Copyright © 1999 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
EDITORS’ NOTE: This online version of the Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary is a work in progress. The manuscript, originally produced in the 1930s and ’40s, is currently being revised and expanded, and will be updated periodically. Comments, corrections, and suggestions are welcome; please send to email@example.com
For ease of searching, diacritical marks are omitted, with the exception of Hebrew and Sanskrit terms, where after the main head a current transliteration with accents is given.
Quick links: Aa-Adh | Adi-Ag | Ah-Al | Am-Ani | Anj-Arc | Ard-Asr | Ass-Atm | Ato-Az | Ba-Be | Bh-Bo | Br-Bz | Ca-Ce | Cha-Chy | Ci-Cz | Da-Der | Des-Dir | Dis-Dz | Ea-El | Em-Ez | F | Ga-Gl | Gn-Gz | Ha-Hh | Hi-Hz | I | J | Ka | Ke-Kz | La-Li | Lo-Lz | Ma-Mam | Man-Mar | Mas-Me | Mi-Mo | Mp-Mz | Nf-Nz | O | Pa-Peq | Per-Pi | Pl-Pral | Pram-Prj | Pro-Pz | Q-Rec | Red-Roos | Root-Rz | Sa-Sal | Sam-Saq | Sar-Sec | Sed-Sez | Sh-Sir | Sis-Som | Son-Sq | Sr-Sum | Sun-Sz | Ta-Tel | Tem-Thn | Tho-Tre | Tri-Tz | U | Va-Vih | Vij-Vz | W-X | Y | Z
ETG Main Page
List of Abbreviations
Naasenians, Naassenes [from Hebrew nāḥāsh serpent] A Gnostic school of the Ophites [from Greekophis serpent], which regarded the spiritual dragon or serpent as the redeeming power and as a symbol of the intelligence by whose means Adam and Eve received a knowledge of the existence of higher beings than their creator. The dragon or serpent is an extremely ancient, universal symbol of wisdom and knowledge. Only in Christian times has it become endowed with infernal attributes and used as an emblem of the Evil One. Yet even the Christian scriptures declare that divinity itself can properly be symbolized by the dragon.
Naba’ (Hebrew) Nābā’ Neba’ (Chaldean) Nĕbā’ To deliver an oracle, prophesy, predict future events. See also NABI’
Nabatheans or Nabateans [from Shem Nebo Mercury] Worshipers of Mercury; a people of ancient Arabia, an offshoot of the Persian Yezidi, spoken of by Josephus, Jerome, Pliny, and others. Diodorus (312 BC) describes them as a tribe of some 10,000 warriors, preeminent among the nomad Arabs, eschewing agriculture, fixed abode, and wine, living by pastoral pursuits and trade.
Nabathean Agriculture was translated about 1860 by Orientalist Chwolsohn into German from the Arabic translation of the Chaldean, widely considered a forgery. The Jewish scholar Maimonides (1135-1204), however, spoke pointedly of it as a specimen of archaic literature, though he disagreed with its teachings. Chwolsohn describes the book as a complete initiation into the mysteries of the “pre-Adamite” nations, and a compendium of Chaldean and other ancient lore. But the book shows periods of incalculable duration and numberless dynasties preceding the so-called Adamic race. The doctrines propounded therein were originally told by Saturn to the Moon, who communicated them to her eidolon, who revealed them to the author of the original work, Qu-tamy.
That the work is a compilation is true enough, but not in the sense meant by skeptical scholars; for its is a compilation of teachings of the archaic secret doctrine under the exoteric form of Chaldean symbols, for the purpose of at once cloaking and handing down the teachings.
Nabhastala (Sanskrit) Nabhastala The under side or bottom of the clouds, the regions of the atmosphere where clouds are; sometimes used for sky or heaven. Nabhasthala, another spelling, signifies the sthala (home, residence, place) of the clouds, and hence is often used for ether or the entire atmosphere of the earth, higher and lower.
Nabhi (Sanskrit) Nābhi According to one tradition, the grandfather of the great monarch and sage, Bharata, who gave his name to Bharata- or Bharata-varsha, or India.
Nabi’ (Hebrew) Nābī’ [from nābā’ to deliver an oracle] A prophet, one inspired to foretell future events; the name given to prophecy in the Bible. One of the “spiritual powers, such as divination, clairvoyant visions, trance-conditions, and oracles. But while enchanters, diviners, and even astrologers are strictly condemned in the Mosaic books, prophecy, seership, and nobia appear as the special gifts of heaven. In early ages they were all termed Epoptai, the Greek word for seers, clairvoyants; after which they were designated as Nebim [nebi’im] ‘the plural of Nebo, the Babylonian god of wisdom.’ The kabalist distinguishes between the seer and the magician; one is passive, the other active; Nebirah [nabi’] is one who looks into futurity and a clairvoyant; Nebi-poel [nebi’-po‘el], he who possesses magic powers” (IU 1:xxxvii).
Sons or disciples of prophets were called Benei Nebi’im.
Nabo, Nabu. See NEBO
Nachash. See NAHASH
Nachnis. See NAUTCH
Nada (Sanskrit) Nāda Sound; used by Blavatsky mystically for the voice of the silence or soundless voice: “Literally perhaps this would read ‘Voice in the Spiritual Sound,’ ” (VS 73).
Nadabindupanishad (Sanskrit) Nādabindūpaniṣad One of the Upanishads of the Rig-Veda.
Nadi (Sanskrit) Nāḍi 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 channels that really form the spinal column, and which carry vital and other important currents in the human constitution. The nadis are all intimately connected in function and structure with the chakras, being the influent and effluent channels to and fro as between nadi and other nadis 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.
Naga (Sanskrit) Nāga 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 nagas or serpents of wisdom are, therefore, full initiates: “the first Nagas — 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 (Kriyasakti) of the holy sages’ of the early Third Race” (SD 2:181). These first nagas 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 Dhyanis, 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).
The early Mexican word nagual, now meaning sorcerer and medicine man, is akin in its meaning, for “Some of the descendants of the primitive Nagas, the Serpents of Wisdom, peopled America, when its continent arose during the palmy days of the great Atlantis, (America being the Patala or Antipodes of Jambu-Dwipa, not of Bharata-Varsha)” (SD 2:182). The Hebrew equivalent is nahash also meaning magic, enchantment, thus showing the same connection of ideas.
Naga may be equated with Ananta-sesha, the seven-headed endless serpent of Vishnu, “the great dragon eternity biting with its active head its passive tail, from the emanations of which spring worlds, beings and things. . . . The Nag awakes. He heaves a heavy breath and the latter is sent like an electric shock all along the wire encircling Space” (ML 73).
Naga-dvipa (Sanskrit) Nāga-dvīpa The island of the dragons; one of the seven divisions of Bharata-varsha or India, according to the Puranas. The nagas were an historical people, but now unknown. “When the Brahmans invaded India they ‘found a race of wise men, half-gods, half-demons,’ says the legend, men who were the teachers of other races and became likewise the instructors of the Hindus and the Brahmans themselves. Nagpur is justly believed to be the surviving relic of Nagadwipa. Now Nagpur is virtually in Rajputana, near Oodeypore, Ajmere, etc. And is it not well known that there was a time when Brahmans went to learn Secret Wisdom from the Rajputs? Moreover a tradition states that Apollonius of Tyana was instructed in magic by the Nagas of Kashmere” (TG 222-3).
