Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary: Per-Pi

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 eglossary@theosociety.org

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 | Na-Ne | Nf-Nz | O | Pa-Peq | 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


Peratae (Latin) Peratai (Greek) One of the Gnostic bodies or associations, the Naaseni or Ophites, the “Serpent Gnostics,” so called because of the mystical prominence of the serpent symbol in their rites and observances. This Gnostic body is said by scholars to have been founded by Euphrates, who possessed wide astrological knowledge, and because of the teachings which his school followed were they named Peratai — wanderers, i.e., on this earth of trial and tribulation; or “those of the other side,” signifying individuals who regarded themselves as merely wanderers or pilgrims in regions far from their native home, the spirit. Among other ideas, they held that the celestial bodies in a person’s horoscope are the instruments of destiny or karma, which because of causes engendered in other lives bring the individuals to birth on this earth under the destined yoke marked in the celestial spaces by the sun, moon, and planets; and in order to protect themselves from the malignant influence of the genii of the planets they wore serpent sigils or talismans. C. W. King states that the Ophites were the descendants of the Bacchic Mystae, basing this on the fact that coins of the period bear the Bacchic serpent, which is represented as raising himself out of the sacred coffer, while the reverse side of the coin shows two serpents entwined around torches (Gnostics and Their Remains 225).

Peregrinations of the Monad Used mainly for the post-mortem states and conditions of the spiritual monad plus its movements in and through the solar system guided by certain dominating spiritual-psychological factors, both in the monad itself and in the solar system. See also INNER ROUNDS; OUTER ROUNDS

Perfection, Perfectibility Absolute perfection is applicable, not to infinity, but to the Absolute of a universe, and theosophy teaches that all existences are tending through ever-growing evolutionary stages towards the relative perfection which all reach at the close of a manvantara; a state called paranishpanna in Sanskrit and yong-grub in Tibetan. Paranirvana is described as a state of perfect rest insofar as activity in the lower manifested realms of a universe is concerned, but not perfect spiritual inactivity — entirely to the contrary. In a larger view comprehending a galaxy of universes, or a super-galaxy of galaxies, any notion that human intelligence can entertain of perfection is relative, for we cannot assign ends to evolutionary progress, growth, or expansion.

Peri (Persian) Pairika (Avestan?) A class of elemental or nature spirits corresponding in many ways to what Europeans call fairies. Just as in other national mythologies, the peris in ancient Persian thought are representative of those classes of conscious, self-conscious, and quasi-conscious beings who range all the way from simple sprites in the lower ranges, up to and including the classes of lower monads which are the psychological and even physical ancestors of the human race. They are, therefore, families of evolving monads in various grades of development, from the human down to the elemental kingdoms. The earlier races of peris, which in Persian mythology reigned for 2,000 years on earth, correspond to the progenitors of the first root-race. The later races of peris, occasionally looked upon as inimical in the Avesta, although smaller in stature than the devs — giants, strong and wicked, who reigned for 7,000 years — were wiser and kinder, and their king was Gyan. Here the devs and peris correspond to the Atlantean giants and the Aryans (SD 2:394).

In the Avesta, the pairikas “in the shape of worm-stars, fly between the earth and the heavens, in the sea Vouru-Kasha,” (Tir Yasht 5, 8), i.e., in the waters of space. They were flung by Angra-Mainyu “to stop all the stars that have in them the seed of the waters.” But Tishtrya, “the bright and glorious star who moves in light with the stars that have in them the seed of the waters, afflicts them, he blows them away from the sea Vouru-Kasha; then the wind blows the clouds forward, bearing the waters of fertility, so that the friendly showers spread wide over, they spread helpingly and friendly over the seven Karshvares” (Ibid. 46, 39-40).

Corresponding in origin to the Indian apsaras, the pairikas correspond to the elementals of the air, rather than water, called sylphs by the medieval Fire-philosophers. The rain-bestowing god Tishtrya corresponds to the sixth principle in man, buddhi, which fructifies the fifth and fourth principles. Thus it is only when the lower passions, the pairikas, have been mastered, that the light of Tishtrya — the buddhic splendor — may shine in the temple (Theos).

In the Persian mythology of the Arabian period, the peri is an elf or fairy, male or female, represented as a descendant of fallen angels, excluded from Paradise till their penance be accomplished.

Perigenesis A dynamic theory of generation, which assumes that reproduction is effected by rhythmic vibration of the plastidules (atoms of protoplasm), according to Haeckel, who adopted the dynamic theory from E. D. Cope, author of Origin of the Fittest. Haeckel seems to have thought that certain of these palstidules were transmitted through generations from the primeval parent.


Peripatetics [from Greek peri about + patein to pace, walk] The followers of Aristotle (384-322 BC), either because he paced up and down when he lectured as commonly supposed, or from the peripatos or covered walk of the Lyceum. The chief representatives of the school are Theophrastus of Lesbos (372-287 BC), who with Eudemus of Rhodes, Aristoxemus of Tarentum, and Dicaearchus of Messene, were the personal disciples of Aristotle; Strato of Lampsacus (succeeded Theophrastus 288 BC); Andronicus of Rhodes (head of the school at Rome 58 BC); Alexander of Aphrodisias (commentator of Aristotle, 2nd and 3rd century AD).

The system of Aristotle as contrasted with that of Plato, is more scientific, and its tendency is to dispense with the immanence of the divine. The growing naturalistic tendency culminated with Strabo, who professed to need no divine in nature at all. Peripatetic applies to the commentators and exegetists of Aristotle who followed upon Andronicus’ editing of Aristotle’s works in the 1st century BC — although soon after his death the Peripatetic school, like all the other offshoots, merged into what is termed Neoplatonism.

In the Middle Ages peripatetics was often used to signify logicians.

Perisprit [from Greek peri around, surrounding + Latin spiritus spirit, vital atmosphere] Used by the followers of Allan Kardec, the French spiritualist, and by Eliphas Levi, to denote the human astral double.

Permanent Self Used by Blavatsky (Key, sec 8) for the incarnating ego, as contrasted with the earth vehicle, the personal self or ego; not to be confused with its own divine-spiritual monadic source or focus, the higher self (atman), the essential and eternally perduring divine selfhood per se.


Perpetual Motion Equivalent of Latin perpetuum mobile (the ever-moving). The one eternal element is abstract space, coexistent with which are endless duration, primordial substance, and unending motion — the breath of the one element. Deity is all these, but to modern minds perhaps it is best pictured as eternal perpetual motion, at once the ever-becoming, the ever-present, and the ever-existing. Thus perpetual motion is an irresolvable first principle, and from it proceed relatively perpetual motions, such as the motions of the celestial orbs. Sir William Grove writes: “All motion is in one sense perpetual. In masses whose motion is stopped by mutual concussion, heat or motion of the particles is generated; and thus the motion continues, so that if we could venture to extend such thoughts to the universe, we should assume the same amount of motion affecting the same amount of matter for ever” (The Correlation of Physical Forces). We are bathed, then, in an ocean of perpetual motion; motion means life, and life is everywhere. The physical universe is conceived as matter and motion, being the productions of originating substance and spiritual life; and hence, while wholly illusory in their appearances and phenomena, both in essence are indestructible, uncreate, and eternal. How much more so is the ultraphysical, when considered as noumena apart from their manifested physical productions.

