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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Uchchaih-sravas (Sanskrit) Uccaiḥ-śravas [from uccaiḥ aloft, high above + śravas ear] Long-eared, he who hears what is above, one having spiritual or inner hearing; the white horse of Indra, one of the 14 precious things that issued from the waters churned by the gods in Hindu legend, regarded as the prototype and king of horses. In this connection one is reminded of the many statues of the buddhas with pendant ears, symbolizing a spiritual power — he who hears the cries of all.

Udambara. See UDUMBARA

Udana (Sanskrit) Udāna [from ud out + the verbal root an to breathe, blow] The life-current which rises upwards; one of the vital airs or life-currents of the human or animal body which vitalize, build, and sustain it. Udana is said to have its physical expression in speech, including mouth, tongue, and voice. Mystically, it is the vital current or fluid which cooperates with and reinforces all the other pranas, such as samana, vyana, prana, and apana. “And the control of this [udana], which is the control of all five . . . leads to the Supreme Self” (SD 2:568).

Esoterically these life-currents are each the manifestation of the corresponding human principle and element. The various forms of hatha yoga emphasize ways of directing or exercising these vital airs.

Udara Ramaputra (Sanskrit) Udāra rāmaputra The illustrious Ramaputra or Rudraka, one of the gurus of Gautama Buddha.

Udayana (Sanskrit) Udayana Modern Peshawar in Northwest Pakistan: “the classic land of sorcery,” according to Hiuon-Tsand (TG 351).

Udayana-raja (Sanskrit) Udayana-rāja A king of Kausambi, called Vatsaraja, who was the first to have a statue of Buddha made before his death (TG 351).

Udbhijja (Sanskrit) Udbhijja [from ud-bhid to divide, break forth + ja born] Born by fission, separation, or sprouting; theosophy teaches that the first root-race reproduced by fission or division of individuals into two or more parts, these parts called udbhijja.

Udumbara (Sanskrit) Udumbara A variety of the fig tree, Ficus glomerata; also a rare species of lotus called the nila-udumbara (blue lotus), regarded by Buddhists as a highly noteworthy omen whenever it blossoms, which it is said to do but rarely.

“Arhans and Sages of the boundless Vision are rare as is the blossom of the Udumbara tree. Arhans are born at midnight hour, together with the sacred plant of nine and seven stalks, the holy flower that opes and blooms in darkness, out of the pure dew and on the frozen bed of snow-capped heights, heights that are trodden by no sinful foot” (VS 39). The arhans born at midnight refers to the mystic births that take place during the higher initiations, the sacred plant of nine and seven stalks referring to the entire constitution of the human being, all of whose principles, elements, and spiritual and intellectual functions, become more or less operative during the initiation period.

Ugrasena (Sanskrit) Ugrasena A king of Mathura, and father of the Kansa who was slain by Krishna. Krishna after killing the latter restored Ugrasena to the throne.

Ukko (Finnish) [cf Magyar agg old, an old being, grandfather] The highest god in the mythological hierarchy of the ancient Finns — the Suomilainen (fen-dwellers), as they called themselves. Ukko was represented as dwelling in Jumala (thunder-home) in the sky: seated on a cloud he bore the heavens on his shoulders. Snow, hail, ice, wind, and rain, sunshine and clouds are due to his activities; thus he is termed the leader of the clouds, the god of breezes, father of the heavens. He is most often depicted like the Scandinavian Thor, swinging a hammer amidst the thunder and lightning, his robe sparkling with fire, striking down evil beings on the mountains.

Ulfilas [from Gothic wulfila little wolf] A Gothic Christian bishop (311-81) who translated the Bible into Gothic, thus preserving the Gothic tongue even to our day. For his translation he invented a written alphabet by building upon the Greek alphabet and supplementing it for some of the Gothic runes. The principal manuscripts of his translation are preserved at the University of Upsala, called the Codex Argenteus (Silver Codex), as it is written in silver characters on a purple ground.

Ullambana (Mongolian) [from Sanskrit ud up, completion + the verbal root labh to reach, attain] Attainment or recovery of spiritual status; the festival of all souls, “held in China on the seventh moon annually, when both ‘Buddhist and Tauist priests read masses, to release the souls of those who died on land or sea from purgatory, scatter rice to feed Pretas [thirty-six classes of demons ever hungry and thirsty], consecrate domestic ancestral shrines, . . . recite Tantras . . . accompanied by magic finger-play (mudra) to comfort the ancestral spirits of seven generations in Naraka’ (a kind of purgatory or Kama Loka)” (TG 351).

Ullr (Icelandic) Ull (Swedish) Also Uller. In the Norse Edda, one of the twelve aesir (gods), the son of Sif and stepson of Thor, said to excel at archery and skiing. He is the patron of hunting and the shield, which is also called the ship of Ullr.

The shield or protection of Ullr has a special meaning as he is the god of a “cold” (unformed) world: one of the most highly spiritual of the globes in our sun’s realm. The lay called Grimnismal promises that “the blessing of Ull and all the gods is his who first touches the fire” of this supernal sphere. The mansion of Ullr is named Ydalar — the primal dells of rain and storms, and the root and sacred source of earth’s existence.

Ulom (Phoenician) The intelligible deity, the intellectual reflection of the ever-concealed divine; and in the theogony of Mochus also the intellectual universe expressing itself in the objective or material universe. Equivalent to the pleroma of the Gnostics. In the theogony of Mochus, aether or cosmic space is manifested first, followed by air (cosmic spirit) from which Ulom is born out of the mundane egg. Identical with the Hebrew ‘olam, meaning both hid or occult, the duration or perpetuity of cosmic time, and the universe or world in general. Thus ‘olam and ulom both are connected with the physical and metaphysical cosmos and all that is in these. See also ‘OLAM

Ultima Thule (Latin) Farthest Thule, Thule being the Greek and Roman name of an alleged island somewhere north of Britain and considered as the northern limit of the habitable globe; figuratively, any ultimate goal.