Nagal (Quiche) Usually rendered Nagual by the early Spaniards; title of the chief priest of the Quiches.
Nagarajas (Sanskrit) Nāgarāja-s Serpent or dragon kings; the guardian spirits of lakes and rivers, shown in Buddhist chronicles as having been converted to Buddhism, becoming arhats from yogis. Outside of meaning initiates or adepts, nagas were likewise an actual people who inhabited Naga-dvipa, one of the seven divisions of Bharata-varsha or India, according to the Puranas.
Nagarjuna (Sanskrit) Nāgārjuna A Buddhist arhat or sage born in Western India about 223 BC, generally recognized in Northern Buddhism as a bodhisattva-nirmanakaya. After his conversion to Buddhism, he went to China, and according to legend converted the whole country to Buddhism. He was famous for his dialectical subtlety in metaphysical argument, and was the first teacher of the Amitabha doctrine. He was one of the most prominent representatives and a founder of the esoteric Mahayana system. The source of his deeper teachings is undoubtedly the secret school of adepts; and his esoteric doctrine is one with esoteric theosophy. He was called the Dragon-Tree on account of his esoteric wisdom; and was referred to as one of the four suns which illumine the world.
Naglfar (Icelandic) [from nagl nail + far to travel] In Norse tradition, a mythical ship built of the nails of the dead, which casts off when a world’s life cycle comes to an end.
Nagkon Wat (Nakhon Wat) An imposing temple — situated about five miles south of Nakhon or Ankhor, the ancient capital of Kampuchea (Cambodia) — composed of three concentric rectangular enclosures, each rising above the other. “After the Pyramids this is the most occult edifice in the whole world. . . . entirely built of stone, the roof included, . . . the stones fitting so closely that the joints are even now hardly discernible” (TG 223).
Native historians attribute the foundation of the temple to the Prince of Roma, a legendary hero, while European scholars place it in the 13th century under Buddhist influence. This does not account for the preponderating scenes from ancient Hindu mythology, for the figures sculptured in the Egyptian manner (the side turned toward the front), for the man-fish deity (similar to Dagon of ancient Babylon) sculptured several times on the walls, or for the kabeirian gods of Samothrace, with their parent Vulcan. Though the Kabiri were once universally worshiped as the most ancient of the Asiatic mystery-gods, this worship was abandoned 200 years BC, and the Samothracian Mysteries had been completely altered by that time (IU 1:566).
Nagual. See NAGAL
Nahash (Hebrew) Nāḥāsh [from nāḥash to whisper, hiss, prognosticate, practice divination] Serpent; a constellation — the serpent or dragon in the northern quarter of the heavens; also a city. In the Bible, the name of two Ammonite kings (1, 2 Sam). Used by Western Qabbalists for the Evil One, supposedly meaning the “deprived,” referring to the serpent of the creation story as being deprived of limbs; but Blavatsky holds that this interpretation is erroneous, for “the Fire-Devas, the Rudras, and the Kumaras, the ‘Virgin-Angels,’ (to whom Michael and Gabriel, the Archangels, both belong), the divine ‘Rebels’ — called by the all-materializing and positive Jews, the Nahash or ‘Deprived’ — preferred the curse or incarnation and the long cycles of terrestrial existence and rebirths, to seeing the misery (even if unconscious) of the beings (evolved as shadows out of their Brethren) through the semi-passive energy of their too spiritual Creators. . . . This voluntary sacrifice of the Fiery Angels, whose nature was Knowledge and Love, was construed by the exoteric theologies into a statement that shows ‘the rebel angels hurled down from heaven into the darkness of Hell’ — our Earth” (SD 2:246). See also BRAZEN SERPENT
Naimittika Pralaya and Naimittika Manvantara (Sanskrit) Naimittika-pralaya, -manvantara [from naimittika occasional, unusual, due to external cause from nimitti] Occasional dissolution or manifestation; in Hindu literature, pralayas or manvantaras which are unusual or occasional because occurring at wide intervals, either of time or circumstance, especially those separated by Brahma’s Days and Nights. A naimittika pralaya occurs when Brahma slumbers: it is the destruction of all that lives and has form, but not of the substance, which remains more or less in statu quo till the new dawn after that Night of Brahma. At the end of a Day of Brahma there occurs what is called in the Puranas a recoalescence of the universe, called Brahma’s “contingent or naimittika recoalescence or pralaya,” because Brahma is this universe itself. A naimittika pralaya is thus similar to the bhaumika or planetary pralaya (cf SD 1:371-2, 376-7).
As another example of its usage, when a human being through a series of high initiation casts off the chains of material existence although retaining sufficient attraction to bring about a return to such existence, this could be called a naimittika event.
Nakash. See NAHASH
Nakshatra (Sanskrit) Nakṣatra Generally a star, constellation, or any heavenly body; sometimes collectively, the stars. Also a lunar mansion, the name of an asterism through which the moon passes, of which 27 are enumerated, and in later times 28. In the Vedas the nakshatras are considered the abodes of the divinities and of holy persons after death.
Naljor rnal ’byor (nal-jor) (Tibetan) A disciple undergoing training under the advice and guidance of one higher than himself, a holy man who is learned in the secret wisdom; and occasionally, a glorified adept — because even such an adept is inferior to others more advanced than himself, and under whose guidance and training he lives and strives towards higher things. Equivalent to the Sanskrit yoga-kshema (the acquisition of yoga, or maintaining yoga and acquiring).
Naman (Sanskrit) Nāman also Nāma. A name, appellation.
Nama-rupa (Sanskrit) Nāma-rūpa [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 Vedanta. Philosophically, naman signifies the particular characteristics of the manifesting personality. Every individual has his or its own particular naman, as well as his or its own particular rupa. In consequence nama-rupa is the personality working through its two or three forms or bodies, the kama-rupa, the linga-sarira (astral form), and the sthula-sarira (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 nama-rupa of the sun is not the divinity, but the manifesting personality of the particular sun working through its particular rupa.
Namas (Sanskrit) Namas [from nam to bow, make reverence; cf Pali namo] A reverence, consisting of an inclination of the body; both in act and in writing a reverential salutation. “The first word of a daily invocation among Buddhists, meaning ‘I humbly trust, or adore, or acknowledge’ the Lord, as: ‘Namo tasso Bhagavato Arahato’ etc., addressed to Lord Buddha. The priests are called ‘Masters of Namah’ [Namas] — both Buddhist and Taoist, because this word is used in liturgy and prayers, in the invocation of the Tiratna, and with a slight change in the occult incantations to the Bodhisattvas and Nirmanakayas” (TG 224).
Namaste (honor, reverence, to thee!) is used in greeting gurus and spiritual sages.
Name The Word or Logos may be considered in a twofold aspect as Voice and Name, reminiscent of the Sanskrit nama-rupa (name and form), technical terms inasmuch as nama is not merely a human utterance but contains the idea of creative sound, and rupa (form) signifying not so much mere vehicle, but the conscious production of the creative akasa or sound.
