Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary

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Temple [from Latin templum, tempulum a small division from Greek, Latin tem to cut off, mark out] Templum was a spot marked off for sacred purposes by the augur with his staff, and might be on the ground or in the sky, where it was a region designated for the observation of omens. This connects the idea with that of the celestial mansions or zodiacal signs. From being a mere marked-off spot, it gradually evolved into elaborate edifices, and it has also a figurative use, as when the body is called the temple of God or the earth is described as a temple. When a temple in ancient days was constructed by adepts for specific purposes, it became a center or receptacle of spiritual energies attracted and focused there; and from this arose the merely exoteric ideas, true in their origin but absurdly untrue today, that a consecrated portion of a temple or church was the Holy of Holies or the Seat of God, etc.

The temple then is the shrine of the divine presence, and as such plays a predominant role in all cults, appearing as a Holy of Holies, a tabernacle, etc., and with many elaborations and accessories, such as special chambers, images, sacred vessels, and the like. The word becomes equivalent to all those signifying the receptive side of universal nature, such as moon, ark, and womb. The object of making inner understanding and inner vision seem more real to the mere man, by constructing edifices consecrated to divine worship and designed to draw down divine presences, is one that can readily be understood, and which may be either an assistance or a drawback according to whether the spirit of the worshiper is less or more materialistic.

There is a suggestive connection with temple and tempus (Latin “time,” from the same root), divided time as opposed to duration or undivided time.

Temple of Solomon The building of this temple, according to the Bible, was first projected by King David, but on command of the Lord was not carried out by him because he had “shed much blood.” David, however, assembled materials and workmen. To aid him in building the Temple, his son Solomon appealed to Hiram or Huram, King of Tyre, to send him a skillful artisan, and King Hiram sent Hiram Abif to Solomon, also workmen and additional supplies of timber.

According to the Biblical account the Temple was completely built, while according to Masonic tradition the building was left unfinished on account of the death of Hiram Abif. The temple after its completion retained its original splendor for only 33 years when the Egyptian King Shishak made war upon Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, captured Jerusalem, and took away all the treasures of the temple and of the king’s house. Its history is one of repeated profanation and of alternate spoilations and repairs, until finally in 588 BC it was entirely destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in the reign of Zedekiah. Yet Herodotus who, some 150 years later, visited Tyre and described the temple of Melkarth and Astoreth, does not even mention the Temple of Solomon, supporting the view that there never was such a structure actually built.

Granting that there may be some historical background for the Biblical account, it is nevertheless allegorical throughout. Blavatsky compares the measurements given in the Bible with those of the Great Pyramid and the Tabernacle of Moses, all of which were constructed upon the same abstract formula derived from the number of years in the precessional cycle, and also upon integral values of pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter. Moses symbolized these “under the form and measurements of the tabernacle, that he is supposed to have constructed in the wilderness. On these data the later Jewish High Priests constructed the allegory of Solomon’s Temple — a building which never had a real existence, any more than had King Solomon himself, who is simply, and as much a solar myth as is the still later Hiram Abif, of the Masons, as Ragon has well demonstrated. Thus, if the measurements of this allegorical temple, the symbol of the cycle of Initiation, coincide with those of the Great Pyramid, it is due to the fact that the former were derived from the latter through the Tabernacle of Moses” (SD 1:314-5). And she refers to “the undeniable, clear, and mathematical proofs that the esoteric foundations, or the system used in the building of the Great Pyramid, and the architectural measurements in the Temple of Solomon (whether the latter be mythical or real), Noah’s ark, and the ark of the Covenant, are the same” (SD 2:465).

The key to the meaning of Solomon’s Temple is given by W. Q. Judge: it

“means man whose frame is built up, finished and decorated without the least noise. But the materials had to be found, gathered together and fashioned in other and distant places. . . . Man could not have his bodily temple to live in until all the matter in and about his world had been found by the Master, who is the inner man, when found the plans for working it required to be detailed. They then had to be carried out in different detail until all the parts should be perfectly ready and fit for placing in the final structure. So in the vast stretch of time which began after the first almost intangible matter had been gathered and kneaded, the material and vegetable kingdoms had sole possession here with the Master — man — who was hidden from sight within carrying forward the plans for the foundations of the human temple. All of this requires many, many ages, since we know that nature never leaps. And when the rough work was completed, when the human temple was erected, many more ages would be required for all the servants, the priests, and the counselors to learn their parts properly so that man, the Master, might be able to use the temple for its best and highest purposes” (Ocean 20).

Thus David, who collected materials for the building but was not permitted actually to build the temple, represents the evolutionary and preparatory work of earlier rounds and of the earlier root-races preceding the middle of the third root-race of this round, when humanity appeared upon the scene — Solomon, David’s son — takes up the task of the actual building of the human temple. David thus mystically may stand for the lunar or barhishad-pitris, and Solomon for the solar or agnishvatta-pitris.

According to the Old Testament, the building of the temple was completed, but it was used for its high purposes only briefly. Allegorically this was during the Golden Age of the childhood of the human race — the building was complete only as regards childhood when the gods walked among mankind and were their divine instructors; but humanity was not yet truly human, for manas (mind) had not yet been awakened by the manasaputras of whom Hiram Abif was a type. It is here that Masonic tradition should be studied together with the Biblical account. Then with the awakening of manas, and the eating from the Tree of Knowledge and hence the power to choose between good and evil — in other words, with the beginning of self-directed evolution, the temple was desecrated again and again. “The building of the Temple of Solomon is the symbolical representation of the gradual acquirement of the secret wisdom, or magic; the erection and development of the spiritual from the earthly; the manifestation of the power and splendor of the spirit in the physical world, through the wisdom and genius of the builder. The latter, when he has become an adept, is a mightier king than Solomon himself, the emblem of the sun or Light himself — the light of the real subjective world, shining in the darkness of the objective universe. This is the ‘Temple’ which can be reared without the sound of the hammer, or any tool of iron being heard in the house while it is ‘in building’ ” (IU 2:391).

