Home » Daily Theosophy Glossary – I

Daily Theosophy Glossary – I

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Daily Theosophy Glossary


List of abbreviations of book names <



Iacchos [Bacchus]

The god of wine in more senses than one, plays an important part in these Mysteries. Demeter’s daughter Persephone, goddess of the underworld, was also honored. The usual accounts, vague and fragmentary only, describe the dramatic representations of the adventures of these deities, the esoteric meaning of which was given in the Greater Mysteries.


(Gnostic) A three-letter mystery-name, parallel in one sense with the Sanskrit praṇava, and reminiscent of triune deities represented by a triplicity of sounds. It occurs in many variations: Io, the Grecian moon goddess; Iaho, Jevo, Jehovah, and other Hebraic forms; Iaso, the possible origin of the name Jesus; Iacchos, the Bacchus of the Mysteries. It is at once threefold, fourfold, and sevenfold in meaning.

Iao Hebdomad (sevenfold) was one of the septenary mystery-gods of the Gnostics, given by Origen as the regent of the moon. The Gnostics had a superior hebdomad, an inferior or celestial one, and the terrestrial one. Iao was regarded as the chief of the superior seven heavens above the earth and is identical with the chief of the lunar pits (SD 1:448).

Again, Iao Hebdomad is the septenary Iao or the collective seven cosmic rectors, each one representing a heaven, and therefore identifying this Iao Hebdomad at once with the seven mystery-planets of the ancients. Iao, sometimes connected with Yaho, from another standpoint is the collective seven or ten classes of the mānasaputras. It is also connected with the Chaldean heptakis. Thus Iao or Iao Hebdomas, according to the point of view, is not only the septenary groups of the lunar dhyānis or pitṛs, but likewise the seven or ten groups of the mānasaputras.

In its association with the moon, it is either male, female, or androgyne according to the particular relationship in which it is being viewed. It is also the serpent of Eden, the bright angel, one of the ’elohīm clothed with radiance and glory, the Iao of the Mysteries, chief of the androgyne creators of mankind. Like Bacchus and other divinities, there was a degraded meaning, leading to phallic doctrines and rituals.

As a mystery-name, Iao or Yaho had a far higher and more spiritual significance, representing the triune forces and substances connected with the supreme divinity of our own cosmic hierarchy, whose seat was superior to the seven heavens, and which therefore made this divinity equivalent to the universal atman, or paramātman, the cosmic spiritual light whose radiations were the individual noetic monads.


Iḍaspati [from iḍ a refreshing draught, libation + pati lord, master] Lord of libations; applied to Bhaspati in the Ṛg-Veda; also to Puan, a Vedic deity; in the Purāas applied to Viṣṇu, particularly in his aspect of Nārāyaṇa (the mover on the waters).



One of the nine varas (divisions of the earth) according to ancient Hindu teaching; what is now the region of the north pole and surrounding Mount Meru, said to be the habitat of divinities.


(Greek) [from ilue mud] Primordial slime or mud; used by Berosus, the Chaldean, for the rude material out of which the cosmos was built; and by Sanchoniathon, the Phoenician writer, for the offspring of Chaos after the embrace of the spirit. The lotus flower or manifested universe grows out of the cosmic ilus or primordial substance. The elements differentiate or unfold into activity from their primeval ilus resting in laya. “Esoterically the homogeneous sediment of Chaos or the Great Deep. The first principle out of which the objective Universe was formed” (TG 146). The same as hyle.



A term signifying continuous existence or being; but this understanding of the term is profoundly illogical and contrary to nature, for there is nothing throughout nature’s endless and multifarious realms of being and existence which remains for two consecutive instants of time exactly the same. Consequently, immortality is a mere figment of the imagination, an illusory phantom of reality. When the student of the esoteric wisdom once realizes that continuous progress, i.e., continuous change in advancement, is nature’s fundamental procedure, he recognizes instantly that continuous remaining in an unchanging or immutable state of consciousness or being is not only impossible, but in the last analysis is the last thing that is either desirable or comforting. Fancy continuing immortal in a state of imperfection such as we human beings exemplify — which is exactly what the usual acceptance of this term immortality means. The highest god in highest heaven, although seemingly immortal to us imperfect human beings, is nevertheless an evolving, growing, progressing entity in its own sublime realms or spheres, and therefore as the ages pass leaves one condition or state to assume a succeeding condition or state of a nobler and higher type; precisely as the preceding condition or state had been the successor of another state before it.