In Simon Magus’ Gnostic system, the first three pairs of emanations from divine fire are mind and thought, voice and name, reason and reflection; the first in each case is masculine, the second feminine. A name evokes a thought, which is a creative power, but in itself is the production of a creative thought.
People have concealed their names; others refrain from speaking theirs. The name becomes much more potent when spoken, for then is added the power of vibration. Most names of things are counters, for they differ in different languages; yet even these names acquire power by familiarity. But there are real natural vibrational names for things; to know the real name of a power gives one mastery over it and enables one thus to evoke that power. For this reason great secrecy throughout all past time among initiates has been preserved as to the real names of powers, deities, etc. The four-letter name of Jehovah is popularly described as ineffable and incommunicable, although the four letters are merely human makeshift for the vibrational energy of which the Tetragrammaton is a mere symbol. These epithets may mean that it cannot be spoken and communicated, or that it must not. If it cannot be spoken, then it has to be discovered by each one for himself.
Says the Christian Apocalypse: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” The name thus denotes the essential character of the being.
Nameless Deity, Nameless One The real name of a thing is its essential characteristic, is itself; therefore that which is beyond all attributes must necessarily be nameless. It is nameless because incognizable; it is the One Reality, ’eyn soph, the Absolute. The expression may occasionally be applied to other beings whose name it is necessary to withhold, such as the Wondrous Being, who has to remain nameless (SD 1:207). See also WATCHER; WONDROUS BEING
Name of God, The In Welsh Enw Duw, written. This name was sounded at the birth of the universe, “whereupon latency flashed into existence more swiftly than the lightning reaches its home.” This sacred word is given as O I W — the Welsh w being a vowel, equivalent to the Sanskrit u. But in Cywydd Cyfrinach (“The Poem of the Secret,” by Rhys Goch o Eryri, c. 11th century), a poem on this sacred word, we are told that the letters of it are to be taken from the words Awen and Menw, which would suggest the Sanskrit pranava Aum.
Name, Sacred Most names are labels, and according to ancient occult theory to disclose the real name of a being is to evoke the presence of that being, a knowledge which is made use of in magical evocations. To name the Deity would be an initiation, a revelation, fit only for ears prepared to receive it. Supreme deities are said to be ineffable — their names cannot or may not be spoken — as was the case with the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, IHVH, often written Jehovah, Jahveh, etc., but whose real pronunciation was secret and sacred. Qabbalists, in order to screen the real mystery-name of ’eyn soph (the boundless), substituted the name of one of the personal creative ’elohim, the hermaphrodite Jah-Eve; and the name was made sacred in order to conceal the deception (SD 2:126). As a substitute for Jehovah the name ’Adonai (my Lords), was afterwards used when reading the ancient Hebrew scriptures aloud for and instead of the , which appeared written on the manuscript, because YHVH was considered too holy for utterance.
Nanda (Sanskrit) Nanda [from the verbal root nand to rejoice] Joy, happiness; the name of the cowherd who brought up Krishna; also one of the kings of Magadha whose dynasty was overthrown by Chandragupta.
Nandi (Sanskrit) Nandi [from the verbal root nand to rejoice] The happy one; title given to many of the higher gods of the Hindu pantheon.
Nandin (Sanskrit) Nandin Rejoicing; a name of the sacred white bull of Siva, and also of his vahana (vehicle).
Nanna The Norse goddess of the now-dead moon, wife of the sun god Balder. When Balder was slain by his blind brother Hodur with the fateful mistletoe twig, Nanna died of a broken heart and was placed beside her husband on his pyreship. Her half-sister is Idun, the present earth goddess corresponding to the Greek Gaia. Idun continues to carry out Nanna’s task of supplying the gods with the apples of immortality of which they must partake daily to preserve their youth.
Nannak or Nannar (Chaldean) A name of the moon deity Sin, son of Mulil or Mul-lil, especially at Nippur, the principal seat of what was termed Chaldean magic. The Akkadians called him the Lord of Ghosts. In Chaldean or Assyrian mythology, the derivation of Nannak (the moon) from the sun is characteristic; whereas in the earlier mythology the moon is stated to be far older than the sun.
Nara (Sanskrit) Nara [cf Sanskrit nṛ, Zend nar, Greek aner Latin nero] A man; in the Mahabharata and the Puranas, sometimes used as an equivalent for cosmic Purusha — the primordial universal Man, or the hierarchical essence pervading the solar system often associated with Narayana, both being considered as cosmic rishis. The Bhagavad-Gita makes a poetic identification of Arjuna or the human monad with Nara, and Krishna or the Logos with Narayana — this distinction showing the same suggestive difference in the human sphere that exists between Nara and Narayana in the cosmic.
In the plural, used in the Mahabharata and Puranas for a class of mythological beings closely allied with the gandharvas and kinnaras. Naras are described as being “Centaurs, men with the limbs of horses and human bodies” (SD 2:65n).
Narada (Sanskrit) Nārada One of the ten great rishis, mind-born sons of Brahma, or prajapatis; the most difficult to understand of the Vedic rishis because the most closely connected with occult doctrines.
“Narada is here, there, and everywhere; and yet, none of the Puranas gives the true characteristics of this great enemy of physical procreation. Whatever those characteristics may be in Hindu Esotericism, Narada — 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 adi-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-Karaka,’ strife-maker, ‘Kapi-vaktra,’ monkey-faced, and even ‘Pisuna,’ the spy, though elsewhere he is called Deva-Brahma. . . .
“What Narada 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 Narada. 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).
Naraka (Sanskrit) Naraka 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 rupa (form) worlds as contrasted with the arupa (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).
Narasimha-avatara (Sanskrit) Narasiṃha-avatāra also Nṛsiṃha. The man-lion avatara; a descent of Vishnu, the sustainer of life, in the form of a man-lion in order to deliver the earth from the demon Hiranyakasipu, a despoiler of the world. These various avataras, when considered in their order of appearance, present a picture of evolutionary progress from lower to higher avataric imbodiments. They are usually reckoned as ten in number, yet one or more of the Puranas reckon the avataric imbodiments as 22, having in mind the occult meaning behind all cosmic or geologic avataric appearances. As the Bhagavata-Purana states, innumerable are the imbodiments (in avataric form) of Vishnu, for they are like the rivulets emanating from a lake of inexhaustible power. Rishis, manus, gods, sons of manus, prajapatis are therefore all emanations or portions of Vishnu.
Narayana (Sanskrit) Nārāyaṇa [from nāra human from nara man + ayana 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 dhyanis or gods moving in and on the waters of creation (cf Manu 1:10). Here nara applies to the cosmogonical Logos, and ayana 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 Narayana stands for the primeval manifestation of the life principle spreading in infinite space, or again the Isvara, 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, akasa; and the spirit is Narayana, Vishnu, 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” (SD 1:626).
Brahma is a permutation, so far as meanings go, of Narayana, the spirit of god entering into and fructifying nature — which indeed is itself. The cosmic Neptune or Poseidon, the Egyptian Ra, and the Hindu Idaspati (the master of the waters) correspond with Narayana or Vishnu.
