Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary: Sis-Som

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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

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Sishta (Sanskrit) Śiṣṭa Remainder, remains, residuals — anything that is left or remains behind; in theosophy, those superior classes of each kingdom left behind on a globe during its obscuration, serving as seeds of life for the returning life-wave in the next round. They are the most highly evolved monads of each of the life-waves, the forerunners who, because of the innate urge and karmic power behind them, have preceded in their development the great bulk of their life-wave. In the human life-wave, the sishtas will be the most evolved humans, the great sages, those who have outrun the evolutionary development of the human life-wave considered as a whole. They are called remainders merely because they remain behind on a globe in order to provide the seeds for inaugurating their own life-wave’s evolutionary progress, when that life-wave once again reaches the globe on which the sishtas remain.

While the sishtas are dormant, sleeping, or resting, they are not inactive or in a dream-world corresponding to devachan. They are relatively dormant merely because the life-wave has passed them by. Yet they still carry on all the functions, processes, and duties required of the most advanced egos of that life-wave until the life-wave returns to the globe on which these sishtas are awaiting it.

The sishtas are thus the manus (or collectively the manu) of any life-wave — and hence the respective manus or manu for each life-wave. As there is a root-manu on every globe when a life-wave reaches it and begins to develop into the first root-race on that globe, and a seed-manu for that life-wave on that same globe when the life-wave has left it, the seed-manu and root-manu are thus virtually the same group of entities. The distinction lies in the two roles played by the sishtas when a life-wave leaves a globe and during the interim before the life-wave returns again, and what the sishtas do when the advanced egos of the life-wave begin to reach that same globe again: for with this incoming of new entities less progressed than the sishtas themselves, the seed-manu becomes what has been called the root-manu.

The sishtas are mentioned under various names in the world’s sacred literatures: the ’Adam of the Hebrew Genesis represents the seed-manu of the human life-wave when it reached this globe D during this round; the legends concerning Noah refer to the life-wave itself repopulating the earth after the so-called deluge of space — the ark of the Hebrew story being the globes of the planetary chain; and is the equivalent of Vaivasvata-manu in Hindustan. The Desatir, in the “Book of Abad, the Prophet” gives the same essential teaching: “In the beginning of each Grand Period, a new order of things commenceth in the lower world. And, not indeed the very forms, and knowledge and events of the Grand Period that hath elapsed, but others precisely similar to them will again be produced. And every Grand Period that cometh resembleth from beginning to end the Grand Period that is past. . . . at the conclusion of a Grand Period, only two persons are left in the world, one man and one woman: all the rest of mankind perish: And hence mankind derive their origin from the woman and man who survive, and from whose loins numbers issue in the new Grand Period” (vv 144-16 and Commentary).

In this Persian story of the conclusion of a manvantara of a life-wave on a globe, only “two persons” remain as sishtas, “one man and one woman,” a popularized and easily understood allegory — although when the seventh root-race of mankind is ended, and our human life-wave passes onwards to the next globe, there will be no man and woman, but simply human beings.

Sister PlanetEvery world has its parent star and sister planet. Thus Earth is the adopted child and younger brother of Venus” (SD 2:33). The reference, cosmogonically, is not only to parent stars, but more particularly to planetary chains, their origins and future evolutionary destiny as chains. Theosophical literature on the planetary chains contains but a small part of the material on this teaching.

Sistrum (Latin) [from Greek seistron from seiein to shake] The instrument used by the ancient Egyptians in the worship of Isis; a metallic oval hoop with a handle, and loose metal rods, running through holes in the sides of the metal and across the loop. This was held in the hand and shaken, its real purpose being, by means of its combination of metals, to produce magnetic currents and sounds. It is used to this day in Christian Abyssinia “to drive away devils”; likewise by the American Indians in their ceremonial dances.

Sisumara (Sanskrit) Śiśumāra [from śiśu child + māra killer] The child-killer; a group of stars and constellations said to resemble a dolphin, porpoise, or tortoise; held to be a form of Vishnu, and often considered as a representation of the great circle of time. As an imaginary belt, a symbolic representation of the celestial sphere, or a theoretical revolving zone or belt within which move the celestial bodies — which are the bodies of spiritual entities. This constellation has the “Cross placed on it by nature in its division and localisation of stars, planets and constellations. Thus in the Bhagavat Purana V., xxx., it is said that ‘at the extremity of the tail of that animal, whose head is directed toward the South and whose body is in the shape of a ring (Circle), Dhruva (the ex-pole star) is placed; and along that tail are the Prajapati, Agni, Indra, Dharma, etc.; and across its loins the Seven Rishis.’ This is then the first and earliest Cross and Circle, into the formation of which enters the Deity (symbolized by Vishnu), the Eternal Circle of Boundless Time, Kala, on whose plane lie crossways all the gods, creatures, and creations born in Space and Time; — who, as the philosophy has it, all die at the Mahapralaya” (SD 2:549).

Sisupala (Sanskrit) Śiśupāla Child-protector; a son of Damaghosha (King of Chedi), Krishna’s great enemy, slain by him at the sacrifice of Yudhishthira. The Vishnu-Purana states that Sisupala was in a former existence the unrighteous but valiant monarch of the daityas, Hiranyakasipu, who was killed by the avatara Nara-simha (the man-lion). He was next the ten-headed Ravana, the giant king of Lanka, and was killed by Rama. After this he was born as Sisupala. “This parallel evolution of Vishnu (spirit) with a Daitya, as men, may seem meaningless, yet it gives us the key not only to the respective dates of Rama and Krishna, but even to a certain psychological mystery” (SD 2:225n).

Sisyphus The crafty; in Greek mythology, a son of Aeolus (the keeper of the winds), the most cunning of all men. He was punished in the underworld by being compelled to roll a heavy stone block up a hill, only upon reaching the summit to have it roll down again, where upon he repeats the processes endlessly. Some ancient authors say he had betrayed the Mysteries of the gods; so that one intent of the legend was to point out to the masses that betrayal of the secrets of initiation brings inevitable retribution. It also may illustrate the vanity of human ambitions, which flourish hopefully right up to the point of expected attainment, only to meet with disappointment; again it may refer to certain experiences of the disembodied relics of our personality, doomed to repeat vain acts until the energy which prompted them is worn out.

Sita (Sanskrit) Sītā A furrow; Rama’s wife, so named because she is fabled to have sprung from a furrow made by King Janaka while plowing the ground to prepare it for a sacrifice instituted by him to obtain progeny. She was considered an avatara of Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort in the heaven-world. In the Ramayana she is exiled with her husband, stolen by Ravana of Lanka, and finally rescued.

