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.

Quick Links: 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


Gna (Icelandic) One of the handmaidens of Frigga, consort of Allfather Odin in Norse mythology. She carries messages throughout the nine worlds on behalf of her mistress.

Gnana, Gnanam. See JNANA

Gnana-Devas, Gnan-Devas. See JNANA-DEVAS

Gnanasakti. See JNANA-SAKTI

Gnata, Gnatha. See JNATA

Gnayam. See JNEYA

Gnipa (Icelandic, Scandinavian) Peak; in Norse mythology, the gnipa-hollow is the cave that gives entrance to the underworld or world of the dead governed by Hel, Loki’s daughter. The hound of Hel, Garm, howls in the hollow before Ragnarok.

Gnome [from Greek gnome thought, intelligence; or gnomon one who knows, an instructor, interpreter, guardian] Coined by Paracelsus for the elemental beings pertaining to the element earth, hence popularly believed in Medieval Europe to inhabit mines and caves, pictured as very small men, ugly and often misshapen. The females, called gnomides, were supposed to be of extreme beauty and goodness, being the especial guardians of diamonds. Elemental beings generally “are the Soul of the elements, the capricious forces in Nature, acting under one immutable Law, inherent in these Centres of Force, with undeveloped consciousness and bodies of plastic mould, which can be shaped according to the conscious or unconscious will of the human being who puts himself en rapport with them” (BCW 6:189). They belong to the three elemental kingdoms below the mineral kingdom.

The element earth is not that which we call earth, which is a compound of all seven of the ancient elements and of all or most of the modern chemical elements. Rather, it is the Hindu prithivi-tattva, whose quality is smell and whose shape is mystically cubic as regards its paramanus. When a person has a predominance of the earth element in his constitution, the gnomes are said to be attracted to him and aid him in things which correspond to the earth principle; these include hidden treasures and wealth. Of course there is the antithetical side of the earth element which produces heaviness, grossness, etc.

Gnosis (Greek) [cf Sanskrit jnana knowledge] Knowledge; used by Plato and the Neoplatonists to signify the divine knowledge (gupta-vidya) attained through initiation; and means for the student the active penetration into and going beyond the veils of mind, by which process a true vision of reality is to be obtained.

Gnostics Various schools — agreeing in fundamentals, differing in details according to their teachers — which inculcated gnosis (divine wisdom); they preceded or coincided with the early centuries of Christianity, and were grouped about Alexandria, Antioch, and other large centers of the Jewish-Hellenic-Syrian culture. The teachers include Philo Judaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Simon Magus and his pupil Menander, Saturninus, Basilides, Valentinus, Marcion, Celsus, and others. Their teachings in many respects were those of the ancient wisdom, derived from contact with the still extant sources in Egypt, India, Persia, and elsewhere.

Characteristic doctrines held by them are the system of emanations, powers, or aeons, with which they bridged the gap, otherwise remaining unfilled, between divinity and the world; the whole thus constituting the pleroma. All the potentialities of the supreme descend by emanational evolution through the various orders of aeons to man, who is thereby endowed with unlimited potentials. The distinction between Agathodaimon and Kakodaimon; the recognition of the mystical serpent of knowledge as the endower of mankind with wisdom and opponent of the merely creative or working Demiourgos (represented as the Old Testament Jehovah) were, among other matters, fairly well made in these systems.

According to Clement, the enlightened or perfect Christian is a Gnostic. In Gnostic teaching, Christ is an aeon of high degree; he is Lucifer the Light-bringer, who redeems humanity from the lower power of the merely creative or working Demiourgos — that is, from becoming enmeshed in the lower cosmic powers.

Until the mid-twentieth century, the principal extant Gnostic writings were quotes in surviving attacks against the Gnostics made by early Christian writers, the Pistis Sophia and “two Books of Jeu,” and the Neoplatonic Corpus Hermeticum (Hermes Trimegistos, Divine Pymander, etc.). With the discovery of the Nag-Hammadi scrolls, many more Gnostic writings have come to light and scholars are gaining a wider understanding of both Christian and non-Christian Gnosticism.

Gnyana. See JNANA

Gnypa. See GNIPA

Goat of Mendes. See MENDES

Gobi or Shamo Desert A wild, arid region of mountains and sandy plains which was once fertile land and in part the site of a former inland sea or lake on which was the “Sacred Island” where the “Sons of Will and Yoga,” the elect of the third root-race, took refuge when the daityas prevailed over the devas and humanity became black with sin. It has been called by the Chinese the Sea of Knowledge, and tradition says that the descendants of the holy refugees still inhabit an oasis in “the dreadful wildernesses of the great Desert, the Gobi . . .” (SD 2:220). This region was transformed into a sea for the last time ten or twelve thousand years ago; a local cataclysm drained off the waters southward and westward, leaving the present conditions. It is also said that the events connected with the drying up of the Gobi region are associated with allegories of wars between the good and evil forces and the “systematic persecution of the Prophets of the Right Path by those of the Left” which led the world into materialistic forms of thought.