Again, the building of a temple, sanctuary, Holy of Holies, etc., always signified in the occult language of ancient days the founding and dissemination throughout the world or a portion of mankind of a secret doctrine of nature. In a more restricted sense, the building of a temple referred to the actual establishment of an initiation center, where not only for such territory the ancient wisdom and its divine significances were taught, but disciples were trained and brought to the “new” or “second” birth, and thenceforth themselves became adepts or initiates. On these lines the building of Solomon’s Temple was the inauguration and establishment of the teaching of nature’s occult wisdom in Judea and surrounding territory.

Tempter In general, the human mind, whether reacting to outside impulsions or impressions, or from within its own relatively small and uninspired powers; it has been commonly typified by the dragon, Satan, Zeus, etc. “Zeus is represented as a serpent — the intellectual tempter of man — which, nevertheless, begets in the course of cyclic evolution the ‘Man-Saviour,’ the solar Bacchus or ‘Dionysus,’ more than a man” (SD 2:419-20). Indeed, often it is our higher nature which “tempts” us upwards by calling forth latent or inner powers which, once evoked, are the ladder by which we climb. Thus our tempter is also our redeemer. The esoteric teaching of the tempting of humankind by awakening in its light of intellect has been materialized into a sensual temptation by a Devil in the Garden of Eden; and in the Bible, an evolutionary phase has been theologically degraded into a sin. The astral light is also spoken of as the tempter, especially by Eliphas Levi.

Temptation in its better sense is trial, probation, and testing, such as a candidate for knowledge must necessarily incur. In its worse sense, temptation is the evocation of action in and from the human mind and emotions, either by outside impacts, or because of the undeveloped characteristics of the mind itself.

Temurah (Hebrew) Tĕmūrāh Changing, exchanging, permutation; an anagrammatical method used by Qabbalists in the study of the literal Qabbalah, consisting of substituting another letter of the alphabet in place of one or her letters in a selected word; the change yielding a word of quite different meaning. The letters of the Hebrew alphabet are placed in two lines (11 in each line alphabetically), one below the other; the top line reading from right to left, the lower reading from left to right. The key-letter that is selected (any of the 22) is placed under the first letter of the alphabet. A word is then chosen for re-reading: the letter which appears in the opposite line to the one designated is substituted — and a new word is made by this process. Thus a table of 22 commutations results from temurah, and this series is called tsiruph [from the verbal root tsaraph to refine, examine, prove, interpret]

Ten One of the most sacred fundamental numbers in occultism, for ten — or more accurately perhaps twelve, as Plato pointed out — is the key of the numerical structure upon which the universe is laid and built. Where seven represents the manifested universe or brahmanda, ten or twelve includes the unmanifested aspects as well. Ten is the foundation of the decimal system and because of this is universal in its relations. With the Pythagoreans ten was the most sacred number, the mystical dekad involving and expressing the mysteries of the entire kosmos, “the absolute All manifesting itself in the Word or generative Power of Creation” (SD 2:553); and among certain other schools, as in the Orient, ten was symbolically synthesized by the vertical line traversing the circle.

The early Gnostics also considered ten to contain the knowledge of the universe, both metaphysical and material. The Pythagorean dekad “representing the Universe and its evolution out of Silence and the unknown Depths of the Spiritual Soul, or anima mundi, presented two sides or aspects to the student. It could be, and was at first so used and applied to the Macrocosm, after which it descended to the Microcosm, or Man. There was, then, the purely intellectual and metaphysical, or the ‘inner Science,’ and the as purely materialistic or ‘surface science,’ both of which could be expounded by and contained in the Decade. It could be studied, in short, from the Universals of Plato, and the inductive method of Aristotle. The former started from a divine comprehension, when the plurality proceeded from unity, or the digits of the decade appeared, but to be finally re-absorbed, lost in the infinite Circle. The latter depended on sensuous perception alone, when the Decade could be regarded either as the unity that multiplies, or matter which differentiates, its study being limited to the plane surface; to the Cross, or the Seven which proceeds from the ten — or the perfect number, on Earth as in heaven” (SD 2:573).

A great deal of the highly mystical and occult meanings of the dekad were symbolized by the Pythagoreans in their sacred tetraktys, which was considered by them so holy that their most binding oath was made upon it. Other symbols of the number ten are two interlaced triangles — for the septenary and the triad are there present at the same time — and the line within the circle line through circle, unity within zero (cf SD 2:581).

“Every Cosmogony began with a circle, a point, a triangle, and a cube, up to number 9, when it was synthesized by the first line and a circle — the Pythagorean mystic Decade, the sum of all, involving and expressing the mysteries of the entire Kosmos; recorded a hundred times more fully in the Hindu system, for him who can understand its mystic language. The numbers 3 and 4, in their blending of 7, as those of 5, 6, 9, and 10, are the very corner-stones of Occult Cosmogonies. This decade and its thousand combinations are found in every portion of the globe” (SD 1:321).

See also DECAD

Ten-brel Chug-nyi (Tibetan) rTen-hBrel hchu-gnis. In philosophy, the twelve interdependent contributories to the origination of all phenomena, equivalent to the Sanskrit nidanas. As each one of these twelve originants or causes is dependent upon its predecessor, from which it is emanated, owing to a process of reaction the predecessor is karmically also dependent for its manifestation on its successor, and thus the twelve are not simultaneous in origination but occur in a certain regular sequence; because of this inseparable interdependence they also of necessity coordinate in action. They are rendered in the Pratitya-samutpada as: 1) ma-rig-pa (Sanskrit avidya) nonwisdom; 2) hDu-bYed (Sanskrit samskara) aggregative forces; 3) rNam-Ches (Sanskrit vijnana) will, consciousness; 4) rMin-gZugs (Sanskrit nama-rupa) name-form; 5) Skye-mched (Sanskrit shadayatana) the six sense organs; 6) sparsa (Sanskrit sparsa) contact (for mind or senses); 7) tShor-ba (Sanskrit vedana) feeling; 8) sRed-pa (Sanskrit trishna) desire, thirst; 9) len-pa (Sanskrit upadana) sensual enthrallment; 10) sird-pa (Sanskrit bhava) being; 11) che-ba (Sanskrit jati) birth; and 12) rGa (Sanskrit jaramarana) old age and death.

