Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary

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Nidana (Sanskrit) Nidāna [from ni down, into + the verbal root to bind] That which binds, to earth or to existence, philosophically speaking. Originally meaning bond, rope, halter — that which binds. From this arose the implication of binding cause, or bonds of causation, and hence in Buddhist philosophy it signifies cause of existence, the concatenation of cause and effect. The twelve nidanas given as the chief causes are: 1) jati (birth) according to one of the chatur-yoni, the four modes of entering incarnation, each mode placing the being in one of the six gatis; 2) jara-marana (decrepitude) and death, following the maturity of the skandhas; 3) bhava, which leads every sentient being to be born in this or another mode of existence in the trailokya and gatis; 4) upadana, the creative cause of bhava which thus becomes the cause of jati, and this creative cause is the clinging to life; 5) trishna (thirst for life, love, attachment); 6) vedana (sensation) perception by the senses, the fifth skandha; 7) sparsa (the sense of touch) contact of any kind, whether mental or physical; 8) shadayatana (the organs of sensation) the inner or mental astral seats of the organs of sense; 9) nama-rupa (name-form, personality, a form with a name to it) the symbol of the unreality of material phenomenal appearances; 10) vijnana, the perfect knowledge of every perceptible thing and of all objects in their concatenation and unity; 11) samskara, action on the plane of illusion; and 12) avidya (nescience, ignorance) lack of true perception.

Nidana is also a title of Brahma, considered as the first cause, being the kosmic living aggregate of vital bonds forming the universe into an organic whole; reproduced through its own internal energies from the preceding manvantara.

Nidhi (Sanskrit) Nidhi A treasure; the nine divine treasures or jewels of Kuvera, the Vedic Satan, each under the guardianship of some demon — or rather a spirit more of the nature of the Greek daimon. These nine nidhis are popularly given as padma (lotus), mahapadma (great lotus), sankha (conch shell), makara (marine animal or fish), kachchhapa (tortoise), mukunda (kettle drum), nanda (joy), nila (a dark color or blue), and kharva (dwarf). They are sometimes personified as attendants of Kuvera or of Lakshmi.

All these nidhis are the objects of special worship by the Tantrikas. They differ from the nava-nidhi, or nine treasuries or jewels of wisdom referring to a consummation of spiritual development in occult training, occult life, or mysticism generally. In theosophy the “seven jewels of wisdom” are seven of the nine nava-nidhi.

Nidhogg (Swedish) Nidhoggr (Icelandic) [from nid down, libel, contumely + hogg to hew, chop] In Norse myths, the “gnawer from beneath,” the serpent which gnaws at the roots of the Tree of Life and which in due course will overthrow the mighty ash tree Yggdrasil and bring the life cycle to a close. There are nine such serpents, just as there are nine trees of life and nine matter giants, Mimer, indicating the Edda’s multiple system of worlds.

Nidhogg is also the devourer of the dead who sucks cadavers at the end of the world. When the gods leave for their own spheres at Ragnarok, Nidhogg absorbs the dregs of a defunct universe.

Nidra (Sanskrit) Nidrā Sleep or slumber; also a feminine aspect or form of Brahma.

Niflheim (Icelandic), Nebelheim (German) [from nifl mist, nebula + heim home] In Norse mythology, the home of mists in which nebulae form. When the heat from Muspellsheim (home of fire) meets the mist-cold vapors of Niflheim in Ginnungagap (the gaping void), Ymer, the frost giant, comes into being. He is used by the gods to create “victory worlds” wherein souls can evolve. Niflheim has also been regarded as a Hades where the dead are sent, but this appears to refer to the disposition of the forms (bodies) of departed souls.

Niflhel (Icelandic) [from nifl mist, nebula + Hel queen of the realms of death, daughter of Loki (mind)] In Norse myths, this realm of unliving matter comprises worlds of death and decay beneath our own, where substances that once built former worlds are ground to mist, recycled for use in worlds yet to come. In the Edda a giant is said to have come from worlds beneath Niflhel, which suggests an ancient, even beginningless past, unfathomed depths of matter from which progress is made toward future unimaginable heights of spirit.

Niflung(ar) (Icelandic) [from nifl mist, nebula + unge child] Children of the mist; in the Norse Edda comparable to the Sons of the Firemist of the Stanzas of Dzyan (SD 1:86). Beings that were part of earth’s primordial, nebular history before humanity had become distinct physical beings. They were succeeded by increasingly material races, among them the Volsungar (children of volsi phallus) representing a later stage of development after the separation of mankind into male and female. The tales of the Nibelungen give little of the broader import found in the Edda.

Nighantu, Nighantuka (Sanskrit) Nighaṇṭu, Nighaṇṭuka [from the verbal root ghaṭ, ghaṇṭ to collect, bring together] A glossary; particularly in the plural, the Vedic glossary explained by Yaska in his nirukta or glossarial commentary.

Night In ancient cosmogonies night is placed before day because these cosmogonies begin with the secondary cosmic creation; and the light which was then created was contrasted with what seemed, relatively, the eternal darkness of primary creation. For manifested light proceeds from absolute light, which by contrast has to be called darkness.

In a Hindu scheme, the first body of Brahma is called his body of night, and from it proceeded the three highest groups of pitris, the asuras or sons of wisdom; while the four lower classes of pitris proceeded from the body of twilight.

Night also refers to pralaya as in the Day and Night of Brahma. Night thus signifies that which precedes the opening, coming, and fulfillment of manifestation, called the day. These days and nights pertain directly to the coming into being of a universe, of which in boundless space the number is infinite. Thus, when a universe is in pralaya, it can be said to be in its night or time of sleep, yet surrounded by the illimitable kosmos itself infilled with universes in all phases of evolutionary growth.

Nilakantha (Sanskrit) Nīlakaṇṭha The blue-necked, a name for a peacock, also for Siva because his throat turned bluish-black from swallowing the poison produced at the churning of the ocean, in order to save humanity. The name of many authors in India.