Siva (Sanskrit) Śiva The third god of the Hindu Trimurti (trinity): Brahma the evolver; Vishnu the preserver; and Siva the regenerator or destroyer. Siva is one of the three loftiest divinities of our solar system, and in his character of destroyer stands higher than Vishnu for he is “the destroying deity, evolution and PROGRESS personified, who is the regenerator at the same time; who destroys things under one form but to recall them to life under another more perfect type” (SD 2:182). As the destroyer of outward forms he is called Vamadeva. Endowed with so many powers and attributes, Siva possesses a great number of names, and is represented under a corresponding variety of forms. He corresponds to the Palestinian Ba‘al or Moloch, Saturn, the Phoenician El, the Egyptian Seth, and the Biblical Chiun of Amos, and Greek Typhon.

“In the Rig Veda the name Siva is unknown, but the god is called Rudra, which is a word used for Agni, the fire god . . .”; “In the Vedas he is the divine Ego aspiring to return to its pure, deific state, and at the same time that divine ego imprisoned in earthly form, whose fierce passions make of him the ‘roarer,’ the ‘terrible’ ” (SD 2:613, 548).

Siva is often spoken of as the patron deity of esotericists, occultists, and ascetics; he is called the Mahayogin (the great ascetic), from whom the highest spiritual knowledge is acquired, and union with the great spirit of the universe is eventually gained. Here he is “the howling and terrific destroyer of human passions and physical senses, which are ever in the way of the development of the higher spiritual perceptions and the growth of the inner eternal man — mystically . . . Siva-Rudra is the Destroyer, as Vishnu is the preserver; and both are the regenerators of spiritual as well as of physical nature. To live as a plant, the seed must die. To live as a conscious entity in the Eternity, the passions and senses of man must first die before his body does. ‘To live is to die and to die is to live,’ has been too little understood in the West. Siva, the destroyer, is the creator and the Saviour of Spiritual man, as he is the good gardener of nature. He weeds out the plants, human and cosmic, and kills the passions of the physical, to call to life the perceptions of the spiritual, man” (SD 1:459&n).

Though Siva is often called Maha-kala (great time) which, while being the great formative factor in manvantara is also the great dissolving power, to the Hindu mind destruction implies reproduction; so Siva is also called Sankara (the auspicious), for he is the reproductive power which is perpetually restoring that which has been dissolved, and hence is also called Mahadeva (the great god). Under this character of restorer he was often represented by the symbol of the linga or phallus: “the Lingham and Yoni of Siva-worship stand too high philosophically, its modern degeneration notwithstanding, to be called a simple phallic worship” (SD 2:588). It is under the form of the linga, either alone or combined with the yoni (female organ, the representative of his sakti or female energy), that Siva is so often worshiped today in India.

In the Linga-Purana, Siva is said to take repeated births, in one kalpa possessing a white complexion, in another that of a black color, in still another that of a red color, after which he becomes four youths of a yellow color. This allegory is an ethnological account of the different races of mankind and their varying types and colors (cf SD 1:324).

Siva is known under more than a thousand names or titles and is represented under many different forms in Hindu writings. As the god of generation and of justice, he is represented riding a white bull; his own color, as well as that of the bull, is generally white, referring probably to the unsullied purity of abstract justice. He is sometimes seen with two hands, sometimes with four, eight, or ten; and with five faces, representing among other things his power over the five elements. He has three eyes, one placed in the centre of his forehead, and shaped as a vertical oval. These three eyes are said to denote his view of the three divisions of time: past, present, and future. He holds a trident in his hand to denote his three great attributes of emanator, destroyer, and regenerator, thus combining all the usual qualities or functions attributed to the Trimurti. In his character of time, he not only presides over its beginning and its extinction, but also over its present functioning as represented in astronomical and astrological calculations. A crescent or half-moon on his forehead indicates time measured by the phases of the moon; a serpent forms one of his necklaces to denote the measure of time by cycles, and a second necklace of human skulls signifies the extinction and succession of the races of mankind. He is often pictures as entirely covered with serpents, which are at once emblems of spiritual immortality and his standing as the patron of the nagas or initiates. He is often mystically personated by Mount Meru, which esoterically is both the cosmic and terrestrial axis with their respective poles.

According to the belief of most Advaita-Vedantists, Sankaracharya, the great Indian philosopher and sage, is held to be an avatara of Siva.


Siva-Rudra (Sanskrit) Śiva-Rudra The name Siva occupies a very inconspicuous position in the Vedas, where that deity is referred to as Rudra, the greatest of the kumaras, considered by occultists as their special patron.

He is for this reason called Trilochana (the three-eyed) or Mahadeva (the great divinity), etc. The function of Siva-Rudra is to destroy in order to regenerate the permanent entity on a higher plane; his functions being essentially those of action, as Vishnu’s functions are essentially those of continuance or preservation.

Siva-Rudra is the hierarch of the rudras, who are essentially dhyani-chohans of an active spiritually-intellectual character — the manasaputras may be called rudras. See also RUDRA; RUDRA-SIVA

Six The number of manifestation; the ancients reasoned that since the basis of all manifested nature was sextal — such as six fundamental forces, planes, and hierarchies of beings — therefore nature throughout all its manifested structure and workings would be subordinate to this fundamental numerical key. Hence not only the structure of nature itself would be sextal, but so would cycles of time in their operation. Here is the fundamental reason the Hindus, ancient Babylonians, and the Mystery schools and teachers of other lands, adopted the sextal or sexagesimal keys as the numerical series of events in which time cycles repeated themselves, therefore corresponding to events in human and cosmic matters. Multiplied by itself, and then by ten (the perfect number), gives 360 — the number of the Hindu Divine Year, also of degrees in a circle and the basis of the Babylonian saros.

The combination with three (6+3) making nine, however, was looked at askance by the ancients, for “if number 6 was the symbol of our globe ready to be animated by a divine spirit, 9 symbolized our earth informed by a bad or evil spirit” (SD 2:581).

In Saint-Germain’s manuscript, six is regarded as the symbol of the animating or informing principle, and it was also the “symbol of the Earth during the autumn and winter ‘sleeping’ months” (SD 2:583).

In occultism six is represented by the cube representing the six dimensions — the four cardinal points, and the zenith and nadir; “while the senary was applied by the sages to physical man, the septenary was for them the symbol of that man plus his immortal soul” (SD 2:591).

