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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Sraddha (Sanskrit) Śraddhā [from śrad truth, faithfulness + the verbal root dhā to place] Faith, trust, reverence, loyalty.

Sraddha (Sanskrit) Śrāddha A ceremony in honor and for the welfare of dead relatives, observed with great strictness at various fixed periods and on occasions of rejoicing as well as mourning by the surviving relatives. It is not a funeral ceremony, but an act of reverential homage to a deceased person performed by relatives, and is supposed to supply the dead with strengthening nutriment after the performance of the previous funeral ceremonies has endowed them with ethereal bodies. In Hinduism, the deceased relative is considered a preta (wandering ghost) until the first sraddha ceremony, when he attains a position among the spiritual pitris in their blissful abode.

Sraddha-deva (Sanskrit) Śrāddha-deva Any god presiding over sraddha rites; especially an epithet of Yama, the god of death and king of the Underworld.

Srama (Sanskrit) Śrama [from the verbal root śram to toil, labor] Exertion, labor, toil; often used for the different methods of mental and physical austerity used in several of the yogas of Hindustan. Mystically, srama is active labor, exertion, and training which the disciple undergoes in the acquiring of esoteric wisdom.

Sramana (Sanskrit) Śramaṇa [from the verbal root śram to exert] Making effort or exertion; toiling, laboring; one who performs acts of penance and mortification — an ascetic of such type. Particularly applied to Buddhist monks or mendicants, to Buddha, or to a Jain ascetic.

When a sravaka from theory goes into the actual practice of self-control in all its senses, he becomes a sramana, a practicer of the esoteric instructions. Mere asceticism, however, apart from strict spiritual aspiration and intellectual training, is of little value, and too often distracts the attention of the student merely to care for the body and its appetites. The story of the Buddha himself well illustrates this, for the time came when he abandoned ascetic mortification of the body and turned his entire attention to the far greater and more difficult spiritual and intellectual discipline and evolution.

Sramanacharya (Sanskrit) Śramaṇācārya [from śramaṇa ascetic + āchārya teacher] A Buddhist or Jain teacher of ascetic type.

Srastara (Sanskrit) Srastara A couch or sofa for reclining; “consisting of a mat or a tiger’s skin, strewn with darbha, kusa and other grasses, used by ascetics — gurus and chelas — and spread on the floor” (TG 307).

Sravah (Avestan) In the Vendidad (19:42) Zoroaster in his invocation against Angra-Mainyu says: “Invoke the seven bright Sravah with their sons and their flocks.” Orientalists have been unable to give a meaning to the word; however Blavatsky equates them with the Amesha Spentas “in their highest occult meaning. The ‘Sravah’ are the noumenoi of the phenomenal Amshaspends, the souls of spirits of those manifested Powers: and ‘their sons and their flock’ refers to the planetary angels and their sidereal flock of stars and constellations. ‘Amshaspend’ is the exoteric term used in terrestrial combinations and affairs only” (SD 2:385).

Sravaka (Sanskrit) Śrāvaka [from the verbal root śrū to hear] One who listens or attends to the esoteric instructions, a disciple or chela. In Buddhism, a student of the exoteric teaching of Gautama Buddha, and a practicer of the four great truths of Buddhism.

Sri (Sanskrit) Śrī [from the verbal root śri to honor, be devoted] Light, luster, radiance, glory, beauty; prosperity, success, high rank. As a proper noun, Lakshmi as goddess of prosperity or beauty. Also commonly used as an honorary prefix, equivalent to holy, sacred, e.g., Sri Sankaracharya.


Srichakra (Sanskrit) Śrīcakra [from śrī light, radiance + cakra wheel, mystical center or plexus] A magical diagram or circle, exoterically supposed to represent the circle of the earth. When applied to man, an astrological division of the body representing the uterine or pubic region. Subba Row writes: “The Sreechakram referred to in ‘Isis Unveiled’ is not the real esoteric Sreechakram of the ancient adepts of Aryavarta”; to which Blavatsky adds: “Very true. But who would be allowed to give out the ‘real esoteric one’?” (5 Years of Theosophy 156-7)

Sridhara (Sanskrit) Śrīdhara A well-known Hindu author of various commentaries.

Srimad-bhagavat (Sanskrit) Śrīmad-bhagavat That which is beautiful and worthy of praise; a title of the Bhagavad-Gita.

Sringa-giri (Sanskrit) Śṛṅga-giri [from śṛṅga peak + giri mountain] The mountain peak; a hill and town on the ridge of the Western Ghauts in Mysore in Southern India; also the chief matha (monastery) of the Advaita and Smarta Brahmins, also called Sringeri, founded by Sankaracharya in this town. Because it is the residence of the philosophico-religious head of the Advaita Vedantists, each one of these heads, whether by courtesy or spiritual right, is himself called Sankaracharya.

Sripada (Sanskrit) Śrīpāda [from śrī holy one + pāda foot] The Lord’s foot; the supposed impression of the Buddha’s foot; also the name of several men.

Srivatsa (Sanskrit) Śrīvatsa The favorite of Sri (lord or goddess); a mystical mark worn by Siva in his representations, as well as used in various ways by the Jains as the emblem of the tenth Jina. This emblem is a particular curling of hair on the breast of Krishna or Vishnu and of other divine beings, said to be white and often in iconography pictured as cruciform and supposed to represent a flower.

Sriyantra, Sri-antara. See SIX-POINTED STAR; SOLOMON’s SEAL

Srnga-giri. See SRINGA-GIRI

Srotapanna (Sanskrit) Srotāpanna [from srota river, stream + āpanna entered] One who has entered the stream, leading to nirvana; one who has entered on the first of the four great paths that lead to Nirvana. See also SROTAPATTI

Srotapatti (Sanskrit) Srotāpatti [from srota stream, river + āpatti entering into a state or condition from a-pad to enter] One who has attained the first path of comprehension of the real and the unreal, the first of the four paths that lead to nirvana: the path of arhatship. “Once thou hast passed the gate Srotapatti, ‘he who the stream hath entered’; once thy foot hath pressed the bed of the Nirvanic stream in this or any future life, thou hast but seven other births before thee, O thou of adamantine Will” (VS 46). See also ARHAT

Srotriya (Sanskrit) Śrotriya [from the verbal root śru to hear, listen] A Brahmin who practices the Vedic rites and the sacred knowledge he studies, as distinguished from the Vedavid, the Brahmin who studies them only theoretically; traditionalist, as a Qabbalist in Hebrew though is the theosophical traditionalist of the Jews. It is precisely those who follow the tradition who are among the most eminent and successful disciples of the inner meaning of the sacred teaching in India, as contrasted with the mere bibliolaters, who read with reverence but without desire themselves to practice and follow the teaching and precepts which they study. Thus, books are seen to be great helps, if taken for the purpose for which religious books were originally written, and yet distinct stumbling blocks when they become the mere containers of the revealed faith which cannot be changed. The traditionalist seeks and finds the living reality, whether imbodied in books or not; the bibliolater or book-man is content with what already has been received.