Ten-brel chug-nyi is the Tibetan expression of the causal relations inherent in and affecting peregrinating monads, which bring about manifestation in successive imbodiments; this Buddhist teaching shows a somewhat more elaborate philosophical development in the Tibetan doctrine than elsewhere. Freedom from the entangling relations affecting consciousness is to be found by an earnest and strict following of the Four Noble Truths leading into the Noble Eightfold Path; yet the essence of the religion of the buddhas is in the words of Gautama Buddha: “To cease from all evil or wrong doing; to become enamored of virtue; to cleanse one’s own heart or nature — here is the religion of the Buddhas.” See also NIDANA

Tenshoko Daijin or Ten Sho Dai Jiu (Japanese) The Shinto sun goddess, the first of the five generations of so-called earthly deities — two of which generations are yet to be evolved forth — these seven in their turn following the seven earlier generations of heavenly deities.

Tephireth. See TIPH’ERETH

Teulu (Welsh) The bodyguard of a king, consisting of 120 noble youths, whose business was to die before the king dies in battle.

Terah (Hebrew) Teraḥ One of the stopping places of the Israelites in the deserts as narrated in Numbers 33:27; also one of the descendants of Shem, the son of Nahor and father of Abram, dwelling in the land of Ur of the Chaldeans. His lifespan is given as 205 years. One of a triad of initiates, the other two being Zoroaster and Abraham (IU 2:38); Terah is said to have worshiped the kaeiroi or kabiri, in Hebrew called Teraphim (TG).

Teraphim (Hebrew) Tĕrāfīm The household, family, or domestic idols or gods of the Jews, popularly consulted for divination; in many respects closely similar to the lares and penates of the ancient Latins. Blavatsky cites Maimonides: “The worshippers of the Teraphim (the Jewish Oracles) ‘carved images and claimed that the light of the principal stars (planets) permeating these through and through, the angelic Virtues (or the regents of the stars and planets) conversed with them, teaching them many most useful things and arts.’ And Seldenus explains that the Teraphim were built and composed after the position of certain planets . . .” (SD 1:394).

The records of the Hebrews declare that the archaic Hebrews were as much given to consulting oracles or idols, statues, images, etc., as were any of the pagan peoples. The teraphim were just such oracular statues.

Teratology [from Greek teratologia a telling of marvels from teras monster + logia discourse] Scientific term for a subject which in its broadest sense includes abnormal developments both in the fields of zoology and botany; in a more restricted sense, abnormalities in animal embryology. Technically, the old term monsters is reserved for those malformations with the most striking defects, many of them being hideous and unable to live postnatally. All such monsters or malformed births in human beings are due to the causative action of natural forces which, working in the proper environment, bring these forth because the mother for the time being has been under the sway of a current in the astral light. These births are more or less perfect or imperfect reproductions of germ-growths which are throwbacks to discarded evolutionary courses, attempting to reproduce what once were fairly common births in far past human history.

Termini (Latin) The boundary stones which Numa ordained that every landholder should set up to mark his land. Annual ceremonies were performed at these stones, called terminalia. Terminus was the Roman divinity presiding over boundaries. The stones were sacred to Hermes-Mercury and are said by Montfaucon to have been cruciform. It was sacrilege to remove them — similar to the Biblical anathemas against him who removes his neighbor’s landmarks.

Terra or Tellus (Latin) Equivalent to the Greek Gaia or Ge, earth; mother of the titans by Coelus — Ouranos or heaven. Terra is often used to designate our physical earth or its planetary chain. See also GAIA



Teth (Egyptian). See SET; THOTH

Teth (Hebrew) Ṭēith The ninth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, standing for the number nine. In the Qabbalah, used as a symbolic device for the cosmic intelligent electric force, in theosophy called fohat, “whose symbol is the serpent which played such a prominent part in the Mysteries. Its universal value is nine, . . . and the ninth door of the fifty portals or gateways that lead to the concealed mysteries of being” (SD 1:76).

Tethys (Greek) The wife of Oceanus and mother of a host of water deities. The Hesiodic theogony makes both Oceanus and Tethys titans, born of Uranus and Gaia (heaven and earth), or the spatial reaches of cosmic intelligence and the spatial vehicular aspects of the cosmos, here called earth. Sometimes Tethys is identified with Gaia, and hence with earth, but the earth meant is not our earth, but primordial matter in process of formation.

Tetractis. See TETRAKTYS

Tetrad [from Greek tetras four] The number four; a collection of four. “The Tetrad is esteemed in the Kabala, as it was by Pythagoras, the most perfect, or rather sacred number, because it emanated from the one, the first manifested Unit, or rather the three in one” (SD 2:599).

In chemistry, an atom, radical, or element that has a combining power of four. See also QUATERNARY; TETRAKTYS; TETRAGRAMMATON

Tetragrammaton [from Greek tetra four + gramma letter] Used by Qabbalists to designate the four Hebrew characters Hebrew characters — variously rendered in Roman letters YHVH, IHVH, JHVH, etc. — forming the word Jehovah (Yehovah). Present-day scholars regard this rendition of the four letters as erroneous, and some suggest that the proper reading should be Yahveh or Yahweh — depending on another manner of applying the vowel-points to the consonants. The Jews themselves, however, never pronounced the name when reading their sacred scriptures, but utter ’Adonai (the Lord) in its place. Nevertheless, the Qabbalists (more particularly medieval and modern authors) have attached special importance and significance to this four-lettered word, particularly to the Hebrew equivalent for Tetragrammaton, Shem-ham-Mephorash, sometimes called the mirific name.