Narjol. See NALJOR
Naros. See NEROS
Narrow-headed, Narrow-brained Mindless; the early third root-race, whose jivas were not ready, and who were therefore spurned by the manasaputric monads or lords ready for the over-enlightening or overshadowing of the then mindless human stock. The narrow-headed, at least a portion of them, afterwards took unto themselves huge she-animals and begat “dumb races,” the origin of the older simians. See also MINDLESS
Narthex (Greek) [cf Latin ferula] A tall umbelliferous plant, with a jointed stem from which the pith could be extracted, making it hollow; one of its varieties is the giant fennel. It is said that Prometheus, when he took the fire from heaven to bring it to man, hid it in a hollow narthex. Also used for the wand of the initiator in the Dionysian Mysteries. Greek and Roman palaces and temples contained an arcaded passage called narthex, and this has passed into the early Christian basilicas and so into modern churches.
The narthekophoros (reed carrier) was equivalent to the thyrsus bearer in the procession of the Mysteries, the allusion being to the higher self of man.
Nastika (Sanskrit) Nāstika [from na not + āstika one who believes in the existence of the orthodox exoteric divinity and divinities] One who rejects the orthodox and exoteric religious teachings concerning the divinities, and who in consequence is apt to be called an atheist by orthodox exotericists. As all such orthodox exotericism really consists, at least in very large measure, in looking upon the divinities in the universe as objects of adoration, much after the manner in which the populace worships idols, hence nastika can likewise be considered to mean one who rejects idols, including every anthropomorphic god. In this sense every genuine occultist is a nastika, although every occultist will affirm the existence of divinities, gods, spiritual beings, or dhyani-chohans — call them by what name is preferred — in the universe, stating indeed that the universe is filled full with divinities or essentially spiritual beings in the myriad stages of evolutionary development. But the occultist, while revering the more grandly spiritual hierarchies of these divinities, worships or adores none of them, reserving his unspeakably deep reverence for that nameless ineffable mystery which is beyond, above, and within the boundless All, and therefore is not only unspeakable but unthinkable.
Natakashala (Sanskrit) Nāṭakaśāla [from nāṭaka dancing + śāla hall, stage] Stage, dancing hall.
Natha (Sanskrit) Nātha [from nāth to be master] Lord, protector; title of gods and men, as Badrinatha (lord of mountains), a famous place of pilgrimage; and Gopinatha (lord of the shepherdesses), of Krishna.
Nativity In Christianity, the supposed birth of Jesus about the time of the winter solstice. This date is due to the labors of the 6th century Roman abbot, Dionysius Exiguus. The first year of this reckoning, which later became the accepted Christian era, is called 1 AD, and the preceding year is called by chronologers 1 BC, but others here insert a year zero. The epoch of the birth or nativity of Jesus is generally thought to be four years too late, but one may have well-grounded suspicions that these four years themselves are far too late, and efforts by various scholars have at times been made to place the birth of Jesus in the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, the son of Johannes Hyrcanus, the same Alexander having succeeded his brother Aristobolus I, as King of the Jews, in 104 BC.
Also used for the chart which is cast at the moment of a person’s birth in drawing up a horoscope.
Natural Selection In Darwinian theory, an important factor in biological evolution. If, for example, a number of animals of one species are exposed to an unduly cold climate, many will die, and the survivors will be the hardier ones. These hardier ones are said to transmit their hardiness to their posterity, whereby the species becomes modified to that extent. A continual succession of such small changes, provoked by changes of environment, was supposed to act cumulatively, thus eventually producing the differences distinguishing one species from another. From this, in combination with other kinds of selection, such as sexual selection, the higher animal types have in the course of ages been derived from the lower.
The theory is open to grave objections on several grounds. There is a complete lack of evidence of the existence of any such permanently cumulative effect; further, such variations are temporary, and procreation tends to a reversion to the standard type as soon as the environmental influence is withdrawn. Again, such a process would tend to produce the greatest diversity and divergence among the species, each variety differentiating more and more widely in its own special direction, without any tendency toward a mounting scale of perfection from ameba to man. Such natural selection in itself is but a process or a result, and cannot become operative as a cause or agent except in connection with some purposeful directive energy from within or without. When novel varieties of fruit and flowers are bred, a breeder is at work, with energy and ideas in his mind.
The Mendelian principle of heredity and the combining of the genes in the germ-cells have been found so important in determining variations that the old “natural selection of chance variations” plays a far smaller part in thought concerning evolution than formerly. But the old question still stands: what brings about the combination of genes, or other outward mechanism, that results in the building of the ladder of life from the lowest known to the highest known manifestations of consciousness? Many modern biologists are looking upon evolution as the interaction of life and environment; but life is far more than the physicochemical properties of the genes, the supposed units of heredity. Natural selection, then, is inadequate to yield the results demanded of it; and it still remains to show how any evolution, any response or adaptation to environment, can take place without a pre-formed plan or an innate vital urge within the organism.
Natura Naturans (Latin) Nature naturing; Spinoza, who identified God and nature, distinguished between natura naturans and natura naturata (nature natured), the former being the immanent, universal causal nature which manifests itself in innumerable modes (physical, psychological, and other), the sum of all of which is natura naturata. This is pantheism, as far as it goes.
Natura naturans may be viewed as the continuously striving, ever-changing nature, yearning towards higher things, which thus brings about an unending and uninterrupted movement towards betterment, caused by the inner spiritual urge at the heart of beings to express throughout endless time ever fuller manifestations of latent power and faculty; whereas natura naturata is nature considered arbitrarily at any point in time and space, such as the continuous present, being nature as it is at such arbitrarily chosen point.
Natura Non Facit Saltum (Latin) Nature makes no leap, nature does not go by jumps; used by biological evolutionists, especially Darwin, to denote the uniformity and unbroken continuity of natural processes of physical transformation. In this respect Darwin seems to have been a philosopher and idealist, since here he was trying to find factual evidence for an idea which he felt to be true, rather than making inferences from facts as observed. His difficulty in finding that evidence is well known. Since there is continuous development throughout nature, we infer that the hypothesis of separate organisms is an incomplete picture of reality. It will never be easy to explain how things are linked with one another, so long as we begin with the false assumption that they are radically separate.
The mutation or saltation theories seem to favor the idea that nature can make jumps; but processes which are gradual and uniform on the formative planes may often produce results comparatively sudden on the plane of physical manifestation.
If biological scientists recognize that inner and invisible worlds are the noumenal causes of the exterior or physical world, the difficulty in reconciling the perfectly true adage “nature makes no jumps,” would then vanish; they would then see that the physical plane in its manifestation is the effect of inner and driving causes, and that what appears separate on the physical plane is only so because it is the plane of bodies of a physically material character. Indeed, had we the percipient vision to see it and therefore to know it, we should perceive that even this apparently discrete physical plane, broken up as it apparently is into uncounted myriads of different entities, is really itself no exception to nature’s rule of unbroken continuity throughout; for even the apparently separate entities composing the physical plane are inextricably woven together into a vast web of life by the underlying substances of nature and the ever-active and continuously moving forces which are physical nature itself.
