Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary

editors’ note: This online version of the Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary is a work in progress. For ease of searching, diacritical marks are omitted, with the exception of Hebrew and Sanskrit terms, where after the main heading a current transliteration with accents is given.

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Cabala, Cabbala. See QABBALAH


Cabiri, Cabeiri. See KABIRI

Cadmus, Cadmilus (Greek) Son of Agenor, king of Phoenicia, and brother of Europa, husband of Harmonia, and father of Semele; legendary founder of Thebes, who slew the dragon, planted its teeth, and built the city with the help of some of the soldiers that sprang from the teeth. He and his wife were finally turned into serpents by the gods. Said to have introduced into Greece an alphabet, possibly based upon 16 characters derived from either Egypt or Phoenicia. He belongs to the class of heroes, who succeeded the reigns of the gods and demigods on earth and who were parents and instructors of mortals.

Hermes was worshiped at Samothrace as the ancestral god under the name of Cadmus or Kadmilos.

Caduceus (Latin) A herald’s staff; specially, the wand of Mercury or Hermes, god of wisdom, corresponding to Thoth. It consists of a rod or tree with two serpents wound in opposite directions round it, their tails meeting below, and their heads approaching each other above.


At the top of the rod in the Greek version is a knob, in the earlier Egyptian form a serpent’s head, from which spring a pair of wings. From the central head between the wings grew the heads of the entwined serpents (spirit and matter), which descended along the tree of life, crossing the neutral laya-centers between the different planes of being, to manifest where the two tails joined on earth (SD 1:549-50). The analogy is found in every known cosmogony, all of which begin with a circle, head, or egg surrounded by darkness. From this circle of infinity — the unknown All — comes forth the manifestations of spirit and matter. The emblem of the evolution of gods and atoms is shown by the two forces, positive and negative, ascending and descending and meeting. Its symbology is directly connected with the globes of the planetary chain and the circulations of the beings or life-waves on these globes, as well as with the human constitution and the afterdeath states. Significantly, in ancient Greek mythology, Hermes is the psychopomp, psychagog, or conductor of souls after death to the various inner spheres of the universe, such as the Elysian Plains or the Meads of Asphodel. The Caduceus also signifies the dual aspect of wisdom by its twin serpents, Agathodaimon and Kakodaimon, good and evil in a relative sense.

Cagliostro, Count Alessandro di “A famous Adept, whose real name is claimed (by his enemies) to have been Joseph Balsamo. He was a native of Palermo, and studied under some mysterious foreigner [called Althotas] of whom little has been ascertained. . . . his real history has never been told. His fate was that of every human being who proves that he knows more than do his fellow-creatures; he was ‘stoned to death’ by persecutions, lies, and infamous accusations, and yet he was the friend and adviser of the highest and mightiest of every land he visited. He was finally tried and sentenced in Rome as a heretic, and was said to have died during his confinement in a State prison. . . . Yet his end was not utterly undeserved, as he had been untrue to his vows in some respects, had fallen from his state of chastity and yielded to ambition and selfishness” (TG 72).

Commenting upon the strange tales related concerning Cagliostro and Balsamo, Purucker wrote that

“it is upon the document issued from the Vatican containing the story of the so-called trial and condemnation of Cagliostro that most later students and historians of the checkered and wonderful career of that remarkable man assume that Cagliostro and Guiseppe Balsamo were one individual.
“I can only say that there is a strange mystery involved in the story of these two: Balsamo and Cagliostro. How strange is the statement, if true, that both had the name Pellegrini, which means Pilgrims! How strange is it that Giuseppe Balsamo is the Italian form of the name Joseph Balm, suggesting a healing influence; and that ‘Balsamo,’ whether rightly or wrongly, can be traced to a compound Semitic word which means ‘Lord of the Sun’ — ‘Son of the Sun’; while the Hebrew name Joseph signifies ‘increase’ or ‘multiplication.’ . . . How strange it is that Cagliostro was called an ‘orphan,’ the ‘unhappy child of Nature’! Every initiate . . . is an ‘orphan’ without father, without mother, because mystically speaking every initiate is self-born. How strange it is that other names under which Cagliostro is stated to have lived at various times have in each instance a singular esoteric signification! . . .
“Perhaps I might go one shade of thought farther: to every Cagliostro who appears there is always a Balsamo. Closely accompanying and indeed inseparable from every Messenger there is his ‘Shadow.’ With every Christ appears a Judas” (SOPh 30-1).

Cain (Hebrew) Qayin In the Bible, the son of Adam and Eve, and a tiller of the ground. Becoming jealous of the offering which his brother Abel presents to the Lord, Cain, according to the legend, slays him (Genesis 4). This allegory signifies that “Jehovah-Cain, the male part of Adam the dual man, having separated himself from Eve, creates in her ‘Abel,’ the first natural woman, and sheds the Virgin blood” (SD 2:388). Cain and Abel represent the third root-race or the “Separating Hermaphrodite” (SD 2:134).

