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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Waking State The state of human consciousness when perceiving the physical world, conscious of other people and things. Termed the jagrat state in Hindu philosophy, it is the lowest of the four states into which human consciousness is divided: jagrat, svapna, sushupti, and turiya.

The reason we cannot remain continuously in the waking state, but must seek another aspect of consciousness during sleep, is that “our senses are all dual, and act according to the plane of consciousness on which the thinking entity energizes. Physical sleep affords the greatest facility for its action on the various planes; at the same time it is a necessity, in order that the senses may recuperate and obtain a new lease of life for the Jagrata, or waking state, from the Svapna and Sushupti. . . . As a man exhausted by one state of the life fluid seeks another; as, for example, when exhausted by the hot air he refreshes himself with cool water; so sleep is the shady nook in the sunlit valley of life. Sleep is a sign that waking life has become too strong for the physical organism, and that the force of the life current must be broken by changing the waking for the sleeping state. Ask a good clairvoyant to describe the aura of a person just refreshed by sleep, and that of another just before going to sleep. The former will be seen bathed in rhythmical vibrations of life currents — golden, blue, and rosy; these are the electrical waves of Life. The latter is, as it were, in a mist of intense golden-orange hue, composed of atoms whirling with an almost incredible spasmodic rapidity, showing that the person begins to be too strongly saturated with Life; the life essence is too strong for his physical organs, and he must seek relief in the shadowy side of that essence, which side is the dream element, or physical sleep, one of the states of consciousness” (TBL 58).

Human beings, animals, and plants die not because of a lack of life, but because their vehicles become finally worn out, precisely because the life-currents within have become too strong, and the building power of the vehicles less able to repair the damages of the life-force. Paradoxically, it is the life-force which itself brings about both sleep and death, and thus life repairs its own damage, both building and destroying.

Waldenses A movement arising in the last quarter of the 12th century in the south of France, when Peter Waldo, a rich merchant of Lyons, distributed his wealth among the poor and went forth as a preacher of voluntary poverty, likewise preaching the doctrines of the Christ. He had the Bible translated into the language of the Provence, which he and his followers read and interpreted in their own way. This brought upon them the wrath of the clergy. At length Pope Alexander prohibited them from preaching without the permission of the bishops (1179). To this Waldo replied that he must obey God rather than man — for which he was excommunicated by Lucius III in 1184, which brought on a persecution of the Waldenses which continued through the Middle Ages. During the cruel and bloody crusade against the Albigenses, the Waldenses were also attacked and almost exterminated: they survived by fleeing into the mountains and secluded valleys of the Alps. Nevertheless the persecution continued inasmuch as their doctrines were called heretical. Many adherents joined the various reforming movements which arose in Europe from time to time — such as the Hussite, Lutheran, and Protestant — although a center remained in the valleys of the Vaudois even to the present day.

Walhalla. See VALHALLA


Wand The wand of Hermes or caduceus, the magician’s wand, the rods of Moses and Aaron, the scepter of kings which shows the force of temporal power, and the crosier of a bishop, are prototypes and antitypes of a universal principle — the straight line, representing the masculine, active, positive power in nature. The magician may be said to possess a magic wand — a name for the power he can wield — and there may be various material copies of this, ranging from an actual magic wand supposedly prepared according to secret formulas, down to the humble stick or cudgel with which the ruffian enforces his will. The words rod and staff are often used figuratively as well as literally in the Bible.

In the four symbolic suits of the Tarot, the first is that of the batons, now become the clubs.

Wanderers. See COMET

Wanes. See VANIR

War in Heaven. See TARAKAMAYA

Watcher or Silent Watcher, Wondrous Being Generically the dominant self or overlord of any hierarchy. Throughout a human being’s complex nature dwells his own spiritual Wondrous Being, the fountain and fundamental law of his whole nature; there is the Silent Watcher of the Brotherhood of Compassion, who is identical with the Watcher for our globe; the Watcher for our planetary chain; for our solar system, its habitat being the solar chain; for the Milky Way; and for the home-universe. At the other extreme there is a Silent Watcher for every atom, as for every other entity, whether large or small. The Watcher for individual people is the monad, the divine prototype at the upper rung of the ladder of being; an individual dhyani-chohan, the spiritual individuality during the manvantara, and as best it can it works through its “shadows” or incarnations.

