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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Probation The process of testing undergone by an aspirant to initiation, who may be simply watched to see how he will meet the temptations and trials of life, or may be caused to encounter certain experiences specially designed to test his powers. The latter is very rare and appertains only to certain conditions of occult training. Life is the great school, and a person tests himself by his actions and reactions to himself and to surrounding nature. He alone thus defines or classifies himself. A candidate taking a vow places himself under such specific watching because he has issued a challenge to his lower nature, which thereupon begins a defensive warfare against him. The process is similar in principle to that undergone by an aspirant to a position of responsibility in worldly affairs, but the aspirant to wisdom has to dig deep into his own nature: he arrays against himself powers that formerly slept, ventures into regions where unknown dangers must be encountered, and by his own will and intelligence climbs the ladder to luminous victory and undreamed of success, or if he fails — he fails but to try again.

Procreation The progressive series of methods by which the human life-wave has reproduced its kind on earth is closely related to the unfolding of composite human nature, and is also a part of the evolutionary history of the rounds and races. The reimbodying ego manifested its composite nature in the degree corresponding to the various gradations of matter in and through which it slowly descended, plane after plane, to the present state of things. Evidences of this series of former kinds of racial imbodiments, and of the progressive modes of reproduction are found repeated in the development of the human embryo, in the persistence of vestigial organs in adults, and in reproductive methods which still prevail in the lower kingdoms of plant and animal life. The histologist, in watching the division of cells, sees a microscopic review of the age-old history of mankind’s series of imbodiments. He observes, in the lowest forms of life, a homogeneous speck of protoplasm dividing into two. Next, in a nucleated cell, the cell nucleus splits into two subnuclei which develop within the cell wall, or burst through to multiply outside into independent entities. This fission is a copy of the reproductive method of the first root-race. The next type of cell division is budding, where a portion of the parent swells out at the surface, finally to separate and to grow into a full-sized individual, as in many vegetables, the sea anemone, etc. This repeats the way in which the primeval human race merged out of its first reproductive method. At the next step in biology, the parent organism throws off a single cell which develops into a multicellular organism like the parent, as in bacteria and mosses. The formation of these spores is followed by a type of intermediate hermaphroditism with the bisexual organs inhering in the same individual, as in plants. Corresponding to this, about the middle of the second root-race, the “buds” grew more numerous and became what zoologists would call human spores or seeds, or what Blavatsky described as vital sweat. Thus many of these buds at certain seasons when the parent entity had become mature, would leave it, as do the spores or seeds of plants today. These seeds were taken care of by nature and developed in the proper environment. At present, the exceptional cases of multiple human births hint at this long-past condition in procreation.

After several millions of years, the second root-race gradually developed into the early third root-race, when the then human individuals became androgynous. These produced a fertile germ which was cast off as an egg, somewhat as takes place in birds and certain reptiles today. These human eggs slowly matured, and finally the infant issued forth unaided much as the chick does now. The hermaphrodite early third root-race, under the impulse or urging of inherent laws of emanation or evolution, gradually began to separate the sexes in their prenatal eggs, so that as this race, in its turn, moved towards its merging into the fourth root-race, children were born in ever increasing numbers from the womb as they are today.

Not only have the series of reproductive methods been in keeping with the changing conditions of the rounds and races, but this is seen now in those races whose time is nearly run, where their end is hastened by an unusual sterility in the women, not otherwise explained. Furthermore, the present method of procreation, like all the preceding ones, is a passing phase of human reimbodiment and will in time become human evolutionary history, and other methods, already foreshadowed, will have taken its place. As man, evolving upon the ascending arc, brings forth his higher nature, his progeny will be brought forth from himself as generating source by his voluntary spiritual and intellectual creative powers.

Progenitors. See PITRIS

Prometheus (Greek) [from pro fore + metis counsel] The foreknower, he who knows beforehand, in contrast with his brother Epimetheus (the one who knows after, or when it is too late). Like other symbols, it has its seven keys of interpretation, which not merely reconciles but renders necessary the various versions of the story. Son of the titan Iapetos, Prometheus stole fire from heaven in a hollow tube (narthex) and brought it to mankind, who thereby was enlightened; for this Prometheus was chained by Zeus to a rock on Mt. Caucasus, where an eagle devours his liver by day, the liver being restored by night; until finally he is released by Hercules or Dionysos.

Ovid tells that after Deukalion’s flood, Zeus ordered Prometheus and Athene to create a new race of men out of mud; he made them in the image of the gods with an upright posture, after Epimetheus had succeeded in fashioning only mindless creatures. This represents a stage in the history of the downward arc of evolution, which may be interpreted cosmically, geographically, and in relation to man. It is in one sense the descent of the manasaputras, agnishvattas, and other Sons of Flame, who endowed the mindless forms with the divine spark; so that Prometheus is Lucifer, Phosphoros, the Light-bringer, the serpent of Eden, etc.

In the antithesis between Zeus (here not the supreme Olympian lord) and Prometheus, is the antagonism between the Hebrew Lord God and the serpent. The so-called disobedience of these fallen angels is an act of spiritual chivalry, in which the divine prerogative of free will is exercised in the spirit of compassion, an old order is superseded, and a new chapter in evolution is begun. In both stories the deity invokes a curse upon the fallen angel and his new humanity; and this curse is fulfilled in the suffering caused by the conflict between the two natures in man thus awakened. Prometheus, who may also be taken as representing humanity, is fastened to a rock representing karmic destiny, while the vultures of new-born knowledge and self-consciousness gnaw at his inner being. But the curse ends in a blessing, and Hercules or Dionysos delivers the Chrestos or immanent Christ, enlightens and raises the neophyte.

The story is in one sense but another version of that of manas between kama and buddhi. Zeus represents the host of primeval progenitors, pitris (fathers) who formed man without mind; and Prometheus symbolizes the host of spiritual creators who “fell” into matter — humanity — to enlighten the latter. The drama of Prometheus is thus still enacted through the ages — but man can rebecome the unfallen titan. Geographical allusions to the locations of the great root-races are seen in the mention of Mt. Caucasus, a name for the far north where the Aryan race, as an instance, was first developed.