Sruti (Sanskrit) Śruti [from the verbal root śru to hear] What is heard; teachings handed down in traditional writing, distinguished from smritis, the unwritten teachings handed down by tradition by word of mouth. The Srutis in India are considered to be divine in origin and everlasting, for they are the teachings of the divine oral revelation. Yet exactly the same observation may be made regarding the smritis — the unwritten tradition. The Srutis comprise first and foremost the Vedas, including the Mantras, Brahmanas, and Upanishads. The Hindu Srutis are all written in more or less metaphorical language.

Stanzas of Dzyan Archaic verses of philosophical and cosmogonical content drawn from the Book of Dzyan, which form the basis of The Secret Doctrine. They present the esoteric teachings in regard to cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis, and are the ancient heritage of humanity as preserved by the brotherhood of mahatmas. Every race and nation has drawn from this source through the medium of its initiated or inspired teachers and saviors. Only portions of the original verses are given in The Secret Doctrine, and Blavatsky’s presentation there represents the first time that they have been set down in a modern European language; her endeavor always was to represent the meaning rather than to give a merely literal rendering of the words: “it must be left to the intuition and the higher faculties of the reader to grasp, as far as he can, the meaning of the allegorical phrases used. Indeed it must be remembered that all these Stanzas appeal to the inner faculties rather than to the ordinary comprehension of the physical brain” (SD 1:21).

Especially is this the case when the Stanzas refer to events and conditions of cosmic or human life of which mankind today has virtually lost all memory, except for the scattered fragments of archaic writings which have reached us out of the darkness of prehistory. Only deep meditation and contemplation upon the mystical symbols used will awaken the faculty to comprehend them:

“The history of cosmic evolution, as traced in the Stanzas, is, so to say, the abstract algebraical formula of that Evolution. . . ..
“The Stanzas, therefore, give an abstract formula which can be applied, mutatis mutandis, to all evolution: to that of our tiny earth, to that of the chain of planets of which that earth forms one, to the solar Universe to which that chain belongs, and so on, in an ascending scale, till the mind reels and is exhausted in the effort.
“The seven Stanzas given in this volume represent the seven terms of this abstract formula. They refer to, and describe the seven great stages of the evolutionary process, which are spoken of in the Puranas as the ‘Seven Creations,’ and in the Bible as the ‘Days’ of Creation” (SD 1:20-1).

These archaic stanzas are written preeminently in symbolic language, with the intention of giving, perhaps, a sevenfold meaning; “as there are seven keys of interpretation to every symbol and allegory, that which may not fit a meaning, say from the psychological or astronomical aspect, will be found quite correct from the physical or metaphysical” (SD 2:22n). See also BOOK OF DZYAN

Star Popularly, all points of light in the firmament; more accurately, the so-called fixed stars or suns, as distinct from planets. Also a star-polygon, such as the five-pointed star; or a symbol.

Adepts in genuine archaic astrology know the peculiar qualities of the various stars and the influences they shed around them, and therefore likewise on earth and man; the tattered remnants of this knowledge have been handed down to modern astrologers. One branch concerns worship of the genii of the stars, the star-angels or -rishis especially — because of a certain occult mystery — the seven of the Great Bear. All entities, whether worlds or men, have each its own parent-star or mahadhyani-buddha; but this does not refer to the dominant star in merely natal astrology. There is an analogy and intimate connection between the celestial hierarchies of orbs and the hierarchies of human principles, for every star we see is one globe of a chain of six or eleven other star-globes, just as our earth is one globe of a planetary chain. Thus our sun is the visible representative of a solar or stellar chain, of which only the most physicalized, concreted globe is visible to us as our day-star. Every star or sun is the imbodiment of a conscious living being, pursuing its own pathways of destiny, and most intimately bound together not only with its own planetary family but with all the other stars and suns in the galaxy to which it belongs. This fact was the real basis of the wide diffusion of what is popularly called sun worship.

Star-angels the regents or cosmic spirits of the stars: “Every planet according to the esoteric doctrine is in its composition a Septenary like man, in its principles. That is to say, the visible planet is the physical body of the sidereal being, the Atma or Spirit of which is the Angel, or Rishi, or Dhyan-Chohan, or Deva, or whatever we call it” (BCW 10:31). This was the basis for the worship of star-angels by all antiquity, a worship which in modified form was taken over by primitive Christianity and still exists in the Roman Catholic Church, although the esoteric meaning was lost. The seven star-angels — Michael (like unto God), Gabriel (the strength of God), Raphael (divine virtue), Uriel (God’s light and fire), Scaltiel (the speech of God), Jehudiel (the praise of God), and Barachiel (the blessing of God) — referred to the rectors of the seven sacred planets. “It is through their ‘divine attributes,’ which have led to the formation of the names, that these archangels may be identified by an easy esoteric method of transmutation with the Chaldean great gods and even with the Seven Manus and the Seven Rishis of India” (BCW 10:19).

Stauros (Greek) A cross, especially used in the New Testament for the Roman instrument of crucifixion. Its form was represented by the Greek letter T.

