritual realms. The astral light is the mother of the physical, just as the spirit is the mother of the ākāśa; or, inversely, the physical is merely the concretion of the astral, just as the ākāśa is the veil or concretion of the highest spiritual. Indeed, the astral and physical are one, just as the ākāśic and the spiritual are one.


The astrology of the ancients was indeed a great and noble science. It is a term which means the “science of the celestial bodies.” Modern astrology is but the tattered and rejected outer coating of real, ancient astrology; for that truly sublime science was the doctrine of the origin, of the nature, of the being, and of the destiny of the solar bodies, of the planetary bodies, and of the beings who dwell on them. It also taught the science of the relations of the parts of kosmic nature among themselves, and more particularly as applied to man and his destiny as forecast by the celestial orbs. From that great and noble science sprang up an exoteric pseudo-science, derived from the Mediterranean and Asian practice, eventuating in the modern scheme called astrology — a tattered remnant of ancient wisdom.

In actual fact, genuine archaic astrology was one of the branches of the ancient Mysteries, and was studied to perfection in the ancient Mystery schools. It had throughout all ancient time the unqualified approval and devotion of the noblest men and of the greatest sages. Instead of limiting itself as modern so-called astrology does to a system based practically entirely upon certain branches of mathematics, in archaic days the main body of doctrine which astrology then contained was transcendental metaphysics, dealing with the greatest and most abstruse problems concerning the universe and man. The celestial bodies of the physical universe were considered in the archaic astrology to be not merely time markers, or to have vague relations of a psychomagnetic quality as among themselves — although indeed this is true — but to be the vehicles of starry spirits, bright and living gods, whose very existence and characteristics, individually as well as collectively, made them the governors and expositors of destiny.


Asura [from the verbal root as to breathe] A title frequently given to the hierarch or supreme spirit of our universe, as being the primal “Breather”; also a class of spiritual-intellectual beings. In Hinduism it commonly signifies elemental and evil gods or demons. “Primarily in the g-Veda, the ‘Asuras’ are shown as spiritual divine beings; their etymology is derived from asu (breath), the ‘Breath of God,’ and they mean the same as the Supreme Spirit or the Zoroastrian Ahura. It is later on, for purposes of theology and dogma, that they are shown issuing from Brahmā’s thigh, and that their name began to be derived from a privative, and sura, god (solar deities), or not-a-god, and that they became the enemies of the gods” (SD 2:59).

Further, the asuras “are the sons of the primeval Creative Breath at the beginning of every new Mahā [=great] Kalpa, or Manvantara; in the same rank as the Angels who had remained ‘faithful.’ These were the allies of Soma (the parent of the Esoteric Wisdom) as against Bhāspati (representing ritualistic or ceremonial worship). Evidently they have been degraded in Space and Time into opposing powers or demons by the ceremonialists, on account of their rebellion against hypocrisy, sham-worship, and the dead-letter form” (SD 2:500).

Asura is employed with frequency in theosophical writings to signify the class of spiritual-intellectual beings called mānasaputras, kumāras, or agniṣvāttas. As a matter of fact, asuras, maruts, rudras, and daityas are but various ways of describing the intellectual gods or manasas, as contrasted with the as yet incompleted devas or suras.

Asura is used in the earliest Vedic literature as a title of the cosmic hierarch or supreme spirit. The Vedic Asura is nothing other than the Great Breath of archaic occult literature — the Great Breath coming and going as manvantara and pralaya. The other Vedic gods mentioned so much more frequently in the slokas, such as Agni, Indra, and Varūna, are all subordinate hierarchically and cosmogonically to the Vedic Asura, which is really Brahmanpradhāna or the Second Logos, Father-Mother; Varūna is the acme or summit of ākāśatattva; Agni is the summit or hierarch of cosmic taijasatattva; and Indra is often identified with Vāyu as the summit of cosmic Vāyutattva.


(Sanskrit) The mystical tree of knowledge, the mystical tree of kosmical life and being, represented as growing in a reversed position: the branches extending downwards and the roots upwards. The branches typify the visible kosmical universe, the roots the invisible world of spirit.