God In its widest sense, the origin and root of all that is. Absolute Being may be regarded perhaps as one equivalent expression, but even Being itself may be regarded as a condition or attribute, and beyond it we must therefore postulate Be-ness. The idea of a root or origin sometimes connotes supreme power and governance; but such conception of a rootless root or infinite origin does not exist, for whatever is, or has been, or ever will be, must ultimately spring from the womb of boundless infinitude, and we can speak only of a power and governance in connection with the subordinate or minor — however supernal or sublime they may be — which spring forth from the Boundless in virtually infinite numbers through beginningless and endless duration.

Monotheists recognize but one God, conceived as a supreme personality and usually endowed with attributes pertaining to human personality, this mental image of God therefore being but a reflection of the human mind, with its inherent limitations and biases; yet even monotheists tacitly recognize other gods under the name of natural forces. Polytheism recognizes hierarchies of divine beings, and pantheism discerns divine power as everywhere and eternally present. The human being also in essence is a divinity. The attribution of personality to God is justly regarded as an inadmissible limitation; but there is a lack of clearness as to the meaning of such words as personality, self, and individuality, which unfortunately leads some monotheistic minds to the fear that the denial of personality will reduce the conception of divinity to merely an empty abstraction. Yet our inability to conceive the inconceivable has nothing to do with our intuition and duty, nor with the vision of the inner god as the supreme guide in a human life. See also PERSONAL GOD

God(s) and Goddess(es) A generalizing term signifying all self-conscious entities superior to humankind, most often restricted to the three dhyani-chohanic kingdoms. The gods have differing places in nature’s hierarchical scheme, running through innumerable grades of cosmic intelligences. Theosophy teaches that human beings who successfully reach the seventh round on this earth chain will pass, at the conclusion of this last round, into the kingdom superior to the human, that of the lowest dhyani-chohans.

One function of dhyani-chohans (gods or demigods of a lower type) is the watching over of all hierarchies below them, some being guardians of the human host, others guarding and protecting the less evolved kingdoms. The higher hierarchical ranges of gods or divinities in our universe “are Entities of the higher worlds in the hierarchy of Being, so immeasurably high that, to us, they must appear as Gods, and collectively — God. . . . To the highest, we are taught, belong the seven orders of the purely divine Spirits; to the six lower ones belong hierarchies that can occasionally be seen and heard by men, and who do communicate with their progeny of the Earth; which progeny is indissolubly linked with them, each principle in man having its direct source in the nature of those great Beings, who furnish us with the respective invisible elements in us” (SD 1:133).

These beings belong to two general divisions, the arupa (formless) and the rupa (form) divinities. Those having forms should not be imagined as necessarily having human forms as in the ancient pantheons, yet rupa gods do have highly ethereal forms, some perhaps resembling the present human shape and others of quite different construction. But the arupa divinities are to our power of imagination “beings of pure intelligence and of understanding, pure essences, pure spirits, formless as we conceive form” (Fund 347).

Tradition has it that in the immemorial past, certain lower gods associated intimately with their children, humanity, on this globe; but as time went by and mankind became more immersed in material pursuits, people grew to become increasingly forgetful of their divine origin and of the presence of the shining divinities instructing and guiding their forebears, so that the gods and demigods were remembered only in mythologies and religious metaphors of the various races.

What did the ancients mean by their gods and goddesses? They were intended to represent the guiding intelligences present within or in back of all invisible secrets, as well as astral and physical manifestations of nature. During the third root-race there were beings who were

“endowed with the sacred fire from the spark of higher and then independent Beings, who were the psychic and spiritual parents of Man, as the lower Pitar Devata (the Pitris) were the progenitors of his physical body. That Third and holy Race consisted of men who, at their zenith, were described as, ‘towering giants of godly strength and beauty, and the depositaries of all the mysteries of Heaven and Earth.’ . . .
“ . . . the chief gods and heroes of the Fourth and Fifth Races, as of later antiquity, are the deified images of these men of the Third. The days of their physiological purity, and those of their so-called Fall, have equally survived in the hearts and memories of their descendants. Hence, the dual nature shown in those gods, both virtue and sin being exalted to their highest degree, in the biographies composed by posterity” (SD 2:171-2).

The primeval human deity worship degenerated during the fourth root-race (the Atlantean), the ideal at first becoming confused with the form, and the latter finally almost superseding the spirit — thus in the relatively complete materialization of idea into form, the later Atlanteans in time began to worship themselves, what was to them the powers of nature appearing through themselves as human beings; the degeneration of the ideal proceeding so far that ultimately the worst kind of idol worship became relatively universal, except for the seed of the newer and somewhat higher mankind of the fifth root-race then beginning. “The moderns are satisfied with worshipping the male heroes of the Fourth race, who created gods after their own sexual image, whereas the gods of primeval mankind were ‘male and female,’ ” i.e., hermaphrodite (SD 2:135). See also DEITY

Godhead The essential state or nature of divinity; as a Christian term used sometimes as a synonym for God; the Christian Trinity or God as a three-in-one.

God-man Mankind after the change in the third root-race when animal humanity became incarnate devas because of the overshadowing incarnations of the manasaputras. Also manas (mind) in alliance with atma-buddhi, as contrasted with manas in alliance with the lower principles — the latter being simply and merely human. Sometimes used to describe the avataras appearing in the human race at periodic intervals, or again to describe buddhas or other spiritual-human beings.