Nilalohita (Sanskrit) Nīlalohita The blue and the red; a title of Rudra, the destroyer of the blue and red races (cf SD 2:192).

Nile God. See HAP

Nimbus (Latin) A cloud, a luminous atmosphere surrounding a high adept or deity when appearing on earth. In Oriental and Christian art the representations of deities or saints have a nimbus surrounding the head. Equivalent to aureole, glory, aura, halo, and the feathers on the head and down the spine of American Indian chiefs.

Any being in a state of high spiritual and intellectual ecstasy is surrounded with a glory or brilliant, coruscating aura, which at times can even be perceived by the physical eye; sometimes this nimbus or glory surrounds the head more particularly, and at other times it surrounds the entire body. It is shot through with colors coruscating and flashing brilliantly in a most beautiful fashion, because the vital aura which surrounds every animate being in times of spiritual ecstasy is stimulated to unusual activity, and thus surrounds the being with splendor. The sun in the heavens is a cosmic example, for the floods of sunlight which it pours forth are the vital aura, nimbus, or glory surrounding the solar heart. The adoption of the nimbus surrounding the heads or entire bodies of the Christian saints was a clear case of borrowing from the Orient, because from time immemorial the nimbus has been used there to signify spiritual ecstasy, as exemplified in large numbers of Buddhist images.

Nimitta (Sanskrit) Nimitta In Vedanta philosophy, the spiritual or efficient cause as contrasted with upadana, the physical, material, or instrumental operative cause. Brahma is shown to be the nimitta of manvantaric manifestation.

Nimrod (Hebrew) Nimrod The traditional founder of the kingdom of Babylon, known in Babylonia as Izdubar or Gilgamesh. According to the Bible, the son of Cush; in legend a mighty hunter (Genesis 10:9). The name Nimrod has not been found prior to the period of the Israelites (500 BC). Blavatsky equates him with Bacchus, and calls him “the most powerful and strongest of physical men on this side of the flood — the last remnant of the antediluvian giants” (IU 1:150).

Nine Especially significant when regarded as a triad of triads, it is the number which reproduces itself in multiplication. “It is the sign of every circumference, since its value in degrees is equal to 9, i.e., to 3+6+0. It is a bad number under certain conditions, and very unlucky. If number 6 was the symbol of our globe ready to be animated by a divine spirit, 9 symbolized our earth informed by a bad or evil spirit” (SD 2:581).

As nine is one less than ten, in a denary hierarchy it is all the units except the first, the first being regarded as the origin or synthesis of the emanated nine. Thus one and nine may represent spirit and matter, or unmanifest and manifest, a logos and its rays. In the Stanzas of Dzyan svabhavat is the numbers one and nine, which make the perfect ten; and the same is seen in the ten Sephiroth of the Qabbalah, where Kether the Crown is often considered apart from the other nine. It was an especially favorite number in Norse mythology, appearing continuously throughout the Eddas.

In a denary system of hierarchies, in which the ending of one is the beginning of the subsequent hierarchy, we have actually a series or scale of nines. Many properties assigned to nine pertain to its position in the decimal scale. In many languages the word for nine is similar to that for new — Sanskrit navan, nava; Greek ennea, neos; Latin novem, novus; German neun, neu — which apprises us that nine has been considered from immemorial time the number of change or renovation, for it is followed by the complete number making 10, or springs from the monadic unit also making 10 — in either case the reckoning enters upon a new decimal series.

Ninib (Babylonian) A Chaldean deity originally with solar attributes, especially prominent at Shirgulla, where he was closely associated with Bel and regarded as his son. In hymns he is described as a healing god who releases men from illness. But he was also classed as a god of war, and represented as armed for the chase. The aspect stressed was the sun at the morning and the springtime season, showering beneficence upon mankind.

Theogonically, Ninib was regent of the planet Saturn, and the animal symbol connected with him was the swine.

Ninus In Greek mythology, founder of the city of Nineveh; hence also a name of the city itself. Ninus is regarded as the son of Belos (Bel) who founded the first empire after conquering the western part of Asia with the help of Ariaeus, king of Arabia.

Nina was the name given to the city by the Assyrians, as well as to Ishtar, patroness deity of Nineveh.

Niobe In Greek mythology, daughter of Tantalus, and wife of Amphion of Thebes. She arrogantly compared herself, with 14 children, to Leto who had but two — Apollo and Artemis. These two killed Niobe’s children, and she was turned into a rock.

In one interpretation Niobe represents an Atlantean race, and her seven sons and seven daughters are its branches. She descends from the Atlantides, representative of the doomed continent. Her children are slain by Apollo and Artemis, representing the sons of will and yoga; and she was changed into a stone from which has flowed an unceasing stream — an allusion to the rivers of lives broken up into the various races and branchlets forming the living flowing stream of human existence.

Niramsa (Sanskrit) Niraṃśa [from nir without + aṃśa part] Without parts, whole; applied to Brahman or parabrahman, signifying the state preceding differentiation in manifested hierarchical existence.

Nirguna (Sanskrit) Nirguṇa [from nis destitute, without + guṇa quality] Devoid of qualities or properties; often applied to the cosmic hierarch as being itself without definable properties, and yet the origin of all the gunas which produce the manifested universe. Thus parabrahman or even Brahman is nirguna, whereas the manifested Brahma possesses gunas (attributes) and therefore is spoken of as saguna (with attributes).

Nirmanakaya (Sanskrit) Nirmāṇakāya [from nirmāṇa forming, creating + kāya body, robe, vehicle] Appearance body; the lowest of the trikaya, followed by sambhogakaya and dharmakaya. A state assumed by a bodhisattva who, instead of entering nirvana, remains on earth to help inferior beings. “A Nirmanakaya is a complete man possessing all the principles of his constitution except the Linga-sarira, and its accompanying physical body. He is one who lives on the plane of being next superior to the physical plane, and his purpose in so doing is to save men from themselves by being with them, and by continuously instilling thoughts of self-sacrifice, of self-forgetfulness, of spiritual and moral beauty, of mutual help, of compassion, and of pity” (OG 114). Beings in this state make a wall of protection around mankind, which shields humanity from evils.

