Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary

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

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Plaksha-dvipa (Sanskrit) Plakṣa-dvīpa According to the Puranas, the second of the seven dvipas, the continents or islands which make up our world. Esoterically these seven dvipas represent our globe and its six invisible companion globes: jambu-dvipa represents globe D, while plaksha, salmala, kusa, krauncha, saka, and pushkara represent the six invisible globes of our planetary chain. These dvipas also correspond to the geographical continents of the seven great races and to the land divisions of the earth during the period of one root-race.

Plane Used figuratively for “the range or extent of some state of consciousness, or of the perceptive power of a particular set of senses, or the action of a particular force, or the state of matter corresponding to any of the above” (TG 255). Though the cosmic planes are different from one another, they are not separated by gaps, just as the spectral colors are distinct and characteristic yet merge imperceptibly into each other. Nor can it be supposed that at all stages of evolution the scheme of planes was the same as now: we hear of a physico-astral stage of humanity and of other beings which now no longer exist on earth, in much the same way as we find the fossils of types intermediate between existing types but now extinct.

No hard and fast enumeration can be made as to the number of planes in the kosmos. The number assigned depends on the particular purpose for which the definition is made. The septenary classification is often used, as in the seven planes of prakriti or the seven states of consciousness pertaining to each. But other enumerations may equally be made, and any plane is subdivided into subplanes.

Planet Usually refers to the visible satellites of our sun, though in its general sense including the planets belonging to other solar systems, and planets belonging to the universal solar system, whether visible or not on our plane. One particular meaning is that of the seven sacred planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and two secret planets for which the Sun and Moon are substituted exoterically. Uranus and Neptune do not belong to this group, although circulating around our Sun; Neptune while belonging to our universal solar system does not cosmogonically belong to our own minor solar system, and hence is what from our standpoint may be called a capture.

Each planet, like all other celestial orbs, is composed of seven or twelve globes, in coadunation but not in consubstantiality, forming a planetary chain on the various cosmic planes, only those on our particular physical plane being visible to us. Planets are the outer shell of living beings and have evolved from cosmic seeds, passing through various stages including that of comets. They are inhabited by denizens adapted to their conditions. Each planet of the solar system is in its own particular stage of planetary evolution, one planet being in one round of its own evolutionary course, another in a different round of its evolutionary development; and the substances or matters composing them are in respectively different states of materiality, ethereality, or spirituality. The periods of the planetary movements and of their nodes and apses are regulated by mathematical law originally impressed not only in the structure of the solar system, but in the svabhava or characteristic nature of each individual planet in the system, and these periods mark innumerable cycles of time, great and small. They shed influence on the earth and its inhabitants both as time indicators and by virtue of their quality as living beings. Each celestial body is the mansion, vehicle, or house of what is in its essence a divine entity; and these regents or governors, each one of its own sun or planet, are themselves undergoing courses of evolutionary unfolding in time periods so vast that mathematics of cosmic extent are required to compass them.

Planetary Chain Every kosmic body or globe, be it sun or planet, nebula or comet, atom or electron, is a composite entity comprised of inner and invisible energies and substances, and of an outer and often visible physical body. These elements all together, whether enumerated as seven or twelve, are the principles or elements of every self-contained entity or individual life-center. What theosophy calls a planetary chain is an entity composed of seven or twelve such multiprincipled globes, and which taken as a unit form one planetary chain. All celestial bodies are multiprincipled entities as man is, who is a copy in the small of what the universe is in the great, there being one life and one system of laws in that universe. Every entity in the universe is an inseparable part of it, therefore whatsoever the whole contains, is found in miniature in every part.

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

Limiting our explanation only to the manifest seven globes of the complete twelve, the six globes other than the earth exist, according to one diagrammatic delineation, two by two, on the three planes of the solar system more ethereal than the physical plane. These three superior planes or worlds are each one superior to the world or plane immediately beneath it. Our earth-globe is the fourth and most material of all the manifest globes of the earth-chain. Three globes precede it on the descending or shadowy arc and three globes follow it on the ascending or luminous arc of evolution.


Planetary Spirits Every celestial body is under the directing influence of a hierarchy of beings, spiritual, quasi-spiritual, and astral, the higher of which may be called celestial spirits; the term planetary spirits is usually restricted to the highest class of these beings pertaining to planets, although the phrase is also used in other senses. These planetary spirits have evolved through past cosmic cycles of evolution from a state equivalent to the human; and the general hierarchy pertaining to each planet is closely linked with the destinies of the present various life-waves of that planet. We ourselves are destined in the future to become planetary spirits of a planetary chain that will be a later imbodiment of our present earth-chain. This earth, being only in its fourth round, has not yet produced high planetary spirits; but it will have begun to do so at the end of the seventh round. At the summit of the hierarchy of planetary spirits is a supreme hierarch.

Planetary spirits parallel the Buddhist dhyani-chohans or dhyanis; with the exception that the Buddhist phrase has far larger application as it includes not merely planetary spirits but likewise spiritual beings of various grades in a solar system. The higher planetaries are those presiding over an entire chain of globes, and their influence extends over all the seven, ten, or twelve globes of a chain. There are also planetaries belonging to the same general planetary hierarchy who preside over a single globe of a chain, and again lower planetaries such as those in more or less immediate touch with mankind. There are planetaries of high spiritual status, and planetaries of far lower status who at times even may be spoken of as dark planetaries. Thus it is that the work of the higher planetaries is beautiful, compassionate, and indeed sublime; whereas the lowest or dark planetaries are frequently the agents of matter as contrasted with spirit.

What the Christians, following the Greeks, call angels, are planetary spirits of high type, while the Christian archangels correspond roughly with the highest subclasses of the planetaries. In Hindu thought the manus are planetary spirits of various hierarchical grades in a planetary chain; the prajapatis also in certain cases are identical with the manus, the latter having a special connection with the human life-wave.

Planetesimal Hypothesis A modification of the nebular hypothesis — put forward by Lockyer and See, and developed by Chamberlin and Moulton in the early 20th century — according to which the nebulae from which planets originated were not gaseous but made up of a multitude of planetesimals or solid bodies varying in size from a mere particle up to a planetoid. According to theosophy, at a certain later stage in the formation of worlds there does take place such a concretion of large bodies out of small bodies and out of cosmic dust; but a particular and minor phase in the physical stage of development is far from a complete account of the origin of the solar system. It ignores all ultraphysical conditions, and therefore has to begin by assuming nine-tenths of the whole process, such as the eternity of physical matter, and the independent existence of such abstractions as gravitation, inertia, etc.