The name of the Hebrew Prometheus is Azazel.

Promised Land Exoterically, the so-called Holy Land of Palestine, which was promised to the Hebrews as the goal of their wanderings. All peoples of the earth cherish the hope of reaching a Promised Land where peace, happiness, and prosperity will once again be the endowment of the human race. Esoterically it is nirvana or the pristine spiritual laya-state from which issued the eternal monad and to which it shall ultimately return. It also refers to the sublime consummation of human evolutionary destiny which will take place at the end of the seventh round on the last globe of our planetary chain; and to the reaching by the neophyte through self-devised efforts and initiation of the full status of mahatmaship or minor dhyan-chohanship even on this earth.

Promati. See PRAMATI

Propator (Greek) Forefather; in Gnosticism, the primordial or First Logos as distinct from that from which it emanates. The “Book of Numbers” explains that ’eyn soph (the boundless) is the only self-existent, whereas its depth or bythos, to which is given the name of Propator, is periodical, because the beginning of manvantaric manifestation. The distinction is the same as that between Brahman and Brahma.

Prophecy The power of predicting the future, either by mystic vision or by a knowledge of the laws of cycles. Those versed in the latter can predict future cataclysms, racial events, etc., as surely as astronomers can predict eclipses, and astrology insofar as it concerns prediction, comes under this head. Prophet originally meant one who speaks for another, usually the deity, as in the view of the Hebrews expressed in the Old Testament. See also PREVISION; PREMONITION

Propositions, Fundamental. See FUNDAMENTAL PROPOSITIONS

Proserpine. See PERSEPHONE

Protean Soul Any one of the several souls of the different monads or egos in nature and in man, which undergo numerous changes of type and form. More commonly used in theosophical writings to describe the vital-astral-physical part of the lower quaternary. Such souls are in their actions but reflexes of shifting thoughts and moods of the egos which they clothe. The name is taken from the Greek sea god Proteus who could take on all sorts of shapes.

Proteus (Greek) The prophetic old man of the sea, a subject or son of Poseidon. Homer places him in the island of Pharos, one day’s journey from the Nile, while Vergil makes him an inhabitant of the Carpathian Sea between Crete and Rhodes. According to legend, he rose from the sea at midday and slept in the shade of the rocks, with sea monsters round him; anyone wishing to consult him must try to seize him at that time. To avoid prophesying, he assumed all sorts of dreadful shapes; if however he saw that his efforts were unavailing, he resumed his usual shape and gave his response. Here is an emblem of the astral light, so deceptive to the unwary and timorous, yet yielding its secrets to him who knows how to control it.

Protean is often used as epithet for anything that is changing and multiform, as for example the material basis of nature, which appears in so infinite a variety of forms. Human nature likewise is a protean monster; and he who would find his real spiritual self must be prepared to meet its many illusory phantoms and withstand them all, being neither seduced nor terrified. Thus Proteus may be described as ever-changing nature, the child of the waters of space; nature assuming all forms because of innate impulses and according to inherent laws, can give to the one who consults and controls it, intimations of the future as well as of the past.

Protogonos (Greek) First-born; variously used of first emanations, e.g., the Heavenly Man, the first emanation from the passive divine; the manifested Logos; or in reference to the first-born Light.

Used of any manifested god in a universe, and hence of our sun.

Protologos (Greek) First Logos; the archetypal cosmic man or synthesis of the ten Sephiroth in the Qabbalah; the prajapatis in India, etc. Used either collectively, as Brahman for instance; or distributively, protologoi, as his seven or ten sons. Equated with Vishnu, Purvaja, Atman, etc.

The protologoi are the primordial seven or ten formative conscious cosmic forces, or conscious cosmic rays emanating from Brahman, which the various religious systems tend to anthropomorphize into logoi or archangels.

Protomateria [from Greek protos first, original + Latin materia matter] The primordial matter which, infilled with the karmic seeds from the preceding manvantara, evolves out of itself the cosmos. In some of its aspects equivalent to subtle prakriti or pradhana.

Protoplasm [from Greek protos first + plasma form] The semi-fluid granular substance found in all forms of organic life; the primal type of physical matter which appears as merely homogeneous, amorphous, gelatinous substance, yet with the potentiality of differentiating into every known organized form and function. The biological basis of manifesting life on the physical plane, it is semi-astral matter operating at the level where “the two realms, the lower astral and the ethereal-physical, here melt or merge into each other” (ET 151 3rd & rev ed). As a physicalization of vital astral substance, it interlinks the tangible world of forms to the invisible world of living forces and the root-types in the evolutionary ground plan. “Astral matter, it must be noted, is fourth state matter, having, like our gross matter, its own ‘protyle.’ There are several ‘protyles’ in Nature, corresponding to the various planes of matter” (SD 2:737). This ethereal gradation of substances affords a medium or stairway for the transmission of the living impulses and forces of lofty intelligences which are the vitalizing and directing cause of every protoplasmic seed or center differentiating and evolving, each after its own kind and in its own degree of unfolding. In the lower kingdoms where all forms of plant and animal life begin in this seemingly indifferent substance, their essential nature and instincts operate under the vitalizing influence of a hierarchy of dhyani-chohanic entities who, in the aggregate, represent and are the so-called laws of nature. In addition to this creative supervision, in self-conscious man his own spiritual essence is allied with the operation of the karmic agents in working out his fleshly imbodiments. The fertilized germ-cell of the human embryo is a microscopic copy of the protoplasmic second human root-race, “huge and highly ethereal astral Cells . . . infilled with the astral essence of the lowest of the Dhyani-Chohanic fluids” (ET 151 3rd & rev ed).

