Occult Glossary by G. de Purucker

Copyright © 1996 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.


N | O | P

NatureNirmanakayaNirvana — Nivritti (see Involution; Evolution) — Niyama (see Samadhi) — NoeticNous

ObscurationOccultismOjasOm — Outer Round (see Round)

PalingenesisParabrahmanParamatmanPath, ThePersonalityPhilosophyPitri(s)Plane(s)Planetary ChainPlanetary Spirit(s) — Pradhana (see Prakriti) — PrajapatiPrakritiPralayaPrana — Pranayama, Pratyahara (see Samadhi) — Pratyeka Buddha — Pravritti (see Evolution; Involution) — PreexistencePrinciples of ManPsychic PowersPsychologyPuranasPurusha

A | B-C | D-E-F | G-H-I | J-K-L | M | Q-R | S | T-U-V-W-Y-Z



The consciousness side of nature is composed of vast hierarchies of gods, developed cosmical spirits, spiritual entities, cosmic graduates in the university of life. The material side of nature is the heterogeneous matter, the material world in its many various planes, in all stages of imperfection — but all these stages filled with armies of entities evolving and growing. The proper term for nature in modern theosophical usage is prakriti or still more accurately mulaprakriti — the ever-living kosmic producer, the eternally fecund mother, of the universe. When a theosophist speaks of nature, unless he limits the term to the physical world, he never means the physical world alone, but the vast reaches of universal kosmos and more particularly the inner realms, the causal factors of the boundless All. Hence, a growing understanding of nature in this sense — which is another way of saying an understanding of reality — obviously provides the only basis of a religion founded on the changeless realities.


(Sanskrit) A compound of two words: nirmana, a participle meaning "forming," "creating"; kaya, a word meaning "body," "robe," "vehicle"; thus, nirmanakaya means "formed-body." A nirmanakaya, however, is really a state assumed by or entered into by a bodhisattva — an individual man made semi-divine who, to use popular language, instead of choosing his reward in the nirvana of a less degree, remains on earth out of pity and compassion for inferior beings, clothing himself in a nirmanakayic vesture. When that state is ended the nirmanakaya ends.

A nirmanakaya is a complete man possessing all the principles of his constitution except the linga-sarira and its accompanying physical body. He is one who lives on the plane of being next superior to the physical plane, and his purpose in so doing is to save men from themselves by being with them, and by continuously instilling thoughts of self-sacrifice, of self-forgetfulness, of spiritual and moral beauty, of mutual help, of compassion, and of pity.

Nirmanakaya is the third or lowest, exoterically speaking, of what is called in Sanskrit trikaya or "three bodies." The highest is the dharmakaya, in which state are the nirvanis and full pratyeka buddhas, etc.; the second state is the sambhogakaya, intermediate between the former and, thirdly, the nirmanakaya. The nirmanakaya vesture or condition enables one entering it to live in touch and sympathy with the world of men. The sambhogakaya enables one in that state to be conscious indeed to a certain extent of the world of men and its griefs and sorrows, but with little power or impulse to render aid. The dharmakaya vesture is so pure and holy, and indeed so high, that the one possessing the dharmakaya or who is in it, is virtually out of all touch with anything inferior to himself. It is, therefore, in the nirmanakaya vesture if not in physical form that live and work the Buddhas of Compassion, the greatest sages and seers, and all the superholy men who through striving through ages of evolution bring forth into manifestation and power and function the divinity within. The doctrine of the nirmanakayas is one of the most suggestive, profound, and beautiful teachings of the esoteric philosophy. (See also Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya)


(Sanskrit) This is a compound: nir, "out," and vana, the past participle passive of the root va, "to blow," literally meaning "blown out." So badly has the significance of the ancient Indian thought (and even its language, the Sanskrit) been understood, that for many years erudite European scholars were discussing whether being "blown out" meant actual entitative annihilation or not. But the being blown out refers only to the lower principles in man.

Nirvana is a very different thing from the "heavens." Nirvana is a state of utter bliss and complete, untrammeled consciousness, a state of absorption in pure kosmic Being, and is the wondrous destiny of those who have reached superhuman knowledge and purity and spiritual illumination. It really is personal-individual absorption into or rather identification with the Self — the highest SELF. It is also the state of the monadic entities in the period that intervenes between minor manvantaras or rounds of a planetary chain; and more fully so between each seven-round period or Day of Brahma, and the succeeding day or new kalpa of a planetary chain. At these last times, starting forth from the seventh sphere in the seventh round, the monadic entities will have progressed far beyond even the highest state of devachan. Too pure and too far advanced even for such a condition as the devachanic felicity, they go to their appropriate sphere and condition, which latter is the nirvana following the end of the seventh round.

Devachan and nirvana are not localities. They are states, states of the beings in those respective spiritual conditions. Devachan is the intermediate state; nirvana is the superspiritual state; and avichi, popularly called the lowest of the hells, is the nether pole of the spiritual condition. These three are states of beings having habitat in the lokas or talas, in the worlds of the kosmic egg.