As to the problem of making a machine which will keep running of itself, or in addition will do useful work, scientists declare it impossible because it contravenes the law of conservation of energy. The equation of energies in seeming cases of perpetual motion, however, can always be made to balance by the introduction of outside factors, such as the earth’s rotation. If we regard thought and volition as forms of energy, the scope of the problem is greatly altered and enlarged; so that perpetual motion is possible or not according to the way in which we define it.

Persephone (Greek) Proserpina (Latin) The daughter of Zeus and Demeter who became queen of the Underworld, after being carried off by Hades or Pluto, god of the Underworld. As Kore-Persephone, she becomes one of the great Eleusinian divinities, the Divine Maid. The role played by Persephone, Demeter, or Kore (“maiden,” a title applicable to both) is part of a profound allegory in which is found a great deal of occult truth. Persephone or Demeter has a cosmic significance, as well as one applicable to the human race, for in the cosmic meaning the legend involves what the Hindus refer to under the various manifestations of prakriti running throughout manifested nature as a veil or garment of the indwelling cosmic consciousness; and the various permutations under which Kore-Persephone or Demeter is presented, show the various allegorical stages or modifications which the cosmic prakritis undergo. In the application of the legend to man, Kore-Persephone stands for both the spiritual soul and its child, the human soul, which in one manner of envisioning the facts are two; and in another manner, are one. See also DEMETER; KORE-PERSEPHONE

Personal Ego That aspect of manas which, in conjunction with kama, gives to man his sense of personality: that sense of being a unit distinct from others. This is an illusion from the standpoint of the spirit, although true enough as a fact of the lower quaternary in the worlds of matter. “The Lower, or Personal ‘Ego’ is the physical man in conjunction with his lower Self, i.e., animal instincts, passions, desires, etc. It is called the ‘false personality,’ and consists of the lower Manas combined with Kama-rupa, and operating through the Physical body and its phantom or ‘double’ ” (Key 176).

Being composite, at the death of the physical body the personal ego disintegrates, and at the next imbodiment a new personality is brought together by the reincarnating ego, although this new personality is but a reconstruction of the old personality with only such changes as have been brought about by the working of karma over time.

Personal God The personal anthropomorphic extra-cosmic God of theology is a purely human creation — for personality is a limitation utterly inconsistent with the nature of the boundless and eternal. This theological God is merely a reflection of man. The infinite source of all cannot be defined, since every possible attribute which we might assign to it is a human mental creation. We are forced to speak of God as impersonal, but must beware lest in doing so we reduce the conception to an empty abstraction. God may denote a divine being, a being who was once in our present human stage but has evolved beyond it, having transcended the limit of personality but without losing individuality. Or God may be applied to a being who has emanated from the divine source but is on the downward arc of evolution, not having yet become man; or again it may be a projection of the human mind, like the personal God of theology, but in this case it is a human mental creation — therefore containing human limitations because the human mind is finite — and therefore inadmissible.

The early Christians believed that the pagan gods were impersonated by evil demons or were actually merely daemonia. It is hard to believe that Jehovah, Jupiter, the Christian God, Brahma, and the like are nothing more than merely abstract ideas, for they actually are human ways of expressing some of the active and distinctly concrete powers or potencies in the solar system.

The notion of a personal God implies arbitrary will, caprice, anger, susceptibility to propitiation, and many other human weaknesses; and the attempt to reconcile these wholly human projections of thought with the idea of abstract infinitude results in contradiction and absurdity.

It is clear enough that the universe is filled full with powers and potencies, of which all animate beings known to man, and man himself, are but minor examples; and hence polytheism when properly understood as the necessary and inevitable deduction of spiritual pantheism is seen to be true. The mistake of most polytheists in the past has been to endow these gods, divinities, or spiritual potencies with attributes all too human, instead of considering them as they ought to be considered as the formative forces of the universe, possessing consciousness and will. See also GOD; GOD(S)

Personality In distinguishing between individuality and personality, individuality is the simple fact of essential self-consciousness, the recognition that “I am I”; whereas personality is saying that “I am Mr. Smith.” In other words, individuality is the recognition of oneself as a distinct non-partite egoity, and personality is the identifying of oneself with a particular aggregate of qualities, the latter serving as vehicle for the individuality.

Personal Self. See PERSONAL EGO

Pert Em Hru (Egyptian) [from pert to come + em forth in + hru day] To come forth in day; the title of several chapters of the Theban Recension of the papyrus manuscripts found placed with the Egyptian dead, generally called the Book of the Dead. The phrase itself refers to the successful entrance of the deceased into the realms of Osiris, after passing through the Judgment Hall.

A more significant meaning of the coming forth in the day or coming forth into light, relates to the fact that these papyri give in veiled language the rites of initiation as it was practiced from earliest times by the Egyptians, the light meaning the spiritual and intellectual splendor which clothes one who has successfully passed from darkness into light.

Pesh-hun. See NARADA

Phaeton, Phaethon (Greek) Shining one; son of Helios, the sun, who wheedles his father into letting him drive the chariot of the sun across the heavens for one day, loses control of the horses of the sun, and nearly sets the earth on fire. “Phaeton meeting with his death while carrying heat to the frozen stars of the boreal regions, awakening at the Pole the Dragon made rigid by cold, and being hurled down into the Eridan, is an allegory referring directly to the changes of climate in those distant times when, from a frigid Zone, the polar lands had become a country with a moderate and warm climate, etc.” (SD 2:770).

Phaethon is also applied to Helios and other divinities, so that it is simply another form or alter ego of the sun, illustrating the manner in which archaic symbolism delineates religious, scientific, and philosophic facts in story form.

Also the name of one of the steeds of Morning.

Phala (Sanskrit) Phala [from the verbal root phal to burst open, bear fruit, ripen] Fruit, the kernel or seed of a fruit; used metaphorically for ripened consequences, effects, results, retribution (either good or bad).

Phalguna (Sanskrit) Phalguna, Phālguna A name of Arjuna, because he was born in the spring month of Phalguna — the month during which the full moon stands in the nakshatra Phalguni.

Phallic, Phallicism, Phallus [from Greek phallos penis] The phallus occurs frequently in Greek mythologic and mystical representation: it is carried by Pan; borne in Bacchic processions; carved on the pedestals of the Hermae in the streets of Athens. There is no reason, apart from appropriateness, for preferring or rejecting one part of the body rather than another as a symbol, so that the phallus of Pan may be quite on a par with the wings on the feet of Hermes. But the symbol has gone through stages of degradation, from being an emblem of spiritual generation to one of mere physical procreation, when physical procreation itself, once thought of in purity and with reverence, acquired associations of profligacy, sin, and shame. The words are chiefly used in The Secret Doctrine in reference to the degeneration of ancient doctrine and ritual from their originally exalted form into a materialized form, whether in Hebraic systems, Dionysion or Bacchic rites, Hindu ceremonial, etc.

All archaic and ancient mankind was strongly addicted to expressing spiritual and abstract cosmic verities under the forms of things which were concrete and visible. Thus not only has the sun at various times been an emblem of the light of the cosmic spirit or Logos, shining throughout the entire time period of the universe; but the moon has always been the symbol of the lower mind, the brain-mind reflecting the light of the spirit, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun.