Again “beginning with Cain, the first murderer, every fifth man in his line of descent is a murderer. . . . In the Talmud this genealogy is given complete, and thirteen murderers range themselves in line below the name of Cain. This is no coincidence. Siva is the Destroyer, but he is also the Regenerator. Cain is a murderer, but he is also the creator of nations, and an inventor” (IU 2:447-8).

In Biblical genealogy, the line of Cain is Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, Methusael, and Lemech, whose sons were Jubal, Jabal, and Tubal-cain; the line of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, is Enos (Enoch), Cainan, Mehalaleel, Jarad (or Irad), Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah (Genesis 4-5). Blavatsky calls it “fruitless [to] attempt to disconnect the genealogies of Cain and of Seth, or to conceal the identity of names under a different spelling. . . . all these are symbols (Kabalistically) of solar and lunar years, of astronomical periods, and of physiological (phallic) functions, just as in any other pagan symbolical creed” (SD 2:391n). See also ABEL

Cainite(s). See ROOT-RACE, FOURTH

Caitanya. See CHAITANYA

Caitya. See CHAITYA

Cakra. See CHAKRA

Cakravartin. See CHAKRAVARTIN

Cakshu. See CHAKSHU

Calendar A formal table of time measures based on the motions of the heavenly bodies. Where esoteric knowledge is intact, these cyclic motions and the periods they mark are inseparably connected with all other parts of the esoteric system. Nowadays, the original calendars having been lost and reconstructed for purely civil or ecclesiastical purposes, they have no other significance. But formerly they likewise indicated the courses of cosmic evolution and the succession of human races. The Surya-Siddhanta gives the number of revolutions of the planets in 4,320,000 years, among other such data; and the work itself claims to be the result of observation over an immensely long period, based on a knowledge of the mathematics underlying the cosmic and terrestrial cycles. This calendar or astronomical-astrological work claims to be the original production of the Atlantean astronomer and magician Asuramaya.

The Mayas of Yucatan had a calendar system, deciphered at least in part, that extended far back into the past. In this calendar we find not only the familiar cycles of the lunation and of the solar year, but others such as the synodical revolution of Venus, and exact periods of 250, 280, or 360 days. The Egyptians in their calendar time-measurements used three different years, one of which was a year of 365 days, adapted to the Julian year by a Sothic period of 1460 years. The lunar year of 12 lunations is one of immense antiquity, and formerly of almost universal usage, frequently combined with the solar year; and the lunar year is still used, with various systems of intercalation to adapt it to the tropical year. As to such periods as 280 and 260 days, one may wonder whether these numbers were merely used as convenient for computation, or whether they rest on actual cycles not recognized by modern astronomy. The 280 is evidently connected with the human gestation and prenatal period. The position of the equinoctal point in relation to the stellar zodiac is often referred to as an indication of the dates of ancient events; and cycles of successive conjunctions of all or most of the planets are frequently mentioned in the archaic literatures of different peoples.

It seems evident that the structure of the map of time must give keys to the understanding of the evolution of worlds and races; and one may well anticipate that a knowledge of all the cycles and their intersections and combinations would suffice to reduce what now seems chaos into a symmetrical and thoroughly scientific system. See also ANNUS MAGNUS.

Calf Generally in ancient symbology the calf stood for the earth. The Puranic allegory “which shows ‘the Rishis milking the earth, whose calf was Soma, the Moon,’ has a deep cosmographical meaning; for it is neither our earth which is milked, nor was the moon, which we know, the calf. . . . in every Purana, the calf changes name. In one it is Manu Swayambhuva, in another Indra, in a third the Himavat (Himalayas) itself, while Meru was the milker” (SD 1:398 & n). See also COW

Caloric According to a formerly widely accepted scientific theory of heat, when a hot body communicates heat to a cold body, there passes from the former to the latter an “imponderable” fluid, called caloric or phlogiston; and the heat developed by friction is due to a squeezing of caloric out from the body. This theory, misunderstood in later times, was abandoned when it was proved that the amount of heat which can thus be obtained from a body is unlimited, depending only on the amount of labor used in generating it. The error lay in considering that there was a definite, limited amount of caloric which, once extracted, left no further caloric to be extracted until the body had accumulated it anew, quite forgetting that the caloric or phlogiston theory held that caloric was a part of the substance of material things, just as modern electrical theory holds that material substances are themselves formed of electricity. One might as well hold that every material body possesses a certain amount of electricity, of which, when once extracted, the body can no longer furnish a further supply.