So far as the individual human being is concerned, the nirvanic state or condition may be attained to by great spiritual seers and sages, such as Gautama the Buddha, and even by men less progressed than he; because in these cases of the attaining of the nirvana even during a man's life on earth, the meaning is that one so attaining has through evolution progressed so far along the path that all the lower personal part of him is become thoroughly impersonalized, the personal has put on the garment of impersonality, and such a man thereafter lives in the nirvanic condition of the spiritual monad.

As a concluding thought, it must be pointed out that nirvana, while the ultima thule of the perfection to be attained by any human being, nevertheless stands less high in the estimate of mystics than the condition of the bodhisattva. For the bodhisattva, although standing on the threshold of nirvana and seeing and understanding its ineffable glory and peace and rest, nevertheless retains his consciousness in the worlds of men, in order to consecrate his vast faculties and powers to the service of all that is. The buddhas in their higher parts enter the nirvana, in other words, assume the dharmakaya state or vesture, whereas the bodhisattva assumes the nirmanakaya vesture, thereafter to become an ever-active and compassionate and beneficent influence in the world. The buddha indeed may be said to act indirectly and by long distance control, thus indeed helping the world diffusively or by diffusion; but the bodhisattva acts directly and positively and with a directing will in works of compassion, both for the world and for individuals.


(Greek) The adjective belonging to nous (q.v.).


(Greek) This is a term frequently used by Plato for what in modern theosophical literature is usually called the higher manas or higher mind or spiritual soul, the union and characteristics of the buddhi-manas in man overshadowed by the atman. The distinction to be drawn between the nous on the one hand, and the animal soul or psyche and its workings on the other hand, is very sharp, and the two must not be confused. In occultism the kosmic nous is the third Logos, and in the case of man's own constitution, or in human pneumatology, the nous is the buddhi-manas or higher manas or spiritual monad.



This is a word coined by A. P. Sinnett, one of the pioneers in theosophical propaganda. A far better word than obscuration would have been dormancy or sleep, because this word obscuration actually rather obscures the sense. A man is not "obscured" when he sleeps. The inner faculties may be so, in a sense; but it is better actually to state in more appropriate words just what the real condition is. It is that of sleep, or latency — of dormancy, rather. Thus when one of the seven kingdoms has passed through its seven periods of progress, of evolution, it goes into dormancy or obscuration.

Likewise when the seven kingdoms — from the first elemental kingdom upwards to the human — have finished their evolution on globe A (for instance) during the first round, globe A then goes into obscuration, that is, into dormancy; it goes to sleep. Everything left on it is now dormant, is sleeping, awaiting the incoming, when round two begins, of the life-waves which have just left it. Again, when the life-waves have run their full sevenfold course, or their seven stock-races or root-races on globe B, then globe B in its turn goes into dormancy or obscuration, which is not pralaya; and the distinction between pralaya and obscuration is an extremely important one. It may be possible in popular usage at times to call the state of dormancy by the name of pralaya in a very limited and particular sense; but pralaya really means disintegration and disappearance, like that of death. But obscuration is sleep — dormancy.

Thus is it with each one of the seven globes of the planetary chain, one after the other, each one going into obscuration when a life-wave has left it, so far as that particular life-wave is concerned. When the final or rather the last representatives of the last root-race of the last life-wave leave it, each globe then goes to sleep or into dormancy.

During a planetary obscuration or planetary rest period, at the end of a round, the entities leave the last globe, the seventh, and enter into a (lower) nirvanic period of manvantaric repose, answering to the devachanic or between-life state of the human entity between one life on earth and the next life on earth. There is one very important point of the teachings to be noted here: a globe when a life-wave leaves it does not remain in obscuration or continuously dormant until the same life-wave returns to it in the next round. The life-waves succeed each other in regular file, and each life-wave as it enters a globe has its period of beginning, its efflorescence, and its decay, and then leaves the globe in obscuration so far as that particular life-wave is concerned. But the globe within a relatively short time receives a succeeding life-wave, which runs through its courses and leaves the globe again in obscuration so far as this last life-wave is concerned, etc. It is obvious, therefore, that a period of obscuration on any globe of the planetary chain is much shorter than the term of a full planetary round.


This word meant originally only the science of things hid; even in the Middle Ages of Europe those philosophers who were the forerunners of the modern scientists, those who then studied physical nature, called their science occultism, and their studies occult, meaning the things that were hid or not known to the common run of mankind. Such a medieval philosopher was Albertus Magnus, a German; and so also was Roger Bacon, an Englishman — both of the thirteenth century of the Christian era.

Occultism as theosophists use the term, and as it should be used, means the study of the hid things of Being, the science of life or universal nature. In one sense this word can be used to mean the study of unusual "phenomena," which meaning it usually has today among people who do not think of the vastly larger field of causes which occultism, properly speaking, investigates. Doubtless mere physical phenomena have their place in study, but they are on the frontier, on the outskirts — the superficialities — of occultism. The study of true occultism means penetrating deep into the causal mysteries of Being.