In this impersonal and abstract manner of representation did the ancients symbolize the formative, creative, or procreative forces or energies of nature under appropriate emblems drawn from the animal kingdom, and most commonly from man himself. Thus it was that the phallus in Classical antiquity stood as the emblem of the abstract creative forces of the universe, as well as the solar system, and even of earth; precisely as the linga in India has always expressed the identic cycle of thought. Likewise the female organ has frequently been used to express the generative and maternally productive powers of nature. Modern European sophistication unwillingly recognizes this truth, and insists in giving to these symbols the most offensive of constructions. Yet even Western religious iconology has followed the same line of thought, and whether we refer to the lamb, or to the serpent or dove, we ascertain exactly the same thing.

Phanerosis (Greek) A making visible, manifestation.

Phanes, Phanes-Protogonos (Greek) [from phaino to make visible, appear, shine forth + protogonos first-born] In Orphic mythogony, Aether (the Father, spirit) and Chaos (the Mother, primordial matter) produce the world-egg, silvery and gleaming white, out of which Phanes, the Third Logos, is born. He is the Orphic counterpart of Eros, the divine love which sets the atoms of spirit in motion, and is both male and female, mythologically said to have golden wings which carry him everywhere and four eyes gazing in every direction. As Phanes, he is the first of the five cosmic rulers successively to appear; parent of the gods, the demiurge and creator of the world. Being thus the primordial father of gods, of the world, and hence of men, every such derivative offspring from Phanes contains Phanes in itself. Thus man, as an individual, contains Phanes as the primordial essence or original force of his own being. From another point of view, Phanes is equivalent to cosmic mahat, which as the universal formative spiritual power of the universe is at once the parent as well as the primordial substance of whatever is — as well as cosmic intelligence.

Nux (night) is associated with Phanes as both mother and wife. Zeus does not appear in the Orphic mythogony until later, as the fourth in the line of succession; but eventually, due to a loss in popular conception of the ancient verity, he absorbs his great prototype, who apparently did not figure largely in popular mythology.

Phanes was connected mystically and esoterically with four animal symbols of the zodiac — Aries the ram, Taurus the bull, Leo the lion, and Draco the dragon or serpent.

Phantasma [from Greek phantazo to make visible, become visible] Phantom; Greek equivalent for various astral appearances, not only for the occasional appearance of the linga-sarira to the physical eye, but also for the various astral phantoms or kama-rupas — all originating in the lower regions of the astral light. The notion behind the word is of an image, appearance, eidolon, not the reality but seeming to be so. In this case the physical person was regarded as the reality, as in life; the phantasm was the astral image, as that of the kama-rupa of the dead Hector appearing to Aeneas.

Phantom [from Greek, Latin phantasma apparition] Specter, ghost; sometimes used of the early (astral) races of mankind, sometimes of the astral double, of various denizens of the astral plane, or even of one of the higher human principles (divine phantom).

Outside of mere mental images, often projected into quasi-objectivity by unconscious will-force, all phantoms originate in the astral light surrounding our earth and permeating it far more intimately than does the earth’s air or atmosphere. Consequently, phantoms are of many and various kinds. The word is likewise used, although inaccurately, to signify the appearance to a living human being of the mayavi-rupa (thought-projection body) of an adept, the reason being that whether merely astral intrusions or mayavi-rupa, both are appearances and therefore logically classified as phantoms.

Phantomosophy [from English phantom + Greek sophia knowledge] Coined by Master KH to signify communication through mediums (ML 47).

Phenoch. See ENOCH

Phenomena [from Greek phainomena appearances from phainomai to appear] The impermanent, ever-changing outward appearances of things, as opposed to onta, the permanent enduring realities behind. Also, objects of perception as opposed to objects of cognition; that which is perceived by the senses, contrasted with that which is conceived by the mind. The word correlates with both meanings of noumena. Under the first meaning it may be said that, in one sense, everything is phenomenal except the one Reality; but the word may also be used relatively. Under the second meaning, we may speak of phenomena as a word stressing the mechanical aspect of things, as contrasted with the unseen intelligences behind, as in the contrast between the forces of science and the intelligent noumena of which they are merely the manifestations.

In modern popular use it also denotes a supernormal event, such as an exercise of occult or magical powers, or again a portent, what the Latins would have called a prodigy.

Philaletheians [from Greek phil lovers + aletheia truth] Truth lovers; a name given to the Neoplatonic school, founded at Alexandria, Egypt, by Ammonius Saccas in the 3rd century. It lasted for two or three hundred years, and has often since been called a school of Analogeticists and Theosophists.

Philosopher’s Stone [from Latin Lapis philosophorum] The stone or material which can transmute base metals into gold. The universal agent or great solvent, the mystical culmination of whose work is the production of spiritual perfect man. The base metals, in this mystical interpretation, are the passions and lower elements in the human constitution, which by the philosopher’s stone are transmuted into the pure inner gold of his spiritual nature. Spiritual processes have their analogs in chemical processes, the latter being the sole object of most if not all of the later alchemists.

Philosophy The Greek philosophia meant love of wisdom, but with equal power of significance, although perhaps not etymologically as correct, the meaning was wisdom of love; also, the systematic investigation and instruction of facts and theories regarded as important in the study of truth. In common usage it denotes the mental and moral sciences, in some respects being nearly equivalent to metaphysics, and including a number of divisions. Theosophists speak of a triad of philosophy, religion, and science as being merged by theosophy into a unity; but science was itself at one time called natural philosophy, so that the chief distinction is that between faith and reason.

Phlogiston [from Greek phlog fire] In the 17th century modern chemistry was in process of birth and alchemical ideas still survived, particularly those of the four elements and of the triad of sulphur, salt, and mercury. Stahl (1660-1734) enumerated four elements — water, acid, earth, phlogiston; and the phlogiston theory was elaborated by Priestley (1733-1804). All combustible bodies, it was said, contain phlogiston, and when they are burnt the phlogiston leaves its latent state and escapes from the body in the form of heat and light, leaving behind the ash or dephlogisticated residue. For example, magnesium gives out its phlogiston in an intense light and an inert ash is left. But later chemistry banished the imponderables, and formulated a physical system composed of ponderable matter and energy. Accordingly, when it was shown that the ash weighs more than the original substance, the phlogiston theory was abandoned, and in its place came abstract and indefinite conceptions quite as difficult of explanation as was the phlogiston theory itself, which may be grouped under the general term energy, and include heat, light, chemical energy, etc. The more recent progress of science has proved that the atomo-mechanical system, the representation of the physical world as divisible into matter and energy, or mass and motion, however useful in interpreting molar physics and facilitating practical applications, does not suffice for an interpretation of the intra-molecular world. The distinction between matter (or mass) and energy has become obliterated.

The Mahatma Letters state that phlogiston is the lowest and densest form of a universal essence and serves as the vehicle for dhyanis of a corresponding degree (p. 56); and the name is also given to the magnetic electric aura of the photosphere (p. 164). The idea of phlogiston overlaps that of caloric, with which is it sometimes confused.