Ultramontanes Beyond the mountains, particularly the Alps. Originally used, from the point of view of Rome, to signify countries north of the Alps, but later used, from the point of view of France, to signify Rome and the Roman doctrine of Catholicism, as opposed to the Gallican or Jansenist views. The matter at issue was whether supreme authority on questions of the religious administration should rest with the Pope of Rome or should be shared with an ecumenical council or with the civil government of France. The French monarchy claimed the right to institute prelates and to exercise various other ecclesiastical functions in accordance with local and national policy; and was able for a time to extort concessions in these matters from the Papal See. But the Vatican Council of 1869-70 virtually made the principles of ultramontanism dogmas of the Church, and set the authority of the Pope above that of national churches or ecumenical councils.

Ulupi (Sanskrit) Ulūpī The daughter of Kauravya, king of the nagas of Patala — the initiates in ancient prehistoric America, according to Blavatsky. When Arjuna, the disciple of Krishna, traveled to Patala, Ulupi fell in love with the stalwart bowman and married him (cf Mahabharata).

Ulysses (Latin) Odysseus (Greek) Homeric hero who, because of his shrewdness and canny actions, has become a stock literary figure typifying cunning. His ten-year journey home from the Trojan War to Ithaca is told in the Odyssey. The story of his putting out the eye of the Cyclops is an esoteric allegory of the triumph of the oncoming fourth root-race, whose greater brain-mind cunning caused the atrophy of the third eye of the third root-race as typified by Polyphemus.

Uma-kanya (Sanskrit) Umā-kanyā [from u-mā O [child], do not [practice austerities] — the exclamation addressed to Pārvatī by her mother + kanyā maid, virgin] The daughter of Himavat, who became the consort of Siva; also called Parvati and Durga. Uma-Kanya “being her esoteric name, and meaning the ‘Virgin of light,’ Astral Light in one of its multitudinous aspects” (SD 1:92). Now the goddess is worshiped as Durga-Kali (the black and inaccessible one); in this character “human flesh was offered to her every autumn; and, as Durga, she was the patroness of the once murderous Thugs of India, and the special goddess of Tantrika sorcery. But in days of old it was not as it is now. The earliest mention of the title ‘Uma-Kanya’ is found in the Kena-Upanishad; in it the now blood-thirsty Kali, was a benevolent goddess, a being of light and goodness, who brings about reconciliation between Brahma and the gods. She is Saraswati and she is Vach. In esoteric symbology, Kali is the dual type of the dual soul — the divine and the human, the light and the dark soul of man” (TG 352).

Umbra (Latin) A shade; the kama-rupic spook which remains in the lower regions of the astral light after physical death and often hovers in the neighborhood of the tomb. “The ancient Latin races . . . believed that after death Anima, the pure divine soul, ascended to heaven, a place of bliss; Manes (the Kama Rupa) descended into Hades (Kama Loka); and Umbra (or astral double, the Linga Sharira) remained on earth hovering about its tomb, because the attraction of physical, objective matter and affinity to its earthly body kept it within the places which that body had impressed with its emanations. Therefore, they said that nothing but the astral image of the defunct could be seen on earth, and even that faded out with the disintegration of the last particle of the body which had been so long its dwelling” (TG 353).

Umsimi. See ANZU

Una (Sanskrit) Ūna Lower, inferior; in philosophy, the subordinate or secondary aspect of a thing, hence the material.

Unavoidable Cycle. See KUKLOS ANANKES

Unborn Applied to the Logos, particularly to the First Logos, which radiates directly from the divine monad; also to kama, signifying not ordinary desire but cosmic love, born from the heart of Brahma; in another sense, Krishna as representing the Logos, or imbodying its ray. The Sanskrit word is aja, connected words are self-born and atman-bhu or atma-bhu.

Unconsciousness The universe being a vast aggregation of conscious beings, only the one source of all is unconscious, paramartha is described as absolute being and consciousness which are absolute non-being and unconsciousness from the human standpoint. Theosophy rejects the idea of anything being unconscious in the absolute sense, save on this plane of illusion. The Vedantic idea of an Unconscious behind all manifestation has reappeared in Occidental philosophy, notably in that of Eduard van Hartmann. Unconsciousness and consciousness are used in theosophy with direct reference to human understanding, so that what we call unconsciousness is merely consciousness on a plane so high, and with a range so vast, that human understanding cannot contain it; or that what we call consciousness would be unconsciousness to less evolved beings because these cannot contain or understand our consciousness. We may look upon spirit as being both conscious and unconscious: active spirit we would call the consciousness of spirit; but those incomprehensibly vast ranges of spirit beyond our power of understanding we would call inactive spirit, merely because we cannot comprehend it and therefore say it is relatively non-existent, although actually being the basis of all being.

Unconsciousness is often used in a relative sense, as for instance in speaking of the state of the first two and one half root-races as being one of mental torpor and unconsciousness, or in speaking of the three lower elemental kingdoms in comparison with the higher kingdoms. Also what is called unconsciousness may be only lack of power to register a memory, as in the case of a mesmerized subject on being aroused, or a person waking from sleep.

Unconditioned Having no attributes (gunas), used of the one reality of our kosmos, and of the still more abstract conception called the Rootless Root or All. In the categories of philosophy the term would apply also to spirit-substance extending into differentiations of the kosmos which, at least by comparison, is itself without attributes.

Underworld Classical mythology divides the universe into the heavens, the earth, and the underworld, each presided over by its particular deity. The underworld was the nether pole of the cosmic hierarchy, great or small, and hence the land of shadows, synonymous with Dis, Hades, Pluto, Orcus, Limbo, Tartarus, Amenti, Atala, She’ol, etc. The underworld for human beings may be the lower ranges of kama-loka, the region of the shades; the mystical pit or Planet of Death; or all the ranges, in a generalizing sense, of the cosmic planes beneath the solar plane on which our earth is located.

Undine [from Latin undina water spirit from unda wave, water] The class of nature sprites, elementals, or elemental beings inhabiting and forming water, generally but wrongly described as always being female. Paracelsus stated that if an undine ever should marry a mortal and bear a child, the undine-mother would receive a soul.