Six is also present in the double triangles, which when interlaced form a six-pointed star; “this is the reason why Pythagoras and the ancients made the number six sacred to Venus, since ‘the union of the two sexes, and the spagyrisation of matter by triads are necessary to develop the generative force, that prolific virtue and tendency to reproduction which is inherent in all bodies’ ” (SD 2:592). See also SENARY

Six-pointed Star The double triangle or Solomon’s Seal; in India called the sign of Vishnu, where it “is the emblem of the Trimurti three in one. The triangle with its apex upward indicates the male principle, downward the female; the two typifying, at the same time, spirit and matter.”

six pointed star

(IU 2:270; cf also diagrams in IU 2:264-5, 452-3) The six-pointed star is found in symbolical representations of the earliest cosmogonies. When the six-pointed star is formed of two interlaced equilateral triangles — one light with the apex pointing upward, the other dark with the apex pointing downward, both triangles being symmetrically placed with regard to one central point — and the double figure is surrounded by a circle, the sign represents the universe, spirit and matter, the alpha and omega in the cosmos, and involution and evolution. In the Qabbalistic presentation of the figure, instead of a circle surrounding the star a serpent is portrayed as swallowing its tail, as in the seal of the Theosophical Society:

ts seal

This is the Egyptian symbol of time and eternity, and of ever-recurring cycles: of birth and death, manvantara and pralaya, to which the universe and every entity within it are subject. In theosophy it symbolizes further the six forces or powers of nature, the six cosmic planes, principles, etc., all synthesized by the seventh, or central point within the star.

The apex of the light triangle symbolizes the spiritual-divine monad, having its habitat in the spiritual-divine realms; the apex of the dark triangle, the human monad, having its habitat in the middle realm of conflict between spirit and matter, the apex itself being in the worlds of manifestation, the two sides extending from it reaching upwards towards the spiritual realm and representing evolution through aspiration and efforts towards a spiritual life. On the other hand, the two sides extending downwards from the apex of the light triangle represent the rays streaming from the spiritual-divine monad to enlighten, inspire, and uplift all beings in the manifested worlds. In the case of man, the human monad represented by the apex of the dark triangle is the reflection or child of the spiritual-divine monad or inner god.

The central geometrical point, having neither length, breadth, nor thickness, represents the invisible spiritual sun, the light of the unmanifested deity. Sometimes instead of a geometrical point, a crux ansata with a circle as its zenith appears — symbol of limitless, uncreated space, as is a cross within a circle.

Again, the pentagram or five-pointed star may take the place of the central point, in which case the pentagram symbolizes the microcosm or man, within the macrocosm or universe. “The double triangle representing symbolically, the Macrocosm, or great universe, contains in itself besides the idea of the duality (as shown in the two colours, and two triangles — the universe of Spirit and that of Matter) — those of the Unity, of the Trinity, of the Pythagorean Tetractys — the perfect Square — and up to the Dodecagon and the Dodecahedron” (BCW 3:313). See also SENARY; SEAL OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY

Six Schools of Indian Philosophy. See DARSANA

Sixth Principle Buddhi in the ascending scale of the seven human principles. Cosmically Brahma is called the sixth principle, the seventh being Brahman (SD 1:18). In the solar system the sun, considered as the ruler of his own kingdom, is because of his spiritual effulgence, the buddhi or sixth principle of that kingdom, being the son of akasa, Aditi, Deva-matri (SD 1:527), three names for the same cosmic generative principle. That the sun is the buddhi principle in his own kingdom does not interfere with the fact that all the suns together form the kama-rupa of the galaxy or Milky Way.

Sixth Race, Sixth Root-race. See ROOT-RACE, SIXTH

Sixth Round. See ROUND, SIXTH

Sixth Sense The five senses which are at present physically developed need a sixth sense to register and record them, and this is what is now functioning as mental perception. A sixth sense, with its properly evolved sense organ, is also mentioned as not yet being manifested physically, but beginning to be manifested during the sixth root-race. Its rudiments already exist in sensitive people, who have feelings and presentiments hard to define and not referable to any of the usual five senses. See also SENSES

Skanda (Sanskrit) Skanda The attacker; a title of Karttikeya, who killed Taraka, the deva-daimon.

Skanda Purana (Sanskrit) Skanda Purāṇa One of the 18 principal Hindu Puranas consisting of several samhitas and khandas. The most celebrated of the latter is the Kasi-khanda, in which the temples of Kasi (Benares) are exalted, and legends concerning Kasi are related. In this Purana Skanda (Karttikeya, the god of war) narrates the events of the Tatpurusha Kalpa, embroidered with many tales.

Skandhas (Sanskrit) Skandha-s Bundles, groups of various attributes forming the compound constitution of the human being. They are the manifested qualities and attributes forming the human being on all six planes of Being, beneath the spiritual monad or atma-buddhi, making up the totality of the subjective and objective person. They have to do with everything that is finite in the human being, and are therefore inapplicable to the relatively eternal and absolute. Every vibration of whatever kind, mental, emotional, or physical, that an individual has undergone or made, is derivative of and from one of the skandhas composing his constitution. Skandhas are the elements of limited existence. The five skandhas of every human being are: rupa (form), the material properties or attributes; vedana (sensations, perceptions); sanjna (consciousness, abstract ideas); sanskara (action), tendencies both physical and mental; vijnana (knowledge), mental and moral predispositions. Two further, unnamed skandhas “are connected with, and productive of Sakkayaditthi, the ‘heresy or delusion of individuality’ and of Attavada ‘the doctrine of Self,’ both of which (in the case of the fifth principle the soul) lead to the maya of heresy and belief in the efficacy of vain rites and ceremonies; in prayers and intercession”; “The ‘old being’ is the sole parent — father and mother at once — of the ‘new being.’ It is the former who is the creator and fashioner, of the latter, in reality; and far more so in plain truth, than any father in flesh. And once that you have well mastered the meaning of Skandhas you will see what I mean” (ML 111). The human skandhas are the causal activities which by their action and interaction attract the reincarnating ego back to earth-life. The exoteric skandhas have to do with objective man; the esoteric with inner and subjective man.

At death the seeds of causes sown which have not yet been realized remain latent in our inner principles as “psychological impulse-seeds” awaiting expression in future lives. The skandhas “unite at the birth of man and constitute his personality. After the death of the body the Skandhas are separated and so remain until the Reincarnating Ego on its downward path into physical incarnation gathers them together again around itself, and thus reforms the human constitution considered as a unity” (OG 158).

Similarly with suns and planets: at pralaya, the lower principles of such a cosmic body exist latent in space in a laya-condition while its spiritual principles are active in higher realms. “When a laya-center is fired into action by the touch of wills and consciousnesses on their downward way, becoming the imbodying life of a solar system, or of a planet of a solar system, the center manifests first on its highest plane, and later on its lower plane. The Skandhas are awakened into life one after another: first the highest ones, next the intermediate ones, and lastly the inferior ones, cosmically and qualitatively speaking” (ibid.).

The skandhas are likewise closely connected with the karmic pictures in the astral light, which also is the medium as well as the register of impressions.

Skidbladnir (Icelandic, Scandinavian) [from skid ski + blad blade] The mythical ship belonging to the Norse god Frey, who dwells in and sponsors the planet earth. Skidbladnir thus represents our globe. It contains the seeds of all life forms, and yet can be folded together like a kerchief when its life is over.