Pho. See P’O

Phoebus (Greek) Pure, bright, radiant, beaming; the solar regent, and in Latin mystic mythology the sun god, offspring of Zeus and Latona: also known by the Greeks as Apollo or Phoebus-Apollo. This deity represented both physical and spiritual purity and radiance to the Greeks; and to the Greek mind the solar divinity bore intimate relationships with mankind through his Oracle at Delphi, situated on the slopes of Mount Parnassus in Phocis, where a temple and oracular sanctuary were erected in his honor, to which consultants and suppliants thronged from all parts of the ancient world. Inscribed on the temple was the phrase associated with Socrates and Plato — gnothi seauton (know yourself). See also APOLLO; ORACLE

Phoenicians The ancient people who occupied the strip of seaboard on the west of Palestine, with Tyre and Sidon as principal towns; noted among other things for their great development in trade, commerce, and navigation. The Phoenicians themselves, and the their neighbors the Israelites, called their land Canaan (Khena‘an). According to Herodotus (2:44) Tyre was founded about 2300 years before his time, or 2756 BC.

The ancient deities of Phoenicia and their religion, as with other ancient peoples, were connected spiritually and physically with the great powers and processes of universal nature; indeed so far did this go that each river, spring, headland, etc., was under the influence of a deity; yet undoubtedly beyond and above all these hierarchical divisions there was always the ineffable, unthinkable, eternal, intelligence-life.

As time went on certain deities became more prominent in theological thought and speculation, acquiring celestial attributes as well as earthly ones, such as Ba‘al, Astarte (made equivalent to Isis by Plutarch), and the Tyrian Melqarth (associated with Herakles). Originally each masculine deity had the title Ba‘al (“lord,” equivalent to Babylonian Bel), and the feminine deities had the title of ’Amma (mother), just as the ancient Hebrews spoke of their ’em or ’ammah (fountain, beginning, womb, mother). The gods were called ’elomim or ’elim, from the original Shemetic root ’el. The god of the moon was Sin, the deity of the flame or lightning was Resh Reshuf and Eshmun was the god of vital force or healing (worshiped especially at Sidon) — clearly ’Eshmun is from the Shemitic verbal root ’esh (fire, cosmic fire or vitality) — cosmic vital electricity or fohat. Blavatsky states that the Phoenicians also propitiated the kabeiroi, deities of Samothrace.

Phoenix [from Greek phoinix phoenix, date palm, Phoenician] The sacred bird possibly taken from the Egyptian benu. The most familiar legend about it in Europe, dating from the early medieval period, is that a bird from India lives on air for 500 years when, leaving its native land, it flies to the temple at Heliopolis, with its wings laden with spices. Flying to the altar, it burns itself to ashes on the sacred fire, whence arises a new or young phoenix. This bird is already feathered on the day following the suicide of its parent which was its former self and, having its wings full grown on the third day, it wings its way forth. Pliny and Herodotus give slightly different versions. Ancient art pictured the phoenix as a bird with wings partly golden and partly red in color; in outline and size it was drawn to resemble an eagle.

The ancients gave different time periods as the extent of the cycle for which the phoenix stood as a symbol: 500 years, 600 years (the Babylonian naros), 1461 years, and others, as the phoenix did not symbolize any one cycle but was a general emblem of cycles themselves.

“The Phoenix — called by the Hebrews Onech (from Phenoch, Enoch, symbol of a secret cycle and initiation), and by the Turks, Kerkes — lives a thousand years, after which, kindling a flame, it is self-consumed; and then, reborn from itself — it lives another thousand years, up to seven times seven . . . when comes the day of Judgment. The ‘seven times seven,’ 49, are a transparent allegory, and an allusion to the forty-nine ‘Manus,’ the Seven rounds, and the seven times seven human cycles in each Round on each globe. The Kerkes and the Onech stand for a race cycle, and the mystical tree Ababel — the ‘Father Tree’ in the Kuran — shoots out new branches and vegetation at every resurrection of the Kerkes or Phoenix; the ‘Day of Judgment’ meaning a ‘minor Pralaya’ . . . ‘The Phoenix is very plainly the same as the Simorgh, the Persian roc, and the account which is given us of this last bird, yet more decisively establishes the opinion that the death and revival of the Phoenix exhibit the successive destruction and reproduction of the world, which many believed to be effected by the agency of a fiery deluge’ . . . and a watery one in turn” (SD 2:617).

One equivalent in Hindu literature is Karttikeya riding on his peacock. In China the phoenix is the king of birds, eating only bamboo sprouts, drinking only spring water. His resting place is the tung tree.

Pho-hat. See FOHAT

Phorcys (Greek) A sea god, son of Pontos and Gaia (sea and earth), and father by Ceto of the Graiae, Gorgons, Sirens, Scylla, and Atlas. Mentioned in Orphism as one of the primeval titans.

Phoreg One of the titans, not mentioned among Hesiod’s six Uranides, but discovered in the late 19th century “in an old fragment relating to the Greek myth. Thus their identity with the Seven rectors is fully demonstrated” (SD 1:418).

Phorminx (Greek) The seven-stringed lyre of Apollo, which he gave to Orpheus; representing the sevenfold mystery of initiation, and other corresponding septenates. Among these, mainly perhaps, the seven-stringed lyre stands for seven-principled nature, both built by and producing sound when the breath of the spirit sweeps over its strings (principles or elements).

Phoroneus (Greek) A son of Inachos and founder of Argos; he may be called the Argive Prometheus. His mother was Melia (ash tree) and is mystically parallel with the Scandinavian Yggdrasil. His own name suggests a connection with the Sanskrit bhuranyu (rapid, quick), an epithet of the sun and of Vishnu. He was a carrier of the divine fire of spiritual intellect to men, whereby he made them participators — when they proved themselves worthy of it — in heavenly bliss.

Phosphorus phosphoros (Greek) Light-bringing; equivalent of Latin Lucifer (the morning star; a torchbearer, e.g., Hecate, a form of the moon). Satan, according to Christian legend, was once Phosphorus, the redeemer. Also a personified aspect of the astral fire and light in the anima mundi. Eliphas Levi speaks of the interior phosphorus, meaning the astral light.

In alchemy and chemistry, applied to any substance which emitted light, but was monopolized for the familiar chemical element first isolated by Brandt of Hamburg in 1669.

Photosphere The apparent, shining surface of the sun. Sunspots, which appear dark only because of the intense brilliancy of the surroundings, appear in the photosphere, and the bright areas commonly seen around them are called faculae. From the theosophic standpoint the photosphere as well as the reversing layer and the chromosphere are three different forms of the aura with which the sun clothes itself as a living being. This aura is the solar prana or vitality become visible to the human eye on account of the octave of radiation which it emits. Had our eyes not been evolved to sense this particular seven fold radiation which we call light, we should not see the sun, although indeed we should sense it and possibly even realize its presence intellectually. Finally, every being, precisely because it is alive, emits its own characteristic aura which, had we the eyes to see it, we should discern as a coruscating, scintillating play of light around the form of the entity. Thus the human being as an example emanates or radiates from himself such a vital aura, which is to the man exactly what the solar aura is to the sun.

Phren (Greek) Originally the diaphragm, also more loosely the adjacent intestines, and hence that part of the mind which is or seems to be located in those regions — as we might say the solar plexus. Thus it becomes a synonym for fear, joy, grief; but also for the seat of the mental faculties, thought, will, etc., answering to the several senses of the word wits. When a distinction is made for philosophical purposes, as by the Pythagoreans, phren is sometimes that mind which man has in common with the animals; at other times it answers to the kamic aspect of manas still overshadowed by buddhi-manas. In both these cases the phrenic mind is in contrast with the purely noetic mind, or buddhi-manas.