Protyle [from Greek protos first + hyle matter] Used by the English chemist Crookes (1832-1919) for a then hypothetical substance of which he believed the chemical elements to be differentiations; used in this sense by Blavatsky and also in a general sense for rudimentary, primordial, or undifferentiated matter. In this wider meaning, there are many protyles, each being the matter of its own plane in the undifferentiated condition; so that the protyle of Crookes would be the undifferentiated basis of physical matter, and therefore quasi-astral. The fundamental cosmic protyle is pradhana or mulaprakriti.

Providence [from Latin providens foreseeing] In man, prudence, foresight, practical wisdom; but applied to a divine being, it has come to mean in the Occident protective care qualified by a wisdom superior to ours. Equivalent to the Greek phronesis, translated divine light. See also KARMA; NEMESIS

Prshu, Presha (Sanskrit) Preṣa [from preṣ to drive away, drive forth] Repulsion; “to lay down the scientific proposition that since akrshu (attraction) and Prshu (repulsion) are the law of nature, there can be no intercourse or relations between clean and unclean Souls — embodied or disembodied; and hence, ninety-nine hundredths of supposed spiritual communications, are, prima facie false” (ML 35).

Akrshu, commonly akarsha [from a-krish to attract, pull towards one] means attraction, a pull to oneself, and is used in connection with the magnet or lodestone.

Prthi, Prthu. See PRITHI

Prthivi. See PRITHIVI

Prthivi-bhuta. See PRITHIVI-BHUTA

Prthivi-tattva. See PRITHIVI-TATTVA

Prulpai-ku (Tibetan) sprul-pahi-sku [from sprul-pa a phantom, disembodied spirit] An incarnation or tulku, generally referring to a Tibetan lama; also used for a person in whom the emanation from some divinity or former saint is present in an occult manner.

Prunikos (Gnostic) One of the female Gnostic aeons emanated from the hierarch or supreme aeon. She is described as having descended into Chaos, and because of becoming so laden there with matter, she was unable to escape from it to return to the heavenly regions, nor was she able to descend to lower spheres, not having anything in her nature akin to those lower realms. Therefore she remained in midspace and produced a son, Ilda-Baoth. He in turn produced seven aeons, who by emanation produced the seven heavens.

Prunikos is also credited with infusing into man the celestial spark — his spirit.

Pryderi (Welsh) Anxiety, deep thought, meditation; son of Pwyll Pen Annwn. With Pwyll, a custodian of the cauldron of reincarnation (or initiation) in Caer Pedryfan in Annwn.


Psuchikos, Psychikos (Greek) The adjective of psuche or psyche, manas in conjunction with kama. In its mental aspects psyche is the distorted reflection of the higher aspect of manas, whereas the nous is manas overenlightened by buddhi. In the New Testament psuchikos is translated “natural” (1 Cor 15:46) and “sensual” (James 3:15) and thus is confused with the vital-emotional or corporeal parts of man, and the teaching of the duality of the human being is lost sight of. The correct word for the vital-physical or “natural” part of man is somatikos. See also PSYCHIC POWERS

Psyche (Greek) [from psycho breathe, blow; cf Greek pneuma from pneo to breathe, blow; Latin anima, spiritus all connected with breath, wind, spirit, life, soul] Used in classic Greek as vaguely as is our word soul; but in Platonic philosophy and theosophical usage, the lower or carnally influenced aspect of the mind or soul, as contrasted with the higher or spiritually influenced aspect: kama-manas as against buddhi-manas, the latter represented by the Greek nous. From these two words are derived the adjectives psychic and noetic.

The story of Cupid and Psyche — where Psyche represents the human soul as such, apart from special connection with buddhi or kama — depicts the search for happiness, or the course of human love. Psyche is of mortal birth, but so beautiful that Venus herself becomes jealous and sends Cupid to inspire Psyche with love for an unworthy object. But Cupid himself becomes enamored of Psyche. The love between Cupid and Psyche cannot be realized in the atmosphere of earthly passion and delusion, and is fulfilled only when Psyche, reconciled with Venus, is taken to the Olympian heights. The emblem of Psyche was the butterfly, which in winged joy comes forth into the sunlight from its prison of caterpillar and chrysalis.

The Greek verb from which psyche is derived also means to chill, make cold; and this has an application to the psyche as the lower part of the human soul and therefore closely connected with the kama-rupa and astral light after death. Hence it is that those who dabble in necromantic experiments, or even in psychic experiences, often refer to a damp, chill, and often clammy sensation in the atmosphere when contact with these kama-rupic entities is made. This should be warning that such contact is not only highly unwholesome, but a danger signal that one is dealing with death and decay.

Psychic Powers Powers pertaining to the lower intermediate human nature — i.e, between the mental-emotional and the physical — including powers of perception such as astral vision, the lower clairvoyance and clairaudience, the lower psychometry and seership, etc.; and lower biases or tendencies such as hypnotism, the power to produce minor occult phenomena of many kinds, and in connection with the power of automatic astral projection. In their nature they are morally neutral, being susceptible of use or misuse just as are physical powers. If used with an evil or selfish purpose, the action is black magic; and even if used without such motive or with good intention, they may prove confusing and therefore misleading for one who ventures to use them.

The existence of such powers should be recognized and we should hope some day to be able to avail ourselves properly of them, but a prime requisite in discipleship is equal and harmonious development. We may attain psychic powers by observing the conditions under which they may safely and profitably be allowed to develop. The presence of vanity, ambition, self-assertion, egoism, and similar qualities prove a bar, and the aspirant who is sincerely desirous of eliminating these defects will not willingly adopt a course likely to enhance them. There is no hard-and-fast division of powers into psychic, physical, mental, etc.: we may contemplate the gradual development of our mental faculties without defining a point where we have stepped out of the ordinary into the occult; and our perceptions may become refined by gradual stages without any sudden jump from one plane to another.

Theosophy enjoins students to let psychic powers alone, until they develop normally and naturally in the progress of the student along the path of wisdom and self-mastery. The craze for psychic powers and attempts in their cultivation arise almost invariably out of ignorance of the existence in ourselves of far higher and more powerful forces which can always be employed with safety, and even profit, to the individual. These greater powers are those classed as spiritual and intellectual-aspirational — powers which ennoble and dignify man, containing in themselves capacities for amazing effects. Their use is always safe once they are understood and studied. By their side the psychic powers, attributes, and faculties are like the puny efforts of children to copy adults.