Undulatory Theory The theory that light is propagated in waves, devised by Young, Fresnel, and others to explain certain phenomena, such as diffraction, which could not be explained by the corpuscular or emission theory of Newton. It has been elaborated into that branch of physics known as physical optics.

Waves imply a medium to convey them — the hypothetical luminiferous ether, and here we encounter difficulties due to the attempt to endow it with the attributes rendered familiar by our experience of physical matter. The existence of waves is demonstrable and they can be measured; but the ether is necessarily neither gas, liquid, nor solid, and we need to wait until we have discovered more about its properties. “Atoms, Ether, or both, modern speculation cannot get out of the circle of ancient thought; and the latter was soaked through with archaic occultism. Undulatory or corpuscular theory — it is all one. It is speculation from the aspects of phenomena, not from the knowledge of the essential nature of the cause and causes” (SD 1:528).

Light, as one of the forms of radiation, is in the view of theosophy an efflux or substance, ultimately to be traced back to a source or focus which gave it birth and from and through which it therefore pours as a radiation of vitality. Light, and most other forms of radiation, partake of both an undulatory and corpuscular character, for in one sense it is both, and in another sense it is neither, for its undulations or its discrete particles are merely the methods by which it subjects itself to human examination. In itself it is both force and substance, and as everything in the universe is in an unceasing state of vibration or constant movement, even a discrete particle — and an aggregate of discrete particles, because of their vibrational activities — is as readily conceivable as undulatory in character as corpuscular. The important thing about light is not so much its modes of motion or manifestation, but the fact that light is the vital efflux or substance flowing forth from a living being, whether microcosmic or macrocosmic. The same observations, mutatis mutandis, may be said of other forms of radiation — electricity, magnetism its alter ego, heat, and even, on far higher planes, thought and consciousness.

Unity Kosmic unity, incomprehensible to humans, implies wholeness, homogeneity, uniformity, indivisibility — individuality. Its primary expression is kosmic space. Unity can be applied to any individual, such as the First Logos or any subordinate logos; again, any individual monadic unit is de facto a unity. Unity, in contrast with duality or multiplicity, is relative, as when we speak of a whole in relation to its parts, the unitary essence of a compound body, or the hyparxis of a hierarchy. The tendency of evolution on an upward arc is towards unity; on a downward arc, towards diversity; and both tendencies are active in the human being.

With Pythagoras, one is not a number but the root of all numbers flowing out of it, but in modern views it is the first number. It may be called mystically dual, for as a power of 2 it must be even, while as 1 less than 2 it must be odd. Unity may be viewed as simple or as all-inclusive; it appears as the goal of both analysis and synthesis.

In considering how the One becomes the many, how the homogeneous becomes heterogeneous, during the differentiations during manvantara, we are posing the ultimate problem. The unity during manvantaric kosmic differentiation does not lose its unity in the vast diversities of such differentiation, for the unity forever remains the originant and expresses itself at the same time as its integral unity and as the emanated hierarchies which temporarily flow forth from it, in time to return into it again.

Universal Brotherhood. See BROTHERHOOD

Universal Mind The sum of the states of kosmic consciousness grouped under the human expressions thought, will, understanding, and feeling, collectively expressed in the Sanskrit as mahat. During deep sleep, the human mind is in abeyance on the physical plane, because our consciousness is not affecting the physical brain which in waking hours expresses it, although during the svapna (sleeping-dreaming) state the brain dreams; and similarly in the cosmos at the manvantaric dawn universal mind “was not” because there was as yet no vehicle for its expression through the cosmic hierarchies, this vehicle being the collective Ah-hi or hosts of dhyani-chohans. Universal mind remained during pralaya in a state of intense spiritual-intellectual activity, as the permanent root of subsequent cosmic mental action arising during manvantara. Universal mind is the manifested One, from the still more abstruse One or kosmic unity, and simultaneously with the evolution of universal mind the cosmic supreme One or hierarch also manifests itself in manvantara as avalokitesvara (Logos or atman) through its veil, universal substance or mulaprakriti — a unity with triple aspects. It is the mother of the manasaputras or sons of mind, and is kosmic buddhi or mahabuddhi.

All generalizing terms such as universal mind have various applications, because nature is built throughout on analogical structure and function, and hence what applies to the great likewise applies to the small. Thus universal mind is applicable either to a solar system, a galactic system, or a system comprising a number of galaxies, etc. See also MAHAT; UNIVERSAL SOUL

Universal Pralaya. See MAHAPRALAYA

Universal Solar System The sum-total on all planes of all the bodies, visible or invisible, which pertain to the inclusive Brahmanda (egg of Brahma) of which our sun with its family of planetary chains forms a part. The Logos of the universal solar system, called the universal sun, has its foci of spiritual, psychological, ethereal, and material fields of action in and through emanated rays or minor logoi or suns, of which our sun is one, and each of these last has its corresponding subdivisional activities and functions. Our solar system, septenary or denary in itself, pertains to a single one of the primary seven rays of the universal solar system.

Universal Soul At one time identified as mahat or mahabhuddhi, the vehicle of kosmic spirit or paramatman, but more frequently called anima mundi, the world-soul, alaya, the astral light of the Qabbalists, the spiritually and ethereally material reflection of the immaterial cosmic paramatmic ideal; hence the universal soul is the source of life of all beings. It is regarded as sevenfold, tenfold, or twelvefold in its nature and structure. Taking the triad of spirit, soul, and body, it stands for the middle region, being at once the vehicle of spirit and the prototypical model of the material worlds. Thus it stands for the higher ranges of the astral light as the storehouse of ideas impressed upon it by the creative spiritual forces, and the transmitter of them to the world of material and physical objectivity. In this view it would be the source of the intermediate human principles. See also UNIVERSAL MIND

Universal Spirit In the hierarchy of cosmic principles, the unmanifest or First Logos; in the human constitution, atman or atma-buddhi.