In the psychological division made by the ancient Greeks, the phren stands properly for that portion of the human constitution which is ordinarily designated as human mind or reason, the typical characteristic of the human soul which undergoes its devachan. Hence it is that Homer described the shade or ghost of Patroclus as having both psyche and eidolon, or animal instincts and kama-rupic shape, but entirely without phren — human mind or reason, which had already shaken off the kama-rupa and gone into its devachan. The reference to the phren still existing in the kama-rupic shade of Teiresias, in the Odyssey, shows that in this case this great Greek prophet and initiate is spoken of in connection with his nirmanakayic work in the astral world. So well was this known to the ancients, that Teiresias was supposed to retain all his powers after death, while the lower principles of other mortals who died became shades.

Phta. See PTAH

Phylogeny [from Greek phylo race + geneia producing] The racial history of an organism, as contrasted with ontogeny or the individual history. Phylogenesis is applicable to the process. This branch of biology takes into account the racial affinities of an organism, and forms an important part of the science of evolution.

Physical, Physicalization The physical plane of matter is that one of the many planes in universal nature which is coordinated with our physical senses; and the physical plane of consciousness is therefore the plane on which our consciousness functions when we are using those senses. It is characterized by the familiar qualities which science studies under the name of properties of matter. In order to understand biological evolution, it is necessary to admit the existence of the next plane above — the astral plane. The passage of the astral prototypes of organisms from the astral plane to the physical is called physicalization. Differentiation on the physical plane is caused by the psychological and astral life-agents acting in the protyle of the physical plane. Temporary and abnormal physicalization takes place in a spiritualistic materialization.

The quaternary is said, in the Pythagorean numerical system, to be the ideal root of all numbers and things on the physical plane, because the quaternary is projected downwards, so to speak.

Physical Body The most material sheath or instrument used by the forces manifesting as the human composite nature. This body is the evolutionary product of the inner man’s experience during vast ages of time in and through all the kingdoms of nature. Thus the reimbodying ego, having acquired knowledge of the earth’s manifesting forms and forces, combines or correlates the principles and products of the mineral and vegetal life-atoms in its animal body, while evolving through its human incarnations. The atoms of a person’s body which are dispersed on earth at death, are karmically drawn to him again in the next life. As the quality of his own thought and feeling has been impressed upon these atoms, their automatic magnetic return to him insures the justice of his self-made physical heredity.

The continuous interchange of the physical material of the earth itself and that of everything upon it, provides for the body’s nutrition, endurance, and renewal. The similarity of material, chemically and otherwise, in the earth and in man has prevailed from the time when the filmy presentments of early root-races appeared on the then condensing globe. When the earth reached its depth of materiality during the middle of the Atlantean or fourth root-race, the physical bodies of the Atlanteans were the grossest and coarsest of any before or after this long period. Since then, everything having begun the turn on the upward or luminous arc, matter and man are slowly radiating finer qualities of substance and of force. This progressive refinement of matter reflecting humanity’s mental and spiritual evolution, will continue until, in the far distant future, the human encasement will be “relatively transparent, or diaphanous and luminous — an ethereal body of actually condensed light” (ET 65).

The human body has “Manasic as well as Kamic organs,” so that the cells answer to physical, mental, and spiritual impulses. The higher ego cannot act directly on the body, as its consciousness belongs to another plane of ideation; it has to act through its alter ego — the personal self (BCW 12:368-9; or St in Oc 90-1). The inert physical body is built, cell for cell, upon the invisible substance of the astral model-body or linga-sarira. The latter contains the real organs of the senses and sensations, and it transmits the mental, emotional, and instinctual impulses to which the physical body reacts. The lower mind acts upon the physical organs and their cells; but only the higher mind can influence the atoms in these cells, and arouse the brain to a mental conception of spiritual ideas. That is to say, ideal, mental, and physiological wholeness depend upon the dominance of the atomic, spiritual impulses over the desires of the selfish kama-manasic nature. The personal nature is limited in action to the material, molecular cell. This subtle but practical interplay of his physical and superphysical nature points to the natural unity of purpose in the trend of ethics and physiology. With power to know good and evil, and free will to choose, man is responsible for refining and perfecting his material, personal nature into becoming a responsive and powerful medium for manifesting his spiritual and higher intellectual individuality. The inner man is ever acting with the cosmic evolutionary urge toward perfection of type. It is this reincarnating ego which directs the atomic life of the fertilized germ-cells in upbuilding the body according to pattern; this is the mysterious organizer which eludes all analyses of biological researchers. Likewise, the morally and intellectually irresponsible entities evolving in the lower kingdoms are impulsed, in addition to the urge of each individual entity’s monad, by the instinctual phase of the universal mind which is directed by celestial beings acting with the so-called laws of nature.

The universe being a living organism functioning throughout consciously, has its analogy in the physiological operation of the human body. Hence, biological scientists who tamper with the natural arrangements of chromosomes or artificially combine different embryonic elements, instead of solving the problem of life, are only dealing with the matter which is manifesting the conscious creative powers of ideation. See also STHULA-SARIRA

Physical Organs Natural history reveals that the organs of the body acquire a greater individual importance, and in some cases occupy a larger proportion of the organism, as we ascend from the lower to the higher animal forms. G. de Purucker points out that “Every one of the organs of the human physical body, both collectively and distributively, is the organic representative in man’s physical sheath or body of one part or portion of his complex inner and invisible constitution. . . . every one of the monadic centers in man’s being . . . has its own corresponding organ in the physical body, each such organ functioning in the body as much as it can according to the characteristic or type-activity of its inner and invisible cause. Thus the heart, the brain, the liver, the spleen, etc., is, each one, the expression on the physical plane and in the human physical body of a corresponding consciousness-center in the invisible constitution of the sevenfold man” (ET 961-2n).

There are manasic as well as kamic organs. The brain and heart are “the organs of a power higher than the Personality” (BCW 12:367; or St in Oc 89). The liver is called the kamic organ; the spleen is the vehicle of the linga-sarira. Of the rhythmic tides of vital air in the chest, it is said: “The primeval current of the life-wave is then the same which assumes in man the form of the inspiratory and expiratory motion of the lungs, and this is the source of the evolution and involution of the universe” (q from Nature’s Finer Forces Rama Prasad, BCW 12:356 or Studies in Occultism 76). The uterus, within which a new manifestation of life appears, corresponds physically to the universal matrix — cosmic space — the fertilized cell being the point in the circle where differentiation begins. The eyes, from one standpoint at least, are the most occult of our senses. The fibers of the large optic nerves are interrelated with special organs of the senses and sensations — optic thalami, pineal and pituitary glands, etc. — which are grouped around the center of the brain.

Further, “every human organ and each cell in the latter has a key-board of its own, like that of a piano, only that it registers and emits sensations instead of sounds. Every key contains the potentiality of good or bad, of producing harmony or disharmony” according as the impulse comes from the higher or lower nature (BCW 12:368-9 or St in Oc 91). Memory has no special organ of its own in the brain, but has seats in every organ of the body. The whole body is a vast sounding board in which each cell bears a long record of impressions connected with its parent organ, and also it has a memory and consciousness of its own kind. These impressions are, according to the nature of the organ, physical, psychic, mental, or again mixed, as they relate to this or another plane, there being states of instinctual, mental, and purely abstract or spiritual consciousness. The physiological functions and reciprocal workings of cells and organs are in the body automatically directed by a “universally diffused mind” throughout that body, which is beyond all material analysis. Because of this intelligence operating throughout the organism, physiology is destined someday “to become the hand-maiden of Occult truths” (BCW 12:139; or Studies in Occultism 105).