In the earlier third root-races, the Sons of Wisdom produced by kriyasakti a progeny called the Sons of Ad, Sons of the Fire-mist, or Sons of Will and Yoga. This was not a race, but “at first a wondrous Being, called the ‘Initiator,’ and after him a group of semi-divine and semi-human beings. ‘Set apart’ in Archaic genesis for certain purposes, they are those in whom are said to have incarnated the highest Dhyanis, ‘Munis and Rishis from previous Manvantaras’ — to form the nursery for future human adepts, on this earth and during the present cycle” (SD 1:207). This Wondrous Being, who descended in the early part of the Third Age, is the tree from which have come the great historically known sages and hierophants, and it holds spiritual sway over the initiated adepts. “He is the ‘Initiator,’ called the ‘great sacrifice.’ For, sitting at the threshold of light, he looks into it from within the circle of Darkness, which he will not cross, nor will he quit his post till the last day of this life-cycle. Why does the solitary Watcher remain at his self-chosen post? Why does he sit by the fountain of primeval Wisdom, of which he drinks no longer, as he has naught to learn which he does not know . . .? Because the lonely, sore-footed pilgrims on their way back to their home are never sure to the last moment of not losing their way in this limitless desert of illusion and matter called Earth-Life. Because he would fain show the way to that region of freedom and light, from which he is a voluntary exile himself, to every prisoner who has succeeded in liberating himself from the bonds of flesh and illusion. Because, in short, he has sacrificed himself for the sake of mankind, though but a few Elect may profit by the great sacrifice” (SD 1:208).

The Watchers of the seven spheres are the rectors or governors of the seven planets, also called Watchers of the earth and man. The Watchers of the four quarters of the sky are the mystical four Maharajas. Watchers reign more or less directly over mankind during satya and subsequent yugas down to the beginning of the third root-race, after which come patriarchs, heroes, etc. Each people or nation has its direct Watcher, guardian, or Father-in-Heaven, as for instance Jehovah-Sabaoth-Saturn for the Hebrews.

Water A primary cosmic element with almost innumerable manifestations, corresponding to the Hindu apas tattva and to the akasic waters of space. Its most fundamental meaning is that of space or akasa, the great mother of all, the feminine receptive principle over and in which broods the fire of spirit. “The first principle of things, according to Thales and other ancient philosophers. Of course this is not water on the material plane, but in a figurative sense for the potential fluid contained in boundless space. This was symbolized in ancient Egypt by Kneph, the ‘unrevealed’ god, who was represented as the serpent — the emblem of eternity — encircling a water-urn, with his head hovering over the waters, which he incubates with his breath. ‘And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’ (Gen. i). The honey-dew, the food of the gods and of the creative bees on the Yggdrasil, falls during the night upon the tree of life from the ‘divine waters, the birth-place of the gods.’ Alchemists claim that when pre-Adamic earth is reduced by the Alkahest to its first substance, it is like clear water. The Alkahest is ‘the one and the invisible, the water, the first principle, in the second transformation’ ” (TG 368).

Water corresponds with soul, representing the middle world between spirit or fire on the one hand, and matter or earth on the other. It corresponds to the astral plane as compared with the physical; and here we see its quality of instability, mobility, having no fixed shape but adapting itself to other shapes, dissolving solid bodies and re-precipitating them. It corresponds to the psychomental nature as contrasted with the spiritual and the physical, and to the liquid state of physical matter, though in this sense it is the water subdivision of the earth element. Water and fire are necessary elements of life, as are their correspondences the moon and sun.

Water Lily In the West equivalent to the Eastern symbol of the lotus, especially in the Greek and Latin Churches. It particularly signifies spiritual productions or manifestations, thus the Archangel Gabriel is sometimes represented as appearing before the Virgin Mary bearing a lily or a bunch of water lilies. “This spray typifying fire and water, or the idea of creation and generation, symbolizes precisely the same idea as the lotus in the hand of the Bodhisat who announces to Maha-Maya, Gautama’s mother, the birth of the world’s Saviour, Buddha. Thus also, Osiris and Horus were represented by the Egyptians constantly in association with the lotus-flower . . .” (SD 1:379n).

Just as the water lily or lotus rises out of the mud through the more ethereal water into the still more ethereal air, permeated by the sun, so does the individual follow the same progression of developing spirituality from the world of matter upwards through the astral light into the world of spirit illuminated by the divine sun as master of life.