Universals A philosophical and logical term, used in opposition to particulars. For example, matter may be called a universal, and material bodies may be called particulars; or life may be a universal, and living beings particulars. The universal is sometimes defined as that which is left when all particularities or differences have ceased to be. The question arises as to which shall be considered real. If the particulars are realities, then the universals become mere abstract ideas: thus mankind would be merely an indefinite number of human beings. But if the universal is real, then we regard particular humans as being each a manifestation on respective lower planes of man, the Heavenly Man or Qabbalistic ’Adam Qadmon. Again, if living beings are real, then life becomes an abstraction. But if life is a real entity in itself, then living beings are its particular manifestations. The philosophy which starts with universals and proceeds to particulars is called deductive: it is that of theosophy and of Pythagoras and Plato. The inductive philosophy of Aristotle and Francis Bacon proceeds from particulars to universals. Space, motion, duration, intelligence, etc., in themselves abstract realities, are regarded by theosophy as universals, whereas from the opposite viewpoint they appear as only abstractions from experience. The deductive method has its uses in applied science, but in fact it tacitly assumes certain universals and reasons back to them from particulars.

Universe [from Latin universum combined into one from unus one + versus turned] The sum total of all that is. Theosophy distinguishes the spirit side and the matter side of the universe, each of these being composed of an aggregate of conscious living monads, the former being self-conscious in infinitely varying degrees and animating the latter, who are not self-conscious or not fully so, and serve as vehicles to the former, thus constituting matter in its various grades. The word may be used in limited senses, as for instance in speaking of the physical universe, when it comprises the totality of physical matter in the solar systems, nebulae, or galaxies. And this again may be subdivided as when we speak of our own home-universe. See also KOSMOS

Unknowable In the procedures of human thought there always arrives a philosophical point beyond which the mind seems unable to penetrate, and this point is for that particular line of thought unknowable. Therefore, there must be as many unknowables as there are beyonds in the processes of human thinking, and hence it becomes highly inadvisable to reduce the term unknowable to one specific meaning. It has been applied to the one ultimate cause of our universe, the rootless root of all within that specific universe, since this unknowable confessedly cannot be an object of cognition by mind. However, it has been used by modern agnostics, in particular Herbert Spencer, to denote things which are not unknowable, but merely the noumenal which underlies the phenomenal, which limits the knowable world only to that which we can comprehend with our present physical faculties and the mental notions based on them. It is therefore but a convenient way of shelving all inquiries which seem to stand in the way of the formulation of a materialistic philosophy.

Unlucky Numbers Even numbers, and preeminently the binary, have been regarded by Pythagoras, Gnostics, and others as pertaining to matter; hence even numbers have shared the obloquy so often attached to this side of nature, as illustrated by such epithets as evil and unlucky. The primordially odd numbers stood for the unfolding or evolution of spirit and were considered good and propitious.

Unmanifest or Unmanifested Usually used of the First Logos in contradistinction to the manifest-unmanifest or Second Logos; though this unmanifested Logos is correctly said to be the first manifestation of the Absolute or the summit or primordial originant of a cosmic hierarchy, of which there are innumerable multitudes in boundless space. The unmanifest corresponds to primordial unity where the totality of the manifested universe is “all numbers.” Behind the ultimate which can be conceived, we have to postulate an unknown indefinable antecedent, which may therefore be called unmanifest.

Used in limited senses in reference to planes of manifestation: thus the unmanifested causes of things on the physical plane may be manifest to the consciousness pertaining to the higher planes. See also MANIFESTATION

Un-nefer (Egyptian) Un-nefer [from un to make manifest + nefer beauty] The name of Osiris (Asar in Egyptian) in his aspect of the Lord of Amenti (the underworld); also used in late dynastic times in place of Asar.

Upadana (Sanskrit) Upādāna [from upa-ādā to receive] The act to taking or appropriating for oneself: in philosophy, the act of withdrawal, or receiving into the inner being, of the organs of sense from the outer world. In Buddhist literature the term is enlarged to signify the grasping at or clinging to existence caused by trishna (desire, thirst) causing bhava (new births); likewise the fourth of the twelve nidanas (bond, causes of existence), the chain of causation. In Vedantic philosophy, a cause, motive, or material cause of any kind; thus, when analyzed, the meaning is the same in Vedantic and Buddhist philosophies.

Upadana-karana (Sanskrit) Upādāna-kāraṇa [from upādāna material cause + kāraṇa causative action] Causes arising into action because of upadana; in Vedantic philosophy, a proximate or a close cause. As explained by Subba Row, Brahman should not be regarded as upadana-karana in the sense that one may regard earth and water as the proximate cause of a pillar.

Upadhi (Sanskrit) Upādhi Limitation, peculiarity, disguise, vehicle; in theosophy, “ ‘that which stands forth following a model or pattern,’ as a canvas, so to say, upon which the light from a projecting lantern plays. An ‘upadhi’ therefore, mystically speaking, is like a play of shadow and form, when compared with the ultimate Reality, which is the cause of this play of shadow and form. Man may be considered as being composed of three (or even four) essential upadhis or bases” (OG 178).

According to the classification of the Taraka-Raja-Yoga philosophy, man is divided into three upadhis which are synthesized by, and are the vehicle of, the highest principle or atman. These three upadhis are: karanopadhi, the upadhi of the causal or spiritual mind; sukshmopadhi, the upadhi of the higher and lower manas plus the astral vehicle and the life-essence combined with kama; and the sthulopadhi, the physical body, which thus is the general vehicle or upadhi of the six principles composing the human constitution.

Mulaprakriti (primordial physical matter) in Hindu philosophy is the upadhi or vehicle of every phenomenon, whether physical, mental, or psychic. “Matter is Eternal. It is the Upadhi (the physical basis) for the One infinite Universal Mind to build thereon its ideations” (SD 1:280). An upadhi, then, is the vehicle, carrier, or means by which a higher or superior energy of whatever plane is enabled to manifest its characteristics and qualities on the lower plane, out of the substance of which lower plane the upadhi is built.

Sometimes upadhi is interchangeable with vahana (vehicle); thus manas is spoken of as the upadhi or vahana of buddhi. But the more frequent use of upadhi is as a foundation or base. For instance, Blavatsky speaks of hydrogen as the upadhi of both air and water; and of akasa as the upadhi of divine thought. “Cosmic Ideation focussed in a principle or upadhi (basis) results as the consciousness of the individual Ego. Its manifestation varies with the degree of upadhi, e.g., through that known as Manas it wells up as Mind-Consciousness; through the more finely differentiated fabric (sixth state of matter) of the Buddhi resting on the experience of Manas as its basis — as a stream of spiritual intuition” (SD 1:329n).

