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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Vach (Sanskrit) Vāc Sound, voice, word, the mystic sound (svara) or essence of spirit of the divine creative activity, the vehicle of divine thought; and of this the Word is the manifested expression. Vach, or its equivalents in other cultures, is always considered feminine. Cosmically she is the carrier or mother of the Third Logos — the Word or Verbum — because of carrying perpetually within her the essence of divine thought, the First Logos; and hence Vach is the Second Logos, equivalent to the early Christian Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost — later transmogrified into a cosmic male. In Hindu mythology Brahma separates his body into masculine and feminine, the feminine becoming Vach, in whom he creates Viraj, who is himself again Brahma. Here we have the three Logoi: Brahma, the First Logos, the divine thought; Vach, the Second Logos, the divine voice; and Viraj, the Third Logos, or the divine word, the philosophical equivalent of the Son of the Christian Trinity.

Hence Vach is associated with the work of creation, with the prajapatis. She calls forth the mayavi form of the universe out of abstract space or Chaos, of which the first cosmogonical stage are the seven cosmic elements. Mystically Vach is masculine and feminine at will, as in the Hebrew Genesis Eve is with Adam. It is through her power that Brahma produced the universe. Blavatsky points out that Brahma produced through Vach in the same way that the incomprehensible assumes a tangible form through speech, words, and numbers (cf SD 1:430). Vach through her productive powers produced what Pythagoras called the music of the spheres. The teachings of Pythagoras also speak of the hierarchies of the heavenly host as numbered and expressed in numbers. Vach is equivalent, in some aspects, to Isis, Aditi, mulaprakriti, the waters of space, chaos, and the Qabbalistic Sephirah.

“Whether as Aditi, or the divine Sophia of the Greek Gnostics, she is the mother of the seven sons: the ‘Angels of the Face,’ of the ‘Deep,’ or the ‘Great Green One’ of the ‘Book of the Dead’ ” (SD 1:434). These feminine logoi are all correlations of light, sound, and ether. In many aspects Vach approaches Kwan-yin, she of the melodious voice. Sarasvati, the goddess of divine wisdom, is a later form of Vach. The Hebrew Lahgash is nearly identical in meaning with Vach as the hidden power of the mantras, the divine sound. “But Vach being also spoken of as the daughter of Daksha — ‘the god who lives in all the Kalpas’ — her Mayavic character is thereby shown: during the pralaya she disappears, absorbed in the one, all-devouring Ray” (SD 1:430-1).

Vach is also called Savitri (the generatrix), the mother of the gods and of all living. She is identical in the human range with Eve, who is also called the mother of all living. Ila or Ida is but the second repetition of Vach in a different period of cosmogony. Vach refers to the cosmic and divine theogony, while Ila refers to a later period in the earth’s history when the physiological transformation of the sexes took place during the third root-race. In this last sense Vach corresponds with Eve.

Vach is often called Sandhya (twilight), also Satarupa (a hundred forms) to describe the feminine logos unfolded into the ten planes and subplanes of the universe. The cow is a symbol of Vach, for the cow has always been the emblem of the passive generative power of nature.

Vach is also mystic speech “by whom Occult Knowledge and Wisdom are communicated to man, and thus Vach is said to have ‘entered the Rishis.’ . . . she is called ‘the mother of the Vedas,’ since it was through her power (as mystic speech) that Brahma revealed them . . . ” (SD 1:430). The Rig-Veda and Upanishads give four kinds of Vach — vaikhari, madhyama, pasyanti, and para — corresponding to the four cosmic principles: the physical universe, the light of the Logos, the Logos itself, and parabrahman or the infinite.

Vach-sata-rupa (Sanskrit) Vāc-śata-rūpā The goddess in a hundred forms, or Vach as the immanent feminine aspect of divinity in the innumerable phases and forms of nature. Vach as Sata-rupa is the divine creative activity unfolded into the ten planes and their many subplanes of the universe. Each of these has its own keynotes and subordinate keynote. The union of Svayambhuva-Manu with Vach-sata-rupa, his own daughter (here representing the first manifestation of prakriti), is explained cosmically as the symbol of the root-life, the germ from which spring all the solar systems, worlds, and gods, because here Svaymbhuva-Manu is the cosmic manu; on the smaller scale, he with his consort plays the same role in the planetary chains of the solar system, and on a still smaller scale on any globe thereof.

In another early Hindu myth, Sata-rupa was at once the other half and the daughter of Brahma, and from their association, bipolar in character, sprang the first manu called Svayambhuva.

Vach-Viraj (Sanskrit) Vāc-virāj The feminine aspect or alter ego of Brahma, the creator, when considered as the Second Logos emanating the Third Logos or Viraj.

Vacuum Emptiness, the necessary correlative of plenum or fullness: the two being one of those pairs of opposites which the mind is bound to postulate as a basis of reasoning. It stands for the spiritual condition of a cosmic hierarchy before it emanates its streams of manifestation — “the symbol of the absolute Deity or Boundless Space, esoterically” (TG 357). Democritus taught that the first principles are atoms and a vacuum, which is equivalent to the manifest and the unmanifest, deity latent and deity patent, but the atoms of Democritus, being spiritual indivisibles, are not the atoms of science but what in theosophy are called monads, and likewise the vacuum of void of Democritus is the equivalent of the archaic Buddhist sunyata or the ancient Buddhist or Brahmanic arupa (formless) spheres.

The atomo-mechanical theory of physics starts with atoms and a vacuum and then tries to fill the vacuum; here the notion of emptiness has become confused with spatial extension, giving rise to the idea that there can be an extended and measurable void, and raising the difficulty of the transmission of influence across it.

The word is used relatively to signify the absence of something, as the absence of physical matter in an evacuated bulb. But another form of matter is still present, for we can transmit light as well as many other forms of radiation. Thus proceeding by successive steps we come to the logical limit in the conception of the cosmic void — which nevertheless from the spiritual viewpoint is a pleroma or utter fullness. The physical vacuum of the laboratory has become confused with the scientific and mystical void of the archaic philosophy.

Vadduku (Babylonian) One class of subterranean genii in ancient Babylonian mythology, regarded as below the angels of earth.

Vahana (Sanskrit) Vāhana Vehicle, carrier; a vehicle of an entity which allows it to manifest on planes inferior to its own. The human constitution is comprised of a number of vahanas, each enabling the spiritual or intellectual entity to express itself on the plane where the vahana is native. Generally, the soul is the vehicle of a monad, the ego is the vehicle of a soul, and the body is the vehicle of an ego — of whatever type or degree.

In The Secret Doctrine, fohat is spoken of as the vahana of the “Primordial Seven”; physical forces as the vehicles of the elements; and the sun as the vahana or buddhi of Aditi (I 108, 470. 527n). Again, all gods and goddesses are “represented as using vahanas to manifest themselves, which vehicles are ever symbolical. So, for instance, Vishnu has during Pralayas, Ananta ‘the infinite’ (Space), symbolized by the serpent Sesha, and during the Manvantaras — Garuda the gigantic half-eagle, half-man, the symbol of the great cycle; Brahma appears as Brahma, descending into the planes of manifestation on Kalahansa, the ‘swan in time or finite eternity’; Siva . . . appears as the bull Nandi; Osiris as the sacred bull Apis; Indra travels on an elephant; Karttikeya, on a peacock; Kamadeva on Makara, at other times a parrot; Agni, the universal (and also solar) Fire-god, who is, as all of them are, ‘a consuming Fire,’ manifests itself as a ram and a lamb, Aja, ‘the unborn’; Varuna, as a fish; etc., etc., while the vehicle of Man is his body” (TG 357-8).

Vaibhashika (Sanskrit) Vaibhāṣika An ancient Buddhist school, formed of the followers of the Vibhasha-sastra. Originally of distinctly mystical character, due to later degeneracy this school became materialistic; its philosophy holds “that no mental concept can be formed except through direct contact between the mind, via the senses, such as sight, touch, taste, etc., and external objects” (TG 358).