There are two kinds of nirmanakayas: the natural is the condition of a high initiate who reaches a stage of bliss second only to nirvana; the assumed is the self-sacrifice of one who voluntarily gives up the absolute nirvana in order to help and guide humanity. The nirmanakaya, then,

“is that ethereal form which one would assume when leaving his physical he would appear in his astral body — having in addition all the knowledge of an Adept. The Bodhisattva develops it in himself as he proceeds on the Path. Having reached the goal and refused its fruition, he remains on Earth, as an Adept; and when he dies, instead of going into Nirvana, he remains in that glorious body he has woven for himself, invisible to uninitiated mankind, to watch over and protect it. . . . to be enabled to help humanity, an Adept who has won the right to Nirvana, ‘renounces the Dharmakaya body’ in mystic parlance; keeps, of the Sambhogakaya, only the great and complete knowledge, and remains in his Nirmanakaya body. The esoteric school teaches that Gautama Buddha with several of his Arhats is such a Nirmanakaya . . .” (VS 96-7).


Nirmathya (Sanskrit) Nirmathya [from nir out of + the verbal root math to produce fire by friction from wood] “The sacred fire produced by the friction of two pieces of wood — the ‘fire’ called Pavamana in the Puranas” (TG 231).

Nirriti (Sanskrit) Nirṛti [from nir the verbal root to go out, dissolve, decay] Dissolution, destruction; often personified in the Vedas as the goddess of death and decay. Virtually synonymous with pralaya.

Nirukta (Sanskrit) Nirukta [from nir forth, out + the verbal root vac to speak, utter] Uttered, pronounced, expressed, defined; as a noun, the etymological interpretation of a word, also the name of such works, especially of a commentary on the Nighantus (a Vedic glossary) by Yaska, the oldest commentary on the Vedas presently known.

Nirupadhi (Sanskrit) Nirupādhi Without an attribute or vehicle; Purusha and prakriti (spirit and matter) are said to be nirupadhi during pralaya when beyond any of the planes of manifested existence.

Nirvana (Sanskrit) Nirvāṇa [from nir out, away + vāṇa blown from the verbal root to blow] Blown out, blown away; the monad’s freeing itself of the chains of all its inferior parts, so it can enter into relatively perfect wisdom and peace. It thus is, for the time, living in its own spiritual essence, a jivanmukta. One in this state understands essences exactly as they are, because the consciousness has for the time being become co-extensive and co-vibrational with the cosmic monad. He is free from the trammels of all the worlds of maya which he has thus far passed through.

“When our great Buddha — the patron of all the adepts, the reformer and the codifier of the occult system, reached first Nirvana on earth, he became a Planetary Spirit; i.e. — his spirit could at one and the same time rove the interstellar spaces in full consciousness, and continue at will on Earth in his original and individual body. For the divine Self had so completely disfranchised itself from matter that it could create at will an inner substitute for itself, and leaving it in the human form for days, weeks, sometimes years, affect in no wise by the change either the vital principle or the physical mind of its body. By the way, that is the highest form of adeptship men can hope for on our planet. But it is as rare as the Buddhas themselves . . .” (ML 43).

Nirvana has also been called the vanishing point of differentiated matter. The purely nirvanic state is an assimilation with parabrahman, a passage of spirit back to the ideal abstraction of Be-ness which has no modifying relation with the manifested planes on which our universe exists during this manvantara. Being “blown out” refers only to the lower human principles, not to entitative annihilation.

Nirvana is also “the state of the monadic entities in the period that intervenes between minor manvantaras or Rounds of a Planetary Chain; and more fully so between each seven-Round period or Day of Brahma, and the succeeding Day or new Kalpa of a Planetary Chain. At these last times, starting forth from the seventh sphere in the seventh Round, the monadic entities will have progressed far beyond even the highest state of Devachan. Too pure and too far advanced even for such a condition as the devachanic felicity, they go to their appropriate sphere and condition, which latter is the Nirvana following the end of the seventh Round” (OG 115-16).

Nirvana, devachan, and avichi are states rather than localities, forming a continuum of consciousness from the superspiritual to the nether pole of the spiritual condition. There are nirvanas of different degrees: one so high that it blends insensibly with the condition of the cosmic hierarch of our universe. The lower degrees of nirvana, however, are attained at intervals by highly spiritual and very mystically-inclined people, who have had intensive spiritual training. They enter for a very short period into this state, but usually cannot remain there for long.

“Nirvana, while the Ultima Thule of the perfection to be attained by any human being, nevertheless stands less high in the estimate of mystics than the condition of the Bodhisattva. For the Bodhisattva, although standing on the threshold of Nirvana and seeing and understanding its ineffable glory and peace and rest, nevertheless retains his consciousness in the worlds of men, in order to consecrate his vast faculties and powers to the service of all that is. The Buddhas in their higher parts enter the Nirvana, in other words, assume the Dharmakaya-state or vesture, whereas the Bodhisattva assumes the Nirmanakaya-vesture, thereafter to become an ever-active and compassionate and beneficent influence in the world. The Buddha indeed may be said to act indirectly and by ‘long distance control,’ thus indeed helping the world diffusively or by diffusion; but the Bodhisattva acts directly and positively and with a directing will in works of compassion, both for the world and for individuals” (OG 116-17).

Nirvana-dharma (Sanskrit) Nirvāṇa-dharma [from nirvāṇa blown out, superspiritual state + dharma law, duty, justice, conduct] The path of nirvana, or the law of nirvana.

Nirvanic Anglicized adjectival form of nirvana.

