The Theosophical Forum – March 1947


I established this whole universe with a portion of myself, and remain separate. — Bhagavad-Gita

Every beginner in the study of Theosophy is familiar with the sevenfold classification of man in its simplest aspects, but like all the doctrines of the Ancient Wisdom, the subject may become exceedingly abstruse in its deeper ramifications. Let us here devote ourselves more particularly to a discussion as to whether these seven principles really exist, how they correspond to the principles of Nature, and how the exceedingly complex physical, mental, and spiritual reactions of man can adequately be accounted for by any other theory, the hypotheses of body and mind, or body, soul, and spirit, being wholly unsatisfactory.

"God geometrizes." Once admit Universal Cosmogony to be based on mathematics, and that the number Seven is fundamental in Nature, and reasoning by deduction we are led to the inescapable conclusion that man is also sevenfold — for analogy and correspondence are important aids in arriving at Truth. "As above, so below." — "As in heaven, so it is on earth." — "As in the great, so in the small." These are no idle statements, but the experience of sages and seers of all ages. How often have we not heard Dr. de Purucker say that man is a child of the Universe; that he has everything in him (in potentio) that the Universe has; that the Universe would cease to exist if a single atom could be destroyed!

Greek philosophy required a scale of descent and ascent between the "Creator"" and his "Creation." According to Plato, it was needful in order to explain the apparent defects and disorders of sublunary affairs "The tradition has come down from very ancient times that the heavenly bodies are Gods, and that Divinity encompasses the whole of Nature," says Aristotle. Plotinus says: "The part has everything the soul has. . . ." "Mind is a portion of the soul which animates and governs the Universe. The principles which are implanted in the human reason must inhere in the Divine Reason, and must be reflected in the visible world. The world is assuredly the image and copy of the Divinity, the outward and multiple development of the Eternal Unity. The finite is a true expression of the Infinite Being. The world is now a Triad, combining the Monad and Duad; now a Tetrad, now a Decad, which, in combining the former four, involves all the possible accordances of the Universe," said Pythagoras.

Parmenides, in his physical theory, was an Atomist. Instead of one element, he declared that the elements or first principles were numerous, or even infinite. No point in space is unoccupied by these atoms, which are infinitely divisible. He imagined that in Nature there are as many kinds of principles as there are species of compound bodies, and that the peculiar form of the primary particles of which any body is composed is the same with the qualities of the compound body, itself. This was the celebrated doctrine of Homoe-meria, of which Lucretius furnishes a luminous account in his philosophic poem, De Natura Rerum:

. . . That bones from bones
Minute, and embryon, nerves from nerves arise;
And blood, from blood, by countless drops increased.
Gold, too, from golden atoms; earths concrete,
From earths extreme; from fiery matters, fire;
And lymph from hmpen dews. And thus throughout
From primal kinds that kinds perpetual

Said he: "Man is the measure of all things; thought is the same thing as the cause of thought. . . ." "God is the First Principle of all principles," said Democritus. . . . "There are in Nature as many kinds of principles as there are species of compound bodies," said Anaxagoras. He considered these principles as eternal, because he held that nothing can be really created or annihilated — de nihilo nihil, in nihilum nil posse reverti. This doctrine was held by all philosophers of the Ionian school.

"God created man in his own image." If man is made in the image of God, it is pertinent to inquire just what this God is. Certainly no thoughtful person would interpret this to mean that God has a head, two arms, two legs, etc. God "created" man of his own essence, in his own likeness as regards the principles of his constitution.

The Universe has been divided in various ways by all the most ancient religions and philosophies, all, however, deriving it from a First Unknown and Unknowable Cause. Among the multitude of beautiful statues of Olympian gods and goddesses which the apostle Paul saw in his visit to Athens (not much to his liking, by the way), was a plain marble altar on which was inscribed: "To the Unknown God." He was so struck by this that it led to many discussions with the Athenian philosophers of that day. Whether they derived two, three, or five emanations or principles from this Supreme Being, this Unknown God, they eventually became the seven.

Seven is one of the fundamental numbers in Nature, and the most sacred of all, by which all kingdoms, races, genera, time-periods, qualities, etc, are correlated. It would take up all the time at our disposal to simply enumerate all the sevens mentioned in Science, Philosophy, and Religion. Let us, however, mention a few. According to the Adepts of ancient Aryavarta, seven principles are evolved from three primary principles, and these three primary principles from a single principle or Monad. This can be demonstrated with light. The sun's ray represents the one; from it proceed the three primary colors, while the four secondary colors of the spectrum coexist with the three primary. The above gives us a perfect illustration of the derivation of man's seven principles. Then we have the seven states of consciousness, the seven Manus, the seven portals, the seven musical tones, the seven days of the week, the Seven Sacred Planets. Our Mother Earth renews her strata every seven years. The number seven appears with frequency in Genesis, Job, the Mosaic Books, the Kabala, and all other ancient mystical writings. The mysterious number seven can be traced on almost every page of the oldest Aryan scriptures and the oldest Zoroastrian books as well; in the tile records of Babylon and Chaldea, and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, so-called, more properly The Book of Coming into Light. In the Atharva Veda we read: "Time, like a brilliant steed with seven rays, full of fecundity, bears all things onward. . . ." "Time, like a seven-wheeled, seven-naved car, moves on; his rolling wheels are all the worlds, his axle immortality."