Vaidhatras (Sanskrit) Vaidhātra-s [from vi-dhātṛ producing, creating from vi-dhā to produce, bring forth, creation] Creators, producers, emanators, diffusers; the patronymic given to the kumaras who sprang from Vidhatri, a name of Brahma the creator.

Vaidyuta (Sanskrit) Vaidyuta [from vidyut lightning] As an adjective, flashing, electric; as a noun, electric fire, as seen in lightning. Vaidyuta is “the same as Pavaka, one of the three fires which, divided, produce forty-nine mystic fires” (TG 358).

Vaijayanti (Sanskrit) Vaijayantī A flag, banner; the masculine noun vaijayanta refers specifically to the emblem of Indra. In the Puranas, used as the name of a magical necklace of Vishnu, “imitated by certain Initiates among the temple Brahmans. It is made of five precious stones, each symbolizing one of the five elements of our Round; namely, the pearl, ruby, emerald, sapphire and diamond, or water, fire, earth, air and ether, called ‘the aggregate of the five elemental rudiments’ — the word ‘powers’ being, perhaps, more correct than ‘rudiments’ ” (TG 358).

Vaikhari (Sanskrit) Vaikharī As feminine adjective commonly connected with Vach (mystic speech) which is of four kinds: para, pasyanti, madhyama, and vaikhari. Vaikhari is that form of speech which is uttered, expressed, or otherwise manifested as the vehicle of thought. As one of the four main aspects of the Logos in space, Vaikhari-Vach is the whole cosmos in its objective or manifested form.

Vaikunthaloka (Sanskrit) Vaikuṇṭhaloka Vishnu’s heaven, variously described as situated in the northern ocean or on the eastern peak of Mount Meru. See also VAIKUNTHAS

Vaikunthas (Sanskrit) Vaikuṇṭha-s One of the names given in each kalpa to the twelve great gods or jayas who were emanated by Brahma as the first hierarchical productions in the formation and bringing forth of manifestation.

Vairaja(s) (Sanskrit) Vairāja-s [from virāj widely shining one] A class of gods emanating from Brahma in his aspect of creator collectively as Viraj, the Third Logos; hence, the celestial beings immediately derived from Viraj. Identified with the kumaras and the manasaputras, as well as the agnishvattas. They are the hierarchies of cosmic conscious and self-conscious dhyani-chohans who spring forth directly from the Third Logos, and furnish the intellectual background and vital urge of the hierarchies of beings who later produce the manifested universe from the ideation emanating from the Third Logos and the vairajas.

“In the popular belief, semi-divine beings, shades of saints, inconsumable by fire, impervious to water, who dwell in Tapo-loka with the hope of being translated into Satya-loka — a more purified state which answers to Nirvana. The term is explained as the aerial bodies or astral shades of ‘ascetics, mendicants, anchorites, and penitents, who have completed their course of rigorous austerities.’ [Vishnu-Purana, Wilson, 2:229] Now in esoteric philosophy they are called Nirmanakayas, Tapo-loka being on the sixth plane (upward) but in direct communication with the mental plane. The Vairajas are referred to as the first gods because the Manasaputras and the Kumaras are the oldest in theogony, as it is said that even the gods worshipped them (Matsya Purana); those whom Brahma ‘with the eye of Yoga beheld in the eternal spheres, and who are the gods of gods’ (Vayu Purana)” (TG 358).

Vairaja-loka (Sanskrit) Vairāja-loka [from vairāja a class of celestial beings (agniṣvātta) + loka sphere, realm, place] The realm of the vairajas or agnishvattas.

Vairochana (Sanskrit) Vairocana A son of the sun (Virochana — the spiritual sun); a generalizing term for some of the highest classes of dhyani-chohans emanating directly from the Third Logos, and therefore virtually identical with the vairajas, kumaras, manasaputras, and agnishvattas, called collectively children of the sun.

“A generic personification of a class of spiritual beings described as the embodiment of essential wisdom (Bodhi) and absolute purity. They dwell in the fourth Arupa Dhatu (formless world) or Buddhakshetra, and are the first or the highest hierarchy of the five orthodox Dhyani Buddhas. There was a Sramana (an Arhat) of this name (see Eitel’s Sansk. Chin. Dict.), a native of Kashmir, ‘who introduced Buddhism into Kustan and laboured in Tibet (in the seventh century of our era). He was the best translator of the semi-esoteric Canon of Northern Buddhism, and a contemporary of the great Samantabhadra . . .” (TG 358-9).

Vaisakha (Sanskrit) Vaiśākhā “A celebrated female ascetic, born at Sravasti, and called sudatta, ‘virtuous donor.’ She was the mother-abbess of a Vihara, or convent of female Upasikas [students], and is known as the builder of a Vihara for Sakyamuni Buddha. She is regarded as the patroness of all the Buddhist female ascetics” (TG 359).

Vaiseshika (Sanskrit) Vaiśeṣika [from vi-śiṣ to distinguish, particularize] The analytic school, the second of the six Darsanas or Hindu schools of philosophy. Because of its emphasizing of the atomic structure of the universe, it is likewise called the substantial or Atomistic School or sometimes the Discriminating school, because it divides matter into eternally distinct elements, atoms, or infinitesimal parts. It discriminates among these elements, considering each one as perpetually distinct from the others. This school is considered by many as a branch of the Nyaya, and was founded by the sage Kanada, who lived about the same time as Gautama or Gotama, the founder of the Nyaya school.

Vaishnava (Sanskrit) Vaiṣṇava A follower of any sect recognizing and worshiping Vishnu as the sectarian supreme divinity. There are at present four principal Vaishnava sects: the Ramanujas founded by Ramanujacharya; the Madhvas founded by Madhva; the Vallabhas or Vallabhacharyas founded by Vallabhacharya; and a sect in Bengal founded by Chaitanya. Other minor sects are those founded by Ramananda and Kabir. All these Vaishnava sects are of relatively modern origin, though they use at least some of the ancient Hindu writings as their texts.

Vaisvanara (Sanskrit) Vaiśvānara [from viśva all + nara man] Relating to or belonging to all men; omnipresent, universal. In Hindu philosophy, it represents one of the four states of Brahma, and hence is a manifestation of Brahma in and through prakriti. Cosmically it is the astral light, or “in another sense, the living magnetic fire that pervades the manifested solar system. It is the most objective . . . and ever present aspect of the One Life, for it is the Vital Principle” (SD 2:311). In the human being it is represented in the Anu-gita as a sevenfold fire which blazes up in the midst of the five pranas (life-streams) which circulate in the body, and a commentary on this work says that Vaisvanara is often used to denote the self. Blavatsky remarks: “In the astronomical and cosmical key, Vaisvanara is Agni, son of the Sun, or Viswanaras, but in the psycho-metaphysical symbolism it is the Self, in the sense of non-separateness, i.e., both divine and human” (SD 2:568n).

Vaisya (Sanskrit) Vaiśya A man who settles on the soil; also a peasant or working man. The third of the four castes into which Hindu society was divided in Vedic and post-Vedic periods. In those times it also referred to one whose occupation was that of trade as well as of agriculture. See also CHATUR-VARNA

Vaivasvata (Sanskrit) Vaivasvata Solar, coming from the sun (Vivasvat). Generally, the name of the seventh manu, who was saved in an ark, built by the order of Vishnu, from the deluge; the father of Ikshvaku, the founder of the solar race of kings.