Nirvanin, Nirvani (Sanskrit) Nirvāṇin One who enters, or has entered, nirvana; a jivanmukta. One who is liberated for the remainder of the entire solar manvantara from the cycle of spiritual transmigrations through the various spheres of being, visible and invisible. The nirvanin, therefore, rests in crystallized bliss and purity, relatively at one with the cosmic spirit or Logos for the remainder of the cosmic manvantara and throughout the long pralaya which succeeds it. Only when the next manvantara opens will the nirvanin, through karmic necessity, be obliged to enter the pathways of experience in the new system of worlds. Also nirvanee.

Nirvva namastaka (Nirvana-mastaka?) The ability of a high adept to produce from within his focus of consciousness or to exteriorize from it a substitute on a lower plane, which thereafter functions in all respects as would the full inner spiritual person were he present in the vehicle in which the substitute is acting. It is the same power but on a higher plane which enables the adept to transfer his mayavi-rupa to different parts of the earth, and to act in it; a power which in Tibetan is called hpho-wa.

Nisan (Hebrew) Nīsān Nisanu (Babylonian) The first month of the Hebrew year (after the exile), corresponding to ’Abib (March-April), during which the Passover was celebrated.

Nishada (Sanskrit) Niṣāda The seventh of the seven primary notes of the Hindu musical scale. See also SHADJA

Nishkrama (Sanskrit) Niṣkrama [from nis away from + the verbal root kram to go, set forth] Going forth, hence leaving the worldly life; renunciation.

Nissi (Babylonian) One of the seven great gods, each of whom was the producer of a race of men.

Nitatni (Sanskrit) Nitatni One of the seven Pleiades.

Niti (Sanskrit) Nīti [from the verbal root to lead, guide] Right, wise, or moral conduct; the doctrine of ethics and of proper conduct in life.

Nitrogen Used to denote the familiar earthly element, and also its noumenon, of which it is the terrestrial manifestation. Thus, when air is said to stand for nitrogen in the enumeration of the four elements and when that which on earth is nitrogen is called the Son in the trinity Father-Mother-Son, it is evidently the noumenon which is meant (SD 1:253, 623). Nitrogen is also correlated with linga-sarira among the four lower principles.

Nitrogen plays the part of a vehicle, so far as oxygen of the air is concerned, but plays an extremely important part in plant life. The elements on earth are compound, being several generations below their original parents; and the gross elements contain all the subtle elements, but differ from each other in that each contains one of the subtle elements in a predominant proportion. It is often the subtle element that is meant when the word nitrogen is used in The Secret Doctrine.

Nityamuktas (Sanskrit) Nityamukta-s [from nitya continuous, always + mukta freed, emancipated] Always emancipated, continuously emancipated; an Indian sect, the Madhvas, believe that all souls are divisible into three kinds, of which one is the nityamuktas who, whatever mischief or evil they do, because of their nature will inevitably be admitted into Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu. This is rejected by the principal Hindu philosophical schools and by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita.

Nityanarakikas (Sanskrit) Nityanārakika-s [from nitya continual, perpetual + nārakika an inhabitant of hell] Perpetual hellions, a class of people said by the Madhvas to be predestined to go to perdition, a doctrine rejected by the main Hindu philosophical schools.

Nitya-parivritti (Sanskrit) Nitya-parivṛtti [from nitya constant, continuous + pari around + the verbal root vṛt to turn, revolve, whirl] Continuously or constantly whirling, revolving, or wandering around in the spheres of manifestation, and sinking constantly lower and farther from the light of spirit. Mystically, a continuous descent towards extinction. The farther from the sun of spirit a monad or jiva wanders or is whirled, the less of the light of spirit shines through it, so that the monad is lost or extinguished in the whirlpools of material existence. The idea is identical with that of the Hebrew gilgulim (whirlings) of the Qabbalah.

Nitya Pralaya (Sanskrit) Nitya-pralaya Constant or perpetual destruction of all that is; continuous dissolution, taking place imperceptibly and without cessation in everything from sun or planet to the atom. It is continuous change, which can take place only by the destruction of the preceding condition or state, a state in which the indwelling entity remains, while its various principles and vehicles undergo incessant change. Nitya thus has no absolute reference to time period, but rather to unceasing, continuous changes or modifications of living things or beings, to growth and decay, life and death, as exemplified by the continuous change of the cells of our bodies.

Nityasamsarikas (Sanskrit) Nityasaṃsārika-s Those who are destined to be perpetually attached to worldly or mundane existences, a doctrine of the Madhvas, rejected by the main Hindu philosophical schools.

Nitya-sarga (Sanskrit) Nitya-sarga [from nitya continuous + sarga from the verbal root sṛj to emanate, flow forth, create] The endless productive or generative activity of the universe; and within any universe, the continuous creation or productive activity, from within outwards, of the emanative force of the cosmic hierarchy or cosmic monad. The opposite of nitya pralaya.

Nivritti (Sanskrit) Nivṛtti [from ni back + the verbal root vṛt to roll, turn, unfold] Involution of matter and the consequent evolution of spirit, used to express the process by which matter rebecomes spirit, ascending along the luminous arc back to the spiritual worlds. It is the process of inwrapping or infolding of monads into matter, or of matter-lives back into the spiritual realms. See also PRAVRITTI

Nivritti-marga (Sanskrit) Nivṛtti-mārga [from nivṛitti infolding + mārga path, way] The path that leads through unfolding back to the spiritual worlds; often called the path of light or luminous arc. See also PRAVRITTI-MARGA

Niyama (Sanskrit) Niyama [from ni the verbal root yam to hold back, curb] Restraining, checking, controlling, especially the wandering, erratic mind. The second of eight steps of meditation in Hindu yoga: restraint of the mind or religious observances of various kinds, such as watchings, fastings, prayings, penances, etc.

As a proper noun, necessity or law personified as a son of Dharma and Dhriti; also a name of Vishnu.

Niyashes. See NYAYIS

Nizam (Turkish, Urdu) [from Arab nidam] Title corresponding somewhat to prince, hereditary in the rulers of Haiderabad of the dynasty founded by Asaf Jah.

Nizir (Chaldean) The mountain to which the ark of Xisuthrus finally became moored in the Babylonian account of the flood; equivalent to the Hebrew Mt. Ararat.