Planet of Death. See EIGHTH SPHERE

Planets, Seven Sacred The ancients spoke of seven planets which they named the seven sacred planets, and they were serialized as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and Moon. The Sun and Moon are, however, used as substitutes for two secret planets, one near the sun and one over the moon, these secret planets being invisible to us at present. That near the Sun, an intra-mercurial planet, has been called Vulcan and was supposed to have been discovered in 1859, when a black spot was seen in transit across the solar disk; but since that time the discovery has not been verified by astronomers. The teaching regarding it is that it became invisible to our physical senses at about the midpoint of the third root-race; but as we have now reached again, on the upward arc, the plane corresponding to the same degree of development, in a relatively short cyclic period it should begin again to show itself.

The planet for which the Moon stands as a substitute, sometimes called the Planet of Death, is near the Moon and also invisible to our physical senses. It has a retrograde motion and is slowly dying.

Each of these seven planets is, like our earth, a chain of globes, sevenfold or twelvefold in composition, having six superior globes of finer, more ethereal matter above the physical globe. Only those globes which are on the same cosmic plane of nature are physically visible to each other. For instance, we can see only the fourth-plane planetary globes of each of the other planetary or sidereal chains because we are on the fourth cosmic plane.

These seven planets are called sacred because every one of the globes of the earth chain is under the dominant guidance, and is actually largely formed by, one of these planets, assisted in each case by the other six. Further, every root-race of every one of the globes during each round is under the protection and guidance of one of the seven sacred planets.


But the main reason for calling them sacred is that our universal solar system is composed of seven planes of being, or worlds, over which are the seven primordial logoi. These are subdivided into seven minor logoi or powers, forming sevenfold groups or minor solar systems, and our solar system is one such group. In our solar system, our sacred planets are the respective houses, each house containing the seven forces of one of the seven chief rays of the solar logos: one such chief ray being our particular logos.


Plasm Living material composing so-called living bodies, used in The Secret Doctrine in connection with Weismann’s theory of the germ-plasm. Corresponding to the physical plasm are both the spiritual and ethereal plasms, which are the true directing influence of heredity. All these plasms are the deposits or lees of vital substances, which have their representative in the human physical body as the various pranas.

Plastic or Protean Soul. See LINGA-SARIRA; SOUL

Platonic School The philosophers of the Academy, who followed Plato and can be traced down to the days of Cicero, gradually undergoing change during that period and divisible into schools connected with the names of prominent philosophers. Distinguished from the Aristotelian or Peripatetic school, much as philosophy is distinguished from science or as idealism is distinguished from naturalism. The principal feature is the Platonic dualism: of noumenon and phenomenon, of the self-moving and that which is moved, of the Idea and its manifestation in an organic being, of the permanent and the impermanent, of soul and body, nous and psyche, etc. In epistemology this dualism appears as philosophia and sense experience — the wisdom which apprehends reality and that which forms concepts from the data of sense experience; in morals, as the contrast between the Good, which is altruistic because it apprehends the unity of all beings, and the ethic of self-seeking based on the illusion of separateness.

Plato’s message was that of a person initiated in the sacred Mysteries, but under the usual necessity of reticence, of speaking in veiled language, and of casting his knowledge into the prevalent molds of thought.

Pleiades (Greek) Also Atlantides. Six stars (the seventh being invisible or missing) in the constellation Taurus, and their heliacal rising in May was considered by sailors as a sign of propitious weather. They were, especially Alcyone, regarded as the point around which the divine breath or motion works during the manvantara, and have been thought by modern astronomers to be the center of the sun’s orbit.

In legend, the seven daughters of Atlas (Maia, Electra, Taygeta, Asterope, Merope, Alcyone, and Celaeno), who complained to the gods because they were pursued by Orion and were then changed into pigeons or doves and made into a constellation. Atlas represents the Atlantean root-race, and the daughters are the seven subraces. They married gods and became the mothers of heroes and the founders of city-states. They are connected with the destiny of nations, which is shaped by the events of their past lives, so that truly our destiny is written in the stars. In India, as the Krittikas, they were the wives of the seven rishis, six visible, one concealed; and the function of the rishis is concerned with times and events.

The first pyramids in Egypt are said to have been built at the beginning of a sidereal year under Dhruva (alpha polaris), when the Krittikas looked over his head. They are mentioned in Job, who speaks of the sweet influence of the Pleiades, and Bailly makes a calculation as to the date when they had that influence. In India they have a very occult meaning connected with sound and other mysterious potencies.

Pleistocene. See GEOLOGICAL ERAS

Plenum (Latin) Full, fullness, as opposed to void or so-called empty space; the plenitude of fullness of matter in space which in fact forms space. Space in this sense is a plenum or pleroma, not a vacuum; yet philosophically, because of the nature of mahamaya, all manifested existence is illusory and hence empty in the mystical sense. Therefore those great systems of thought which have remained most faithful to the ancient wisdom, such as Northern Buddhism, speak of space and all the vast variety of existence as sunyata (the void).

Pleroma (Greek) Fullness, completion, entirety; used by the Gnostics, as for instance by Valentinus in the Pistis Sophia, to denote the fullness of the manifested universe as a whole; hence, space and its contents. In a more spiritual and accurate sense, it is absolute space with its seven, ten, or twelve planes or degrees of consciousness-substance. Evolution starts from a primal point and is fulfilled in the pleroma or manifested sum total of a manifested universe, with especial emphasis on its inner and invisible ranges and planes. Therefore, it is the kosmic abode of the invisible gods or divinities in all their many ranges and ranks, together with the planes, worlds, and spheres composing the fullness; the whole elaborately divided and subdivided into planes and hierarchies of emanations, one manner of treatment being geometrically symbolized by squares, circles, points, etc. For convenience’ sake, pleroma is usually divided into three degrees, the highest, the intermediate, and the lowest. It was converted by the Christian Church into an abode for Fallen Angels, Principalities, and Powers.

Plexus (Latin) A network, used anatomically for certain networks of nerves or blood vessels. The nerve plexuses forming part of the sympathetic nervous system are closely related functionally to the viscera, and serve as coordinating centers for the various nerve tissues which regulate their muscular and organic action. They are intimately related to mental and emotional states, to such an extent that the chief of them, the solar plexus, has been called the abdominal brain.

The word has been used in theosophy to translate the Sanskrit chakra (wheel, nerve ganglion), but these chakras are better defined as forming centers in the vital-astral constitution of the organism. They are centers or foci of pranic energy, having special qualities which may be correlated to other groupings, such as the seven principles, the seven rays, etc. The seven chakras are: sacral, prostatic, epigastric (solar), cardiac, laryngeal, frontal, and cavernous.