Psychikos. See PSUCHIKOS

Psychography Soul-writing; coined by theosophical writers on occult phenomena for various kinds of inspirational or phenomenally produced writing. In its highest sense it may mean writing under the influence of inspiration from a high source, whether within or without the nature of the writer, as when one writes things which in his ordinary state of mind he would be incapable of rising to. Or it may refer to physical mediumship, where the writing is produced unconsciously by the astrally controlled hand of the medium, and the ideas come from some source in the astral light. It can also include automatic writing of various kinds, and writing by precipitation. As regards the advisability of seeking or cultivating such powers, any practice which involves a surrender of control, either of the mind or the body, to an extraneous influence is detrimental. A writer in full possession of his faculties may by sincere aspiration draw upon higher sources within himself or upon the aid given by those Helpers who stand ready to respond to such aspirations. Self-deception, however, is one of the commonest failings of human nature.

Psychologization. See HYPNOTISM

Psychology In philosophy, the systematic study of mind, as opposed to physics or the study of matter. Applied in theosophy to the attributes, qualities, and powers of the human intermediate nature, contrasted with physiology. In ancient times psychology was the science of soul; and this science being the causative, and physiology the effective or consequential, no one was considered an informed or expert physiologist who was not previously trained in psychology. In modern days, due to an almost utter ignorance of the inner nature of man, psychology has largely been based on physiology, if indeed not a vague type of physiology itself.

Psychomental Referring to the human intermediate nature, manas and kama.

Psychometry In its scientific sense, the measuring of the time taken by mental processes and sensations; borrowed by Prof. J. R. Buchanan to signify the occult power of receiving from various articles impressions as to their owners or as to events connected with them. It is the seeing or reading with the inner sight of incidents that have taken place in the neighborhood of physical articles. The art has been applied to such objects as fossils, fragments of ancient ruins, and old manuscripts, and the psychometers have been able by touching these articles, putting them to their forehead, etc., to describe ancient civilizations and bygone, forgotten, or unknown pages in human or world history. These phenomena show that material objects retain the impressions of events with which they have been associated, and presumably exert an influence even upon people who do not have psychometric power. This throws light on the subject of talismans, amulets, relics, etc.

The astral light is nature’s storehouse of the images of events, and contact with the object puts the psychometer in rapport with the impressions concerned. The psychometer brings his inner self in contact with the “soul” of the object. But as the phenomena involve the properties of planes other than the physical, any attempt to explain them in terms of the physical plane must necessarily be lame. The physical plane limits both the powers of nature and our own faculties, and the psychometer rises to a plane where some of these barriers are removed, for nothing is destroyed and there is unity and intercommunication throughout all nature.

Psychophobia Fear of soul; coined by Blavatsky (IU 1:46), and applied to all-denying materialists who refuse to believe anything outside of their experience of the physical world.

Psychopomp (Greek) A conductor of souls; applied to Charon, Apollo, and especially to Hermes, who was the conductor of souls to Hades or the Underworld and back again, an office assigned by Christians to Jesus Christ after his resurrection. The mystery of death, descent into Hades, and resurrection were enacted in initiation ceremonies, as depicted in Egyptian glyphs, where the dog-headed Anubis — the Egyptian Hermes — conducts the candidate.

“Mercury in his psychopompic character, conducting and guiding with the caduceus the souls of the dead to Hades and even raising the dead to life with it, . . . shows the dual power of the Secret Wisdom: the black and the white magic. It shows this personified Wisdom guiding the Soul after death, and its power to call to life that which is dead — a very deep metaphor . . .” (SD 2:364).

Ptah (Egyptian) Ptaḥ [from to engrave, carve, fashion] One of the most ancient deities, and in his higher attributes one of the most abstract, whose worship goes back to the earliest part of the dynastic period; the principal deity of Memphis (Men-nefer), also known as Het-ka-Ptah (the city of Ptah). The deity is also called Ptah-neb-ankh (giver of life). He was addressed as the “father of beginnings; creator of the eggs of the sun and moon, he who created his own image, who fashioned his own body”; and was depicted as fashioning the world-egg upon a potter’s wheel. Together with Khnemu, he carried out the commands of Thoth for the creation of the universe. While Khnemu fashioned man and the animals, whether of the cosmos or of earth, Ptah was engaged in the construction of the heavens and the earth. In later times the Greeks associated him with Hephaestos, the Latins with Vulcan; but in addition to the attributes connected with the earth, in the Underworld (Tuat) Ptah was regarded as the fashioner of the bodies for the pilgrims who entered that realm after death.

Ptah is the spiritual side of the demiurgic Third Logos, as Osiris was the more manifest side or aspect — Ptah being the cosmogonical prototype of Osiris. In his association with Osiris as Ptah-Seker, Ptah represents a personification of the union of the primeval creative power with a form of the inert powers of darkness, the creative powers before manifestation during pralaya. In his connection with the primeval god Tenen, Ptah-Tenen is portrayed as bearing the hook and flail of Osiris and to him is allocated certain regions of the Underworld.

Ptahil, Pthahil. See FETAHIL

Pudding-bags The name given by Blavatsky to the humans-to-be of the first root-race and the very earliest of the second root-race during the fourth round on globe D; so called because the human structural framework had not as yet begun to manifest by unfolding from within outwards, and because the shape of these still mindless individuals was roughly ovoid or egg-shaped. The consistency of these bodies was astral or condensed astral, verging into ordinary physical stuff of somewhat gelatinous or pudding-like character. As time passed, these pudding-bag bodies very quickly began to unfold into the roughly human form as we now know it, although due to the refining processes of evolution, our present bodies are of much shapelier outline than were the first appearances from the pudding-bags. Thus these pudding-bags in a sense may be truly described as huge astral-physical shells or skins. These early humans propagated themselves by fission, as do individual cells and unicellular organisms today. This procedure is an early evolutionary stage in the process of the bringing forth of the underlying true human structural framework as we now know it; the structure and organization of the pudding-bags, compared with what now they are, were then at a minimum. See also ROOT-RACE, FIRST

Puja (Sanskrit) Pūjā [from the verbal root pūj to honor, worship] An offering of reverence and honor; veneration; homage and respect to superiors or to something held divine or sacred, whether made to living beings or even to idols.