In theosophic philosophy, the root-manu of our present fourth round, and in a more restricted sense the manu of the fourth root-race; and again the manu of the fifth subrace of the present fifth root-race. Vaivasvata corresponds to Xisuthrus, Deukalion, Noah, etc. — all head-figures or eponyms of races inaugurating a “new” humanity after a deluge, whether universal or partial, astronomical or geological, according to the interpretation. See also SURYAVANSA

Vajra (Sanskrit) Vajra Diamond or thunderbolt; one possessing this scepter, or diamond-thunderbolt, possesses great spiritual, intellectual, and psychic powers; among others, the occult ability to repel evil influences by purifying the air, as ozone does in chemistry. The vajra mystically refers to indestructibility and to the wondrous reflective powers of the diamond. One who possesses the vajra reflects the suffering, joys, and sorrows — and beauties — of the world, but can never be injured by them. It has been said that the heart of the perfect person is a mirror: it reflects all things, but holds nothing for self alone. Thus also is the heart of one wielding the scepter of the vajra.

In Hindu literature this vajra is the scepter of Indra (similar to the thunderbolt of Zeus), with which he as the god of the skies was said to slay evildoers. In mystical Buddhism it is the magic scepter of priest-initiates and adepts, the symbol of the possessions of siddhis (superhuman powers), wielded during certain mystical ceremonies by initiated priests and theurgists. It is also the symbol of the Buddha’s power over evil spirits or elementals. The possessors of this scepter are called vajrapanins.

Vajracharya(Sanskrit) Vajrācārya [from vajra diamond + āchārya spiritual teacher] The diamond-teacher; the name Yogacharyas give to their spiritual preceptor or the supreme Master of the Vajra.

Vajradhara (Sanskrit) Vajradhara Diamond-holder; the First Logos, supreme buddha, or adi-buddha, equivalent to the Tibetan dorjechang. “As the Lord of all Mysteries he cannot manifest, but sends into the world of manifestation his heart — the ‘diamond heart,’ Vajrasattva (Dorjesempa)” (SD 1:571). Vajra here expresses the indestructibility and spiritually adamantine quality of this “One unknown, without beginning or end” — unknown to the average worldly person, but recognized by full initiates as the source of their divine inspiration and intuitions.

Vajrapanin (Sanskrit) Vajrapāṇin [from vajra diamond, thunderbolt + pāṇi hand] Holder of the diamond-thunderbolt, an epithet of the dhyani-bodhisattvas, the guardians and Silent Watchers of the globes of our planetary chain, the spiritual reflections or sons of the dhyani-buddhas. They are born directly from their predecessors subjectively, and have a subjective form of existence.

Also a title given a buddha because of his power over evil spirits and elementals. By the profane, a vajrapanin is worshiped as a god, but by initiates it is considered a subjective force. See also MANJUSRI

Vajrasattva (Sanskrit) Vajrasattva [from vajra diamond + sattva essence, reality] Diamond-heart, diamond-essence; a title given to mahatmas of the highest grade, or to bodhisattvas whose whole personality as a living essence is merged in their compound sixth and seventh principles (atman-buddhi). Vajra here expresses the spiritual adamantine quality of the inner natures of these glorious beings. Vajrasattva is a manifestation of the heart of vajradhara, the First Logos or adi-buddha; hence vajrasattva is “the second logos of creation, from whom emanate the seven (in the exoteric blind the five) Dhyani Buddhas, called the Anupadaka, ‘the parentless,’ ” (SD 1:571). Dorjesempa is the Tibetan equivalent.

Vajrasattva is often used for celestial beings, entities belonging to the hierarchy of light or compassion. The vajrasattva quality is likewise one which can be possessed in less degree by any human being, depending upon his degree of advancement.

Vakil Lawyer, barrister (ML 12-13).

Vala, Volva (Swedish, Icelandic) [possibly cognate with Greek sibylla] In Norse mythology, the wise sibyl who instructs Allfather Odin in “the origin, life, and end of worlds.” She represents the record of all the cosmic past, which is consulted by Odin, the divine consciousness-energy, as told in Voluspa, the principal lay of the poetic or elder Edda.

Valentinus Famous 2nd century Gnostic who in many ways was the unacknowledged teacher of the Church Fathers Origen and Clement. His teachings, largely those of the ancient wisdom, were probably derived from the esoteric schools in Alexandria. He is author of “The Shepherd of Hermes” and various Homilies and Epistles, and is said to have been the author of the celebrated Gnostic gospel, the Pistis Sophia, where his doctrines are set forth. His school, the Valentinians, had Italian and Asiatic branches, which gave rise to other offshoots, thus spreading his influence far and wide and exerting an enduring effect on thought. He averred that the apostles had not publicly given out all they knew, but that they had esoteric knowledge.

He taught that the primal cause, which he names Bythos (depth), manifested itself as the pleroma (fullness), the sum total of all manifestation. His teachings on pleroma are defined by a vast, intricate diagrammatic scheme, representing a process of emanation on a hierarchical plan with threefold, sevenfold, tenfold, and twelvefold hierarchies; mankind itself forming a lower branch of these hierarchies. Thus he is enabled to explain the origin of mixture or evil, and to reconcile the goodness of God with the imperfection of nature by pointing to minor demiurgic creators; thus too he can give the true meaning of Christ and redemption.

Valfader, Valfodr, Valfadir (Swedish, Icelandic) [from val choice, death + fader father] Odin in Norse mythology is often addressed as father of the Chosen or father of the Slain, i.e., Odin’s warriors are those who have “died” to the demands of the personal self. These elect are also called Odin’s One-harriers for they are those who “harry” or are in total command of one, their own nature. These warriors are said to feast with Odin in Valhalla by night and to re-emerge each day to do battle against the forces of darkness.

Valhalla (Scandinavian) Valholl (Icelandic) [from val choice, death + hall, holl hall] In Norse mythology, the hall of the chosen or of the slain where Odin’s heroes, the One-harriers, are brought by the Valkyries at the end of each day’s battles to feast with Ropt, the maligned or misunderstood god (Odin). “The hall of the chosen glows golden in Gladhome,” one of the superior “shelves” or ethereal planes which are closely related to our planet earth. The walls of Valhalla are built of the spears of the warriors, it is roofed with their shields, while inside the hall “the benches are strewn with byrnies.” Over the entrance door are transfixed the wolf (bestiality) and the eagle (pride). All of these are symbolic of the sacrifice of properties that have been relinquished by Odin’s chosen warriors, for these represent, in the Norse tales, the initiated adepts who have elected to serve the cause of universality and aid the progress of human evolution. Abandoning progressively all weapons of offense, then of defense, and finally all personal protection, exemplifies the universal service of the chosen.

The One-harriers of Odin emerge daily to do battle on the plain of consecration (Vigridsslatten, life on earth) and by night return to feast with Allfather Ropt in the sacred hall on the mead brewed from their experience of life.

At the feast of the warriors in Valhalla they are served three boars, representing three elements as well as three principles of cosmic life: Andrimner (air, spirit), Sarimner (water, mind), and Eldrimner (fire, desire). A suggestive verse in Grimnismal may then be read as: “Spirit lets mind be steeped in desire. Few know what nourishes the One-harriers.”

The tales concerning Valhalla have been sadly misunderstood in popular mythologies. Far from being an account of gross debauchery, there is mystical meaning hidden in every detail of the description of Odin’s domain and of the feasting of his warriors. For example, Valhalla is said to have 540 doors, through each of which 800 warriors issue abreast. This makes the number of One-harriers total 432,000, an oft-recurring number in Hindu and Babylonian time tables dealing with mystic and mythic history. Their message is in fact one of the noblest and most inspiring of mythic tales, when read between the lines of allegory, for here the warriors of emerge willingly to be “slain” daily in the cause of humanity’s evolutionary progress.

Vali, Vale (Icelandic, Scandinavian) In Norse mythology, a son of Odin who avenges the death of the sun god Balder; also a son of Loki. This paradox may be resolved in that the son of Loki (mind), being also the offspring of Allfather Odin as all beings are, is the future human race in its character as a redeemer and consummation of human evolution. He also may be a personification of karma-nemesis.

Of all the gods, only Vali and Vidar survive the destruction of the world, Ragnarok, when the gods return to their ground, thus preparing the seed for the future world, the child and successor of the present one.