Continuous or unending immutability of any condition or state of an evolving entity is obviously an impossibility in nature; and when once pondered over it becomes clear that the ordinary acceptance of immortality involves an impossibility. All nature is an unending series of changes, which means all the hosts or multitudes of beings composing nature, for every individual unit of these hosts is growing, evolving, i.e., continuously changing, therefore never immortal. Immortality and evolution are contradictions in terms. An evolving entity means a changing entity, signifying a continuous progress towards better things; and evolution therefore is a succession of state of consciousness and being after another state of consciousness and being, and thus throughout duration. The Occidental idea of static immortality or even mutable immortality is thus seen to be both repellent and impossible.

This doctrine is so difficult for the average Occidental easily to understand that it may be advisable once and for all to point out without mincing of words that just as complete death, that is to say, entire annihilation of consciousness, is an impossibility in nature, just so is continuous and unchanging consciousness in any one stage or phase of evolution likewise an impossibility, because progress or movement or growth is continuous throughout eternity. There are, however, periods more or less long of continuance in any stage or phase of consciousness that may be attained by an evolving entity; and the higher the being is in evolution, the more its spiritual and intellectual faculties have been evolved or evoked, the longer do these periods of continuous individual, or perhaps personal, quasi-immortality continue. There is, therefore, what may be called relative immortality, although this phrase is confessedly a misnomer.

Master KH[1] in The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett ((A Trevor Barker, ed.; publ. Theosophical University Press.), on pages 128-30, uses the phrase “panaeonic immortality” to signify this same thing that I have just called relative immortality, an immortality — falsely so called, however — which lasts in the cases of certain highly evolved monadic egos for the entire period of a manvantara, but which of necessity ends with the succeeding pralaya of the solar system. Such a period of time of continuous self-consciousness of so highly evolved a monadic entity is to us humans actually a relative immortality; but strictly and logically speaking it is no more immortality than is the ephemeral existence of a butterfly. When the solar manvantara comes to an end and the solar pralaya begins, even such highly evolved monadic entities, full-blown gods, are swept out of manifested self-conscious existence like the sere and dried leaves at the end of the autumn; and the divine entities thus passing out enter into still higher realms of superdivine activity, to reappear at the end of the pralaya and at the dawn of the next or succeeding solar manvantara.

The entire matter is, therefore, a highly relative one. What seems immortal to us humans would seem to be but as a wink of the eye to the vision of super-kosmic entities; while, on the other hand, the span of the average human life would seem to be immortal to a self-conscious entity inhabiting one of the electrons of an atom of the human physical body.

The thing to remember in this series of observations is the wondrous fact that consciousness from eternity to eternity is uninterrupted, although by the very nature of things undergoing continuous and unceasing change of phases in realization throughout endless duration. What men call unconsciousness is merely a form of consciousness which is too subtle for our gross brain-minds to perceive or to sense or to grasp; and, secondly, strictly speaking, what men call death, whether of a universe or of their own physical bodies, is but the breaking up of worn-out vehicles and the transference of consciousness to a higher plane. It is important to seize the spirit of this marvelous teaching, and not allow the imperfect brain-mind to quibble over words, or to pause or hesitate at difficult terms.



Theosophists draw a sharp and comprehensive distinction between individuality and personality. The individuality is the spiritual-intellectual and immortal part of us; deathless, at least for the duration of the kosmic manvantara — the root, the very essence of us, the spiritual sun within, our inner god. The personality is the veil, the mask, composed of various sheaths of consciousness through which the individuality acts.