Scientists were doubtless quite right logically in abandoning the caloric theory from their viewpoint which arose out of a misunderstanding of the ancient teaching. While it is obvious that the temperature of contiguous bodies, by the natural process of heat-transference, finally becomes equalized; equally, someday science will discover that any body can be made under proper processes to be an unending source of heat, which is the very heart of the ancient caloric theory. Heat, just as any form of energy, is one of the forms of living matter, a manifestation of cosmic electricity or fohat.

Calvary. See GOLGOTHA

Cambrian Period. See GEOLOGICAL ERAS


Canaan, Canaanites A Biblical term most often applied to the pre-Isrealite people of the land west of the Jordan, although not so ancient as the Amorites. Augustine mentions that the Phoenicians called their land Canaan. Seti I and Rameses III mention the Kan’na, probably referring to the lands of western Syria and Palestine. In Genesis 10, Canaan (kena‘an) is named among the four sons of Ham, and some scholars have suggested that the name here refers to tribes in Arabia which later settled in Palestine; further that the Phoenicians were members of the second great Semitic migration, carrying the name Canaan into the lands which they settled. The chief deity of the Canaanites would seem to be Ashtart (Astarte) from the number of her images discovered, although images closely resembling Egyptian deities have likewise been exhumed. Nebo, the ancient Chaldean god of wisdom, was also reverenced by the Canaanites.

Cancer The Crab. Fourth zodiacal sign, being watery, cardinal, feminine, and the only house of the moon; in astrology it corresponds to the stomach and breast. Its symbol is a crab; in Sanskrit it is called Karkataka, and is dedicated to Surya, the god of the sun. In the Hebrew allocation of the signs to the 12 sons of Jacob, it is give to Benjamin, who is said to ravin as a wolf. This sign is that of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere and is associated with heat, but in the southern hemisphere it is at the winter solstice, and we are told of times when the earth’s poles were inverted so that the south pole was in Cancer.

According to Subba Row (Theos 3:42), Cancer represents the sacred Tetragram; the Parabrahmatharacam [Parabrahmadharaka]; the Pranava resolved into four separate entities corresponding to its four matras; the four avastas or four states of consciousness; the four states of Brahman, etc.

Candala. See CHANDALA

Candra. See CHANDRA

Candrabhaga. See CHANDRABHAGA

Candragupta. See CHANDRAGUPTA

Candrakanta. See CHANDRAKANTA

Candramana. See CHANDRAMANA

Candramasanjyotis. See CHANDRAMASANJYOTIS

Candra-vansa. See CHANDRA-VANSA

Capricorn [from Latin capr goat + cornus horn] The goat, often mystically connected with the sea; the tenth sign of the zodiac. In astrology, an earthy, cardinal sign, one of the two houses of Saturn, and the exaltation of Mars; its bodily correspondence is the knees. The symbol is a hybrid monster, often with the fore part of a goat or antelope and the hind part of a fish or dolphin. In some systems it is a crocodile. This sign marks the extreme southern limit of the sun.

In the Hindu zodiac it is Makara. Subba Row (The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac) says that ma is equivalent to the number 5, and kara means hand; thus the word signifies a pentagram. It may be taken to represent objectively both the microcosm and the macrocosm. Makara is the most mysterious of the signs, connected with the fifth group of the hierarchy of creative powers, and with the microcosmic pentagram — the five-pointed star representing man (SD 1:219). In Egypt this sign was called the crocodile; with the Peratae Gnostics, it was represented as a dolphin and identified with Chozzar, god of the waters; it is associated with the Leviathan of Job, and with a group of five kumaras in India (SD 2:577).

“Makara is connected with the birth of the spiritual ‘microcosm,’ and the death or dissolution of the physical Universe (its passage into the realm of the Spiritual) . . . ‘When the Sun passes away behind the 30th degree of Makara and will reach no more the sign of the Meenam (pisces) then the night of Brahma has come’ ” (SD 2:579 & n).

Equating the 12 sons of Jacob in the Hebrew system to the signs of the zodiac, Naphthali is assigned to Capricornus: he is called a “hind let loose.”

Captures Astronomical bodies not belonging by origin to a particular system. The planet Neptune is spoken of as a capture not belonging to our solar system, meaning that it is a body which has been attracted into an orbit on our plane around the sun. The word is used similarly for the extra moons of those planets having more satellites than one true moon, which is the parent of the visible globe. These captured moons are satellites from the astronomical standpoint, but are not true parental moons.

Caracara. See CHARACHARA

Caraka. See CHARAKA

Carboniferous Age. See GEOLOGICAL ERAS

Cardinal Points Either the four chief points of the compass (north, east, south, west), or the four chief zodiacal constellations which have descended to us from antiquity as Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn, though due to the precession of equinoxes these constellations shift as the ages pass. These four points are connected with the four arms of the equal-armed cross or with the svastika, as also with the cube — the four points with zenith and nadir added.