The four letters themselves do not hold any especially occult significance, nor their sequence nor numerical value (10, 5, 6, 5, totaling 26), nor to which of the ten Sephiroth it is to be applied.

“The name [Jehovah] is a circumlocution, indeed, a too abundant figure of Jewish rhetoric, and has always been denounced by the Occultists. To the Jewish Kabalists, and even the Christian Alchemists and Rosicrucians, Jehovah was a convenient screen, unified by the folding of its many flaps, and adopted as a substitute: one name of an individual Sephiroth being as good as another name, for those who had the secret. The Tetragrammaton, the Ineffable, the sidereal ‘Sum Total,’ was invented for no other purpose than to mislead the profane and to symbolize life and generation. The real secret and unpronounceable name — ‘the word that is no word’ — has to be sought in the seven names of the first seven emanations, or the ‘Sons of the Fire,’ in the secret Scriptures of all the great nations, and even in the Zohar . . . This word, composed of seven letters in each tongue, is found embodied in the architectural remains of every grand building in the world . . .” (SD 1:438-9).
“Some students, in view of the sacredness of Tetraktis and the Tetragrammaton, mistake the mystic meaning of the Quaternary. The latter was with the ancients only a secondary ‘perfection,’ so to speak, because it related only to the manifested planes. Whereas it is the Triangle, the Greek delta, delta, which was the ‘vehicle of the unknown Deity’ ” (SD 2:582).

Other forms of this same name were current among the nations surrounding the Jews, as among the Syrians, some sects of whom worshiped their Iao, sometimes spelled Iaho or Yaho. Iao was one of the most sacred divinities of the Phoenicians and was supposed to be the spiritual light understandable only by the highest human intellectual faculty, and this is the idea or spiritual light of the spiritual sun. The Gnostics likewise had a mystery-god of the same name, and with the same variations in spelling, and with the same significance that it had with the Phoenicians as representing the intellectual power or potency of the solar system.

Tetraktys (Greek) The number four or a group of four, a tetrad or quaternary. The Tetraktys of Pythagoras, as an emblem, consisted of a triangle formed by ten dots, of which he says: “In what you conceive as four there are ten; then, a perfect triangle and the tetraktys [four] make seven.” and Proclus says: “the Father of the golden verses [Pythagoras] celebrates the Tetraktys as the fountain of perennial nature” (On the Timaeus 3).


Some Qabbalists made their Tetraktys upon the Tetragrammaton in the following manner:

Pythagorean = Qabbalistic
1. = 10
2.. = 15
3 . . . = 21
4. . . . = 26
10 = 72

This represents four stages of evolution: a monad, a dual creative force or duad, the world of forms, and the world of complete and concrete manifestation. This arrangement of dots enables one to deduce any of the numbers from 1 to 10. It was held in such high esteem by the Pythagoreans that their most binding oath was made upon the Tetraktys. “it has a very mystic and varied signification . . . First of all it is Unity, or the ‘One’ under four different aspects; then it is the fundamental number Four, the Tetrad containing the Decad, or Ten, the number of perfection; finally it signifies the primeval Triad (or Triangle) merged in the divine Monad. . . . The mystic Decad, the resultant of the Tetraktys, or the 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10, is a way of expressing this idea. The One is the impersonal principle ‘God’; the Two, matter; the Three, combining Monad and Duad and partaking of the nature of both, is the phenomenal world; the Tetrad, or form of perfection, expresses the emptiness of all; and the Decad, or sum of all, involves the entire Kosmos” (TG 326).

Tetratomic A tetratomic molecule is a molecule of an element which consists of four atoms of that element.

Teufel (German) [from Greek diabolos accuser] Devil.

Thalamus, Optic [from Greek optikos visual from op to see + thalamos chamber] The optic thalami are the two great posterior ganglia at the base of the brain, forming part of the wall of the third ventricle. They are the bed from which the optic fibers arise, as well as a special center for the correlation and transmission of sensory, motor, and ideational impressions which, consciously and subconsciously, interact between the body and the brain. The thalami are a central station for the reception, condensation, and transmission of all the intercommunicating lines between the conscious, thinking person and the external world.

Embryology shows the optic thalami playing an early and leading part in connection with the pineal gland, then at the apex of the developing head, a biological review of early racial conditions when the pineal gland functioned as the only eye of vision. At that stage of evolution, the human was as unselfconscious in personality and as gelatinous in physical structure as the embryo now is at first. Nevertheless, he was a spiritual being, as he now is, being the reincarnating ego which directs the evolution of its marvelous body from the unit of a fertilized cell. The embryo repeats the gradual growth and dominating position of the cerebral hemispheres which, in the history of the third root-race, gave play to intellectual faculties at the expense of spiritual vision. Then the pineal “eye,” no longer active, retired to the hollow of the brain where the optic thalami became concerned with the development of the two eyes of physical vision. “It is a curious fact that it is especially in human beings that the cerebral hemispheres and the lateral ventricles have been developed, and that the optic thalami, corpora quadrigemina, and corpora striata are the principal parts which are developed in the mammalian brain” (SD 2:301).

Thalatth, Thallath (Chaldean) Thalassa (Greek) Sea, ocean; mystically the great generative principle of the spatial deeps. Thallath was the sea, personified as a goddess in the cosmogony of Berosus; used as one of the names of the great deep or abyss, Tiamat, or Chaos. It could breed only monsters, but was destroyed by Belus, and then the gods created heaven and earth. The reference is to the mystical waters of space, or the more concrete aspect of space itself, as the great source or womb of cosmic manifestation, out of which all things come and into which at the end of the cosmic manvantara all things again return. The moon is connected in its cosmogonical function with the waters of space.

Also called Omoroka, which is the reflection in Tamti (matter) of divine wisdom.