On a larger scale, each organ has its own rhythm or vibratory rate of response to cosmic eternal motion. The response is animated by a “vital principle without which no molecular combinations could ever have resulted in a living organism, least of all in the so-called ‘inorganic’ matter of our plane of consciousness” (SD 1:603). The breaking of the normal rhythm of one organ disturbs that of all the rest, which accounts for the many reflex symptoms that often appear.

The general principles of occult physiology underlie and coordinate the numerous details of chemical, microscopic, and biological research. The human organism illustrates the modern scientific view of the electronic nature of matter. In man, the positive and negative phases of the one Life unite to manifest in functional currents of vitality; all of which has a significant bearing on the prevailing medical recourse to organotherapy, the end results of which are not recognized, as such, since they operate on inner lines of force. Each animal body — human or beast — is a complex organism whose various parts are vibrating in consonance with the synthetic character of its own evolutionary status of vital matter and conscious force — its selfhood. Hence, the injection of the physiologic essence of any one creature’s organs into the life-currents of another, aiming to give a certain impetus to functional reaction, inevitably adds a subtly disturbing foreign element. The same physical matter composes all animal bodies, so that the human and beast life-atoms are interchangeable, but such interchange is governed or regulated by extremely occult causal relations which raise their action outside or above the plane of human interference. Organotherapy, as at present understood and practiced, is a divergence from nature’s normal processes, having no analog in nature which, in turn, provides resources of wholesome remedial matter. These artificial mixtures of both physical and superphysical forces, involve vital issues beyond the ken of research laboratories. The end results of unbalanced forces might be sought among the increase in cases of malignant, degenerative, and mental and nervous disorders, with their unequilibrated operation of functioning vitality and of consciousness.

Pi The mathematical symbol for the incommensurable ratio of the circumference of a circle to the length of its diameter, and for corresponding ratios in plane and solid geometry. Its incommensurability is a particular instance of the impossibility of expressing geometrical magnitudes exactly in number. Bearing in mind that there is a geometrical key to interpretation of cosmic law and structure, and that the facts of geometry cannot possibly be arbitrary or meaningless but must be faithful representations of general laws; then we shall understand that the ratio π, involving such radial and important elements as the straight line and the circle, must be of paramount importance. The figures, either for approximate decimal evaluations or approximate fractional ratios, play an important part in the symbology of the ancient mystery-language. These figures and the numbers which they make are found in the numerical values of letters and words in the Hebrew and Greek alphabets. The problem of squaring the circle by a purely geometrical construction does not involve the use of π at all.

Pilgrim, Eternal The divine monad of man during its cycle of incarnation, so termed because of its manifold peregrinations downwards and upwards through the seven, ten, or twelve cosmic planes. It is the source of the entire septenary constitution of manifesting entities; and through the various processes of emanation from within itself, it provides itself with the various sheaths, veils, or garments of consciousness, which in their aggregate form the fully manifested septenary.

Pillaloo-codi pillalu-kodi (Tamil) Hen and chickens; popularly applied to the group of stars known as the Pleiades. In France the same idea is prevalent, where it is called Poussiniere.

Pillars The straight line and circle combined will make a cylinder, or pillar, which may be either a column or a disc, according to which element predominates. Thus the pillar denotes the positive creative potency or spirit as contrasted with matter. One principal use of the pillars in ancient temples, especially when four were used in the form of a square, was for the representation either of the four cardinal points, or of the four lower cosmic elements. This idea was likewise followed by the Jews in their erection of the Tabernacle. “It is the idea taken from the pyramids in Egypt and in Tyre, where the pyramids became pillars, the Genii, or Angels have their abodes in the four respective points” (SD 1:347).

To all intents and purposes the pillars set up by the Jews in front of their temples were similar to the lithoi placed before images of Siva in India. The two pillars, Jachin and Boaz, placed before the Temple of Solomon, however, referred to the dual forces in manifested nature, producing the pairs of opposites. The two pillars are to some extent interchangeable with the two serpents of the Greek caduceus, and appear in India in mystical references to the two nadis — pingala and ida, on the left and right (or right and left) of the vertebral column. This duality has its geometrical analog in the right and left handed spirals. By taking the central or balancing third, as in the sushumna-nadi or the central pole of the caduceus (sometimes represented as a third serpent), we have the triad. This triad of pillars is represented in the three columns of the Sephirothal Tree, called the Pillars of Severity, Mildness, and Mercy. In one description of the Sephirothal Tree, it was surrounded by seven pillars: the world pillars or rectores.

Pillars of Hermes, Enoch Refers to an allegory told of Hermes or Thoth, the Father of Wisdom in ancient Egypt, who it is said concealed his books of wisdom under a pillar, and then found that the wisdom had become transferred onto two pillars of stone.

Josephus tells a similar story about Enoch, saying that the pillars of Enoch were still in existence in his day, and that they were built by Seth. Blavatsky comments: “and so they may have been, only neither by the Patriarch of that name, the fabled son of Adam, nor by the Egyptian god of Wisdom — Teth, Set, Thoth, Tat, Sat (the later Sat-an), or Hermes, who are all one, — but by the ‘sons of the Serpent-god,’ or ‘Sons of the Dragon,’ the name under which the Hierophants of Egypt and Babylon were known before the Deluge, as were their forefathers, the Atlanteans.

“What Josephus tells us, therefore, must be allegorically true, with the exception of the application made of it. . . . These two ‘pillars,’ however, are the prototypes of the two ‘tables of stones’ hewn by Moses at the command of the ‘Lord’ ” (SD 2:530).

Pineal Gland, Conarium, or Epiphysis Cerebri A small organ in the brain with a fancied resemblance to a pine cone; technically called the epiphysis, as being an “upgrowth” from the embryonic tissues which later form part of the ventricular or hollow center of the brain, which space is continuous with the central canal of the spinal cord. The pineal gland is described as a rounded, oblong body, about one-third of an inch long, of a deep reddish color, connected with the posterior part of the third ventricle, and intimately related to the optic thalami which physiologists find to be the organs of reception and condensation of the most sensitive and sensorial incitations from the periphery of the body. Thus this organ is in central relation to the coordinating organs of all the senses and sensations, and to the thinking brain which perfects and coordinates ideas. Its purpose, however, remains a mystery to the medical profession. A standard anatomy says: “The ancients had a grotesque theory that the epiphysis is the favorite and peculiar abiding-place of the human soul. Modern morphologists have shown it to be the homologue of the third eye which some reptiles possess.”