Any attempt by an untrained student, without a teacher, to try to develop these chakras is sure to cause disaster, since it can result only in the arousing of powerful forces which he has not yet acquired the means to control, and which will therefore control him. Once awakened, they cannot be put to sleep again, and the result will be disorganization, physical or mental or both, manifested in disease, insanity, depravity, or death; in the worst cases, the unfortunate dabbler may set his feet on a path of black magic ending in the final separation of his spiritual ego from its hapless psycho-vital-astral-physical vehicle. The spiritual and higher intellectual powers and faculties must be cultivated first; and this cannot be done by any attempt at artificial stimulation based on fixing the attention on spots in the body or head. The only safe way to practice the chela life is to forget about the body and its mechanism, thus allowing evolution to proceed in its natural course, and dangerous forces to life quiescent until they come naturally and harmoniously into operation.


Pluto The outermost planet of the solar system yet found, discovered in 1930. It is only as bright as a star of the 15th magnitude and therefore is visible only to very large telescopes. It seems probable that Pluto does not congenitally belong to the solar system, but is a capture from some other source.

Pluto (Latin) [from Greek ploutos wealth, bounty of the earth] The Roman god of the Underworld, the same as the Greek Hades, Dis, and Orcus. The name Plutus, with which Pluto was sometimes confounded, is that of another deity, the god of wealth per se.

Pluvius (Latin) Rainy; with the ancient Romans Jupiter, as head of the pantheon, was viewed and invoked under several aspects, of which this is one: so that there is Jupiter Pluvius (the rain-giver), Jupiter Tonans (the thunderer), Jupiter Fulgurans (the source of lightning), etc., indicating different aspects of the deity as affecting weather.

Pneuma (Greek) [from pneo to breathe] Wind, air, breath, vitality, spirit, an animated being, also a spiritual being; in the New Testament (John 3:8) “The wind bloweth where it listeth . . . so is every one who comes into being (or becomes) out of the Spirit” — the word for both wind and spirit is the single word pneuma. It is also translated in the New Testament as “ghost,” as in Holy Ghost and yielded up the ghost, and as “spirit” in various senses. The same connection between air and spirit is seen in the Latin anima (life) and animus (mind), which derive from the same root as the Greek anemos (wind); also in spiritus [from spiro to blow, breathe], and the same holds good in other languages, illustrating the correlation of air or wind with vitality: jiva, prana, mind, manas, etc. The triad of sun or fire, moon or water, and pneuma, spirit, or wind, corresponds with Father-Mother-Son and with atma-buddhi-manas. The word is equivalent to breath so often used in The Secret Doctrine, in a comprehensive sense.

Pneumatology The study of gases; the study of beings intermediate between God or other divinity and man, including in the lower ranges angels, daimones, etc., and still lower possibly even demons and ghosts, etc.; the Christian theological doctrine of the Holy Ghost. G. de Purucker uses the term etymologically for the science of the pneuma or spirit, just as psychology is strictly speaking the science of the psyche. The psyche is the lower intermediate nature of man, kama-manas; pneuma pertains to the higher duad, atma-buddhi. Modern psychology and psychoanalysis unfortunately deal mainly with the activities of the lower quaternary of the septenary being that is man, and ignore the activities or even the existence of anything else higher.

P’o (Chinese) In the I Ching “the full manifestation of the kwei” — the kama-manas or animal soul.

Poimandres. See PYMANDER

Point In mathematics a point is regarded as having no parts or magnitude, but is postulated for the purpose of defining position, for it cannot in itself have position unless space has been previously assumed. An abstract point cannot have location or relation to anything; it is devoid of attributes, unless we consider unity as an attribute. It is equivalent to the whole universe — Philo has said that the Chaldeans regarded the kosmos as a single point.

In the book of symbology given at the beginning of The Secret Doctrine a point appears in a circle as the first differentiation in the periodical manifestations of the ever-eternal nature. From the unknowable and concealed point emerged the creative cosmic triad of Eros, Chaos, and Chronos.

Another view of the mystical significance of a point describes it as an emanative center, a spot where energies from one plane enter another plane, a symbol of unity and homogeneity, representing the phase before polarity has set in — a logos, an indivisible, a monad. See also LAYA-CENTER; PRIMORDIAL POINT

Polar Cells, Polar Globules, or Polar Bodies Two minute cells thrown off by the unfertilized ovum in its process of maturation. Blavatsky speaks of the first stages of a germ-cell’s development when the nuclear changes include the formation of double cone or spindle “within the cell. This spindle approaches the surface of the cell, and one half of it is extruded in the form of what are called the ‘polar cells.’ These polar cells now die, and the embryo develops from the growth and segmentation of the remaining part of the nucleus which is nourished by the substance of the cell. Then why could not beings have lived thus, and been created in this way — at the very beginning of human and mammalian evolution” The death of the polar cells “would now correspond to the change introduced by the separation of the sexes, when gestation in utero, i.e., within the cell, became the rule” (SD 2:117).

Polarity The property of having poles; duality throughout nature. Poles are antithetical in quality and yet interdependent; each presupposes the other, as without the other neither can exist. Similar poles repel, dissimilar attract. As long as they are apart, there is force; when they coalesce, they are said to neutralize each other — the force becomes latent. The most fundamental polarity is that of spirit and matter, which may also be called positive and negative, active and passive, etc. This is repeated endlessly on every plane and subplane. When the One becomes Two, it becomes polar; when the Two rebecomes the One, it ceases to be polar. The expansive and contractive forces (in themselves constituting a polarity) are seen everywhere in evolution and involution. The polarity of right and left is hard to define absolutely, but gains significance when we consider the right-handed and left-handed groupings of atoms in the molecules of such compounds as dextrose and levulose — a contrast of similarities. In magnetism, electricity, and chemistry, we have familiar instances of polarity, in which the above general laws are illustrated. In the germinal cell, the One becomes the Two by the extrusion of the polar bodies. The human body is polar; Reichenbach discovered polarity in plants and minerals, as shown by the colors seen by his sensitives.

Benjamin Franklin invented the terms positive and negative to describe the two qualities or attributes of electricity as understood in his day. It has become customary to speak of things which are masculine, expansive, dispersive, etc., as being positive, and to speak of things which are centripetal, contractive, etc., as being negative, with perhaps an unconscious bias of thought in the direction of looking upon the positive as being the active, and the negative as being inactive or passive. Such usage is illogical and misleading, for it is well known that in both magnetism and electricity — as examples of fields of nature where polarity is native and studied — the negative can be as “positive” in its action as the so-called positive itself; and that furthermore action and reaction in these fields are equal and equivalent. Furthermore, a thing may be positive on one plane and negative on another plane or in another direction, or again positive at one moment and negative at the next moment — here using positive and negative according to their common significances.