Upadhyaya (Sanskrit) Upādhyāya [from upa near, according to + adhi above + the verbal root i to go] He who makes go (i.e., learn) according to, a standard of truth or doctrine; a spiritual guide, preceptor, leader, or guru.

Upadrashtri (Sanskrit) Upadraṣṭṛ [from upa-dṛś to look on] Nominative Upadriashta. A witness, spectator.

Upadvipa (Sanskrit) Upadvīpa [from upa adjacent, near + dvīpa island] Generally, a small adjacent island or minor island. In explaining about the various dvipas, however, Blavatsky wrote: “Let us bear in mind that Upadwipas means ‘root’ islands, or the dry land in general” (SD 2:404n); hence one meaning of upadvipa is an island of larger or smaller size which is destined to be the root or nucleus for a vast land-tract to appear in a far later time period.

Upadwipas. See UPADVIPA

Upamana (Sanskrit) Upamāna [from upa according to, towards + the verbal root to measure] Comparison, resemblance, simile, analogy; in logic, recognition of likeness, comparison — the third of the four pramanas (modes of proof). Synonymous with upamiti.

Upamiti. See UPAMANA

Upanishad (Sanskrit) Upaniṣad [from upa according to + ni down + the verbal root sad to sit] Following or according to the teachings which were received when sitting down; esoteric doctrine. “Literary works in which the rahasya — a Sanskrit word meaning esoteric doctrine or mystery — is imbodied. The Upanishads belong to the Vedic cycle and are regarded by orthodox Brahmans as a portion of the Sruti or ‘Revelation.’ It was from these wonderful quasi-esoteric and very mystical works that was later developed the highly philosophical and profound system called the Vedanta” (OG 179).

The Upanishads belong to the third division of the Vedas and are appended to the Brahmanas. The number of Upanishads hitherto known is about 170, though probably only a score are now complete without evident marks of excision or interpolation. These Upanishads belong to different periods of antiquity, some being of a much later date than others. Although the Upanishads are usually considered by modern scholars to be as a whole of later date than the Brahmanas, the original Upanishads were composed in an antiquity which anteceded that of the Brahmanas, and are probably coeval with the composition of the Vedas themselves.

“The Upanishads must be far more ancient than the days of Buddhism, as they show no preference for, nor do they uphold, the superiority of the Brahmans as a caste. On the contrary, it is the (now) second caste, the Kshatriya, or warrior class, who are exalted in the oldest of them. As stated by Professor Cowell in Elphinstone’s History of India — ‘they breathe a freedom of spirit unknown to any earlier work except the Rig-Veda . . . The great teachers of the higher knowledge and Brahmans are continually represented as going to Kshatriya Kings to become their pupils.’ The ‘Kshatriya Kings’ were in the olden times, like the King-Hierophants of Egypt, the receptacles of the highest divine knowledge and wisdom, the Elect and the incarnations of the primordial divine Instructors — the Dhyani Buddhas or Kumaras. There was a time, aeons before the Brahmans became a caste, or even the Upanishads were written, when there was on earth but one ‘lip,’ one religion and one science, namely, the speech of the gods, the Wisdom-Religion and Truth. This was before the fair fields of the latter, overrun by nations of many languages, became overgrown with the weeds of intentional deception, and national creeds invented by ambition, cruelty and selfishness, broke the one sacred Truth into thousands of fragments” (TG 354).

Thirteen of the principal Upanishads are: Aitareya, Kaushitaki, Kena, Taittiriya, Maitri, Katha, Brihadaranyaka, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Isa, Chhandogya, and Svetasvatara.

Upanita (Sanskrit) Upanīta [from upa near + to bring, lead] One who is invested with the Brahmanical thread which, twisted or woven of fibers, is an emblem of the various threads of consciousness woven into a single unity clothing the neophyte and adept; the significance is extended to signify one who is brought or drawn to a spiritual teacher.

Uparati (Sanskrit) Uparati [from upa-ram to cease] A cessation; In Vedantic philosophy a state where the yogi desists from sensual enjoyment or any worldly action, and there is an absence of desires which could be affected by exterior stimuli or influences.

Upasaka (Sanskrit) Upāsaka [from upa-ās to serve, worship, engage in reverential and devoted study as a disciple from upa by the side of, with the implication of reverential following + the verbal root ās to sit] Serving, worshiping; worshiper, follower, disciple, pupil; also in Buddhism a lay worshiper as distinguished from a bhikshu.

Upasika (Sanskrit) Upāsikā A woman votary of the Buddha, as distinguished from a bhikshuni — a Buddhist mendicant or nun. The title was given to Blavatsky by the Mahatmas.

Upasruti (Sanskrit) Upaśruti [from upa near + the verbal root śru to hear] One who is heard nearby; the voice of a person at a distance who is able to project his voice and astral image to any person whatsoever, regardless of distance; “the ‘double’ or the echo of the voice of a living man or woman” (TG 354). See also HPHO-WA

Upeksha (Sanskrit) Upekṣā [from upekṣ to overlook, disregard from upa + the verbal root īkṣ to look at] Indifference, disdain, disregarding, abandonment; also endurance, patience. Enumerated as one of the ten paramitas, similar in meaning to viraga (cf VS 48), although viraga is not commonly enumerated when the paramitas are counted as six.

Upper Triad In a hierarchy of ten planes or principles, the summit is a Three-in-One, which may be called the upper triad to distinguish it from the triad which follows it. These two triads may be spoken of as the uppermost triad and the upper triad respectively. Or in a septenary hierarchy there may be an upper triad and lower quaternary. Again, the first three of the ten Sephiroth of the Qabbalah may be called the upper triad.


Ur Light, city of light; a town famous in ancient times as one of the chief seats of lunar worship in Babylonia, being an important center of the worship of the masculine god of the moon. It was commonly called among the Chaldeans ’ur khasdim (Ur of the Chaldeans).