God-parents Christian law, strong in the Greek Orthodox Church, weaker in the Roman Catholic, and forgotten in the Protestant, based in the fact that once a spiritual teacher begins to teach the disciple, he takes on the student’s karma in connection with the occult sciences until the student becomes in turn a master. The god-parents “tacitly take upon themselves all the sins of the newly baptised child — (anointed, as at the initiation, a mystery truly!) — until the day when the child becomes a responsible unit, knowing good and evil” (BCW 9:156, cf 9:285-6).

God-sparks When evolution starts on the downward arc, the spiritual essence appears as a vast host of individual monads or spiritual, conscious atoms which, because of their lack of the self-conscious human condition, are often termed unself-conscious god-sparks — although this does not mean that they lack self-consciousness on their own plane, for these monads never leave their own planes. To speak of a monad incarnating means that a ray projected from the monad “descends” from its plane in a minor avataric sense to inflame the nascent manasic element or power in lower beings, precisely as took place in the cases of the manasaputras. These god-sparks, being the spiritual monads of living entities, gradually emanate from themselves the successive vestures through which they manifest, the process taking place serially and ladder-fashion on the downward arc; with the eventual result that, at the end of the ascending arc, the unself-conscious god-sparks become self-conscious gods, which means that the self-conscious humanity of them becomes linked self-consciously to the self-consciousness of the monads on their own plane.

God-wisdom. See THEOSOPHY

Goetia (Greek) [from goes enchanter, sorcerer] Also goety. One who uses incantations by song or speech, one who holds others under the spell of sound, chants, or incantations. Porphyry condemns it as black magic, distinguishing it from theurgy or divine magic; and it has in general been so contrasted.

Gogard. See GOKARD

Gokard (Pahlavi) Gōkard. Also Geokar, Gaekarena. In the Bundahish the white haoma or Tree of Life which guards the tree of all seeds (Harawispa tohma). This tree of all germs was given forth and grew up in the Farakhkard (unbounded) ocean from which the germs of species of plants ever increased. And near it, the Gokard tree was produced for keeping away deformed decrepitude, and the full perfection of the world arose from this (Bundahis 9:5-6). It is described as a luxuriant tree in whose branches a serpent dwells. “But while the Macrocosmic tree is the Serpent of Eternity and of absolute Wisdom itself, those who dwell in the Microcosmic tree are the Serpents of the manifested Wisdom. One is the One and All; the others are its reflected parts. The ‘tree’ is man himself, of course, and the Serpents dwelling in each, the conscious Manas, the connecting link between Spirit and Matter, heaven and earth” (SD 2:98). See also HAOMA

Gold The king of metal, symbol of perfection, durability, and purity; of the real sun, the great masculine principle, the Father, the positive side of the solar cosmic life. Alchemists considered gold as being a deposit of solar light, regarding light as the emanative fire from the sun. The gold of human nature, which has to be purified by fire from its dross, is manas, the self-conscious element, when purified from contamination with the dross of the lower principles and united with buddhi. While divine alchemy seeks to purify the gold of human nature, physical alchemy seeks to derive gold by transmutation from baser metals. In contrast with gold, brass is mentioned as signifying the baser elements or the world of passional matter; and by another contrast, silver is the analog of the watery or feminine principle, whose planetary counterpart is the moon.

The first and purest of the four Hesiodic races in Greece was golden and gave the name to their age. In Hindu writings the world is evolved from a golden egg or germ (hiranyagarbha).

Golden Age The first of the four Hesiodic Ages — Gold, Silver, Bronze, Iron — signifying the beginning of a new root-race and, on a smaller scale, the beginning of any subordinate racial period. This four-fold division applies not only to root-races but to all their subdivisions.

The Golden Age was under the rule of Kronos (Saturnus) who, according to Plato, not believing that men could rule themselves, caused them to be ruled by gods. It was a time of innocence and happiness: truth and justice prevailed, the earth brought forth without toil all that was necessary for mankind, perpetual spring reigned, and the heroes passed away peacefully into spiritual existence. Equivalent to the Hindu satya yuga.

Golden Apples. See HESPERIDES; TREE


Golden Calf In the Old Testament, an object (Hebrew agel, egel, calf or globe) made in the wilderness by Aaron at the request of the Israelites when Moses had not returned from Mt. Sinai (BCW 3:130). Upon his return, Moses destroyed the idol by burning it, grinding it to powder, strewing it on water, and making the Israelites drink it (Ex 32:20) — which Blavatsky holds has an alchemical significance (BCW 11:44). In one sense the golden calf stands for the secret knowledge the Jews took from the Egyptians. In another sense it is “the sacred heifer, the symbol of the ‘Great Mother,’ first the planet Venus, and then the moon . . . as says G. Massey . . .:

‘This [the Golden Calf] being of either sex, it supplied a twin type for Venus, as Hathor or Ishtar [Astoreth], the double Star, that was male at rising and female at sunset, and therefore the Twin-Stars of the “First Day” ’ ” (BCW 8:308-9).