Adopting such common parlance, it is not uncustomary to speak of the realms of spirit as being negative and the realms of manifestation as being positive; but in nature the masculine is no stronger or weaker than the feminine: they are coequal, reciprocal, interacting, always conjoined during manifestation, and paradoxically during manifestation continuously separate, but always in action and reaction, the one upon the other. Polarity is sometimes defined by the terms male and female; but, while using these symbolically, we must refrain from qualifying them by ideas drawn from merely physiological sex. Hence we see why it is to be regretted that these two terms have become so fixed in the language, and how much better had it been had the simple term polar been adopted.

However, if it be considered advisable to keep these terms, then one perhaps in the light of the theosophical philosophy, may be driven to say that the north pole of the earth, electrically and magnetically, is the negative pole, and the south pole is positive or dispersive; that spirit is negative and that matter is positive; though it is obvious that these allocations are arbitrary, so far as the words themselves are concerned, but correct enough as regards the facts.

Were we living in the realms of spirit rather than in the realms of material manifestation, we should probably be driven by the logic of circumstance to invert our usage of these terms, and declare the spiritual realms of our domain to be the positive ones, and the material realms to be the negative.

We are thus compelled to see that polarity reigns throughout nature, beginning with manifestation and closing with the beginning of pralaya, where polarity for the time ceases to exist; for polarity is one of the phenomenal products of manifested life. However, in the manifested universe, envisaging now the great cosmic planes, there is a relative homogeneity or vanishing of polarity at the apex or summit of any cosmic plane, that all intermediate parts of that cosmic plane showing polarity merge again into relative homogeneity, and the vanishing of polarity, at the extreme bottom of the said cosmic plane.

In The Secret Doctrine it is stated that fohat, in bringing worlds into being, makes whirls or gyrations in opposite directions, thus starting polarity; and of this we have an illustration in right-handed and left-handed helical or screw motions. Fohat or cosmic electricity, thus inducing polarity into the opening drama of manvantaric life, does so because the polarity unrolls from within fohat itself; fohat thus being instrumental in reproducing the many from out the One, being the steed ridden by cosmic mind.

Poles, Terrestrial and Celestial The poles of the earth are the extremities of its axis of rotation, and the great circle at right angles to this axis is the terrestrial equator. Corresponding to these in the celestial sphere are the celestial poles and equator. The terrestrial poles are storehouses of cosmic vitality, and here the fohatic forces result in the auroral phenomena of colored light and sounds. The north pole is heaven, Olympus, Mount Meru, the abode of the higher gods, and the place of the first continent, the Sacred Imperishable Land. The south pole is the pit, hell, patala, the vent of the earth. These two are often called the Mountain and the Pit. In the Vendidad the north pole is a serpent who bites spring and turns it to cold. The poles are variously personified in mythology, often rather distantly, e.g., as Castor and Pollux.

The extremities of the axis of the ecliptic point to the poles of the ecliptic in the celestial sphere. The axis of the earth is inclined to the axis of the ecliptic at an angle of something more than 23 degrees, called the obliquity, which makes the angle between the ecliptic and the equator. The obliquity is believed by modern astronomers to oscillate about a mean position to the extent of 1 degree 21 minutes on both sides in a period of about 10,000 to 18,000 years; but The Secret Doctrine states that the obliquity has been 90 degrees and 180 degrees, that it has had these positions repeatedly, and that the obliquity varies at the rate of nearly 3.6 degrees in each precessional cycle. It would appear from this that the earth’s axis makes a complete circle or revolution with regard to the ecliptic axis, passing through angles of 90 degrees, 180 degrees, 270 degrees, and so back to the starting point. When the two axes coincide, there can be no seasons, no equinoxes or solstices. When they are at right angles, either the northern hemisphere or the southern, as the case may be, has six months of spring and summer, the opposite hemisphere having six months of autumn and winter; and the ecliptic poles being in the equator. When the axis is entirely inverted, although the zodiacal constellations remain the same, of course, because of the rotation of the earth, they apparently have a reversed movement from their present one (SD 2:785). Herodotus learned from Egyptian priests that the two axes had once coincided and that they had been reversed three times since their records began; and the Denderah zodiacal charts show that the rectangular position and three inversions had taken place. Considering the dynamic bearings of the shifting in space of the earth’s axis in light of the phenomena of the gyrostat, and how the application of an external force will produce a change in the direction of the axis of rotation, a mathematician might deduce the nature and value of the external forces which must in past ages have acted on the rotating earth in order to produce these axial changes.

Pole Star The north star, alpha polaris in the constellation of Ursa Minor, is within 1½ degrees of the north pole of the celestial sphere, to which the north end of the earth’s axis points. This point is therefore the center around which the other constellations, in their daily apparent motion, revolve. The precession of the equinoxes shifts the position of the celestial north pole in a cycle of about 26,000 years, to a maximum extent of about 47 degrees; and thus we have a means of ascertaining ancient dates if we have any record of the position of the pole among the stars at the epochs in question. The Secret Doctrine speaks often in veiled terms of movements of the earth’s axis and hence of the position of the celestial north pole. Of the first continent, the Sacred Imperishable Land, it is said that the pole star has his watchful eye upon it from the dawn to the close of the twilight of a day of the Great Breath. Again, at one time a star in the constellation Draco occupied the position.

In India the pole star is known as Dhruva, and the celestial or cosmic north pole, as well as the terrestrial north pole, is called Meru, the seat of Brahma.

Pollux, Polydeuces. See DIOSCURI

Polygenesis Used in biology and anthropology, meaning arising from many germs or roots; opposed to monogenesis, arising from a single germ or root, although the two theories can be complementary. The human race is distinctly polygenetic inasmuch as it was born from seven different psychomaterial foci on seven different centers of the earth; and mankind did not spring from an actual single couple. Yet it is equally true that mankind is one in origin, all its creators being spiritual beings, working on us and upon lower beings of a psychomaterial nature (SD 2:249, 610). Regarding the evolution of races, differentiation has existed for long ages; yet go far enough towards the origin, and polygenesis merges into a fundamental spiritual unity.

Polytheism The doctrine of and belief in a plurality of gods, cosmic spirits, or celestial entities under whatever name they may be described. The word came into use as a correlative of monotheism — the doctrine as of the Jews, Christians, and Moslems, of one and only one God. The unphilosophical nature of monotheism, which in the Occident is quite different from the significance of divine unity, is shown by the subterfuges resorted to in order to supply its deficiencies. As divinity cannot be successfully imagined as individually concerned with every operation in the universe, the general term nature is used to denote a kind of secondary god; while the progress of science has analyzed this into various laws and forces, which paradoxically enough perform somewhat the same functions as the gods of polytheism, except in their wrongly supposed lack of intelligence. Less sophisticated and more profound intellects have never ceased to believe in a whole range of cosmic hierarchies, running from divinity down to the so-called nature spirits, and traditional peoples have always looked upon these as powers which are often dreaded and can be propitiated. Even Christianity has its saints, and its theology speaks of Angels and Archangels, of Dominions and Thrones, etc. As soon as we depart from the simple primeval idea of a universe filled with intelligent beings — and indeed formed of these beings themselves — of numerous hierarchies, grades, and kinds, we land in a maze of abstractions and contradictions.

