Copyright © 1999 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
EDITORS’ NOTE: This online version of the Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary is a work in progress. The manuscript, originally produced in the 1930s and ’40s, is currently being revised and expanded, and will be updated periodically. Comments, corrections, and suggestions are welcome; please send to firstname.lastname@example.org
For ease of searching, diacritical marks are omitted, with the exception of Hebrew and Sanskrit terms, where after the main head a current transliteration with accents is given.
Quick links: Aa-Adh | Adi-Ag | Ah-Al | Am-Ani | Anj-Arc | Ard-Asr | Ass-Atm | Ato-Az | Ba-Be | Bh-Bo | Br-Bz | Ca-Ce | Cha-Chy | Ci-Cz | Da-Der | Des-Dir | Dis-Dz | Ea-El | Em-Ez | F | Ga-Gl | Gn-Gz | Ha-Hh | Hi-Hz | I | J | Ka |Ke-Kz | La-Li | Lo-Lz | Ma-Mam | Man-Mar | Mas-Me | Mi-Mo | Mp-Mz | Na-Ne | Nf-Nz | O | Pa-Peq | Per-Pi | Pl-Pral | Pram-Prj | Pro-Pz | Q-Rec | Red-Roos | Root-Rz | Sa-Sal | Sam-Saq | Sar-Sec | Sed-Sez | Sh-Sir | Sis-Som | Son-Sq | Sr-Sum | Sun-Sz | Ta-Tel | Tem-Thn | Tho-Tre | Tri-Tz | U | Va-Vih | Vij-Vz | W-X | Y | Z
Son-kha-pa. See TSONG-KHA-PA
Son of Man Frequently used in Ezekiel, applied to Ezekiel himself as a seer, by the voice of the Lord addressing him. Also used in the New Testament by Jesus, applied to himself. Of Qabbalistic origin, it refers not only to the cosmic Heavenly Man (’Adam Qadmon), but also to an initiated human being, because of springing forth like a fine evolutionary flower from the human stem.
Jesus makes a distinction between God and the Holy Ghost on the one hand, and himself on the other: he is not a god, he is a son of man. “Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him” (Matthew 12:32; cf Revelation 1:13). In its cosmic mythical sense it is the equivalent of the first Manu of the Hindus, or Fetahil of the Gnostics. In several systems man as a race was regarded as the Third Logos: the monad, having attained the human stage of intellectual and spiritual self-consciousness, racially is the representation of the manifest or Third Logos on this earth (SD 2:25).
Sons of Fohat The vital intelligent powers in nature subordinate to fohat, being the seven distinct primary forces of cosmic electricity or magnetism. These seven sons are also fohat’s brothers, for Fohat is forced to be born time after time whenever any two of his son-brothers indulge in too close contact — whether an embrace or a fight. To avoid this, he binds together and unites those of unlike nature and separates those of similar temperaments. This, of course, relates, as any one can see, to electricity generated by friction and to the law involving attraction between two objects of unlike, and repulsion between those of like polarity” (SD 1:145). The seven primary forces of cosmic electricity are only visible on our physical plane as physical effects, not as primary forces, and hence sound, light, color, magnetism, heat, cohesion, lightning, and so forth, are but its phenomena in the world of senses, the distant results of originating spiritual powers engendered by conscious causes.
Four electropositive sons of fohat are placed in the four Circles — the equator, the ecliptic, and the two parallels of declination (or the tropics) — to preside over the climates. “Other seven (sons) are commissioned to preside over the seven hot, and seven cold lokas (the hells of the orthodox Brahmins) at the two ends of the Egg of Matter (our Earth and its poles). The seven lokas are also called the ‘Rings’ elsewhere, and the ‘Circles.’ The ancients made the polar circles seven instead of two” (SD 1:204).
The seven sons of fohat, also referred to as the Seven Radicals, are sometimes represented as a six-pointed star with a dot in the center.
Sons of God An idea, containing divine as well as historic events, known among all ancient peoples. In ancient Biblical Hebrew, these sons of the Divine or sons of God are called the Benei ’Elohim (sons of the ’elohim) who in Genesis 6 “descend” in order to gain experience by incarnation in astral-physical bodies. They are the so-called fallen angels, one class of which corresponds to manasaputras. Also used for those evolved beings, or men graduated from lower classes of human experience, who at a primordial period descended and taught humanity the arts and sciences which were preserved and afterwards practiced by the initiates of the different root-races. Again, used of men of the seventh root-race, who are to be born of immaculate parents when they appear ages hence.
Elsewhere these sons of God are mystically spoken of as sons of Light, for the various hierarchies generalized under these phrases are all emanations from the manifest or Third Logos.
Sons of Light Rays of the manifest or Third Logos, the noumena or spiritual originants of all phenomena more directly connected with the light side of nature, the almost innumerable hierarchies of light. Issuing forth, they manifest themselves in respective hierarchies and in serial order on all the planes of cosmic matter, and are thus said allegorically to clothe themselves in the fabric of darkness. Darkness may signify the original Absolute Light which to all human cognizance seems darkness, or the various fields of cosmic substance or matter in which the luminous spiritual entities function and act, which by contrast with the light of the spiritual beings seems to be dark or obscure.
Astronomically sons of light may refer to the luminous celestial bodies — nebulae, comets, suns, and even to the regents of planets — the spiritual beings in and originally producing the various bodies in the universe.
Sons of the Shadow. See MAGIC
Sons of Will and Yoga Applied to the androgynous third root-race, before the separation of the sexes, which created by kriyasakti the Sons of Will and Yoga — the ancestors or spiritual forefathers of all subsequent arhats and mahatmas. After the separation of the sexes, they were invited to multiply as the rest of humanity did, but the Sons of Will and Yoga refused to do so until the seventh root-race, when humanity will once more have acquired the power of spiritual-intellectual or immaculate reproduction. In another sense they are the nagas or good serpents, and mythology recounts the struggles which took place when the Sons of Will and Yoga, together with the last “unfallen” remnants of the third root-race, warred against the “fallen” Atlantean sorcerers sunken in the beguilements and illusion of gross material existence. They took refuge from the great cataclysm which brought about the end of the Atlantean continental system, in the “Sacred Island” in Central Asia, whose site is now hid in mystery and surrounded by immense desert wastes.