Thamasa. See TAMASA

Thammuz. See TAMMUZ

Tharana [probably Hindi; cf Pali tharana strewing, spreading; Sanskrit starana from the verbal root stri to strew, scatter] Self-induced trance or self-hypnosis; “an action in India, which is of magical character and a kind of exorcism. Lit., ‘to brush or sweep away’ (evil influences, tharhn meaning a broom, and tharnhan, a duster); driving away the bad bhuts (bad aura and bad spirits) through the mesmeriser’s beneficent will” (TG 327).

That Translating the Sanskrit tat or tad, the nameless or ineffable. Beyond the utmost that can be defined must necessarily be postulated that which cannot be defined; beyond the utmost confines of the comprehensible must be placed that which cannot be comprehended: the All, symbolized by the circle without a central point. It is abstract space, and the point in the center is Aditi or potential space. It is the One, which is Brahman and pums (spirit) and pradhana (primordial matter), immutable because being abstract infinite space without attributes, preceding all manifestations, remaining after all manifestations have vanished in pralaya. Therefore it is nonbeing to us in the sense that it is Be-ness, abstract space and frontierless duration as one. The Qabbalistic equivalent, ’eyn soph (without bounds), is before all numbers, and is that from which all numbers proceed.

Thaumaturgy [from Greek thaumatourgia wonder-working from thauma wonder + ergon work] Used often for mere conjuring tricks; but in ancient times used in Greece to signify one of the branches of genuine practical magic, the performance of occult phenomena by the adept, with the help of elementals and various other denizens of the invisible spheres.

Thavatth. See THALATTH

Theanthropism [from Greek theos god + anthropos man] The state of being both man and god, such as are the buddhas and the higher bodhisattvas; less correctly, the ascription of human attributes to a god, or anthropomorphism; the common belief in a divine incarnation or avatara.

Theist [from Greek theos god] Since medieval times, used to signify one who believes in a singular cosmic God. In The Secret Doctrine, used of those believing in an anthropomorphic God, principally the various kinds of Christians, in contrast with those who believe in an impersonal spiritual divinity behind all phenomena of whatever kind. Less commonly used to signify the opposite of atheism, in which case it includes both polytheism and pantheism.

Theli, Tali (Aramaic) Tālī. The great dragon which symbolically envelops the universe; the mundane serpent, whether mystically as the serpent of wisdom, or materially as the psychoelectric current or pathway of the lower ranges of the astral light. “Tali (Dragon) in the universe (‘olam) is like a king upon his throne (in authority); a cycle in the year is like a king in his kingdom; the heart in the living man (nephesh) is like a king in authority (during war)” (Sepher Yetsirah 6:4). Similar ideas were held by many ancient peoples, but stressed particularly by the Scandinavians. See also NIDHOGG

Themis (Greek) Goddess of justice, who preserves harmony, adjusting effect to cause; considered, when conjoined with Nemesis and Adrasteia, as personifying karma.

Theocrasy [from Greek theokrasia from theos god + krasia a mixing] Used by Iamblichus, among other Greek philosophers, to denote a state of divine intermingling in a universe, signifying that everything is inseparably interblended and conjoined or intermingled with all the rest of the whole.

Also used of people who worship a mixture of gods, as when the Israelites mingled the worship of Jehovah with that of peoples alien to themselves.

Theodice, Theodicy [coined from Greek theos god + dike justice] A vindication of divine justice; a system or method of intellectual theorizing about the nature of so-called divine justice, having in view vindication of the justice and holiness of God, in connection with evil. Ancient philosophers all taught that the heart of things was divine harmony and that whatever evil, distortion, and obliquity might exist in the world is ultimately traceable back to the imperfect intelligence of evolving beings, who by their manifold conflicts of thought and will thus produce disharmony, relative confusion, and hence evil, in the scheme of things. This view was replaced during Christian ages by the attempt of many writers to rescue the reputation of the Christian God, who on the one hand is said to be the creator of everything and who yet is supposed to be the fountain of love, mercy, harmony, and goodness. In view of the evils and suffering in the world, such Christian attempts have been futile, for it is obvious that if God is the creator of all that is, He must have been either directly or indirectly the creator of all the disharmony, wickedness, and misery in the world, as was indeed alleged by many Jewish rabbis, following statements in the Hebrew scriptures. But this thought has been denied by Christians who refuse to accept their God of love and justice as the creator of evil, and thus they had recourse to the Devil, who himself must have been created by their omniscient God.

Theodidaktos (Greek) [from theos god + didaktos taught] God-taught; used in Christian writings, e.g., “Ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another” (1 Thessal 4:9); also applied to Ammonius Saccas, the founder of the Neoplatonic Eclectic School at Alexandria in the 4th century, because he was taught by divine wisdom.

Every initiate is a theodidaktos in greater or less degree, depending upon his stage of understanding of the teachings received by him, and also in his inner unfoldment. Each such initiate is taught from within by his own inner god in strict proportion to the degree with which the person has made alliance with his spiritual self.

Theogony [from Greek theogonia from theos god + gon generation] A genealogy of gods or divine beings, or a treatise on this, such as that of Hesiod; more generally, the philosophical science which traces the coming into being of any hierarchical universe by means of the succeeding hosts of divinities which, by manifesting themselves on various planes, produce the composite universe. A universe is in its origin and essence divine, built by and of the substance of the hierarchies of gods. It is the spiritual aspect of cosmogony or world-building.

Theoi. See THEOS

Theomachy [from Greek theomachia] Fighting against the gods, as the titans did; or a battle among the gods, as occurs in Homer.

Theomancy [from Greek theos god + manteia divination] Divination by divine inspiration; more commonly, divination by means of oracles, such as at Delphi in ancient Greece.