The meaning of city of light is not merely that it was a town which revered the light of the moon, but refers to ceremonials of occult instruction and initiation which evidently were conducted in this ancient place. Ur is supposed to be the capital of the Sumerian civilization, situated on the south bank of the Euphrates near the Persian Gulf. More than 5,000 years ago it had reached a highly advanced cultural and commercial prominence. Positive proof was found at Ur of a flood which completely broke up the continuity of the history of the Mesopotamian plain dwellers, and which confirms the Babylonian, Sumerian, and Biblical traditions of a devastating flood, though of course it was only a local catastrophe. Christian Biblical scholars generally believe that Abraham’s birth in “Ur of the Chaldees” took place about 1900 or 2000 BC, but the excavations have produced nothing referable to him.

Uraeus [from Greek ouraios of the tail] Refers to the sacred serpent of Egypt (aar, aart, aartu in Egyptian); usually only the head and neck of the serpent are represented by the ancient Egyptians in the headdress of many divinities, and in the headdress of royal persons as a symbol of power, both occult and temporal. Egyptologists state that the physical basis of the symbol is supposed to be the Egyptian asp or cobra — Naja haje, naja being closely akin to the Sanskrit naga: “Occultism explains that the uraeus is the symbol of initiation and also of hidden wisdom, as the serpent always is” (TG 355). Generally, the representation of the sacred uraeus in headdresses — before the symbol became degraded into a mere ritualistic, formalistic emblem — meant that the individual wearing it had become an initiate and bore the badge of wisdom. Two deities in particular were always represented with the uraeus, Isis and Nephthys (Neith), therefore they were termed by the Egyptians snake goddesses (aarti). The uraeus crown itself was named tept.

Sometimes the uraeus is represented with a circle over its head, and again with the winged solar disk, a variant of the serpent and egg symbol met with in so many forms among ancient peoples. Egyptologists interpret the uraeus placed on either side of the winged solar disk as emblematic of the supremacy of the sun, of good over evil, or of Horus over Set; but also the uraeus is associated with the immortal human principles, for one of its identities in The Book of the Dead is the flame. In Aanroo or Aaru — one of the divisions of the underworld — the soul of the spirit is devoured after death by the uraeus (ch 99). Blavatsky in explaining this verse speaks of the uraeus as “the Serpent, Son of the earth (in another sense the primordial vital principles in the sun),” and says further that “the Astral body of the deceased or the ‘Elementary’ fades out and disappears in the ‘Son of the earth,’ limited time. The soul quits the fields of Aanroo and goes on earth under any shape it likes to assume” (SD 1:674n).

In its universal aspect the uraeus is the serpent emblem of the cosmic fire — thus, in its universal aspect, being a symbol either of kosmic mahat (kosmic mind) or of fohat (kosmic vital-electrical fire).

Uragas (Sanskrit) Uraga-s [from ura breast + ga going] Breast-going, a serpent; serpents or nagas dwelling in Patala — popularly considered hell, but according to Hindu legend, the Indian antipodes or America. These nagas were the

“Adepts, High Priests and Initiates of Central and South America, known to the ancient Aryans; where Arjuna wedded the daughter of the king of the Nagas — Ulupi. . . . In Mexico the chief ‘sorcerers,’ the ‘medicine men,’ are called Nagals [Naguals] to this day; just as thousands of years ago the Chaldean and Assyrian High Priests were called Nargals, they being chiefs of the Magi (Rab-Mag), the office held at one time by the prophet Daniel. The word Naga, ‘wise serpent,’ has become universal, because it is one of the few words that have survived the wreck of the first universal language. In South as well as in Central and North America, the aborigines use the word, from Behring Straits down to Uruguay, where it means a ‘chief,’ a ‘teacher,’ and a ‘serpent.’ The very word Uraga may have reached India and been adopted through its connection, in prehistoric times, with South America and Uruguay itself, for the name belongs to the American Indian vernacular” (TG 355).

Uranides (Greek) Those titans who were sons of Uranus and who rebelled against Kronos, called the divine titans. They were the enemies of the lower titans who, in the similar line of Jewish thought, were represented by Samael or Jehovah. In Hesiod they were said to be six: Oceanus (Okeanos), Coeus (Koios), Crius (Krioz), Hyperion, Iapetus, and Kronos or Saturnus. The name of a seventh called Phoreg [Phorcys] has been added, his name being found in an old Greek fragment relating to the myth.

Mystically, the Uranides were the Greek prototypes of what in Christian theology are called fallen angels.

Uranus The planet discovered by William Herschel in 1781. It was not enumerated as one of the seven sacred planets of the ancients, nor was it mentioned among the ancient lists of planets. Thus although not belonging to the immediate family of twelve sacred planets intimately associated with the earth planetary chain, Uranus does belong to the universal solar system. The satellites of Uranus revolved in the reverse direction.

For Roman god, see OURANOS

Urd, Urdr (Scandinavian, Icelandic) [cf Swedish ur original, fundamental; Anglo-Saxon wyrd, English weird] Also Urdar. The principal of the three norns (Fates) in Norse mythology, representing the past in the sense of causation: all that has gone before, giving rise to the present. Her sister norns are Verdande (becoming), usually translated as the present; and Skuld (debt), obligations yet to be repaid. The past and present create the third sister, norn of the future, which is suggestive of karma, where the future is the outcome of all past and present acts.

The three norns are pictured by the fountain of Urd who from that source (the past) waters one of the three roots of the Tree of Life. Of the other two roots one is watered by the spring of mother matter, the other by that from which flow the many rivers of lives: the forms taken by all the kingdoms of nature.

Every individual’s Tree of Life is watered by these three springs and, after each death, the past life is evaluated at the well of Urd by its divine judge, its Odin, whose decrees are determined by the advice of Urd. Before each birth Urd also is instrumental in selecting the future life and destiny.