The word individuality means that which cannot be divided, that which is simple and pure in the philosophical sense, indivisible, uncompounded, original. It is not heterogeneous; it is not composite; it is not builded up of other elements; it is the thing in itself. Whereas, on the contrary, the intermediate nature and the lower nature are composite, and therefore mortal, being builded up of elements other than themselves. Strictly speaking, individuality and monad are identical, but the two words are convenient because of the distinctions of usage contained in them; just as consciousness and self-consciousness are fundamentally identical, but convenient as words on account of the distinctions contained in them. (See also Monad)

Indra (Sanskrit) Indra Vedic god of the firmament, supporter or guardian of the eastern quarter of the visible kosmos, whose functions somewhat parallel those of the equivalent of the four Mahārājas. Indra, Varūna, and Agni were considered among the three highest gods of the Vedas, although the triad of Vāyu, Sūrya, and Agni is frequently mentioned, Indra often taking the place of Vāyu. Indra is often described as the champion of all the gods and overthrower of their enemies, especially the conqueror of Vṛtra, the great cosmic serpent. Indra thus has numerous parallels with the St. Michael of the Occident, and some of his functions are identic with Karttikeya, the god of war.

“In the Rig Veda Indra is the highest and greatest of the Gods, and his Soma-drinking is allegorical of his highly spiritual nature. In the Purāṇas Indra becomes a profligate, a regular drunkard on the Soma juice, in the terrestrial way” (SD 2:378). Indra corresponds with the cosmic principle mahat and in the human constitution with its reflection, manas, in its dual aspect. At times he is connected with buddhi; at others he is dragged down by kāma, the desire principle.


A term meaning that which is not finite. The expression is used sometimes with almost absurd inaccuracy, and is one which in all probability representing as it does imperfect understanding could never be found in any of the great religious or philosophical systems of the ancients. Occidental writers of the past and present often use the word infinite as applying to beings or entities, such as in the expression “an infinite personal deity” — a ludicrous joining of contradictory and disparate words. The ancients rejected the phantom idea that this term involves, and used instead expressions such as the Boundless, or the Frontierless, or the Endless, whether speaking of abstract space or abstract time — the latter more properly called unending duration. (See also Absolute)


Those who have passed at least one initiation and therefore those who understand the mystery-teachings and who are ready to receive them at some future time in even larger measure. Please note the distinction between initiant and initiate. An initiant is one who is beginning or preparing for an initiation. An initiate is one who has successfully passed at least one initiation. It is obvious therefore that an initiate is always an initiant when he prepares for a still higher initiation.

The mystery-teachings were held as the most sacred treasure or possession that men could transmit to their descendants who were worthy postulants. The revelation of these mystery-doctrines under the seal of initiation, and under proper conditions to worthy depositaries, worked marvelous changes in the lives of those who underwent successfully the initiatory trials. It made men different from what they were before they received this spiritual and intellectual revelation. The facts are found in all the old religions and philosophies, if these are studied honestly. Initiation was always spoken of under the metaphor or figure of speech of “a new birth,” a “birth into truth,” for it was a spiritual and intellectual rebirth of the powers of the human spirit-soul, and could be called in all truth a birth of the soul into a loftier and nobler self-consciousness. When this happened, such men were called “initiates” or the reborn. In India, such reborn men were anciently called dvija, a Sanskrit word meaning “twice-born.” In Egypt such initiates or reborn men were called “Sons of the Sun.” In other countries they were called by other names.


In olden times there were seven — and even ten — degrees of initiation. Of these seven degrees, three consisted of teachings alone, which formed the preparation, the discipline, spiritual and mental and psychic and physical — what the Greeks called the katharsis or “cleansing.” When the disciple was considered sufficiently cleansed, purified, disciplined, quiet mentally, tranquil spiritually, then he was taken into the fourth degree, which likewise consisted partly of teaching, but also in part of direct personal introduction by the old mystical processes into the structure and operations of the universe, by which means truth was gained by first-hand personal experience. In other words, to speak in plain terms, his spirit-soul, his individual consciousness, was assisted to pass into other planes and realms of being, and to know and to understand by the sheer process of becoming them. A man, a mind, an understanding, can grasp and see, and thereby know, only those things which the individual entity itself is.