The Sons of Will and Yoga is also a title given in any root-race to those who carry on the original divine archaic tradition from age to age — the initiates of every race who thus form a group set apart, originating during the third root-race and continuing as a body of more or less steadily increasing numbers into our own day.
Sons of Wisdom. See MANASAPUTRAS
Son-Suns “The Rejected Son is One, the ‘Son-Suns’ are countless” (SD 1:103). Our own sun, because of certain cosmic reasons of destiny, was “rejected,” but the sun-sons or stars in general, are countless. Our sun is represented in an ancient allegory as being placed in the center of his kingdom, hence rejected, where he turns slowly around himself. Son-suns refer not only to the planets of the solar system, but likewise to the stars and other heavenly bodies, the term itself holding the key to the ancient teaching: “only a reflection of the Central Spiritual Sun, Surya [our sun] is the prototype of all those bodies that evolved after him” (SD 1:100).
Sooniam (Eastern Indian) Used by certain tribes or racelets of the Indian peninsula to describe a specific form of black magical practice; “a magical ceremony for the purpose of removing a sickness from one person to another” (TG 305).
Sophia (Greek) Wisdom. Used in a general sense by St. Paul, as when he speaks of earthly and heavenly wisdom; but by the Gnostics, especially Valentinus in his Pistis Sophia, it is the great Mother of all, corresponding to Sephirah, Isis, Vach, divine wisdom, akasa, anima mundi, and the Holy Ghost (when considered as feminine). Sophia among the Gnostics was considered the feminine aspect of the Logos, whether the Second of the Third. The idea of a cosmic mother precedes that of the cosmic father, and Sophia is the daughter, the feminine Logos of the cosmic mother; and this feminine Logos has seven sons, constituting the ogdoad. In the human constitution, Sophia may be equated with buddhi or on a somewhat lower plane, with the buddhi-manas.
According to the Pistis Sophia, the power of Sophia resides specially in the solar Logos, whose planetary vehicle is Venus. This dual symbol has an upper and a nether pole, like akasa and the astral light. The lower pole is called Achamoth; Sophia-Achamoth is used sometimes in the sense of the lower aspect, and sometimes to denote the two poles together.
Sophia Achamoth In the Gnostic Pistis Sophia, the second or inferior Sophia, the personification of the productive force in nature — which on its lowest plane is the astral light. Sophia Achamoth is shown lost in the waters of chaos on her way to the supreme Light, and as being delivered by Christos — the masculine manifestation of the Cosmic Logos in this case. She was the mother of Ildabaoth, the proud and impure spirit, who rejected the spiritual light of the middle space, offered him by his mother, and set himself to create a world of his own; but he is obliged to call upon his mother to illumine the monsters he has made. In some passages in The Secret Doctrine Sophia-Achamoth is used to mean both aspects together, or sometimes even when the higher Sophia is intended.
Sorcerers [from Latin sors lot] Those using occult powers and arcane knowledge for evil purposes. It covers various degrees of black magic, from ignorant practitioners — such as the followers of Voodoo — to others who, with greater knowledge and a larger intellectual development, are often called black magicians instead of sorcerers, though these terms are virtually synonymous.
Sortes Sanctorum (Latin) [from sors lot + sanctum holy] Divination of the holy ones; the oracular responses, sayings, or prophecies of the oracles. In a more popular sense, the mere casting of lots, or the attempt to ascertain the future by methods which have been popular throughout the ages. Divination was sometimes resorted to in the early Christian Church, and sanctioned even by Augustine, with the proviso that it must be used only for pure and lofty purposes. One manner probably consisted in picking a passage in holy writ, after praying for divine guidance. In the ancient sanctuaries, however, a genuine divination was practiced by actual seers who based their operations upon mathematics and on the fact that nature foreshadows what is to come to pass, because all her processes are regulated by law, and are consistent sequences of phenomena connected in a causal chain from spiritual originants. Thus the ancient seer or forecaster, taking almost any natural occurrence, or a series of them, could from his trained faculties, forecast what the present series of events in nature were inevitably leading towards. To do this successfully one would have to be a genuine seer, which means employing the awakened intuition and spiritual clairvoyance which lie latent in most human beings.
Sortilegium (Latin) [from sors lot + lego choose] Divination by drawing lots; a practice of wide diffusion in antiquity, and constantly mentioned in literature of classical Greek and Latin as well as of other countries, and still practiced in some places. One form of it consisted in picking at random in the pages of a book, after due concentration of the mind on the object to be obtained. This was done by the Romans in their sortes Virgilianae, and the early Christians practiced it with the Bible, as a means of ascertaining the divine will or obtaining guidance. Augustine even sanctioned this practice, provided it was not done for worldly ends, and indulged in it himself. The word sorcery is also derived from sors through late Latin and French, and sortilege was often regarded as a form of sorcery — as indeed it was when the knowledge sought was desired for the purposes of evil. It is the motive in these matters which distinguishes the good from the bad. See also DIVINATION
Sosiosh, Soshyos (Persian) In Zoroastrianism, the deliverer of the world, who shall come on a white horse in a tornado of fire. According to the Avesta (Yast 19:89), he will be born from a maid near Lake Kasava; he will come from the region of the dawn to free the world from death and decay, from corruption and rottenness — ever living and ever thriving, the dead shall rise and immortality commence. This prophecy corresponds to that of the coming of Maitreya-Buddha, or of the Kalki-avatara of Vishnu, also repeated in the Christian Revelation of St. John.
Sossus (Chaldean, Babylonian) A cycle of time, given by Berosus, the Chaldean astrologer at the temple of Belus at Babylon, as a period of 60 years. See also SAROS
Sotapanna (Pali) Sotāpanna One who has entered the path of Sotapatti, the stream to nirvana, the first of the four paths that lead to liberation. See also SROTAPATTI
Sotapatti (Pali) Sotāpatti Equivalent to the Sanskrit srotāpatti — the first of the four paths that lead to nirvana; the other three paths in Pali are sakadagamin, Anagamin, and arahatta.
