Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary

Electronic Version of Current Working Manuscript

G. de Purucker, Editor-in-Chief

Geoffrey Barborka, Editor and Project Manager
Grace F. Knoche, Editor
Associate Editors: Sarah Belle Dougherty, A. Studley Hart, Elsa-Brita Titchenell
Major Contributors: Henry T. Edge, Joseph H. Fussell, Grace Green Knoche, Lydia Ross, Charles J. Ryan, Judith Tyberg, Gertrude W. van Pelt

Copyright © 1999 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved. Electronic version ISBN 978-1-55700-141-2. All rights reserved. This edition may be downloaded free of charge for personal use. Except for brief excerpts, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial or other use in any form without the prior permission of Theosophical University Press.

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 head a current transliteration with accents is given.

Last Update: 1/25/21

Aa-Adh | Adi-Ag | Ah-Al | Am-Ani | Anj-Arc | Ard-Asr | Ass-Atm | Ato-Az | Ba-Be | Bh-Bo | Br-Bz | Ca-Ce | Cha-Chy | Ci-Cz | Da-Der | Des-Dir | Dis-Dz | Ea-El | Em-Ez | F | Ga-Gl | Gn-Gz | Ha-Hh | Hi-Hz | I | J | Ka | Ke-Kz | La-Li | Lo-Lz | Ma-Mam | Man-Mar | Mas-Me | Mi-Mo | Mp-Mz | Na-Ne | Nf-Nz | O | Pa-Peq | Per-Pi | Pl-Pral | Pram-Prj | Pro-Pz | Q-Rec | Red-Roos | Root-Rz | Sa-Sal | Sam-Saq | Sar-Sec | Sed-Sez | Sh-Sir | Sis-Som | Son-Sq | Sr-Sum | Sun-Sz | Ta-Tel | Tem-Thn | Tho-Tre | Tri-Tz | U | Va-Vih | Vij-Vz | W-X | Y | Z |


Ever since the early days of the Theosophical Society there has been a call for a comprehensive glossary that would define and explain the thousands of philosophical and mystical terms found in The Secret Doctrine and The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett. H. P. Blavatsky’s Theosophical Glossary, posthumously issued in 1892, while containing valuable material, is inadequate and cannot be said to bear the stamp of HPB’s careful eye, for she had seen only the first thirty-two pages in proof and thus had been unable to clarify and expand the definitions. As G. R. S. Mead wrote in the Preface: “This is all the more regrettable, for H. P. B., as was her wont, was adding considerably to her original copy, and would no doubt have increased the volume far beyond its present limits.”

In 1930, within a year after succeeding Katherine Tingley to the leadership of the Theosophical Society with international headquarters at Point Loma, California, Gottfried de Purucker proposed to his Literary Committee that work begin on an enlarged glossary which must pass the test of scholarship and also meet the exacting test of fidelity to the universal wisdom-teaching as restated by H. P. Blavatsky. The proposal was received enthusiastically. Professor Charles J. Ryan was appointed to spearhead the project, assisted by Drs. Lydia Ross, Grace Knoche (Sr.) and, briefly, Gertrude W. van Pelt, all long-time students of The Secret Doctrine. In the beginning, as material was collected, Dr. de Purucker dictated emendations and/or additions to his private secretary, Elsie Savage, and, as convenient, to Helen Savage, Irene Ponsonby, and Margherita Siren. Progress, though steady, was slow, and to respond in part to the immediate demand for a handbook of frequently used theosophical and oriental terms, Dr. de Purucker, with the aid of Geoffrey Barborka, issued his Occult Glossary in 1933.

By the spring of 1934 it was clear that someone was required to coordinate the growing file of manuscripts received from the contributors who by then also included Drs. Henry T. Edge and Joseph H. Fussell, joined later, for the Sanskrit terms, by Judith Tyberg. So, on March 23, G. de Purucker appointed Geoffrey Barborka chairman of the Glossary Committee, a post he filled with unremitting diligence, following the ground rules laid down by Dr. de Purucker in his March 16, 1934, letter to Professor Ryan:

1) Aim to produce a Theosophical Glossary only, not merely an encyclopedic Glossary of every term used by Tom, Dick, or Harry during past centuries.
2) Make your Glossary not a mere definition of terms, but a true Glossary, to wit, the word itself, and then a brief article upon it, said article running from two or three lines to half a page, but hardly longer. I use the word “article” not to mean an essay, but a glossarial explanation of the word, somewhat more elaborate and extended than a mere dictionary-definition is.
3) I would limit the Glossary to all the Theosophical, occult, and mystical words found in our Theosophical literature. This would of course include words from other religions and philosophies which our writers have used, but not necessarily words from religions and philosophies which we do not need to use, or our writers have not used.
4) Have a simple system of cross-reference . . . by the simple device of saying “See . . .” or “Cf. . . .” and then write the other word.
It is not necessary to bother with Sanskrit or Hebrew words unless they are found in our literature. Then they should be explained in the regular way adopted.
. . . The book really will be for Theosophical and occult students, and we cannot afford to waste our time in merely getting out a tremendous and elaborate book such as some literary crank might issue in his spare hours for the sake of explaining, or trying to explain, every term he might find in a lifetime of reading.

Dr. de Purucker further recommended that all quotations be taken from original sources, wherever possible, and rendered verbatim et literatim even when the terms cited therein are incorrectly given; but terms in the body of the text should be spelled accurately.

Inevitably when several people contribute to a work of this kind, there is bound to be unevenness of quality due to differences of educational background and temperament. The editor’s role, as G. de Purucker conceived it, was not to bring the whole into a unity of style, but rather to examine every term and make corrections and additions as required. This he did until May 1941; thereafter, for another year, he continued to clarify moot questions, and also saw to it that Masoretic points were added to the Hebrew characters on all Qabbalistic terms.

This project has always been close to my heart, for I was privileged to take Dr. de Purucker’s dictation on all Glossary material from 1935 to 1942. In the 1980s an editorial team composed of A. Studley Hart, Sarah Belle Dougherty, Elsa-Brita Titchenell, and myself began a careful review of the Glossary. While it was possible to make editorial changes to modernize the text, improve the style, and remove obviously dated material, much work remains to be done: the extraordinary advances that have revolutionized our thinking in every branch of learning since Dr. de Purucker’s death in September 1942 — in the proliferating scientific disciplines, in psychology and parapsychology, in Tibetan and Egyptian language studies and Gnosticism, for example — make it imperative that the content of the manuscript be updated. Furthermore, several important theosophical books — including several books by G. de Purucker and H. P. Blavatsky’s Collected Writings in 14 volumes — have been published since the glossary was originally written, containing terms that need to be reviewed for inclusion.

Much of the material, however, is of value in its present edited form, particularly that dealing with theosophical and philosophical concepts. To make this resource available to the public, Theosophical University Press is issuing the Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary online as a work in progress: editorial and scholarly review of the Glossary will proceed, and changes will continue to be made. We hope that those using it will send in to the Editorial Committee any errors of fact or typography that they find in this online edition. Readers’ comments and suggestions are also welcome.

We believe this glossary will prove an effective and convenient reference for students of theosophical literature, and that its value will continue to grow as specific areas are enriched by the findings of modern scholarship.

Grace F. Knoche
January 15, 1999
Pasadena, California


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

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