Theopathy [from Greek theos god + pathos experience, feeling] The seventh stage of initiation in the Mysteries, where the candidate becomes a selfless channel for communion with his inner god; the third and last stage of spiritual development — the first being theophany, the second theopneusty. The sense of theopathy, originally used in the Greek Mysteries, was that the adept “suffered” the full influence of the god within him, becoming a selfless, consenting channel for the divine power pouring through him, in utter disregard of the personal self. Because of the immense personal renunciation involved, such an adept was said to suffer — meaning to bear or carry the divinity within. The second of these three initiatory grades, theopneusty, was the same as the third, but in less full degree, and signified that the initiate received the inspiration from above-within and, as it were, was breathed into from above, but did not carry the full load of the spiritual fire or inspirational flow. The first stage, theophany, was by comparison a temporary occurrence and signified the appearance of one’s divinity to the initiant’s self-conscious perception; the neophyte met his own inner god face to face, and the appearance or theophany lasted for a greater or less time depending upon various circumstances.

Such terms were held secret in the ancient Mysteries, although the words themselves, as time passed, slowly filtered outwards and often became misunderstood, as by Christian theologians.

Theophany [from Greek theophaneia from theos god + phainesthai to appear] The appearance of a god; a degree in the ancient Mysteries, where the candidate was illumined by his own inner god, and differing from epiphany in being of a more lasting nature. In Christian ecclesiasticism, used for the incarnation of the Christos. In the outer or Lesser Mysteries it meant the showing of representations of the gods to the people — as at the festivals held at Delphi. See also THEOPATHY; THEOPNEUSTY

Theophilanthropists Love of God and man, or of God through man; a modern sect headed by Revelliere-Lepeaux, a member of the French Directory (1795-99) and a bitter opponent of ecclesiastical religion (especially Roman Catholicism), who seized a moment of attraction towards the Revolutionary ideas to forward his new religion and turn churches into Theophilanthropic temples. It was a species of deism, believing in God but not in a special revelation or any of the church doctrines; and seems to have been one form of the generally vague quasi-religious, quasi-philosophical ideas which were current in the latter part of the 18th century in France and ran like wildfire over the whole country.

Theopneusty [from Greek theos god + pneo breathe] Divine inspiration or inbreathing; signifying in the ancient Greek Mysteries a stage in initiation, coming between theophany and theopathy, where the candidate received the inspiration of his own inner god, but did not bear the full load of the inspirational flow to the extent that took place in theopathy.

Theopoea [from Greek theopoeia from theos god + poiein to make] The making of god-figures or their statues, the magic practice of endowing inanimate representations of deities with life or its semblance by means of akasic or astral forces. Reminiscent of the Greek story of Pygmalion who made an ivory image of a beautiful maiden, with which he fell so violently in love that he prayed to Aphrodite, goddess of love, to breathe life into it. The goddess is said to have granted his wish. See also THEURGY

Theos, Theoi (Greek) [from theein to run, in reference to the planetary deities who perform the formative work in cosmic evolution; or cf Sanskrit deva, Latin deus (connected with Zeus or Dios) the bright or shining one] God, gods; builders or cosmocratores. The two derivations are not antagonistic because the planets, stars, and suns are the bright and shining ones. Used in the triad of chaos, theos, cosmos — three hypostases on the matter side of cosmic evolution — meaning respectively the storehouse of cosmic seeds, the builders, and the universe built thereby.

Theosebeia (Greek) Reverence for divinity; used by Plato and others as the adjective theosebes (plural theosebeis), “those who know.” It imbodies the principle of occult training that reverence for spiritual things is based on intuition, and hence those who are intuitive or reverent in their attitude towards truth are those who know. Skepticism itself closes the door to the gaining of larger increments of knowledge: there are none so blind as those who refuse to know.

Theosophia. See THEOSOPHY

Theosophical Society, The Founded in New York City on November 17, 1875 by H. P. Blavatsky, Colonel H. S. Olcott, William Q. Judge, and several others. The original “Preamble and By-laws” state its objectives as “to collect and diffuse a knowledge of the laws which govern the universe.” Over time its objects have been somewhat enlarged to: 1) to diffuse among men a knowledge of the laws inherent in the universe; 2) to promulgate the knowledge of the essential unity of all that is, and to demonstrate that this unity is fundamental in nature; 3) to form an active brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color; 4) to study ancient and modern religion, science, and philosophy; and 5) to investigate the innate human powers.

The Theosophical Societies at present existing in the world are parts of a spiritual and intellectual movement which, known or unknown, has been active in all ages. Indeed, this movement took its rise in the earliest origins of self-conscious humanity. At times this movement has disappeared from sight, during “periods of spiritual barrenness,” as Plato expressed it, yet its work continues, although not always recognized and known. The aims and purposes of the Society are religious, philosophical, and scientific, as well as distinctly humanitarian or philanthropic: it aims to restore to mankind its ancient heritage of wisdom — knowledge of the truths of being — and to inculcate in human hearts and minds the great worth and intrinsic beauty of its lofty ethical code. The Theosophical Society is nonpolitical and nonsectarian. It has members belonging to different races who may or may not be likewise members of other religious or philosophical bodies. It has no creed or dogmas in the modern sense, and its members are essentially searchers and lovers of truth.

Blavatsky announced from almost the very beginning of her public work that she had been commissioned by the Mahatmas M and KH to form a nucleus of a universal brotherhood of mankind, and the formation of the Theosophical Society was the first fruit of her labors to this end. The dissemination of the teachings of the wisdom-religion now called theosophy was the main purpose of the Society. Writing to A. P. Sinnett, KH said: “The chief object of the T. S. is not so much to gratify individual aspirations as to serve our fellow men” (ML 7-8); and M wrote: “The sun of Theosophy must shine for all, not for a part. There is more of this movement than you have yet had an inking of, and the work of the T. S. is linked in with similar work that is secretly going on in all parts of the world” (ML 271).

