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Daily Theosophy Glossary – N

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Daily Theosophy Glossary


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(Sanskrit) A tube, vessel, or channel; that along which something flows, be it a liquid or the current of a force. Applied indiscriminately to blood vessels and nerves, and to the three mystic [subtle] channels that really form the spinal column, and which carry vital and other important currents in the human constitution. The nāḍis, which are slightly more subtle than the physical channels, run in large numbers all through the body and into all extremities. The nāḍīs are all intimately connected in function and structure with the chakras, being the influent and effluent channels to and fro as between nāḍī and other nāḍīs and the body generally; for the chakras, although mainly functional in the astral part of the auric body, nevertheless have corresponding organs in the physical body.


(Sanskrit) Serpent; the symbol of immortality and wisdom, of renewed births, of secret knowledge and, when the tail is held in the mouth, of eternity. The nāgas or serpents of wisdom are, therefore, full initiates: “the first Nāgas — beings wiser than Serpents — are the ‘Sons of Will and Yoga,’ born before the complete separation of the sexes, ‘matured in the man-bearing eggs produced by the power (Kriyaśakti) of the holy sages’ of the early Third Race” (SD 2:181). These first nāgas were the original human adepts, who were later symbolized by the terms serpents and dragons. “These ‘originals’ — called to this day in China ‘the Dragons of Wisdom’ — were the first disciples of the Dhyānis, who were their instructors; in short, the primitive adepts of the Third Race, and later, of the Fourth and Fifth Races. The name became universal, and no sane man before the Christian era would ever have confounded the man and the symbol” (SD 2:210). [However the nude Nāgas, mostly hasjish smoking ‘yogi’s’ one meets frequently in modern India, especially at the Kumbh Mela festivals, seem to have little to do with meaning given here by H.P. Blavatsky.  – Ed. DTh.]

The early Mexican word nagual, now meaning sorcerer and medicine man, is akin in its meaning, for “Some of the descendants of the primitive Nāgas, the Serpents of Wisdom, peopled America, when its continent arose during the palmy days of the great Atlantis, (America being the Pātala or Antipodes of Jambu-Dvīpa, not of Bharata-varṣa [India])” (SD 2:182). The Hebrew equivalent is nahash also meaning magic, enchantment, thus showing the same connection of ideas.

Nāga may be equated with Anānta-sea, the seven-headed endless serpent of Viṣṇu, “the great dragon eternity biting with its active head its passive tail, from the emanations of which spring worlds, beings and things. . . . The Nāg awakes. He heaves a heavy breath and the latter is sent like an electric shock all along the wire encircling Space” (ML 73).


(Sanskrit)[from nāma name + rūpa body, form] The body with a name; personality, the symbol of the unreality of material phenomenal appearances. A highly technical term in Hindu philosophy, particularly in the Vedānta. Philosophically, nāman signifies the particular characteristics of the manifesting personality. Every individual has his or its own particular nāman, as well as his or its own particular rūpa. In consequence nāma-rūpa is the personality working through its two or three forms or bodies, the kāma-rūpa, the liṅga-śarīra (astral form), and the sthūla-śarīra (physical body). This term applies equally well to a manifested entity of any kind, but with particular meaning to the lower grades or classes of manifesting beings or things. The sun, for instance, imbodies a divinity; but the nāma-rūpa of the sun is not the divinity, but the manifesting personality of the particular sun working through its particular rūpa.


[cf Sanskrit nṛ, Zend nar, Greek aner Latin nero] A man; in the Mahābhārata and the Purāṇas, sometimes used as an equivalent for cosmic Puruṣa — the primordial universal Man, or the hierarchical essence pervading the solar system often associated with Narāyāṇa, both being considered as cosmic rishis. The Bhagavad-Gītā makes a poetic identification of Arjuna or the human monad with Nara, and Kṛṣṇa or the Logos with Narāyāṇa — this distinction showing the same suggestive difference in the human sphere that exists between Nara and Narāyāṇa in the cosmic.