Occultism is a generalizing term for the entire body of the occult sciences — the sciences of the secrets of universal nature; as H. P. Blavatsky phrases it, "physical and psychic, mental and spiritual; called Hermetic and Esoteric Sciences." Occultism may be considered also to be a word virtually interchangeable with the phrase esoteric philosophy, with, however, somewhat more emphasis laid on the occult or secret or hid portions of the esoteric philosophy. Genuine occultism embraces not merely the physical, physiological, psychological, and spiritual portions of man's being, but has an equal and indeed a perhaps wider range in the studies dealing with the structure and operations as well as the origin and destiny of the kosmos.


(Sanskrit) A word meaning "energy," "vigor," "power." It is often used for the principle of vital heat permeating the human constitution. From this fact, it sometimes is employed to signify virility or the generative faculty. Its use is extremely uncommon in modern occult literature.


A word considered very holy in the Brahmanical literature. It is a syllable of invocation, as well as of benediction and of affirmation, and its general usage (as elucidated in the literature treating of it, which is rather voluminous, for this word Om has attained almost divine reverence on the part of vast numbers of Hindus) is that it should never be uttered aloud, or in the presence of an outsider, a foreigner, or a non-initiate, and it should be uttered in the silence of one's mind, in peace of heart, and in the intimacy of one's "inner closet." There is strong reason to believe, however, that this syllable of invocation was uttered, and uttered aloud in a monotone, by the disciples in the presence of their teacher. This word is always placed at the beginning of any scripture or prayer that is considered of unusual sanctity.

It is said that by prolonging the uttering of this word, both of the o and the m, with the mouth closed, the sound re-echoes in and arouses vibration in the skull, and affects, if the aspirations be pure, the different nervous centers of the body for good.

The Brahmanas say that it is an unholy thing to utter this word in any place which is unholy. It is sometimes written Aum.



(Greek) A compound which means "coming again into being," or "becoming again." The meaning attached to this word is quite specific, although having a wide and general application. The idea included in it may be illustrated, as is found in the philosophical literature of the ancients who lived around the Mediterranean Sea, by the example of the oak which produces its seed, the acorn, the acorn in its turn producing a new oak containing the same life that was passed on to it from the mother oak — or the father oak. This transmission of an identic life in cyclical recurring phases is the specific meaning of the word palingenesis. Thus the thought is different from the respective ideas contained in the other words connected with the doctrine of reimbodiment. Perhaps another way of stating the specific meaning would be by stating that palingenesis signifies the continuous transmission of an identic life producing at each transformation a new manifestation or result, these several results being in each case a palingenesis or "new becoming" of the same life-stream. Its specific meaning is quite different from that imbodied in the word transmigration.


(Sanskrit) Para is a word meaning "beyond." Brahman (neuter) is sometimes used as the universal self or spirit; also called paramatman. Beyond Brahman is the para-Brahman. Note the deep philosophical meaning of this — there is no attempt here to limit the illimitable, the ineffable, by adjectives. In the Sanskrit Vedas and in the works deriving therefrom and belonging to the Vedic literary cycle, this "beyond" is called tat, "THAT," as this world of manifestations is called idam, "This."

Parabrahman is intimately connected with mulaprakriti. Their interaction and intermingling cause the first nebulous thrilling, if the words will pass, of the universal life when spiritual desire first arose in it in the beginnings of things. Parabrahman, therefore, literally means "beyond Brahman"; and strictly speaking it is Brahman to which the Occidental term Absolute should be applied. Parabrahman is no entity, is no individual or individualized being. It is a convenient technical word with conveniently vague philosophical significancy, implying whatever is beyond the Absolute or Brahman of any hierarchy. Just as Brahman is the summit of a kosmic hierarchy, so, following the same line of thought, the parabrahman is "whatever is beyond Brahman."


(Sanskrit) The "primordial self" or the "self beyond," the permanent SELF, the Brahman or universal spirit-soul. A compound term meaning the highest or universal atman. Parama, "primordial," "supreme," etc.; the root of atman is hardly known — its origin is uncertain, but the general meaning is that of "self." Paramatman consequently means the "supreme self," or the summit or flower of a hierarchy, the root-base or source of that kosmic self.

Selflessness is the attribute of the paramatman, the universal self, where all personality vanishes.

The universal self is the heart of the universe, for these two phrases are but two manners of expressing the same thing; it is the source of our being; it is also the goal whither we are all marching, we and the hierarchies above us as well as the hierarchies and the entities which compose them inferior to us. All come from the same ineffable source, the heart of Being, the universal self, pass at one period of their evolutionary journey through the stage of humanity, gaining thereby self-consciousness or the ego-self, the "I am I," and they find it, as they advance along this evolutionary path, expanding gradually into universal consciousness — an expansion which never has an end, because the universal consciousness is endless, limitless, boundless.