Sothiac or Sothic Cycle In ancient Egypt, a cycle formed by compounding the rounded year of 365 days with the Sothic year of 365 1/4: the two kinds of year, running concurrently, would coincide after 1,461 of the former and 1,460 of the latter. The Sothic year was fixed as the interval between two successive heliacal risings of Sothis (Sirius), which at that time took place near the summer solstice. Its length is an approximation to the tropical year and is the same as the Julian year. The epoch from which Sothic cycles were dated is not known, but the Roman scholar Censorinus (3rd century) states that a cycle ended 139 AD.
Soul Generally, the manifesting vehicle or garment in which an ego clothes itself. First in serial order is the monad, on whatever plane and of whatever class; its vehicle or carrier is its efflux, the ego; which in its turn clothes itself in its own vital garment which is soul. Cosmically, therefore, soul is the vehicle or upadhi of spirit. As the monad creates for its manifestation successive vehicles, soul in its widest sense includes all these, even the physical body; but it is usually used in an aggregative sense to designate the intermediate nature, excluding the monad on the one hand and the physical body on the other. Such division produces the triad of spirit, soul, body, where soul is the vehicle of spirit, and body is the vehicle of soul and spirit. The soul is evolved by experiences on different planes. In itself it is merely a vehicle; but, informed by the monad, through the latter’s ego, it is a living conscious entity. The broad meaning is particularized with qualifying adjectives such as animal soul, human soul, etc. Saying that every living thing — animal, vegetable, or mineral — has a soul, refers to the intermediate nature of the being, of which its physical body is the vehicle. Souls, like bodies, are aggregates of innumerable subordinate lives or life-atoms of various orders. Equivalent to the Greek psyche and the Hebrew nephesh.
Soulless Beings Men and women who are still connected, but usually quite unconsciously, with the monad, the spiritual essence within them, but not self-consciously so; they live very largely in the brain-mind and in the fields of sensuous consciousness. “We elbow soulless men in the streets at every turn,” wrote Blavatsky. This does not mean that those people have no soul, but that the spiritual part of these human beings is unable to manifest itself through the unawakened brain-mind and feelings. They are animate humans with an animate working brain-mind, but otherwise soulless in the sense that the soul is insufficiently expressive. This is what Pythagoras meant when he spoke of the living dead, or the spiritually useless portion of mankind. They live in the ordinary mind and in the body, thinking only of and in these small and restricted spheres of consciousness. Such “soulless” people are very numerous. Soulless beings are not to be confused with lost souls.
Soul of the World Translates the Latin anima mundi. In its highest aspect it is akasa and the seat of nirvanic conditions; in its lower aspects it is the astral light and the physical world — the last both its physical carrier and its grossest expression. See also ANIMA MUNDI
Sound In physics, a name for a group of phenomena, and in common speech auditory sensations; but in theosophic philosophy, sound is an attribute of one of the fundamental cosmic elements, akasa. Being such, sound becomes more than a mere name describing an attribute: it is an actual efflux or production of the universal working of the akasic fluid. Hence, in a sense, it may be said to be an entity, a real force in nature, and the said phenomena and sensations only some of its effects.
Like the terms light, heat, air — all of which are entities in occultism — sound will have different shades of meaning according to the particular manifestation or plane concerned. In its most fundamental meaning, sound is the characteristic effect or spiritual efflux of the Third Logos, the upper end of that septenary ladder of being which constitutes the one manifested Life. In this sense akasa, considered as one of the tattvas (elementary substances), may be said to be the third cosmic Logos; although in a more universal sense akasa is the universal substantial space from which emanates the first cosmic Logos of an individual cosmic hierarchy, such as our solar system. As such, this akasic Third Logos, whose characteristic production is sound, occupies the apex of a triangle, combining both the active and passive potencies of creative energy. Logos is Greek for Word, what the Latins called Verbum, including both forms and vibratory force. Sound is therefore a tremendous occult creative power: it called worlds into being out of chaos, as is said in every cosmogony. This power descends to man, through his divine ancestry, as well as from the higher parts of his constitution, and the power of sound is known to adepts and used by them, being called mantrika-sakti.
Always and everywhere the power of mantras and incantations has been recognized. Orators use mantras — they call them slogans — with instinctive knowledge of their efficacy, and set afloat phrases that stir the public mind and strongly influence events. Often in daily conversation we instinctively forbear to speak a name or a word, though we would make no objection to writing it.
Sound is a property of akasa, the primary of aether, sometimes called space. In the list of the five commonly accepted tattvas, senses, and organs, akasa-tattva is at the top, corresponding to sound and hearing. The aether of space has seven principles and is the vibratory soundboard of nature in all its seven differentiations. Sound is directed in its operations by fohat, being one of seven radicals.
The power of sound is connected with rhythmic vibration and sympathetic vibration; a powerful voice, sounding the right tone, may shatter a wineglass; and the imagination suggests dangerous applications of this principle. To dabble experimentally in it, or to follow the teachings of pseudo-occultists, would be like an ignorant person meddling with the switches in a powerhouse.
South Pole In a general cosmic sense, any nether pole wherever situated. However, the different hells mentioned in ancient literatures have other meanings, and are not necessarily connected with the south or nether poles of the celestial globes.
From immemorial antiquity occultly it was taught that the south pole was the vent of the earth, and hence the abode of elemental entities, whether terrestrial or cosmic, or of inferior kinds. Thus is was sometimes called the Pit. “The two poles are called the right and left ends of our globe — the right being the North Pole — or the head and feet of the earth. Every beneficent (astral and cosmic) action comes from the North; every lethal influence from the South Pole. They are much connected with and influence ‘right’ and ‘left’ hand magic” (SD 2:400n).
Another teaching of theosophy in regard to the poles is that all civilizations originate in the far north of the globe, and through the revolving minor ages of a root-race gravitate gradually and steadily towards the south pole as they approach their end. See also POLES, TERRESTRIAL AND CELESTIAL
Sozura [from Greek sozein save + auron tail] Tail-keeping; a term coined by Haeckel, not generally recognized today, for a group of tailed batrachians, which lose their gills but not their tails when adult; in contrast to the anura, which have no tails, and the sozobranchia, which lose their gills.