The Eddas relate how Skidbladnir was created for Frey by the dwarf Dvalin (undeveloped humanity) with the aid of the giant-god Loki (human mind), in a competition against the dwarfs Sindre (vegetation) and Brock (mineral kingdom), children of the moon god Ivalde. See also DWARFS

Skrymir (Icelandic, Scandinavian) A Norse giant, also called Utgarda-Loki (Loki of the outermost court), representing the worlds of illusion (matter) in which the gods (consciousnesses) are misled. A well known tale relates how Thor, Loki, and Thor’s servant Tjalfi are subjected to a number of “eye-shines” (illusions) and ignominiously outperformed by the giants in a series of contests, all by means of deceptive appearances.

In Norse mythology giants represent ages of manifest existence and each giant exhibits traits belonging to his particular eon. The giantesses who are his daughters represent lesser cycles of time within his longer age. Thurses are the gross, inert aspects of the elements which serve as vehicles for the imbodiments of conscious energies in worlds. They are represented as evil in most myths because their nature is opposed to the dynamism of the gods. Hence the gods and thurses or giants are constantly at war.

Skrymir and other giants exemplify also the gigantic forebears of our human race who inhabited the earth when forms were not yet coarse and weighty. Every mythic history contains references to giants: “in nearly every mythology — which after all is ancient history — the giants play an important part. In the old Norse mythology, the giants, Skrymir and his brethren, against whom the sons of the gods fought, were potent factors in the histories of deities and men” (SD 2:754).

Skuld (Icelandic) A debt, due; the third of the three norns who determine the fate of heroes in Norse mythology and who parallel the Greek Moirai. Skuld represents the future or unexpended karma, that which is due and owing. Her sister norns are named Urd (origin) and Verdandi (becoming). Skuld is said to be created by her two sisters: by the causes set in motion in the past (Urd) and the decisions and actions taken in the present (Verdandi). Hence she is the inevitable consequence of what has gone before.

Sleep In sleep the ego becomes unconscious on the physical plane in its brain — except in the cases of dreaming; the connection between the mind and the bodily senses is quiescent and there is no direct self-conscious cognition of physical objects and events. In short, the ego is functioning on a different plane of consciousness. On awaking, we have confused recollections of experiences of the state of imperfect sleep which fringes the waking and sleeping states, but the sleeping state is not a single state. Many planes of consciousness are enumerated, of which what we call the waking state is one. One Hindu system has a fourfold division of consciousness into jagrat, the waking state; svapna, the dream state; sushupti, the state of dreamless sleep; and, highest, the turiya, which is relatively complete egoic or spiritual consciousness on interior planes. From this last state of perfect awakenment, the jagrat or physical waking state is the farthest removed; what is to us the dream state (svapna) is a closer approach; and sushupti, which to us is complete loss of physical brain-mind consciousness, is actually the closest approach to the complete consciousness experienced by the ego in turiya. Turiya is the complete oblivion to the outside world, for the ego is functioning in its spiritual vehicle of consciousness.

These four distinct states of consciousness into which the human egoic self can enter, are the manifestations during imbodiment of what takes place on a more profound and radical scale at death. Sleep is a small death, and death may be called a larger sleep: in both, the ego, liberated successively form various bonds, travels inwards and upwards through different grades of consciousness and reaches the experiences proper to those planes.

Sleep is also used figuratively, in contrast with waking, to denote a state of nonmanifestation, when there is no contrast between subject and object; the term so used is relative, and sleeping on one plane may coincide with waking on another.

Sleep, Sacred The sleep of the neophyte when he is thrown into oblivion by magical processes and draughts of soma remaining entranced as through dead for several days while he becomes the receptacle for divine communications from his Augoeides (IU 1:357). What he reveals while in this state is not known to him, nor to anyone but the few adepts privileged to be present. The same thing is referred to by Isaiah, in describing the purification necessary for a prophet: “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me having a live coal in his hand . . . and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged” (6:6, 7). The state is in some respects different from the trance of the priestesses of Delphi, exhibited before the multitude.

Sloka (Sanskrit) Śloka A verse, generally formed of verses in four half-lines of eight, or in two lines of sixteen syllables each, the Sanskrit epic meter of 32 syllables.

Smaragdine Tablet The emerald tablet, alleged mystically to be of the Egyptian Hermes or Thoth, on which was inscribed, according to the Hermeticists, “the whole of magic in a single page.” In a letter to the Sophists, Paracelsus says: “The ancient Emerald Table shows more art and experience in Philosophy, Alchemy, Magic, and the like than ever could be taught by you or your crowd of followers.” Masons and Christian Qabbalists alleged it to have been found on the dead body of Hermes by Sarai, Abraham’s wife; this allegory may mean that Sarasvati (wife of Brahma and a legendary prototype of Sarai) found much of the ancient wisdom latent in the dead body of humanity and revivified it. It is also said that the Emerald Tablet was found at Hebron, the city of the kabeiroi or cabiri (the gibborim, the Four Mighty Ones), by an Essenian initiate (TG 302, SD 2:556). It exists only in a late Latin form referred to in the 7th century.

Hermes was the Greek god of mystical thinking and interpretations, corresponding to the Egyptian Thoth, both divinities being overseers or hierophants of works of initiation concealing the archaic secrets of the god-wisdom. Thus the ascription to Hermes of profoundly mystical allegories is properly assigned, whoever their actual writers may have been.

A fundamental law of interpretation — analogy — is expressed in the Emerald Tablet in the famous aphorism, “That which is above is as that which is below; and that which is below, is as that which is above, for performing the marvels of the Kosmos. As all things are from the One, by the mediation of the One so all things arose out of this One Thing by evolving . . .”

Smarta, Smartava (Sanskrit) Smārta, Smārtava [from smṛti tradition from the verbal root smṛ to remember] A follower of Sankaracharya and the Advita Vedantic doctrines. According to Blavatsky “this sect, founded by Sankaracharya, (which is still very powerful in Southern India) is now almost the only one to produce students who have preserved sufficient knowledge to comprehend the dead letter of the Bhashyas. The reason of this is that they alone, I am informed, have occasionally real Initiates at their head in their mathams, as for instance, in the ‘Sringa-giri,’ in the Western Ghauts of Mysore. On the other hand, there is no sect in that desperately exclusive caste of the Brahmins, more exclusive than is the Smartava; and the reticence of its followers to say what they may know of the Occult sciences and the esoteric doctrine, is only equalled by their pride and learning” (SD 1:271-2). What the original Hebrew Qabbalists were — qabbalah itself meaning tradition or traditional knowledge handed down from generation to generation of adepts — was exactly what the Smartava-Brahmanas were.