Stellar Spirits. See PLANETARY SPIRITS

Sterility The otherwise unaccountable sterility which ethnologist note among certain so-called primitive peoples is a physiological prevision by which karmic law hastens the closing scenes for the remnants of a racial cycle. American Indians, Eskimos, Papuans, aboriginal Australians, most of the Polynesians, etc., are all said to be dying out as the tidal wave of incarnating egos rolls past them to harvest experience in less senile stocks. It is a physical proof of karma “that the lowest races of men are now rapidly dying out; a phenomenon largely due to an extraordinary sterility setting in among the women, from the time that they were first approached by the Europeans. A process of decimation is taking place all over the globe, among these races whose ‘time is up’ — among just these stocks, be it remarked, which esoteric philosophy regards as the senile representatives of lost archaic nations” (SD 2:779-80). She adds that while the cruelties and abuses perpetrated by colonists, as well as changes in diet, etc., have done much to reduce these peoples in number, “the people that have been most spared . . . Hawaiians or Maoris, have been no less decimated than the tribes massacred or tainted by European intrusion” (ibid.).

The theosophic study of sterility also throws a strong light upon the origin of the anthropoids. This dates back to hybrids resulting form the union of certain imperfectly evolved groups of the Atlanteans with females of a semi-human, if not quite animal race, itself the progeny of the “sin of the mindless” Lemurians. This took place at the period of the greatest materialization of physical man, when the unnatural union was fertile “because the mammalian types were not remote enough from their Root-type — Primeval Astral Man — to develop the necessary barrier” (SD 2:688-9; cf 195-6). Since then, nature has changed its ways, and the general rule for the crime of human bestiality is a resulting sterility.

Sterope. See PLEIADES

Sthana (Sanskrit) Sthāna A state or condition; any place, abode, or dwelling. When such abode or place is considered to be the center of a deific influence or power, ayana (going, with the significance of circulation or moving power) is also used.

Sthavara (Sanskrit) Sthāvara [from the verbal root sthā to stand] Fixtures; as an adjective, unmoving or fixed. Used for entities which are alive but not self-moving, and therefore applicable to the minerals and plants; used in contrast with jangama (goers), the animal and human kingdoms.

Sthavira or Sthavirakaya (Sanskrit) Sthāvira, Sthāvirakāya [from sthāvira old; an old and venerable bhikṣu] The school of the elder, president, or chohan; one of the earliest philosophical contemplative schools, founded in 300 BC, distinctly Buddhist in character. In 247 BC, it split into three divisions: the Mahavihara (dweller of the great monasteries); Jetavaniyah; and Abhaya-giri-vasinah. It is one of the four branches of the Vaibhashika school founded by Katyayana, one of the disciples of Gautama Buddha and author of the Abhidharma-Jnana-Prasthana-Sastra. All these schools are highly mystical, although frequently stated to be materialistic, which may be the fact in later times when they had degenerated and literalism took the place of the original mystical intent and significance of their teachings. See also ABHAYAGIRI

Sthiratman (Sanskrit) Sthirātman [from sthira firm, constant + ātman self] Constant, eternal; applied to the spiritual self of the universe, of which the soul of the universe is the vehicle.

Sthiti (Sanskrit) Sthiti [from the verbal root sthā to stand] The attribute of preservation; stability, permanence.

Sthula (Sanskrit) Sthūla [from the verbal root sthūl to become bulky, increase in size or volume] Large, thick, bulky, massive; similar to sthura. In philosophy, gross, material, tangible, in opposition to sukshma (subtle, intangible, minute). Especially used in the compound sthula-sarira (physical body), the lowest and most impermanent of the seven human principles.

Sthula-maya (Sanskrit) Sthūla-maya [from sthūla gross, bulky + maya built of] Consisting of grosser elements; material, differentiated and conditioned. A Hindu philosophical term also applicable to one of the four principles of the Taraka-Raja-Yoga system, called sthulopadhi, corresponding to the three lower principles of the theosophical septenary classification: prana, linga-sarira, and sthula-sarira.

Sthula-sarira (Sanskrit) Sthūla-śarīra [from sthūla coarse, gross, not refined, heavy, bulky, fat in the sense of bigness, conditioned and differentiated matter + śarīra to molder, waste away] A gross body, impermanent because of its wholly compounded character. The physical body, usually considered as the lowest substance-principle of the sevenfold human constitution. This human form is the result of the harmonious coworking on the physical plane of forces and faculties streaming through their astral vehicle or linga-sarira, the pattern or model of the physical body. The sthula-sarira may be considered concreted effluvium or dregs of the linga-sarira. Hence, the sthula-sarira is the vehicle or carrier on this plane of all the other human principles. The physical body is built up of cosmic elements from all parts of the universe. The millions of tiny lives that make up our bodies are much more enduring than is the body itself as a unit. These little lives are constantly undergoing birth and rebirth because constantly changing or evolving, and thus the human body also changes as the years pass by. The physical body is the outermost, and therefore the feeblest, expression of all the wondrous qualities and forces working in man.

The human body was once in far-distant ages a globe of light, and will once more become ethereal and radiant as man in his evolutionary development rises upwards along the ascending arc. As the inner man unfolds himself, so his bodies on all planes of his constitution become more refined, ethereal, and perfect in their coordinated activities.

“Strictly speaking the physical body is not a ‘principle’ at all; it is merely a house, man’s ‘carrier’ in another sense; and no more is an essential part of him — except that he has excreted it, thrown it out from himself — than are the clothes in which his body is garmented. Man really is a complete human being without the Sthula-sarira; and yet this statement while accurate must be taken not too literally, because even the physical body is the expression of man’s constitution on the physical plane. The meaning is that the human constitution can be a complete human entity even when the physical body is discarded, but the Sthula-sarira is needed for evolution and active work on this sub-plane of the solar kosmos” (OG 164-5).

Sthulopadhi (Sanskrit) Sthūlopādhi [from sthūla gross + upādhi base, vehicle] The gross base or vehicle in the human constitution, consisting of the physical body (sthula-sarira), the astral model-body (linga-sarira), and the vital activities (prana). According to the Taraka-Raja-Yoga school there are three upadhis (bases) in the human constitution: karanopadhi, sukshmopadhi, and sthulopadhi. The sthulopadhi corresponds to the combination of the annamaya-kosa and pranamaya-kosa of the Vedantic classification.