After the fourth degree, there followed the fifth and the sixth and the seventh initiations, each in turn, and these consisted of teachings also; but more and more as the disciple progressed — and he was helped in this development more and more largely as he advanced farther — there was evolved forth in him the power and faculties still farther and more deeply to penetrate beyond the veils of maya or illusion; until, having passed the seventh or last initiation of all of the manifest initiations, if we may call them that, he became one of those individuals whom theosophists call the mahatmas.

Inner God

Mystics of all the ages have united in teaching this fact of the existence and ever-present power of an individual inner god in each human being, as the first principle or primordial energy governing the progress of man out of material life into the spiritual. Indeed, the doctrine is so perfectly universal, and is so consistent with everything that man knows when he reflects over the matter of his own spiritual and intellectual nature, that it is small wonder that this doctrine should have acquired foremost place in human religious and philosophical consciousness. Indeed, it may be called the very foundation-stone on which were builded the great systems of religious and philosophical thinking of the past; and rightly so, because this doctrine is founded on nature herself.

The inner god in man, man’s own inner, essential divinity, is the root of him, whence flow forth in inspiring streams into the psychological apparatus of his constitution all the inspirations of genius, all the urgings to betterment. All powers, all faculties, all characteristics of individuality, which blossom through evolution into individual manifestation, are the fruitage of the working in man’s constitution of those life-giving and inspiring streams of spiritual energy.

The radiant light which streams forth from that immortal center or core of our inmost being, which is our inner god, lightens the pathway of each one of us; and it is from this light that we obtain ideal conceptions. It is by this radiant light in our hearts that we can guide our feet towards an ever larger fulfilling in daily life of the beautiful conceptions which we as mere human beings dimly or clearly perceive, as the case may be.

The divine fire which moves through universal Nature is the source of the individualized divine fire coming from man’s inner god.

The modern Christians of a mystical bent of mind call the inner god the Christ Immanent, the immanent Christos; in Buddhism it is called the living Buddha within; in Brahmanism it is spoken of as the Brahma in his Brahmapura or Brahma-city, which is the inner constitution.

Hence, call it by what name you please, the reflective and mystical mind intuitively realizes that there works through him a divine flame, a divine life, a divine light, and that this by whatever name we may call it, is himself, his essential SELF. (See also God)

Intermediate Nature

To speak of man as a trichotomy, or as having a division into three parts — as in the Christian New Testament: a “natural” body, a psychical body, and a spiritual body — is a convenient expression, but it by no means sets forth in detail the entire economy of man’s inner being.

Following then this trichotomy, there is first the divine-spiritual element in the human constitution which is man’s own individual inner god; second, the soul or human monad, which is his human egoic self, his intermediate or psychical or second nature; third, all the composite lower part of him which although comprising several sheaths may be conveniently grouped under the one term vehicle or body. Gods, monads, and atoms collectively in nature are copied in the essential trichotomy of man, as spirit, soul, and body, and hence the latter is another way of saying man’s divine-spiritual, intermediate soul, and astral-physical parts.

It is the intermediate nature, offspring of the divine spark, which enshrines the ray from the divine spark, its spiritual sun so to say, and steps it down into the ordinary mentality of man. It is this intermediate nature which reincarnates. The divine-spiritual part of man does not reincarnate, for this part of man has no need of learning the lessons that physical life can give: it is far above them all. But it is the intermediate part functioning through the various garments or sheaths of the inner man — these garments may be called astral or ethereal — which in this manner can reach down to and touch our earthly plane; and the physical body is the garment of flesh in touch with the physical world.