The paramatman is spiritually practically identical with what the theosophist has in mind when he speaks of the Absolute; and consequently paramatman, though possessing a wide range of meanings, is virtually identical with Brahman. Of course when the human mind or consciousness ascends in meditation up the rungs of the endless ladder of life and realizes that the paramatman of one hierarchy or kosmos is but one of a multitude of other paramatmans of other kosmic hierarchies, the realization comes that even the vague term parabrahman may at certain moments of philosophical introspection be found to be the frontierless paramatman of boundless space; but in this last usage of paramatman the word obviously becomes a sheer generalizing expression for boundless life, boundless consciousness, boundless substance. This last use of the word, while correct enough, is hardly to be recommended because apt to introduce confusion, especially in Occidental minds with our extraordinary tendency to take generalizations for concrete realities.

Path, The

Universal nature, our great parent, exists inseparably in each one of us, in each entity everywhere, and no separation of the part from the whole, of the individual from the kosmos, is possible in any other than a purely illusory sense. This points out to us with unerring definiteness and also directs us to the sublime path to utter reality. It is the path inwards, ever onwards within, which is endless and which leads into vast inner realms of wisdom and knowledge; for, as all the great world philosophies tell us so truly, if you know yourself you then know the universe, because each one of you is an inseparable part of it and it is all in you, its child.

It is obvious from this last reflection that the sole essential difference between any two grades of the evolving entities which infill and compose the kosmos is a difference of consciousness, of understanding; and this consciousness and understanding come to the evolving entity in only one way — by unwrapping or unfolding the intrinsic faculties or powers of that entity's own inner being. This is the path, as the mystics of all ages have put it.

The pathway is within yourself. There is no other pathway for you individually than the pathway leading ever inwards towards your own inner god. The pathway of another is the same pathway for that other; but it is not your pathway, because your pathway is your Self, as it is for that other one his Self — and yet, wonder of wonders, mystery of mysteries, the Self is the same in all. All tread the same pathway, but each man must tread it himself, and no one can tread it for another; and this pathway leads to unutterable splendor, to unutterable expansion of consciousness, to unthinkable bliss, to perfect peace.


Theosophists draw a clear and sharp distinction, not of essence but of quality, between personality and individuality. Personality comes from the Latin word persona, which means a mask, through which the actor, the spiritual individuality, speaks. The personality is all the lower man: all the psychical and astral and physical impulses and thoughts and tendencies, and what not. It is the reflection in matter of the individuality; but being a material thing it can lead us downwards, although it is in essence a reflection of the highest. Freeing ourselves from the domination of the person, the mask, the veil, through which the individuality acts, then we show forth all the spiritual and so-called superhuman qualities; and this will happen in the future, in the far distant aeons of the future, when every human being shall have become a buddha, a christ. Such is the destiny of the human race.

In occultism the distinction between the personality and the immortal individuality is that drawn between the lower quaternary or four lower principles of the human constitution and the three higher principles of the constitution or higher triad. The higher triad is the individuality; the personality is the lower quaternary. The combination of these two into a unity during a lifetime on earth produces what we now call the human being. The personality comprises within its range all the characteristics and memories and impulses and karmic attributes of one physical life; whereas the individuality is the aeonic ego, imperishable and deathless for the period of a solar manvantara. It is the individuality through its ray or human astral-vital monad which reincarnates time after time and thus clothes itself in one personality after another personality.


An operation of the human spirit-mind in its endeavor to understand not merely the how of things, but the why of things — why and how things are as they are. Philosophy is one phase of a triform method of understanding the nature of nature, of universal nature, and of its multiform and multifold workings, and philosophy cannot be separated from the other two phases (science and religion), if we wish to gain a true and complete picture of things as they are in themselves. It is a capital mistake of Western thought to suppose that science, religion, and philosophy are three separate and unrelated operations of thought. The idea when pondered upon is immediately seen to be ludicrously false, because all these three are but phases of operations of human consciousness. Not one of these three — philosophy, religion, or science — can be divorced from the other two, and if the attempt be made so to divorce them, the result is spiritual and intellectual dissatisfaction, and the mind senses an incompleteness. Consequently any philosophy which is unscientific and irreligious, or any religion which is unscientific and unphilosophical, and any science which is unphilosophical and unreligious, is de facto erroneous because incomplete. These three are simply three aspects or phases of a fundamental reality which is consciousness.

Philosophy is that aspect of the human consciousness which is correlative, and which seeks the bonds of union among things and exposes them, when found, as existing in the manifold and diverse forms of natural processes and the so-called laws which demonstrate their existence. (See also Religion, Science)


(Sanskrit) A word meaning "father." There are seven (or ten) classes of pitris. They 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 pitris, for easy understanding, may be divided into two great groups, the solar and lunar. The lunar pitris or barhishads, as the name implies, came from the moon-chain; while the solar pitris whom we may group under the expressive name agnishvatta-pitris are those dhyan-chohans which have not the physical "creative fire," because they belong to a much superior sphere of being, but they have all the fires of the spiritual-intellectual realms active or latent within them as the case may be. In preceding manvantaras they had finished their evolution so far as the realms of astral and physical matter were concerned, and when the proper time came in the cycling ages, the agnishvatta-pitris came to the rescue of those who had only the physical creative fire, or barhishad-pitris, the lunar pitris, inspiring and enlightening these lower pitris with the spiritual and intellectual energies or "fires."