The universe among the ancients of many nations was portrayed or figurated under the symbol of a tree, of which the roots sprang from the divine heart of things, and the trunk and the branches and the branchlets and the leaves were the various planes and worlds and spheres of the kosmos. The fruit of this kosmic tree contained the seeds of future “trees,” being the entities which had attained through evolution the end of their evolutionary journey, such as men and the gods — themselves universes in the small, and destined in the future to become kosmic entities when the cycling wheel of time shall have turned through long aeons on its majestic round. In fact, every living thing, and so-called inanimate things also, are trees of life, with their roots above in the spiritual realms, with their trunks passing through the intermediate spheres, and their branches manifesting in the physical realms.



(Greek) Daughter of Metis (wisdom, wise counsel) and Zeus, said to have sprung fully-formed from her father’s head; with Zeus and Apollo one of a divine triad. Famed for wise counsel both in peace and war, Athena was the strategist, as Homer portrays her in the Iliad. As patron deity of Athens, she was the genius of statesmanship and civic policy. Certain archaic monuments show Athena assisting Prometheus (the intellectual fire-bringer) in shaping the first human body from the plastic stuff of earth. It is equally significant that she was connected with Apollo, the god of the seers and the sun personified, in producing climatic changes due to the shifting of the poles. Athena is to be found, variously named, in every theogony, as one of the kabeiria, those mighty beings “of both sexes, as also terrestrial, celestial and kosmic,” who when incarnated as initiate-teachers or kings, “were also, in the beginning of times, the rulers of mankind,” giving “the first impulse to civilizations” and directing “the mind with which they had endued men to the invention and perfection of all the arts and sciences” (SD 2:363-4).

As a virgin deity of intellectual character, Parthenos, Athena is the mother of mānasaputric kumāras. Thus through these intellectual progeny she is the source of ideative or intellectual power. See also the Roman Minerva.

Atlanteans The various peoples which flourished during long ages, on the fourth great continent, called Atlantis by theosophists; the fourth root-race. “The Fourth Race Atlanteans were developed from a nucleus of Northern gamrian Third Race Men, centred, roughly speaking, toward a point of land in what is now the mid-Atlantic Ocean. This continent was formed by the coalescence of many islands and peninsulas which were upheaved in the ordinary course of time and became ultimately the true home of the great Race known as the Atlanteans” (SD 2:333-4).

“The term ‘Atlantean’ must not mislead the reader to regard these as one race only, or even a nation. It is as though one said ‘Asiatics.’ Many, multityped, and various were the Atlanteans, who represented several humanities, and almost a countless number of races and nations, more varied indeed than would be the ‘Europeans’ were this name to be given indiscriminately to the five existing parts of the world; . . . There were brown, red, yellow, white and black Atlanteans; giants and dwarfs . . .” (SD 2:433n).

It is customary to regard the later Atlanteans as a race of sorcerers because, according to the narratives told concerning the doom of Atlantis and its inhabitants (cf SD 2:427), many deliberately followed the left-hand path — yet not all were black magicians, for there were millions in all ages of Atlantis who earnestly essayed to preserve the wisdom of their semi-spiritual forebears of the third root-race. There were wonderful civilizations during the millions of years of Atlantean development surpassing in material things anything that is known today.

In regard to the remarkable achievements that the Atlanteans made in all the arts and sciences, we read that the early fifth root-race received their knowledge from the fourth root-race. “It is from them that they learnt aeronautics, Viwan Vidya [vimana-vidya] (the ‘knowledge of flying in air-vehicles’), and, therefore, their great arts of meteorography and meteorology. It is from them, again, that the Aryans inherited their most valuable science of the hidden virtues of precious and other stones, of chemistry, or rather alchemy, of mineralogy, geology, physics and astronomy” (SD 2:426).

When the cyclic hour for the climax of the geologic changes in the earth’s surface finally arrived, the catastrophe occurred during which the greater part of Atlantis and its population, largely of sorcerers, perished beneath the sea; yet many islands survived, some of them of large extent, such as Ruta and Daitya. But the wiser and more holy portions of the Atlanteans had left Atlantis before this, migrating to the high tablelands of Asia: they were the forefathers of the Turanians, Mongols, Chinese, and other ancient nations.


(Greek) Descendants of Atlantis; “The ancestors of the Pharaohs and the forefathers of the Egyptians, according to some, and as the Esoteric Science teaches. . . . Plato heard of this highly civilized people, the last remnant of which was submerged 9,000 years before his day, from Solon, who had it from the High Priests of Egypt. Voltaire, the eternal scoffer, was right in stating that ‘the Atlantidae (our fourth Root Race) made their appearance in Egypt. . . . It was in Syria and in Phrygia, as well as Egypt, that they established the worship of the Sun.’ Occult philosophy teaches that the Egyptians were a remnant of the last Aryan Atlantidae” (TG 42).