Space Usually the universe as perceived by our physical senses. It is disputed whether space exists apart from objects or is a property of objects, and also whether it is objective or subjective. Such difficulties arise from our attempt to abstract extension from the reality of which it is an aspect, just as we attempt to abstract matter and energy. The physical basis of our universe appears under these three aspects, and the attempt to conceive each of the three as separate existences and to construct the universe out of them is to court contradiction and to proceed in the inverse order.
In most arguments about the nature of space, space is unconsciously assumed at the outset of the inquiry, so that the reasoning becomes viciously circular. Is space the ultimate residue left after we have removed everything conceivable? In that case how can we define it in terms of anything which is supposed to be derived from it? We must either leave it undefined, as a primary postulate, or else define it in terms of something which lies beyond the physical plane altogether.
Again, the question whether the dimensions belong to space or to material objects arises from a false separation between these two, so that we speak of objects being in space, just as we speak of life as being in matter. We think of space as an absence of matter, as we think of darkness as an absence of light, and silence as absence of sound; and having thus created vacuums we proceed to fill them. In the view of occultism it would be nearer the truth to say that light is the absence of darkness, sound the absence of silence, and matter a form of the presence of space; and this is true in the sense that those things which appear to us most real are derived from those which seem to us most unreal, because not immediately physically perceivable. In theosophy, space is the infinite, eternal background of Being, Being itself, the ever-lasting substratum of, as well as the presence of, the universe; its apparent vacuity is due only to its lack of physical qualities to which our senses respond, and also to its perfect unity and uniformity. Space is living, incomprehensibly conscious, and hence a divinity; it is the only real world, while our manifested world born from and in it is a mayavi (illusory) one.
Theosophy, regarding the physical universe as merely one of many planes of kosmos, applies the term space to a much larger range. Yet it has the same characteristic meaning in all its applications: it figures, for instance, as one aspect of the trinity of space, energy, matter which is equivalent to the primordial unity. The fundamental hypostases are all derivative from ever-enduring, frontierless space, and Be-ness is symbolized by space, which no mind can either exclude nor conceive, and motion. In this conception are combined abstract space, motion, and duration.
Space is symbolized by the circle; a central point denotes spiritual monadic activity arising within abstract space. It is equivalent to akasa or aether, water or the waters; Chaos as the spatial deeps. Sometimes space in its manifestation is represented as a serpent with seven heads or as the great sea or deep. Occasionally called aupapaduka (parentless), because it is primary and the source of all, it is spoken of both as mulaprakriti and as parabrahman. In its manifested aspect it is bright space, son of dark space, the former being the ray dropped into cosmic depths. Parent space is the eternal ever-present cause of all — the incomprehensible divinity, whose invisible robes are the mystic root of all matter and of the universe. Space is called Mother before its cosmic activity, and Father-Mother at the first stage of reawakening of manifestation.
In this connection a very clear distinction is drawn between abstract space, the limitless, frontierless, beginningless, and endless encompasser, container of all the various manifested spaces, which as individuals appear from and in its fathomless womb; and these latter spaces which are its offspring and which are collectively and individually the spatial ranges comprised within the boundaries of any manifested universe, such as a galaxy or solar system. Thus, we have the boundless spatial All or abstract space, and the innumerable universe or limited spaces arising within it. The former is absolute infinity and eternity; the later are the innumerable, relative spaces or universe scattered over the fields of the Boundless, called the spawn of the Great Mother.
Physical space is said to have six directions, the four cardinal points plus the zenith and nadir; or eight directions given by the axes joining the opposite corners of a cube. The six and the eight combine in the cube and octahedron. Nothing in the definition of geometrical space excludes the possibility of other spatial constructions, coexistent with our space and interblended with it and with each other. This helps in understanding such matters as chains of globes — which, when we attempt to represent them by drawn diagrams, seem so confusing and contradictory — and the manner in which other planes of consciousness and of objectivity may be related to the physical.
Space-time A concept taken over by Einstein from Minkowski, in which time (considered as a vector) is no longer regarded as independent of spatial extension, but is made a fourth coordinate in determining the position of an event. Our ordinary threefold spatial extension is a concept due to our physical experience, so that there is no reason why we cannot adopt a concept of another order if we find it suits our purposes better. We can view the universe under the form of a threefold spatial extension and an independent time, or we can view it under the form of a four-dimensional continuum, wherein a coordinate representing position in time takes its place along with three others representing position in space. The points of light form distant stars which we view in the sky are separated from each other not only by spatial distances but also by distances in time, owing to the time taken by light to travel. Space-time is a mathematical conception, useful in certain measurements demanded by modern science, but not answering to anything of which we can form a clear mental image. It is difficult to picture a line drawn from the American President in Washington to Cicero in the Roman Forum; or vice versa, but such a line in either direction would according to modern mathematical theory traverse space-time.
Spark A scintilla or atom of fire. Fire in its septenary or denary forms exists on all planes, so that we hear of sparks in various senses. Atman is the homogeneous divine spark which radiates in millions of rays, in their aggregate producing the primeval seven. The same idea in more mechanical form is found in Lucretius, who says that all fires come from the one scintilla. Sparks may be worlds, monads, or even atoms, though the word usually means the jiva within the atom. The divine spark hangs from the flame by the finest thread of fohat and journeys through the seven worlds of maya, passing upwards in its evolutionary course through the animate kingdoms. In man it is the monad in conjunction with the aroma of manas, and is called a jiva; it is that which remains from each personality and hangs by a thread from atman. The personalities are like the sparks that dance on moonlit waves — fleeting reflections of their spiritual prototype.
With the Hebrews, the ’elohim, sparks, and cherubs are the devas, and fires and flames, and the rishis, the rudras and the 49 agnis or fires. In the Chaldean Book of Numbers, the Worker’s Hammer strikes sparks from the flint (space), which become worlds. The sparks are the seven wicks of the divine flame. Terrestrial creative and generative fire are created by friction, and this is the analog of the celestial fire latent in, the union of buddhi and manas.