In other words, 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 agnishvatta-pitris are those monadic centers of the human constitution which are of a purely spiritual type. (See also Agnishvatas, Lunar Pitris)


This is a word used in theosophy for the various ranges or steps of the hierarchical ladder of lives which blend into each other. There are no solutions of continuity in space, either in inner and invisible space or in outward and visible space. The physical world grades off into the astral world, which grades off again into a world higher than it, the world which is superior to the astral world; and so it continues throughout the series of hierarchical steps which compose a universe such as our universe. Remember also that the boundless All is filled full with universes, some so much greater than ours that the utmost reach of our imagination cannot conceive of them.

To quote H. P. Blavatsky in this connection, in her Theosophical Glossary under this same head:

As used in Occultism, the term denotes the range or extent of some state of consciousness, or of the perceptive power of a particular set of senses, or the action of a particular force, or the state of matter corresponding to any of the above. (See also Hierarchy)

Planetary Chain

Every kosmic body or globe, be it sun or planet, nebula or comet, atom or electron, is a composite entity formed of or comprised of inner and invisible energies and substances and of an outer, to us, and often visible, to us, physical vehicle or body. These elements all together number seven (or twelve), being what is called in theosophy the seven principles or elements of every self-contained entity; in other words, of every individual life-center.

Thus every one of the physical globes that we see scattered over the fields of space is accompanied by six invisible and superior globes, forming what in theosophy is called a chain. This is the case with every sun or star, with every planet, and with every moon of every planet. It is likewise the case with the nebulae and the comets as above stated: all are septiform entities, all have a sevenfold constitution, even as man has, who is a copy in the little of what the universe is in the great, there being for us one life in that universe, one natural system of "laws" in that universe. Every entity in the universe is an inseparable part of it; therefore what is in the whole is in every part, because the part cannot contain anything that the whole does not contain, the part cannot be greater than the whole.

Our own earth-chain is composed of seven (or twelve) globes, of which only one, our earth, is visible on this our earth plane to our physical sense apparatus, because that apparatus is builded or rather evolved to cognize this earth plane and none other. But the populations of all the seven (or twelve) globes of this earth-chain pass in succession, and following each other, from globe to globe, thus gaining experience of energy and matter and consciousness on all the various planes and spheres that this chain comprises.

The other six (or eleven) globes of our earth-chain are invisible to our physical sense, of course; and, limiting our explanation only to the manifest seven globes of the complete chain of twelve globes, the six globes other and higher than the earth exist two by two, on three planes of the solar system superior to our physical plane where our earth-globe is — this our earth. These three superior planes or worlds are each one superior to the world or plane immediately beneath or inferior to it.

Our earth-globe is the fourth and lowest of all the manifest seven globes of our earth-chain. Three globes precede it on the descending or shadowy arc, and three globes follow it on the ascending or luminous arc of evolution. The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky and the more recent work, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy (1932), contain most suggestive material for the student interested in this phase of the esoteric philosophy. (See also Ascending Arc)

Planetary Spirit(s)

Every celestial body in space, of whatever kind or type, is under the overseeing and directing influence of a hierarchy of spiritual and quasi-spiritual and astral beings, who in their aggregate are generalized under the name of celestial spirits. These celestial spirits exist therefore in various stages or degrees of evolution; but the term planetary spirits is usually restricted to the highest class of these beings when referring to a planet.

In every case, and whatever the celestial body may be, such a hierarchy of ethereal beings, when the most advanced in evolution of them are considered, in long past cycles of kosmic evolution had evolved through a stage of development corresponding to the humanity of earth. Every planetary spirit therefore, wherever existent, in those far past aeons of kosmic time was a man or a being equivalent to what we humans on earth call man. The planetary spirits of earth, for instance, are intimately linked with the origin and destiny of our present humanity, for not only are they our predecessors along the evolutionary path, but certain classes of them are actually the spiritual guides and instructors of mankind. We humans, in far distant aeons of the future, on a planetary chain which will be the child or grandchild of the present earth-chain, will be the planetary spirits of that future planetary chain. It is obvious that as H. P. Blavatsky says: "Our Earth, being as yet only in its Fourth Round, is far too young to have produced high Planetary Spirits"; but when the seventh round of this earth planetary chain shall have reached its end, our present humanity will then have become dhyan-chohans of various grades, planetary spirits of one group or class, with necessary evolutionary differences as among themselves. The planetary spirits watch over, guide, and lead the hosts of evolving entities inferior to themselves during the various rounds of a planetary chain. Finally, every celestial globe, whether sun or planet or other celestial body, has as the summit or acme of its spiritual hierarchy a supreme celestial spirit who is the hierarch of its own hierarchy. It should not be forgotten that the humanity of today forms a component element or stage or degree in the hierarchy of this (our) planetary chain.