There are seven centers in man's head — two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and one mouth — and seven passages connected with them. Man's monad performs seven peregrinations through the seven major kingdoms and an infinity of subkingdoms, all in series of seven, through seven chains of seven globes each, during seven manvantaras and seven pralayas. Says one of the Mahatma Letters: "Within a solar manvantara the number of his (man's) existences is 7 x 7 x 7+7, or 777. . . . In the first seven months of gestation the foetus repeats in miniature the mineral, vegetable, and animal cycles through which it had passed in its previous reembodiments. The child's development is completed only towards the end of the seventh year."

Then we have the seven initiations, and the seven deadly sins of the Book of Hermes. The human body is renewed every seven years. Each of the kingdoms of Nature is subdivided into seven classes. "There are seven intermediate stages between universal and individual consciousness. Nature follows the same groove from the "creation" of a Universe down to that of a mosquito. Worlds, like men, have their seven principles. Each principle remains forever within the body of its cosmic source. At the beginning of manifestation, man is an unconscious seventh principle [the unself-conscious godspark of Dr. de Purucker], with the germ of the other six lying latent and dormant within it," say the Mahatma Letters. When the ray from the monad enters any germ-cell it has the other six principles latent within it.

Thought is the same thing as the cause of thought;
For with the thing in which it is announced,
You cannot find the thought; for there is nothing,
Nor shall be, except the existing. (1)

Here we have the same conception, but with the additional idea that the phenomenal world is really non-existent, i.e., illusory and impermanent.

Both the deductive and inductive methods of reasoning must be employed if we are to get a comprehensive grasp of this subject. Says Proclus: "It is absurd to assert that the Universe is inanimate and that we who have a part of the body of the Universe have a soul. For how can a part have a soul if the Universe is inanimate? . . ." "It is not possible for anything to be generated destitute of God. The soul being incorporeal and divine, it was impossible for her to be conjoined with the body without a medium, for what the Aether is to the Universe, imagination is in man." Here, in Aether and imagination we have an example of a correlation of one of man's principles with one of the seven principles of a globe, a solar system, a galaxy, or a kosmos.

It is easily seen that physically man is compounded of all the seven kingdoms. He takes in the mineral, vegetable, and animal life-atoms through his food and drink, and the imponderable elements through the air he breathes. May it not be reasonable to suppose that his other principles are likewise compounded, each on its own plane? What more natural than to associate his appearance with Sthula-sarira, physical ailments with Linga-sarira, physical strength or weakness with Prana, intellect with Manas, intuition with Buddhi, spiritual exaltation with Atman?

Why should we doubt that man bears the same relation to the Celestial Sphere that the raindrop does to the cloud above, or that he, like it, is withdrawn again and again into his parent source? But for man to become the reflection of the Divine, it is necessary for the Divine Power to be "stepped down" from the Universal to the Particular. Even as the powerful current of the electric dynamo must be reduced by a transformer, in order that the tiny filament in the bulb may not be shattered, so must the terrific spiritual potencies of God be reduced through emanations so that man may not be annihilated by the divine splendor.

This is one of the reasons why man's principles are themselves sevenfold, as only seven "steppings down" would not be gradual enough. Through seven times seven graduations the divine potencies are sufficiently reduced to contact the lowest end of the scale — gross matter or Sthula-sarira. This is one of the significations of the Pillar of Light of the Hermetists, and Jacob's Ladder of the Bible. This Ladder is also the symbol of the orderly progression which the Angels, those Pilgrims of Eternity, none other than ourselves, make down and through the seven principles of the Universe. As these principles are also sevenfold, these forty nine steps aid in the process, when, in the fullness of time, man's principles are progressively withdrawn into one another, and finally into the bosom of the Monad. In Cosmogony this is "the heavens rolling up like unto a scroll."

We often speak of Manas as gravitating towards Kama or Buddhi, which is a good illustration of one step in this process of progressive evolution and involution. It should be borne in mind that all the principles above Prana are states of consciousness. No two blades of grass are ever alike. No two human beings are ever alike, and this infinite variety is caused by the combinations of these states of consciousness acting upon man's complex principles. The gradations of tones along the seven octaves of the whole keyboard of life are numberless. Herein lies the key to the behaviors in human nature so familiar to psychologists and psychoanalysts. Schizophrenia — "split personality" — has become a commonplace. We have today our Jekylls and Hydes.

How is it possible to account for the multiplicity of man's emotions and reactions, if he is only body and mind, or body, soul, and spirit? It takes the infinite combinations of the "Fortynine Fires" within him, upon all the planes of his being, and the operation of his senses upon other planes than the physical to give us a really comprehensive and logical explanation of his loves, his hates, his lusts, his inhibitions, his exhibitions, his weaknesses and his strength. Only when we recognize our close relationship, principle for principle, with Nature, do these things become clear to us.


1. Parmenides. (return to text)

The Theosophical Forum