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Daily Theosophy Glossary – G

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Daily Theosophy Glossary


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Gandharvas (Sanskrit) Hindu devas or divinities called celestial singers or musicians. Esoterically they are intermediaries between the gods and mankind, and hence can be called the instructors of humanity in the secret science.

“The Gandharva of the Veda is the deity who knows and reveals the secrets of heaven and divine truths to mortals. Cosmically — the Gandharvas are the aggregate powers of the solar-fire, and constitute its Forces; psychically — the intelligence residing in the Sushumna, Solar ray, the highest of the seven rays; mystically — the occult force in the Soma (the moon, or lunar plant) and the drink made of it; physically — the phenomenal, and spiritually — the noumenal causes of Sound and the ‘Voice of Nature.’ Hence, they are called the 6,333 ‘heavenly’ Singers and musicians of Indra’s loka who personify (even in number) the various and manifold sounds in Nature, both above and below. In the latter allegories they are said to have mystic power over women, and to be fond of them. The esoteric meaning is plain. They are one of the forms, if not the prototypes, of Enoch’s angels, the Sons of God, who saw that the daughters of men were fair (Gen. vi.) who married them, and taught the daughters of the Earth the secrets of Heaven” (SD 1:523n).

The heavenly consorts or śaktis of the gandharvas are the apsarasas, their negative or vehicular aspects, much as a person’s soul is the container and vehicular expression of his spirit and will.

The gandharvas are similar to the various classes of Greek daimones or to the classes of the Christian angels; the highest classes of the angels, or the highest gandharvas, are equivalent to the higher dhyāni-chohans. They are intelligent streams in the cosmic economy, at times active and at times passive in the working out of karmic destiny.


The Hindu god of wisdom, son of Śiva, who lost his human head which was replaced by that of an elephant. As he who removes obstacles, he is invoked at the commencement of any important undertaking, likewise at the beginning of books. In some respects he is thus equivalent to the Egyptian Thoth or Thoth-Hermes, the scribe of the gods. Ganesa is the chief or head of multitudes of subordinate spiritual entities — a necessity if as the god of wisdom he accomplishes his cosmic labors through subordinate hierarchies of intelligent and semi-intelligent beings, acting as their director or guide in forming and guiding nature.


(Sanskrit) Way, course, path; “the six (esoterically seven) conditions of sentient existence. These are divided into two groups: the three higher and the three lower paths. To the former belong the devas, the asuras and (immortal) men; to the latter (in exoteric teachings) creatures in hell, pretas or hungry demons, and animals. Explained esoterically, however, the last three are the personalities in Kāmaloka, elementals and animals. The seventh mode of existence is that of the Nirmāṇakāya . . .” (TG 125).

A gati is the path or sphere of existence entered upon by entities impelled because of past karma. If a person lives a noble and upright life, his gati will be the path or sphere of humanity in its higher aspects. If he deliberately lives an evil, degenerate existence, his course or next sphere of existence will be a rebirth in some degenerate human form or sphere of activity. Similarly with the divinities and all other entities: they find their succeeding spheres of life and action strictly according to karma. For karma is universal; and what one makes himself to be, that in very truth he shall become. The becoming in every instance and sphere of the manifested universe is according to the persisting karmic conditions impelling, and occasionally compelling, an entity into this, that, or some other of the gatis.

Gāyatrī or Sāvitrī

(Sanskrit) A verse of the g-Veda (iii.62.10) which from immemorial time in India has been surrounded with the attributes of quasi-divinity. The Sanskrit words of this verse are:

om bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ1

tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ

bhárgo devásya dhīmahi

dhíyo yó naḥ prachodayāt

(accents added for proper pronunciation)

Tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah prachodayat. Every orthodox Brahmana is supposed to repeat this archaic hymn, at least mentally, at both his morning and evening religious exercises or devotions. A translation in explanatory paraphrase, giving the essential esoteric meaning of the Gāyatrī or Savitrī, is the following: “Oh thou golden sun of most excellent splendor, illumine our hearts and fill our minds, so that we, recognizing our oneness with the Divinity which is the heart of the universe, may see the pathway before our feet, and tread it to those distant goals of perfection, stimulated by thine own radiant light.”