Pulaha (Sanskrit) Pulaha An ancient rishi, one of the mind-born sons of Brahma, also enumerated among the prajapatis.

Pulastya (Sanskrit) Pulastya An ancient rishi, regarded as one of the mind-born sons of Brahma and the medium through which some at least of the Puranas were given to mankind. It is stated that he received the Vishnu-Purana from Brahma and then communicated it through Maitreya. He is also said to be the father of all the serpents, initiates, and nagas, and of other symbolical beings.

Puloma (Sanskrit) Pulomā One of the daughters of the danava Vaisvanara. She and her sister Kalaka were mothers of thirty million danavas by Kasyapa. They are said to have lived in Hiranyapura (the golden city), which floats in the air — the sun. Their children were called paulomas and kalakanjas.

Pums (Sanskrit) Puṃs Cosmic spirit, cosmic Purusha; one, pure, imperishable, eternal, all-pervading, it is a portion of that supreme manifested cosmic entity Brahma. Pums, like Purusha, means “man,” the term transferred to the cosmic spirit envisaged very much as the Hebrew Qabbalists envisaged ’Adam Qadmon (primordial cosmic man). Equivalent also to the First or Unmanifest Logos of Greek philosophy and the Father in the Christian Trinity.

Punarjanman (Sanskrit) Punarjanman [from punar again, anew + janman generation, birth, coming into being] Regeneration, rebirth, reimbodiment; it deals with the successive reimbodiments of nature and of all that it comprises, with death and initiation, and with spiritual birth. The Greek equivalent is palingenesis.

Pundarikaksha (Sanskrit) Puṇḍarīkākṣa The lotus-eyed; a title of Vishnu and Krishna, which implies that unity of divine compassion and divine intelligence which even in human beings has its faint reflection through the windows of the eyes.

Puraka (Sanskrit) Pūraka [from the verbal root pṛ to fill] Inhaling; one of the practices used in hatha yoga for the regulation of the breath. In puraka, the right nostril is closed with the forefinger and then the breath is drawn up through the left nostril; and then the left nostril is closed and the air drawn up through the right nostril. Unless such practices are conducted under direct supervision of an adept, the breath control practices of puraka, kumbhaka, and rechaka are very dangerous to the health and disturb the mental balance, often causing insanity, and hence cannot be recommended.

Purana (Sanskrit) Purāṇa Ancient, old, an ancient tale or legend. The 18 Hindu scriptures known today as the Puranas are ancient legends of olden times, written in verse, partly in symbolical and allegorical and partly in quasi-historical language. They are supposed originally to have been composed by Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata. A Purana is a work which has five distinguishing topics (pancha-lakshanas): 1) the creation of the universe; 2) its destruction and renovation; 3) the genealogy of gods and patriarchs; 4) the reigns of the manus, forming the periods called manvantaras; and 5) the history of the solar and lunar races of kings.

The invariable form of the Puranas is of a dialogue between an exponent or teacher and an inquirer or disciple, interspersed with the dialogues and observations of other individuals. In addition to the Puranas there are 18 subordinate Upa-puranas. The Puranas are popularly classified in India under three categories corresponding to the gunas sattva, rajas, and tamas. Those in which the quality of sattva (purity) prevails are: the Vishnu, Naradiya, Bhagavata, Garuda, Padma, and Varaha Puranas, also called the Vaishnava-Puranas. Those in which rajas (passion) are said to prevail, relating chiefly to the god Brahma, are the Brahma, Brahmanda, Brahma-vaivarta, Markandeya, Bhavishya, and Vamana Puranas. Those in which tamas (inertia) is said to prevail, relating chiefly to the god Siva, are the Matsya, Kurma, Linga, Siva, Skanda, and Agni Puranas.

The Puranas ingeniously interweave allegory with cosmic facts and far later human events. “Puranic astronomy, with all its deliberate concealment and confusion for the purpose of leading the profane off the real track, was shown even by Bentley to be a real science; and those who are versed in the mysteries of Hindu astronomical treatises, will prove that the modern theories of the progressive condensation of nebulae, nebulous stars and sun, with the most minute details about the cyclic progress of asterisms — far more correct than Europeans have even now — for chronological and other purposes, were known in India to perfection.

“If we turn to geology and zoology we find the same. What are all the myths and endless genealogies of the seven Prajapati and their sons, the seven Rishis or Manus, and of their wives, sons and progeny, but a vast detailed account of the progressive development and evolution of animal creation, one species after the other? . . .”
“ . . . 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 2:253, 284).

Puranic Anglicized adjective of Purana.

Purgatory [from Latin purgare to purify] The place whither, according to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, the souls of those who have died in grace, but with sins yet unexpiated, pass for purificatory suffering before entering heavenly bliss. They are supposed, somewhat superstitiously, to be helped by the prayers of the living and especially by religious ceremonials such as the celebration of the Mass. The doctrine of purgatory is one of the immemorial beliefs of the human race found the world over, although expressed in different fashions; it is frequently referred to in various passages in the Greek and Latin literatures.

In theosophical teachings the defunct entity must pass through the various spheres of kama-loka, in the norm rising steadily upwards, in order to be purified from its gross and earth-bound attributes and elements, before entering into the state of devachan. These post-mortem purgatorial or cleansing processes are not of the nature of punishment, but are natural processes of purification escapable by none.

Purohita (Sanskrit) Purohita [from puras foremost, in front + hita from the verbal root dhā to place] One who has been placed foremost; a family priest or domestic chaplain. In Hindu myths the deity of the planet Jupiter, Brihaspati, was called the purohita of the Hindu Olympus and the spiritual guru of the gods.