Traditional teaching holds that truth is preserved far more clearly by oral transmission of knowledge than by its reduction to writing, whether openly or disguisedly expressed, which latter is called sruti in India, involving the static delivery of the written word without the atmosphere and life accompanying the traditional handing on of knowledge orally.

Smell. See SENSES

Smriti (Sanskrit) Smṛti [from the verbal root smṛ to remember] What is remembered; unwritten teachings handed down by word of mouth, distinguished from srutis or teachings handed down in traditional writings. The Hebrew word qabbalah has a literally identical meaning.

The smritis were a system of oral teaching, passing from one generation of recipients to the succeeding generation, as was the case with the Brahmanical books before they were imbodied in manuscript. The Smartava-Brahmanas are, for this reason, considered by many to be esoterically superior to the Srauta-Brahmanas. In its widest application, the smritis include the Vedangas, the Sutras, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, the Dharma-sastras, especially the works of Manu, Yajnavalkya, and other inspired lawgivers, and the ethical writing or Niti-sastras; whereas the typical example of the sruti are the Vedas themselves considered as revelations.

Sruti means that which is “heard” or received as direct oral revelation from a superior being, considered by orthodox Hindus to be equally holy to smriti; yet in ancient times the most sacred and secret teachings were never committed to writing but were invariably passed on from teacher to pupil with “mouth at ear” and at “low breath,” whether among the Egyptians, Persians, Chaldeans, Greeks, Romans, Druids, Chinese, or Hindus.


Socharis. See SEKER

Sochoniston. See SANCHONIATHON

Sod (Hebrew) Sōd Originally to appoint, place, or found; later an assembly, people placed or appointed or founded to do some duty or work; hence a secret or occult assembly or company of individuals united for some specific purpose, corresponding almost exactly to the Greek mysterion (mystery).

Sod occurs frequently in the Old Testament, translated as secret or assembly, where Mysteries would be a more correct rendering: e.g., “Jacob called unto his sons, and said . . . Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. . . . come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly” (Genesis 49:1, 5-6). The Bible is “a series of historical records of the great struggle between white and black Magic, between the Adepts of the right path, the Prophets, and those of the left, the Levites, the clergy of the brutal masses. . . . The great schism that arose between the sons of the Fourth Race, as soon as the first Temples and Halls of Initiation had been erected under the guidance of ‘the Sons of God,’ is allegorized in the Sons of Jacob. That there were two schools of Magic, and that the orthodox Levites did not belong to the holy one, is shown in the words pronounced by the dying Jacob” (SD 2:211).

The secret learning of the Hebrews was often termed Sod (plural, Sodim), Sodei Torah (secrets or mysteries of the Law), or Razei Torah.

Sodales (Latin) Members or fellows of a fraternity, society, or recognized corporation, hence members of a mystic, secret, or occult fraternity. It suggests the Shemitic, as in the Hebrew sod (both an assembly or fraternity, and a secret and sacred mystery). Cicero in his De Senectute speaks of sodalities in the Idaean Mysteries of the Magna Mater (great mother, mystic nature).

Sodalian Oath An irrevocable pledge, implying that the final mysteries had been communicated to one so bound by oath (sod signifying secret, mystery). “The penalty of death followed the breaking of the Sodalian oath or pledge. The oath and the Sod (the secret learning) are earlier than the Kabbalah or Tradition, and the ancient Midrashim treated fully of the Mysteries or Sod before they passed into the Zohar. Now they are referred to as the Secret Mysteries of the Thorah, or Law, to break which is fatal” (TG 303).

Soham (Sanskrit) Soham [from saḥ he + aham I] He is I; a mystical permutation of Ahamsa (I am he). Shoam contains the mystical teaching of the identity of man’s essence with divinity. See also AHAMSA; HAMSA

Sokaris, Seket, Sokhit. See SEKER

Sol (Latin) Sun; it is said that the Latin solus (the only) was used of the One Good, and that this word afterwards became sol, the sun (SD 2:575). Pythagoras called Venus sol alter (the other sun); Arnobius says that Mercury also is sol — the vehicle of a solar logos. Every one of the sacred planets is sol in the same manner, for each is, so far as the solar system is concerned, the especial vehicle of one of the seven or twelve solar logoi.


Solar Lhas [from solar + Tibetan lha a celestial being] Used in the Stanzas of Dzyan to indicate the higher beings derivative from the spiritual side of our sun who endowed the human monads of our planetary chain with the spirit of life. The solar Lhas warm and invigorate the protohuman shadows (SD 2:109), although they do not quicken their mind principle — except insofar as the life-energy reaches the manasic element in the constitution. These solar lhas refer particularly to the pranic activity in the individual human being; the solar lhas of a far higher class are equivalent to the agnishvattas, manasaputras, and kumaras who awaken the human mind. See also LHA

Solar Logoi Logos, when used in connection with the sun, is a generalizing term for the seven or twelve fundamental spiritual and intellectual solar powers, at the summit of which stands the solar hierarch, the physical sun being but the reflection or garment of these unified septenary or duodenary powers. In consequence, every being in the universe, great or small, has as its primordial origin a spiritual entity which, emanating from itself its own characteristic powers, produces these latter as its logoi. In the case of our sun there are seven or twelve chief forces or primary entitative rays which compose in their aggregate the true sun, unified at their summit or supreme hierarch; and these seven or twelve powers or forces are the solar logoi, the globes of the solar chain or the planes of the solar system. On the descending evolutionary scale, each of these seven or twelve primary forces may be subdivided into seven or twelve minor powers or forces.

The solar logoi were termed by the ancients the planetary rectors or genii, each having its main habitat in one of the Houses of Life known as the sacred planets. These solar and planetary logoi are focused in the human body in the various chakras.

Solar Race. See SURYAVANSA

Solar System Commonly, the Sun with the nine principal planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto — their satellites, and the minor planets, comets, and meteors; in theosophy, however, the solar system is a far more complex entity, for many of its worlds manifest on planes of being invisible to our senses.

The planets are individual manifestations of conscious intelligences, their distances from the sun being generally in rhythmical progression and their motions directed by mind and volition, as Kepler declared in his doctrine of Rectors, following the ancient teachings. The nebular hypothesis, once so popular in European scientific thought and now more or less rejected, was first suggested by Swedish seer Swedenborg and German philosopher Kant, and around the beginning of the 19th century was worked out in mathematical detail by the Frenchman Laplace. Though the nebular hypothesis as scientifically presented was unacceptable to theosophical thinkers, it nevertheless was based upon facts of cosmic evolution accepted by the ancient wisdom-religion and approximated somewhat more closely to what theosophy teaches as the facts of cosmogony than do the later tidal or planetesimal theories.

In theosophy the universe is the product of cosmic mind or intelligence, whose all-permeant activities manifest on our material plane as the laws of nature. The universe and all in it, proceeding from cosmic consciousness, is imbued throughout with the qualities and attributes of its divine originators; and as there is but one primordial fundamental life — and therefore one fundamental law — energizing and guiding all, the ancient teaching of analogy is the master key to understanding universal nature.