Njord (Icelandic) A Norse deity, corresponding to Saturn of other mythologies and to Cronos (time). Njord is the father of Frey (the earth god), and Freyja (goddess of Venus, patroness of earth’s humanities); he is the patron of commerce and traffic, of agriculture and fishery. His home (globe) is named Noatun (ships’ harbor).

Of Njord is told a legend like that of Moses: as an infant he was set adrift on a sheaf of wheat and surrounded with his father’s weapons; under the name Sceaf he landed on the earth and became the instructor of humanity in the skills of agriculture and the arts.

Noah (Hebrew) Noaḥ [from nūaḥ to come to rest, be at rest, reach rest, settle down into repose] Biblical patriarch, son of Lamech, connected with the flood which overwhelmed the earth, as related in Genesis 7-9. According to Hebrew legend, he and his family alone survived the deluge by means of an ark, which he had been commanded to build and to place therein a pair of every living thing upon the earth. The Hebrew narrative is based upon that of Babylonia. These universal flood legends are derived from the historical catastrophe which befell Atlantis.

Noah stands for the present fifth root-race, as Enoch stands for the fourth, “thus symbolizing both the Root-Manu and the Seed-Manu, or the Power which developed the planetary chain, and our earth, and the Seed Race (the Fifth) which was saved while the last sub-races of the Fourth perished” (SD 2:597). Noah is connected with cyclic time periods and can be applied to shorter or longer cycles. Thus, there is a Noah for every root-race and for every globe of a planetary chain, and what might be called the chain-Noah, when the chain itself goes into pralaya.

Again, “the story of Noah is but another version in its hidden meaning of the story of Adam and his three sons, . . . Adam is the prototype of Noah. Adam falls because he eats of the forbidden fruit of celestial knowledge; Noah, because he tastes of the terrestrial fruit: the juice of the grape representing the abuse of knowledge in an unbalanced mind. . . . But the descendants of both are shown as the wisest of races on earth; and they are called on this account ‘snakes,’ and the ‘sons of snakes,’ meaning the sons of wisdom” (IU 2:449). See also XISUTHRUS

Node [from Latin nodus knot] Astronomically, the two points of intersection of the orbit of a planet with the ecliptic, or the two points of intersection of the orbit of a satellite with the plane of the orbit of its primary. The point at which the moving body is going north is called the north node or ascending node; the other is the south or descending node. These nodes have a motion opposite to that of the moving orb, and it is very slow in comparison with the speed of the moving orb. The spinning of a gyroscope illustrates the matter. The moon’s nodes revolve in 18.6 years; they are known in Hindu astrology as Rahu and Ketu, the Head and Tail of the dragon. They are also used in modern astrology. These nodes, and those of the planets with reference to the ecliptic, mark important cycles of time. The period of the moon’s nodes is not commensurate with the period of the moon’s revolution; approximate coincidence of the two cycles marks eclipses.

Noetic [from Greek noetikos from nous mind] Pertaining to intelligence and spiritual reason, apart from mere mental ratiocination based upon appearances or the senses. The psychic part of our mind, the kama-manas, is intimately blended with the physical organism, and the interaction between the two seems to justify the conclusion that we move in a vicious circle under the sway of forces difficult to control when we center our consciousness in the psychic part of our constitution. However, by taking into account the noetic part of the human constitution, the buddhi-manas, which is independent of the sensual and emotional influences from the psychic nature, and by centering our consciousness in this noetic part of our being, we are at all times and in all places able fully to control, master, and therefore direct, the vigorous and erratic movements of the psychic nature. The noetic mind, because it is of a spiritual character, has no direct action on the physical brain or nervous system, but acts through the psychic part of the mind, and even then only through the finer elements of the cerebral and nervous texture.

Nofir-hotpoo [Nefir-Hetep]. See KHENSU

Nogah (Hebrew, Chaldean) Nogah [from nāgah to give light, shine, illuminate] Shining brightness, splendor, used for the light of the sun, moon, and stars; also applied to Lucifer the light-bringer — the shining morning star Venus. Used sometimes to signify the glory by which God is surrounded.

Nominalists, Nominalism [from Latin nomen name] In the 11th century, Scholastic controversy arose between the Nominalists and Realists, as to whether substantive reality should be ascribed to particulars or to universals. The Nominalists held that nothing exists but individuals, and that universals are mere names invented to express the qualities of particular things. Thus the conception “man” is a mere abstract idea, a figment of the mind, devised to express certain qualities which we have abstracted from our experience of individual men, but having no existence except as a name. The Realists, on the contrary, maintained that universals alone have substantive reality, and that they exist independently of, and prior to, the individuals, which are derivative from them or expressive of them. The controversy dates back to Aristotle’s question as to whether genera, species, and abstract nouns are real or only convenient abstractions and ways of speaking.

Intermediate between these doctrines is that of the Conceptualists, identified with the name of Abelard, who held that universals, while they exist only in the mind, yet correspond to real similarities in things, which previous to creation existed in the mind of God. These notions are well illustrated by the question as to the meaning of such words as motion, force, heat, or light. Are the things studied by science under those names generalizing terms, existing only in the mind and posterior to the objects which manifest them; or are they realities in themselves, prior to the objects, and of which the objects are manifestations? Science often unconsciously uses such words in both senses at once; force, for example, is treated as though it were at the same time a result of motion in matter and a cause of that motion.

Theosophy, because of the confusion arising in scholastic and modern disputes, points directly to all the phenomena of nature as expressed in beings, objects, entities, and things as arising in spiritual realms, or noumena. The hidden or invisible noumena of beings and things are both real and mere abstract names. Thus force — electricity, for instance — is both an existing emanation from cosmic entities, and yet also a “name” or abstraction because it is an aggregate of effects derivative from a hid cause which is the cosmic being or beings. All natural phenomena arise in and are therefore derivative from and emanations from causal and originating cosmic intelligences, which perdure in essence throughout eternity, but express themselves by means of phenomena or effects in cosmic manvantaras. Thus the phenomena which human intelligence cognizes are transitory but yet are real in their essence, because that essence lies in the perduring intelligence or intelligences from which they flow.