Cosmically the four cardinal points represent a certain stage of manifestation where the three become four, in this case the number of matter. The Zohar says that the three primordial elements and the four cardinal points and all the forces of nature form the Voice of the Will, which is the manifested Logos. The Dodonaean Zeus includes in himself the four elements and the four cardinal points. Brahma is likewise four-faced. The pyramid is the triangle repeated on the four cardinal points and symbolizes, among other things, the phenomenal merging into the noumenal. The four cardinal points are presided over, or are manifestations of, four cosmic genii, dragons, maharajas — in Buddhism the chatur-maharajas (four great kings) — hidden dragons of wisdom, or celestial nagas. Hinduism has the four, six, or eight lokapalas. In the Egyptian and Jewish temples these points were represented by the four colors of the curtain hung before the Adytum. See also EAST; NORTH; SOUTH; WEST

Caresma. See BARESMA

Carmel, Mount A mountain spur in Palestine, projecting into the sea south of Haifa, Israel; traditionally a sacred place and refuge, it is mentioned in the Bible (1 Kings 18:19) as the spot where Elijah publicly challenged the priests of Ba‘al. Mt. Carmel was noted for its oracle, which was consulted by the emperor Vespasian. It became a refuge for early Christian anchorites, and a monastery dedicated to Elijah existed there by 570. About 1156 the order of Carmelites was founded, dedicated to continuing on Mt. Carmel the way of life of Elijah, pictured as a monk and the founder of monasticism, and a monastery was built. St. John of the Cross, among others, uses it in metaphors for the mystic and spiritual journey. Blavatsky connects it with the Essenes. See also MOUNTAINS, MUNDANE (BCW 11:256-7)

Carnac A village in Brittany celebrated for the enormous number of ancient stone monuments in its vicinity, to be classed with similar monuments found in many parts of the world and with the so-called Dracontia or serpent-mounds. They are records in symbol of the world’s history, designed to be enduring, and in more than one sense actually or mystically the work of giants. “The archaic records show the Initiates of the Second Sub-race of the Aryan family moving from one land to the other for the purpose of supervising the building of menhirs and dolmens, of colossal Zodiacs in stone, and places of sepulchre to serve as receptacles for the ashes of generations to come” (SD 2:750).

Cartesian System The system of Descartes, the great French philosopher (1596-1650), representing the first great attempt in Europe to develop philosophy on strict mathematical and scientific lines, as opposed to what seemed to him the futile subtilties of the Schoolmen.

Descartes is usually spoken of as a strong dualist. Defining substance as a thing which exists independently of any other thing, he says there can only be one real substance, God; but besides this one independent substance there exist realities dependent on God, which he calls created substances. These are of two kinds — thinking and corporeal; the nature of the former being thought, and of the latter, extension. He made this dualism of the created world so absolute that only the continual interference of God could account for the harmony. Spirit differs radically from matter, a finite spirit is independent of its body, so that the physical universe is unhampered by spiritual law. The human body is a machine; and although human beings have souls, animals are entirely mechanical. This view of the universe laid the foundations of modern mechanistic science; and the independence of extended substance leads to the conclusion that every body is independent of every other.

This system contrasts with those of Spinoza and Leibnitz, Spinoza accentuating the monistic view and Leibnitz regarding Descartes’s two substances as aspects of the One Substance (SD 1:628-9). It is stated, furthermore, that a combination of Spinoza with Leibnitz would give the essence of theosophical philosophy, according to which the universe, though essentially a unity, appears as a plurality of monads, manifesting under the dual — yet essentially illusory — aspects of spirit and matter. There is therefore no essential difference between spirit and matter, these being but mutually contrasted aspects of the one underlying and all-pervading substance.

In his theory of the physical universe Descartes recognizes one universally diffused matter which, by rotatory or vortical motion aggregates into planetary globes or into the physical elements, thus anticipating both the vortex theory of Thomson and the idea put forward by Crookes that the chemical elements are various modifications of an underlying protyle.

Carvaka. See CHARVAKA

Castes, Hindu. See CHATUR-VARNA

Castor. See DIOSCURI

Cataclysms [from Greek kataklysmos flood] The term originated among the Stoics, who taught that the world is visited periodically and alternately by deluge (cataclysm) and conflagration (ekpyrosis, “burning up”). This last teaching was taken over into early Christian theology in the idea that the world will perish in flame. The meaning of cataclysm, however, now includes both deluges and volcanic action. Theosophy holds that the earth is visited periodically and at long intervals by comparatively sudden changes, varying in geographic importance from a continental to merely local catastrophes. The whole period of the cataclysm includes a gradual beginning, a progressive intensification, a culmination, and a gradual diminution. Local transformations are often sudden, sharp, or violent, whereas those embracing a wide geographical field are usually much slower or of longer period, frequently seeming to be nothing more than the merely secular changes which human experience recognizes as customary.