Theosophy [from Greek theosophia from theos god, divinity + sophia wisdom] Divine wisdom, the knowledge of things divine; often described as attainable by direct experience, by becoming conscious of the essential, divine part of our nature, self-identification with the inner god, leading to communion with other similar divine beings. Theosophy actually is the “substratum and basis of all the world-religions and philosophies, taught and practised by a few elect ever since man became a thinking being” (TG 328). Also called by such names as the secret doctrine and the esoteric tradition, its teachings have been preserved, checked and rechecked with every new generation of its guardians and adepts.

The word became familiar to Greeks in the 3rd century with Ammonius Saccas and the Alexandrian Neoplatonists or Theurgists, who taught of divine emanations, whereby the entire universe as well as humans and all other beings are shown to be descendants of the highest gods. Theosophist is also applied to mystics in later times such as Eckhart, Boehme, and Paracelsus. It was adopted in 1875 by H. P. Blavatsky and others associated with her at the founding of the Theosophical Society as the name for the modern form of the archaic wisdom-religion which she promulgated. This wisdom-religion “was ever one and being the last word of possible human knowledge, was, therefore, carefully preserved. It preceded by long ages the Alexandrian Theosophists, reached the modern, and will survive every other religion and philosophy” (Key 7-8).

“The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system: e.g., even in the exotericism of the Puranas. But such is the mysterious power of Occult symbolism, that the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshal, to set down and explain; in the bewildering series of evolutionary progress, are all recorded on a few pages of geometrical sign and glyphs. The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where an ordinary profane, however learned, would have perceived but the external work of form. But modern science believes not in the ‘soul of things,’ and hence will reject the whole system of ancient cosmogony. It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals. That it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity. That for long ages, the ‘Wise Men’ of the Fifth Race, of the stock saved and rescued from the last cataclysm and shifting of continents, had passed their lives in learning, not teaching. How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organisations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions — so obtained as to stand as independent evidence — of other adepts, and by centuries of experiences” (SD 1:272-3).

One of the mahatmas referring to the guardianship of the divine wisdom, wrote: “For countless generations hath the adept builded a fane of imperishable rocks, a giant’s Tower of Infinite Thought, wherein the Titan dwelt, and will yet, if need be, dwell alone, emerging from it but at the end of every cycle, to invite the elect of mankind to co-operate with him and help in his turn enlighten superstitious man. And we will go on in that periodical work of ours; we will not allow ourselves to be baffled in our philanthropic attempts until that day when the foundations of a new continent of thought are so firmly built that no amount of opposition and ignorant malice guided by the Brethren of the Shadow will be found to prevail” (ML 51). See also THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY

Thera (Pali) Thera A Buddhist priest, especially a bhikkhu of Gautama Buddha’s community; specifically a senior member. Three grades were distinguished: thera bhikkhu (a senior); majjhima bhikkhu (middle or secondary disciple); and nava bhikkhu (novice). Four characteristics are mentioned, however, making a man a thera: high character, knowing the essential doctrines by heart, practicing the four jhanas (stages of meditation), and being conscious of having attained at least relative freedom through the destruction of the mental intoxications. A senior woman was termed theri or therika.

Therapeutae [from Greek therapeutes servant, especially of the divinities, healer] Described by Philo Judaeus in “On the Contemplative Life” as a monastic order among the Jews, particularly in Egypt, where their great center was on Lake Mareotis. They were allied to the Essenes, and Philo distinguishes them as being contemplative, while the Essenes he regards not only as contemplative but as practical. They were servants of God and at the same time healers for, rather than a sect, they were an esoteric body within Alexandrian Judaism generally, corresponding to the European mystics or illuminati.

Theraphim. See TERAPHIM

Thermodynamics That branch of the theory of heat which concerns the relations between heat and mechanical energy. The first law of thermodynamics states that when heat is converted into mechanical energy, or vice versa, the quantities of each are equivalent; it is a statement of the law of conservation of energy, so far as heat and mechanical energy are concerned. The second law states that heat cannot pass of itself from a cold body to a hotter body; or that it is impossible by means of inanimate material agencies to derive mechanical effect from any portion of matter by cooling it below the temperature of the coldest surrounding objects. This law has been supposed to lead to the conclusion that the material universe is running down, its energy passing into unavailable forms, like water power running down to a dead level, and that eventually there will be nothing left but a mass of cold matter, from which no further energy can be derived. However, this second law is not experimental but only a conjecture, subject to contradiction by any facts which may be discovered to the contrary. Further, these laws relate only to what is called a closed system, and are subject to modification by agencies from outside the system, as is shown by the qualifying clauses in the definitions.

Thesmophoria (Greek) [from thesmophoros law-giving] A Mystery festival celebrated at Athens, Abdera, and possibly also in Sparta, in honor of Demeter-Thesmophoros, as goddess of justice, law, and order. During its celebration, prisoners were released, the law courts of the city-state were closed, and the senate did not meet. Celebrated by women only, it took place on three days, beginning with the 11th of Pyanepsion — October 24-26. The first day was called Anodos (the way up), but also Kathodos (the way down, the descent). It celebrated with a great processional the return of Demeter with her daughter Persephone from the underworld, and as Kathodos, her descent into it. The second day was Kalligeneia (mother of beauty); and third was Nesteia (the fast), passed by the women in silence and fasting, sitting on the ground to celebrate Demeter’s sorrow. There is no information as to the rites of the second day, and nothing is actually known of the private ritual of any of the three days.