Non-being Used to express the condition of things in pralaya, preceding manifestation. It corresponds to the Sanskrit asat, while sat corresponds to Being. Yet both non-being and a-sat are frequently used for non-existence. It is philosophically questionable to bracket non-being with the Absolute, or again to bracket Absolute with Being (though the latter is often justifiable) as the words absolute, being, and non-being do not correspond to infinity; for Absolute corresponds to the Sanskrit mukti or moksha, that which is freed from manifested existence; whereas infinitude comprehends both nonmanifestation and manifestation, being and non-being, sat and asat, the absolute and the bound. One of the best correspondences to infinity is the term coined by Blavatsky: Be-ness, or pure abstract attributeless esse.

Non-being signifies the condition of the universe during pralaya, and the spiritual principles of the universe may then be said to be in their absolute condition or state, or in paranirvana; equally being in its most abstract sense can correspond to absolute. Hence it is correct to use non-being as the state of high spirituality of a being or entity in paranirvana; thus the phrase “the bliss of non-being.”

Non-ego In European metaphysics, that which is external to or other than the ego; the object as opposed to the subject. Non-ego means both that which has risen above all lower egoities and become universal in its consciousness — in other words a jivanmukta, a monad which has attained mukti or moksha; and that which is beneath the state of egoity in its evolutionary development, in which this egoity has not yet been emanated or brought forth, such as the minerals, plants, and nearly all of the animal. Non-ego, therefore, in another sense corresponds to the term Absolute, that which is freed or above the circumscribing limitations of even egoity, which nevertheless is the abstract self or individual; or paradoxically enough the monad or ego in its jivanmukta form, where the ego becomes one with the surrounding cosmic spirit, while retaining its own individuality.

No-number The Boundless, the Unmanifest, pure non-being, the cosmic zero in symbolism; from which proceeds the first manifest or number one, the cosmic monad, the latter the Absolute of its universe, these universes in infinity or no-number being innumerable.

Noo. See NU

Noor Ilahee, Nur Illahi (Arabic) Nur Illahī. The light of the Elohim; divine knowledge, the light of the secret wisdom.

Norns [from Icelandic, Scandinavian] In the Norse Edda the three Norns, sometimes called the weird sisters, are the spinners of destiny, symbolizing past, present, and future. The first, named Urd (origin), represents the past which causes all that follows; the second, Verdandi (becoming), is the ever-changing present. These two fashion the third, Skuld (debt), all that is as yet unresolved and which determines the future. Thus the actions of past and present determine what is yet to come.

The Norns dwell under one of the three roots of Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, which is watered by the spring of Urd (past causes). So also is every individual tree of life, large or little, watered by the causes created in the past, modified by the choices of the present, and helping to create the future.

When a human being dies, his life is judged by Odin Allfather at the well of Urd and on her advice the post-mortem condition is determined on the basis of the quality of the life just past. Before birth the soul once again visits the well of Urd, who then selects a mother for its coming birth into the world of earth.

The norns correspond to the Greek Moirai who also spin the thread of life for all beings.

North One of the four points of the compass, which mystically correspond with the cosmic four Maharajas, the four supporters of the world, the four sacred animals, etc. It is the upper pole of the earth and corresponds with the upper pole in the human body. From it, mystically, come light and vital strength. From the north, as the primordial cradle of physical man, came gods, religions, myths. In early human history, surrounding the north pole was the Imperishable Sacred Land, the first continent; and somewhat farther south was the second continent, the so-called Hyperborean. It is from the north generally that new waves of rough but uncorrupted peoples have invaded decadent civilizations. To the cultures of such civilizations the influence from the north appears as hostile. Greek mythology speaks of the violence and ruthlessness of Boreas, the north wind. The contrast between the north and south poles resembles that between the spiritual and material poles. Mount Meru, in Hindu mythology, is placed at the north pole.


Notaricon, Notarikon (Hebrew) Nōṭārīqōn [from Latin notarius stenographer] Writing down, used for that branch of study known as the literal Qabbalah. One method of notaricon consists in selecting a word and then taking each of its letters to stand for another whole word, thus making of the letters of the selected word a whole sentence. The first word of the Bible (bere’shith) is a favorite one so employed. A second method consists of using the first and last letters of a selected word to form another word; or the two medial letters of the selected word. Needless to say, this method is solely one of individual skill and is a most difficult method for interpreting the Hebrew sacred scriptures.



Noum. See KHNUM

Noumenon [from Greek noeo to perceive with the mind, think; cf nous] Plural Noumena. An object perceived by the mind apart from the senses, an object of cognition. Also the unknown real entity, substance, or essential thing-in-itself, which the mind perforce posits as the basis of the phenomenon, appearance, or objective thing; hence reality as distinguished from apparent or sensible qualities. Thus aether or akasa is called the noumenon of ether; noumena are the conscious guiding causes behind the physical cosmic forces and elements. The emphasis is upon consciousness and intelligence as opposed to mere appearances, or to the conception of the blind forces and inert elements of materialism. Behind every phenomenon must lie a noumenon: the former is the intelligent cause, the latter the produced effect or appearance.

Noun. See NUT

Nous (Greek) [from noos from the verbal root no, gno, cf Sanskrit jñā, Latin nosco, gnosco, German kennen, English ken, know] Mind; especially enlightened spiritual intelligence (buddhi-manas) as contrasted with the mere lower mind or ratiocinative faculty, deluded as it always is by passion and ignorance.

Platonic philosophy speaks of the soul (psyche) as able to ally itself either with divine mind (nous) or with passion (thymos); thus we have the same distinction as between buddhi-manas and kama-manas. Sometimes, however, psyche is used without qualification as the lower mind in contrast with the higher mind or nous.