Nature Spirits Those imperfectly evolved elementals or elemental spirits which in their unthinkably vast aggregate form the entire background of all the manifested cosmos in its seven-, ten-, or twelve-fold ranges of being. The beings in hierarchies further advanced in evolution than the human kingdom are termed dhyani-chohans. The nature spirits of the three higher cosmic planes are of incomprehensibly greater power as well as even possibly of lofty spiritual and intellectual development than those of the four lower cosmic planes, although unevolved monads or spiritual elementals exist in multitudinous hosts on these three spiritual cosmic planes likewise. Hence it is that the harmonious work of all the cosmic planes depends upon their interactions and interrelations, under the guidance of highly evolved cosmic spirits or dhyani-chohans. The nature spirits therefore are as much present and active in the visible world as they are in the invisible spheres.
Called in different ages by a host of names, they are best known in Europe by the terms given by the medieval Fire-philosophers: salamanders (beings of the element fire); sylphs (denizens of the element air); undines (the water elementals); and gnomes (beings of the element earth). These are all general terms for elementals, whether of spiritual or material worlds, though most commonly used for the more material elementals.
Nautch (Anglo-Indian) [from Hindi nach a dance, from the Sanskrit nṛtya to dance, perform dramatically] A dance with pantomimic gestures performed in India by professional dancers, called by Europeans nautch girls, the professional dancers attached to the temples of India.
One of the original ideas symbolized in archaic pantomimic dancing was the representation of the planets revolving around the sun. The Vishnu-Purana recounts that the dance was created by Krishna when, during his boyhood among the gopas or herds-people of Mathura, he taught it to the gopis (herdswomen). Its base-figure was the circling of many around one who remained in the center, and the Purana touches upon a mystery in the statement that Krishna, although dancing with each one in the circle, yet all the time remained in the center.
Nava (Sanskrit) Nava The number nine; also, new.
Nava-nidhi (Sanskrit) Nava-nidhi The nine jewels; in Hindu mysticism, “a consummation of spiritual development . . .” (TG 225).
Nave [from Latin navis a ship] Transferred to cruciform churches from the ancient basilicas, which in turn were evolved from temples; remembering that navis, together with boat, ark, and similar words denoting a receptacle, was a symbol of the Sidereal Vessel or womb of nature, one can understand its application to a temple, with its mystical and initiatory ceremonies in ancient days, where light and new birth were given to those who had prepared themselves to receive.
Navis. See NAVE
Naya (Sanskrit) Naya [from the verbal root nī to lead] Wisdom, prudence, harmony; also the essence of government in all its branches, and especially civil administration.
Nazar [from Hebrew nāzar to consecrate, devote, set apart] Also nazir, nezer. A Nazarite, or one consecrated; the specific name for Nazarite is nazir, a body or companionship of ascetics among the ancient Hebrews who set themselves apart, or consecrated themselves, to holiness and divine things. They belong to the school of ancient Chaldean initiates and “the nazars or prophets, as well as the Nazarenes, were an anti-Bacchus caste, in so far that, in common with all the initiated prophets, they held to the spirit of the symbolical religions and offered a strong opposition to the idolatrous and exoteric practices of the dead letter. Hence, the frequent stoning of the prophets by the populace and under the leadership of those priests who made a profitable living out of the popular superstition” (IU 2:129). Joseph, Sampson, and Samuel are described as Nazars. Likewise “Paul must have belonged to this class of Initiates, for he himself tells the Galatians (i, 15) that he was separated or ‘set apart’ from the moment of his birth; and that he had his hair cut at Cenchrea, because ‘he had a vow’ (Acts xviii, 18) i.e., had been initiated as a Nazar; after which he became a ‘master-builder’ (1 Corinth. iii, 10)” (TG 226).
Nazarenes One of two early sects of Christians, the other sect being the Ebionites, which go back in their origin before the Christian era. They were disciples of that Jeshua ben Panthera who was an initiated teacher living in the reign of Alexander Jannaeus, who ruled over the Jews from 104-79 BC, and around whom, some state, that the Gospels story of Jesus was built (cf IU 2:201). The Greek for this name is Nazoraioi, confused both with Nazarenoi (inhabitants of Nazareth) and with the Jewish sect of Nazarites; for Matthew 2:23 says that Jesus came and dwelt in Nazareth, that the Jewish prophecy that he should be called a Nazoraios might be fulfilled. This word has been translated Nazarene, as is also the case in Acts 24:5, where Paul is said to belong to the sect of the Nararaioi. It would appear that the Jews claimed Jesus as a Nazarite [from Hebrew nazar to set apart, consecrate; cf nazar].
Like the Ebionites, the Nazarenes were followers of true esoteric teachings, and occupied themselves in adapting these to what they found around them; so that scholars cannot make up their minds whether to call them Jews, Christians, Judizing Christians, heretics, or what not. Other names for them were St. John Christians, Mendeans, or Sabeans. Epiphanius, the 4th century Church Father, speaks of them as dwelling in Coele-Syria, where they had taken refuge after the expulsion of Jews in the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Both his and Jerome’s accounts represent them as partly Jewish and partly Christian, accepting the new covenant as well as the old. One of their main texts is the Codex Nazaraeus.
N’cabvah (Hebrew) Nĕqēbāh [from nāqab to hollow out, excavate] Cavity, pipe, or even a cavern, a phallic term applicable to the female, whether of beast or man, hence often used for woman or womb, equivalent to the Sanskrit yoni. Generally rendered female in English translations of the Bible, as in “God created man in his own image . . . male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). The words sacr together with n’cabvah comprise together a reference to the bipolarity in manifested nature, particularly as applicable to this globe; and in the phallic thought of a certain school of ancient Judaism intimately connected with an occult meaning of Jehovah as the so-called creator or bipolar producer; for the two words of which Jehovah itself is composed contain direct reference to original ideas of male-female, as birth-originator [jah or jod phallus + hawwah, havvah Eve, yoni] (cf SD 2:467).
Nebban or Neibban (Chinese) Equivalent to nirvana; often called nippang in Tibet.
Nebelheim. See NIFLHEIM
Nebo, Nabu, Nabi’ (Hebrew) Nĕbō The proclaimer by prophecy; one of the chief deities of the Chaldean or Babylonian pantheon, the god of wisdom, recognized as fully by the ancient Hebrews as by the Chaldeans. The name and function of the divinity correspond to the Greek Hermes, the Egyptian Thoth, and the Hindu Budha, all of which are related to the regent of the planet Mercury.
Mercury throughout antiquity was always called the interpreter, often in the sense of a prophet or of one able to prophesy; Nebo from time immemorial has been the name for an initiate, an adept, particularly among certain Shemitic peoples, such as the Hebrews. Among other Shemites, such as the Assyrians and Chaldeans, this name forms a part of compound proper names, such as Nebuchadnezzar, Nabopolassar, and Nabonassar.
Nebo was among the Chaldeans and other peoples a god of the secret wisdom, and that particular divinity in those lands guiding the inner development of his children or little ones — names for initiated adepts.