Cataclysms are due to the influence of the sun, moon, planets, and ultimately also to the constellations. As all physical phenomena are manifestations of what originally occurs in the realms of mind and consciousness, the movements of the earth’s crust reflect the movements in the minds of the beings inhabiting it, for all nature is an organism and all things are ineluctably knitted together by cosmic forces.

All the cataclysms are accompanied by both deluges and volcanism, but one or the other of these is accentuated at alternately different times. The forthcoming cataclysms at the end of the fifth root-race are stated to be especially marked by the action of the element fire. Lemuria, the third continental system, is said to have perished by subterranean convulsion, tremendous volcanic activity, and other phenomena arising in the igneous element, and the consequent breaking of the sea floor; whereas that of Atlantis, or the fourth great continental system, was mainly caused by axial disturbance, leading to subsidence of lands, tremendous consequent tidal waves, and the shifting of large portions of the oceanic system. “Therefore, it is absolutely false, . . . that all the great geological changes and terrible convulsions have been produced by ordinary and known physical forces. For these forces were but the tools and final means for the accomplishment of certain purposes, acting periodically, and apparently mechanically, through an inward impulse mixed up with, but beyond their material nature. There is a purpose in every important act of Nature, whose acts are all cyclic and periodical” (SD 1:640).

Conflagration was also used by Blavatsky to denote the destruction of the earth in pralayas, greater or less.

Catacombs Subterranean caverns and galleries, some of the most celebrated being in and around Rome. These were constructed for sepulcher, but such was not the original purpose of many in other parts of the world, though many of these also were later used for burial and hence contain bones. This latter class was originally used as secret temples for the enactment of initiatory rites. “There were numerous catacombs in Egypt and Chaldea, some of them of a very vast extent. The most renowned of them were the subterranean crypts of Thebes and Memphis. The former, beginning on the western side of the Nile, extended towards the Lybian desert, and were known as the Serpent’s catacombs, or passages. It was there that were performed the sacred mysteries of the kuklos anagkes, the ‘Unavoidable Cycle,’ more generally known as ‘the circle of necessity’; the inexorable doom imposed upon every soul after the bodily death, and when it has been judged in the Amenthian region” (SD 2:379).

Catalepsy (Greek) katalepsis [from kata down + lambanein to seize] A psychomotor condition of morbid sleep, associated with a peculiar plastic rigidity of the muscles which may be made to assume strained attitudes and retain them for an indefinite time. There is more or less profound loss of consciousness and of the skin sensibility. The origin of the name reflects the ancient view that the attacks are due to the sudden seizure of the victim by some supernatural influence, such as an evil spirit; the causes assigned by medical writers are extremely varied and oftentimes absurd. The cataleptic state may occur in attacks of epilepsy, hysteria, chronic alcoholism, in various functional and organic mental and nervous diseases, and in that variety of dementia praecox known as catatonia. This list of diseases, characterized by general nervous and emotional instability, suggests the rationale of the ancient view that catalepsy is one of the many types of astral obsession. Textbook descriptions of typical cases are consistent pictures of an abnormal displacement of the conscious human ego whose helpless body then is subjected to purposeless, unnatural, and strained conditions and attitudes by some low-grade astral entity.

The cataleptic phenomena are sometimes induced in a profound hypnotic state, where the operator’s will manifests through the intermediate nature of his subject. This explains the public hypnotic exhibitions of an unconscious person, rigidly stretched out, with only head and feet supported, while the body sustains excessive weight placed upon it. It is also possible, at times, for a person who is naturally psychic, or who has dabbled in attempts to cultivate psychic phenomena, to become dissociated from his normal physical status and, in a trance-like condition, to manifest the cataleptic state of beclouded consciousness and the wax-like rigidity of body. In such cases there is always danger that the lower quaternary including the unconscious body may be invaded by some astral entity which thus becomes an insidious and injurious link with kama-loka and its denizens.

Medical studies of catalepsy refer to the literary record of many classical examples of it, and claim that it has a close relationship with the ecstatic and trance-like states of mystics, but there is a marked contrast between the unnatural attitudes of the negative, unconscious cataleptic person, who remembers nothing of his entranced state, and the generally exalted spiritual consciousness of the genuine mystic who retains full memory of his self-induced experience.