Golden Chain (of Hermes or Homer). See HERMETIC CHAIN



Golden Fleece In Greek mythology, the fleece of a ram sent by the gods to save Phrixus and Helle, son and daughter of Athamas and Nephele, from their stepmother Ino. Flying through the air, it bore them towards Asia Minor. Helle drowned in the sea (at the Hellespont), but Phrixus arrived at Colchis. There he sacrificed the ram to Zeus and presented the fleece to king Aeetes, who hung it in a grove of Ares. Later, a generation before the Trojan War, Jason and the Argonauts brought the fleece back to Greece with the aid of Aeetes’ daughter Medea.

Golden Rule In the West, applied to the moral teaching as voiced by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and stated by him to be all the law and the prophets: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt 7:12); “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).

This teaching is in all the religions of the world, expressing the law of our higher nature, which is love and harmony, as contrasted with the law of our lower nature, which makes for personal separateness and sets the individual at variance with his neighbor. Its realization in thought and conduct is an indispensable requisite to attainment on the path of wisdom and liberation. The following are selected from many similar teachings:

Hillel, Jewish Rabbi (b. 50 b.c.): “Do not to others what you would not like others to do to you.”
Aristotle, Greek (385B.C.): “We should conduct ourselves towards others as we would have them act towards us.”
Pittacus, Greek (650 b.c.): “Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.”
Zoroaster, Persian: “Hold it not meet to do unto others what thou wouldst not desire done unto thyself; do that unto the people, which when done to thyself, is not disagreeable unto these.”
Confucius, China: “Do unto another what you would have him do unto you, and do not unto another what you would not have him do unto you.”
The Mahabharata, India: “This is the sum of all true righteousness — treat others as thou wouldst thyself be treated. Do nothing to thy neighbor which hereafter thou wouldst not have thy neighbor do to thee.”

Golden Thread, Golden Cord. See SUTRATMAN

Golgotha [from Greek of Hebrew gulgoleth, Chald gulgalta skull; in Greek cranion; Latin calvaria, whence Calvary.] The site of Jesus’ alleged physical crucifixion; often used metaphorically to signify crucifixion or trial.

Gompa, Gonpa (Tibetan) dgon-pa. Wilderness, solitary hermitage, monastery. Often built in solitary places, met with most frequently in mountain fastnesses and in secluded valleys.


Good Friday Anniversary celebration of the alleged physical crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which has a shifting date, varying between the 20th of March and the 23rd of April, the epoch of the Jewish Passover and the spring equinox.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are a borrowing from the ancient Mysteries — the mystic death and resurrection of the unconquered sun, exemplified by the mystic death and resurrection of the successful neophyte. This celebration is likewise connected with the winter solstice; the wish of the church authorities to accommodate themselves both to Roman and Jewish customs has caused the festival to be split, so that the birth now is celebrated in winter and the death and the resurrection in spring, whereas birth and resurrection are two words for the same mystic truth.

Even in the dogmatic and somewhat mechanical Christian celebration of these originally pagan mysteries, Friday is the day of Venus, a prototype of the organ of the gnostic individuality; Saturday is the day of Saturn, a prototype of the guardian in ancient mystical occultism of the initiatory Ring-pass-not; and Sunday, the day of the rising or resurrection, is the day of the sun, giver of life and light.


Gopa (Sanskrit) Gopa [from go cow + the verbal root to protect, cherish] Protector, guardian, cowherd, herdsman, milkman; in the mythology concerning Krishna, Gopa is applied to him as chief herdsman — or shepherd, to use the Christian form of the idea.

Gopi (Sanskrit) Gopī [fem of gopa cowherd] In Hindu mythology the female cowherds of Vrindavana — playmates and companions of Krishna during his boyhood, considered mystically as celestial personages or powers. Gopi is sometimes spoken of as one of the wives of Sakyamuni, but the meaning here is a mystical power.

Gorgon (Greek) In Greek mythology, three sisters with wings, brazen claws, enormous teeth, and serpents instead of hair on their heads. The one usually meant is the mortal Medusa, once a beautiful maiden turned into a gorgon by the gods. She was overcome by Perseus who avoided her fatal glance, which would have turned him to stone, by using a mirror. Pegasus, the winged horse, sprang from her severed neck. Evidently the gorgons represent one of the powers which rule the lower realms of nature which have to be overcome by the aspirant to wisdom in the initiatory trials.


Gorsedd (Welsh) A throne, seat, chair; an assembly of the Bards; now, the Assembly of Bards that directs the National Eisteddfod. According to Barddas, a Gorsedd might be held four times a year at the solstices and equinoxes. According to Iolo Morganwg, there were three Gorseddan [Gorseddau] of old, of which two became public and lost the secret wisdom; but the third, the Gorsedd of Morganwg (Glamorgan) disappeared from public view in early times and became an esoteric body (celddysgol — secret teaching), preserving the wisdom of the Druids.

Gospels Usually, the four accepted or canonical gospels of the New Testament, being the three synoptic gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke — and the Gospel according to John. They are an authorized and approved selection from a far larger number of Gospels, extant, partially extant, and lost, attributed to various disciples and apostles, claiming to give accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles.