Calling the primordial origins of every being and thing by the term monads, as Leibniz did following Pythagoras, these monads may be looked upon as the seeds of cosmic life, life-centers or energy points, and in such case naught in the universe is the product of chance, but is the offspring of mind. Thus the solar system itself sprang from such a cosmic seed or monad; and the same holds true for the planets, nebulae, comets, and all other individually enduring cosmic bodies.

Comets are coordinated with earlier and later stages of nebular evolution, playing an activating part in the formation of individual celestial bodies. The planets did not emerge from the sun, but the sun is their “co-uterine brother” with the same nebular origin. The sun is the great distributor of light and other radiations, including vital energy, throughout the solar system, and is itself a member of a hierarchy of solar beings.

The ancient wisdom speaks of seven sacred planets which are especially connected with the earth, as indeed our own earth is likewise especially connected with various planetary chains, which mutually assisted in the formation of the seven or twelve globes of the planetary chains. These sacred planets are: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn — the Sun and Moon being substitutes for esoteric and invisible planets. The complete number of the planets of a solar system is twelve, which is the number of globes composing a planetary chain. These twelve sacred planets are closely linked with the twelve houses of the zodiac, these links of unity being the energic coordinates tying our solar system in with the life and structure of the galaxy.

Theosophy makes a distinction between the solar system and the universal solar system — the former has especial reference to the twelve sacred planets, while the universal solar system refers to all bodies belonging to and revolving around a master- or king-sun (raja-sun) and within the latter’s far-flung realm on seven or more planes of being. It therefore contains planets and suns invisible to our present range of sense perception. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are said not to belong to the solar system (nor are they included among the twelve sacred planets), but are members of the universal solar system.

In the Brahmanical system the solar system was regarded as an Egg of Brahma (brahmanda), the prakritic or prithivi-form of Brahma, so that its life span is equivalent to the length of Brahma’s manifested life. A Day of Brahma for a planetary chain consists of a planetary manvantara — seven rounds of the various life-waves around that chain — a period of 4,320,000,000 terrestrial years. The ensuing pralaya or Night of Brahma is of an equivalent length, together equaling 8,640,000,000 terrestrial years. Forty-nine such planetary Days and Nights equal one solar manvantara, equivalent to a Year of Brahma; and each such year of Brahma is figured as being 360 of his Days; and 100 such Years of Brahma equal Brahma’s Life, a period of 311,040,000,000,000 terrestrial years — including in this vast time period the various twilights and dawns. Theosophic philosophy states that one-half of Brahma’s Life has been spent, or 50 Years of Brahma. At the end of Brahma’s Life, the final consummation of the solar system, so far as the planetary chain is concerned, will occur, and everything within the bounds of this system will vanish, and the succeeding solar pralaya will commence.

Sollen (German) Ought; duty, moral obligation, so used by Kant in his theory of the categorical imperative, where he distinguishes between I ought and I wish, refusing to define duty as a form of expediency. The feeling of obligation, one of the noblest moral or ethical instincts, is not a phenomenon but an expression of the inner transcendental self, and greatly dignifies the mind which entertains and contains it.

Solomon, King of Israel and Judah (Hebrew) Shĕlomoh [from shālōm prosperous cf Arab zuleima, Greek Salomon Latin solomo, genitive solomonis, French Salomon] Peace, prosperity; according to orthodox Biblical chronology, he lived 993-953 BC, the youngest son of David whom he succeeded through the influence of his mother Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan. Throughout the East, especially in Arabia and thence in Europe, there are many legends of his wisdom and magical powers, and notably with regard to his seal, the six-pointed star or double interlaced equilateral triangles (Solomon’s seal); his meeting with the Queen of Sheba and his answering of the questions and riddles propounded by her and others; and his judgments. Solomon is said to have gotten “his secret learning from India through Hiram, the king of Ophir, and perhaps Sheba” (IU 1:135, 136n).

If the exoteric literal account in the Bible is accepted, Solomon in his later years showed himself as very far from wise, indulging in licentiousness and idolatry (1 Kings 11); further, he began his reign with the murder of Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei and his last recorded act was that he sought to kill Jereboam.

In Freemasonry, King Solomon is especially honored as the builder of the Temple and as the first of the Three Grand Masters — the other two being Hiram, King of Tyre, and Hiram Abif — all of whom were concerned with the building of the Temple. The evil ending of Solomon’s life, according to the Biblical account, is almost overlooked in Masonic ritual and literature. In the Jewish Encyclopedia (“Solomon”), according to one writer, Solomon is represented as “the wise king par excellence”; and “in Arabic literature, Solomon is spoken of as ‘the messenger of God’ ”; according to another writer in the same work, however, “a critical sifting of the sources leaves the picture of a petty, Asiatic despot, remarkable, perhaps, only for a love of luxury and for polygamous inclinations.” Only by interpreting the Bible esoterically can we arrive at the truth regarding King Solomon; and such interpretation fully corroborates the characterization of “the wise king par excellence”; and fully supports both Masonic ritual and tradition in regarding King Solomon as the first and chief of the Three Grand Masters.

What then is the explanation of the otherwise contradictory statements in the Bible regarding Solomon? Even from a historical and ethnological standpoint one may find a clue, for along purely exoteric lines there is nothing foreign in Solomon’s “idolatry” and his worship of other deities. The same racial strain ran through all the surrounding peoples as in Israel, and the respective worships, gods, and goddesses were all closely interrelated, derived from the same Babylonian concepts, appearing under different names — Blavatsky shows the identity of the mystery gods of the Phoenicians, Chaldeans, and Israelites (SD 2:3). The gods and goddesses of the nations surrounding the Jews were all theologically interrelated, aspects or permutations of the same basic idea; and, as worshiped by the people, all were variants and, in their exoteric forms, degradations of the original conception on which every great theogony and cosmogony was built (cf SD 2:535 et seq).

As for Solomon’s 700 wives and 300 concubines, these “are merely the personations of man’s attributes, feelings, passions and his various occult powers: the Kabbalistic numbers 7 and 3 showing it plainly. Solomon himself, moreover, being, simply, the emblem of Sol — the ‘Solar Initiate’ or the Christ-Sun, is a variant of the Indian ‘Vikarttana’ (the Sun) shorn of his beams by Visvakarman, his Hierophant-Initiator, who thus shears the Chrestos-candidate for initiation of his golden radiance and crowns him with a dark, blackened aureole — the ‘crown of thorns.’ (See The Secret Doctrine for full explanation.) Solomon was never a living man. As is described in Kings, his life and works are an allegory on the trials of Initiation” (BCW 10:162-3n).