Atlantis In Theosophical literature the fourth great land-massif or continental system which composed the land area of this globe several million years ago, and which was the home of the fourth root-race. Atlantis was not the name of this land area when inhabited by its own populations, but is borrowed by theosophists from Plato.

A surprising number of very ancient traditions besides those of Greece support the Atlantean hypothesis. Some of the widespread deluge stories, certainly those surviving during the Classic period in the nations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, relate only to Plato’s relatively small island, Poseidonis, more or less the size of modern Ireland, if we follow Plato’s statements of size; but in addition to these there have been many deluges noticed in the traditions of other peoples scattered over the face of the globe. The chief great flood referred to the principal collapse of Atlantis, the main sinking occurring during the Miocene period several million years ago. Other island-continents sank later, e.g., Daitya and Ruta (Sanskrit name for one of the last great islands of the Atlantean system in the Pacific Ocean) which went down during the Pliocene times — in Geikie’s Nomenclature, about 850,000 years ago. (SD 2:314).

“The Atlantic portion of Lemuria was the geological basis of what is generally known as Atlantis. The latter, indeed, must be regarded rather as a development of the Atlantic prolongation of Lemuria, than as an entirely new mass of land upheaved to meet the special requirements of the fourth root-race. Just as in the case of Race-evolution, so in that of the shifting and re-shifting of continental masses, no hard and fast line can be drawn where a new order ends and another begins. Continuity in natural processes is never broken” (SD 2:333).

Referring to the vast expanse of lands, including both continents and islands, occupied by the populations of the fourth root-race, Blavatsky wrote: “at a remote epoch a traveler could traverse what is now the Atlantic Ocean, almost the entire distance by land, crossing in boats from one island to another, where narrow straits then existed” (IU 1:558). While the term Atlantis derived from Greek sources undoubtedly gave its name to what we now call the Atlantic Ocean, yet the Atlantic continental system reached even into what is now called the pacific; and the islanders of this body of water almost universally amongst themselves have legends all pointing to the fact that their ancestors lived on and came from “great islands” which preceded the present distribution of land and sea. See also ROOT-RACE, FOURTH .


(Sanskrit) The root of atman is hardly known; its origin is uncertain, but the general meaning is that of “self.” The highest part of man — self, pure consciousness per se. The essential and radical power or faculty in man which gives to him, and indeed to every other entity or thing, its knowledge or sentient consciousness of selfhood. This is not the ego.

This principle (atman) is a universal one; but during incarnations its lowest parts take on attributes, because it is linked with the buddhi, as the buddhi is linked with the manas, as the manas is linked to the kāma, and so on down the scale.

Atman is also sometimes used of the universal self or spirit which is called in the Sanskrit writings Brahman (neuter), and the Brahman or universal spirit is also called the paramātman.

Man is rooted in the kosmos surrounding him by three principles, which can hardly be said to be above the first or atman, but are, so to say, that same ātman’s highest and most glorious parts.

The inmost link with the Unutterable was called in ancient India by the term “self,” which has often been mistranslated “soul.” The Sanskrit word is ātman and applies, in psychology, to the human entity. The upper end of the link, so to speak, was called paramātman, or the “self beyond,” i.e., the permanent SELF — words which describe neatly and clearly to those who have studied this wonderful philosophy, somewhat of the nature and essence of the being which man is, and the source from which, in beginningless and endless duration, he sprang. Child of earth and child of heaven, he contains both in himself.

We say that the ātman is universal, and so it is. It is the universal selfhood, that feeling or consciousness of selfhood which is the same in every human being, and even in all the inferior beings of the hierarchy, even in those of the beast kingdom under us, and dimly perceptible in the plant world, and which is latent even in the minerals. This is the pure cognition, the abstract idea, of self. It differs not at all throughout the hierarchy, except in degree of self-recognition. Though universal, it belongs (so far as we are concerned in our present stage of evolution) to the fourth kosmic plane, though it is our seventh principle counting upwards.