The ancient and oriental pantheons are in reality allegories or personifications of the hosts and hierarchies of cosmic powers, divine, intermediate, and terrestrial, in uninterrupted serial sequences. Where an ignorant devotee might address prayers to some of these personifications, the enlightened one, in invoking Jupiter or Siva, would merely seek to evoke in himself the human power corresponding with the cosmic power, and of which the human is a direct, albeit a feeble, reflection.

Pomegranate. See RIMMON

Popol Vuh (Quiche) An ancient scripture of the Mayas. The manuscript which has come down to our day was discovered by Ximenez, a Dominican missionary in the 17th century, near Guatemala City, and translated by him into Spanish. Later, Brasseur de Bourbourg translated the manuscript from the original Quiche into French. But this manuscript was written or dictated by a native in the Quiche tongue and is not the original, for as the writer himself says in his preface: “This is the beginning of the ancient history of the country here called Quiche . . . We will publish it in the world of Christendom, because this National Book, the Popol Vuh, is seen no more, . . . This is the first book written in times of old, but it is hidden from the sight of him who sees and thinks.”

In addition to a historical account of the Quiche nation, the first portion of the scripture deals with cosmogony and the birth of humanity. The opening lines are similar in conception to the book of Genesis: “Here is the narrative of how all was in suspense, all was calm, all silent, all was motionless, all was peaceful, and empty was the immensity of the heavens. . . . The face of the Earth was not yet visible. Only the sea was, and all the space of the heavens.”

The first race of men mentioned in the Popol Vuh are described as “a race ‘whose sight was unlimited, and who knew all things at once’: thus showing the divine knowledge of Gods, not mortals” (SD 2:96). “In other words, they were the Lemuro-Atlanteans, the first who had a dynasty of Spirit-Kings, . . . actual living Devas (or demi-gods or Angels, again) who had assumed bodies to rule over them, and who, in their turn, instructed them in arts and sciences” (SD 2:221-2). And referring to the Lemurian or third root-race, the Popol Vuh describes their race as being fashioned out of the Tzite tree — very similar in this regard to the ancient Scandinavian mythology, where Odin fashions man out of the ash tree. The early race of mankind mentioned in the Popol Vuh as able to live with equal ease under ground and water as upon the earth answers to the second and early third root-races (SD 2:160).

Porphyrion (Greek) Lurid, fiery; a gigante or giant born of the blood (vitality) of Ouranos (heaven) falling upon the earth. These giants were more human than the titans, and continued the war against the Olympian gods, which symbolizes the struggles which took place during the descending arc of evolution, cosmically and among the races of mankind, between the lower material forces and the celestial powers from above. Porphyrion is slain by the gods with the help of Hercules and buried in the abysses of earth.

Poruthu-madan (Tamil) Wrestling demon; the nature spirit associated with the air, or the sylph, described in popular myth as of great strength, and as aiding in the taming of wild animals. This elemental, it is asserted, aids in the phenomena of levitation, both in lifting and transporting objects, or in raising the passive body of a medium.

Poseidon (Greek) One of the twelve great Olympian deities, a son of Ouranos and Gaia, brother of Zeus and Hades; represented by the Latins as Neptunus. The brothers Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades are respectively the gods of heaven, the intermediate world or water, and of the underworld; and these represent the three great generalized powers or forces, each one ruling or vitalizing his respective third of the seven manifest cosmic planes. Poseidon presides over water, especially the ocean, and over horses, which he brought forth by a stroke of his trident on the earth. His symbols are the dolphin, one of his executive ministers; the trident; and the horse. It is Poseidon who shakes the earth and raises and quells storms at sea. He had numerous offspring by many wives, both mortal and immortal; mostly of a violent unruly character like himself — titans and giants. He stands as a personation of the spirit and race of Atlantis; for he is lusty, sensual, and at war with heaven. To consummate his intrigues, he assumes the forms of various animals — a way of alluding to bestial Atlantean black magic. The symbol is complex, for he is also a dragon. He is related to the northern constellations of Draco, Delphinus, and Pegasus (or Equus, the horse). Equivalent to Chozzar of the Peratae Gnostics and the good serpent of the Nazarenes (cf SD 2:578). As god of the waters he parallels Idaspati, Narayana, Vishnu, and Varuna.

Poseidonis Plato’s Timaeus gives a story related to Solon by Egyptian priests, that a great island called Atlantis with a numerous population and a high culture, once existed west of the Pillars of Hercules and opposite Mt. Atlas. The name Poseidonis is given to this island in The Secret Doctrine, and it is said to have sunk in 9564 BC (ML 151). This last remnant in the Atlantic Ocean of the originally vast Atlantean continent, was said by ancient Mediterranean writers such as Plato to have been approximately the size of Ireland and, due to the wickedness of its otherwise highly civilized inhabitants, to have been swallowed up and submerged by the ocean in a night and a day.

Stories in ancient Sanskrit literature about Sankha-dvipa refer to the catastrophe which befell the great Atlantean continent, as well as its last island-remnant.

Positive and Negative. See POLARITY; POLES

Positivism In general, a philosophy based on physical phenomena and ignoring underlying antecedent causes; specifically, the system of Auguste Comte (1798-1857), miscalled the Religion of Humanity. He held that all speculative thought passes through three phases — theological, metaphysical, positive: in the first, living beings having individual free will are regarded as the cause of phenomena; in the next, unverifiable abstractions are resorted to; positivism contents itself with a general description of phenomena. The universe is not composed of individuals with volition, but of an ordered organism — humanity — governed by necessary laws. The civilized community is a true organism, a great being, and should be an object of worship. In conformity with the last, Positivist churches continue to exist, with definite organization and procedure. As stated in Isis Unveiled (1:79), negativism might be a better term, since the system denies more than it affirms. Its rejection of individuals in favor of humanity certainly is a lapse into the rejected metaphysical stage of speculation, which Comte showed he had no true comprehension of. As a philosophy, holding that knowledge is based exclusively on the methods and discoveries of physical or positive science, it labors under great disadvantages. That speculation does pass through these and other stages is evident from the history of philosophy; but that positivism represents more than a passing phase is impossible to believe. It is one of the subtle forms of materialistic European philosophy so popular — and among certain minds still in vogue — during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Possession The state of being possessed or controlled by evil spirits, as demoniacal possession; theosophy explains it as that degree of obsession in which some besieging astral entity has obtained actual possession and use of a living body.