(Sanskrit) A word meaning "governor" or "lord" or "master" of "progeny." The word is applied to several of the Vedic gods, but in particular to Brahma — that is to say the second step from parabrahman — the evolver-creator, the first and most recondite figure of the Hindu triad, consisting of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. Brahma is the emanator or evolver, Vishnu the sustainer or preserver, and Siva, a name which may be translated euphemistically perhaps as "beneficent," the regenerator. Prajapati is a name which is often used in the plural, and refers to seven and also to ten different beings. They are the producers and givers of life of all on earth and, indeed, on the earth's planetary chain.


(Sanskrit) A compound consisting of the prepositional prefix pra, meaning "forwards" or "progression," and kriti, a noun-form from the verbal root kri, "to make" or "to do." Therefore prakriti means literally "production" or "bringing forth," "originating," and by an extension of meaning it also signifies the primordial or original state or condition or form of anything: primary, original substance. The root or parent of prakriti is mula-prakriti or root of prakriti. Prakriti is to be considered with vikritivikriti signifying change or an alteration of some kind, or a production or evolution from the prakriti which precedes it.

As an illustration, the chemical elements hydrogen and oxygen combine in the proportion H2O, producing thus a substance known in its most common form as water; but this same H2O can appear as ice as well as vapor-gas; hence the vapor, the water, and the ice may be called the vikritis of the original prakriti which is the originating hydrogen and oxygen. The illustration is perhaps not a very good one but is suggestive.

In common usage prakriti may be called nature in general, as the great producer of entities or things, and through this nature acts the ever-active Brahma or Purusha. Purusha, therefore, is spirit, and prakriti is its productive veil or sheath. Essentially or fundamentally the two are one, and whatever prakriti through and by the influence of Purusha produces is the multitudinous and multiform vikritis which make the immense variety and diversity in the universe around us.

In one or more of the Hindu philosophies, prakriti is the same as sakti, and therefore prakriti and sakti are virtually interchangeable with maya or maha-maya or so-called illusion. Prakriti is often spoken of as matter, but this is inexact although a very common usage; matter is rather the "productions" or phases that prakriti brings about, the vikritis. In the Indian Sankhya philosophy pradhana is virtually identical with prakriti, and both are often used to signify the producing element from and out of which all illusory material manifestations or appearances are evolved.


(Sanskrit) A compound word, formed of laya, from the root li, and the prefix pra. Li means "to dissolve," "to melt away," "to liquefy," as when one pours water upon a cube of salt or of sugar. The cube of salt or of sugar vanishes in the water — it dissolves, changes its form — and this may be taken as a figure, imperfect as it is, or as a symbol, of what pralaya is: a crumbling away, a vanishing away, of matter into something else which is yet in it, and surrounds it, and interpenetrates it. Such is pralaya, usually translated as the state of latency, state of rest, state of repose, between two manvantaras or life cycles. If we remember distinctly the meaning of the Sanskrit word, our minds take a new bent in direction, follow a new thought. We get new ideas; we penetrate into the arcanum of the thing that takes place. Pralaya, therefore, is dissolution, death.

There are many kinds of pralayas. There is the universal pralaya, called prakritika, because it is the pralaya or vanishing away, melting away, of prakriti or nature. Then there is the solar pralaya. Sun in Sanskrit is surya, and the adjective from this is saurya: hence, the saurya pralaya or the pralaya of the solar system. Then, thirdly, there is the terrestrial or planetary pralaya. One Sanskrit word for earth is bhumi, and the adjective corresponding to this is bhaumika: hence, the bhaumika pralaya. Then there is the pralaya or death of the individual man. Man is purusha; the corresponding adjective is paurusha: hence, the paurusha pralaya or death of man. These adjectives apply equally well to the several kinds of manvantaras or life cycles.

There is another kind of pralaya which is called nitya. In its general sense, it means "constant" or "continuous," and can be exemplified by the constant or continuous change — life and death — of the cells of our bodies. It is a state in which the indwelling and dominating entity remains, but its different principles and rupas undergo continuous and incessant change. Hence it is called nitya, signifying continuous. It applies to the body of man, to the outer sphere of earth, to the earth itself, to the solar system, and indeed to all nature. It is the unceasing and chronic changing of things that are — the passing from phase to phase, meaning the pralaya or death of one phase, to be followed by the rebirth of its succeeding phase. There are other kinds of pralayas than those herein enumerated.


(Sanskrit) The word is derived from pra, prepositional prefix meaning "before"; and an, verb meaning "to breathe," "to blow," "to live." Usually translated "life," but rather the psychoelectrical veil or psychoelectrical field manifesting in the individual as vitality. Commonly called "life principle." This Sanskrit word is used by modern theosophists in a general sense, although in the Sanskrit it has a rather specific and restricted meaning, because there are, as a matter of fact, a number of life currents, vital fluids. They have each one its own name. One system gives the number as three; another as five, which is the commonly accepted number; another enumeration is seven; another again is twelve, as is found in some Upanishads; and one old writer even gives them as thirteen.