Stigmata (Latin) [plural of Latin, Greek stigma pricked mark, brand] The mark produced on the skin of ecstatics, in the case of Christian ecstatics said to represent the wounds of Christ. Ecstatics could have produced any other kind of marks on their skin or body if they had been sufficiently strongly under the intense psychomental strain bringing about stigmata on the body by automatic reaction. Any picture in the mind if it is sufficiently clear and definite in outline, and if held with sufficient intensity of feeling and thought, can be transferred to the model-body (linga-sarira) and thence reproduced in the physical body, where it is outlined in congested blood or pigmentation of the skin. It is not infrequent in these cases that extravasation of blood or serum occurs, producing the cases of bleeding wounds produced by emotion and thought power. Such instances of the body reacting thus to inner psychomental strain are common enough in all countries and ages, and have nothing to do with abstract religious or philosophical truth.

If the West possessed a genuine psychology, stigmata would not be looked upon with awe as miracles or quasi-miracles or considered to be inexplicable phenomena. They could be reproduced at will by the adept on his own body, but why should he do so useless a thing, involving not only an unnatural condition of his constitution, but possibly suffering of the body itself? The whole matter of stigmata in human subjects is but an intensification in very unusual circumstances of what biological science knows to occur commonly and automatically in the bodies of the lower creatures, which not merely change color, but undergo curious transformations under conditions of fright, anger, etc.

Furthermore, the curious birthmarks which occur are often traceable to some visual impression accompanied by emotion on the part of an expectant mother.

Stock-race. See ROOT-RACE

Stoicheia (Greek) [plural of stoichos a row of steps, succession of similar things] First principles, elements as used by Plato and Aristotle; employed by Greek physicists for the first and simplest component parts; likewise the elements of a science, or the points, lines, and surfaces in geometry, or the signs of the zodiac in astrology. It corresponds quite loosely with the planes, degrees, or stages in a cosmic hierarchy — the degrees or divisions of the one undivided divine element. Yet the reference here is not to boundless infinitude, but to the summit of a cosmic hierarchy or universe.

Stoics [from stoa corridor in Athens in which Zeno held his school and taught] Stoicism is most familiar as a great ethical system; its aim was to make wisdom practical. It set virtue above outer, physical, or social happiness as an ideal to be aimed at, and both its watchword and its consequent objective was duty. Though in the form familiar to us it arose in Greece, its qualities were better adapted to Hellenistic then to purely Greek appreciations, and especially to the Romans of the Empire with their graver temperament and individual subjection to the imperium. So far as Greece is concerned, its practical character can be traced to the influence of Socrates and of the Cynics; but it received Asiatic influence from its founder (Zeno, 4th century BC), of Asiatic origin.

It recognized a supreme and all-harmonious divinity of hierarchical character and various subordinate deities, and the unity of man with nature and of nature with this divinity. This divinity, however, was not personal God, but the cosmic spiritual originant, recognized as but one of innumerable others in the boundless fields of illimitable space. Stoicism recognized in man the existence of wisdom and will, whereby he might transcend the distractions of lower forces and realize the ideal of harmony with nature and resulting equanimity.

This great system is worthy of being enumerated among the outpourings of the ancient wisdom and may be said to have been the religion of the Roman world under the early empire. Even Christian sectarianism admits that paganism reached one of its great heights of ethical idealism under the Stoics; and it has reverberated in wave after wave through succeeding ages down to the transcendentalism and “new thought” of our times.

Stone(s) There is available numerous testimony as to animated stones, speaking stones, etc. There is the Christ-stone, which followed the Israelites; the Jupiter Lapis swallowed by Saturn; the testimony of Pausanias as to the Grecian worship of stones; the Ophites and Siderites, serpent-stones and star-stones, the former being alleged to have the gift of speech; the baituloi or alleged animated stones mentioned by Sanchoniathon and Philo Byblius; the liafail or speaking stone of Westminster; Pliny’s stones which ran away when a hand approached them; the importance attached to stone monuments and rocking stones; etc. (SD 2:341 et seq). Again, we have the vast subject of talismans and of gems with potent properties.

A stone is an organism enshrining a divine spark or monad. The difference between the stone and the man consists largely in the fact that what is expressed in man is latent in the stone. Why then should not the hierophants of genuine magic or occult science have been able to evoke from the stone its latent potencies? Why should not particular stones, like particular plants, animals, or men, possess particular virtues?

Unless modern science is prepared to make of the physical atom a primordial existence, it must seek the origin elsewhere. Physical matter is a concretion of universal light or radiation; but it needs the eye of a seer to perceive what starry virtue lies sleeping in the gem or the talisman; the skill of the magician to known what can be done by placing stones in a particular grouping, perhaps with certain ceremonies, etc.

The word has symbolic uses, as in the white stone with a new name inscribed in it, which is given to him that overcomes in Revelations; the stone that the builders rejected; stones in the Guardian Wall; etc.

Stone Age According to current theories of human evolution, the comparatively recent time when man had found out how to make stone implements only, not having yet learnt the use of metals. Subdivided by scientific theorists into the Paleolithic and Neolithic (old and new stone ages). Though people in all ages have used such implements and still do in some places — which fact does not place us all today in the Stone Age — it is evident that the use of stone implements by savage peoples in no wise tends to establish a theory of human evolution. Races branch out like the limbs of a tree, so that different people may be in various stages of their racial evolution at the same time; also a degenerating race may revert to the use of stone implements.

Stonehenge The well-known megalithic structure on Salisbury Plain, England, the most wonderful prehistoric relic in that country, now preserved as a national monument. The larger stones are about 18 feet high and weigh about 20 tons apiece. There are two concentric circles; the outer circle, now badly interrupted by breaks and disturbances, being a hundred feet in diameter and consisting of upright stones with horizontal ones across the tops, originally forming a continuous structure. The inner circle has no lintels at present. Within is a horseshoe line of great trilithons and monoliths, and inside that another horseshoe of smaller stones. In the center is a large block called the altar. Outside, facing the altar and the opening of the horseshoes, stand two outer stones, believed by some to mark the place of sunrise at the summer solstice about 1680 BC. Some of the stones, including the altar, were brought from a great distance. Transportation of such heavy stones from such a distance would require great skill and organizing power.

Stonehenge is mentioned in The Secret Doctrine in connection with traditions of men of great power and large stature. Reference is made to initiate priests from ancient Egypt who traveled by dry land across what is now the British Channel to supervise the building of “menhirs and dolmens, of colossal zodiacs in stone” (SD 2:750). Modern geology places the appearance of the British Channel about 8,000 years ago, so that land communication with the Continent would have been possible till then. The Badarian culture in Lower Egypt shows that 14,000 years ago the people were sufficiently civilized to make good pottery and wear linen.