(Sanskrit) Self; the highest part a human being: pure consciousness, that cosmic self which is the same in every dweller on this globe and on every one of the planetary or stellar bodies in space. It is the feeling and knowledge of “I am,” pure cognition, the abstract idea of self. It does not differ at all throughout the cosmos except in degree of self-recognition. Though universal it belongs, in our present stage of evolution, to the fourth cosmic plane, though it is our seventh principle counting upwards. It may also be considered as the First Logos in the human microcosm. During incarnation the lowest aspects of ātman take on attributes, because it is linked with buddhi, as the buddhi is linked with manas, as the manas is linked with kāma, etc.

Ātman is for each individualized consciousness its laya-center or entrance way into cosmic manifestation. It is our self precisely because it is a link which connects us with the cosmic hierarch. Through this ātmic laya-center stream the divine forces from above, which by their unfolding on the lower planes originate and become seven principles. “We say that the Spirit (the ‘Father in secret’ of Jesus), or Ātman, is no individual property of any man, but is the Divine essence which has no body, no form, which is imponderable, invisible and indivisible, that which does not exist and yet is, as the Buddhists say of Nirvāṇa. It only overshadows the mortal; that which enters into him and pervades the whole body being only its omnipresent rays, or light, radiated through Buddhi, its vehicle and direct emanation” (Key 101).

Ātman is also sometimes used of the universal self or spirit, called in Sanskrit Brahman or paramātman. The individual is rooted in the surrounding kosmos by three superior principles, which are that atman’s highest and most glorious parts. Atman is included among the human principles because it is the universal absolute essence of which buddhi, the soul-spirit, is the carrier, transmitting its rays to the remainder of the human constitution. (From: ETG)


(Sanskrit) [from ātman self + buddhi spiritual soul] The divine-spiritual part of a human being, the Pythagorean Monas or higher duad. Full mahatmas, who may be called vajra-sattvas, have merged their whole being in their compound sixth and seventh principles (ātma-buddhi), through and with the buddhi-manas. Ātma-buddhi is impersonal and a god per se, but when divorced from manas it can have no consciousness or perception of things beneath its own plane.

Ātmavāda, see Attavāda


This word comes to us from the ancient Greek philosophers Democritus, Leucippus, and Epicurus, and the hundreds of great men who followed their lead in this respect and who were therefore also atomists — such, for instance, as the two Latin poets Ennius and Lucretius. This school taught that atoms were the foundation-bricks of the universe, for atom in the original etymological sense of the word means something that cannot be cut or divided, and therefore as being equivalent to particles of what theosophists call homogeneous substance. But modern scientists do not use the word atom in that sense any longer. Some time ago the orthodox scientific doctrine concerning the atom was basically that enunciated by Dalton, to the general effect that physical atoms were hard little particles of matter, ultimate particles of matter, and therefore indivisible and indestructible.

But modern science [1933] has a totally new view of the physical atom, for it knows now that the atom is not such, but is composite, built of particles still more minute, called electrons or charges of negative electricity, and of other particles called protons or charges of positive electricity, which protons are supposed to form the nucleus or core of the atomic structure. A frequent picture of atomic structure is that of an atomic solar system, the protons being the atomic sun and the electrons being its planets, the latter in extremely rapid revolution around the central sun. This conception is purely theosophical in idea, and adumbrates what occultism teaches, though occultism goes much farther than does modern science.

One of the fundamental postulates of the teachings of theosophy is that the ultimates of nature are atoms on the material side and monads on the energy side. These two are respectively material and spiritual primates or ultimates, the spiritual ones or monads being indivisibles, and the atoms being divisibles — things that can be divided into composite parts.

It becomes obvious from what precedes that the philosophical idea which formed the core of the teaching of the ancient initiated atomists was that their atoms or “indivisibles” are pretty close to what theosophical occultism calls monads; and this is what Democritus and Leucippus and others of their school had in mind.

These monads, as is obvious, are therefore divine-spiritual life-atoms, and are actually beings living and evolving on their own planes. Rays from them are the highest parts of the constitution of beings in the material realms.

Atropos (Greek) [from a not + trepo to turn] The third of the three Fates or Moira: Klotho or Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, meaning respectively, the spinner, the lot-thrower, and one who cannot be turned aside. They are aspects of karma, Atropos being residual karma not yet worked out combined with the action of the will in the person, thus making the destined or relatively inevitable future — that which by our own making “cannot be turned aside,” because it is we ourselves as we shall be.