Spark, Sacred Used in the Stanzas of Dzyan in reference to the early history of the human race, and particularly to its intellectual evolution. It means the manas principle, which was awakened in man on this globe by the manasaputras at about the midpoint of the third root-race. The fashioners of astral and physical man, the barhishad pitris, had brought the physical human being in evolutionary development to the point where mind could be contained and function therein: beings from an intellectual line of cosmic evolution, the manasaputras, awakened the intellectual spark in early humanity, and man thereafter became a reasoning, thinking, and intellectually and morally responsible entity.
Some races are said to be devoid of the sacred spark (SD 2:421), for they are still relatively unenlightened. Yet this condition is not radical but evolutionary only, for even these portions of the human race have intellect latent, though not evoked; indeed this last remark applies with equal truth to all the lower kingdoms of nature — the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral. See also FIRE, SACRED
Sparsa (Sanskrit) Sparśa [from the verbal root spṛś to touch] The sense of touch; as one of the active energies or seats of action or sense in the human constitution, the seventh nidana; looked upon distributively and as a thing in itself, it is also one of the tanmatras or essential senses.
Sprul-pahi-sku. See TULKU
Specter [from Latin spectrum an appearance, apparition, image] Any apparition, although most commonly associated with the dead; rarely used in connection with living persons, as when the adept’s mayavi-rupa is seen, or the linga-sarira (model-body). Apparitions appearing in the proximity of cemeteries, etc., are the decaying remnants of kama-rupas, which the ancients commonly called shades (Latin umbrae), in English called ghosts and spirits.
Speech The vocal expression of thought in language, which implies the existence of mind which has reached self-consciousness on this plane, was not fully developed in mankind until the fourth root-race. The first root-race was devoid of mind on our plane; the second had a sound language of vowels, and its speech was largely onomatopoetic in character; the third developed in its beginning a speech which was little better than what are now known as animal sounds, but towards its end the first approximately fully developed human beings had monosyllabic speech, after the awakening of their minds by the manasaputras. Before that there was communication by what may be called thought-transference. After this monosyllabic speech, came the agglutinative, spoken by some Atlantean races, and then the inflectional language of the fifth root-race, represented by Sanskrit and its derivatives, and closely related languages such as Greek and Latin.
The great number and variety of languages is evidence of the great antiquity of the human race and its extensive division and subdivision. The elaborateness of languages spoken by so-called primitive peoples, especially their frequently highly complicated and extensive vocabulary, for which their modern representatives have but little use, shows that they are remnants of once highly civilized peoples.
That the priests of Atlantis addressed their gods in the language of those gods, is a mystical statement: they addressed the regents of the elements in the sound-language appropriate to the particular element. Vach is the mystic speech by which occult knowledge is communicated to man. See also LOGOS; MANTRA; SOUND
Speanta Armaiti (Avestan) Spandarmatz (Pahlavi) Spandarmaz (Persian) One of the seven Amesha Spentas, the reflection of the first three male Amesha-Spenta in the supreme world; in man, the link with the source of intellect. She is the life-giving breath of love that embraces the whole. In the enumeration of the ethical qualities attributed in the Avesta to these intelligences, divine piety is watched over by Spenta Armaiti. When personalized, she became the goddess or genius of the earth. The Vendidad refers to her as the fair daughter of Ahura-Mazda. The Amesha Spentas correspond with the cosmocratores, the builders, and the Qabbalistic Sephiroth.
Spermatic Logos The Stoics taught that things do not exist solely or originally by reason of some definite end to which they are tending, but because of something living and acting within and through them, the essential law of evolutionary growth. This inner power they called the logos spermatikos (Greek for spermatic or seed-logos), the monad of individuality in living and evolving beings. It is the unfolding by such a logos spermatikos of its inherent or characteristic qualities, powers, and functions which bring about the evolutionary growth of the vehicles of consciousness in and through which the logos lives and works. It corresponds to the particular monad of each entity which contains its svabhava, and hence determines all its subsequent destiny, particularized individualizations, and forms.
Sphere Conventionally, the geometrical representative of the manifested one All, combining unity, comprehensiveness, simplicity, and symmetry; whereas the ever-unknown frontierless womb of boundless space is conventionally represented by the zero. All the sections of a sphere are circles; its surface is an infinite plane, having neither boundaries nor parts and therefore measurable perhaps solely by the rules of geometry. A balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces produces the sphere, as in a soap bubble. Its center and its surface represent opposite poles, between which radiate expansive and contractive energies. The earth is virtually a sphere. The heavens, the limits of our vision, form the surface of an ideal sphere, whose center is everywhere, and whose periphery is nowhere.
Also used in the sense of a region. Its meaning has analogies with the ideas connected with the circle.
Spindle In biology, a fusiform arrangement of fibrils which appears at the nucleus of a cell that is about to divide; for in this early stage of the development of a germ-cell the nucleus forms a double cone which resembles a spindle.
Sphinx As a mystical figure, one of the emblems made when the human race fell into materialism, and sacred knowledge had to be withdrawn to avoid profanation. The Sphinx preserves a mystery without revealing it to those not qualified to know. This mystery, among other things, is connected with the evolution of the human race from the spiritual and, at a far later date, from the androgynous race. Sphinxes are found in Egypt, Assyria, and Greece, usually man-lions, with either male or female human heads, with or without wings. Oedipus did not solve the riddle of the Sphinx, but in a sense profaned it. Sacred symbols were anthropomorphized, and the Sphinx leapt into the sea to preserve her secret wisdom.
The Great Sphinx of Egypt, a recumbent man-lion 188 feet long hewn out of solid rock, is the emblem of Hor-em-akhu (Horus in the horizon).
Spiral The path of a point (generally plane) which moves round an axis while continually approaching it or receding from it; also often used for a helix, which is generated by compounding a circular motion with one in a straight line. The spiral form is an apt illustration of the course of evolution, which brings motion round towards the same point, yet without repetition.