Catatonia [from Greek kata down + tonos tension] Referred to as tension-insanity, this condition is marked with successive stages of psychological depression, excitement, and stupor; the typical symptoms are peculiar mannerisms, stereotyped movements, a cataleptoid muscular rigidity, and great mental and physical stubbornness. There may be hallucinations, depressing illusions, or fantastic religious ideas, or sudden impulsions of violence or indecency, and there is always a dulling of the higher emotional and ethical feelings. After an attack, the person often admits that he has been acting perversely, foolishly, or childishly, but explains that he could not help it. When analyzed in the light of composite human nature, and of the action of different principles during life and after death, the peculiar conditions are explainable. Evidently the sufferers are overcome by some besieging astral entity of kama-rupic nature; or in certain cases by aggregated or collected thought-impressions of former emotional and lower mental storms, excitements, or passion, which at times of ethical inattention flow back upon the brain-mind and affect the receptive body and its nervous system, so that these cases are really reactional effects of precedaneous causes which may even go back in time to a preceding life or lives.

Catharsis [from Greek katharsis cleansing from katharos pure] Cleansing, purgation; used by Aristotle for the cleansing of the emotions of the audience through experiencing a work of art, such as a drama. Also the preliminary discipline in the ancient Mysteries, where the lower nature of the aspirant is purified, fitting him or her for higher training, knowledge, and initiation. The three lowest degrees “consisted of teachings alone, which formed the preparation, the discipline, mental and spiritual and psychic and physical; what the Greeks called the katharsis or ‘cleansing’; and when the disciple was considered sufficiently cleansed, purified, disciplined, quiet mentally, tranquil spiritually, then he was taken into the fourth degree” (Fund 608). See also INITIATION; MYSTERIES.

Catur. See CHATUR

Caturdasa, Caturdasa-bhuvana. See CHATURDASA; CHATURDASA-BHUVANA.

Catur-maharajas. See CHATUR-MAHARAJAS

Catur-mukha. See CHATUR-MUKHA

Catur-varna. See CHATUR-VARNA

Catur-yoni. See CHATUR-YONI

Catvaras, Catvarah. See CHATVARAS


Causal Body. See KARANOPADHI

Causeless Cause. See PARABRAHMAN

Cave Dwellers, Cavemen People of primitive habits lived in caves in the past, in various parts of the world, as they do in the present. Skulls, bones, implements, and art works of past cavemen have served paleethnologists as material for a stratification of human history based on a supposed ascent of humanity through progressive stages from the animal kingdom; but all that can legitimately be inferred from it is that primitive peoples have existed at all times, together with technologically sophisticated races, and that the human type has not changed for millions of years past except as to minor fluctuations of physiologic parts around the persisting general physiologic structure. These cavemen were not mere stages in an upward evolution, but decadent offshoots of great races who, once having become racial relics, took to cave life, and commenced a career of slow extinction, yet in some cases preserving something of their former fine physique and artistic ability.

Cedar Throughout Asia Minor initiates were called the trees of righteousness, hence the mystical meaning of “the cedars of Lebanon,” in which category belong also some kings of Israel; and the same term was applied in India, but mostly to adepts of the left-hand path (SD 2:494-5).

Cela. See CHELA

Celestial Body Taken from Coleridge, who divined that in the human celestial body must be stored the memory of all preexistent experiences of the soul. The phrase is said to mean the thought-vehicle of the monad in devachan, through which functions the manasic ego (Key 137). The range of stored memory of experiences varies in extent according to the degree of sublimity of the different vestures. Ancient mysticism taught that the self has several vestures, each of which may be called a body or sheath through which the monad acts and by which it comes in contact with the particular worlds in which it may be functioning. “There are also celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial” (1 Cor 15:40). For instance, the Vedantic classification of the kosas (sheaths of atman) gives annamayakosa (physical body), pranamayakosa (vital-astral body), manomayakosa (psychological or lower manasic body), vijnanamayakosa (higher manasic body), and anandamayakosa (buddhic body). In the Taraka Raja-Yoga system are the following upadhis or vehicles of atman: sthulopadhi (gross vehicle), sukshmopadhi (subtile vehicle), and karanopadhi (causal vehicle or self).