Attavāda (Pali), Ātmavāda (Sanskrit)

(Pali)[from attā self (Sanskrit ātman) + vāda theory, disputation from the verbal root vad to speak] Ātmavāda(Sanskrit) The theory of a persistent soul. A study of Buddhist sūtras or suttas shows that Gautama Buddha intended the term to convey the meaning of the heresy of separateness, the belief that one’s self or soul is different and apart from the one universal self, Brahman. Its importance in philosophy and mystical thought, and its genuine Buddhist significance, lies in the fact that Buddhism does not deny the existence of a soul, but strongly emphasizes the fact that no such soul is either a special creation or in its essence different from and other than the cosmic self. Hence the meaning of the heresy of separateness, because those who hold this view are under the constant false impression that in themselves they are different from, and other than, the universe in which they live, move, and have all their being.

In The Mahatma Letters attavāda is termed “the doctrine of Self,” and with sakkāyadiṭṭhi leads “to the māyā of heresy and belief in the efficacy of vain rites and ceremonies; in prayers and intercession” (ML 111).


Augoeides [from Greek auge bright light, radiance + eidos form, shape] Bulwer-Lytton in Zanoni adopted the term from Marcus Aurelius (who says that the sphere of the soul is augoeides), using it to denote the radiant spiritual-divine human soul-ego. In Isis Unveiled it denotes the spiritual monad, ātma-buddhi, and is collated with the Persian ferouer or feruer, the Platonic nous, etc. In a high degree of initiation the initiant comes face to face with this radiant presence, the luminous radiation streaming from the divine ego at the heart of the monad. When the Augoeides touches with its rays the inferior monads in the human constitution and awakens them to activity, these then becomes the various lower egos or manifested children of the divine ego.

Aum, Om

[Sanskrit] The ancient Indians held that Om, when considered as a single letter was the symbol of the Supreme; when written with three letters — Aum — it stood among other things for the three Vedas, the three guṇas or qualities of nature, the three divisions of the universe, and the deities of the Hindu Trimurti — Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva — concerned in the creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe or the beings composing it. “The mystic formula, résumé of every science, contained in the three mysterious letters, AUM which signify creation, conservation, and transformation” (IU 2:31). These three letters are supposed by some Hindus to have correspondences as follows: “The letter A is the Sattva Guṇa, U is the Rajas, and M is the Tamas; these three qualities are termed Nature (Prakṛti) . . . . A is Bhūrloka, U is Bhuvarloka, and M is Svarloka; by these three letters the spirit exhibits itself” (Laheri in Lucifer 10:147). This word is said to have a morally spiritualizing effect if pronounced during meditation and when the mind is at peace and cleansed of all impurities. In Brahmanical literature, a syllable of invocation, considered very holy: “Om is the bow, the Self is the arrow, Brahman is called its aim” (Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad 2:2). It is placed at the beginning of scriptures considered of unusual sanctity. “Prolonging the uttering of this word, both of the O and the M, with the mouth closed, it reechoes in and arouses vibration in the skull, and affects, if the aspirations be pure, the different nervous centers of the body for great good” (Fundamental of the Esoteric Philosophy, p. 28). The virtue or spiritual and magical properties attributed to this word, however, arise out of the purity and devotion of the one uttering it.


(Sanskrit) A compound term meaning “self-produced,” “spontaneously generated.” It is a term applied in Buddhism to a class of celestial beings called dhyāni-buddhas; and because these dhyāni-buddhas are conceived of as issuing forth from the bosom of Ādi-buddhi or the kosmic mahat without intermediary agency, are they mystically said to be, as H. P. Blavatsky puts it, “parentless” or “self-existing,” i.e., born without any parents or progenitors. They are therefore the originants or root from which the hierarchy of buddhas of various grades flows forth in mystical procession or emanation or evolution.

There are variants of this word in Sanskrit literature, but they all have the same meaning. The term aupapāduka is actually a key word, opening a doctrine which is extremely difficult to set forth; but the doctrine itself is inexpressibly sublime. Indeed, not only are there aupapāduka divinities of the solar system, but also of every organic entity, because the core of the core of any organic entity is such an aupapāduka divinity. It is, in fact, a very mystical way of stating the doctrine of the “inner god.”