Nout. See NUT

November One of the twelve months of the European year received from the Romans. All Saints Day (November 1) of the Christian calendar, which replaced, especially in Celtic lands, a previous festival dedicated not only to all the dead, and especially the worthy dead, but likewise to endings — an idea connected with death. “The Druids understood the meaning of the Sun in Taurus, therefore, when, while all the fires were extinguished on the 1st of November, their sacred and inextinguishable fires alone remained to illumine the horizon . . .” (SD 2:759).

Now A fundamental concept of the theosophical philosophy is the Eternal Now. The past lingers in the memory and the future is ever vanishing from the present into the past: only Now eternally exists. In the case of man, at any given moment he is the result of what he has fashioned himself to be out of all preceding moments; his future will therefore be the working out of his previous thoughts and actions, and one by one these disappear into what to us is the past, and yet is always present. These philosophical reflections apply universally.

“The three periods — the Present, the Past, and the Future — are in the esoteric philosophy a compound time; for the three are a composite number only in relation to the phenomenal plane, but in the realm of noumena have no abstract validity” (SD 1:43).
“Time is only an illusion produced by the succession of our states of consciousness as we travel through eternal duration, and it does not exist where no consciousness exists in which the illusion can be produced; but ‘lies asleep.’ The present is only a mathematical line which divides that part of eternal duration which we call the future, from that part which we call the past. Nothing on earth has real duration, for nothing remains without change — or the same — for the billionth part of a second; and the sensation we have of the actuality of the division of ‘time’ known as the present, comes from the blurring of that momentary glimpse, or succession of glimpses, of things that our senses give us, as those things pass from the region of ideals which we call the future, to the region of memories that we name the past” (SD 1:37).

Nox (Latin) Nux (Greek) In Hesiod Chaos produces Erebos and Nux (darkness and night), from whose union under the action of Eros spring Aether and Day. Mystically darkness precedes light and generates it, because what we even in the highest reaches of our spiritual imagination refer to as light is a phenomenon, however sublime, belonging to the realms of manifestation; whereas darkness is that primordial essence of cosmic spirit-consciousness so utterly beyond even the highest ranges of our spiritual conception that it seems to us to be dark. Actually from one standpoint, this darkness is absolute light, and the light of all manifested realms is its shadow.

Nu or Noo (Egyptian) Nu or Noo. The primeval cosmic deep, described in the Egyptian creation as a watery mass in a state of perduring, intense activity, eternally in motion in its structural detail yet eternally quiescent as a whole. Shu and Tefnut, the two firstborn deities, arose from Nu, the father. The Eye of Nu is the sun — any sun or star. In later dynasties there was also a god called Nu the son of Ra, referring to the solar system considered as the sun’s kingdom and as the waters of the cosmic kingdom infilled with Ra’s life. The ancient Hebrew in Genesis had the same conception when they spoke of the face of the deep over which brooded the soul of the ’elohim.

Numa Second of the so-called legendary kings of ancient Rome who, with Romulus, belongs to the class of eponymous ancestors, heroes, and instructors seen by us but dimly, which are met with in the traditional history of so many peoples. In Numa’s case there has undoubtedly been considerable adaptation, even among the ancients themselves, as to dates, localities, and other accessories, due to the requirements of historians who were compiling a consecutive account of their people’s ancestry and beginnings. It may even be that Numa is a generic name, standing for a dynasty or class of teachers, much as the names Solomon and Zoroaster did. The fables and mythoi that have come down to us about Numa show him to be one of those early initiated founders of civilizations and culture. Among all Romans, ancient and later, he was universally respected and regarded almost as the father of Latin civilization. As Romulus represents conquering might, so Numa stands for a succeeding period of consolidation and instruction. He is the teacher, not only of religion but of scientific arts. Tradition connects him with Pythagoras and the Etruscan hierophants. Romulus suggests the attributes of Aries, the first sign of the zodiac and the house of Mars; while Numa suggests the next sign, Taurus, a quiet sign under Venus and the Moon. He was the lawgiver, representing the second stage in the formation of a culture.

Number People usually think of number as merely a varying multiplicity of units, a plurality of individuals, which is correct enough. Yet “Number lies at the root of the manifested Universe: numbers and harmonious proportions guide the first differentiations of homogeneous substance into heterogeneous elements; and number and numbers set limits to the formative hand of Nature” (BCW 12:517) — a strictly Pythagorean vision and conception. Our reasoning minds lend a spurious reality to abstractions; and from this viewpoint the genuine realities appear in the guise of such abstraction. Number is such an apparent abstraction; we know it only by its effects in that world which seems to us so real, and of which we regard number as an attribute. Yet nothing can be more fundamental than number. As Balzac said, number is an entity, a divinity; the creative Logos itself is called the Number, meaning number one, arising out of no-number or the zero. After this we have the duad, triad, etc. For the Pythagoreans number was a creative, emanationally formative power, and the Hebrew Sepher Yetsirah (Numbers of Creation) gives out the whole process of evolution in numbers, while in China the I Ching speaks of celestial numbers. All esoteric systems set great store by numbers — some systems more so than others. For “we see the figures 1, 3, 5, 7, as perfect, because thoroughly mystic, numbers playing a prominent part in every Cosmogony and evolution of living Beings” (SD 2:35). See also SEPHIROTH

Nuns Women of any age vowed to a celibate and meditative life. Nuns have existed in organized communities in all parts of the world, apparently in all ages, for there were convents or similar groups in ancient Egypt, Rome, Hindustan, Greece, ancient Peru, and elsewhere. Before the nuns, who in Christendom were consecrated to the Virgin Mary, there were the Vestal Virgins of Rome, the maidens of Isis in Egypt, and the Devadasis of the Hindu temples, who originally “lived in great chastity, and were objects of the most extraordinary veneration” (IU 2:210). “They were the ‘virgin brides’ of their respective (Solar) gods. Says Herodotus, ‘The brides of Ammon are excluded from all intercourse with men,’ they are ‘the brides of Heaven’; and virtually they became dead to the world, just as they are now. In Peru they were ‘Pure Virgins of the Sun,’ and the Pallakists [Pallakides] of Ammon-Ra are referred to in some inscriptions as the ‘divine spouses’ ” (TG 234).