One or another of such harmful invaders compels their human victims to conduct themselves in all kinds of ways that are unnatural, mischievous, foolish, shocking, purposeless, and degrading. “In cases of murder, of every description, and of other crimes of a diabolical character, the act is attributed, in nine cases out of ten, by the offenders themselves, to irresistible obsessions. ‘Something whispered constantly in my ear . . . Somebody was incessantly pushing and leading me on.’ Such are the too-frequent confessions of the criminals. Physicians attribute them to hallucinations of disordered brains, and call the homicidal impulse temporary lunacy” (IU 1:276).

As the highly organized modern brain and nervous system grow more sensitive to psychic influences, as is evident in the steady increase in the number and phases of mental and nervous disorders, the current ignorance of the afterdeath state and the reckless disregard of life are releasing hosts of desperate entities of desire — despairing suicides and vengeful, executed criminals who survive in their kama-rupas to prey upon the living. Moreover, not a few of the increasing numbers of the insane result from following various practices advertised as means for gaining psychic powers for selfish purposes; and the widespread use of hypnotism and the cultivation of mediumship leave many negative subjects weakened in will and in imminent danger of obsessing influences.

Pot Amun (Coptic) A priest and hierophant of the early Ptolemaic dynasty. A term said by Diogenes Laertius to signify one consecrated to Amun (Amen), the god of esoteric wisdom, as amen means “the occult.” “Pot-Amun is credited with having been the first to teach Theosophy, or the outlines of the Secret Wisdom-Religion, to the uninitiated” (TG 259).

Pothos (Greek) Desire; the divine love felt by spirit for its own principles (Chaos), thus the root of eros and cupido. Just as is the case with the various meanings given to the Sanskrit kama, so with pothos. Abstract kama is identic with abstract pothos, pothos itself; and as from abstract kama, spiritual divine love, springs forth the lower kama of the manifested worlds, just so from pothos mystically spring forth first eros, cosmic attraction on all planes, and then on a still lower and more material series of planes was born cupido, or attraction and yearning.

Powers In theosophical literature, usually those endowments and abilities (Sanskrit siddhis) which are said to be dormant in present mankind as a whole. It would be more accurate to say that mankind itself is at present dormant, while the powers themselves are not dormant but simply without ability to express themselves through the constitution of the present relatively sleeping mankind. Thus it is that by evolutionary advancement or initiatory training the neophyte does not rouse these powers into activity, but instead raises his human nature into the planes where these powers respectively already exist in full function. Thus, intellect is not dormant in mankind at present, but it is the human unevolved side of us which is as yet so imperfectly developed as to form a veil around the already fully evolved intellectual or manasaputric power within us. Thus, in a blind person, it is not the light which is latent or unawakened, but merely the blind person’s incapacity to see: the glorious sunlight is always there. Very often the word is employed with a qualifying adjective, such as spiritual powers, occult powers, man’s inner powers, etc.

Also, the sixth order of angels in the celestial hierarchy as enumerated by pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, ranking last in the second triad of Dominions, Virtues, and Powers. It translates the Greek exousiai; Latin, potestates (Eph 1:21; Col 1:16). In the ancient Syrian scheme, the Powers had governance over the sphere of the sun. See also PRINCIPALITIES

Prabhapala (Sanskrit) Prabhāpāla [from prabhā light, splendor + pāla protector, guard] Protector of light; in Buddhism, the name of a bodhisattva. Gautama Buddha “attained the state of Bodhisattva on earth when in the personality called Prabhapala” (TG 66).

Prabhavapyaya (Sanskrit) Prabhavāpyaya [from prabhavā the coming forth + apyaya the vanishing] That from which all things originate and into which they all resolve at the end of the life cycle; a synonym for Brahman-pradhana, or even for parabrahman-mulaprakriti. Less technically, even cosmic space in the above sense could be named as prabhavapyaya.

Prachetas (Sanskrit) Pracetas [from pra before + cetas mind] The preeminently intelligent one; a name of Varuna, the god of water. While the deity Varuna undoubtedly has its relations to earth, and more particularly to water of which he is the presiding genius, nevertheless in the cosmic sense water signifies space.

Prachetasas, Prachetasah (Sanskrit) Pracetas, Pracetaḥ [from pra before + cetas mind, understanding] The preeminently intelligent ones; the ten prachetasas were sons of Prachinabarhis and (according to the Vishnu-Purana) Savarna, the daughter of the ocean — although Savarna is stated elsewhere to be the wife of the sun. They refer historically and physiologically to the latter portions of the second root-race and to the first portions of the third root-race. The reference here is to the inspiring evolutional influence on the early human races brought about by the union or marriage of the mind-born sons of Brahma (manasaputras) with the early sweat-born and egg-born portions of the human race. Thenceforth the human race became truly intelligent and self-conscious. As nature repeats itself, they also represent the rishis of the early fifth root-race, standing for the adepts of the right-hand path.

The adepts of the left-hand path or the Atlantean sorcerers were called trees in ancient India, although trees likewise symbolized adepts of any kind. Hence, “When Vishnu Purana narrates that ‘the world was overrun with trees,’ while the Prachetasas — who ‘passed 10,000 years of austerity in the vast ocean’ — were absorbed in their devotions, the allegory relates to the Atlanteans and the adepts of the early Fifth Race — the Aryans. Other ‘trees (adept Sorcerers) spread, and overshadowed the unprotected earth; and the people perished . . . unable to labour for ten thousand years.’ Then the sages, the Rishis of the Aryan race, called Prachetasas, are shown ‘coming forth from the deep’ [symbol of wisdom and of occult learning], and destroying by the wind and flame issuing from their mouths, the iniquitous ‘trees’ and the whole vegetable kingdom; until Soma (the moon), the sovereign of the vegetable world, pacifies them by making alliance with the adepts of the Right Path, to whom he offers as bride Marisha, ‘the offspring of the trees’ ” (SD 2:495). This is an allegory of the struggle between the Sons of Light and the Sons of the Dark Wisdom.

Daksha is the son of the prachetasas and Marisha. In connection with the legend concerning the birth of Marisha, the “Sweat-born,” Daksha represents the earliest egg-born human races, those of the first portion of the third root-race. All these archaic allegories of ancient peoples are applicable, mutatis mutandis, to different periods of time, when cyclical events, under karmic government, reproduce themselves with more or less completeness. Thus it is that the prachetasas are sometimes referred to in connection with a later, Atlantean period.