The intermediate nature is commonly called the human soul. It is an imperfect thing, and is that which comes back into incarnation, because it is drawn to this earth by attraction. It learns much needed lessons here, in this sphere of the universal life. (See also Principles of Man)

Invisible Worlds

The ancient wisdom teaches that the universe is not only a living organism, but that physical human beings live in intimate connection, in intimate contact, with invisible spheres, with invisible and intangible realms, unknown to man because the physical senses are so imperfectly evolved that we neither see these invisible realms nor feel nor hear nor smell nor taste them, nor cognize them except by that much more highly evolved and subtle sensorium which men call the mind. These inner realms interpenetrate our physical sphere, permeate it, so that in our daily affairs as we go about our duties we actually pass through the dwellings, through the mountains, through the lakes, through the very beings, mayhap, of the entities of and dwelling in these invisible realms. These invisible realms are built of matter just as this our physical world is, but of a more ethereal matter than ours is; but we cognize them not at all with our physical senses. The explanation is that it is all a matter of differing rates of vibration of substances.

The reader must be careful not to confuse this theosophical teaching of inner worlds and spheres with what the modern Spiritism of the Occident has to say on the matter. The “Summerland” of the Spiritists in no wise resembles the actuality which the theosophical philosophy teaches of, the doctrine concerning the structure and operations of the visible and invisible kosmos. The warning seems necessary lest an unwary reader may imagine that the invisible worlds and spheres of the theosophical teachings are identic with the Summerland of the Spiritists, for it is not so.

Our senses tell us absolutely nothing of the far-flung planes and spheres which belong to the ranges and functionings of the invisible substances and energies of the universe; yet those inner and invisible planes and spheres are actually inexpressibly more important than what our physical senses tell us of the physical world, because these invisible planes are the causal realms, of which our physical world or universe, however far extended in space, is but the effectual or phenomenal or resultant production.

But while these inner and invisible worlds or planes or spheres are the fountainhead, ultimately, of all the energies and matters of the whole physical world, yet to an entity inhabiting these inner and invisible worlds or planes, these latter are as substantial and “real” — using the popular word — to that entity as our gross physical world is to us. Just as we know in our physical world various grades or conditions of energy and matter, from the physically grossest to the most ethereal, precisely after the same general plan do the inhabitants of these invisible and inner and to us superior worlds know and cognize their own grossest and also most ethereal substances and energies.

Man as well as all the other entities of the universe is inseparably connected with these worlds invisible.


The reverse process or procedure of evolution. As evolution means the unfolding, the unwrapping, the rolling forth, of what already exists and is latent, so involution means the inwrapping, the infolding, the ingoing of what previously exists or has been unfolded, etc. Involution and evolution never in any circumstances can be even conceived of properly as operative the one apart from the other: every act of evolution is an act of involution, and vice versa. To illustrate, as spirit and matter are fundamentally one and yet eternally coactive and interactive, so involution and evolution are two names for two phases of the same procedure of growth, and are eternally coactive and interactive. As an example, the so-called descent of the monads into matter means an involution or involving or infolding of spiritual potencies into material vehicles which coincidently and contemporaneously, through the compelling urge of the infolding energies, unfold their own latent capacities, unwrap them, roll them forth; and this is the evolution of matter. Thus what is the involution of spirit is contemporaneously and pari passu the evolution of matter. Contrariwise, on the ascending or luminous arc when the involved monadic essences begin to rise towards their primordial spiritual source they begin to unfold or unwrap themselves as previously on the descending arc they had infolded or inwrapped themselves. But this process of unfolding or evolution of the monadic essences is contemporaneous with and pari passu with the infolding and inwrapping, the involution, of the material energies and powers.

Human birth and death are outstanding illustrations or examples of the same thing. The child is born, and as it grows to its full efflorescence of power it evolves or rolls forth certain inherent characteristics or energies or faculties, all derived from the human being’s svabhava or ego. Contrariwise, when the decline of human life begins, there is a slow infolding or inwrapping of these same faculties which thus seem gradually to diminish. These faculties and energies thus evolved forth in earth-life are the working of the innate spiritual and intellectual and psychical characteristics impelling and compelling the vehicular or body sides of the human constitution to express themselves as organs becoming more and more perfect as the child grows to maturity.