Gelukpa dge lugs pa (ge-lug-pa, ge-luk-pa) (Tibetan) Also Gelugpas. Model of virtue, or a contraction for earlier names of Tsong-kha-pa’s school dga’ ldan pa’i lugs, or dga’ ldan lugs pa, derived from the name of the great monastery of Ganden (dga ldan) which he founded. Those who follow the precepts inaugurated by the Tibetan Buddhist reformer Tsong-kha-pa (1358-1417).

Buddhism was introduced into Tibet in the latter half of the 8th century, but was colored by a Tantric element and Bon, the pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion, both of which were quite foreign to the teachings of Gautama Buddha. The state of the priesthood was then so low, and the religion so degraded, that the reforms instituted by Tsong-kha-pa were generally welcomed. A far stricter code of morals was laid down for the priests who were forbidden to marry or to drink wine; and to distinguish the Kah-dum-pas (those bound by ordinances), the wearing of yellow robes and hoods was inaugurated in contradistinction to the red robes and the black robes of the degenerate sects; hence following Chinese usage, the Gelukpas are commonly called the Yellow Caps, Yellow Hats, or Yellow Hoods.

Tsong-kha-pa founded the large lamaseries at Ganden and Sera, which with the Drepung lamasery were the three most powerful religious bodies in Tibet — called the Three Pillars of the State (den-sa sum). His successor Geden-tub-pa founded the monastery of Tashi-lhunpo — which in the 17th century became the residence of the Panchan Lama. In 1641 the Red Caps were completely subdued by the Oelot Mongols, by request of the fifth Dalai Lama (Lob-sang Gyatso); and ever since the Dalai Lamas have held the temporal sovereignty of Tibet, adhering to the Reformed Buddhism of the Gelukpas.


(Latin) [from the verbal root gen birth, innate], plural Genii. Generally an indwelling spiritual or ethereal being, as contrasted with a corporeal being. Genii are the active individualizing beings or elements in the constitution of any entity, although invariably of ethereal or spiritual type. For instance, in the human being, the intellectual genius is the mānasaputra in our constitution; likewise our astral genius is the vital-astral monad, or astral person.

In one significance, a genius is an instructing divinity, but not necessarily of the higher classes. In the special sense found in Greek and Roman belief, the genii were personal tutelar deities of human beings, assigned to each one at birth, attending him through life, and conducting him to Hades at death. This genius was honored by rites and sometimes deified. The word is also used, as genius loci, to mean the deity that presides over a locality or over some topographical feature. These are the ethereal, as distinguished from the corporeal, forces in nature.

The word genius is also applicable to the divine instructors of individuals and races; while with the Gnostics it stood for aeons or angels. Atom, in its original sense and not as denoting a particle, is equivalent to genius, for in this original sense it is equivalent to the theosophical term life-atom.

The word is also familiar in its evil side, in the expression evil genius. Human beings hover between the influence of benign and malign powers which have been personified into guardian angels and besetting demons, or good and evil stars. The good and evil genii of the individual are among the karmic conditions which, interacting with free choice, modify his ruling destiny; they are either the heavenly voice of the invisible spiritual prototype, or the lower astral person.

In the wider meaning, genius stands for so great a range of beings as to comprise virtually all the hierarchies of dhyan-chohans, operative on all inner planes, including those denoted by god, deva, angel, daimon, etc.

In modern usage, genius is exalted intellectual power and creative ability, a remarkable aptitude for some special pursuit, which is the greatest responsiveness of the brain and brain-memory to the higher manas or mind. The bent or especial aptitude along a particular line is due to efforts made along that line in past lives now coming forth in force, and relatively unhindered by the necessity of having to go through every step of the learning stages. It is as though the genius is enabled to tap the garnered treasury of wisdom stored within the reincarnating ego, and it flows forth through his mind unhampered; whereas the average person, except at odd inspirational moments, cannot regularly make the connection with this inner store of wisdom and knowledge.

Gestation state or period

The gestation period is a term used in Theosophical Literature, notably The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett2to indicate the intermediate (bardo) period in the afterlife in which the entity or ego is preparing for its birth into devachan. One can fail the gestation period, and then birth in devachan does not take place, but this is said to be rare.