Valkyries [from Icelandic, Swedish Valkyrja from val choice, death + kyrja to crown, possibly akin to kyrra calm] Among some of the most intriguing mysteries of Norse mythology are these “crowners of the slain” who select the heroes “slain” in battle when they aid the gods in their eternal struggle against the forces of darkness. There is a vast and complex symbology attached to the tales of Odin’s warrior-maidens who daily revive those slain on Vigridsslatten (the field of consecration), and bear them to Valhalla to feast with the gods on the mead of their life experience.

The valkyries represent the higher self of the human “warrior,” his inner spiritual mentor and teacher, as we learn in the tale of Sigurd Fafnesbane who seeks his sleeping valkyrie and is taught by her.

Vallabhacharyas (Sanskrit) Vallabhācārya-s A Vaishnava sect founded by Vallabhacharya, a sectarian mystic said to have been the disciple of Vishnu-svamin, a celebrated teacher of his time. His followers are called Gosvami-maharajas and have a considerable amount of landed property and numerous temples in Bombay.

Vallabhacharya was born in the forest of Champaranya in 1479. At an early age he began traveling to propagate his doctrines, and at the court of Krishna-deva, king of Vijaya-nagara, succeeded so well in his controversies with the Saivas, according to the reports of his followers, that many Vaishnavas chose him as their chief. He then went to other parts of India, and finally settled at Benares, where he composed 17 works, the most important of which were commentaries on the Vedanta- and Mimansa-Sutras and another on the Bhagavata-Purana, on which this sect seems in the main to base their doctrines. He left 84 disciples. He taught a non-ascetic view of religion and deprecated all self-mortification as dishonoring the body which contained a portion of the supreme spirit. His emphasis on human affections and emotions seems at times to fringe closely the frontiers of licentiousness.

Vamadeva (Sanskrit) Vāmadeva The beautiful or fair god; a title of Siva. Also one of the Vedic rishis, stated to have been the author of many hymns.

Vamana-avatara (Sanskrit) Vāmana-avatāra The dwarf-avatara; a descent of Vishnu the preserver in the form of a dwarf. According to the Puranic allegory, Vamana of the Three Strides came to dispossess the demon Bali from dominion over the three worlds. Vamana petitions Bali for only as much of the world as he could compass in three steps. Vamana then resumed his godlike stature and in three world-encompassing strides deprived Bali of the heavens and the earth, all save the regions of Patala (the lower spheres of manifestation).

These three strides of Vishnu represent the godlike emanation or essence passing through the three cosmic planes superior to the fourth or material plane, informing and inspiring as the essence proceeds.

Vampire While discussions of vampirism generally center on Slavonic and other countries of southeastern Europe, vampirism was known to the Hindus and Hebrews as well as many other peoples. It was believed that a deceased person whose instincts were very degraded and sensual may leave behind a kama-rupic spook strong enough to be able to suck the blood of the living, especially if the deceased was a sorcerer. In cases of vampirism it was said that if the grave was opened, that the corpse of the vampire was always fresh and rosy. Isis Unveiled explains that such evil persons may be buried before the astral has entirely separated from the body — when they are in a state of catalepsy. In this case the part of the astral buried with the body draws back the rest of the astral into the body, and the being either perishes with the natural processes of suffocation or becomes a vampire, and is thus enabled to perpetuate its cataleptic life in the tomb. The traditional remedy consisted in driving a stake through the heart of the vampire’s corpse, or otherwise destroying it. The meaning of the word can be extended to include other forms of obsession of the living by the astral reliquiae of the dead.

Vanir, Vaner, Vanr (Icelandic, Scandinavian) [plural of van wont, accustomed, lacking, defective] Sometimes Wane. A class of Norse gods, representing the waters of space or infinitude. Because the vanagods are associated with the waters of space, they are usually believed to be water gods who were supplanted by the aesir in the course of time. However, the evidence points to the vanir having a range of activity extending through far vaster realms of space. They are evidently superior to the aesir, whose dwelling is Asgard and who imbody in the worlds of the solar system, and are almost always referred to by the aesir as “the wise Vanir.”

The vanagods are said to have battled the aesir (the war in heaven) and remained victorious in the celestial realms, while the aesir were “ousted” and descended into material spheres, where they are the regents of worlds.

Following the war in heaven there took place an exchange of “hostages” between the aesir and vanir, and Njord (Saturn) was a vanagod sent as hostage to the aesir. He represents the saturnian qualities, among them those of Chronos (time). His children are Frey, the earth deity, and Freya, Venus, who is the guardian and protectress of the intelligent kingdom (humanity) on earth. This suggests that Njord was an emissary or avatara from the wise vanir to the active planetary gods, and that the vanir inspire avataric figures among the aesir. There are indications also that the aesir may graduate to the stature of the wise vanagods.

Vananin-Lamer, Vananin-Lamertade (Gnostic) The seventh pair of aeons or emanations, represented as Father-Mother in the Valentinian scheme as recorded by the early Christian writer Epiphanius.

Var (Scandinavian) Goddess of vows; ninth of the 14 goddesses Asynjur of the Eddas: she hearkens to oaths and covenants, and takes vengeance on those who perjure themselves, avenging every breach of faith.

Closely associated with her was the tenth goddess Vor, she who is wise and of a searching spirit; none can conceal anything from her. Both are classed as handmaidens of the goddess Freya (Venus).

Vara (Avestan) War (Pahlavi) Baru (Persian) An enclosure, vehicle; the ark or argha of the Avesta. In the Vendidad, after Yima enlarged the earth three times, he assembled the excellent mortals and gods. Yima was instructed to make a vara two miles long on every side, and to bring there the seeds of sheep, animals, men, fires, and plants: “Thither thou shalt bring the seeds of every kind of tree, of the greatest, best, and finest kinds on this earth; thither thou shalt bring the seeds of every kind of fruit, the fullest of food and sweetest of odour. All those seeds shalt thou bring, two of every kind, to be kept inexhaustible there, so long as those men shall stay in the Vara” (Farg. 2:28).

The similarity of this allegory to Hebrew and certain Hindu writings is obvious, and from the standpoint of humanity on earth, “Those ‘men’ in the ‘Vara’ are the ‘Progenitors,’ the heavenly men or Dhyani, the future Egos who are commissioned to inform mankind. For ‘Vara,’ or the ‘Ark’ (or again the Vehicle) simply means man. . . .

“ . . . Vara meant the man of the Fourth Round, as much as the Earth of those days, the moon, and even Noah’s ark, if one will so have it . . .” (SD 2:291-2). See also KARSHIPTA

Vara (Sanskrit) Vara [from the verbal root vṛ to choose] Superior, choice, excellent.

Varaha-avatara (Sanskrit) Varāha-avatāra The boar-avatara; a descent of Vishnu in the form of a boar, to deliver the world from the demon Hiranyaksha — the ruler of the fifth region of Patala (the nether world) — who had carried the earth into the lower regions of his spheres. The contest between Vishnu in this form and Hiranyaksha took place beneath the water, according to the Puranas; Vishnu emerged victorious and raised the earth from the deep. This legend, among several other interpretations, may refer to the risings and sinkings of continents.

The Taittiriya-Sanhita says: “This universe was formerly waters, fluid. On it Prajapati, becoming wind, moved. He saw this [earth]. Becoming a boar, he took her up. Becoming Visvakarman, he wiped [the moisture from] her. She extended. She became the extended one [prithivi].”

Variation Used in Darwinian theory as complementary to heredity, representing the tendencies towards variety of forms in living organisms, while heredity tends to perpetuate fixed types. Darwin held that species denotes merely a temporal cross section through a continuously flowing stream of gradual variation; but further study has shown that there is no such continual, uniform, and unidirectional flow of variation, but that there are reversions to original type and comparatively sudden emergence of new types. The causes assigned by Darwin for variation, though he premises the existence within the organism of a susceptibility to variation, are physical, being responses to environment. Such causes, purposeless and chaotic, could not produce ordered results; the facts indicate an intricate design and manifold purposes in nature, originating in spiritual and ethereal entities belonging to nature’s hierarchical structure. Nature in fact is composed of living beings, and the ultimate cause of variation is to be sought in the operations of cosmic ideation, which reproduce their effects finally in physical organisms throughout nature.