Nārada One of the ten great ṛṣis, mind-born sons of Brahmā, or prajāpatis; the most difficult to understand of the Vedic ṛṣis because the most closely connected with occult doctrines.

“Nārada is here, there, and everywhere; and yet, none of the Purāṇas gives the true characteristics of this great enemy of physical procreation. Whatever those characteristics may be in Hindu Esotericism, Nārada — who is called in Cis-Himalayan Occultism Pesh-Hun, the ‘Messenger,’ or the Greek Angelos — is the sole confidant and the executor of the universal decrees of Karma and ādi-Budh a kind of active and ever incarnating logos, who leads and guides human affairs from the beginning to the end of the Kalpa.

“ ‘Pesh-Hun’ is a general not a special Hindu possession. He is the mysterious guiding intelligent power, which gives the impulse to, and regulates the impetus of cycles, Kalpas and universal events. He is Karma’s visible adjuster on a general scale; the inspirer and the leader of the greatest heroes of this Manvantara. In the exoteric works he is referred to by some very uncomplimentary names; such as ‘Kali-Kāraka,’ strife-maker, ‘Kapi-vaktra,’ monkey-faced, and even ‘Piśuna,’ the spy, though elsewhere he is called DevaBrahmā. . . .

“What Nārada really is, cannot be explained in print; . . . But it may be remarked, that if there is in the Hindu Pantheon a deity which resembles Jehovah, in tempting by ‘suggestion’ of thoughts and ‘hardening’ of the hearts of those whom he would make his tools and victims, it is Nārada. Only with the latter it is no desire to obtain a pretext for ‘plaguing,’ and thus showing that ‘I am the Lord God.’ Nor is it through any ambitious or selfish motive; but, verily, to serve and guide universal progress and evolution.

“ . . . It is he who has charge of our progress and national weal or woe. It is he who brings on wars and puts an end to them. In the old Stanzas Pesh-Hun is credited with having calculated and recorded all the astronomical and cosmic cycles to come, and with having taught the Science to the first gazers at the starry vault” (SD 2:48-9).


(Sanskrit) In mythology, a place of torment, a hell, but such popular understandings are but exoteric blinds. The narakas are rather worlds in the spheres of matter, the globes of the planetary chain. They are called thus because they are rūpa (form) worlds as contrasted with the arūpa (formless) spheres of spirit. The narakas are generally regarded as 21 in number, as in the Laws of Manu. “These ‘hells’ are called vivifying hells because . . . any being dying in one is immediately born in the second, then in the third, and so on; life lasting in each 500 years (a blind on the number of cycles and reincarnations). As these hells constitute one of the six gati [jatis] (conditions of sentient existence), and as people are said to be reborn in one or the other according to their Karmic merits or demerits, the blind becomes self-evident” (TG 225).


(Sanskrit) [from nāra human from nara man + āyaṇa going] The mover on the waters of space; a title of Vishnu in his aspect of the eternal breath or spirit; the highest hierarchies of the dhyānis or gods moving in and on the waters of creation (cf Manu 1:10). Here nara applies to the cosmogonical Logos, and āyaṇa to the emanationary and evolutionary activity of the Logos in the waters of space, which are really the manifested form of Nara or Nara itself. In esoteric symbology Nārāyaṇa stands for the primeval manifestation of the life principle spreading in infinite space, or again the Īśvara, the Logos, the inner guide of all individual souls in the universe.

The opening verses of Genesis state that “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”: the waters are the great deep of infinite space, ākāśa; and the spirit is Nārāyaṇa, Viṣṇu, or the cosmic Nara. This spirit “is invisible Flame, which never burns, but sets on fire all that it touches, and gives it life and generation” (The Secret Doctrine 1:626).

Brahmā is a permutation, so far as meanings go, of Nārāyaṇa, the spirit of god entering into and fructifying nature — which indeed is itself. The cosmic Neptune or Poseidon, the Egyptian Ra, and the Hindu Iḍaspati (the master of the waters) correspond with Nārāyaṇa or Viṣṇu.