Pururavas (Sanskrit) Purūravas In Hindu philosophical mysticism and epic literature, the son of Budha, regent of the planet Mercury and equivalent to cosmic wisdom. Budha is given as the son of Soma, the moon, and Ila or Ida, the ethereal earth. Pururavas is an extremely occult character, mentioned both in the Vedas and Puranas. In the Vedas he seems to be connected with the functions of the sun, Surya, while according to later writers he is one of the ten belonging to the class of visvadevas. His cosmic functions are those belonging to the realms of mahat or cosmic mind, and therefore Pururavas is that faculty of cosmic intelligence which guides cosmic evolution and directs it. The visvadevas are entities whose fields of activity are the intermediate region of our universe.

In the epics, Pururavas is the famous prince of the Soma-vansa (lunar dynasty), the father of Ayus and the ancestor of Puru, Dushyanta, Bharata, Kuru, Dhritarashtra, and Pandu. He is supposed to have instituted the three sacrificial fires, and is likewise the hero of the Vikramorvasi.

According to the Vedas and Puranas was famous for being the first to produce the sacred triad of fires by the friction of two sticks as many finger-breadths long as there are syllables in the Gayatri, and made of the wood of the asvattha tree (the tree of wisdom). This legend is full of occult meaning hid under archaic allusions. Pururavas is a generalized name for the human monad which in imbodiment is at once the son of divine wisdom and spirit, and of space or mystic earth. The triad of sacred fires are the fire of spirit or inspiration and intuition, the fire of intellect, and the fires of matter or space; and the union of these three into the one generalized fire of the human constitution forms in a sense the field of self-consciousness as well as of the self-conscious ego itself.

Purusha (Sanskrit) Puruṣa Man; the ideal or cosmic man, equivalent to the Qabbalistic ’Adam Qadmon. It contains with prakriti or nature all the seven, ten, or twelve scales of manifested being. Mystically, Purusha is used for the spiritual self or monad in each self-conscious entity, whether a universe, solar system, or human being; also it is sometimes interchangeable with Brahma, the evolver or creator. Purusha is what is called energy or force in science, if these words include the inseparable attribute of intelligence and moral harmony.

Purusha and prakriti stand to each other as the two poles of the same homogeneous, intelligent, living, cosmic substance, the root-principle of the universe, sometimes called svabhavat. In Kapila’s Sankhya philosophy, “unless, allegorically speaking, Purusha mounts on the shoulders of Prakriti, the latter remains irrational, while the former remains inactive without her. Therefore Nature (in man) must become a compound of Spirit and Matter before he becomes what he is; and the Spirit latent in Matter must be awakened to life and consciousness gradually” (SD 2:42).

Purusha corresponds to the Greek First or Unmanifest Logos; yet at times the svabhavic characteristics of Purusha are reminiscent rather of the Third or Manifest Logos, which shows the various functions attributed to Purusha in cosmogony which have gained currency at different times in Hindu thought. See also LOGOS; PUMS

Purusha Narayana (Sanskrit) Puruṣa nārāyaṇa The spirit moving on the waters of space, a title of Brahma, virtually equivalent to the Qabbalistic ’Adam Qadmon.

Purusha-pasu (Sanskrit) Puruṣa-paśu [from puruṣa man + paśu domesticated animal] Man-animal. Nara-paśu, also “man-animal,” is often applied contemptuously to an uninitiated person (a mere animal in sacred things).

Purushasukta (Sanskrit) Puruṣasūkta [from Puruṣa man, heavenly man + sūkta vedic hymn] The Purusha hymn, or hymn of the Rig-Veda (10:90) describing the cosmic soul or source of the universe. This hymn, harmonious and corroborative of the esoteric doctrines, relates to some of the earliest chapters of cosmogony, and also on the human scale to the earliest race or races of mankind.

Purushottama (Sanskrit) Puruṣottama [from puruṣa man, spirit + uttama best, highest, primordial] The best of men; metaphysically, the divinity within the heart of all things, the supreme spirit of the universe. Also a title of Vishnu.

Purvaja (Sanskrit) Pūrvaja [from pūrva before + ja born] Born before; a title of Vishnu. The first appearance of the cosmic Logos, its earliest or primordial activities or manifestations as being born before all else in the universe which will be emanated or evolved from it. Equivalent to the Orphic Protologos.

Purva-mimansa (Sanskrit) Pūrva-mīmāṃsā [from pūrva prior + mīmāṃsā profound or striving thought or meditation from the verbal root man to think] Inquiry into the first portion of the Veda — the matra portion; the fifth of the six Darsanas or schools of Hindu philosophy. The school of philosophy in our days considered to be chiefly concerned with the correct interpretation of the Vedic texts; hence sometimes called the First Vedantic School. Jaimini is reputed to be its founder, as well as the author of the Mimansa-darsana, the sutras or aphorisms which constitute its chief doctrinal authority. This school is also sometimes termed Karma-mimansa because of the doctrine advocated that by its teaching one can be more or less freed from the making of new karma.

The more advanced portion of the Mimansa is called the Vedanta, which is the present-day theosophy of Hindustan. The Vedanta, also called the Uttara-mimansa, is attributed to Vyasa, the arranger of the Vedas, as its founder.

Purvardha (Sanskrit) Pūrvārdha [from pūrva first + ardha half] The first half or portion of anything; as in the Orient, the East has always been called the first, purvardga signifies the eastern parts. In grammar an incomplete poetic line, the first half of a hemistich.

Purvashadha (Sanskrit) Pūrvāṣāḍhā The 18th or 20th lunar asterism.

Pushan (Sanskrit) Pūṣan [from the verbal root puṣ to nourish, feed] The nourisher; a name of the sun, who nourishes and feeds all within his kingdom from his own vital substance and power. As one of the Vedic gods, the surveyor of all things, the conductor on journeys, and the guide on the way to the next world, functions reminiscent of Hermes or Mercury in classical thought.