(Hebrew) [plural of geber mighty man from gābar to be strong] Generally refers to the antediluvian giants or Atlanteans, the fourth root-race of mankind. In the fifth root-race they became known as the kabiri — the early mighty men of wisdom (SD 2:273).


(Icelandic) [from ginn vast, wide + unga bring to birth, hatch (as an egg) + gap chasm, maw] The gaping void of Norse mythology; space as an unimaginable abstraction, without form and void. The formless void that preceded creation, and the abode of the gods during the long night of nonbeing. The prefix “ginn” is found only in conjunction with such words a ginnheilog (the supreme divine essence), ginnregin (the highest gods, superior to the aesir and even the vanir). Ginnungave represents the “most holy sanctuaries” — the universe. Odin in his loftiest aspect is referred to as ginnarr, connoting the aether or Sanskrit ākāśa. The verb ginna also means to delude or play a trick on.

According to the Edda’s poetic description, before the existence of worlds, there was naught but Ginnungagap. All matter was frozen in a state of nonbeing, for in the absence of the energizing impulsion (the gods) nothing moved, no atoms existed, hence no matter. This state of non-existence was portrayed as the frost giant Ymir, which resulted when heat from the fiery world, Muspellsheim (home of flame), met the vapors from the world of mists, Niflheim (home of nebulae), creating fertile vapor in the void.

The cow Audhumla licked salt from the blocks of ice and uncovered the head of Buri (King Bore of Swedish tradition), personification of frozen, unmoving nonbeing. From Buri emanated Bur and from this second stage (or second divine Logos) descended the creative trinity of gods: Odin, Vile, and Vi, which powers together “slew” Ymir and with his body (matter) formed the worlds.



Every one of the physical globes that we see scattered over the fields of space is accompanied by six — really eleven — invisible and superior globes, forming what in theosophy is called a chain. This is the case with every sun or star, with every planet, and with every moon of every planet. It is likewise the case with the nebulae and the comets: all are septiform entities in manifestation; all have a sevenfold — indeed twelvefold — constitution, even as man has, who is a copy in the little of what the universe is in the great. The seven manifested globes for purposes of convenience are enumerated as A, B, C, D, E, F, and G; but reference is sometimes made more mystically to the globes from “A to Z,” here hinting at but not specifying all the twelve globes of the chain.

The life-waves circle around these globes in seven great cycles which are called rounds. Each life-wave first enters globe A, runs through its life cycle there, and then passes on to globe B. Finishing its cycle on globe B, it passes on to globe C, and then to globe D, the lowest of the manifested seven. In our own planetary chain, globe D is our earth. Three globes precede it on the downward arc, and three globes follow it on the ascending arc of evolution — referring here to the manifested seven.

The passing through or traversing of any one of these seven globes by the life-wave is a globe round; and during any one globe round on a globe, seven root-races are born, attain their efflorescence, and then pass away. (See also Round)



[from Greek gnome thought, intelligence; or gnomon one who knows, an instructor, interpreter, guardian] Coined by Paracelsus for the elemental beings pertaining to the element earth, hence popularly believed in Medieval Europe to inhabit mines and caves, pictured as very small men, ugly and often misshapen. The females, called gnomides, were supposed to be of extreme beauty and goodness, being the especial guardians of diamonds. Elemental beings generally “are the Soul of the elements, the capricious forces in Nature, acting under one immutable Law, inherent in these Centres of Force, with undeveloped consciousness and bodies of plastic mould, which can be shaped according to the conscious or unconscious will of the human being who puts himself en rapport with them” (BCW 6:189). They belong to the three elemental kingdoms below the mineral kingdom.

The element earth is not that which we call earth, which is a compound of all seven of the ancient elements and of all or most of the modern chemical elements. Rather, it is the Hindu pṛthivītattva, whose quality is smell and whose shape is mystically cubic as regards its paramanus. When a person has a predominance of the earth element in his constitution, the gnomes are said to be attracted to him and aid him in things which correspond to the earth principle; these include hidden treasures and wealth. Of course there is the antithetical side of the earth element which produces heaviness, grossness, etc.


(Greek) [cf Sanskrit jñāna, knowledge] Knowledge; used by Plato and the Neoplatonists to signify the divine knowledge (gupta-vidyā) attained through initiation; and means for the student the active penetration into and going beyond the veils of mind, by which process a true vision of reality is to be obtained.