The principal seat of his worship appears to have been at Borsippa (opposite the city of Babylon) where a temple-school flourished until the end of the neo-Babylonian empire — even surviving the conquest of Babylonia by Cyrus (538 BC). His original character cannot now be determined and he may have been a solar deity, although associated with water. His consort, Tashmit, is occasionally invoked with him. Nebo’s worship flourished before that of Marduk (the Biblical Merodach, probably the planet Mars and its regent), and when the latter was elevated to the chief position of the Babylonian pantheon, Nebo was regarded as his son and the two thereafter are more or less inseparable. Even in Assyria the worship of Nebo was made more prominent than the chief deity, Assur (’Ashshur) by some of the monarchs (e.g., Assurbanipal, 668-626 BC). His hieroglyph was the stylus, for he was regarded as the god of writing, prophecy, sacred chanting, and hence of song, having charge of the tablets of fate, on which he inscribed the names of men and forecast their destiny. His wisdom was likewise associated with the study of the heavenly bodies, hence the temple-school became famed for its astrologers. “Nebo is a creator, like Budha, of the Fourth and also of the Fifth Race. For the former starts a new race of Adepts, and the latter, the Solar-Lunar Dynasty, or the men of these Races and Round. Both are the Adams of their respective creatures” (SD 2:456).
In the Bible Nebo is the name of a mountain near Jericho whereon Moses dies; also an adjacent city (Deut 32-4). “The fact that Moses is made to die and disappear on the mount sacred to Nebo, shows him an initiate and a priest of that god under another name . . .” (ibid.).
Nebu (Gnostic-Hebrew) The planetary genius of Mercury in the Ophite Gnostic scheme. The Codex Nazaraeus states that Nebu is “a false Messiah, who will deprave the ancient worship of God,” according to Norberg (preface to his trans.)
Also, an alternative spelling of the Assyro-Babylonian god Nebo.
Nebula (Latin) Mist, cloud; in astronomy, cloudlike appearances seen at distances comparable to those of the fixed stars. A true or irresolvable nebula is said to be gaseous rather than a cluster of stars. Irresolvable nebulae are cosmic matter which has reached a plane of condensation where it is ready for building into worlds by the action of intelligent fohatic energy.
Dark nebulae are masses of unknown substance sufficient to obscure the light of the stars behind them. These are composed of primordial or dormant matter, or matter at times in a state of atomic dissociation. The kinetic activities of world-building in them have not yet begun, whereas the light nebulae represent the processes of building.
Theosophy holds that a nebula is the first stage of manifestation on the highest subplanes of the physical cosmic plane of the physical vehicle of a planet or star. Virtually all of the true irresolvable nebulae, however, are composed of matter which is hardly physical at all — physical matter in its 4th, 5th, 6th, or 7th state or condition counting upwards, and hence not the physical matter known and experimented upon in the laboratory.
Nebular Theory A theory of the origin of the solar system of Laplace, Herschel, and others, much in favor during the earlier part of the 19th century, but since fallen into disfavor. The hypothesis was devised to explain certain facts, especially that the planets all revolve in the same direction, that their satellites (except those of Uranus and Neptune) revolve around their primaries in this same direction, and that the planets so far as we know rotate in this same direction. The theory assumes the sun to have started as a very diffused, tenuous gas or nebula, extending much farther than its present volume. The combined influence of gravitation and of contraction by cooling resulted, in accordance with dynamic laws, in the separation of parts of the mass into rings, and these rings afterwards coalesced severally into planets; and their motions of revolution and rotation are thus according to this theory explained.
Better knowledge of the dynamic principles concerned has discredited the theory in its details; it conflicts particularly with the principle of the conservation of the moment of inertia and with the kinetic theory of gases. Moreover, the solar system is now seen to be more complex than had been supposed, the planetoids for instance having very eccentric motions.
In The Secret Doctrine Blavatsky credits the theory’s authors with a great intuitional perception of certain cosmogonical facts, and to a certain extent approves the theory in its broad outline but not in its details. Any theory which attempts to explain the universe on purely mechanical principles can be no more than one of a number of possible systems of graphic representation. The attempt to abstract the physical universe from the universe in general, while useful for special practical purposes, does not conduct us to the truth; and this is preeminently the case with such a subject as the origin of the solar system and the motions of its parts. Yet the nebular hypothesis in certain of its main elements is in accord with theosophic teachings, insofar, for instance, as it glimpses the gradual condensation of matter from a tenuous condition, in its segregation around centers, and in the essentially circular character of motion.
In the theosophic view, not only the galaxy itself is alive — an animate organism — but likewise each and every solar system comprised in it is likewise alive and therefore an organism. The term alive comprises mind or intelligence and spirit. Thus not only is the sun alive, because it is the body of a divinity, but likewise every one of the planets (excepting the moons) in the solar system is likewise an individual living entity, of which only the grossest or physical globe is apparent to our vision. The solar system, therefore, is a composite unit, formed of component individuals.
The nebular hypothesis was mainly rejected by the Masters and Blavatsky because of its typical materialistic and mechanical character. It is a fact that the solar system was originally formed from a vast nebula consolidating into the physical world from inner worlds — astral matter becoming physical matter — but guided by innate mind and life; and the various motions within the solar system arise from the innate vitality within it. Furthermore, although the planetary chains were originally born from this nebula, their respective life times are far shorter than that of the solar system itself, so that these planetary chains have their many reimbodiments during the life period of the solar system. Comets, if they survive, are usually destined to become planetary bodies in the solar system in their turn, running their life period, and then dying, to reappear as comets again after long ages of rest in inner worlds.
Ne-chung gnas chung (Tibetan) The national oracle of Tibet, both the person and the monastery where he resides. The Nechung oracle is consulted in matters of extreme importance; most well-known is consultation to help determine the birthplace of a new Dalai Lama.
Necromancy [from Greek nekros corpse + manteia divination] The art of obtaining information by invoking the image or shade of the departed. The practice is dangerous to the sorcerer and baneful to the astral entity whose fading remnants are thus temporarily revivified and disturbed.
The practice was ancient and widespread among the lower orders of the Greek and Roman peoples, and is expressly condemned by an uninterrupted testimony dating from archaic times, ancient legislators and philosophers condemning it, for it is a perversion of the real communion of the genuine spiritual theurgist with his own inner god. Modern Spiritualism is an unconscious blundering into necromancy; if the astral remains of the dead are really called up, then the normal processes of their dissolution are interfered with. If they are not called up, then they have been impersonated by still more harmful and dangerous denizens of the lower astral light.
Nefer-hetep. See KHENSU
Nehashim (Hebrew) Nĕḥāshīm [from nāḥash to whisper, secrecy, silence, to practice magic, divine the future] Serpents, serpent’s works; the study and practice of occult wisdom and magic. According to the Zohar (iii 302): “ ‘It is called nehhaschim, because the magicians (practical Kabalists) work surrounded by the light of the primordial serpent, which they perceive in heaven as a luminous zone composed of myriads of small stars’ . . . which means simply the astral light, so called by the Martinists, by Elephas Levi, and now by all the modern Occultists” (SD 2:409) — but it likewise shows the luminous zone as the Milky Way. The astral light is often referred to as the great deceiving serpent.
Nehhashim, Nehhaschim. See NEHASHIM
Nehhushtan. See NEHUSHTAN
Nehushtan (Hebrew) Nĕḥushtān [from nāḥash to whisper, practice divination] A serpent, both actual and mystical, especially the brazen or brass serpent; Hezekiah “brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: . . . and he called it Nehushtan” (2 Kings 28:4). Both the verbal root and its derivative nouns involve the meaning, not only of an omen or augury, but also enchantment, magic, incantation.