[NOTE: Later research shows that anupapādaka, as found in Monier-Williams’ Sanskrit-English Dictionary, is a misreading of aupapāduka. Cf. Franklin Edgerton, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1953, 2:162. — PUBLISHER]


An extremely subtle and therefore invisible essence or fluid that emanates from and surrounds not only human beings and beasts, but as a matter of fact plants and minerals also. It is one of the aspects of the auric egg and therefore the human aura partakes of all the qualities that the human constitution contains. It is at once magneto-mental and electrovital, suffused with the energies of mind and spirit — the quality in each case coming from an organ or center of the human constitution whence it flows. It is the source of the sympathies and antipathies that we are conscious of. Under the control of the human will it can be both life-giving and healing, or death-dealing; and when the human will is passive the aura has an action of its own which is automatic and follows the laws of character and latent impulses of the being from whom it emanates. Sensitives have frequently described it in more or less vague terms as a light flowing from the eyes or the heart or the tips of the fingers or from other parts of the body. Sometimes this fluid, instead of being colorless light, manifests itself by flashing and scintillating changes of color — the color or colors in each case depending not only upon the varying moods of the human individual, but also possessing a background equivalent to the character or nature of the individual. Animals are extremely sensitive to auras, and some beasts even descry the human being surrounded with the aura as with a cloud or veil. In fact, everything has its aura surrounding it with a light or play of color, and especially is this the case with so-called animated beings.

The essential nature of the aura usually seen is astral and electrovital. The magnificent phenomena of radiation that astronomers can discern at times of eclipse, long streamers with rosy and other colored light flashing forth from the body of the sun, are not flames nor anything of the sort, but are simply the electrovital aura of the solar body — a manifestation of solar vitality, for the sun in occultism is a living being, as indeed everything else is.

Auric Egg

A term which appertains solely to the more recondite teachings of occultism, of the esoteric philosophy. Little can be said here about it except to state that it is the source of the human aura as well as of everything else that the human septenary constitution contains. It is usually of an oviform or egg-shaped appearance, whence its name. It ranges from the divine to the astral-physical, and is the seat of all the monadic, spiritual, intellectual, mental, passional, and vital energies and faculties of the human septiform constitution. In its essence it is eternal, and endures throughout the pralayas as well as during the manvantaras, but necessarily in greatly varying fashion in these two great periods of kosmic life.



(Sanskrit) [Tibetan: Chenrezig) A compound word: avalokita, “perceived,” “seen”; Iśvara, “lord”; hence “the Lord who is perceived or cognized,” i.e., the spiritual entity, whether in the kosmos or in the human being, whose influence is perceived and felt; the higher self. This is a term commonly employed in Buddhism, and concerning which a number of intricate and not easily understood teachings exist. The esoteric or occult interpretation, however, sees in Avalokiteśvara what Occidental philosophy calls the Third Logos, both celestial and human. In the solar system it is the Third Logos thereof; and in the human being it is the higher self, a direct and active ray of the divine monad. Technically Avalokiteśvara is the dhyāni-bodhisattva of Amitābha-Buddha — Amitābha-Buddha is the kosmic divine monad of which the dhyāni-bodhisattva is the individualized spiritual ray, and of this latter again the manuya-buddha or human buddha is a ray or offspring.


(Sanskrit) [from ava down + the verbal root tṛ to cross over, pass] That which passes down or descends; the passing down of a celestial energy or an individualized complex of celestial energies — a celestial being — in order to overshadow and illuminate a human being who, at the time of such connection of divinity with matter, possesses no human soul karmically destined to be the inner master of the body thus born. “Hence an Avatāra is one who has a combination of three elements in his being: an inspiring divinity; a highly evolved intermediate nature or soul, which is loaned to him and is the channel of that inspiring divinity; and a pure, clean, physical body” (OG 16).

Hence the word signifies the passing down of a celestial energy or of an individualized complex of celestial energies, which is equivalent to saying a celestial being, in order to overshadow and illuminate some human being — but a human being who, at the time of such connection of “heaven with earth,” of divinity with matter, possesses no karmically intermediate or connecting link between the overshadowing entity and the physical body: in other words, no human soul karmically destined to be the inner master of the body thus born.