Various schools — agreeing in fundamentals, differing in details according to their teachers — which inculcated gnosis (divine wisdom); they preceded or coincided with the early centuries of Christianity, and were grouped about Alexandria, Antioch, and other large centers of the Jewish-Hellenic-Syrian culture. The teachers include Philo Judaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Simon Magus and his pupil Menander, Saturninus, Basilides, Valentinus, Marcion, Celsus, and others. Their teachings in many respects were those of the ancient wisdom, derived from contact with the still extant sources in Egypt, India, Persia, and elsewhere.

Characteristic doctrines held by them are the system of emanations, powers, or aeons, with which they bridged the gap, otherwise remaining unfilled, between divinity and the world; the whole thus constituting the pleroma. All the potentialities of the supreme descend by emanational evolution through the various orders of aeons to man, who is thereby endowed with unlimited potentials. The distinction between Agathodaimon and Kakodaimon; the recognition of the mystical serpent of knowledge as the endower of mankind with wisdom and opponent of the merely creative or working Demiourgos (represented as the Old Testament Jehovah) were, among other matters, fairly well made in these systems.

According to Clement, the enlightened or perfect Christian is a Gnostic. In Gnostic teaching, Christ is an aeon of high degree; he is Lucifer the Light-bringer, who redeems humanity from the lower power of the merely creative or working Demiourgos — that is, from becoming enmeshed in the lower cosmic powers.

Until the mid-twentieth century, the principal extant Gnostic writings were quotes in surviving attacks against the Gnostics made by early Christian writers, the Pistis Sophia and “two Books of Jeu,” and the Neoplatonic Corpus Hermeticum (Hermes Trimegistos, Divine Pymander, etc.). With the discovery of the Nag-Hammadi scrolls, many more Gnostic writings have come to light and scholars are gaining a wider understanding of both Christian and non-Christian Gnosticism.



The core of the core of a human being or of any other organic entity whatsoever is a kosmic spirit, a spark so to say of the kosmic flame of life. (See also Inner God)


The old pantheons were builded upon an ancient and esoteric wisdom which taught, under the guise of a public mythology, profound secrets of the structure and operations of the universe which surrounds us. The entire human race has believed in gods, has believed in beings superior to men; the ancients all said that men are the “children” of these gods, and that from these superior beings, existent in the azure spaces, men draw all that in them is; and, furthermore, that men themselves, as children of the gods, are in their inmost essence divine beings linked forever with the boundless universe of which each human being, just as is the case with every other entity everywhere, is an inseparable part. This is a truly sublime conception.

One should not think of human forms when the theosophist speaks of the gods; we mean the arūpa — the “formless” — entities, beings of pure intelligence and understanding, relatively pure essences, relatively pure spirits, formless as we physical humans conceive form. The gods are the higher inhabitants of nature. They are intrinsic portions of nature itself, for they are its informing principles. They are as much subject to the wills and energies of still higher beings — call these wills and energies the “laws” of higher beings, if you will — as we are, and as are the kingdoms of nature below us.

The ancients put realities, living beings, in the place of laws which, as Occidentals use the term, are only abstractions — an expression for the action of entities in nature; the ancients did not cheat themselves so easily with words. They called them gods, spiritual entities. Not one single great thinker of the ancients, until the Christian era, ever talked about laws of nature, as if these laws were living entities, as if these abstractions were actual entities which did things. Did the laws of navigation ever navigate a ship? Does the law of gravity pull the planets together? Does it unite or pull the atoms together? This word laws is simply a mental abstraction signifying unerring action of conscious and semi-conscious energies in nature.

Golden Fleece

In Greek mythology, the fleece of a ram sent by the gods to save Phrixus and Helle, son and daughter of Athamas and Nephele, from their stepmother Ino. Flying through the air, it bore them towards Asia Minor. Helle drowned in the sea (at the Hellespont), but Phrixus arrived at Colchis. There he sacrificed the ram to Zeus and presented the fleece to king Aeetes, who hung it in a grove of Ares. Later, a generation before the Trojan War, Jason and the Argonauts brought the fleece back to Greece with the aid of Aeetes’ daughter Medea.

Golden Rule

In the West, applied to the moral teaching as voiced by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and stated by him to be all the law and the prophets: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt 7:12); “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).