Different schools have different enumerations, for though the truth is one and the same, yet when it is formally expressed, we must expect adaptations rather than exactitudes. One theosophical division gives 1) the divine monad; 2) its first vehicle, the spiritual soul; then 3) the human soul; 4) the astral-vital soul; and 5) the physical body. See also PRINCIPLES

Celestial Buddhas. See DHYANI-BUDDHA

Celestial Order of Beings Hierarchies of creative powers of various orders; in The Secret Doctrine (1:213) seven orders of celestial beings or creative powers are described: 1) Divine Flames, Fiery Lions, or Lions of Life (symbolized by the sign Leo), the nucleole of the superior divine world; formless Fiery Breaths, identical in one aspect with the upper Sephirothal triad which is placed in the archetypal world; 2) those of fire and aether, corresponding to atma-buddhi, formless but somewhat less spiritual and more ethereal; 3) those which correspond to atma-buddhi-manas, the triads; 4) ethereal entities, the highest rupa group, the nursery of human conscious spiritual souls, the imperishable jivas; 5) connected with the microcosmic pentagon, the crocodile, Capricorn contains the dual attributes of both spiritual and physical aspects of the universe, and dual human nature; 6) and 7) partake of the lower qualities of the quaternary, conscious ethereal entities, invisible, giving rise to numerous orders of nature spirits and spirits of atoms. See also HIERARCHIES; HIERARCHY OF COMPASSION

Cell [from Latin cella a small room] A small enclosed space; applied to the unit of organic life since the mid-17th century, when Robert Hooke, using one of the early microscopes, discovered that cork consisted of many little empty enclosed spaces separated from each other, which he called cells. A century later these cells were found to contain a semi-transparent substance occurring in all vegetable and animal matter, which thereafter was regarded as the basis of organic life and so received the name of protoplasm. The cells is a collective entity containing subordinate symbiotic entities. Its structure is divided into two major parts: the central nucleus which contains the genetic material, and the surrounding cytoplasm. Theosophically, human cells sprang originally from the inner human entity, who functions as their oversoul.

The earliest human root-races were astral protoplasts that reproduced by division as cells do today. The late second and early third root-races, the “sweat-born,” reproduced by throwing off germ cells which then grew into the new entity. Because each cell is an individual being or organism with its own inherent characteristics and possibilities, some of these vital cells thrown off by early human beings were used by the entities that evolved into the higher mammals. Human cells were not as thoroughly dominated by their parent entity as they are today:

“Hence, when any one of the cells forming part of such early human bodies freed itself from the psychical and physical control that then existed, it was enabled to follow, and instinctively did follow, the path of self-expression. But in our days when the psychical and physical dominance of the human incarnated entity over the human cells composing the human body is so strong, and because the cells have largely lost their power to individual self-expression through the biologic habit of subjecting to that overlordship of the human entity, such an individualized career of a cell in self-development is a virtual impossibility. . . .
“These cells which compose his body, had they not been held in the grip of the forces flowing from the inner dominating entity, man himself, for so long a time that their own individual lives, as it were, have been overpowered and bent in his direction and can now follow almost no other path than his; had they not been so dominated they would, by the amputation of a limb for instance, immediately begin to proliferate along their own tendency-line, to build up bodies of their own kind, each one following out that particular line of life force, or progressive development, which each such cell would contain in its cellular structure as a dominant, thus establishing a new ancestral or genealogical tree” (MIE 144-5).

See also GERM CELL.


Centaurs (Greek) Greek mythology preserves legends of monsters, half man, half horse, located in wild spots in Greece. “See, for comparison, the account of creation by Berosus (Alexander Polyhistor) and the hideous beings born from the two-fold principle (Earth and Water) in the Abyss of primordial creation: Neras [Naras] (Centaurs, men with the limbs of horses and human bodies), and Kimnaras (men with the heads of horses) created by Brahma in the commencement of the Kalpa” (SD 2:65). The centaurs were also said to be the offspring of Ixion, king of the Lapith people, and a cloud shaped like Hera, sent by Zeus to test his wickedness; or as being offsprings of Ixion’s son and mares. They were considered a rude, wild race living in the mountains of Thessaly.

From another standpoint, however, Greek mythology represents the centaurs as being wiser than men: thus Chiron, son of Kronos and Philyra, most famous of the Centaurs, is a teacher not only of the heroes, but instructed Apollo and Diana in hunting, medicine, music, and the art of prophecy. Later, centaurs were shown as forming part of the following of Dionysus.

Cerberus (Greek) In Greek mythology, the three-headed dog with a serpent’s tail, son of Typhon and Echidna, who guards the gate to Hades or the underworld. He was brought to the earth and back by Hercules as his twelfth labor. Cerberus “came to the Greeks and Romans from Egypt. It was the monster, half-dog and half-hippopotamus, that guarded the gates of Amenti. . . . Both the Egyptian and the Greek Cerberus are symbols of Kamaloka and its uncouth monsters, the cast-off shells of mortals” (TG 74-5).