Naut, see Nut


Neith or Net

(Egyptian) One of the most ancient Egyptian deities, the Lady of the West. Her characteristic symbol is the arrow; later Greek writers equated her with Pallas Athene. In late dynastic times, Net was closely associated with Hathor, but in the earliest records she is connected with the primeval watery ocean or cosmic chaos, from which arose the sun god Ra. More often she was associated with Isis — her concrete or manifested self — being called “the great goddess, mother of all the gods, mistress of heaven who came into being in the beginning.” Net is portrayed as the virgin mother, suckling the infant Horus, similar to the representations of Isis. The famous passage given by Plutarch (Isis and Osiris ch. 9) generally attributed to Isis, was said to have been found engraved upon a statue of Net. Plutarch also states that the Egyptians often called Isis Athene, signifying “I have come from myself” (ch. 42).

When the Egyptians wished to depict Hephaestos they draw a scarab and a vulture, and when they want to represent Athene (Net) they draw a vulture and a scarab, for they believed that the world is composed of masculine and feminine forces, and these two deities are the only gods whom they believed to be both male and female.



(Sanskrit) [from ni down, into + the verbal root to bind] That which binds, to earth or to existence, philosophically speaking. Originally meaning bond, rope, halter — that which binds. From this arose the implication of binding cause, or bonds of causation, and hence in Buddhist philosophy it signifies cause of existence, the concatenation of cause and effect. The twelve nidānas given as the chief causes are: 1) Jāti (birth) according to one of the chatur-yoni, the four modes of entering incarnation, each mode placing the being in one of the six gatis; 2) Jarāmāraṇa (decrepitude) and death, following the maturity of the skandhas; 3) Bhava, which leads every sentient being to be born in this or another mode of existence in the trailokya and gatis; 4) Upādāna, the creative cause of bhava which thus becomes the cause of jāti, and this creative cause is the clinging to life; 5) Tṛṣṇā (thirst for life, love, attachment); 6) Vedanā (sensation) perception by the senses, the fifth skandha; 7) Sparśa (the sense of touch) contact of any kind, whether mental or physical; 8) Ṣaḍāyatana (the organs of sensation) the inner or mental astral seats of the organs of sense; 9) Nāmarūpa (name-form, personality, a form with a name to it) the symbol of the unreality of material phenomenal appearances; 10) Vijñāna, the perfect knowledge of every perceptible thing and of all objects in their concatenation and unity; 11) Saṁskāra, action on the plane of illusion; and 12) Avidyā (nescience, ignorance) lack of true perception.

Nidāna is also a title of Brahmā, considered as the first cause, being the kosmic living aggregate of vital bonds forming the universe into an organic whole; reproduced through its own internal energies from the preceding manvantara. (From ETG)

Nirira Namastaka

(Sanskrit) The ability of a high adept to produce from within his focus of consciousness or to exteriorize from it a substitute on a lower plane, which thereafter functions in all respects as would the full inner spiritual person were he present in the vehicle in which the substitute is acting. It is the same power but on a higher plane which enables the adept to transfer his māyāvi-rupa to different parts of the earth, and to act in it; a power which in Tibetan is called hpho-wa.


[Sanskrit, from nirmāṇa forming, creating + kāya body, robe, vehicle] Appearance body; the lowest of the trikāya, followed by sambhogakāya and dharmakāya. A state assumed by a bodhisattva who, instead of entering nirvāṇa, remains on earth to help inferior beings. “A nirmāṇakāya is a complete man possessing all the principles of his constitution except the liṅga-śarīra, and its accompanying physical body. He is one who lives on the plane of being next superior to the physical plane, and his purpose in so doing is to save men from themselves by being with them, and by continuously instilling thoughts of self-sacrifice, of self-forgetfulness, of spiritual and moral beauty, of mutual help, of compassion, and of pity” (Occult Glossary 114). Beings in this state make a wall of protection around mankind, which shields humanity from evils.