The life-atoms of the prana, or psychoelectrical field, fly instantly back at the moment of physical dissolution to the natural pranic reservoirs of the planet.

Pratyeka Buddha

(Sanskrit) Pratyeka is a compound of two words: prati, prepositional prefix meaning "towards" or "for"; eka, the numeral "one"; thus we can translate the compound by the paraphrase "each one for himself."

The Pratyeka Buddha, he who achieves buddhahood for himself, instead of feeling the call of almighty love to return and help those who have gone less far, goes ahead into the supernal light — passes onwards and enters the unspeakable bliss of nirvana — and leaves mankind behind. Though exalted, nevertheless he does not rank with the unutterable sublimity of the Buddha of Compassion.

The Pratyeka Buddha concentrates his energies on the one objective — spiritual self-advancement: he raises himself to the spiritual realm of his own inner being, enwraps himself therein and, so to speak, goes to sleep. The Buddha of Compassion raises himself, as does the Pratyeka Buddha, to the spiritual realms of his own inner being, but does not stop there, because he expands continuously, becomes one with All, or tries to, and in fact does so in time. When the Pratyeka Buddha in due course emerges from the nirvanic state in order to take up his evolutionary journey again, he will find himself far in the rear of the Buddha of Compassion.


This term means that the human soul did not first come into being or existence with its present birth on earth; in other words, that it preexisted before it was born on earth.

This doctrine of preexistence is by no means typically theosophical, for it likewise was a part of the early teachings of Christianity, as is evidenced in the writings that remain to us of Origen, the great Alexandrian Church Father, and of his school. The theosophical student should be very careful in distinguishing the technical meanings that pertain to several words which in popular and mistaken usage are often employed interchangeably, as for example preexistence, metempsychosis, transmigration, reincarnation, reimbodiment, rebirth, metensomatosis, palingenesis. Each one of these words has a specific meaning typically its own, and describes or sets forth one phase of the destiny of a reimbodying and migrating entity. In popular usage, several of these words are used as synonyms, and this usage is wrong. Preexistence, for instance, does not necessarily signify the transmigration of an entity from plane to plane nor, indeed, does it signify as does reincarnation that a migrating monad reinfleshes or reincarnates itself through its ray on earth. Preexistence signifies only that a soul, be it human or other, preexisted before its birth on earth.

The doctrine of the great Origen, as found in his works that remain to us, was that the human soul preexisted in the spiritual world, or within the influence or range of the divine essence or "God," before it began a series of reincarnations on earth. It is obvious that Origen's manner of expressing his views is a more or less faithful but distorted reflection of the teaching of the esoteric philosophy. The teaching of preexistence as outlined by Origen and his school and followers, with others of his mystical quasi-theosophical doctrines, was formally condemned and anathematized at the Home Synod held under Mennas at Constantinople about 543 of the Christian era. Thus passed out of orthodox Christian theology as a "newly discovered heresy" what was a most important and mystical body of teaching of the early centuries of the new Christian religion — to the latter's great loss, spiritual and intellectual. The doctrines of Origen and his school may be said to have formed an important part of original Christian theosophy, a form of universal theosophy of Christianized character. (See under their respective heads the various correlated doctrines mentioned above.)

Principles of Man

The seven principles of man are a likeness or rather copy of the seven cosmic principles. They are actually the offspring or reflection of the seven cosmic principles, limited in their action in us by the workings of the law of karma, but running in their origin back into THAT which is beyond: into THAT which is the essence of the universe or the universal — above, beyond, within, to the unmanifest, to the unmanifestable, to that first principle which H. P. Blavatsky enunciates as the leading thought of the wisdom-philosophy of The Secret Doctrine.

These principles of man are reckoned as seven in the philosophy by which the human spiritual and psychical economy has been publicly explained to us in the present age. In other ages these principles or parts of man were differently reckoned — the Christian reckoned them as body, soul, and spirit, generalizing the seven under these three heads.

Some of the Indian thinkers divided man into a basic fourfold entity, others into a fivefold. The Jewish philosophy, as found in the Qabbalah which is the esoteric tradition of the Jews, teaches that man is divided into four parts: neshamah, ruah, nefesh, and guf.