Varna (Sanskrit) Varṇa Color; caste. The four chief varnas named by Manu are Brahmanas, Kshattriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras. See also CHATUR-VARNA

Varsha (Sanskrit) Varṣa [from the verbal root vṛṣ to rain] A division of the earth as separated off by mountain ranges; nine are enumerated in the Puranas: Kuru, Hiranmaya, Ramyaka, Ilavrita, Hari, Ketumala, Bhadrasva, Kimnara, and Bharata.

Varshayanti (Sanskrit) Varṣayantī One of the seven Pleiades.

Varuna (Sanskrit) Varuṇa [from the verbal root vṛ to surround, envelop] The all-enveloping sky; originally Varuna represented the waters of space, or the all-investing sky, akasa, but in later mythology he became the god of the ocean. In the Mahabharata he was one of the four guardians of our visible kosmos, the guardian of the West.

“Uranos is a modified Varuna, ‘the Universal encompassor,’ the all-embracer, and one of the oldest of the Vedic deities — Space, the maker of Heaven and Earth, since both are manifested out of his (or its) seed. It is only later that Varuna became the chief of the Adityas and a kind of Neptune riding on the LeviathanMakara, now the most sacred and mysterious of the signs of the Zodiac. Varuna, ‘without whom no creature can even wink,’ was degraded like Uranos, and, like him, he fell into generation, his functions . . . having been lowered down from heaven to earth by exoteric anthropomorphism. As the same Orientalist [Muir] says, ‘The attributes ascribed to Varuna (in the Vedas) impart to his character a moral elevation and sanctity far surpassing that attributed to any other Vedic Deity.’ But to understand correctly the reason of his fall, like that of Uranos, one has to see in every exoteric religion the imperfect and sinful work of man’s fancy, and also to study the mysteries which Varuna is said to have imparted to Vasishta. Only . . . ‘his secrets and those of Mirat are not to be revealed to the foolish’ ” (SD 2:268-9n).

Writing of Varuna, Muir says:

“The grandest cosmical functions are ascribed to Varuna. Possessed of illimitable knowledge . . . he upholds heaven and earth, he dwells in all worlds as sovereign ruler. . . . He made the golden . . . sun to shine in the firmament. The wind which resounds through the atmosphere is his breath. . . . Through the operation of his laws the moon walks in brightness, and the stars . . . mysteriously vanish in daylight. He knows the flight of birds in the sky, the paths of ships on the ocean, the course of the far-travelling wind, and beholds all the things that have been or shall be done. . . . He witnesses men’s truth and falsehood” (TG 360).

Varuna, essentially the all-encompassing ether of space, is the Vedic representative of cosmic spirit, and therefore has always been one of the noblest, most mysterious conceptions of divinity.

Vasishtha (Sanskrit) Vasiṣṭha The most wealthy; a celebrated Vedic rishi, representing the typical Brahmin sage. Many legends have clustered about him, especially in regard to his conflict with the sage Visvamitra — the king who raised himself from the Kshatriya to the Brahmanical class. Many hymns of the Rig-Veda are attributed to these two sages: one hymn represents Vasishtha as the family priest of King Sudas, and in the Rig-Veda (7:33:11) he is called the son of the apsaras Urvasi by Mitra and Varuna, hence his name Maitravaruni. He is also supposed to have owned Nandini, the cow of plenty (offspring of Surabhi). As this cow was able to grant the sage all his wishes, he became the master of every vasu (desirable object).

In Manu (1:35) Vasishtha is enumerated as one of the ten prajapatis, the patriarchs produced by Manu-Svayambhuva for the peopling of the earth. In the Mahabharata he is regarded as the family priest of the Suryavansa (solar race), and also as one of the seven great rishis associated with the seven stars of the Great Bear. In the Puranas, Vasishtha is represented as one of the arrangers of the Vedas in a dvapara yuga of a certain chatur yuga, and as the father of seven celebrated sons.

Vastubhuta (Sanskrit) Vastubhūta [from vastu substance, matter + bhūta having become from the verbal root bhū to become] Substantial, material, essential stuff or matter. Most generally, the various vikritis, as the offspring or productions of prakriti, with an eye on the hosts of monads in their peregrinations through the substantial realms. Once these beings have contacted the realms of matter, they may be described as being vastubhuta (imbodying in or working in matter).

Vasudeva (Sanskrit) Vasudeva Father of Krishna and husband of Devaki, likewise brother of Kunti (the mother of the five Pandava princes). He belonged to the Yadava branch of the Somavansa or lunar race.

Vasudeva (Sanskrit) Vāsudeva The son of Vasudeva — Krishna. The Mahabharata, however, gives another explanation why Krishna was given this name: as the divinity is present, or has its dwelling (vasana), in all beings, so does Krishna, for he issued as a Vasu from a divine womb. This reference to Krishna is not so much to the imbodied human semblance of the divinity, but to the divinity itself working in and through this imbodiment.

Vasus (Sanskrit) Vasu-s A class of eight Vedic deities, each representing a host and not one single being. “The wise call our fathers Vasus, our paternal grandfathers Rudras, our paternal great grandfathers, Adityas; agreeably to a text of the Vedas” (Manu 3:284).

Vau (Hebrew) Wāw Sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, waw, variously rendered as vav, waw, etc.; third letter of IHVH, referred to as the Tetragrammaton. With vowel points, most often used as a prefix conjunction meaning “and,” “also.” As a noun, a nail, hook. Its numerical value is 6.

Vayu (Sanskrit) Vāyu Air; one of the five cosmic elements. Personified, the god and sovereign of the air and the king of the gandharvas. Agni, Vayu, and Surya formed the primeval Vedic Trimurti: “ ‘Agni (fire) whose place is on earth; Vayu (air, or one of the forms of Indra), whose place is in the air; and Surya (the sun) whose place is in the air’ [celestial spaces]. (Nirukta.) In esoteric interpretation, these three cosmic principles, correspond with the three human principles, Kama, Kama-Manas and Manas, the sun of the intellect” (TG 361). These three deities in this connection are three manifestations of cosmic fohat, guided and directed by cosmic mahat.

In later mythology Vayu is the father of Hanuman, the monkey-king who aids Rama in the Ramayana. The allegory of Hanuman becoming the son of Vayu by Anjana (an ape-like monster) refers to the first glimmering of mind coming into the highest apes through the miscegenation of unevolved late third root-race and early fourth root-race humans with certain simians, themselves the descendants of a previous and parallel origin during an earlier time of the third root-race.

Vayu-bhuta (Sanskrit) Vāyu-bhūta [from vāyu air, wind, cosmic spirit + bhūta element] The air element; fifth in the descending scale of the seven comic bhutas. The cosmic element corresponding with prana in the human constitution.

Vayu-tattva (Sanskrit) Vāyu-tattva [from vāyu air, wind, cosmic spirit + tattva thatness, reality] The air principle; fifth in the descending scale of the seven tattvas. See also ASURA

Ve (Scandinavian), Vei, Vi (Icelandic) [cognate with vigan to carry high, venerate] Sacred, holy; in Norse mythology, the brother of Odin (spirit) and Vile (will), the creative deities who bring a universe into existence. They are born of the primeval pair Bore and Bestla, karmic residue from the previous life cycle, and correspond to the Greek Logos, the Word or intelligence from which emanate the divine forces which organize kosmos out of chaos. Odin and his two brothers “slay” the frostgiant Ymer — the latent matter of worlds — transforming him into an orderly universe, into which they infuse consciousness and life from their own essence.