Megalithic monuments, more or less similar to Stonehenge, are found widely scattered over the globe, even in the wild Triobrand Islands near New Guinea. To know why such buildings were erected we should need far more knowledge than we have of the actual builders, their ideas and aims, and innumerable other conditions. The subject is connected with what is said about a lost science which could avail itself of the normal latent magical properties of stones.

Striges (Latin) [from Greek] Also strygis. Screech owls or some such nocturnal bird of prey; applied in classical mythology to a species of vampire which sucked the blood of children. A distinct mythologic reference to astral entities more or less earthbound, which can at times come into even physical relation with human beings, whether younger or older, at the time in a state of negative receptivity. Corresponds to the Hindu pisacha.

Stupa (Sanskrit) Stūpa A conical monument, sometimes domed, in India and Ceylon, erected over relics of the Buddha, of arhats, or other great men.

Sub-astral The lower portions of the astral realms, whether of the solar system or of the constitution of a living being. The astral light is divided into a number of degrees, enumerated as seven, ten, or twelve. More generally the astral is triform — the highest astral, the intermediate astral, and the lowest or sub-astral.

Subconscious In The Secret Doctrine, used for a degree of consciousness less evolved than that with which we are familiar. Generally today, psychic researchers and psychoanalysts define it as a kind of mental action not yet revealed to ordinary consciousness and not easily apparent to introspection. Our own consciousness is known by experience; that of others is inferred from analogy and from its results. In the same way, our conduct is found to be largely influenced by something which we must presume to be a conscious intelligence, yet of which we are not aware by actual experience. We cannot get a clear definition of this until we have analyzed the concept of consciousness more fully, as is done in Hindu systems. But, as a practical question, our mental nature includes a far larger field than that occupied at any one time by the focus of attention. Subconscious may merely mean behind conscious; but if it taken to mean below, the expression is unfortunate as implying lower and more sinister regions of our mentality; and this indeed is actually the region studied and accepted by prominent modern psychoanalysts.

Sub-element Secondary elements derived from parent elements which to them are primary, as the physical elements in relation to their ultraphysical primaries; or chemical elements which have been proved to be resolvable into simpler elements. In this sense, the sub-elements are more compound and less simple than the elements; and the prefix denotes a lower order rather than an underlying essence.

Subhava (Sanskrit) Subhāva Being; the self-forming substance, equivalent to svabhava (characteristic individuality). It is the spirit within the substance, or the essence of the entity governing its noumenal and phenomenal appearances; “in the Vedanta and Vyaya Philosophies: nimitta, efficient, and upadana, the material, causes are contained in subhava co-eternally. Says a Sanskrit Sloka: ‘Worthiest of ascetics, through its potency, [that of the ‘efficient’ cause’] every emanated or evolved thing comes by its own proper nature’ ” (TG 310).

Subjectivity Subjective and objective are interdependent, having meaning only in relation to each other. Subjective is said to apply to whatever is referred to the thinking subject, the ego; objective to whatever belongs to the object of thought, the non-ego. Subjective and objective express a relation between the act of perception and the object perceived. To some extent the two words correspond to mind and matter, but parts of mind itself may become objects of some higher perceptive subject. Modern idealists say that the cooperation of subject and object results in the sense object or phenomenon, but this does not hold good on all other planes than that of the physical senses. Subject and object, however, are contrasted on every plane, and this contrast represents the experience of the perceiving ego. But the peak of omniscience, or knowledge of things in themselves, is not reached until the duality or contrast of subject and object vanishes into unity (SD 1:329, 320).

In scientific materialism, the word subjective is often used to mean unreal, in contrast with the physical world which is regarded as real — despite the fact that it is one of the commonplaces of scientific thought that the physical world is perhaps of all things the most unreal of entities subject to knowledge. Thus an apparition may at times be described as being purely subjective, meaning that in such cases instead of being an actual external object it is a mental image considered objectively by the mind itself.

Subnuclei These result when, in the division of the nucleated cell, the nucleus splits into two subnuclei, “which either develop within the original cell-wall or burst it, and multiply outside as independent entities” (SD 2:166), as often occurred during the earlier root-races, and still exists in certain low forms of life.

Subphysical Kingdoms The three elemental kingdoms, kingdoms of nascent and relatively conscious but not self-conscious entitative forces. In evolutionary development, they precede the mineral kingdom in the series of evolutionary life-waves.

Subrace Used to distinguish the major or root-races from the minor races which are offshoots from the mother-race (ML 83). In a planetary chain, there are seven rounds in a manvantara (period of activity) and root-races during each round; further that there are seven subraces in every root-race, and septenary offshoots from the subraces.

Because of the successive divisions into septenary units, it is at times difficult to determine just what subrace may be intended by a writer, and careful study is needed. The length of a subrace is given as approximately 210,000 years (SD 2:435) — and here no qualifying adjective appears to define which subrace is intended; on the same page the present European race is referred to as a family race of approximately 30,000 years.

As to the position of humanity in regard to the fifth root-race: “we are in the mid-point of our sub-race of the Fifth Root Race — the acme of materiality in each . . .” (SD 1:610). This is interpreted by de Purucker as meaning “the middle point of the fourth of any cyclical series: for instance, the fourth Primary Subrace; the fourth subrace of the fourth primary subrace of the fifth root-race” (Fund 281). Thus we have at present nearly reached the middle period of the fifth root-race, and are therefore in our fourth primary subrace, but in a smaller sub-subrace which is the fifth of its own cycle.

Ancient mythologies often designated an individual as standing for a race as its eponym, thus the legend of Latona and Niobe, whose sons and daughters were slain by Apollo, may be interpreted as Latona standing for the Lemurian races, while Niobe stands for the Atlantean race, her seven sons and seven daughters personifying the seven subraces or branches of the fourth race (SD 2:771). See also ROOT-RACE

Substance. See MATTER

Substance-Principle. See PRINCIPLE

Substitute Word According to Masonic ritual, the Master’s Word was lost through the death of Hiram Abif; the other two Masters, King Solomon and King Hiram agree that the Word shall be used as a substitute for the Master’s word, until such time as the true one is discovered. Among the Pythagoreans the ineffable Word “was considered the Seventh and highest of all, for there are six minor substitutes, each belongs to a degree of initiation” (IU 2:418). Among the Jews, ’Adonai is spoken as a substitute for the Tetragrammaton, incorrectly transliterated in the Bible as Jehovah, and always pronounced as Adonai.