Theosophists for convenience often employ in their current literature a manner of viewing man's composite constitution which is the dividing of his nature into a trichotomy, meaning a division into three, being spirit, soul, and body, which in this respect is identical with the generalized Christianized theosophical division. Following this trichotomy, man's three parts, therefore, are: first and highest, the divine spirit or the divine monad of him, which is rooted in the universe, which spirit is linked with the All, being in a highly mystical sense a ray of the All; second, the intermediate part, or the spiritual monad, which in its higher and lower aspects is the spiritual and human souls; then, third, the lowest part of man's composite constitution, the vital-astral-physical part of him, which is composed of material or quasi-material life-atoms. (See also Atman, Buddhi, Manas, Kama, Prana, Linga-sarira, Sthula-sarira)

Psychic Powers

The lowest powers of the intermediate or soul-nature in the human being, and we are exercising and using them all the time — yes, and we cannot even control them properly! Men's emotional thoughts are vagrant, wandering, uncertain, lacking precision, without positive direction, and feebly governed. The average man cannot even keep his emotions and thoughts in the grip of his self-conscious will. His weakest passions lead him astray. It is this part of his nature whence flow his "psychic powers." It is man's work to transmute them and to turn them to employment which is good and useful and holy. Indeed, the average man cannot control the ordinary psycho-astral-physical powers that he commonly uses; and when, forsooth, people talk about cultivating occult powers, by which they mean merely psychic powers, it simply shows that through ignorance they know not to what they refer. Their minds are clouded as regards the actual facts. Those who talk so glibly of cultivating occult powers are just the people who cannot be trusted as real guides, for before they themselves can crawl in these mysterious regions of life, they seem to desire to teach other people how to run and to leap. What most people really mean, apparently, when they speak of cultivating occult powers is "I want to get power over other people." Such individuals are totally unfit to wield occult powers of any kind, for the motive is in most cases purely selfish, and their minds are beclouded and darkened with ignorance.

The so-called psychic powers have the same relation to genuine spiritual powers that baby-talk has to the discourse of a wise philosopher. Before occult powers of any kind can be cultivated safely, man must learn the first lesson of the mystic knowledge, which is to control himself; and all powers that later he gains must be laid on the altar of impersonal service — on the altar of service to mankind.

Psychic powers will come to men as a natural development of their inner faculties, as evolution performs its wonderful work in future ages. New senses, and new organs corresponding to these new senses, both interior and exterior, will come into active functioning in the distant future. But it is perilous both to sanity and to health to attempt to force the development of these prematurely, and unless the training and discipline be done under the watchful and compassionate eye of a genuine occult teacher who knows what he is about. The world even today contains hundreds of thousands of "sensitives" who are the first feeble forerunners of what future evolution will make common in the human race; but these sensitives are usually in a very unfortunate and trying situation, for they themselves misunderstand what is in them, and they are misunderstood by their fellows. (See also Occultism)


This word is ordinarily used to signify in our days, and in the seats of learning in the Occident, a study mostly beclouded with doubts and hypotheses, and often actual guesswork, meaning little more than a kind of mental physiology, practically nothing more than the working of the brain-mind in the lowest astral-psychical apparatus of the human constitution. But in the theosophical philosophy, the word psychology is used to mean something very different and of a far nobler character: we might call it pneumatology, or the science or the study of spirit and its rays, because all the inner faculties and powers of man ultimately spring from his spiritual nature. The term psychology ought really to connote the study of the inner intermediate economy of man, and the interconnection of his principles and elements or centers of energy or force — what the man really is inwardly.

In days of the far bygone past, psychology was indeed what the word signifies: "the science of soul"; and upon this science was securely based the collateral and subordinate science of genuine physiology. Today, however, it is physiology which serves as the basis for psychology because of a mistaken view of man's constitution. It is a case of hysteron proteron — putting the cart before the horse.


(Sanskrit) A word which literally means "ancient," "belonging to olden times." In India the word is especially used as a term comprehending certain well-known sacred scriptures, which popular and even scholarly authorities ascribe to the poet Vyasa. The Puranas contain the entire body of ancient Indian mythology. They are usually considered to be eighteen in number, and each Purana, to be complete, is supposed to consist of five topics or themes. These five topics or themes are commonly enumerated as follows: (1) the beginnings or "creation" of the universe; (2) its renewals and destructions, or manvantaras and pralayas; (3) the genealogies of the gods, other divine beings, heroes, and patriarchs; (4) the reigns of the various manus; and (5) a resume of the history of the solar and lunar races. Practically none of the Puranas as they stand in modern versions contains all these five topics, except perhaps the Vishnu-Purana, probably the most complete in this sense of the word; and even the Vishnu-Purana contains a great deal of matter not directly to be classed under these five topics. All the Puranas also contain a great deal of symbolical and allegorical writing.


(Sanskrit) A word meaning "man," the Ideal Man, like the Qabbalistic Adam Qadmon, the primordial entity of space, containing with and in prakriti or nature all the septenary (or denary) scales of manifested being. More mystically Purusha has a number of different significancies. In addition to meaning the Heavenly Man or Ideal Man, it is frequently used for the spiritual man in each individual human being or, indeed, in every self-conscious entity — therefore a term for the spiritual self. Purusha also sometimes stands as an interchangeable term with Brahma, the evolver or "creator."

Probably the simplest and most inclusive significance of Purusha as properly used in the esoteric philosophy is expressed in the paraphrase "the entitative, individual, everlasting divine-spiritual self," the spiritual monad, whether of a universe or of a solar system, or of an individual entity in manifested life, such as man.

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