Solomon the Wise is a type-figure, and the legendary story of his life, wisdom and glory, and temptations and apparent fall, is a variant of the traditional history of certain wise ones recounted in every world-religion. Even granting that a king names Shelomoh reigned over Judah and Israel, the Biblical account and the many traditions of his life are an allegory of initiation.

Solomon’s Seal. See SIX-POINTED STAR

Solomon’s Temple. See TEMPLE OF SOLOMON

Solstice [from Latin sol sun + stit stand still] The two points in the ecliptic at which the sun is farthest from the equator, north or south; so called because the sun halts and turns back on its northerly or southerly course. These points are in the first degree of Cancer and Capricorn respectively — the summer and winter solstices; south of the equator the summer solstice occurs when the sun is south of the equator and in Capricorn, and the winter solstice when the sun is north of the equator and in Cancer; north of the equator the summer solstice occurs when the sun is north of the equator and in Cancer, and the winter solstice when the sun is south of the equator and in Capricorn. The solstitial points, like the equinoctial points, retrograde and complete their circle round the ecliptic in a precessional year of 25,920 years.

The solstices and equinoxes mark the four corners of the esoteric year, each associated with particular psychospiritual events in the initiation cycle. The winter solstice is associated with the birth of the inner Christ or Buddha; the summer solstice with the great renunciation of personal progress made by those of the hierarchy of compassion.

Solus (Latin) Only, sole; in SD 2:575, it refers to the One and Only Good, and is connected with Sol, the sun (Sol is usually derived from the Greek Helios).

The connection suggests the mystical ideas of spiritual individualities infilling the universe, of which Sol stands as the most prominent example in the solar system. By a slight extension of meaning solus could easily stand for a monad or spiritual individual, whether of cosmic or lesser magnitude, being an indirect reference to the class of monads which form the hierarchy of light or of compassion.

Solvent The universal solvent is an alchemical expression equivalent to the Philosopher’s Stone and the Universal Agent of medieval alchemy. It means a unity into which diverse elements can be resolved or from which they emanate or proceed; and has different applications according to particular planes. Thus “whatsoever quits the Laya State becomes active life; it is drawn into the vortex of MOTION (the alchemical solvent of Life)” (SD 1:258). One culmination of the “Secret Work” is the union of the three elements (sulfur, mercury, salt), the occult solvent in the world-soul; while on the material plane the solvent is hydrogen (SD 2:113).

Soma (Greek) Body; equivalent to the Sanskrit sthula-sarira in the seven human or cosmic principles.

Soma (Sanskrit) Soma In Hinduism, the moon astronomically; mystically, a sacred beverage of initiates, “made from a rare mountain plant by initiated Brahmans” (TG 304). As the moon, Soma is an occult mystery, for the moon as a symbol stands for both good and evil, yet more often a symbol of evil than of good. Astrologically, Soma is the regent of the invisible or occult moon, while Indu represents the physical moon. “Soma is the mystery god and presides over the mystic and occult nature in man and the Universe” (SD 2:45). Soma or lunar worship was once purely occult and its rites were based upon a minute and profound knowledge of nature.

According to Hindu tradition, Soma as a sacred juice gave mystic visions and trance-revelations, the result of which union was Budha (esoteric wisdom). This sacred beverage was drunk by Brahmins and initiates during their mysteries and sacrificial rites.

“The ‘Soma’ plant is the asclepias acida, which yields a juice from which that mystic beverage, the Soma drink, is made. Alone the descendants of the Rishis, the Agnihotri (the fire priests) of the great mysteries knew all its powers. But the real property of the true Soma was (and is) to make a new man of the Initiate, after he is reborn, namely once that he begins to live in his astral body . . .; for, his spiritual nature overcoming the physical, he would soon snap it off and part even from that etherealized form. . . .
“The partaker of Soma finds himself both linked to his external body, and yet away from it in his spiritual form. The latter, freed from the former, soars for the time being in the ethereal higher regions, becoming virtually ‘as one of the gods,’ and yet preserving in his physical brain the memory of what he sees and learns. Plainly speaking, Soma is the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge forbidden by the jealous Elohim to Adam and Eve or Yah-ve, ‘lest Man should become as one of us’ ” (SD 2:498-9&n).
“A ‘soma-drinker’ attains the power of placing himself in direct rapport with the bright side of the moon, thus deriving inspiration from the concentrated intellectual energy of the blessed ancestors. . . .
“This which seems one stream (to the ignorant) is of a dual nature — one giving life and wisdom, the other being lethal. He who can separate the former from the latter, as Kalahamsa separated the milk from the water, which was mixed with it, thus showing great wisdom — will have his reward” (BCW 12:203-4).
“This Hindu sacred beverage answers to the Greek Ambrosia or nectar, drunk by the gods of Olympus. A cup of kykeon was also quaffed by the mysta at the Eleusinian initiation. He who drinks it easily reaches Brahma, or the place of splendor (Heaven). The soma-drink known to Europeans is not the genuine beverage, but its substitute; for the initiated priests alone can taste of the real soma; and even kings and rajas, when sacrificing, receive the substitute. . . . We were positively informed that the majority of the sacrificial priests of the Dekkan have lost the secret of the true soma. It can be found neither in the ritual books nor through oral information. The true followers of the primitive Vedic religion are very few; these are the alleged descendants from the Rishis, the real Agnihotris, the initiates of the great Mysteries. The soma-drink is also commemorated in the Hindu Pantheon, for it is called King-Soma. He who drinks of it is made to participate in the heavenly king, because he becomes filled with it, as the Christian apostles and their converts became filled with the Holy Ghost, and purified of their sins. The soma makes a new man of the initiate; he is reborn and transformed, and his spiritual nature overcomes the physical; it gives the divine power of inspiration, and develops the clairvoyant faculty to the utmost. According to the exoteric explanation the soma is a plant, but, at the same time it is an angel. It forcibly connects the inner, highest ‘spirit’ of man, which spirit is an angel like the mystical soma, with his ‘irrational soul,’ or astral body, and thus united by the power of the magic drink, they soar together above physical nature and participate during life in the beatitude and ineffable glories of Heaven.
“Thus the Hindu soma is mystically, and in all respects the same that the Eucharist supper is to the Christian. The idea is similar. By means of the sacrificial prayers — the mantras — this liquor is supposed to be transformed on the spot into real soma — or the angel, and even into Brahma himself” (IU 1:xl-xli).

The mystical drink has been known in all ages and among all peoples. The ancient Teutonic tribes, whether of the Germanic or Anglo-Saxons, spoke of their divine mead, the drink of the gods. The Hindus spoke of Soma, the direct distillation from the moon and from the overseeing and guiding eye of the sun; the Greeks of the Homeric age spoke of ambrosia or nectar, a drink of the gods which renewed their understanding and gave them inspiration as well. Another branch of the Greeks belonging to the Dionysian and Orphic branches of mystical thought, spoke equally mystically of the mystic wine, and also of the mystic cereal, partaken of during the Mysteries, and it is from this last that the mystical wine and cereal or bread of the Christians was taken over almost completely from the Dionysian Eucharist, only among Christians even from quite early times it became degraded into actual blood and flesh of Jesus.