There are two kinds of nirmāṇakāyas: the natural is the condition of a high initiate who reaches a stage of bliss second only to nirvana; the assumed is the self-sacrifice of one who voluntarily gives up the absolute nirvāṇa in order to help and guide humanity. The nirmāṇakāya, then,

“is that ethereal form which one would assume when leaving his physical he would appear in his astral body — having in addition all the knowledge of an Adept. The Bodhisattva develops it in himself as he proceeds on the Path. Having reached the goal and refused its fruition, he remains on Earth, as an Adept; and when he dies, instead of going into Nirvana, he remains in that glorious body he has woven for himself, invisible to uninitiated mankind, to watch over and protect it. . . . to be enabled to help humanity, an Adept who has won the right to nirvāṇa, ‘renounces the Dharmakāya body’ in mystic parlance; keeps, of the Sambhogakāya, only the great and complete knowledge, and remains in his Nirmāṇakāya body. The esoteric school teaches that Gautama Buddha with several of his Arhats is such a Nirmāṇakāya . . .” (Voice of the Silence 96-7). (From: ETG)


[Sanskrit, from nir out, away + vāṇa blown from the verbal root to blow] Blown out, blown away; the monad’s freeing itself of the chains of all its inferior parts, so it can enter into relatively perfect wisdom and peace. It thus is, for the time, living in its own spiritual essence, a jīvanmukta. One in this state understands essences exactly as they are, because the consciousness has for the time being become co-extensive and co-vibrational with the cosmic monad. He is free from the trammels of all the worlds of māyā which he has thus far passed through.

“When our great Buddha — the patron of all the adepts, the reformer and the codifier of the occult system, reached first Nirvāṇa on earth, he became a Planetary Spirit; i.e. — his spirit could at one and the same time rove the interstellar spaces in full consciousness, and continue at will on Earth in his original and individual body. For the divine Self had so completely disfranchised itself from matter that it could create at will an inner substitute for itself, and leaving it in the human form for days, weeks, sometimes years, affect in no wise by the change either the vital principle or the physical mind of its body. By the way, that is the highest form of adeptship men can hope for on our planet. But it is as rare as the Buddhas themselves . . .” (Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett 43).

Nirvāṇa has also been called the vanishing point of differentiated matter. The purely nirvāṇic state is an assimilation with parabrahman, a passage of spirit back to the ideal abstraction of Be-ness which has no modifying relation with the manifested planes on which our universe exists during this manvantara. Being “blown out” refers only to the lower human principles, not to entitative annihilation. Nirvāṇa is also “the state of the monadic entities in the period that intervenes between minor manvantaras or Rounds of a Planetary Chain; and more fully so between each seven-Round period or Day of Brahmā, and the succeeding Day or new Kalpa of a Planetary Chain. At these last times, starting forth from the seventh sphere in the seventh Round, the monadic entities will have progressed far beyond even the highest state of Devachan. Too pure and too far advanced even for such a condition as the devachanic felicity, they go to their appropriate sphere and condition, which latter is the Nirvāṇa following the end of the seventh Round” (Occult Glossary 115-16).

Nirvāṇa, devachan, and avīchi are states rather than localities, forming a continuum of consciousness from the superspiritual to the nether pole of the spiritual condition. There are nirvāṇas of different degrees: one so high that it blends insensibly with the condition of the cosmic hierarch of our universe. The lower degrees of nirvāṇa, however, are attained at intervals by highly spiritual and very mystically-inclined people, who have had intensive spiritual training. They enter for a very short period into this state, but usually cannot remain there for long.