Veda (Sanskrit) Veda [from the verbal root vid to know] Knowledge; the most ancient and sacred Sanskrit works of the Hindus. Almost every hymn or division of a Veda is ascribed to various authors. It is generally believed that these subdivisions were revealed orally to the rishis or sages whose respective names they bear; hence the body of the Veda is known as sruti (what was heard) or divine revelation. The very names of these Vedic sages, such as Vasishtha, Visvamitra, and Narada, all of which belong to men born in far distant ages, shows that millennia must have elapsed between the different dates of their composition. Krishna Sastri Godbole proves by astronomical data and mathematics that the Vedas must have been taught at least 25,000 years ago (cf Theosophist 2:238). Hindus claim that the Veda was taught orally for thousands of years, and then finally compiled by Veda-Vyasa 3,200 years ago, on the shores of the sacred lake Manasa-sarovara beyond the Himalayas in what is now Tibet (TG 362). Though compiled at that date their previous antiquity is sufficiently proved by the fact that they are written in an ancient form of Sanskrit, different from the Sanskrit of known later writings.

There are four Vedas: the Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, and Atharva-Veda, this last commonly supposed to be of later date than the former three. The Laws of Manu always speaks of the three Vedas. The Rig-Veda is the original work, the Yajur-Veda and Sama-Veda in their mantric portions are different arrangements of its hymns for special purposes. The Vedas are divided into two parts, the Mantra and Brahmana. The Mantra part is composed of suktas (hymns in verse); the Brahmana part consists of liturgical, ritualistic, exegetical, and mystic treatises in prose. The Mantra or verse portion is considered more ancient than the prose works; and the books in which the hymns are collected are called sanhitas (collections). More or less closely connected with the Brahmanans (and in a few exceptional cases with the Mantra part) are two classes of treatises in prose and verse called Aranyaka and Upanishad. The Vedic writings are again divided into two great divisions, exoteric and esoteric, the former called the karma-kanda (the section of works) and the latter the jnana-kanda (section of wisdom).

Subba Row in “Brahmanism on the Sevenfold Principles in Man” (Theosophist 3:93) says: “The Vedas were perhaps compiled mainly for the use of the priests assisting at public ceremonies, but the grandest conclusions of our real secret doctrine are therein mentioned. I am informed by persons competent to judge of the matter, that the Vedas have a distinct dual meaning — one expressed by the literal sense of the words, the other indicated by the metre and the swara (intonation), which are, as it were, the life of the Vedas . . . the mysterious connection between swara and light is one of its most profound secrets.”

Vedana (Sanskrit) Vedanā [from the verbal root vid to know] Perception or knowledge conveyed by the senses, sensation. The sixth nidana and the second skandha.

Vedanta (Sanskrit) Vedānta The end or completion of the Veda; the final, most perfect exposition of the Vedic tenets. As Uttara-mimansa, one of the six Darsanas or Hindu schools of philosophy, it is said to have been founded by the compiler of the Vedas, Vyasa. Sankaracharya is the main popularizer of the Advaita or nondualistic Vedantic philosophy, which is virtually identical with Central Asian Buddhism.

“The Vedanta is the highest form that the Brahmanical teachings have taken . . .
“The Vedanta may briefly be described as a system of mystical philosophy derived from the efforts of Sages through many generations to interpret the sacred or esoteric meaning of the Upanishads. . . . The Hindus call the Vedanta Brahma-jnana” (OG 181).

Veda-vyasa. See VYASA

Vedhas (Sanskrit) Vedhas Arranger, disposer, giver; a name given to Brahma, Siva, and Vishnu; also to the sun and to the moon (Soma). Likewise the name of a Vedic rishi.

Vegetable Kingdom In the vegetable stage of the monad’s evolution, the faculty of apperception begins to be clearly manifested, which differs from mere perception in that it is accompanied with a certain amount of awareness of results to be achieved. This is shown in the many ways in which plants can care for themselves, as in sending out rootlets for water or providing for fertilization. In the list of seven creations (cf SD 1:450), the fourth is there called the mukhya or primary because it begins the following system of the four subsequent creations; and the Hindu systems place vegetable bodies in this fourth emanation because they possess individualized lives. All the seven kingdoms or life-waves are manifestations of different groups or life-waves of monads in various degrees of emanational self-manifestation.

Vehicle A principle or element, through which an entity is able to express itself, and which can therefore be called the carrier of that entity. Thus the human physical body is a vehicle for all the other human principles that express themselves through it; the linga-sarira is similarly a vehicle for all superior to it; or buddhi is a vehicle for atman. The same principle can be both a vehicle for what is above it, and an entity using another inferior principle as a vehicle. Equivalent to such terms as soul, or the Sanskrit vahana, yana, and upadhi (a carrier).

Vehicle of Life Generally, any vehicle of vitality; specifically among ancient Pythagoreans and others, the entire constitution of the normal human being (or other entity), consisting of seven distinct principles or elements which together form the complete person.

Vendidad (Pahlavi) [from vi-daevo-datem the anti-demonic law] The principal book of the Avesta, consisting of 22 sections or fargards. The major part of the book is concerned with detailed instructions and teachings on how to avoid sin and defilement by moral and physical purification, “each of which teachings is based on Occult laws” (TG 363). The first fargard tells the story of the creation, and the legend of Yima and the Golden Age. Another tells of the formation of our earth and its six companion karshvares or globes.

The Vendidad is the only complete Zoroastrian Nask that has come down to our day. The Pahlavi Rivayats state that after the wholesale destruction of ancient literature brought about by the vandalism of Alexander the Great, the 21 Nasks forming the Avesta were searched for — but only the 19th was found, the Vendidad. “It is a pre-eminently occult treatise, full of symbolism and often of meaning quite the reverse of that which is expressed in its dead-letter text” (ibid.).

The Vendidad Sadah (“pure Vendidad”) is the original text alone, without Pahlavi translation.

Ventus (Latin) [cf root ven, van in Sanskrit vata, English wind, Greek anemos, Latin animus, anima] Wind; wind and spirit were convertible, in the literatures of most ancient nations.

Venus The second visible planet from the sun in our solar system, and the brightest orb in the heavens except the sun and moon: regarded by the ancients as one of the seven sacred planets. Astrologically its zodiacal houses are Taurus and Libra; its day of the week is Friday.

“Venus is the most occult, powerful, and mysterious of all the planets; the one whose influence upon, and relation to the Earth is most prominent. . . .
“ . . .According to the Occult Doctrine, this planet is our Earth’s primary, and its spiritual prototype. . . .
Every sin committed on Earth is felt by Usanas-Sukra [Venus]. The Guru of the Daityas is the Guardian Spirit of the Earth and Men. Every change on Sukra is felt on, and reflected by, the Earth” (SD 2:30-1).

In theosophy the regent or rector of Venus has a particular influence over globe C of the earth-chain, and likewise over the third root-race of the earth’s globe D. The sign of Venus (the circle over the cross Venus sign) represents the fall of mankind and animal life into sexual generation at the end of the third root-race.

As Venus has no satellites, the ancients said that Venus adopted the Earth, the progeny of the Moon. “Every world has its parent star and sister planet. Thus Earth is the adopted child and younger brother of Venus, but its inhabitants are of their own kind” (SD 2:33). The inhabitants of Venus have bodies in one sense more gross than those of Earth-dwellers; yet despite this the former are far more intelligent than are the humans of Earth. Furthermore, Venus is said to be in its seventh round (cf SD 1:602; FSO 327-9).

For the Roman goddess, see APHRODITE

Vera Cause (Latin) Real cause; as distinguished from a secondary cause, or occasionally by contrast with a merely apparent cause. The real causes of physical phenomena cannot be found in the physical world, but in the world of noumena.

Verbum (Latin) Word; adopted by later Latin-speaking philosophers and Christian theologians to represent the cosmic Logos (word), often used in the more concrete sense as the spoken word in reference to the vibratory power of sound; or in its application to Christos in theology.