“It was the secresy of the early kabalists, who were anxious to screen the real Mystery name of the ‘Eternal’ from profanation, and later the prudence which the mediaeval alchemists and occultists were compelled to adopt to save their lives, that caused the inextricable confusion of divine names. This is what led the people to accept the Jehovah of the Bible as the name of the ‘One living God.’ . . . Therefore, the biblical name of Jehovah may be considered simply as a substitute, which, as belonging to one of the ‘powers,’ got to be viewed as that of the ‘Eternal.’ . . . the interdiction did not at all concern the name of the exoteric Jehovah, whose numerous other names could also be pronounced without nay penalty being incurred. . . . the ‘Eternal’ being something higher than the exoteric and personal ‘Lord’ ” (IU 2:400-1).

Ancient names were always symbols or representations; thus all the names of the Eternal, the infinite and incomprehensible, are substitutes, merely names, attempts to define what is indefinable and unutterable. “The word Jehovah, if Masonry adheres to it, will ever remain as a substitute, never be identified with the lost mirific name” (IU 2:398). See also INEFFABLE NAME; LOST WORD

Subtle Bodies In Vedantic philosophy, the five kosas or sheaths, whether of the cosmos, man, or any other being, through which the atman as sutratman (thread-self) passes. In a more restricted and biological sense, the chhayas (shadows) or astral bodies emanated by original humanity to become the vehicles of the future humanities. Those who projected or emanated these chhayas or subtle bodies were the pitris (fathers, progenitors).

Succuba, Succubi. See INCUBUS

Suchi (Sanskrit) Śuci White, purified, resplendent; one of the three personified fires, whether in the kosmos or man, a son of Agni-abhimani and Svaha. Agni-Abhimani, his three sons — Pavaka, Pavamana, and Suchi — and their 45 sons, constitute the mystic 49 fires of occultism. Suchi, the solar fire or saurya [from surya the sun], is the parent to Havyavahana, the fire of the gods. Also a name of Indra. See also ABHIMANI

Sudarsana (Sanskrit) Sudarśana Good-looking, beautiful; the chakra or circular weapon of Vishnu-Krishna, a flaming weapon called the disc of the sun. Occultly, it is that power possessed by the highest initiates and semi-divine men, avataras, buddhas, etc., which is an emanation or out-pouring from their spiritually intellectual or buddhi-manasic principle. Intellect in its smooth and magical operations is sudarsana (beautiful to consider), and of immense power even among men on our low plane. When used as a power or “weapon” by god-men or similar beings it is virtually irresistible.

Suddhasattva (Sanskrit) Śuddhasattva [from śuddha pure + sattva goodness] Pure goodness, reality per se; a state of conscious spiritual egoity or egoship, and at the same time pure spiritual essence. Considered from the substance viewpoint, it is a supermaterial or ultramaterial essence or substance which to us is invisible, yet on its own plane luminous if not indeed light itself. Of this stuff or essence the bodies of the highest dhyanis and the gods are formed. It is spiritual substance without adulteration of the differentiated matters of the lower cosmic planes.

Suddhodana (Sanskrit) Śuddhodana [from śuddha pure + udana water, flow] Pure flow; the King of Kapilavastu, father of Gautama Buddha. The name — whether actual or given him in later years for reverential considerations — bears the idea of the pure flow of the spirit or spiritual wisdom giving birth to its offspring, the Buddha.

Sudha (Sanskrit) Sudhā Welfare; the food and beverage of the gods, skin to amrita, the substance which gives immortality; equivalent to the ambrosia and nectar of ancient Greece.

Sudra (Sanskrit) Śūdra A member of the lowest of the four castes or social divisions made in the Vedic period in India. In the Laws of Manu, the Sudra was regarded as a servant to the three other castes: the Brahmins or priest-philosophers, the Kshattriya or administrator-king and soldier, and the Vaisya or agriculturist or trader. The Sudra is said to have sprung from the feet of Purusha, while the Rig-Veda gives his origin as coming from the feet of Brahma. See also CHATUR-VARNA

Sudyumna (Sanskrit) Sudyumna The beautifully resplendent one; Ila or Ida, when during her repetitive changes of sex the male character was in evidence. Ila was the fair daughter of Vaivasvata-Manu, who sprang from his sacrifice when he was left alone after the flood. An androgynous creature, being one month a male and the next month a female, she is related to the moon. In another sense this Puranic allegory has direct reference to the androgynous early third root-race.

Sufi, Sufi, Sufiism [from Arab suf wool; sufi he who wears woolen garments] A school of thought that emphasizes the superiority of the soul as opposed to the body. A Sufi wears harsh, raw woolen garments constantly irritating his skin to remind him that the body is the part which prevents the soul from attaining higher goals. The first public pronouncement of mysticism in Moslem lands is attributed to Rabi‘a, who lived in the 1st century of the Hejira (622 AD) and expounded the theory of divine love: God is love, and everything on earth must be sacrificed in order eventually to attain union with God. However even before the time of Mohammed there were two principal schools of Arabic thought: the Meshaiuns (the walkers), who later became the metaphysicians after the appearance of the Koran, and the Ishrachiuns (the contemplators) who became affiliated with the Sufis. The Sufis, in fact, put an esoteric interpretation on the Koran, as well as the collected saying of Mohammed, the Sufi movement representing an infiltration into the rigidity of Islamic doctrine of the pre-Islamic mystical or quasi-occult stream of thought, especially from Persia. Blavatsky states that the Sufis acquired their “proficient knowledge in astrology, medicine, and the esoteric doctrine of the ages” from the descendants of the Magi” (IU 2:306).