The Taittiriya-Brahmana says that “when Prajapati formed living beings, Pushan nourished them.” This Pushan is “the same mysterious force that nourishes the foetus and unborn babe, by Osmosis, and which is called the ‘atmospheric (or akasic) nurse,’ and the ‘father nourisher.’ When the lunar Pitris had evolved men, these remained senseless and helpless, and it is ‘Pushan who fed primeval man’ ” (TG 265).

Pushkala (Sanskrit) Puṣkala Complete, preeminent in perfected completion; a name of several entities or things, e.g., a son of Varuna, a rishi, a buddha, Siva, and an asura, as well as of Mount Meru, which is the most important meaning.

Pushkara-dvipa (Sanskrit) Puṣkara-dvīpa Blue lotus flower; in the Puranas, the seventh of the seven dvipas (continents or islands) of which the world is composed; or the seventh globe of the planetary chain.

P’u-to (Chinese) A sacred island in China, a famous seat of Buddhist teaching. Many statues are erected to Kwan-yin, the patron deity, and to Kwan-shai-yin.

Putra (Sanskrit) Putra Son.

Putrasthana (Sanskrit) Putrasthāna [from putra son + sthāna place, dwelling, astrological mansion] Son’s mansion; the fifth house or sign in Hindu astrology.

Pu-tsi-k’iun-ling (Chinese) The universal savior of all living beings; the inscription appearing over the statue of Kwan-shi-yin (Avalokitesvara). Also used as a title of the Buddha.

Puttam A Hindu term pertaining to a malicious imp or haunting spook said to haunt the places where bodies are burned, occasionally going from this region to torment the living; equivalent to the Sanskrit pisacha.

Pwyll (Welsh) Impulse, reason, sense, wit, discretion; a hero of the first branch of the Mabinogi, Prince of Dyfed (modern Pembrokeshire) who, while hunting set his dogs on a stag that was being hunted by Arawn, King of Annwn, with the result that he reigned a year and a day in Arawn’s stead in Annwn (the Underworld), and became known as Pwyll Pen Annwn (Pwyll, Chief of the Underworld). We also get glimpses of him as a vaster cosmic figure: when Arthur made his voyage into the Underworld to obtain the cauldron of reincarnation, its custodians in Caer Perryfan were Pwyll and Pryderi (his son); and this voyage of Arthur as recounted in Taliesin’s poem Preiddieu Annwn (the Spoils of Annwn) is a symbol of the descent of spirit into matter — the cosmic plan.

Pygmalion (Greek) In Greek legend, a king of Cyprus and a sculptor who makes an ivory image of a maiden, Galatea, so lifelike that he can scarcely believe it to be inanimate, and so beautiful that he falls in love with it. Thereupon he prays Aphrodite to animate it and, his prayer being granted, they are wedded and live in happiness. This story probably originated in the teachings about the building up in the constitution and life of the aspirant of a self-conscious and cognizing soul, which finally becomes conjoined in perfect unity with its own creator, the spiritual soul.

Pymander [from Greek Poimandres shepherd of men] The logoic divine intelligence, or thought divine; the best known of the surviving portions of the Hermetic books, the writings of Hermes Trismegistus; also a title of Hermes himself. “The Egyptian Prometheus and the personified Nous or divine light, which appears to and instructs Hermes Trismegistus, in a hermetic work called ‘Pymander’ ” (TG 266).

Said to be an abridgment of one of the Books of Thoth by a Platonist of Alexandria, remodeled in the 3rd century after old Greek and Phoenician manuscripts by a Jewish Qabbalist and called the Genesis of Enoch (SD 2:267n); said also to have been disfigured by Christian Qabbalists. Pymander as Hermes is described as the oldest and most spiritual of the logoi of the Western continent.

Pyramid The square pyramid as a symbol is an amplification of the triangle: it has lines, triangles, and a square, proceeding from a point downwards or conversely upwards merging into a point at the apex. Thus we have the four numbers of the tetraktys represented by point, line, triangle, and square. Reference is usually to stone monuments, especially those of Egypt and chiefly to the Great Pyramid of Cheops. All these pyramids, whether in Egypt, Central America, or elsewhere, are records constructed by initiates who journeyed to many lands, for the preservation of sacred knowledge through the dark ages, to be available to posterity.

In seeking to explain the meaning of these records we are faced with the difficulty of interpreting an ancient science into terms of modern ideas. The science of those days was a comprehensive whole, which has become decomposed into sundered fragments, which seem to us, because of having lost the keys to the ancient wisdom which brought about the construction of these noble monuments, to be unrelated to each other. Were the pyramids initiation chambers, records of astronomical data, of mathematical truths, or of standard measurements? They were all of these and more. When the candidate passed through the processes of initiation he enacted in his own person the self-same processes which occur on the cosmic scale, on the principle of the master-key of analogy, the size, shape, and orientation of the passages and chambers signifying at once cosmic and human mysteries.

A profound lore of numbers, measures, and their relation to the cosmic plan impelled their architects to build their records according to these now forgotten mathematical principles. Many investigators have discovered fragments of this lore but have not succeeded in reconstructing the whole out of the fragments.

The angle between a side of the base and the slant height is in the neighborhood of 51 degrees 50 minutes; and within the limits of a difference of only three minutes of arc we obtain three remarkable results: 1) the periphery of the base is 2 times the height; 2) the cosine of this angle is.618 . . ., the ratio of the Divine Section; and 3) the ratio of the slant height to a side of the base is that of the ten-month lunar year to the solar year. If a certain ancient cubit be taken and used as unit, the side of the base gives the number of days in the solar year. Certain of our measures, usually believed to be arbitrary and modern, are thought by some to be based on cosmic facts and to be preserved in the Great Pyramid. That the decimal notation was used is shown by the fact that certain significant numbers are derived from each other by permutation of the digits, which would not hold good in any other scale or system of notation. The orientation shows the four cardinal points and symbolizes the four elements.

The age of the Great Pyramid is hinted by Blavatsky to be at least three precessional cycles, or about 78,000 years, old (SD 2:432).