Whether the Greek logos or Latin verbum is used, the philosophical meaning is the same and arose from the fact that a word is the audible expression of the inner, ever-active but silent idea. Hence cosmic spirit, the field of cosmic ideation, by its very activity of producing cosmic thought manifests itself as the word — or words. A person has a thought to which he gives utterance as a word; similarly the cosmic Logos was metaphorically spoken of in Greek philosophy, especially by the Platonists, as the cosmic Word of the secret idea or thought of the cosmic intelligence. Parallel also to the Hindu Vach.

Verdandi (Icelandic) [from verda to become] In Norse mythology, the second of the three norns who determine the fate of heroes. All beings are subject to these three Fates, who correspond to the Greek Moirai. They have been described as Past, Present, and Future, though their names imply much more. Verdandi, the present, literally means “becoming,” the ever-renewed present moment wherein all things are possible and the future is determined.

Her sisters are Urd (origin), irrevocable causes set in motion in the past; and Skuld (debt), who is created by her two sisters, the past and present. She is the debt of karma owed to the future, the inevitable result of past and present causes.

Vernal Equinox. See SEASONS

Vesica Piscis Fish bladder; vesica was used for a variety of receptacles and may be translated receptacle, so that the term may be rendered, the receptacle of the Christ. In ecclesiastical art, an aureole or glory shaped like a pointed oval, consisting of the intercepted arcs of two equal circles whose circumferences pass through their respective centers; a geometrically conventionalized variant of an earlier fish symbol, a well-known emblem of the mystical Christ, being a symbol of world saviors in general, likewise of the end of a cycle and the inauguration of another, of floods, and of the last sign of the zodiac. Frequently found in the Roman catacombs, it is seen surrounding the figures of sacred persons such as Jesus or the Virgin Mary. It stands for the mystic Mother, and is connected with the cosmic Virgin; the oval shape and its representation as an aureole surrounding the figure suggests the symbol of the egg.

The vesica piscis is an instance of a large class of highly involved and entangled mystical emblems, where the phallic aspect seems to dog the footsteps of attempts to depict highly spiritual, deeply profound facts. The human mind, so desirous of making graphic emblems of purely abstract realities, sooner or later loses sight of the abstract truth, so that only the picture itself remains. See also ICHTHYS

Vesta (Latin) Hestia (Greek) Daughter of Saturn (Kronos) and Rhea, sister of Jupiter, Juno, Ceres, Pluto, and Neptune (Zeus, Hera, Demeter, Hades, and Poseidon). The first-born, she became, as Terra or Gaia, the earth goddess. She is variously represented as the wife of Uranus, and again as a divine maid, both accounts probably being remnants of an earlier myth similar to those centering around Demeter, Isis, Neith, and other goddesses.

Traces of the worship of goddesses equivalent to Vesta are found in prehistoric times. The cult reached a place of sanctity and importance in ancient Ireland, the Hebrides, and among the Incas of Peru. None, however, is so fully documented as the Roman cult of Vesta worship, centering around the guardianship of the sacred fire, symbol of the loftiest ideals of the state, and hence of the home and domestic life. In Rome the cult grew in importance until the position of the priestesses almost rivaled that of royalty. There is a tradition that Numa introduced the worship of Vesta into Rome and founded the Temple of Vesta.

Vestal Virgins The priestess-guardians of the sacred fire of the Roman State; originally four in number, later six, then seven. Their special duty was to keep burning the sacred fire, which must never be allowed to go out. Once a year, however, it was extinguished with appropriate ceremonies, and then rekindled by means of “pure” or elemental fire — fire produced by friction or by means of a burning-glass.

The Vestals were chosen when mere children, their election being the king’s prerogative; under the Empire and Republic, that of the pontifex maximus. The one selected took a vow of chastity for thirty years, after which she was free to return to the world and marry if she chose. So highly regarded was this honor that few availed themselves of this privilege, and despite the requirements there were always more candidates for the position than could be accepted. A violation of her vows subjected the Vestal to extreme penalties.

Vestals enjoyed special privileges in the State, and in most respects were not subject to the Roman law. On state occasions they were preceded by a lictor and at public spectacles the best seats were reserved for them. In all the greater ceremonies and state festivals they took a prominent part. They had undisputed power to pardon any criminal whom they might meet when on his way to execution, providing the meeting was not prearranged. They could be buried within the walls, a privilege they shared with the Roman Emperor alone. Public slaves were appointed to serve them; they were the custodians of important state papers. They lived in almost royal splendor in the magnificent Atrium Vestae which adjoined the official fanum of the pontifex maximus himself. Their chief festival was the Vestalia, held on June 9th. From the central fire which they tended, the altars of other gods obtained their fires, and even distant colonies were not held to be consecrated until their own altar fires were lighted with fire from the central hearth. Compared with this cult in other parts of the world, especially in India where originally there was a lofty worship requiring the completest chastity and renunciation of the devadasis or nachnis of the temples, the cult in Rome, despite worldliness, seems to have suffered less degeneration than might have been expected from the theoretical and actual power surrounding it.

Vestures. See TRIKAYA

Vetala (Sanskrit) Vetāla A ghost, spook, or elementary astral entity, haunting cemeteries and occupying corpses for a temporary animation.

Vetala-siddhi (Sanskrit) Vetāla-siddhi One of the practices of sorcery; a “means of obtaining power over the living by black magic, incantations, and ceremonies performed over a dead human body, during which process the corpse is desecrated” (TG 364).

Vi. See VE

Via Straminis (Latin) The way of straw, the wispy way; the Milky Way, the name evidently referring to the wisps of light with which the Milky Way is strewn, as straw was often used to strew the roads in ancient times. The ancient Syrians in their system of describing the stages of nature, called the spiritual regents within and behind the Milky Way their First Principle. Theosophy regards the Milky Way as not only the origin of all manifested solar systems but likewise as the repository of these solar systems when they finish their evolutionary course and return to the invisible background of the galaxy for their long pralayic rest. Yet this is but a minor part that the Milky Way plays in the cosmic economy, for that pathway of the gods, as many ancient mystics called it, contains some of the deepest mysteries that the human mind in its endless research for truth and knowledge has unfolded. The Romans used two other expressions to denote the Milky Way: the circulus lacteus (milky circle) and via lactis (milky way).

Vibha-vasu (Sanskrit) Vibhā-vasu [from vibhā shining with great brilliance + vasu a name of Agni, cosmic fire, or fohat; also shining primordial cosmic substance] Brilliantly shining substance; pralaya opens when Agni in its form of destroyer begins to shine forth with the destructive or regenerative brilliance, or even heat — thus inaugurating the dissolution of manvantara culminating in pralaya.

Vibhutayah (Sanskrit) Vibhūtayaḥ [plural of vibhūti mighty, powerful; superhuman power] Siddhis, magical or superhuman powers, potencies. The eight vibhutayah especially attributed to Siva are also said to be perpetually attainable by humans, for example: animan (the power of becoming as minute as an atom); laghiman (extreme lightness); prapti (attaining or reaching anything); prakamya (irresistible will); mahiman (illimitable bulk); isita (supreme dominion); vasita (subjugating by magic); and kamavasayita (suppressing all desires).


Vibration(s) Motion is a fundamental principle in universal nature, coeval with boundless space, ceasing not even during pralaya; and we can form only a relative idea of its real nature, yet can have intuitions of it through its manifestations, the most fundamental of which is vibration. The essential characteristic of vibration is periodicity or cyclic motion. It appears in the alternation of manvantara and pralaya in the cosmic Great Breath and in the most rapid oscillations of minutest particles. The relative periodicity of various vibrations is found to constitute a mathematical scale, according to which phenomena may be classified.

The principle of sympathetic vibration involves mysteries relating to the tremendous potency of sound, some of which are familiar to physicists. The discoveries of John Worrell Keely (cf SD 1:555-66) were of this nature. He was able to develop enormous energy in an engine without using the principle of pressure; but his discoveries were premature and their results were frustrated.