This teaching is in all the religions of the world, expressing the law of our higher nature, which is love and harmony, as contrasted with the law of our lower nature, which makes for personal separateness and sets the individual at variance with his neighbor. Its realization in thought and conduct is an indispensable requisite to attainment on the path of wisdom and liberation. The following are selected from many similar teachings:

Hillel, Jewish Rabbi (b. 50 b.c.): “Do not to others what you would not like others to do to you.”

Aristotle, Greek (385B.C.): “We should conduct ourselves towards others as we would have them act towards us.”

Pittacus, Greek (650 b.c.): “Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.”

Zoroaster, Persian: “Hold it not meet to do unto others what thou wouldst not desire done unto thyself; do that unto the people, which when done to thyself, is not disagreeable unto these.”

Confucius, China: “Do unto another what you would have him do unto you, and do not unto another what you would not have him do unto you.”

The Mahābhārata, India: “This is the sum of all true righteousness — treat others as thou wouldst thyself be treated. Do nothing to thy neighbor which hereafter thou wouldst not have thy neighbor do to thee.”


Guṇas or Triguṇa

(Sanskrit) Differentiated matter is considered to possess or to have in occult philosophy three essential qualities or characteristics inherent in it, and their Sanskrit names are sattva, rajas, and tamas. These three are the guṇas or triguṇa.


(Sanskrit) [from gupta from the verbal root gup to conceal, preserve + vidyā knowledge, wisdom] Secret knowledge, secret wisdom; the source of all religions and philosophies known to the world: theosophy, the ancient wisdom-religion, the esoteric philosophy. See also Theosophy


Guru (Sanskrit) Guru Teacher, preceptor; applied not only to a chela’s spiritual teacher, but to spiritual and metaphysical teachers of many kinds. The spiritual fire within each person, the higher self or ātmabuddhi, is also called a guru, a divine instructor; and this higher self within each individual is, when all is said, the supreme guru for that person. The Master outside of the disciple’s own spiritual guide is a very necessary element in genuine occult instruction; but the outer guru, the Master who teaches and leads the disciple, has always in view the evocation and development of the guru within the disciple — the bringing to birth of the chela’s own inner divine and intellectual energies and powers. According to the beautiful teachings of the ancient wisdom, the guru acts as the midwife bringing to birth, helping to bring into the active life of the chela, the spiritual and intellectual parts of the disciple — the soul of the man. Thus the relationship between teacher and disciple is an extremely sacred one, because it is a tie which binds closely heart to heart, mind to mind. The idea is, again, that the latent spiritual potencies in the mind and heart of the learner shall receive such assistance in their development as the teacher can karmically give; but it does not mean that the teacher shall do the work that the disciple himself or herself must do. The learner or disciple must tread his own path, and the teacher cannot tread it for him. The teacher points the way, guides and aids, and the disciple follows the path.


(Sanskrit) This is a compound formed of guru, meaning “teacher,” and a subordinate compound param-para, the latter compound meaning “a row or uninterrupted series or succession.” Hence guru-parampara signifies an uninterrupted series or succession of teachers. Every Mystery school or esoteric college of ancient times had its regular and uninterrupted series or succession of teacher succeeding teacher, each one passing on to his successor the mystical authority and headship he himself had received from his predecessor.

Like everything else of an esoteric character in the ancient world, the guru-parampara or succession of teachers faithfully copied what actually exists or takes place in nature herself, where a hierarchy with its summit or head is immediately linked on to a superior hierarchy as well as to an inferior one; and it is in this manner that the mystical circulations of the kosmos, and the transmission of life or vital currents throughout the fabric or web of being is assured.

From this ancient fact and teaching of the Mystery schools came the greatly distorted Apostolic Succession of the Christian Church, a pale and feeble reflection in merely ecclesiastical government of a fundamental spiritual and mystical reality. The great Brotherhood of the sages and seers of the world, which in fact is the association of the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion headed by the Maha-chohan, is the purest and most absolute form or example of the guru-parampara existing on our earth today. (See also Hermetic Chain)

  1. This verse is not in the g Veda, but added later in a supplementary chapter of the White Yajurveda Samhita []
  2. by A. Trevor Barker (ed.) published by Theosophical University Press. []