Urdhvasrotas (Sanskrit) Ūrdhvasrotas [from ūrdhva upwards, straight + srotas current, channel, canal] Those whose digestive organs or life-currents are upright. In the Puranas, the sixth of the seven creations of Brahma, or emanations of living beings, being the emanation or spiritual beings or dhyanis. “These (divinities) are simply the prototypes of the First Race, the fathers of their ‘mind-born’ progeny with the soft bones. It is these who became the Evolvers of the ‘Sweat-born’ . . .” (SD 1:456). These creations or stages in evolutionary development refer especially to globe D, but have a cosmic significance likewise when the reference is to cosmic time periods.

Uriel (Hebrew) ’Ūrī’ēl Flame or light of divinity; one of the four, seven, or ten angels stationed about the throne of divinity, according to the ancient Hebrews. Specifically, the angel or divinity of light — not merely of physical light, but of its ultraspiritual origin, implying intellectual illumination.

“The different worlds which successively emanated from the En Soph and from each other, and which sustain the relationship to the Deity of first, second, third, and fourth generations, are, with the exception of the first (i.e., the World of Emanations), inhabited by spiritual beings of various grades. . . . the first world, or the Archetypal Man, in whose image everything is formed, is occupied by no one else. The angel Metatron, occupies the second or the Briatic World ([‘olam beri’ah]), which is the first habitable world; he alone constitutes the world of pure spirits. He is the garment of [Shaddai], i.e., the visible manifestation of the Deity; his name is numerically equivalent to that of the Lord. (Sohar, iii, 321 a.) He governs the visible world, preserves the unity, harmony, and the revolutions of all the spheres, planets and heavenly bodies, and is the Captain of the myriads of the angelic hosts who people the second habitable or the Jetziratic World ([‘olam yetsirah]), and who are divided into ten ranks, answering to the ten Sephiroth. Each of these angels is set over a different part of the universe. One has the control of one sphere, another of another heavenly body; one angel has charge of the sun, another of the moon, another of the earth, another of the sea, another of the fire, another of the wind, another of the light, another of the seasons, &c., &c.; and these angels derive their names from the heavenly bodies they respectively guard. Hence one is called Venus ([Nogah]), one Mars ([Ma’adim]), one the substance of Heaven ([‘etsem hash-shamayim]), one the angel of light ([’Uri’el]), and another the angel of fire ([Nuri’el]). (Comp. Sohar, i, 42, &c.)” (Ginsberg, Kabbalah pp. 108-110)

’Urim (Hebrew) ’Ūrīm [plural of ’ūr light, flame, revelation, illumination from the verbal root ’ārar to curse] Lights; the ’urim and tummim [plural of tom fullness, wholeness, complete truth] of the Hebrews are said to have been placed in the breastplate of judgment of the high priest (Ex 28:30), the guilt or innocence of a person being judged by means of the urim and thummim. Some writers believe them to have been small tablets of wood or of bone.

“The ’Urim and Thummim’ originated in Egypt, and symbolized the Two Truths, the two figures of Ra and Thmei being engraved on the breastplate of the Hierophant and worn by him during the initiation ceremonies. Diodorus adds that this necklace of gold and precious stones was worn by the High Priest when delivering judgment. . . . Philo Judaeus affirms that Urim and Thummim were ‘the two small images of Revelation and Truth, put between the double folds of the breastplate,’ and passes over the latter, with its twelve stones typifying the twelve signs of the Zodiac, without explanation” (TG 355-6).

The breastplate and the physical appurtenances were but emblems, much as a ring worn on the finger is an emblem of cycling time re-entering itself, of eternity, and therefore of utter stability, which is equivalent to abstract truth and reality. These physical appurtenances are of small moment, quite as much so as was the sapphire image worn as the symbol of truth by the high judges of the Egyptians. The ’urim and tummim among the Jews were mere emblems of initiation, whereby the adept came to know light or revelation, and consequently the fullness of truth, and because of this was enabled to interpret properly the secrets of the universe, and to give proper answers often in a prophetic manner or as prophecy of what might come before him. In later times among the Jews, as indeed in other nations, the emblems occupied nearly all the attention of students and the inner significance of nearly all these emblems was lost.

Urja (Sanskrit) Ūrjā [from ūrj to invigorate, refresh] A daughter of Daksha who became the consort of Vasishtha and the mother of his seven celebrated sons.

Ursa Major and Minor The northern constellations of the Big and Little Bear, or the Big and Little Dipper. These two septenates form part of the astronomical key to the ancient wisdom, Ursa Major corresponding to the seven creative rishis, builders, mind-born sons of the first lord called Avalokitesvara in Buddhism. The founders of root-races were connected mystically with the pole star; and as the Aryan Hindus claim that their pole star was in Ursa Major, and at a later date in Ursa Minor, the antiquity is shown. The Little Bear represents a secondary septenate of creative powers. According to Clement of Alexandria the two cherubs placed in the Tabernacle on opposite ends of the Mercy Seat were the Big and Little Bear, representing the two hemispheres of the universe. Clement likewise points out that as each cherub has six wings, both together have twelve wings, thus signifying the twelve houses or mansions of the zodiac, and ever-moving time progressing through them (Miscellanies 5:6).

Urschleim (German) Primitive slime; the name given by natural philosopher Oken (1779-1851) to the primitive cell-stuff out of which organic beings were held to have been evolved. Oken, a member of the deductive or transcendental school of natural philosophy of Fichte and Schelling, sought to formulate a science of the physical world deductively from fundamental principles laid down by Kant and applied to the mental and moral worlds. Reasoning from these principles he inferred that all organic beings are formed from aggregates of cells containing urschleim, arriving at results which have been verified by microscopic observation.

Urvasi (Sanskrit) Urvaśī [from uru wide, broad + the verbal root to pervade] Widely extending; in the Rig-Veda a beautiful divine nymph who, cursed by the gods, settled on earth and became the wife of Pururavas, the grandson of Soma (the moon) and son of Budha (esoteric wisdom, Mercury). Their love is the subject of Kalidasa’s drama, the Vikramorvasi. Urvasi originated in teachings connected with the human buddhi principle, the center and source or mother of all spiritual and intellectual beauty in the human constitution; cosmically therefore Urvasi is mahabuddhi (cosmic buddhi).