Ceremonies, Ceremonials, Sacred- Originally and essentially acts of magic, designed to bring about particular and definite results, but now almost wholly ritual observances performed from habit, from unthinking reverence to misunderstood tradition, or merely to impress the devotional imagination. The anointing of a candidate in the Mysteries was actually the completion of a process which began on higher planes and in the candidate’s inner nature, not a mere symbol intended to fix his attention or to impress his mind. In two of its ecclesiastical analogs, baptism and confirmation, we find them regarded by some churches as the “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace,” and by others as an actual conveying of grace to the candidate; and the same with other Church sacraments. In real ceremonial magic this is fully recognized, and success depends upon the exact fulfillment of the necessary conditions; similarly in white magic, but the knowledge and proficiency required for the fulfillment of the requisite conditions is apparently beyond the attainments of the great multitude of people today. It comes only in higher degrees of chelaship and is carefully guarded from profanation. For ceremonial magic, whether white or black, means the evocation of various forces of nature, stronger or weaker depending upon their nature, demanding for their control a resolute will, an inflexible mind, and an immaculately pure heart. Ceremonies performed in ignorance may be as barren of results as a static electric machine worked in a fog.

There is a thread-soul of quasi-intuitive understanding running through the traditions of human history which impels people to keep up, however ignorantly, forms and ceremonies through the ages, often when their real significance is lost, like seeds preserved in an ark to await the time when the flood waters shall recede.

Cereals. See WHEAT

Ceres. See DEMETER

Ceridwen (Welsh) Presumably cognate with the Roman goddess Ceres; in Hanes Taliesin (The Story of Taliesin) the wife of Tegid Foel. The goddess of nature, her function was to do battle with her favorite sons, to oppose and persecute them until they had grown stronger to endure than she was to afflict: then she turns and becomes their devoted servant.

Ceridwen, Cauldron of (Welsh) Symbol of initiation in Welsh Druidic literature; a Bard was one who had been in the Cauldron of Ceridwen, called also pair dadeni (the cauldron of rebirth). In passing out from Wales to Europe, it became the Holy Grail; thus Parsifal, or Perceval, is Pair-cyfaill, the “Companion of the Cauldron.”

Ceridwen brewed the cauldron of wisdom on the mountainside. It was to boil for a year and a day while she roamed the hills to gather herbs to put in it; at the end of that time all would have boiled away but the Three Drops of Wisdom — Enw Duw (the Name of God). See also TALIESIN

Cerinthus (flourished 1st century) Gnostic, probably Syrian, credited with Egyptian training by Hippolytus, he taught that the world was made, not by the Supreme but by angels, “one of whom gave law to the Jews, which was not perfect, and that only a particular gospel of Matthew was of use in the New Testament” (BdeZ in BCW 14:516). He taught that “the world and Jehovah having fallen off from virtue and primitive dignity, the Supreme permitted one of his glorious Aeons, whose name was the ‘Anointed’ (Christ) to incarnate in the man Jesus” (BCW 14:372n) who was born a son of Joseph and Mary like any other mortal until Christos descended upon him, left him before his death, and returned personating him after his death (BCW 13:55; SD 2:508).


Cetana. See CHETANA

Cetus (Latin) [from Greek ketos whale] An ecliptic constellation adjoining Pisces and Aries. In Hebrew mythology it can be connected with the marine monster that swallowed Jonah, the peregrinating dove; and is also connected with Poseidon, Dagon, and other fish deities.

Ceugant, Cylch Y Ceugant (Welsh) The cycle of infinity, the Boundless. The highest of the three Druidic circles of existence: the world of the Absolute.

Top of File


BCW - H. P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings

BG - Bhagavad-Gita

BP - Bhagavata Purana

cf - confer

ChU - Chandogya Upanishad

Dial, Dialogues - The Dialogues of G. de Purucker, ed. A. L. Conger

Echoes - Echoes of the Orient, by William Q. Judge (comp. Dara Eklund)

ET - The Esoteric Tradition, by G. de Purucker

FSO - Fountain-Source of Occultism, by G. de Purucker

Fund - Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, by G. de Purucker

IU - Isis Unveiled, by H. P. Blavatsky

MB - Mahabharata

MIE - Man in Evolution, by G. de Purucker

ML - The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, ed. A. Trevor Barker

MU - Mundaka Upanishad

M-Wms Dict - Sanskrit-English Dictionary, by Monier Williams

N on BG - Notes on the Bhagavad Gita, by T. Subba Row

OG - Occult Glossary, by G. de Purucker

Rev - Revelations

RV - Rig Veda

SBE - Sacred Books of the East, ed. Max Müller

SD - The Secret Doctrine, by H. P. Blavatsky

SOPh - Studies in Occult Philosophy, by G. de Purucker

TBL - Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge (Secret Doctrine Commentary), by H. P. Blavatsky

TG - Theosophical Glossary, by H. P. Blavatsky

Theos - The Theosophist (magazine)

VP - Vishnu Purana

VS - The Voice of the Silence, by H. P. Blavatsky

WG - Working Glossary, by William Q. Judge

ZA - Zend-Avesta

Theosophical University Press Online Edition