The key to an understanding of the nature of the four Gospels lies in a consideration of the process which the functions and teachings of some of the Mystery schools of Asia Minor became gradually transformed into the formal religious system known as Christianity. The Gospels must have originated as extracts from the Mystery-dramas enacted in those schools. The mystical-human birth of Jesus, his trials or tests, his teachings, crucifixion, resurrection, etc., are clearly a form of the world-old and universal Mystery-drama of initiation of a human neophyte re-enacted in those ceremonies. The Gospels’ present form is the result of many copyings, recensions, omissions, additions, and alterations. They are, in fact, symbolic narratives made around the personality and individuality of a real character which thus has become a Mystery-figure; and contain also many teachings properly to be attributed to him, belonging to the general class of logia, or wise sayings of teachers, paralleled in the other world sacred scriptures. Jesus, as represented, is not historical; but there was an actual teacher, doubtless bearing the name Yeshua‘, Latinized as Jesus, who lived about a century earlier than the commonly accepted beginning of the Christian era.

Gotama Pali spelling of Gautama. See GAUTAMA

Gotra (Sanskrit) Gotra A race, tribe, family, or kin.

Gotra-Bhu-Jnana (Sanskrit) Gotra-bhū-jñāna [from gotra race, family + bhū earth + jñāna knowledge, wisdom] Wisdom of the races of the earth.

Gott (German) God.

Governors Hermetic name for a septenate of builders, cosmic evolvers, or planetary spirits; or for more than one such septenate, as the seven rays of a logos each have septenary subdivisions. Usually the reference is to the seven cosmic spirits, according to the Hermetic system; which stimulate and guide the operations of nature and are reflected in the small in mankind. Equivalent terms are rectores mundi, cosmocratores, ’elohim, rulers, etc.

Grail, Holy In Christian legend, the cup or chalice which Jesus used at the Last Supper, later used to catch his blood. It was made from the stone which fell from Lucifer’s crown as he plunged to earth. As Lucifer brought the mental principle to mankind, the stone can be seen as egoic consciousness. In medieval times, the grail associated with unusual powers, especially the regeneration of life and Christian purity. See also CERIDWEN, CAULDRON OF; CUP

Grain. See WHEAT

Gramani (Sanskrit) Grāmaṇī [from grāma village] The leader or chief of a village. Also a chief of the gandharvas. In the plural, an equivalent of yakshas.

Grand Architect of the Universe Masonic term for the maker of the universe; “the Greeks gave this Third or formative Logos the title Demiourgos, a word mystically signifying the supreme cosmic Architect of the universe. This same idea always has been held by the Christians as well as by modern speculative Freemasonry . . .” (FSO 183) Theosophically this Grand Architect is a collective way of presenting the forces of nature, the cosmocratores or cosmic builders, acting on the ideation laid down by still higher beings — dhyani-buddhas, referred to collectively as mahat or cosmic mind — rather than a personal god or entity; “but now the modern Masons make of their G. A. O. T. U. a personal and singular Deity” (TBL 40). See also MASTERS, THE THREE ANCIENT GREAT.

Grantha (Sanskrit) Grantha [from granth to tie, compose] A tying, binding, stringing together; a verse (particularly one of 32 syllables, i.e., a sloka); a composition, literary production, book — the ancient Sanskrit manuscript being leaves held together by means of a cord.

The name especially given to the sacred scriptures of the Sikhs. These were originally compiled in 1604 by the fifth Sikh guru, Arjan, and consisted of hymns of the first five gurus and of saints of different religions and castes. In 1705-6 Govindsingh, the tenth and last guru, added the hymns of the ninth guru and enjoined that after him the Grantha would take the place of the guru. The theme of the hymns is the union of the human soul with the divine through transcending of egoism.

Gravitation Attraction, and hence gravitation, is a manifestation of cosmic desire, which draws together separate things into unities. Desire is the attribute of living beings, and the universe is exclusively composed of living beings.

The effects of gravitation within our terrestrial limits are calculable; and by transferring these laws speculatively to the stellar spaces, we can construct a coherent mechanics not only of the solar system but of the galaxy. But in doing so we merely sketch the architecture of a mechanical universe; and it is not certain how far we are justified in applying the terrestrial to extraterrestrial regions, and using this as a basis for calculations as to mass, distance, etc.

Gravitation, like all the other phenomena of nature, is to be attributed to living beings of cosmic magnitude by reason of the vital electricity or vital magnetism emanating from these beings, which electricity or magnetism is at once one of the phenomena of life and of cosmic intelligence. In the lower scale of magnitudes found in and among the molecules, atoms, and electronic particles, the same observations apply. Cohesion among the infinitesimals is the microcosmic working of the same fundamental qualities that manifest themselves in macrocosmic phenomena, such as gravitation.