Usanas (Sanskrit) Uśanas [from the verbal root vaś to desire, wish] The regent of the planet Venus, or Sukra; also the planet itself. In Hindu myth Usanas is described as the guru of the daityas or asuras, and also as being possessed of vast wisdom and knowledge — the attribute of spiritualized intellectuality corresponding to occult characteristics ascribed to the regent of Venus.

Usanas-Sukra (Sanskrit) Uśanas-śukra [from uśanas Venus + śukra bright, resplendent] Venus-Lucifer, Venus as the light-bringer, referring not so much to physical light as to the light of intellect and inner vision. The guardian spirit, with reference to the solar system, of earth and of mankind; for what the buddhi-manas is in the human constitution when compared with the kama-manas, that same role, mutatis mutandis on the cosmic scale, the regent of Venus plays in the solar system, wherein by comparison the earth is the vehicle for kama-manas. Also commonly called in Hindu mythology Kavi or Kavya, signifying poet and the feeling that the true poet is intellectually intuitional with reference to “feeling” or “seeing” some, at least, of the mysteries of nature.

Ushas (Sanskrit) Uṣas [from the verbal root uṣ to burn, warm by illumination or light] The dawn, daughter of heaven, identical with the Latin Aurora and the Greek Eos. First mentioned in the Vedas, “wherein her name is also Ahana and Dyotana ([both words meaning] the illuminator), and is a most poetical and fascinating image. She is the ever-faithful friend of men, of rich and poor, though she is believed to prefer the latter. She smiles upon and visits the dwelling of every living mortal. She is the immortal, ever-youthful virgin, the light of the poor, and the destroyer of darkness” (TG 356).

Mystically, dawn is the bringer of spiritual and intellectual light, and therefore the sweet and holy comforter, allusions to which are found even in the New Testament with reference to Paraclete.

Ushnisha (Sanskrit) Uṣṇīṣa [from the verbal root uṣ to be warm, flaming; mystically warmth through inner light, intuition, vision] A turban, diadem, or crown; also a kind of “excrescence” on the head of a buddha. Like the long ears so often seen in figures of the buddhas, the meaning of the ushnisha is entirely occult, and was in no sense whatsoever intended to signify a tuft of hair, nor any fleshly excrescence on the skull, but was a way of suggesting the radiating power of the eye of Siva or organ of vision and of intuition, working at relatively full power within the skull of a great adept. The eye of Siva is the pineal gland; originally an external and active eye in the head of primitive mankind during this fourth round on earth, it gradually retreated within the skull, which grew to cover its place with bones, skin, and hair. As this presently so-called third eye retreated within the skull, its place was progressively taken by the two present organs of vision. At this period of our racial development it is buddhas, avataras, and other initiates of relatively high status who alone use the organ of spiritual vision, for in them the pineal gland has become active and is to some extent physiologically enlarged; although in everyone else it is more or less nonfunctional, yet to some degree functional.

Hence the ushnisha represents that radiant crown of buddhic fire that surrounds the head of initiates when they are in deep samadhi or meditation. The initiate’s head becomes surrounded with rays from the vital inner fire of the third eye, the spiritual organ of the brain, which likewise is the source from which radiates the spiritual, intellectual, and psychovital nimbus or aura surrounding the head — known to the iconographies of every religion. These rays thus form a glory around the head and sometimes even around the entire body. “They stream upwards from the back of the head, often symbolically represented in the buddha-iconography as one single, lambent flame soaring upwards from and over the top of the skull. In this case you may perhaps find that the ushnisha is missing, its place being taken by this flame issuing from the top of the head, a symbolic representation of the fire of the spirit and of the aroused and active buddhic faculty in which the man is at the time” (Fund 493).

Many statues of buddhas and bodhisattvas possess certain peculiar headgear called crowns or ushnishas. Hence ushnisha is also used in the sense of turban, because this particular headgear, given to these statues, somewhat resembles a turban of spiral conical form, somewhat like the spiral shell of some snails.

Utpala-varna (Sanskrit) Utpala-varṇā [from utpala flower of the blue lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) from ut-pal to move upwards + varṇā color, from the verbal root varṇ to color] A woman, said in some accounts to be one of the three wives of Gautama Buddha, along with Gopa and Yasodhara. But these are names for three mystical powers which are possessed by every initiated adept.

Uttanapad (Sanskrit) Uttānapad [from uttāna stretched out + pad foot, progression, permeation] Often signifies vegetation, the whole range of upward-germinating plants.

Uttara-Mimansa (Sanskrit) Uttara-mīmāṃsā [from mīmāṃsā profound thought, profound consideration, striving after truth by means of philosophic reflection from the verbal root man to think + uttara latter, later, inquiry into the latter portion of the Veda — the Upanishads] The last of the six Darsanas or schools of Hindu philosophy, and called the Vedanta. See also VEDANTA

Uttarayana (Sanskrit) Uttarāyaṇa [from uttara northern + ayana road, path] The northern way, the progress of the sun to the north of the equator or the summer solstice. In mystic philosophy, it represents in one sense the path of light leading inwards spiritually, or the nivrittimarga, the path of the involution of matter and the evolution of spirit. See also DAKSHINAYANA

‘Uzza’ (Hebrew) ‘Uzzā’, also ‘Azā’ Strength, might, power; an angel mentioned in the Qabbalah, representing one of the higher orders of pitris. In describing the attempts at forming man, the Zohar (iii, 208a) relates that after the ’elohim had formed man and he had sinned, the angels ‘Uzza’ and ‘Aza’el or ‘Azza’el twitted the Holy One about it, whereupon they were told that, had they been in man’s place, they would have done worse, and they were thrown from their high estate in heaven and changed into men upon earth. “This means simply that the ‘Angels,’ doomed to incarnation, are in the chains of flesh and matter, under the darkness of ignorance, till the ‘Great Day,’ which will come as always after the seventh round, after the expiration of the ‘Week,’ on the Seventh Sabbath, or in the post-Manvantaric Nirvana” (SD 2:491).

Here these angels represent that higher class of pitris who deferred their own incarnation on earth until a later date, and had to suffer the karmic consequences thereof.

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