Blavatsky, repeating the ancient belief, says that this concealed third eye is the “seat of the highest and divinest consciousness in man — his omniscient spiritual and all-embracing mind” (Key 121). She sketches the evolutionary history of this Deva Eye (SD 2:294 et seq) which was the only seeing organ in the beginning of the present human race, when the spiritual element in the then humanity reigned supreme over the as yet unawakened intellectual and psychic elements in the nature. Later on, as the ethereal and psychospiritual early races became self-conscious and physicalized, they used their spiritual and intellectual powers and faculties for selfish and sensual purposes. Meantime, the third eye withdrew, pari passu, into the central cavity of the developing brain. There it has remained until the present — a symbol of that past spiritual vision which we will regain as we progress consciously along the upward arc of the evolutionary cycle. As to scientific evidence of a once active third eye of objective vision in animals, the Hatteria punctata, a lizard type found in New Zealand, is pointed out. This land, being a part well above the waters of the ancient continent Lemuria, the home of the third root-race, would be likely to retain some remnants of early types of the creatures which once existed when “the third eye was primarily, as in man, the only seeing organ” (SD 2:299).

An ancient commentary says that by the middle of the fourth root-race, the “inner vision had to be awakened and acquired by artificial stimuli, the process of which was known to the old sages” (SD 2:294). Even now, the adept, with trained will, can arouse this ordinarily quiescent organ into activity, so that he becomes illuminated throughout and by it with a vision of infinitude. It was this sublime vision which overwhelmed Arjuna when Krishna, acting as the Logos within, gave the aspiring human monad the divine eye (BG ch 11). The analogy of enlarged vision holds good, in degree, when the spiritual teacher arouses the chela’s latent ability to see for himself hidden truth.

Descartes reasoned that the seat of the soul was the pineal gland which, he said, though it was tied to the brain, was yet capable of being put into a kind of swinging motion by the animal spirits that cross the cavities of the skull. He was right about the cavities being open during life, and about the organ’s response in oscillations; and what the ancients called animal spirits, is otherwise expressed in theosophical literature as circulating currents of the nerve-aura of occultism. In the adept, the third eye is aroused by aspiration and concentration of his human will upon the attainment of union of his mental with his spiritual faculties. By this conscious effort, he rises to the higher powers of will which, in its ordinary automatic and emotional phases, is usually diffused throughout the activities of the animal body and brain, by way of the main organ of will, the pituitary gland, the psychic associate of the pineal center. The x-ray may yet reveal ethereal emanations of nerve-aura in the human brain, as living evidence of the interrelation of mind and matter. Meantime, concrete examples of such interaction are found in the pineal gland, in the form of “brain sand,” or (acervulus cerebri). See also EYE OF SIVA; THIRD EYE; TRI-LOCHANA

Pingala (Sanskrit) Piṅgala A rishi said to be a great authority on the chhandas, the meter of the Vedas. His date is unknown, but he is sometimes rather arbitrarily identified with Patanjali, the author of the famous Maha-Bhashya, or commentary on the great grammarian Panini. Also an attendant of the sun, or even the sun itself; epithet of Siva; the name of a rudra, of a danava, and of a number of archaic sages.

As an adjective, it signifies brown or yellowish-brown, a tawny color. See also PINGALA

Pingala (Sanskrit) Piṅgalā Reddish brown, reddish tawny; one of the three nadis (channels) actually forming the spinal column of the body, which are the main avenues for not only the psychovital economy of the body, but likewise of spiritual and intellectual currents as between the head and the body proper. In occultism the spinal column plays many roles in the physiological economy of the living body, but is especially threefold in its functions. The central channel is called the sushumna-nadi, and the two mystical channels on either side of it are the pingala-nadi on the right (or left), and the ida-nadi on the left (or right).

Pippala (Sanskrit) Pippala The sacred Indian fig tree, Ficus religiosa, which holds a highly mystical and symbolic position in Hindu mythology. It is closely connected with the Asvattha, the cosmic Tree of Life, or tree of the cosmic hierarchical structure, thus symbolized also in other countries of the world. It is interesting to note that both Asvattha and Pippala are names sometimes given to the sun, and that Buddhist legend has it that it was under such a tree, now commonly called the Bo or Bodhi Tree, that Gautama Buddha attained his final enlightenment.

Pippalada (Sanskrit) Pippalāda Eating the fruit of the pippala or Ficus religiosa; an ancient teacher of the Atharva-Veda, and also of a school of magic alleged to have been founded by him. The mystical significance refers to this tree’s association with initiation or nirvanic attainment; it was under a pippala that Gautama Buddha is said to have attained nirvana, as well as buddhahood.

Pisachas (Sanskrit) Piśāca-s Shades, fading remnants or shells of human beings in kama-loka, which become elementaries, or malevolent astral beings, in the cases of people who live a consistently evil life while in incarnation. In southern Indian folklore the pisachas are ghosts, demons, larvae, and vampires — generally female — who haunt men. In the Puranas, they are goblins or demons created by Brahma.

In archaic Hindu literature, the pisachas are connected with the daityas, danavas, etc. Here they are no longer mere astral shells, but represent evolving beings of the earlier races of man: “The Demons, so called in the Puranas, are very extraordinary devils when judged from the standpoint of European and orthodox views about these creatures, since all of them — Danavas, Daityas, Pisachas, and the Rakshasas — are represented as extremely pious, following the precepts of the Vedas, some of them even being great Yogis. But they oppose the clergy and Ritualism, sacrifices and forms — just what the full-blown Yogins do to this day in India — and are no less respected for it, though they are allowed to follow neither caste nor ritual; hence all those Puranic giants and Titans are called Devils” (SD 1:415).

Pisces The fishes; the twelfth sign of the zodiac, a watery, common or mutable sign; one of the houses of Jupiter; corresponding anatomically to the feet. This sign is the last of the circle, and consequently it again ushers in the first sign, Aries. It is Omega in the saying, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” It signifies the conditions preceding the beginnings of rebirth, where the close of one cycle heralds the birth of the next. Its emblem is a pair of fishes; and mythology presents us with many stories of jewels or money cast into the sea and found again in the belly of a fish; the story of Jesus has one such; the story of Polycrates another. This sign is associated with deluges, world saviors, the dawn of a new cycle after closing of the old, and fishes and Jonahs, and similar symbols and allegories.

In the Hindu system it is Mina (fish or fishes), equivalent to the number 5, which may be taken to indicate the five exoterically recognized elements (pancha-mahabhutas). This sign also suggests particularly the cosmic element water — i.e. space. In the Brahmanical zodiac Mina is presided over by Agni, the god of fire (12 SZ).

Some Christians have held that Jesus was born at the moment the sun entered the sign of Pisces, but the real time of his birth is unknown, and both the Hindus and ancient Babylonians also associated their Messiahs with fishes (SD 1:653). It is also associated with the man-fish, Dagon or Oannes; and one is reminded of ancient Christian iconology and teaching that the Savior Jesus was the big fish, and that Christians themselves were the little fishes.

Assigning the twelve sons of Jacob in the Hebrew system to the twelve signs of the zodiac, Zebulon is ascribed to Pisces, he who dwells at the haven of the sea and is a shelter for ships.

Pistis Sophia An important treatise on Gnostic teachings, discovered in a Coptic manuscript in the British Museum by the Orientalist Schwartze, who rendered it into Latin and published the original text and his translation in 1851. It was translated into English by G. R. S. Mead and annotated by Blavatsky. The original version contains many Greek technical terms having no Coptic equivalents and preserved also in the later translations. The tile itself is two such words, the names of two principal Aeons in the Gnostic system. Sophia means wisdom, enlightenment; pistis means intuitive trust, firm belief based on inner conviction, ardent devotion, that quality in the disciple which corresponds to the heart, as wisdom relates to his understanding — rather than merely faith. As the opening verses show, these are the esoteric teachings said in the treatise itself to have been given by Jesus to his disciples, when he was rising from the dead and teaching them for eleven years. This means that the teacher had passed eleven degrees of initiation, awaiting only the final degree. The work is a highly veiled version of some of the teachings of the archaic wisdom; it quotes abundantly from the Book of Enoch, and the doctrines of the Upanishads have, at least in degree, passed into it.