Neibban. See NIRVANA
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.
Nekhebet (Egyptian) A daughter of Ra, who in later texts becomes completely identified with Hathor, being styled the mother of the gods, she who brought forth light, etc. She and her sister Uatchit in the Underworld act as helpers of the dead. See also MUT
Nemesis (Greek) [from nemo distribute, allot] Originally a goddess of due proportion, who restores the proper order of things, but later used for the operation of divine wrath, for people who get their deserts tend to impute the wrath they feel to the divine law which allots. Nemesis has been called the retributive aspect of karma, yet in the earlier Greek writers she is the goddess who distributes both happiness and misery. It was only among the later writers that she became specially the punisher of crimes and the corrector of overweening exultation in good fortune. One of her names was Adrasteia, she whom no man can escape. But the idea of reward is, equally with that of punishment, man-made; for “Karma-Nemesis is the creator of nations and mortals, but once created, it is they who make of her either a fury or a rewarding Angel: (SD 1:642).
Nemesis is the automatic reestablishing of equilibrium brought about by the action of the human being — a reestablishing as impersonal and impassive as the kosmic laws operating around us. Themis is the instinct for order and harmony which, when it is able to express itself in human life through man’s active will, frees one from karmic necessity; for such harmony working in the human ego and faithfully followed is becoming at one with nature and following its inherent Law — which the word Themis means — of equilibrium. Human free will grows ever greater as it becomes the free will of the universe of which mankind is a integral and inseparable part. Thus, it is man who creates causes, and karma which adjusts the effects. See also KARMA-NEMESIS; MOIRA
Nemi. See NIMI
Neolithic Man. See CAVE DWELLERS
Neophyte [from Greek neophytos newly-grown] One who, precisely because he has newly grown, is newly reborn, signifying one who has already passed successfully at least the first degree in initiation. Used for a novice in the Greek Septuagint and the New Testament, and often used for a candidate for initiation into the Mysteries, though not found in Greek literature in that sense; mystae, for example, describes neophytes or beginners who have already passed the first stages in initiation and who are therefore sworn to silence.
Neokoros (Greek) The custodian or guardian of a temple; in Greek Asia a title for a city, in reference to the deity venerated by that city with a temple: for example, Ephesus was a neokoros of Artemis.
Neoplatonism, Neoplatonists This famous school of Platonic theosophy originated in the 2nd century at Alexandria, with Ammonius Saccas (170-243), and was developed by his pupils, of whom Plotinus (204-270) was the outstanding philosopher and under whom Neoplatonism reached its culmination. Other famous representatives were Porphyry (the pupil of Plotinus, 233-305); Iamblichus (d. 330); Hypatia (d. 415); Synesius (378-430); Proclus (412-485); and concluding with Olympiodorus (6th century). Among other pupils of Ammonius Saccas were Longinus and Origen.
“The Neo-Platonists were the same as the Philaletheians and the Analogeticists; they were also called Theurgists, and by various other names. They were the Theosophists of the early centuries. Neo-Platonism is Platonic philosophy plus ecstasy, divine Raja-Yoga” (Key 340).
At the time that the Neoplatonists voiced their teachings, the Mediterranean world was in a condition similar in some respects to that of today: the Roman imperium had brought about a commingling of many cultures, ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, so that there was a suitable field for revival of the ancient wisdom-religion as the common source and reconciler of all faiths. Such a system may be called eclectic in a sense; but the expression is unjust if it is meant to imply a mere patchwork of borrowed fragments.
The declared purpose of the Neoplatonists was to demonstrate the reality of a fundamental wisdom, to draw together the elect of every faith, and likewise to sow the seeds for a unification of faiths. The teachings are religious in the sense that they appeal to the religious instincts and inculcate the loftiest and purest morality; but on the other hand no church or creed was founded. The conditions of the times did not call for a scientific presentation of the ancient teachings; the regimentation of external life had turned men’s hopes inward. Such a system could not be created by merely putting together borrowings from Plato and Pythagoras, the Jews, and Gnostics, etc. Behind the movement must have been minds initiated in the lore of ancient Egypt and India, and thus supplied with the design which alone could make a unity out of the elements. Through succeeding centuries, revivals of Neoplatonism have appeared, sometimes using the name itself. It deeply influenced the Christian church, not only in early times but later under the influence of the pseudo-Dionysius and still later of Erigena.
The teachings of the Neoplatonists are essentially those of modern theosophy; the later teachers of the schools laid much stress upon theurgy, and its practical aspect, the application of the teachings to self-development. Though these teachers emphasize the distinction between theurgy or divine magic and its evil counterpart, sorcery or necromancy, in so corrupt an age many deleterious cults supervened upon the withdrawal of the genuine schools.
Neopythagoreans The Pythagoreans of Alexandria and other cities on the Mediterranean coast in the 1st century with whom Apollonius of Tyana is often classed. As happened to the Neoplatonists, the atmosphere of the later Greco-Roman world was not conducive to abstract philosophy, and hence the tendency of the times produced the practical mysticism characterizing both the viewpoint of the Pythagoreans and the Neoplatonists. Both schools were highly philosophic and used abstract philosophic speculation; yet predominant in both was the yearning for the attainment of inner spiritual illumination by practices of physical abstinence and by purity of life.
Both schools, in fact, were in a very true sense a revolt against the degenerate religions and philosophies of the time, which had become almost wholly exoteric and ritualistic, and hence they strove to combine the teachings of speculative mystical philosophy with individual efforts at living the life. Extremists in each school, however, found that extremes meet, and therefore were in contact with the popular and widely spread magical practices of the multitude.
Nephesh (Hebrew) Nefesh [from nāfash to breathe, take breath] Originally the vital breath; by extension of meaning, the vital principle in living bodies; hence a living being itself, based on the fact that such a being has life. Again, the appetitive or animal soul as the seat of involuntary or unconscious volitions, the lower affections, and bodily appetites. Nephesh, therefore, corresponds almost exactly with the Greek psyche and Latin anima.
In the Hebrew Qabbalah, nephesh signifies the breath of life, the vital principle in conjunction with the emotions and passions, but modern Western Qabbalists have stressed the idea of the volitional aspect of the human constitution, wrongly making nephesh equivalent to manas rather than prana in the theosophical classification of human principles. Nephesh is the prana-kamic principle. See also NEPHESH HAYYAH
Nephesh Hayyah (Hebrew) Nefesh Ḥayyāh [from nefesh the individualized anima or psyche + ḥayyāh a living being or thing, such as a beast or even the lower part of a human being] Also Nephesh Hhayyah. Used by Qabbalists for living soul, or the animal soul.
Nephilim (Hebrew) Nĕfīlīm [from nāfal to fall] Giants (cf Genesis 4:4); any being, entity, or thing which falls from a higher to a lower estate, whether in the spirit, the astral, or the physical world. Thus the nephilim signify in one field of thought the manasaputras who fell into incarnation; also the human race at a later date which fell into physical generation; and other meanings implying descent. Termed Fallen Angels and equated with the third root-race and with the fallen ones of the fourth root-race (SD 2:279, 775). Theological tradition associates the nephilim with hairy men or satyrs.