Theurgy (Greek) theurgia [from theos god + ergon work] Mystery-term popularized by Iamblichus for a method of individual communion with the gods, or bringing the gods down to earth. It consisted in purifying the psycho-astral links between the mind and its divine counterpart, whereby the theurgist was not only brought into conscious communion with his own higher self, but also with other divine entities. The first school in the Christian period

“was founded by Iamblichus among certain Alexandrian Platonists. The priests, however, who were attached to the temples of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia and Greece, and whose business it was to evoke the gods during the celebration of the Mysteries, were known by this name, or its equivalent in other tongues, from the earliest archaic period. Spirits (but not those of the dead, the evocation of which was called Necromancy) were made visible to the eyes of mortals. Thus a theurgist had to be a hierophant and an expert in the esoteric learning of the Sanctuaries of all great countries. The Neo-platonists of the school of Iamblichus were called theurgists, for they performed the so-called ‘ceremonial magic,’ and evoked the simulacra or the images of the ancient heroes, ‘gods,’ and daimonia (divine, spiritual entities). In the rare cases when the presence of a tangible and visible ‘spirit’ was required, the theurgist had to furnish the weird apparition with a portion of his own flesh and blood — he had to perform the theopaea, or the ‘creation of gods,’ by a mysterious process well known to the old, and perhaps some of the modern, Tantrikas and initiated Brahmans of India” (TG 329-30).

The varied uses by different writers shows the term’s applicability to a considerable range of practices.

“The popular prevailing idea is that the theurgists, as well as the magicians, worked wonders, such as evoking the souls or shadows of the heroes and gods, and other thaumaturgic works, by supernatural powers. But this never was the fact. They did it simply by the liberation of their own astral body, which, taking the form of a god or hero, served as a medium or vehicle through which the special current preserving the ideas and knowledge of that hero or god could be reached and manifested” (TG 330).

Plotinus was opposed to theurgy, and Porphyry says that it can but cleanse the lower or psychic portion and make it capable of perceiving lower beings, such as spirits, angels, and gods; it is powerless to purify the noetic or manasic (intellectual) principle. But Porphyry was persuaded by his master Iamblichus to concede the value of theurgy under certain limitations. Porphyry’s views highlight the difference between raja yoga and hatha yoga. In the case of such a person as Iamblichus, practices might be quite safe which would be fraught with nothing but harm in the hands of another or without the help of such a teacher. For once the barriers are down a way is opened for communion with all kinds of undesirable entities, against which the experimenter will not know how to protect himself.

In the ancient Mysteries, theurgy was divided into different degrees. To illustrate, in one of the highest initiatory degrees the initiant was brought face to face with the divinity within himself, and in order to accomplish this the initiant had to give of his own spiritual and intellectual substance and vitality so that his inner god might imbody itself on inner and invisible planes, the rite thus providing a temporary and illusory divorce which was really an essential union of the divine in man with the spiritual-intellectual — the latter recognizing for the time being its own divine origin and coalescing with it. In a less perfect form of such theurgical practice, and in a lower degree of the Mysteries, the initiant gave of his own astral and physical substance, the effluvia of his astral body and of his flesh and blood, to provide a vehicle through which a spiritual entity might have a tangible, although very temporary, imbodiment; and for the time being the initiant was thus enabled to see, touch, and converse with a being of the inner worlds who otherwise would have been utterly unable to enter our physical sphere except by those spiritual-akasic currents of forces which human beings recognize as inspiration.

Thevetat, Thevetata An ancient king of one of the divisions of Atlantis, the submerged continental system of the fourth root-race (SD 2:222). He is instanced as one of the natural born adept-magicians who neither learned nor acquired knowledge, but who knew all without being initiated. “Under the evil insinuations of their demon, Thevetat, the Atlantis-race became a nation of wicked magicians” (IU 1:593).

Third Eye Possessed by early humans and, up to the physicalization of the third root-race, it was the only seeing organ in most living species. At the beginning of that root-race, the organ which has developed into the eye was beneath a semitransparent covering or membrane, like some of the blind vertebrata today. In early humanity, the third eye was the organ of spiritual vision, as it was that of objective vision in the animals (SD 2:299), as indeed it still remains, and it appears as the pineal gland inside the skull of modern mankind. In the course of physical evolution, with corresponding loss of spiritual vision, the cyclopean eye was gradually replaced by the physical vision of the two front eyes. The original eye has since then continued to function — although unrecognized by the vast majority of people — as the organ of intuitive discernment. As this recession was not complete before the close of the fourth root-race, there were late subraces of Lemurians and of early Atlanteans who were still in some degree at least physically three-eyed (SD 2:302).

Hindu mystics speak of this inner organ as the eye of Siva, the Tri-lochana (three-eyed). In Tibet the same functional organ was called the eye of Dangma, and references to it may be found under various names scattered throughout the world’s literatures. See also PINEAL GLAND

Third Logos. See LOGOS

Third Root-race. See ROOT-RACE, THIRD

Third Round. See ROUND, THIRD

Third World. See YETSIRAH

Thirteen Today, popularly considered unlucky, and a great number of superstitions have come to be associated with it; in the numerical scale of 12, 13 begins a new duodecad. In popular Occidental belief, 13 seems regarded as being one too many, 12 being a complete number; and reference is made in Christian story to the 13 present at the “Last Supper,” one being the alleged traitor Judas. However, there is no ancient basis for this negative view.

In the Qabbalah 13 is used in several passages, e.g., in cosmogenesis, “Thirteen depend on thirteen (forms) of the most worthy Dignity” (Siphra’ Di-tseni‘utha’ 1:16), “refers to the thirteen periods personified by the thirteen Manus, with Swayambhuva the fourteenth (13, instead of 14, being an additional veil): those fourteen Manus who reign within the term of a Mahayuga, a ‘Day’ of Brahma. These (thirteen-fourteen) of the objective Universe depend on the thirteen (fourteen) paradigmatic, ideal forms” (SD 1:375); the fourteenth is supplied by the synthesis under the inflow of the coordinating and stimulating spirit. In the same way a group of six is counted as a septenate.

Again, of Macroprosopus, “Thirteen curls of hair exist on the one side and on the other of the skull” (v. 80), signifying “six on one and six on the other, the thirteenth being also the fourteenth, as it is male-female, ‘and through them commenceth the division of the hair’ (the division of things, Mankind and Races)” (SD 2:625).

This When translating the Sanskrit idam, used of the manifested kosmos, in contradistinction to that (Sanskrit tat, tad).

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