Pisuna (Sanskrit) Piśuna A spy; a name given in exoteric works to Narada, the divine rishi.

Pit In theosophy, the pit has a profound and wide range of meaning, in all cases referring to places (lokas) into which sink, because of persistent evildoing, those entities who choose evil, in greater or less degree, as their course of conduct. Hence, the general meaning is loss of spirituality involving a descent or dropping into realms of greater materiality.

Pit is often used for the nether pole of nature, whether geographically as the south pole, or in pure exotericism as hell. In the Bible (Ezek 28), the Prince of Tyrus is cast from the mountain of God into the pit. The mountain and the pit are often contrasted as the north and south poles, or as the heavenly and infernal regions. Pit is abundantly used in the Bible in this sense, metaphorically connected with a place for refuse or dishonored burial. The pit into which Prometheus is hurled is our earth, whither he descended to become mortal man; and the Mahasura, in Hindu legend, is hurled down to Patala. See also EIGHTH SPHERE

Pitaras or Pitarah. See PITRIS

Pitar-devatas. See PITRI-DEVATAS

Pithecoid(s). See ANTHROPOIDS

Pitri(s) (Sanskrit) Pitṛ-s Fathers; referring to the merely human deceased father and grandparents; also to the progenitors of the human race. The pitris (progenitors) are of seven classes: three classes of arupa-pitris or higher dhyanis, which in our own solar system we call the solar pitris or agnishvattas; and the four lower classes known as barhishads or lunar pitris. The lunar pitris came from the moon-chain, while the solar pitris are those dhyan-chohans which have all the spiritual-intellectual fires, although they are too spiritual to have the physical creative fire. In preceding manvantaras they had finished their physical and astral evolution, but by cyclic necessity, enlightened the lunar pitris which had only the physical creative fire.

The pitris “are called ‘Fathers’ because they are more particularly the actual progenitors of our lower principles; whereas the Dhyani-Chohans are actually, in one most important sense, our own selves. We were born from them; we were the monads, we were the atoms, the souls, projected, sent forth, emanated, by the Dhyanis.

“ . . . the Lunar Pitris may briefly be said to be those consciousness-centers in the human constitution which feel humanly, which feel instinctually, and which possess the brain-mind mentality. The Agnishwatta-Pitris are those monadic centers of the human constitution which are of a purely spiritual type” (OG 125-6). These pitris were not forefathers of present humanity, but of our distantly remote ancestors named formerly by some writers the Adamic races.

The evolution of the first root-race of mankind from the astral bodies of the pitris took place on seven distinctly separated regions of the earth existing then at the arctic pole (cf SD 2:329). Of the succession of the root-races the Stanzas of Dzyan say: “First come the SELF-EXISTENT on this Earth. They are the ‘Spiritual Lives’ projected by the absolute WILL and LAW, at the dawn of every rebirth of the worlds. These LIVES are the divine Sishta,’ (the seed-Manus, or the Prajapati and the Pitris)” (SD 2:164). As progenitors of the various human root-races, pitris refer pointedly to the life-waves, manus, prajapatis, and sishtas.

Brahma occasionally, as the generalized Progenitor, stands in Hindu literature for the pitris collectively, and is thus called Father.

Pitri-devatas (Sanskrit) Pitṛ-devatā-s [from pitṛ father + devatās spiritual beings] The paternal spiritual beings; a class of divine beings who were the progenitors of mankind — generalized under the term pitris. More particularly, the lunar ancestors of mankind, in all their various classes.

Pitripati (Sanskrit) Pitṛpati Lord of the pitris or fathers; a title of Yama, the Hindu god of death and the judge of mortals — functions corresponding to those of Rhadamanthas of the Greeks. From the standpoint of occult history, Pitri-pati or Yama is the personification of the third root-race.

Pituitary Gland or Hypophysis Cerebri A small, bi-lobed, ductless gland, resting on the bony floor of the brain just above the palate. Its familiar name came from the mistaken notion that it secreted pituita (phlem) which was discharged through the nose. The technical term describes it as the “growth underneath” the brain with which it is connected. It is also closely related to the optic and other sensory nerves, as well as to the general coordinating centers of mental and physical sense and sensation in the region of the third ventricle, including the pineal gland.

Modern physicians have called the pituitary the driver gland, because of its active influence upon the growth and function of different parts of the body. Theosophy holds that the pituitary body is the seat of the organ of will; likewise, as an organ that functions through the sympathetic nervous system upon various levels of the psychic plane, it is one of the links that connect the intermediate nature of man with both his spiritual mind and his instinctual, animal mind. Thus it serves as manifesting point where the cosmic force of will, flowing through the spiritual center of man’s being, works as a physical energy. As the bodily organ of will, it acts as a vital transformer, stepping down the high power, electromagnetic currents of universal will and desire, thus providing a series of special currents of growth which are diffused through the thyroid and other ductless glands. These currents, acting as automatic or vegetative will power, first affect the linga-sarira (model-body), and through it stimulate the physical body.

The pituitary, as a transformer, may also step up these diffused currents of physical and animal will and desire, raising them into the aspiring mental-spiritual will and desire, as when the high adept concentrates his whole consciousness upon attaining spiritual vision and knowledge. When the focused power of the active pituitary is directed to the higher psychic levels, its influence, through radiated wave-energy, reaches the pineal gland which responds with spiritual clairvoyance. If, however, the increased activity is upon the lower astral levels, the effects are distorted and misleading. The pituitary being closely connected with the optic and other sensory nerves, and with the important nerve centers, its enlargement or uncontrolled, abnormal activity often give rise to strange hallucinations of vision, hearing, etc. This explains the bizarre sights, sounds, odors, or what not, which are so real to the sufferers from brain fever, delirium tremens, insanity, epilepsy, and some other disorders.

However, no one of the organs of a human being can function alone and apart from coordinated activity with the other parts of the human constitution; thus it is that while the pituitary body can stimulate or arouse to increased activity the pineal gland, nevertheless the pineal gland in its turn can act strongly upon the pituitary body; and as the pineal gland is the physical seat of the spiritual and higher intellectual faculties of the human constitution descending to the physical brain through the linga-sarira, when the pineal gland thus influences by radiated wave-energy the pituitary, the latter is awakened and begins to vibrate, strongly influencing the physical brain with will-currents guided by the spiritual and higher intellectual inspiration from the pineal.

Piyadasi (Prakrit) [from piya lovely, beloved + dasi from Sanskrit the verbal root dṛś to behold; Sanskrit priyadarśī] Lovely to look at; a title applied to the Indian King Asoka (c. 234-198 BC), found on the rock-cut pillar inscriptions he erected. It refers to the love which his subjects bore to their monarch rather than to his physical appearance.

The title is likewise given to Asoka’s grandfather Chandragupta, the Sandracottus of the Greeks. Another title given to these two monarchs was devanampriya (the beloved of the gods).

Top of File


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

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