The intermediate link necessary, so that the human being-to-be may have the human intermediate or psychological apparatus fit to express the invisible splendor of this celestial descent, is supplied by the deliberate and voluntary entrance into the unborn child — and coincidently with the overshadowing of the celestial power — of the psychological or intermediate principle of one of the Greater Ones, who thus “completes” what is to be the pure and lofty human channel through which the “descending” divinity may manifest, this divinity finding in this high psychological principle a sufficiently evolved link enabling it to express itself in human form upon earth.

Hence an avatāra is one who has a combination of three elements in his being: an inspiring divinity; a highly evolved intermediate nature or soul, which is loaned to him and is the channel of that inspiring divinity; and a pure, clean, physical body.

Śankarāchārya, Kṛṣṇa, Lao-tzu, and Jesus were avatāras in differing degrees, of somewhat differing structure. There was a divine ray which came down at the cyclic time of each of these incarnations, and the connecting link or the flame of mind was provided in each case by a member of the Hierarchy of Compassion. Kṛṣṇa says, “I incarnate in period after period in order to destroy wickedness and reestablish righteousness” (BG ch 4, sl 8). Kṛṣṇa here represents the Logos or logoic ray which “on our plane would be utterly helpless, inactive, and have no possible means of communication with us and our sphere, because that logoic ray lacks an intermediate and fully conscious vehicle or carrier, i.e., it lacks the intermediate or highly ethereal mechanism, the spiritual-human in us, which in ordinary man is but slightly active. An avatāra takes place when a direct ray from the Logos enters into, fully inspires, and illuminates, a human being, through the intermediary of a bodhisattva who has incarnated in that human being, thereby supplying the fit, ready, and fully conscious intermediate vehicle or carrier” (Fund 276).

Blavatsky says that “rebirths may be divided into three classes: the divine incarnations called Avatāras; those of Adepts who give up Nirvana for the sake of helping on humanity — the Nirmānakāyas; and the natural succession of rebirths for all — the common law. The avatāra. . . is a descent of the manifested Deity — whether under the specific name of Śiva, Viṣṇu, or Ādi-Buddha — into an illusive form of individuality, an appearance which to men on this illusive plane is objective, but it is not so in sober fact. That illusive form having neither past nor future, because it had neither previous incarnation nor will have subsequent rebirths, has naught to do with Karma, which has therefore no hold on it” (BCW 14:373-4).

Viṣṇu as the supporter of life is the source of one line of avatāras so often spoken of in Hindu legends. These ten avatāras of Viṣṇu are: 1) Matsya the fish; 2) Kūrma the tortoise; 3) Vāraha the boar; 4) Narasiṁha the man-lion (last of animal stage); 5) Vāmana the dwarf (first step toward the human form); 6) Paraśu Rāma, Rāma with the axe (a hero); 7) Rāma or Rāmac(h)andra, the hero of the Rāmāyāna; 8) Kṛṣṇa (Krishna), son of Devakī ; 9) Gautama Buddha; and 10) Kalki, the avatāra who is to appear at the end of the kali yuga mounted on a white horse, inaugurating a new reign of righteousness on earth. A horse has from immemorial time been a symbol of the spiritual as well as vital energies of the inner solar orb. Hence, when the next avatāra is said to come riding a white horse, the meaning is that he comes infilled with the solar light or splendor — an avatāra or manifestation of a spiritual and intellectual solar energy which will carry all before it on earth.

Brahmanical esotericism never taught that divinity descended into the animals as given in the legends. These names of different animals and men, like all zoological mythology, were chosen because of certain characteristic attributes. They actually represent ten degrees of advancing knowledge and growth in understanding — ten degrees in the esoteric cycle — as well as different evolutionary stages through which monads break through the lower spheres in order to express themselves on higher rungs of the evolutionary ladder of life. These names also represent the technical names given to neophytes in esoteric schools. The lowest chela was called a fish, the chela who had taken the second degree successfully was called a tortoise, and so forth, till the highest of all was called an incarnation of the sun — a white horse in Hindu legend.