The serpent, and the figures 8 and , denoting the ogdoad and infinity, stand for spiral cyclic motion. The course of fohat in space is spiral, and spirit descends into matter in spiral courses. Repeating the process by which a helix is derived form a circle produces a vortex. The complicated spirals of cosmic evolution bring the motion back to the point from which it started at the birth of a great cosmic age.
Spirit Cosmically, the homogeneous emanation from the universal cosmic monad; in man, the direct emanation of his spiritual monad, the immortal element in us which never was born and which retains through the mahamanvantara its own quality, essence, and characteristics. It sends its ray through the laya-centers of all the various sheaths of consciousness-substance, and is itself a ray of the all-spirit, and, again applied to man, is used specifically for the union of the higher part of manas with atma-buddhi.
“The lack of any mutual agreement between writers in the use of this word has resulted in dire confusion. It is commonly made synonymous with soul; and the lexicographers countenance the usage. In Theosophical teachings the term ‘Spirit’ is applied solely to that which belongs directly to Universal Consciousness, and which is its homogeneous and unadulterated emanation. Thus, the higher Mind in Man or his Ego (Manas) is when linked indissolubly with Buddhi, a spirit; while the term ‘Soul,’ human or even animal (the lower Manas acting in animals as instinct), is applied only to Kama-Manas, and qualified as the living soul. This is nephesh, is Hebrew, the ‘breath of life.’ Spirit is formless and immaterial, being, when individualised, of the highest spiritual substance — Suddasatwa [Suddha-sattva], the divine essence, of which the body of the manifesting highest Dhyanis are formed. Therefore, the Theosophists reject the appellation ‘Spirits’ for those phantoms which appear in the phenomenal manifestation of the Spiritualists, and call them ‘shells,’ and various other names. (See Suksham Sarira [sukshma-sarira].) Spirit, in short, is no entity in the sense of having form; for, as Buddhist philosophy has it, where there is a form, there is a cause for pain and suffering. But each individual spirit — this individuality lasting only throughout the manvantaric life-cycle — may be described as a centre of consciousness, a self-sentient and self-conscious centre; a state, not a conditioned individual. This is why there is such a wealth of words in Sanskrit to express the different States of Being, Beings and Entities, each appellation showing the philosophical difference, the plane to which such unit belongs, and the degree of its spirituality or materiality. Unfortunately these terms are almost untranslatable into our Western tongues” (TG 306-7).
When paired with matter, it denotes the active, positive, or energic side of dual manifestation; and saying that spirit and matter are one means they are one essentially, being different only as aspects of one fundamental unity. In many languages the same word means both spirit and breath or wind; spirit is related to air among the subtle cosmic elements (maha-tattvas or mahabhutas).
Spirit, considered as the cosmic Ens (being) or Brahman is not the cosmic primordial root, but its first manifestation, corresponding to the Greek First Logos — either parabrahman-mulaprakriti, when applied to the galaxy; or Brahman-pradhana when applied to our solar system.
Spirit(s) Although of a wide and general use, in theosophy it means incorporeal intelligences of a high degree, such as dhyanis or planetary spirits, those hosts of arupa (bodiless) monads or egos which spring more or less directly from the universal consciousness or cosmic spirit. Thus the spiritual monad in man is, strictly speaking, a spirit as derivative directly from the cosmic intelligence, mahat or mahabuddhi manifesting through mahat. Spirits exist in almost limitless ranges of hierarchical classes, highest, intermediate, and lower.
A great distinction is drawn between spirit and soul, the vehicle of an ego. Theosophy objects to its use for astral kama-rupas of the seance room.
Spirit-hyle [from Greek hyle matter, stuff] The Second Logos, Father-Mother, spirit-matter, Purusha-prakriti. Hyle was used by certain Greek philosophers to signify original cosmic spirit-stuff, and therefore is equivalent to the Sanskrit pradhana, or in a higher, more spiritual essence, mulaprakriti (root-substance). Thus hyle or spirit-hyle is the primordial quasi-conscious matter-substance of cosmic space, both before cosmic manifestation begins and through the entire period of the cosmic manvantara — the cosmic spiritual substantial background, or Mother of space. Again, spirit-hyle, in its prakritis aspect, is the spiritual sediment of surrounding universal chaos, the great deep of cosmic consciousness. Thus it is the primordial element-principle, out of which an objective universe is formed, and into which it again sinks when the cosmic manvantara ends, only to reissue forth at the end of the cosmic pralaya.
Spirit-kings Incarnated devas or demigods become human, mentioned as a dynasty of the Lemuro-Atlanteans. These monads, manifesting as devas, assumed bodies to rule over the less evolved men of their own period; but because they descended into matter and therefore were manifesting as rupa beings, they had the possibility of falling into error or evil, as happened historically with more than one who took the left-hand path and corrupted their Atlantean subjects. The dynasty of the spirit-kings, like the general run of the Atlanteans, were divisible into those who followed the right-hand path, and those who followed the left-hand path. The former were called Sons of Light, and the latter Sons of the Shadow.
Spirit-man Corresponds to the spiritual ego, spiritual soul, spiritual self, or human spirit; for the higher mind or manas united with its spiritual prototype buddhi. A sharp contrast is drawn between the spirit-man and the human soul, the clothing or vehicle of the human spirit formed of kama-manas. The spirit-man is unconditionally immortal for the duration of the solar manvantara, whereas the human soul is conditionally immortal.
Another name for the spirit-man is monad used in a generalizing sense, which becomes confusing when one remembers that in the human septenary constitution there are several monads coordinately evolving. There is the divine monad, virtually atman; the spiritual monad, buddhi-manas overshone by atman; the human monad or reincarnating ego, the higher manas in conjunction with the aroma of kama and overshone by atma-buddhi; then on still lower scales of evolutionary unfolding come the animal monad seated in the manas-kama; the astral monad seated in the prana-lingasarira; and finally the physical monad, the lingasarira-sthulasarira under the gentle efflux of the higher principles, which accounts for the permanency, albeit changeability, of the physical person. In reality every portion of human pneumatology is a monad, each one producing all that any other produces, each lower being the vehicle or seat of the next higher, and the higher ones being merely more unfolded than the lower ones.