The prachetasas are identical with the five ministers of Chozzar (Poseidon) of the Peratae Gnostics.

Pradhana (Sanskrit) Pradhāna [from pra before + the verbal root dhā to place] That which is first placed, or primal position, in a philosophical sequence of cosmic emanations. Undifferentiated cosmic substance; that which is the root of and first originant of prakriti (nature visible and invisible). Some philosophical schools in India use akasa as a synonym of pradhana, and one might even say that pradhana is mulaprakriti, taken in the literal sense of “root of prakriti.” Strictly speaking, pradhana is mulaprakriti in the latter’s lower ranges, and thus pradhana in its lower ranges becomes akasa. Philosophically it is the first filmy appearance of root-matter “placed before” or around Brahman. It is spoken of as the cosmic veil of Brahman, the unmanifest or First Logos.

“That which is the unevolved cause is emphatically called by the most eminent sages, pradhana, original base, which is subtile prakriti, viz., that which is eternal, and which at once is, and is not, a mere process” (VP 1:2).

Pradhanika-Brahma Spirit (Sanskrit-English) Used to describe the condition of Brahman-pradhana in its perfect involution, philosophically, a state which obtains during cosmic pralaya. Hence it is truly the next thing to parabrahman-mulaprakriti. See also PUMS

Pragna. See PRAJNA

Prahlada or Prahrada (Sanskrit) Prahlāda, Prahrāda The son of Hiranyakasipu, chief of the daityas and as such, from the standpoint of the writers of the Puranas, theologically the adversary in philosophical speculation and outlook of Vishnu. Hiranyakasipu therefore has been mistaken by Occidental writers as occupying somewhat the same place in Hindu thought that Satan has occupied in Christian theology. Prahlada, his son, became an ardent devotee of Vishnu which, according to Puranic legend, enraged his father so much that Prahlada became subjected to a variety of punishments and tortures. To save his devotee from these Vishnu assumed the form of the Nara-simha avatara (the man-lion incarnation) and killed Hiranyakasipu.

Prajapati (Sanskrit) Prajāpati [from prajā that which is brought forth from pra forth + the verbal root jan to be born + pati lord] Lord or master of progeny; applied to several Vedic gods, in particular to Brahma, the evolver-producer, the first and most recondite figure of the Hindu triad. Brahma as Prajapati symbolizes personally the collective creators of the universe with all its numberless hierarchical productions of things movable and seemingly immovable. Brahma is also collectively the Prajapatis or the lords and givers of life.

Prajapatis (Sanskrit) Prajāpati-s [from prajā that which is brought forth from pra forth + the verbal root jan to be born + pati lord] The producers, evolvers, or givers of life to all on the earth’s planetary chain, and hence lords of offspring in the hierarchical sense. Prajapatis is likewise applicable mutatis mutandis to larger hierarchical divisions, such as a solar system or galaxy. The prajapatis

“are, like the Sephiroth, only seven, including the synthetic Sephira of the triad from which they spring. Thus from Hiranyagarbha or Prajapati, the triune (primeval Vedic Trimurti, Agni, Vayu, and Surya), emanate the other seven, or again ten, if we separate the first three which exist in one . . . In the Mahabharata the Prajapati are 21 in number, or ten, six, and five (1065), thrice seven” (SD 1:89-90).

These seven, ten, or more prajapatis correspond likewise to the Mazdean Amesha-Spentas or Amshaspends and the Hindu Saptarshis. The name prajapati is most commonly given to ten rishis or sages known as the mind-born sons of Brahma: Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasishtha, Prachetas or Daksha, Bhrigu, and Narada. These are really collective names for the various classes of monads, each single prajapati representing also the spiritual-intellectual hierarch of his own particular hierarchy or class of monads. Hence the meaning of prajapati as lord or parent of offspring — the ten classes of monads corresponding each to its own proper prajapati. Further the prajapatis are the parents of the seven or ten manus. The Puranic myths with their genealogies of the seven prajapatis, rishis, or manus are “but a vast detailed account of the progressive development and evolution of animal creation, one species after the other” (SD 2:253).

“The whole personnel of the Brahmanas and Puranas — the Rishis, Prajapatis, Manus, their wives and progeny — belong to that pre-human period. All these are the Seed of Humanity, so to speak. It is around these ‘Sons of God,’ the ‘Mind born’ astral children of Brahma, that our physical frames have grown and developed to what they are now. For, the Puranic histories of all those men are those of our Monads, in their various and numberless incarnations on this and other spheres, events perceived by the ‘Siva eye’ of the ancient Seers, (the ‘third eye’ of our Stanzas) and described allegorically. Later on, they were disfigured for Sectarian purposes; mutilated, but still left with a considerable ground-work of truth in them. Nor is the philosophy less profound in such allegories for being so thickly veiled by the overgrowth of fancy” (SD 2:284).

Prajas (Sanskrit) Prajās [from pra forth + the verbal root jan to be born] That which is propagated or brought forth; creatures, offspring. Brahma, as Prajapati, is the lord of praja — lord of all creatures on earth.

Prajna (Sanskrit) Prajñā [from pra before + the verbal root jñā to know] To know through clear perception, to discern clearly; wisdom, intellectual perception or knowledge as contrasted with mere brain-mind ratiocination. Its cultivation is one of the Buddhist paramitas.

Prajnaparamita (Sanskrit) Prajñāpāramitā [from prajñā wisdom + pāramitā transcendental virtue] the wisdom transcendental virtue; one of the principal mystical works of the Mahayana school of Buddhism, supposedly written in the 2nd century BC. With the Saddharma-Pundarika (also written in Sanskrit), among the most important Mahayana works.

Prakrita (Sanskrit) Prākṛta [from prakṛti the original element] As an adjective, original, primary. In the Puranas the primary creations or the first three of the seven creations were called the prakrita creations — the developments of indiscrete nature beginning with the indiscrete principle. They are mahat-tattva (the universal soul, infinite intellect, or divine mind); bhuta or bhutasarga (elemental creation, appearances at the beginning of any manvantara of the seeds of lives now to begin their development as primordial prakritis); and indriya or aindriyaka (organic evolution).

Any provincial or vernacular dialect cognate with Sanskrit is called in India, Prakrita (Prakrit).

Prakriti (Sanskrit) Prakṛti [from pra forwards, progression + the verbal root kṛ to make, do] Production, bringing forth, originating, primordial state or condition, original substance. Nature; spiritual and ethereal substances in all their forms, visible and invisible. Its root or parent is mulaprakriti (root of prakriti), and it is to be considered with vikriti, which signifies change, alteration, or a production or evolution from the prakriti which precedes it.