These avatāric descents do not appertain solely to a race, root-race, globe, chain, or solar system, because nature repeats itself by analogy, and the same line of enlarging understanding of evolutionary development takes place in all the spheres mutatis mutandis. Thus these avatāric descents can be ascribed to the solar system, the planetary chain as a whole, a globe, a root-race, and even to a subrace. (From: ETG)

Avesta (Avest, Pers) Apstak, Avestak (Pahlavi) Law or the basic foundation, the sacred scriptures of the Mazdeans. The language of the ancient Aryans was the language of the Vedic hymns and also of the Gathic chants of Zoroaster, these being so close that a mere phonetic change often suffices to translate a passage from one into the other. Because of this connection “the Mazdean Scriptures of the Zend-Avesta, the Vendidad and others correct and expose the later cunning shuffling of the gods in the Hindu Pantheon, and restore through Ahura the Asuras to their legitimate place in theogony” (SD 2:60-1). Zend, on the other hand, traditionally designates the Pahlavi commentary on the Avesta. The Yasnas are the principal writings of the Zoroastrians; and in their oldest portion, the Gathas, the original philosophy of Mazdeism is expressed in a spirited poetic language. The Vispered (Pahlavi) or Visperataro (Avestan) [from vispe all + ratavo warriors, spiritual teachers] is an appendix to the later Yasnas which deals with the ritualistic aspects of the Mazdean faith.

The Vendidad (Pahlavi) or Vidaeva-data (Avestan) [from vi against + daeva evil + data law] has 22 fargards (chapters) of which the first two deal with the story of creation and the origin of civilization. The rest is the code of priesthood. The 21 Yashts are the epic of Yazatas or Izads (gods), composed in prose form. Their legends are often comparable with those of Shah-Nameh. Some hymns and prayers from other parts of the Avesta are found in shorter Yashts. There seems to be more profundity and originality of style in the longer Yashts. The Khorde Avesta (Avestan) or Khordak-Appestak (Pahlavi), meaning bits and pieces of Avesta, consists of different prayers taken from the other four parts of the Avesta, put together by Azarabad, the son of Mehrispand, during the reign of Shahpour II (310-379).

Zand or Zend is the Pahlavi interpretation of the Avesta written during the Sassanid dynasty (226-650) by the priests. Pahlavi script, due to the limitation of the number of letters, was very difficult to read correctly (one letter represented several consonantal sounds). Thus the interpretation was left to the knowledge and understanding of the reader. Hozvaresh — words which were written in Aramaic and read in Pahlavi — made the task of reading and understanding even more difficult. Pazand is the interpretation of Zand written in Dindabireh script which was a far better instrument for accurate reading.

The original Avesta consisted of 21 Nasks of which very few remain intact. Tabari (9th century Iranian historian) writes: “Thirty years after the reign of Kay Goshtasp, Zartusht Spitaman produced a book which was written in gold on 12,000 cowhides. Kay Goshtasp ordered that this book be kept in Dejh-Nebeshtak and be guarded by the Hierbads (the learned) away from the reach of the profane.” The Pahlavi Dinkard (of the 9th century) states that two complete copies of the Avesta existed: the one kept in the Dezh-Nebeshtak of Persopolis and the other in Ganj-e-Shizegan, which most likely was in the town of Shiz of Azarpategan. When Alexander burned down Persopolis, the copy there was destroyed; but the one in Shizegan was translated into Greek and sent to Aristotle, Alexander’s tutor. This translation has been lost. Bal’ami, historian and the minister of the Samanid kings (early 10th century), writes that Alexander “gathered Iranian philosophers and had their writings translated into Greek and sent them to Aristotle and other Greek philosophers. He destroyed the cities of Babel, Eragh and Pars, killed all men of eminence, and burned down all King Dara’s (Darius) libraries.”

Avīci, Avīchi,

(Sanskrit) A word, the general meaning of which is “waveless,” having no waves or movement, suggesting the stagnation of life and being in immobility; it also means “without happiness” or “without repose.” A generalized term for places of evil realizations, but not of punishment in the Christian sense; where the will for evil, and the unsatisfied evil longings for pure selfishness, find their chance for expansion — and final extinction of the entity itself. Avīci has many degrees or grades. Nature has all things in her; if she has heavens where good and true men find rest and peace and bliss, so has she other spheres and states where gravitate those who must find an outlet for the evil passions burning within. They, at the end of their avīci, go to pieces and are ground over and over, and vanish away finally like a shadow before the sunlight in the air — ground over in nature’s laboratory. (See also Eighth Sphere)


(Sanskrit) A compound word: a, “not”; vidyā, “knowledge”; hence nonknowledge, ignorance — perhaps a better translation would be nescience — ignorance or rather lack of knowledge of reality, produced by illusion or māyā.

  1. Mānava Dharmaśāstra or The Laws of Manu. [<<]