Spirit-soul Atma-buddhi, the spiritual monad, the monadic essence. Buddhi could have no existence if divorced from atman, its origin as well as its inner vivifying principle; and atman without buddhi would be unmanifest on all planes lower than itself. Spirit-soul is therefore the highest manifested entity in kosmos, otherwise called mahabuddhi, and the spiritual monad in man is a direct derivative therefrom.
Spiritual Ego The spiritual monad, the first vehicle of the atman, divine ego, or jivatman. It expresses itself through the spiritual soul or buddhis. Also called the spirit-man.
Spiritual Monad The second monadic center in the descending scale of intimately related human monadic centers; in the septenary constitution, atma-buddhi-manas, with an emphasis on the buddhi-manas, atman being the divine monad. It is man’s individual monad, the spiritual center of his own stream of consciousness, in the heart of which abides his inner god or “Father in heaven.”
“The human constitution is a composite or compound, and may be figurated . . . as a stream of consciousness flowing forth from the deathless Center or Spiritual Monad, which last is at once the immortal Root of the human being and his Essential Self” (ET 384 3rd & rev ed). It corresponds to the spiritual self or jivatman.
After death, when the second death occurs, man’s consciousness is withdrawn from the higher astral regions into the next superior sphere or plane — the human monad is indrawn into the spiritual monad. Then occurs the state of devachan.
Spiritualism Properly, the philosophy, religion, or pneumatological science held by those who believe in the universal spirit as the cosmic originant of all the hierarchies of evolving monads; its opposite is materialism. Spiritualism is “in philosophy, the state or condition of mind opposed to materialism or a material conception of things. Theosophy, a doctrine which teaches that all which exists is animated or informed by the Universal Soul or Spirit, and that not an atom in our universe can be outside of this omnipresent principle — is pure Spiritualism. As to the belief that goes under that name, namely, belief in the constant communication of the living with the dead, whether through the mediumistic powers of oneself or a so-called medium — it is no better than the materialisation of spirit, and the degradation of the human and the divine souls. Believers in such communications are simply dishonouring the dead and performing constant sacrilege. It was well called ‘Necromancy’ in days of old” (TG 307).
The modern movement which began about the middle of the 19th century, mainly with the Fox sisters, embraces a large range of differing beliefs, so that any strictures directed against certain phases of it may justly be resented by those to whom such strictures do not apply. But the characteristic doctrine which identifies Spiritualism or astralism as such, is the belief that it is possible for the living to communicate with the departed spirits of the deceased. Theosophy, however, holds that at death the personality disintegrates, the individuality of the person passing into the devachanic state, while its lower components gradually fade out in the kama-loka. It is impossible to obtain communications with the ego in devachan, except when a purely impersonal love of one human being for another reaches into the devachanic condition and comes into spiritual rapport with the devachani. A far lower rapport may be established with the astral or kama-lokic remains which have been left behind to disintegrate in the lower regions of the astral light.
All the apparent proofs of identity of “spirit” can be accounted for otherwise than by supposing the actual presence of the departed individual in the seance room. Such communications as are received evince no knowledge beyond that which we already have, and show no signs of emanating from a high source — and almost invariably such communications are trifling and paltry. Mediumship and seances are most harmful practice, as they open the door to the entry of pernicious obsessing influences from the lower astral realms. Moreover such practice may obstruct and retard the natural decomposition of the discarded lower elements of the deceased, and thus keep alive his kama-rupa beyond the term of its natural astral death. The appeal of astralism is very powerful to those who feel convinced that they have thereby obtained assurance of immortality and of the continued existence of their lost loved ones.
Spirituality Considering spirit and matter as contrasted aspects in the evolutionary process, as opposite poles in the kosmos, this word applied to the higher or causal aspect. The course of evolution, the monad begins as an unself-conscious god-spark and ends its evolutionary career in any one universe as a self-conscious god. The monads pass from spirit into matter, and then back again to spirit with the addition of evolved intellectual self-cognition or self-consciousness. So far as the rounds and races of our earth is concerned, the first two were characterized by direct but non-egoic spiritual qualities of consciousness, while in the third intellectuality and finally materiality began strongly to make their appearances, reaching the final evolutionary point for our planet in the fourth, when spirituality was nearly submerged by materiality. But these terms are relative, having varying meanings as applied to different planes and differing conditions of the rounds and races. Absolute spirituality or perfection in its very nature implies the loftiest type of spiritual and intellectual activity, with the relative quiescence of the enshrouding sheaths of consciousness. The distinction is to a certain degree that drawn between absolute thought or the All as opposed to the ratiocinative activity of mental action, which involves limitations and matters (SD 2:490).
Spiritual Powers Generally used in contradistinction to psychic powers; for while psychic powers pertain to the intermediate, psychomental part of human nature, the spiritual powers pertain to the higher part. Hence the psychic powers, precisely because intermediaries, may become the instrument either of our higher or of our lower nature, being vehicular products in themselves and subject to influx from above or below. The spiritual powers cannot be used for selfish and personal ends because their svabhava is universality and impersonality, attributes which link man with the surrounding universe. They emanate from the spiritual monad, atma-buddhi. We are able to use spiritual powers when our manas acts in conjunction with the spiritual monad. Such powers cannot be evoked by personal ambition or any form of acquisitiveness, because they do not rise above the intermediate or psychic nature and make no appeal to the spirit above; in fact, spiritual powers are the fruit of renunciation, of the replacing of the personal with the universal, the resigning of the limited for the virtually limitless, the giving up of the small for the great. Spiritual powers consist in a clear intuition of the truth, leading to right conduct, an ability to help and teach others — the powers which we attribute to a Buddha or Christ.
The eye of Siva or Dangma, with its all-penetrating vision, must be included among spiritual powers; the siddhis and saktis given in various enumerations comprise some that are spiritual — in fact the ones of permanent value are all spiritual. Since psychic powers are in themselves intermediaries, veils of what is within and behind them, they should become adjuncts to spiritual powers. Sharp lines of demarcation cannot be drawn in a universe whose very structure involves virtually infinite variety, and interblending, of interacting life and lives.