Nuntius, Nuntium (Latin) Messenger; applied to Mercury as messenger of the gods. See also HERMES

Nusku (Babylonian) Prominent Babylonian and Assyrian deity of light and fire, very closely associated with the god Girru or Gibil. As in other countries, fire was regarded as the great purifier, along with Ea, the god of water; hymns were addressed to him as the great cleanser from diseases and illness. Nusku-Girru represented both heavenly and terrestrial fire. He was regarded as the son of Anu, the deity of the heavenly spaces; but at Harran, in Assyria, he was regarded as the son of the moon deity Sin. Because of the connection of fire with productivity and birth, he held a position of the family god somewhat parallel to that of the Lares and Penates in ancient Rome.

Nut (Egyptian) Nut. Also Noot, Noun, Nout, Nu. Goddess of the sky or cosmic space — whether of the solar system or the galaxy — daughter of Shu and Tefnut, wife of Seb (the cosmic earth or outspread space), mother of Osiris and Isis, and of Set and Nephthys or Neith; the heavens personified. Some manuscripts distinguish between Nut, the day sky, and Naut, the night sky, although the two are but lower and higher aspects of one cosmic divinity. Her attributes partake of those of the other nature goddesses in the Egyptian pantheon: she is addressed as Lady of Heaven, who gave birth to all the gods. The favorite representation of Nut is of a woman bending so that her body forms a semicircle — a part of the endless circle of space — upon which the stars are portrayed, while her consort, Seb, prostrate beneath her, completes the circle. Again, the solar boat is represented sailing up over the lower limbs, in order to pursue its journey over the day sky; and sailing down her arms to complete its cycle in the night sky.

Nut is an important goddess of the Underworld and figures largely in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. She is one of the twelve deities who judge the deceased. Her office was to supply food and water, enabling the one entering the Underworld (Tuat) to rise in a renewed body, even as Ra, the sun god, arose from the egg produced by Seb and Nut. Thus, wherever possible, the sarcophagus had the figure of the goddess represented upon it, her protective wings spread over the deceased, her hands holding the emblems of celestial water and air.

The Greek nous

“was the designation given to the Supreme deity (third logos) by Anaxagoras. Taken from Egypt where it was called Nout, it was adopted by the Gnostics for their first conscious AEon which, with the Occultists, is the third logos, cosmically, and the third ‘principle’ (from above) or manas, in man. . . .
“In the Pantheon of the Egyptians it meant the ‘One-only-One,’ because they did not proceed in their popular or exoteric religion higher than the third manifestation which radiates from the Unknown and the Unknowable, the first unmanifested and the second logoi in the esoteric philosophy of every nation. The Nous of Anaxagoras was the Mahat of the Hindu Brahma, the first manifested Deity — ‘the Mind or Spirit self-potent’; this creative Principle being of course the primum mobile of everything in the Universe — its Soul and Ideation” (TG 234).

Some of the most abstract attributes connected with Nut place her at times as the Second Logos; but because the Second contains the Third Logos, and therefore the Mother being in a sense identical with her Daughter, it follows that not infrequently the attributes of Nut place her as the higher portion of the Third Logos.

Nux. See NOX

Nyaya (Sanskrit) Nyāya The first of the six Darsanas or Hindu schools of philosophy. This school has been called the Analytic or Logical School; nevertheless the title of the school would rather mean synthesizing by way of analogy or apposite likenesses, and hence it could equally well be called the synthetic or constructive method of reasoning. Nyaya is applicable to its method of treating all subjects, physical and metaphysical, rather than to its aims. This school has entered thoroughly into the laws and processes of ratiocinative thought, and in consequence has worked out a formal system of reasoning which forms the Hindu standard of logic.

The Nyaya school draws a clear distinction between matter and spirit, and has developed a careful and ingenious system of psychology. It distinguishes between the jivatmans, which are virtually infinitely numerous and eternal, and paramatman, which is one only, the kosmic hierarch, and therefore the seat of eternal wisdom and, so far as its own hierarchy goes, the Isvara (lord) of all things therein. The Nyaya is said to have been founded by the sage Gautama or Gotama.

The Vaiseshika school, founded by the sage Kanada, considered a contemporary of this Gautama, is sometimes considered to be a branch of the Nyaya school because the two schools in their teachings supplement each other. The Vaiseshika is also called the Atomistic School, because it teaches the existence of a transient or illusory universe composed of aggregations of everlasting atoms or life-atoms, which are really but the vehicular expressions of the jivatmans of the Nyaya.

Nyayis (Persian) Nyāyis, Nyayishn (Pahlavi) Nyāyishn. To worship, serve; the five prayers in the Avesta, addressed to the sun, Mithra, moon, waters, and fire. The Nyayises of the sun and of Mithra are recited three times a day by the followers of Zoroaster; that to the moon, three times a month — when the moon is new, full, and on the wan; that to water and fire are recited every day when one is in the proximity of these elements.

Nyima (Tibetan) The sun in Tibetan astrology.

Nyingpo (Tibetan) snying po. Essence, pith, heart, equivalent to the Sanskrit hridaya; has all the senses of the English word heart. Applied particularly to the universal intelligent essence, alaya, which is “the basis of every visible and invisible thing, . . . though it is eternal and immutable in its essence, it reflects itself in every object of the Universe . . .” (SD 1:48). Hence it corresponds to the world-soul. In Tibet it likewise frequently is called tsang.

Nymph [from Greek nymphe bride] Applied to a numerous order of nature spirits, regarded as feminine, pertaining to water, mountains, trees, etc. They are undeveloped entities, occupying their own place in the evolutionary ladder, and finding their material vehicles in various natural objects. Both the Greek nymphe and the Latin nympha have the transferred meaning of water.

Nyx. See NOX

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