Great Age. See MAHAYUGA


Great Breath. See BREATH


Great Deep. See SPACE; ABYSS

Great Four. See MAHARAJA




Great Sacrifice, Renunciation. See WATCHER; WONDROUS BEING



Griffin, Grypes (Latin) [plural of gryps; cf Greek gryph] A creature supposed to have the fore parts and wings of an eagle and the hind parts of a lion, with either the head of a lion or an eagle; in some forms there is also a serpent’s tail. It belongs to the general class of dragons, chimeras, etc., which may be symbolic representations of abstractions, reminiscences of extinct animals, or the actual forms presented to the eye of a seer by certain cosmic powers — a familiar ancient Greek idea. Assyrian, Persian, and Greek griffins were generally represented as savage guardians of treasure, which shows them to be some of the natural energies which the individual has to defy in order to obtain such treasure. They are one way of representing the powers that guard and govern the lower kingdoms of nature, and which resist and menace whoever challenges their power and treasure; whence they appear as horrific monsters.

Grihasta. See GRIHASTHA

Grihastha (Sanskrit) Gṛhastha [from gṛha house, home + sthā to station oneself, stand] A householder; the second state or period in the religious life of a Brahmin, as enumerated in the Laws of Manu. He was supposed to perform the duties of the master of a house and father of a family, after having finished a preliminary course of studies and investiture with the sacred thread. He continued the reading and teaching of the Vedas, likewise making and assisting in sacrifices.

Group-souls The idea that there are entities which express themselves through the collectivity of the individuals of a race or nation, or other similar group, somewhat as the soul of a person may express itself through the collectivity of the living units which compose his organism. However, the living units of our body do not of themselves engender a unitary entity but, having been drawn together by similarity of karma and by the vital magnetism of the imbodied soul, form the vehicle for the expression of the entity of a higher order. The individuals of a race or nation, though drawn by similarity of karma and character into the same race or nation, do not thereby constitute a vehicle for the manifestation of any entity of a higher order which is the predominant and almost exclusive factor in the case.

There are, nonetheless, such things as the national genius, which can be metaphysically explained by calling it a minor ray from the logos, to which belong the already relatively highly evolved individual units of the group thus overenlightened. Such a national or racial aggregation of individuals of like karma and character likewise create a vital atmosphere, a manifestation of the genius, which exists in the creative ideation of the planetary spirit, both as an imbodied idea and as an abstract spiritual entity. It is in this sense that such expressions were used in ancient Greek and other mythologies when speaking of nature spirits, genii loci, or denoting families and races by an eponym, ancestor, or the name of a god.

A misunderstanding of certain teachings has also given rise in some minds to the idea that animals, when they die, become merged in a group-soul, which is entirely erroneous when connected with the implication that they lose their individuality and do not reappear as the same partially egoic individuals. Every animal, as also every organism down to an atom, has its monad or permanent individuality, which is on the path of evolution just as human monads are, though at a lower stage. This individuality cannot be lost. Yet the manifested quality of individuality is so little developed in the animals, as compared with human beings, that their monads to our minds, although not in themselves, are much more alike than are human monads, so that they seem to us to fall together more readily into a group. But the word group here is a collective noun and denotes an entity, but of an extremely abstract — to us — type.

Grypes. See GRIFFIN

Guanches Aboriginals of the Canary Islands, or only of Teneriffe.

Guardian Angel Christian term for the various classes of dhyanis which guard the worlds, races, nations, and mankind pertaining to them. The five middle human principles are the essence of the sixfold dhyani-chohans and of the pitris. Equivalents are daimones, genii, theoi, devas, gods, Paracelsus’ flagae, etc. The personal quality that pervades so much of Christianity represents them as special to each individual, which is true enough in a sense; and they may be anything from a ray of divine light from the core of our being, to the kind of karmic heirloom designated as one’s lucky star. As a matter of fact, there is for each human individual an ever watching, forever guiding and stimulating spiritual power within himself, his own spiritual ego which, when allowed by the brain-mind, infills the individual with its strength, wisdom, and peace.

Guardian Wall A collective or generalized title given to the body of nirmanakayas and their immediate chelas or disciples who watch over, protect, and help humanity and all creatures of earth, each initiate being compared to a stone in the Guardian Wall (VS 68).

Guf. See GUPH

Guhya-vidya (Sanskrit) Guhyavidyā [from guhya secret from the verbal root guh to conceal, keep secret + vidyā knowledge, wisdom.] Secret knowledge, esoteric wisdom; in India, especially, the esoteric knowledge and science of the mantras and their true rhythm in chanting. Equivalent in grammatical meaning to gupta-vidya.

Guides Spiritualistic term for supposed invisible helpers and instructors belonging to the Spirit-land communicating with people either through mediumship or by a receptive capacity of the person communicated with. While theosophy rejects the explanation offered by spiritualists, it nevertheless teaches that the universe in its webs of being contains many orders of entities existing in all-various grades. Some of these entities can be to any worthy person a source of inspiration. However, the fact that their influence comes from a nonphysical source is no guarantee of the desirability of that influence, but by the very fact of its unknown origin should be scrutinized at once or suspected as to character and source. Nor must we forget in this connection that the possibilities of self-deception are almost infinite.

In general the consensus of all antiquity was that communication or intercourse of any kind with astral entities, whether spooks, shells, elementaries, or what not, was extremely dangerous and often evil in their influence upon human character. In India such astral entities are called bhutas, pisachas, etc.