The evident meaning must be connected with the old occult thought that wine, or the mead of the northern peoples where the grape and soma were unknown or uncultivated, all had the meaning of the inspiration of initiation, a kind of ecstasy of vision and knowledge brought about through initiation, of which the physical intoxication of wine, mead, or the soma juice has all the lower and materialized aspect, every spiritual thing having its material counterpart, every right-hand thought or rule in occultism having its left-hand or sorcerer perversion or counterpart. Thus in the highest initiation, even today and from immemorial time, the holy drink or potation was entirely mystical, and had a dozen of these significances, all bound up together; yet despite this fact, for some of the lower initiations where a student found difficulty in throwing off the physical and astral influences, a harmless — when administered rightly — drug or drink was given which temporarily stupefied the lower quaternary; but it is to be noted that this substitute of the physical drink came about when neophytes began to find it very difficult to do what their more spiritual forerunners had done: raising themselves solely by inner aspiration up to inspiration, by inner insight up to the epopteia or vision.

Thus the question whether the mystical drink was an actual drink, or merely a mystical one, cannot be answered by a simple yes or no. Originally it was entirely mystical, later it remained as mystical as ever, but the body with its grossness, and the astral influences with their terrible power over the men and women of the time, were temporarily reduced to quiescence by a preparation known to initiates to have the power of bringing about the condition required, without any permanent or even long after-effect, very much as a sedative will be given by a physician today. It is of course true that if this drink, however relatively innocent in a single instance, were to be constantly repeated, it would have developed into a drug habit.

Some of the later peoples in their initiations actually did use a kind of physical soma which had the effect of bringing about a dulling of the restless brain-mind for the time being, so that the inner powers were temporarily freed from the clogging influences of the astral light and the body.

The use of drugs in initiatory ceremonies of any kind, however, is a relatively late and degenerate practice, and has never at any time been, nor will it ever be, introduced by the Mother-Lodge coming down to us even from the middle of the third root-race. With it the old tradition burns more brightly than ever that the true soma, the true mead of the gods or wine of the spirit, is the raising of the human into the spiritual by aspiration, training, and strict following of the traditional laws of discipleship, so that finally the neophyte feels the sunlight from above stealing through the moon of his mind.

So strongly is this the case, that even today in theosophical occult studies, drug taking of any kind is strictly forbidden, including alcohol, for alcohol is a drug, a product of natural decay and decomposition, and while less spectacular and violent as a rule than drugs such as opium and its derivatives, it is far more easily procurable and is therefore more specifically pointed to as objectionable. The idea of the occult student is to have the body absolutely normal, healthy, clean, and functioning in the smoothness of health, so that even overeating is seen to be a harmful thing, because it clogs the body, dulls the mind, and could even actually lead to physical disability.

There is and has been a great deal of confusion, not only at present but throughout the ages, about these matters, and several mystical schools have even chosen the language of the tavern and drinking house as the cloak for conveying occult or semi-occult teaching. A noted example is the Sufi school with its poems lauding the flowing bowl and the joys of the tavern and the bosom friends therein, and the beloved’s breast. Here the tavern was the universe, the flowing cup or wine was the wine of the spirit bringing inner ecstasy, the bosom of the beloved was the raising oneself into inner communion with the god within, of which the Jewish bosom of Abraham is a feeble correspondence. The friends of the tavern are those perfect human relations brought about by a community of spiritual and intellectual interests, and the associations of the tavern are the mysteries of the world around us with their marvels and arcana. Nevertheless in various countries as the fourth root-race ran toward its evil culmination, the mystic became translated into the material, the spiritual degenerated into the teaching of matter, so that indeed in later Atlantean times the drugging of initiates was common, and the results always disastrous, this being one of the sorceries for which the Atlanteans in occult history have remained infamous. Yet even in the fifth root-race, due to the heavy Atlantean karma still weighing on us, many nations as late as historic times employed more or less harmless potations to bring about a temporary dulling or stupefying of the brain and nervous system — a procedure always vigorously opposed by the theosophic occult school which has never at any time allowed it.

Soma-loka (Sanskrit) Soma-loka [from Soma moon + loka world, place] The region or world of the regent of the moon, Soma; equivalent to pitri-loka, abode of the lunar pitris.

Somapas (Sanskrit) Somapās Those who drink or have drunk the soma juice. Soma itself was the mystical initiatory drink or potation of the ancient Hindus, which modern Orientalists suppose to have been the plant Asclepias acida. Originally soma had somewhat the same meaning that the mystics of other nations indicated by wine or mead. Hence the somapas are those people who, having become more or less infilled with the essence of their inner spirit, were mystically spoken of as having drunk of the soma juice, otherwise those in or under the ecstasy of intellectual illumination. In India the somapas are more or less restrictedly stated to be the especial spiritual progenitors of the Brahmins, but this idea is sectarian, for any human being, Brahmin or not, who had drunk of the inner wine of the spirit, or of the mystical soma of inner illumination, was a somapa.

Somatic Plasm [from Greek soma body] The substance or stuff of the body cells, as distinguished from the germinal plasm. In speaking of the modes of reproduction prevalent in the second root-race humanity and in parts of the third, this plasm, because of not containing the human germ, could not be the origin of the new races of the human races, but could only form the nucleus for the development of forms of organic beings evolutionally lower than human.

Somavansa (Sanskrit) Somavaṃśa [from soma moon + vaṃśa race] The lunar race or dynasty. See also CHANDRAVANSA

Somnambulism [from Latin somnus sleep + ambulare to walk] Sleepwalking; in this condition the person moves about as if entranced, like a human automaton. Though unconscious, he may read, write, compose music or poetry, execute skilled movements, tread dangerous heights safely, etc.; he may not only carry out the various activities of his waking state, but may perform both physical and mental feats of which he is normally incapable. He may then return to his bed, still asleep, and upon awakening retain no memory of his strange experience.

The puzzle of this psychophysiological state is explained by the ability of the different selves of composite human nature to function consciously upon the several planes of his own being. For instance, the ordinary somnambulist may be conscious in his own astral body which then is reflexly stimulating the instinctual cerebellum which presides over bodily movements and functions. Such a case is analogous to the unusual performances of an entranced medium. As in common dreams at night, so in sleep walking, one part of the brain, say the cerebrum, may be asleep, while the cerebellum may be awake and active. In rare cases, however, the somnambulist may so far transcend his usual character that he evidently is functioning above the astral level of his nature.


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

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