Pyramis. See PYRAMID

Pyrrhonism The philosophy of Pyrrho, the Greek Skeptic (c. 365-275 BC); also a general name for philosophic doubt. Pyrrho left no writings, but lives in those of his pupil Timon. His doctrine was that we can know nothing about reality by the use of our senses or mental faculties; against every statement its opposite may be maintained with equal justice; hence it is necessary to preserve a balanced judgment, the result of which is imperturbability, a tranquil acceptance of the events of life. The moral attitude thus engendered is somewhat like that of the Epicureans and Stoics, which has often been wrongly described as a self-centered indifference, bent upon the happiness of the individual, but this is only the negative aspect of the doctrine. His teachings approximate those of the Sankhya philosophy, and of some later philosophers — as in the doctrine of maya, that all is illusion save the divine. Whether Pyrrho himself stopped short at a suspense of judgment, or whether his teachings were imperfectly handed down by his followers, may be questioned. The ardent desire for knowledge may result in that illumination by which we becomes aware of the deceptive character of our faculties and the illusory nature of the images they create; but if our skepticism is merely the result of an intellectual disillusionment, unaccompanied by any inward vision, the result is usually selfish indifference bringing about a lapse into mere sensuality.

Pythagoreans The school founded at Crotona, Italy in the 6th century BC by Pythagoras of Samos. Pythagoras was an initiate not only into the Mysteries of his own native state, but also into those of the ancient Orient, where he had pursued extensive studies. His special work was to translate his esoteric knowledge into terms of the Grecian thought of that period. He shows the ultimate derivation of his wisdom and consequent teaching both by the content of his philosophical doctrines and by his insistence upon purity and self-mastery in life as a prime requisite to the attainment of wisdom.

His word metempsychoses is given as meaning the transference of the soul from one body to another; whereas by its Greek etymology it should mean the various highly occult transformations undergone by the soul-ego after death, and preceding the process of reensoulment — something of larger significant content than what the word reincarnation has mainly come to mean today, as implying merely soul-reimbodiment. It is the teaching of the various successive karmic transformations and imbodiments of a monad during its evolutionary cycle — not only in the larger sense of cosmic destiny, but also in the smaller sense of its karmic transformations between death and the succeeding physical birth.

Pythagoras is famous for his use of numerical and geometrical keys, which he illustrated by reference to the geometrical figures, the musical scale, astronomy, etc. He is supposed to have “discovered” the Divine Section, the regular polyhedra, and the proposition relating to the square of the hypotenuse; what he did was to show that these were keys to the interpretation of mysteries. Porphyry reports that the numerals of Pythagoras were “hieroglyphical symbols” by means whereof he explained ideas concerning the nature of things: (Vita Pythag) or, Blavatsky adds, “the origin of the universe” (SD 1:361). His tetraktys is a gem of condensed esoteric symbolism. The influence of his school may be traced in subsequent Greek history, inspiring such characters as Epaminondas; “It was Pythagoras who was the first to teach the heliocentric system, and who was the greatest proficient in geometry of his century. It was he also who created the word ‘philosopher,’ composed of two words meaning a ‘lover of wisdom’ — philosophos. As the greatest mathematician, geometer and astronomer of historical antiquity, and also the highest of the metaphysicians and scholars, Pythagoras has won imperishable fame. He taught reincarnation as it is professed in India and much else of the Secret Wisdom” (TG 266).

Pythia or Pythoness (Greek) Pytho was an older name for Delphi, and from it was formed the adjective Pythius, in the feminine Pythia. This was applied to the priestess or seeress who gave the oracles of Apollo at Delphi. “On the authority of Iamblichus, Plutarch and others, a Pythia was a priestess chosen among the sensitive of the poorer classes, and placed in a temple where oracular powers were exercised. There she had a room secluded from all but the chief Hierophant and Seer, and once admitted, was, like a nun, lost to the world. Sitting on a tripod of brass placed over a fissure in the ground, through which arose intoxicating vapours, these subterranean exhalations, penetrating her whole system, produced the prophetic mania, in which abnormal state she delivered oracles. Aristophanes in ‘Vaestas’ [Vespae] I., reg. 28, calls the Pythia ventriloqua vates or the ‘ventriloquial prophetess,’ on account of her stomach-voice. The ancients placed the soul of man (the lower Manas) or his personal self-consciousness, in the pit of his stomach. . . . The navel was regarded in antiquity as ‘the circle of the sun,’ the seat of divine internal light. Therefore was the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, the city of Delphus, the womb or abdomen — while the seat of the temple was called the omphalos, navel” (TG 266-7).

Pythia also refers to the Pythian Games, celebrated every four years at Pytho (Delphi) in honor of the Pythian Apollo.

Pythius. See PYTHIA

Pytho (Greek) The older name for Delphi; also, meaning to rot, make rot, and in this sense equivalent to the Hebrew ‘ob, the pernicious evil currents of the astral light.

Python (Greek) The serpent slain by Apollo, who was therefore also called Pythius. At one time the world was covered with temples to the sun and dragon: the Ophites adopted it from Egypt, whither it had come from India. It is seen in the story of Bel and the Dragon, of St. George or St. Michael and the Dragon, of Osiris and Typhon, Krishna and Kaliya, and the Lord God and the Serpent of Eden. The cosmic dragon represents the shadow side of the logos, and the opposition between these two is the so-called war in heaven. The dual nature of the serpent is seen in Rahu and Ketu, the Dragon’s head and tail; and Typhon or Apophis, slain by Horus is also called Set, who is in one of his permutations Hermes, god of wisdom, and whose name likewise is that of the Biblical Seth and Satan. In initiations the inner enlightened individual had to confront his lower passions, now personified into a veritable astral monster, and to be either its victor or its victim; when victorious he became the spiritual serpent in its other sense of the dragon of wisdom. This double meaning has its correspondence in the fact that snakes shed their skin and reemerge purified, just as the neophyte through training and initiation sheds the Old Person and reemerges from the tests as the New Person.

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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