Gullinbursti (Icelandic) [from gullin golden + bursti bristles, mane] In Norse mythology, a golden boar which draws the chariot of Frey, god of the terrestrial world. He received it as a gift from the two dwarfs Brock (mineral kingdom) and Sindri (vegetable kingdom), sons of Ivalde, the moon.

Gullveig, Gultweig (Icelandic) [from gull gold + veig thirst, drink] The Norse Edda’s principal poem, Voluspa, contains a cryptic allusion to Gullveig as “thrice burned, thrice reborn, yet still she lives.” Speared by the gods, “thirst for gold” arose each time from her baptism of fire more beautiful than before. She was the cause of the first war in the world when the aesir (creative gods) were ousted from their heavenly abode by the vanir (superior gods), the latter remaining in Asgard.

Several meanings are possible: thirst for gold may be taken as the thirst for wisdom which causes deities to imbody in worlds, leaving their divine spheres to higher powers. This is reminiscent of the Hindu agnishvattas and kumaras. The thrice purified gold has been identified with manas, the conscious soul (SD 2:520). A more obvious meaning is that thirst for gold represents greed for possessions, and that Gullveig was an enchantress who brought sin into the world and with it the action of karma.

Guna (Sanskrit) Guṇa A thread, cord, string of a musical instrument; also an attribute, quality, or peculiarity. Each of the five elements is said to have its guna or peculiar quality, as well as a corresponding organ of sense in the human being. Thus ether has sabda or sound for its guna and the ear for its organ; the air has tangibility for its guna and the skin for its organ; fire or light has sight for its guna and the eye for its organ; water has taste for its guna and the tongue for its organ; the earth has smell for its guna and the nose for its organ. There are actually seven gunas in nature, only five of which have yet been evolved in any especial degree, and two remain still to appear both as qualities and as sense organs in the distant future.

Each one of these gunas, with its corresponding quality or sense organ, is evolved in each one of the seven root-races that form a globe manvantara. The above listing gives the order in which these gunas appear correspondentially to the root-race which brings them into activity. At the present time, being in the fifth root-race, we have evolved five perceptible gunas with their corresponding qualities and sense organs.

According to the Sankhya philosophy, prakriti is considered to possess three basic qualities or qualitative bases (triguna), namely sattva (substantial reality), rajas (inherent activity), and tamas (inertia), popularly rendered goodness, passion, and darkness; or virtue, foulness, and ignorance.

According to the Nyaya philosophy, all existing things possess 24 gunas or characteristic qualities: rupa (shape or form); rasa (savor); gandha (odor); sparsa (tangibility); sankhya (number); parimana (dimension); prithaktva (severalty); samyoga (conjunction); vibhaga (disjunction); paratva (remoteness); aparatva (proximity); gurutva (weight); dravatva (fluidity); sneha (viscidity); sabda (sound); buddhi or jnana (understanding or knowledge); sukha (happiness); duhkha (pain); ichchha (desire); dvesha (aversion); prayatna (effort); dharma (merit or virtue); adharma (demerit); and samskara (the self-reproductive quality).

Gunavat (Sanskrit) Guṇavat [from guṇa quality] Endowed with qualities or merits, hence excellent, perfect. In philosophy, endowed with the five qualities or elements. Blavatsky also uses the anglicized form gunavatic.

The noun gunavatta means the state of being endowed with qualities.

Gungnir (Scandinavian) [from gunga to swing] In Norse myths, the spear wrought for Allfather Odin by the giant-god Loki and the dwarf Dvalin. The name seems an allusion to alternating opposites, such as activity and rest, or spirituality and materiality.

Gullveig (thirst for gold, wisdom) was transfixed on it and burned, “thrice burned and thrice reborn, again and again, yet still she lives.” It was then that Odin hurled his spear into the throng of gods, thus instigating the war in heaven which caused the aesir (active gods) to be ousted from Asgard, leaving the vanir in possession of their heavenly abode. The vanir are “water gods”: cosmic deities having reference to the mystic void, the waters of space. The vanir do not participate directly in our system of worlds, whereas the aesir are the creative powers in our universe and dwell in its globes, seen and unseen.

Guph, Guf, Guff (Hebrew) Gūf A hollow or empty body, a shell; commonly used in the Qabbalah to signify the human physical body, whether alive or dead. Other Hebrew words for body are: guphah, gewiyyah, and gewah.

Gupta-maya (Sanskrit) Gupta-māyā [from gupta secret + māyā illusion] Secret illusion; the art used by Hindu street “magicians” to make mango trees appear to grow rapidly, to allow a boy to climb a rope fastened in the clouds, etc. Blavatsky holds that such phenomena arise from the psychological power of the “magician” to project a fascination or glamour on the spectators. (BCW 12:321, 326)

Gupta-vidya (Sanskrit) Gupta-vidyā [from gupta from the verbal root gup to conceal, preserve + vidyā knowledge, wisdom] Secret knowledge, secret wisdom; the source of all religions and philosophies known to the world: theosophy, the ancient wisdom-religion, the esoteric philosophy. See also THEOSOPHY

Guru (Sanskrit) Guru Teacher, preceptor; applied not only to a chela’s spiritual teacher, but to spiritual and metaphysical teachers of many kinds. The spiritual fire within each person, the higher self or atma-buddhi, is also called a guru, a divine instructor; and this higher self within each individual is, when all is said, the supreme guru for that person. The Master outside of the disciple’s own spiritual guide is a very necessary element in genuine occult instruction; but the outer guru, the Master who teaches and leads the disciple, has always in view the evocation and development of the guru within the disciple — the bringing to birth of the chela’s own inner divine and intellectual energies and powers.