“Nirvāṇa, while the Ultima Thule of the perfection to be attained by any human being, nevertheless stands less high in the estimate of mystics than the condition of the Bodhisattva. For the Bodhisattva, although standing on the threshold of Nirvāṇa and seeing and understanding its ineffable glory and peace and rest, nevertheless retains his consciousness in the worlds of men, in order to consecrate his vast faculties and powers to the service of all that is. The Buddhas in their higher parts enter the Nirvāṇa, in other words, assume the Dharmakāya-state or vesture, whereas the Bodhisattva assumes the Nirmāṇakāya-vesture, thereafter to become an ever-active and compassionate and beneficent influence in the world. The Buddha indeed may be said to act indirectly and by ‘long distance control,’ thus indeed helping the world diffusively or by diffusion; but the Bodhisattva acts directly and positively and with a directing will in works of compassion, both for the world and for individuals” (Occult Glossary 116-17). (From: ETG)


[Sanskrt, from ni back + the verbal root vṛt to roll, turn, unfold] Involution of matter and the consequent evolution of spirit, used to express the process by which matter rebecomes spirit, ascending along the luminous arc back to the spiritual worlds. It is the process of inwrapping or infolding of monads into matter, or of matter-lives back into the spiritual realms. See also Pravṛtti

Nivritti-mārga (Sanskrit) Nivṛtti-mārga [from nivṛitti infolding + mārga path, way] The path that leads through unfolding back to the spiritual worlds; often called the path of light or luminous arc. See also Pravṛtti-mārga


Noah (Hebrew) Noaḥ [from nūaḥ to come to rest, be at rest, reach rest, settle down into repose] Biblical patriarch, son of Lamech, connected with the flood which overwhelmed the earth, as related in Genesis 7-9. According to Hebrew legend, he and his family alone survived the deluge by means of an ark, which he had been commanded to build and to place therein a pair of every living thing upon the earth. The Hebrew narrative is based upon that of Babylonia. These universal flood legends are derived from the historical catastrophe which befell Atlantis.

Noah stands for the present fifth root-race, as Enoch stands for the fourth, “thus symbolizing both the RootManu and the SeedManu, or the Power which developed the planetary chain, and our earth, and the Seed Race (the Fifth) which was saved while the last sub-races of the Fourth perished” (SD 2:597). Noah is connected with cyclic time periods and can be applied to shorter or longer cycles. Thus, there is a Noah for every root-race and for every globe of a planetary chain, and what might be called the chain-Noah, when the chain itself goes into pralaya.

Again, “the story of Noah is but another version in its hidden meaning of the story of Adam and his three sons, . . . Adam is the prototype of Noah. Adam falls because he eats of the forbidden fruit of celestial knowledge; Noah, because he tastes of the terrestrial fruit: the juice of the grape representing the abuse of knowledge in an unbalanced mind. . . . But the descendants of both are shown as the wisest of races on earth; and they are called on this account ‘snakes,’ and the ‘sons of snakes,’ meaning the sons of wisdom” (IU 2:449).

Noetic [from Greek noetikos from nous mind] Pertaining to intelligence and spiritual reason, apart from mere mental ratiocination based upon appearances or the senses. The psychic part of our mind, the kāma-manas, is intimately blended with the physical organism, and the interaction between the two seems to justify the conclusion that we move in a vicious circle under the sway of forces difficult to control when we center our consciousness in the psychic part of our constitution. However, by taking into account the noetic part of the human constitution, the buddhi-manas, which is independent of the sensual and emotional influences from the psychic nature, and by centering our consciousness in this noetic part of our being, we are at all times and in all places able fully to control, master, and therefore direct, the vigorous and erratic movements of the psychic nature. The noetic mind, because it is of a spiritual character, has no direct action on the physical brain or nervous system, but acts through the psychic part of the mind, and even then only through the finer elements of the cerebral and nervous texture.

Norn [from Icelandic, Scandinavian] In the Norse Edda the three Norns, sometimes called the weird sisters, are the spinners of destiny, symbolizing past, present, and future. The first, named Urd (origin), represents the past which causes all that follows; the second, Verdandi (becoming), is the ever-changing present. These two fashion the third, Skuld (debt), all that is as yet unresolved and which determines the future. Thus the actions of past and present determine what is yet to come.

The Norns dwell under one of the three roots of Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, which is watered by the spring of Urd (past causes). So also is every individual tree of life, large or little, watered by the causes created in the past, modified by the choices of the present, and helping to create the future.