After death the process is exactly the reverse. The material or vehicular side of the being grows less and less strong and powerful, more and more involved, and becoming with every step in the process more dormant. But contemporaneously and coincidently the distinctly spiritual and intellectual powers and faculties themselves become released from the vehicles and begin to expand into ever larger efflorescence, attaining their maximum in the devachan. It is only the usual carelessness in accurate thinking that induces the idea that evolution is one distinct process acting alone, and that involution — about which by the way very little is heard — is another process acting alone. The two, as said above, are the two phases of activity of the evolving monads, and these phases exist contemporaneously at any moment, each of the two phases continually acting and interacting with the other phase. They are inseparable.

Just so with spirit and matter. Spirit is not something radically distinct from and utterly separate from matter. The two are fundamentally one, and the two are eternally coactive and interactive.

There are several terms in Sanskrit which correspond to what the theosophist means by evolution, but perhaps the best general term is pravritti, meaning to “revolve” or to “roll forwards,” to unroll or to unwrap. Again, the reverse procedure or involution can probably best be expressed in Sanskrit by the term nivritti, meaning “rolling backwards” or “inwrapping” or “infolding.” A term which is frequently interchangeable with evolution is emanation. (See also Evolution)



(Greek) Ast (Egyptian) Chief goddess of the Egyptian popular pantheon, daughter of Seb and Nut. Generally portrayed bearing the papyrus scepter and the ankh, wearing the vulture headdress with the uraeus on her forehead from which rose a pair of horns (either cow’s or ram’s) encircling the solar disk: the horns represented mystic nature and the moon (SD 2:31). Her attributes pertain to the Great Mother, the personification of concrete nature, giving birth to and nourishing all things, portrayed by ancient artists as the mother suckling her babe.

The mythological aspect stresses the dutiful mother and faithful wife. Her sorrow upon the death of her husband, Osiris, as well as her wanderings in search of his body, are very similar to those of the Greek nature goddess Demeter searching for her daughter Persephone. To Isis is also attributed the knowledge of the potency of mantras, with which she revivifies her poisoned son, Horus.

Osiris, Isis, and Horus form the Egyptian triad of Father-Mother-Son. Isis is credited with the characteristics of most of the other goddesses of the pantheon, but her chief attribute of producer and giver of life is manifested even in the underworld, where her help sustains the deceased. The symbol of Isis in the heavens was the star Sirius.


(Sanskrit) [from the verbal root īś to rule, be master] Lord; the supreme self or hierarch of any universe, large or small, likewise the divine spirit in man. Also a title for many gods in the Hindu pantheon, such as Viṣṇu and Śiva.

A term which is frequently applied in Hindu mythology not only to kosmic divinities, but to the expression of the cosmic spirit in the human being. Consequently, when reference is had to the individual human being, Īśvara is the divine individualized spirit in man — man’s own personal god. It may be otherwise described as the divine ego, the child of the divine monad in a man, and in view of this fact also could be used with reference to the dhyāni-buddha or to the immanent Christ in a man. In India it is a title frequently given to Śiva and other gods of the Hindu pantheon.

In the Bhagavad-Gita is that which “dwelleth in the heart of every creature” and which “causeth all things and creatures to revolve mounted upon the universal wheel of time” (chs 43; 6l). It is the essence of the spiritual monad in any individualized evolving being, the spiritual root, the god within, and the source of the spiritual and vital streams in any being which bring about its unfolding in evolution and its peregrinations through the fields of experience. Equivalent to the Father in Heaven of Jesus, and hence the source of the inner Christos or Buddha. Thus in one sense it is the individualized dhyāni-buddha of every being. See also LOGOS (From ETG)

  1. Koot HOOmi Lal Singh, 0ne of the spiritual founders behind the Theosophical Society [<<]