Sound is a universal principle which manifests itself physically as vibrations in the mass and particles of bodies. Physicists, by a logical confusion, have called the effects “sound,” whereas they are only one of the productions of causal sound. We might as well define fear as a trembling of the body; whereas we know that the trembling is an effect produced by the emotion. The same applies to heat, light, and others of the list of physical forces which manifest themselves in vibrations.

Vibration, in all its myriad manifestations, is the consequence of inner hidden causal agencies. The vibrations ensuing from such inner movements expressing themselves through bodies or veils, are always in accordance with the causal rhythms and mathematics involving quantities such as rate, intensity, and quality, there being vibrations of as many kinds as there are different causal agents. Thus there are vibrations as effects on our gross physical plane, other vibrations which manifest themselves on the astral, emotional, and psychological or lower mental planes. There are again vibrations of higher type which originate in the intellectual and spiritual monads of the human constitution.

Furthermore, because it is an expression of energy, all vibration is force and energy itself, and hence capable of arousing energies or forces of exactly the same quality or rate of intensity in other beings which they affect — this being the reason behind sympathetic vibration. When vibrations thus interlock and synchronize in rate, intensity, and quality, we have what is called sympathy, love, or attraction, and such sympathetic vibration is operative on all the planes of universal nature. Not only is this the case in all relations of humans with each other, but likewise sympathetic vibration plays an enormous part in such matters as mob psychology, quick electrical sympathies affecting audiences, hates and rebellions — even what is known as health and disease are communicated by means of vibrations, the one first affected being able to communicate his “affection” of whatever kind to others who are at the time negative to the vibrational impact and in time vibrating synchronously with the impacting energy. There is, of course, such a thing as resistance, which expresses itself in manifold ways, such as being able to throw off the vibration affecting it, and even to return it upon the sender, consciously or unconsciously; and herein lies the secret of the old medieval saying that curses come home to roost, or that if the magician is not stronger than the elementals or nature spirits he attempts to control, he is almost invariably destined to become their victim.

All vibrational activity of whatever rate, intensity, or attributive characteristic is always an effect, although always capable of becoming in its turn a cause producing effects of its own type. In other words, there is always the originating or causal agent for any specific instance of vibration; thus the thinker produces mental vibrational activity which we call thinking or thoughts, or emotion or feeling.

Indeed, every entity or thing in the universe is in incessant motion or vibrational activity arising from force inherent in the entity or thing itself; and these interblending activities of vibration produce the vast diversity of the universe around us. Thus every atom, electron, molecule, or being anywhere, sings its own vibrational note, which is the sound production of its own characteristic svabhava or individuality; so that our physical bodies, could we but hear their mystical music, would sound like a vast and marvelous symphony of interblended sound. For this reason Pythagoras spoke of the music of the spheres, ascribing to each celestial body its own dominant note, and pointing out that from the blending of such individual notes or sounds arise the harmony of the spheres.

Vicarious Atonement In Christian theology, the idea that God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a substitution for the guilt incurred by man at the Fall, and that mankind will consequently escape punishment, provided that they accept by faith Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. The idea that by an atoning for evil done or sin committed, one undoes the past — broadened by Christian theology to include the doctrine of the vicarious atonement by some great spiritual being for the sins of others — is a theory rejected by the theosophic philosophy. To those who believe the Christian doctrine that every person was born into this world burdened with inevitable doom through Adam’s sin, such a compensatory doctrine seems to be necessary; but it discourages people’s faith in their own innate divinity and in their power thereby to effect their own spiritual and moral salvation, and violates our sense of justice by offering a way of avoiding the consequences of our own bad actions — which avoidance of sin already incurred is distinctly denied in several places in the New Testament where the ancient theosophical doctrine of karma is taught that as a man sows, that (and not something else) must he invariably reap. Vicarious atonement may be a distorted doctrine of reconciliation, in Christian notion reconciliation between God and man; also of the idea that the spiritual monad in man takes on itself the consequences for actions or “sins” committed by the less evolved human monad. Every human being is raised by the sacrifice made by the Christos within himself, so that whoever believes in and conforms his acts to his own spiritual nature, is “saved.”

Vidadhafshu Keshvar. See KARSHVAR

Vidblainn (Norse) Wide blue; one of the dwellings of the Norse gods, the third “heaven”; Blavatsky says it refers to the third globe of the earth chain on the ascending arc (globe F).(SD 2:100)

Vidhdhala. See VITTHALA

Vidya (Sanskrit) Vidyā Wisdom in spiritual things; also occult science. See also JNANA

Vidyadhara (Sanskrit) Vidyādhara A possessor of magical knowledge; a kind of ethereal being almost always of astral habitat,

“also called Nabhas-chara, ‘moving in the air,’ flying, and Priyam-vada, ‘sweet-spoken.’ They are the Sylphs of the Rosicrusians; inferior deities inhabiting the astral sphere between the earth and ether; believed in popular folk-lore to be beneficent, but in reality they are cunning and mischievous, and intelligent Elementals, or ‘Powers of the air.’ They are represented in the East, and in the West, as having intercourse with men (’intermarrying,’ as it is called in Rosicrucian parlance . . .). In India they are also called Kama-rupins, as they take shapes at will. It is among these creatures that the ‘spirit-wives’ and ‘spirit-husbands’ of certain modern spiritualistic mediums and hysteriacs are recruited. These boast with pride of having such pernicious connexions (e.g., the American ‘Lily,’ the spirit-wife of a well-known head of a now scattered community of Spiritualists, of a great poet and well-known writer, and call them angel-guides, maintaining that they are the spirits of famous disembodied mortals. These ‘spirit-husbands’ and ‘wives’ have not originated with the modern Spiritists and Spiritualists, but have been known in the East for thousands of years, in the Occult philosophy, under the names above given, and among the profane as — Pishachas” (TG 364).

Their name is not given to them because they are the possessors of cosmic wisdom, since these vidya-dharas are hierarchical ranges below the gods who are the holders of cosmic wisdom; but they are called the possessors of at least a certain portion of the instinctive or innate magical knowledge of the realms of maya, and for this reason have always been looked upon as among the most dangerous and misleading beings in the multifarious interacting hierarchies of the universe. They are, in fact, a species of semi-intelligent, or in their higher grades intelligent, cosmic elementals or genii, and may be either beneficent or highly maleficent to mankind, depending upon mankind’s innate strength of resistance or innate weakness to impressions received from them.

Vighadia (East Indian) [cf Sanskrit vighaṭikā] A medieval and modern Hindu term used in the reckoning of time; sixty vighadias equal one ghadia so that a vighadia equals 24 seconds.

Vignanamaya Kosa. See VIJNANAMAYA-KOSA

Vigrid, Vigridr. See VIGRIDSSLATTEN

Vigridsslatten (Icelandic, Scandinavian) [from vigr battle or vigan to bear high, consecrate + slett (Swedish slatt) battlefield] Plain of consecration; in Norse mythology, the plain where the battle of life is fought daily. Corresponding to the Hindu dharmakshetra (Bhagavad-Gita), it is where the Valkyries search for Allfather Odin’s fallen heroes who have earned entrance to Valhalla (the hall of the chosen), where they are regaled at the end of each day’s struggle. They are those who have died to their lower nature and entered on a larger life as champions of the gods.

Odin’s two ravens, Hugin and Munin (mind and memory), fly over the battlefield and report back to Odin on the events taking place there.

Vihara (Sanskrit) Vihāra [from vi-hṛ to spend or pass time, roam, wander through] A Buddhist or Jain monastery or temple; originally a hall where the monks met or walked about, afterwards used as temples. Today those viharas are in towns and cities, but in earlier times they were generally rock-temples or caves found only in unfrequented jungles, on mountaintops, and in the most deserted places.

Viharasvamin (Sanskrit) Vihārasvāmin The svami (swami) or superior of a vihara.

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