“In common usage Prakriti may be called Nature in general, as the great Producer of entities or things, and through this Nature acts the ever-active Brahma or Purusha. Purusha, therefore, is Spirit, and Prakriti is its productive veil or sheath. Essentially or fundamentally the two are one, and whatever Prakriti through and by the influence of Purusha produces is the multitudinous and multiform Vikritis which make the immense variety and diversity in the Universe around us.
“In one or more of the Hindu philosophies, Prakriti is the same as Sakti, and therefore Prakriti and Sakti are virtually interchangeable with Maya or Maha-Maya or so-called illusion, Prakriti is often spoken of as ‘matter,’ but this is inexact although a very common usage; matter is rather the ‘productions’ or phases that Prakriti brings about, the Vikritis. In the Indian Sankhya philosophy Pradhana is virtually identical with Prakriti, and both are often used to signify the producing element from and out of which all illusory material manifestations or appearances are evolved” (OG 129-30).

In the Sankhya philosophy prakriti is sevenfold. These seven prakritis are mahat, ahankara, and the five tanmatras (rudimentary or subtle elements) — sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, and gandha.

The Visishtadvaita Vedantists teach as do theosophists that “every particle or atom of Prakriti contains Jiva (divine life), and is the sarira (body) of that Jiva which it contains, while every Jiva is in its turn the sarira of the supreme spirit, as ‘Parabrahm pervades every Jiva, as well as every particle of matter’” (SD 1:522).

Prakritika Pralaya and Prakritika Manvantara (Sanskrit) Prākṛtika-pralaya, -manvantara [from prakṛti nature] The dissolution and manifestation of prakriti or nature; also called the elemental pralaya because the universe then returns to its original elements. Hence in one sense it is partial because the dissolution reaches as far as the elements and there stops. The inner portions or constitution of the universe remain as it were in statu quo, which does not signify that they are inactive — any more so than the reincarnating ego is inactive when the lower quaternary of the human constitution undergoes its prakritika pralaya or death. A prakrita pralaya occurs, for instance, at the end of an Age or Life of Brahma, when the cosmos goes into pralaya; then everything that exists is resolved into the primal elements, themselves resolved into the One, only to be reissued or emanated anew at the end of the long Night or Brahma pralaya.

Prakritika pralaya may apply to a globe; when it refers to the cosmic pralaya, the resolving of the prakritis of nature goes even beyond the cosmic elements, for these are then resolved into the One.

Pralaya (Sanskrit) Pralaya [from pra away + the verbal root to dissolve] Dissolving away, death, dissolution, as when one pours water upon a cube of salt or sugar: the cube of salt or sugar vanishes in the water, dissolves, and changes its form. So during a pralaya, matter crumbles or vanishes away into something else which is yet in it, surrounds it, and interpenetrates it. Pralaya is often defined as the state of latency or rest between two manvantaras of great life cycles. During pralaya, everything differentiated, every unit, disappears from the phenomenal universe and is transferred into the noumenal essence which periodically throughout eternity gives birth to all the phenomena of nature. Pralaya is dissolution of the visible into the invisible, the heterogeneous into the homogeneous, relatively or absolutely — the objective universe returns into its one primal and eternally productive Cause, to reappear at the following cosmic dawn. To our finite minds, pralaya is like a state of nonbeing — and so it is for all existences and beings on the lower material planes.

A mahapralaya (great pralaya) is an absolute pralaya of a solar system or kosmos; a minor pralaya is a partial dissolution of some part of the solar system or cosmos, such as a planetary chain or a globe. After an absolute pralaya, when the preexisting manifested material consists of but one element, and breath “is everywhere,” the creation process acts from without inwardly; but after a minor pralaya, which involves the destruction of the corporeal vehicles of things, the inner vital essences remaining untouched, the celestial bodies begin at the first flutter of manvantara their resurrection to manifested cosmic life from within outwardly.

A pralaya is not the same as an obscuration, because an obscuration means the passage of a life-wave from a globe or equivalent celestial body to a globe on another plane. During such an obscuration the globe thus abandoned by the life-wave remains in statu quo — in a refrigerated condition, so to say — awaiting the influx of the succeeding life-wave. In the case of obscuration the vehicle remains dormant; yet this does not signify that the body is without movement, vital or psychic, of any kind. A person, for instance, when asleep is in obscuration, and it is obvious that his physical body is still alive and active after the manner of sleeping organisms.

“It is not the physical organisms that remain in statu quo, least of all their psychical principles, during the great Cosmic or even Solar pralayas, but only their Akasic or astral ‘photographs.’ But during the minor pralayas, once over-taken by ‘Night,’ the planets remain intact, though dead, as a huge animal, caught and embedded in the polar ice, remains the same for ages” (SD 1:18n).

Theosophy divides the pralayas into several kinds: the paurusha pralaya (dissolution or death of an individual person); the atyantika pralaya (nirvana of a jivanmukta); the obscuration or individual pralaya of each globe, as a life-wave passes on to the next globe; the round-obscurations or minor pralayas of the planetary chain after each round; the bhaumika pralaya (planetary pralaya) which occurs when the seven rounds of our earth-chain are completed, also called the naimittika pralaya (dissolution during the Night of Brahma); the saurya pralaya (solar pralaya) when the whole solar system is at an end; the universal mahapralaya or Brahma pralaya, usually called the prakritika pralaya or dissolution of the cosmos at the close of an Age or Life of Brahma; and the nitya pralaya or constant, incessant evolutionary changes that take place throughout the universe and therefore affect all its parts.

“When the great period of the universal kosmic pralaya occurs, and the universe is indrawn (following the Oriental metaphor) into the bosom of Parabrahman, what then happens? The spiritual entities then enter into their paranirvana, which means exactly for them what is meant for us when we speak of the death of the human being. They are drawn by their spiritual gravitational attractions into still higher hierarchies of being, into still higher spiritual realms, therein still higher rising and growing and learning and living; while the lower elements of the kosmos, the body of the universe (even as does our physical body when the change called death comes . . .), follow their own particular gravitational attractions: the physical body to dust; the vital breath to the vital breath of the kosmos; dust to dust, breath to breath. So with the other kosmic principles, as with man’s principles at his decease: the kama of our nature to the universal reservoir of the kamic organism; our manas into its dhyan-chohanic rest; our monads into their own higher life. Then when the clock of eternity points once again for the kosmos to the hour of ‘coming forth into light’ — which is ‘death’ for the spiritual being, as death for us is life for the inner man — when the manvantara of material life comes around again (the period of spiritual death for the kosmos is the material life of manifestation), then in the distant abysms of space and time the kosmic life-centers are aroused into activity once more . . .” (Fund 183).

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