Guru-deva (Sanskrit) Guru-deva [from guru teacher + deva divine being] Deva-teacher; a title of respect and reverence used by chelas for their instructors.

Guruparampara (Sanskrit) Guruparamparā [from guru teacher + paramparā a row or uninterrupted series or succession] An uninterrupted series or succession of teachers. Every Mystery school or esoteric college of ancient times had its regular and uninterrupted series of teacher succeeding teacher, each one passing on to his successor the mystical authority and headship he himself had received from his predecessor. There are two kinds of guruparampara: first, those who rise one above the other in spiritual dignity and in progressively greater esoteric degree; and, second, those who succeed each other in time and in one line in the outer world. Yet these two kinds are but the same rule of series manifesting in two slightly differing manners. This process copies the hierarchical structure of nature itself.

Guruparampara applies in ordinary human life, for “a long chain of influence extends from the highest spiritual guide who may belong to any man, down through vast numbers of spiritual chiefs, ending at last even in the mere teacher of our youth. Or, to restate it in modern reversion of thought, a chain extends up from our teacher or preceptors to the highest spiritual chief in whose ray or descending line one may happen to be. And it makes no difference whatever, in this occult relation, that neither pupil nor final guide may be aware, or admit, that this is the case” (Letters That Have Helped Me).

Gwydion (Welsh) The son of Don (Irish, Dana). There were two chief god-families: the Children of Don and the Children of Llyr. Gwydion might be equated with Hermes. His castle (Caer Gwydion) is the Milky Way, but also (like many of the stars and constellations) it was projected in Wales somewhere. An exactly similar projecting of celestial powers and functions into human life was at one time universal. One has to divine the functions of these gods from corresponding figures in other mythologies: in the Mabinogi they are all euhemerized into men.

Gwynfyd, Clych y Gwynfyd (Welsh) Bliss, the cycle of bliss. In Druidism, the worlds above the human, the second of the three cycles of being; that to which the soul attains after evolving beyond the Little World — the human state — and the cycle of Abred. From Gwynfyd the soul might elect to take on further incarnation in the Little World, moved by the desire to help forward human evolution.

Gwynfydolion (Welsh) In Druidism, when the universe flashed into existence from latency, the Gwynfydolion — the host of souls that had reached Gwynfyd in a previous life period of the universe — awoke in Gwynfyd and, looking forth, desired to take infinity (Cylch y Ceugant) by storm. But traveling out from Gwynfyd with this purpose in view, they sank into Abred and began the cycle of incarnations that brought them at last into the human kingdom, whence by self-purification they may reach their native Cylch y Gwynfyd again.

Gyalugpas. See GELUKPAS

Gyan (Persian) Also Gian-ben-Gian, Gyan-ben-Gian. According to the Persian legend, Gyan was king of the peris or sylphs. He had a wonderful shield which served as a protection against evil or black magic — the sorcery of the devs. Blavatsky remarks that Gyan might be spelled Gnan (which corresponds to the Sanskrit jnana), meaning true or occult wisdom. His shield, “produced on the principles of astrology, destroyed charms, enchantments, and bad spells, could not prevail against Iblis, who was an agent of Fate (or Karma)” (SD 2:394).

Gyges (Greek) One of three giants having a dual aspect as a god and a mortal, imprisoned by Kronos for their rebellion against him. The Ring of Gyges is a familiar metaphor in European literature. Plato relates that Gyges was a Lydian who murdered King Candaules and then married his widow. He once descended into a chasm and found a brazen horse with an opening in its side in which was the skeleton of a man, on whose finger was a brass ring. Gyges took the ring and when placed upon his own finger, it made him invisible.

The ring here signifies the circle of knowledge or cycle of initiatory experience and wisdom thus gained, which the fully completed initiate thereafter carries with him in the form of the ring or circle of wisdom and power. One of the powers of the adept, for instance, is to render himself invisible at will, which is achieved by throwing around himself a veil of akasa. The descent into the earth points emphatically to the descent into the pit or underworld which every neophyte of the higher degrees must undertake before completing the initiatory cycle. See also BRIAREUS

Gyloon, Gylung. See GEDONG

Gymnosophists [from Greek gymnosophistai naked wise men] Name given by the Greeks to the ascetics met by Alexander in India, as mentioned by Plutarch and others. They are said in some cases to have practiced extreme asceticism, including virtual nudity in all weathers; these “learned yogis and ascetic type philosophers who returned to the jungle and forest, there to reach through great austerities superhuman knowledge and experience,” are said to have possessed occult powers due to their mode of life and to the traditional knowledge which they had (TG 130, IU 1:90, 113).

Gyn. See JNANA


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