Nephthys (Greek) Nebt-het (Egyptian) Lady of the house; an Egyptian deity, especially associated with the Underworld. Generally regarded as the daughter of Seb and Nut, sister of Osiris, Isis, and Set. In earliest times she is always Set’s consort, giving birth of Anubis (Anpu). But more often she is mentioned with Isis, as the faithful sister. She was the personification of darkness; while Isis symbolized birth, growth, development, and vigor, Nephthys typified death, immobility, and the fountain of all. As in the case of Mut and Hathor, the darkness spoken of was the darkness of spirit as the womb of cosmic space, and hence the association of her name and attributes with death and the afterlife — death being the reservoir of all that has lived, and therefore the fountain of all that shall live in the future, the reproductions of the former. Isis represented the part of the world that is visible — hence the light or manifested part or day; Nephthys, or Neith, the part which is invisible — hence mystical, holy, and everlasting night, the precursor of day, and dark only because its mysteries in their fullness are utterly inscrutable to human intelligence. Thus one was associated with the things which are in manifestation, the other with those which are to come, or which forever are and produce what is to come.
Neqebah. See N’CABVAH
Nereus, Nereids Nereus pertains to the enclosed seas near Greece, in contradistinction to the ocean and the fresh waters. He is a later variant of Poseidon, the former ruling the sea in Atlantean times, the latter taking his place with the fifth root-race. The Nereids, the fifty daughters of Nereus, belong to the class of nature spirits presiding over water and recognized by various propitiatory rites. Like water spirits in general, they were beautiful maidens. Goats were sacrificed to them — a sign of their connection with the mysterious sign Capricorn.
Nature spirits include elementals both slightly developed and relatively highly developed, existing in widely diverse classes. There are elementals of high spiritual character possessing intellectual attributes and extensive sway over the kingdoms of nature; whereas others are but tiny elemental entities with relatively insignificant power.
Nergal (Chaldean) The Chaldean deity presiding over the realms of the dead. The entrance to his domain was through a large subterranean cavern named Aralu or Irkalla, which was under the special surveillance of the goddess Allatu (though his consort was Laz). His symbol was the lion, thus the colossal lions engraved upon edifices represented Nergal’s guardianship. He was regarded as regent of the planet Mars.
As a deity with certain solar attributes, he was associated, especially in later times, with the summer solstice, and with the sun at its noon-day position, which was regarded as bringing calamities and destruction upon mankind. Thus Nergal became also associated with wars and pestilences.
In the Bible Nergal is named as an idol of the Cuthites (2 Kings 27:30). He “is also the Hebrew name for the planet Mars, associated invariably with ill-luck and danger. Nergal-Mars is the ‘shedder of blood.’ In occult astrology it is less malefic than Saturn, but is more active in its associations with men and its influence on them” (TG 228).
Nerig (Gnostic) The planetary genius of Mars, according to the Ophite Gnostic scheme.
Neros or Naros [from Chaldean] A period of years, a cycle; generally considered to consist of 600 terrestrial years. There was a great, a middle, and a less neros, with the less equaling 600 years. But the secret length of this cycle has never been divulged. It is commonly supposed that the neros was one-sixth of the saros, consisting of 3,600 years.
Nervous Ether The name given by Dr. Benjamin Ward Richardson to a hypothetical fluid or medium regarded by him as intervening between the minute structural elements of the human body and serving as the means of interaction between these elements. Dr. Richardson was a highly honored 19th century English physician, and his views though unorthodox commanded respect. He used the word ether in a way similar to that in which it was used by physicists: if the elements of a body are regarded as separate from one another, a medium of some sort must account for their mutual actions. Such a medium must differ in certain respects from ordinary physical matter, so whether it is a form of matter or of energy is left open. This theory is one of a numerous family — vital fluid, animal magnetism, odic force — a loose generalization covering a great many things, or as a first crude guess. It is inadequate compared with the complex analysis of the bodily structure and functions presented by Hindu books.
Prana and linga-sarira are general terms for the energic and vehicular aspects of our physical constitution, and Dr. Richardson’s nervous ether in many respects fits in with both of them. But the scientist begins with the physical structure, which he assumes as a self-existent basis, and then proceeds to add something to it; while the theosophist begins with the life principle and derives the physical structure from it. For the latter, every cell, every atom, is a living unit, endowed with its own power of movement; and no outside nervous ether need be added for the production of the phenomena of life or vitality.
Neshamah (Hebrew) Nĕshāmāh [from nāsham to breathe] Used in the Qabbalah as an equivalent for the highest principle of the human constitution — not so much the purely abstract atman, as the highest duad atma-buddhi — rendered spirit or sometimes spiritual soul. Often mistaken as meaning the vital principle in the human body, which is properly rendered by the Hebrew hai. The mistake arose because the neshamah is spoken of as the breath of God, hence it is properly called the divine afflatus.
Even the vital essence of the lower part of the human constitution is in its origin the reflection or shadow of neshamah: or, in modern theosophical terms, the pranas are the representation on the lower planes of atma-buddhi in man.
Nesku. See NUSKU
Netsah, Netsahh, Netzah, Netzach (Hebrew) Netsaḥ Firmness, permanence, sincerity; the seventh Sephirah, also called Victory, regarded by Qabbalists as the emanation of the preceding six Sephiroth. It is classed as a masculine active potency and forms the base of the right pillar of the Sephirothal Tree. Its Divine Name is Yehovah Tseba’oth; in the Angelic Order it is represented as the Tarshishim (brilliant ones). In its application to the human body, it is regarded as the right pillar or leg; applying it to the seven globes of our planetary chain it corresponds to globe E (SD 1:200). From this Sephirah is emanated the eighth, Hod.
Neutral Center. See LAYA-CENTER
Nezer. See NAZAR
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
BCW - H. P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings
BG - Bhagavad-Gita
BP - Bhagavata Purana
cf - confer
ChU - Chandogya Upanishad
Dial, Dialogues - The Dialogues of G. de Purucker, ed. A. L. Conger
Echoes - Echoes of the Orient, by William Q. Judge (comp. Dara Eklund)
ET - The Esoteric Tradition, by G. de Purucker
FSO - Fountain-Source of Occultism, by G. de Purucker
Fund - Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, by G. de Purucker
IU - Isis Unveiled, by H. P. Blavatsky
MB - Mahabharata
MIE - Man in Evolution, by G. de Purucker
ML - The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, ed. A. Trevor Barker
MU - Mundaka Upanishad
OG - Occult Glossary, by G. de Purucker
Rev - Revelations
RV - Rig Veda
SD - The Secret Doctrine, by H. P. Blavatsky
SOPh - Studies in Occult Philosophy, by G. de Purucker
TBL - Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge (Secret Doctrine Commentary), by H. P. Blavatsky
TG - Theosophical Glossary, by H. P. Blavatsky
Theos - The Theosophist (magazine)
VP - Vishnu Purana
VS - The Voice of the Silence, by H. P. Blavatsky
WG - Working Glossary, by William Q. Judge
ZA - Zend-Avesta
Theosophical Society Homepage