By the year 200 of the Hejira a definite sect of mystics had arisen, and following the instructions of a prominent member, Abu Said, his disciples forsook the world and entered the mystic life with a view of pursuing contemplation and meditation. These disciples wore a garment of wool, and from this received their name. Sufiism spread rapidly in Persia, and all Moslem philosophers were attracted to this sect, as great latitude in the beliefs of its followers was at first permitted, until in the reign of Moktadir, a Persian Sufi named Hallaj was tortured and put to death for teaching publicly that every man is God. After this the Sufis veiled their teachings, and especially in their poetry used amorous language and sang of the delights of the wine cup. In spite of the amorous trend of poetry followed by the Sufis, to the observing eye there appears a beauty and a spirituality of thought which has found many devotees. Ideas of pantheism abound, for God is held to be immanent in all things, expresses itself through all things, and is the transcendent essence of every human soul. For a person to know God is to see that God is immanent in himself.

There are three synonymous words in modern Persian often interchangeably used — Sufi, Aref, and Darvish — each with its own nuance. Sufi represents the most institutionalized Islamic mysticism, while Aref and Erfan (school of thought-cognition) conveys cognitive aspects of mystic teachings and are more philosophic; Dervish and Darvishi (state of being Dervish) conveys freedom from attachments to worldly possessions. Hafi (the most loved and best known of the mystic poets) often refers to Sufis as those who rigidly adhere more to religious teachings than cognitive aspects of truth. These differences occurred when the mystics, due to religious persecution, had to veil their ancient beliefs with religious teachings. This made their teachings appear ambiguous, as a result of which, some confused esoteric mysticism with esoteric religion.

Sugata (Sanskrit) Sugata One who has fared well, one who has “gone” in accordance with the immemorial Buddha tradition; a name given to Gautama Buddha, similar to Tathagatha.

Suggestion, Hypnotic. See HYPNOTISM

Suhhab (Babylonian) One of the seven great gods, each of whom produced a race of men, according to Babylonian legends.

Suicide As an inseparable part of the universe, whether considered as an organism or as a huge animated machine, we cannot violently remove ourselves from the pattern without interfering with the harmonious working of the other parts; and just here enters the immense moral or ethical import of the evil of suicide. But even had we a right to destroy our life, it would be futile. We may destroy the body, but we cannot destroy the mind. The suicide, after the temporary but complete unconsciousness which succeeds death, awakes in kama-loka the same person, in the same state of consciousness, minus only the physical triad (body, astral body, and gross physical vitality). His state of consciousness is one of torture, the repetition over and over of his suicidal act and the emotions that induced and accompanied it; this happens automatically because the mind, like an automaton repeats incessantly perforce the controlling or dominating impulses that governed it when the person took his physical life. And as the higher ego has its own life term, he has to remain in that condition until what would have been the natural term of life on earth is ended, body or no body.

When that period ends he passes again into unconsciousness, undergoes the second death, and all that is spiritual in him passes on to devachan, leaving the lower parts to pursue their own transmigrations. Aside from extremes of mental suffering which he would not otherwise have had to endure, the suicide is deprived of the full fruitage of bliss in devachan, for the latter is in direct ratio to the extent of earthly experiences and their spiritual quality. As he is still alive, his punishment is largely due to the very intensity of that life and to his longing to enjoy earthly contacts. If his life on earth was evil and sensual, this longing tempts them to find some living being or creature through whom he can make contacts that to him were pleasures — to live again by proxy, as it were. Many crimes, obsessions, and manias, such as dipsomania, find their explanation here. Mediums and sensitives are open doors to such contacts; and these suicided astral beings, who are often called earth-walkers and who in many cases actually astral reliquiae, having by their own act severed their connection for the time with their highest principles — the spiritual soul (buddhi) and inner god (atman) — deprived thus of the urge and counsel of these highest principles, too often rush into these “open doors,” and “by so doing, at the expiration of the natural term, they generally lose the monad for ever” (ML 109).

Because self-destruction, so called, is always wrong, and an unwarrantable and violent interference with the orderly processes of nature, the act is bound to bring disharmony and trouble for all concerned. But in laying down general laws we must always allow for specific instances, for there is no dogmatic hard-and-fast rule in these matters. Suicides among themselves differ enormously as between the cowardly and selfish act of an evil person, the uncontrolled act of the insane, and the utterly mistaken but perhaps even compassionate act of one who thinks that by suicide he can aid others. These extremes are simply enormous, and nature which in its actions is perfect justice, albeit automatic, watches over and protects, as far as natural laws permit, these last cases of sincere but erroneous belief or thought, born of ignorance. We dare not judge in default of full knowledge of the karmic heritage, or the deeper causes which culminated in the act.

In a world that is almost rent asunder in certain aspects, by selfishness, fear, and hatred, with a mounting suicide toll in all countries capable of statistical review, the truth about suicide and the fate of the suicide is not a subject for sentiment but for persistent reiteration.

Suka (Sanskrit) Śuka The bright one; applied to several Hindu mythological characters. In Buddhist literature, a Brahmin ascetic said to have been a maharshi, who became a jivanmukta.

Sukhavati, Sukhavati (Sanskrit) Sukhavatī, Sukhāvatī The heaven of Buddha-Amitabha, exoterically situated in the West; equivalent to devachan (cf ML 99-100).

Suki (Sanskrit) Śukī A daughter of the rishi Kasyapa, wife of Garuda, the king of the birds and vehicle of Vishnu; the mythical mother of parrots, owls, and crows (VP 1:21). In some legends, the wife of Kasyapa.

Suklapaksha (Sanskrit) Śuklapakṣa [from śukla bright, light + pakṣa half a month] The light half of a month, the 15 days of the moon’s increase from new to full. See also KRISHNAPAKSHA

Sukra (Sanskrit) Śukra The bright one; the planet Venus, and its regent. According to theosophy each of the seven globes of the earth planetary chain, and each of the seven root-races, is under the particular guidance and protection of one of the regents of the seven sacred planets. Sukra is the guide and protector of the third globe, globe C, and also analogically of the third root-race.

The astronomical sign of Venus is the ansated cross: the Qabbalah explains this as signifying the existence of parturient energy, yet this is an unfortunate disguise, for it is the moon which controls parturition on earth, and the effluences from Venus are rather those which govern the creative action of the intellect. Venus is often viewed mystically as hermaphroditic in operation, Venus being at times represented as bearded in Greek mythology. Here we see a connection of Sukra with the hermaphrodite early third root-race.