When a human being dies, his life is judged by Odin Allfather at the well of Urd and on her advice the post-mortem condition is determined on the basis of the quality of the life just past. Before birth the soul once again visits the well of Urd, who then selects a mother for its coming birth into the world of earth.

The norns correspond to the Greek Moirai who also spin the thread of life for all beings.

Noumenon [from Greek noeo to perceive with the mind, think; cf nous] Plural Noumena. An object perceived by the mind apart from the senses, an object of cognition. Also the unknown real entity, substance, or essential thing-in-itself, which the mind perforce posits as the basis of the phenomenon, appearance, or objective thing; hence reality as distinguished from apparent or sensible qualities. Thus aether or ākāśa is called the noumenon of ether; noumena are the conscious guiding causes behind the physical cosmic forces and elements. The emphasis is upon consciousness and intelligence as opposed to mere appearances, or to the conception of the blind forces and inert elements of materialism. Behind every phenomenon must lie a noumenon: the former is the intelligent cause, the latter the produced effect or appearance.

Nous (Greek) [from noos from the verbal root no, gno, cf Sanskrit jñā, Latin nosco, gnosco, German kennen, English ken, know] Mind; especially enlightened spiritual intelligence (buddhi-manas) as contrasted with the mere lower mind or ratiocinative faculty, deluded as it always is by passion and ignorance.

Nout, see Nut


(Egyptian) Also Noot, Noun, Nout, Nu. Goddess of the sky or cosmic space — whether of the solar system or the galaxy — daughter of Shu and Tefnut, wife of Seb (the cosmic earth or outspread space), mother of Osiris and Isis, and of Set and Nephthys or Neith; the heavens personified. Some manuscripts distinguish between Nut, the day sky, and Naut, the night sky, although the two are but lower and higher aspects of one cosmic divinity. Her attributes partake of those of the other nature goddesses in the Egyptian pantheon: she is addressed as Lady of Heaven, who gave birth to all the gods. The favorite representation of Nut is of a woman bending so that her body forms a semicircle — a part of the endless circle of space — upon which the stars are portrayed, while her consort, Seb, prostrate beneath her, completes the circle. Again, the solar boat is represented sailing up over the lower limbs, in order to pursue its journey over the day sky; and sailing down her arms to complete its cycle in the night sky.

Nut is an important goddess of the Underworld and figures largely in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. She is one of the twelve deities who judge the deceased. Her office was to supply food and water, enabling the one entering the Underworld (Tuat) to rise in a renewed body, even as Ra, the sun god, arose from the egg produced by Seb and Nut. Thus, wherever possible, the sarcophagus had the figure of the goddess represented upon it, her protective wings spread over the deceased, her hands holding the emblems of celestial water and air.

The Greek nous “was the designation given to the Supreme deity (third logos) by Anaxagoras. Taken from Egypt where it was called Nout, it was adopted by the Gnostics for their first conscious AEon which, with the Occultists, is the third logos, cosmically, and the third ‘principle’ (from above) or manas, in man. . . .

“In the Pantheon of the Egyptians it meant the ‘One-only-One,’ because they did not proceed in their popular or exoteric religion higher than the third manifestation which radiates from the Unknown and the Unknowable, the first unmanifested and the second logoi in the esoteric philosophy of every nation. The Nous of Anaxagoras was the Mahat of the Hindu Brahmā, the first manifested Deity — ‘the Mind or Spirit self-potent’; this creative Principle being of course the primum mobile of everything in the Universe — its Soul and Ideation” (TG 234).

Some of the most abstract attributes connected with Nut place her at times as the Second Logos; but because the Second contains the Third Logos, and therefore the Mother being in a sense identical with her Daughter, it follows that not infrequently the attributes of Nut place her as the higher portion of the Third Logos.



The mountain of the Greek god Zeus (dio-nysos), variously placed in Thrace, Boeotia, Arabia, India, Asia Minor, and Libya. Around this mountain were the Nysian plains, where the goddess Demeter used to collect flowers.