Spiritual Principles Atma and buddhi are the two essentially spiritual principles in man; and manas is to be classed as a spiritual principle when it is the vehicle for atma-buddhi, although manas itself is monadic in essence, and therefore at its heart — but not in its present manifested condition or evolutionary state — is as spiritual as the two former. There is an atman and a buddhi of the manas itself, and belonging to the manasic principle itself; and it is precisely this svabhavic atma-buddhi in the manas which allows the atman and buddhi principles to coalesce with the manas and use it.
Spiritual Self Used for buddhi-manas, the spiritual monad.
Spiritual Soul Buddhi; in man, typically the immortal individual monad. The first vehicle of the atmic monadic ray is the spiritual ego, a copy in miniature of the monad, individualized throughout manvantaric evolution. The second vehicle is the spiritual soul, the bearer, veil, or carrier of the spiritual ego.
Spiritus (Latin) Breath, air, spirit; in medieval European alchemy it corresponds with fire and sulfur in the triad of sulfur, mercury, and salt — or spirit, soul, and body. With the Nazarenes, the female aspect of the anima mundi, the manifested part as contrasted with its unmanifest or divine aspect.
Spleen One of the abdominal viscera, located on the left side just below the diaphragm. In medicine, it has been variously studied as a blood-making organ, a special lymph gland, etc., but its exact role has always puzzled the physiologist. However, its intimate relations with the fluidic currents of the vascular, lymphatic, and digestive systems hint at its organic astral character, as the mobile watery or fluid element corresponds to the astral phase of matter. Thus, the spleen is an organic medium or channel for the transference of the pranic life-currents throughout the physical body, and the physical seat of the astral model-body or linga-sarira, the vehicle of the life principle; likewise it is the especial organ through which manifests the svadhishshana chakra. It has a physiological place in the vital borderland of metabolic changes where food stuffs and nature forces are transmuted into the regenerating energy and substance of human or animal tissue. This organ has its own rhythmic action which, as reported, “seems to arise from some intrinsic nervous mechanism.”
The leukocytes born in the spleen are analogous, in their spherical, nucleated, colorless, ameboid, and regenerating character, to the bloodless, astral, rounded form of the second root-race which reproduced its kind by spores or budding. This early type of racial imbodiment continued through the transition stages which led up to the physicalization of the grosser layers of the astral body when the third root-race evolved into red-blooded, sexual, organized form not unlike the present humanity.
Spontaneous Generation In science, abiogenesis (the production of living from nonliving matter), archegenesis, or archebiosis; in theosophy, however, there is no nonliving matter, for even the rocks are but concreted living monads, which because of their temporarily passing through this state of concretion do not manifest the innate powers and functions of vitality which they do on inner an invisible planes. Thus, the only distinction between what is popularly called living and nonliving matter is the differences in organic development on this physical plane. Everything is always alive, life self-expresses itself everywhere — in organized beings of flesh, in the vegetation, and in the rocks. To the occultist magnetism and electricity, forms of radiation, are but manifestations of cosmic vitality; and even the atoms and their component particles, being themselves electrical in essence, are but life particles.
In now forgotten epochs of past history, spontaneous generation was on earth the most common way by which life broke through into this plane from the inner invisible worlds.
“Should spontaneous generation be indeed proven impossible in our present world-period and actual conditions — which the Occultists deny — still it would be no demonstration that it could not have taken place under different cosmic conditions, not only in the seas of the Laurentian period, but even on the then convulsed Earth. . . .
“If spontaneous generation has changed its methods now, owing perhaps to accumulated material on hand, so as to almost escape detection, it was in full swing in the genesis of terrestrial life” (SD 2:150-1).
Every point in space, every particle of even material substance, is a living being or life-atom; such a life-atom finding itself in proper physical surroundings on our own plane, and if impelled by its own karmic urge, will begin to express itself on this plane and to gather nourishment to itself, first by osmosis from the surrounding ether or air, and finally from the environing matter of the place where it is. Now if such a life-atom thus appearing on our plane has the evolutionary history behind it enabling it to develop into a being of high order it will so continue to grow, barring accidents or similar preventive causes; if again its karmic urge working from within outwards will take it no higher than a being of intermediate class, such as an animal or plant, it will express itself as an animal or plant, or if its urge from stored up karma can take it no higher on the evolutionary ladder than the mineral kingdom on this plane, then it will express itself as a mineral atom. What actually takes place in the history of the life-germ even on earth today, as in the growth of the human seed into the embryo and thereafter into the human child, is but a more complicated picture of what spontaneous generation was in the early history of our globe, when almost any point of physical matter was quivering with life and actually anxious to self-express itself through evolutionary unfolding as a living being. Spontaneous generation, therefore, is simply growth appropriate, living beings will begin to evolve into expanding growth in almost any appropriate medium.
Spook [cf German spuk; Dutch spook etc.] A ghost, apparition, or hobgoblin, in theosophical writing applied to elementals elementaries, kama-rupic shells, and astral images.
Spring. See SEASONS
Square In theosophical literature, occasionally used to represent the quaternary, the four lower principles of nature or of man, the triangle standing for the upper triad, the three higher principles in the sevenfold classification. the Logos “is the apex of the Pythagorean triangle. When the triangle is complete it becomes the Tetraktis, or the Triangle in the Square, and is the dual symbol of the four-lettered Tetragrammaton in the manifested Kosmos, and of its radical triple RAY in the unmanifested, or its noumenon” (SD 2:24).
As to the cross inside of the square, “The philosophical cross, the two lines running in opposite directions, the horizontal and the perpendicular, the height and breadth, which the geometrizing Deity divides at the intersecting joint, and which forms the magical as well as the scientific quaternary, when it is inscribed within the perfect square, is the basis of the occultists. Within its mystical precinct lies the master-key which opens the door of every science, physical as well as spiritual. It symbolizes our human existence, for the circle of life circumscribes the four points of the cross, which represent in succession birth, life, death, and immortality. Everything in this world is a trinity completed by the quaternary.” (IU 1:508). The squaring of the circle is a cosmogonic and mystical mystery indeed. See also QUATERNARY
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
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