Mystically Usanas-Sukra (Usanas being another name for Venus) is the earth’s and man’s spiritual guru and preceptor, just as in ancient Hindu mythology Usanas was the guru and preceptor of the daityas. Hence Venus is spoken of as the “older brother” of the earth, whose functions during its present evolutionary stage are those of kama-manas in the solar system and therefore in man (cf SD 2:31, 33).

Sukshma (Sanskrit) Sūkṣma As an adjective, fine, subtle, intangible; as a noun, ethereal matter or, in a generalized sense, the subtle all-pervading spirit.

Matter is said in Hindu philosophy to exist in two general conditions, the sukshma or latent and undifferentiated, and the sthula or gross and differentiated condition; “the whole manifested solar system exists in its sukshma form in this light or energy of the Logos, because its image is caught up and transferred to cosmic matter, and again the whole cosmos must necessarily exist in the one source of energy from which this light emanates” (N on BG 26).

Sukshma-sarira (Sanskrit) Sūkṣma-śarīra [from sūkṣma fine, ethereal, subtle + śarīra body] Subtle body, popularly astral body; often confused with the linga-sarira. Blavatsky remarks that the sukshma-sarira is a “ ‘dream-like’ illusive body, with which are clothed the inferior Dhyanis of the celestial Hierarchy” (SD 1:132).

In the Vedantic fourfold classification of the human constitution, it is the second division — the others being 1) sthula-sarira, 3) karana-sarira, and 4) atman. The sukshma-sarira “bears to the physical body the same relationship which the astral world bears to the objective plane of the solar system. It is sometimes called kama-rupa in our theosophical dissertations. This unfortunate expressive has given rise also to a misconception that the principle called kama represents this astral body itself, and is transformed into it. But it is not so. It is composed of elements of quite a different nature. Its senses are not so differentiated and localized as in the physical body, and, being composed of finer materials, its powers of action and thought are considerably greater than those found in the physical organism” (Notes on BG 30-1).

In the Laws of Manu (1:17) sukshma used in the plural refers to the six subtle principles from which the grosser elements are evolved (ahamkara and the fine tanmatras); other systems define 17 subtle principles of the five organs of sense, six organs of action, five elements, buddhi, and manas.

The term is more or less equivalent to the sukshmopadhi of the Taraka-Raja-Yoga school.

Sukshmopadhi (Sanskrit) Sūkṣmopādhi [from śukṣma subtle, fine, ethereal + upādhi base, vehicle] The subtle base or vehicle, in the human constitution the combined qualities of the higher manas, the lower manas, the kama-energy, and their astral veil or vehicle infilled with life. According to Taraka-Raja-Yoga there are three upadhis in the human constitution: karanopadhi, sukshmopadhi, and sthulopadhi. The sukshmopadhi comprehends manas in its dual aspect in union with kama and the vital-astral portions in the theosophic sevenfold division of man, and likewise corresponds to the manomaya-kosa of the Vedantic classification. The state of consciousness known as the svapna or sleeping condition is connected causally with the sukshmopadhi. This upadhi when developed and trained in the adept is the seat of a number of remarkable faculties or powers, among them spiritual clairvoyance and clairaudience. In the ordinary person, it is the lower portion of sukshmopadhi which ordinarily acts automatically, producing flashes of unconscious clairvoyant vision, dreams of various kind, and other psychic phenomena.

Sulanuth (Hebrew) A monster in the sea described as being ordered by God “to come up and go into Egypt . . . and she had long arms, ten cubits in length . . . and she went upon the roofs and uncovered the rafting and cut them . . . and stretched forth her arm into the house and removed the lock and the bolt and opened the houses of Egypt . . . and the swarm of animals destroyed the Egyptians” (Jasher 80:19-20).

Sulfur, Sulphur In European medieval alchemy, a cosmic element of which the mineral sulfur was regarded as a manifestation or correspondence. In classical Latin, also used for lightning, and the Greek for sulfur is theion (divine); it was regarded as having a purifying, and protective power. The alchemical division of nature and man into spirit, body, and soul shows sulfur as denoting spirit and the element fire. It is used as a purificatory agent in modern medicine, and popular usage has sanctioned its efficacy in the insoluble form of brimstone.

Sulphur. See SULFUR

Sumati (Sanskrit) Sumati Benevolent, kindness; devotion, prayer. As a proper noun, the name of many celebrated people, such as a son of Bharata who gave his name to Bharata-varsha (India).

Sumeru (Sanskrit) Sumeru Exalted Meru.

Summer. See SEASONS

Summerland Sometimes used by Spiritualists for what they hold to be the abode of departed spirits, which actually exist in astral regions, disintegrating before the second death.

Top of File


BCW - H. P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings

BG - Bhagavad-Gita

BP - Bhagavata Purana

cf - confer

ChU - Chandogya Upanishad

Dial, Dialogues - The Dialogues of G. de Purucker, ed. A. L. Conger

Echoes - Echoes of the Orient, by William Q. Judge (comp. Dara Eklund)

ET - The Esoteric Tradition, by G. de Purucker

FSO - Fountain-Source of Occultism, by G. de Purucker

Fund - Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, by G. de Purucker

IU - Isis Unveiled, by H. P. Blavatsky

MB - Mahabharata

MIE - Man in Evolution, by G. de Purucker

ML - The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, ed. A. Trevor Barker

MU - Mundaka Upanishad

M-Wms Dict - Sanskrit-English Dictionary, by Monier Williams

N on BG - Notes on the Bhagavad Gita, by T. Subba Row

OG - Occult Glossary, by G. de Purucker

Rev - Revelations

RV - Rig Veda

SBE - Sacred Books of the East, ed. Max Müller

SD - The Secret Doctrine, by H. P. Blavatsky

SOPh - Studies in Occult Philosophy, by G. de Purucker

TBL - Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge (Secret Doctrine Commentary), by H. P. Blavatsky

TG - Theosophical Glossary, by H. P. Blavatsky

Theos - The Theosophist (magazine)

VP - Vishnu Purana

VS - The Voice of the Silence, by H. P. Blavatsky

WG - Working Glossary, by William Q. Judge

ZA - Zend-Avesta

Theosophical University Press Online Edition