Water of Life The Book of Dzyan says that light is cold flame, flame is fire, and fire produces heat, which yields the water of life in the great mother; Blavatsky explained that all these are, on our plane, the progeny of electricity — which is perhaps the most important physical manifestation of the cosmic jiva or life, emanating from fohat, or vice versa.

Also a synonym for Chaos, the great cosmic deep, as in the opening verses of Genesis, when the soul of the ’Elohim or hierarchy of dhyani-chohans moved through and over the waters.

Again, in myth and folktales, a magic liquid that cures all illnesses, brings the dead to life, or gives immortality. For example, in the Babylonian myth of Ishtar and Tammuz, the goddess descends to the underworld seeking the water of life to restore Tammuz to life. See also AB-E-HAYAT

Waters of Space Chaos, the great deep, the great cosmic Mother, the universal cosmic matrix. According to Thales and other ancient philosophers, the water of cosmic space was the first principle emanating from the spatial deeps of spirit and producing the universe through emanational evolution. Various Greek philosophers have represented aether, fire, air, or water as the primordial cosmic principle; and each of these was true, though giving only a part of the truth. These philosophies as aspects of a whole in much the same way as the several great schools of Hindu philosophy are.

Thus the waters of space are equivalent to the veil of cosmic spirit. Water in ancient cosmogonies corresponded to the Hindu prakriti or pradhana, and like the Greek Second Logos was endowed with feminine or productive characteristics. Thus the archaic Greeks in one form of their cosmogonical philosophy taught that all things, including the gods, came forth from Ocean and his wife Tethys:

“Ocean is the immeasurable space (Spirit in Chaos), which is the Deity . . .; and Tethys is not the Earth, but primordial matter in the process of formation” (SD 2:65).
“But there are two distinct aspects in universal Esotericism, Eastern and Western, in all those personations of the Female Power in nature, or nature — the noumenal and the phenomenal. One is its purely metaphysical aspect, . . . the other terrestrial and physical, and at the same time divine from the stand-point of practical human conception and Occultism. They are all the symbols and personifications of Chaos, the ‘Great Deep’ or the Primordial Waters of Space, the impenetrable veil between the Incognisable and the Logos of Creation” (SD 1:431).

We. See VE

Week The period of seven days was known to the Hindus, Egyptians, Hebrews, and other ancient nations, but not used by the Greeks or Romans until the Christian Emperor Theodosius. It is not based on any exact astronomical cycle, so far as is ordinarily known, though it may be considered roughly as a subdivision of the month. It was well known to the Hebrews, and in the New Testament the word week translates the Greek Sabbator which is the Hebrew Shabbath. Though commonly Sabbath is taken to mean a seventh day after six, a more esoteric sense makes it a period of seven time units of rest after a period of seven active time units — in other words after a septenary manvantara comes a septenary pralaya. The word is also used of other sevenfold time periods, such as a week of years or of ages; for each of the days in a week of years represents 360 solar years, and the whole week 2,520 years. The Hebrews “had a Sabbatical week, a Sabbatical year, etc., etc., and their Sabbath lasted indifferently 24 hours or 24,000 years — in their secret calculations of the Sods. We of the present times call an age a century” (SD 2:395).

The nomenclature of the seven days of the week according to the seven sacred planets is serially uniform in the various calendars, and points to a common origin of this knowledge. It can be arrived at by dividing the day into 24 hours and assigning a planet to each hour, for instance, first counting from Saturn, then Jupiter, then Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, down to the Moon when, by this system of counting and pausing at every fourth, both inclusive, the first planetary hour of each day, beginning with the sunrise, will be found to be governed by the planet which is assigned to that day. The same occurs with a ten-hour day, or by counting the planets in order and giving one to each quarter of the day (cf Fund 250).

Here are the names of the days of the week in the English, ancient Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Greek, and Latin systems as being sacred to their deities:

English Anglo-Saxon Scandinavian Greek Latin
Sunday Sunnandaeg Day of the Sun Phoebus Apollo
Monday Monandaeg Day of the Moon Artemis Diana
Tuesday Tiwesdaeg Day of Tiw Ares Mars
Wednesday Wodnesdaeg Day of Odin Hermes Mercurius
Thursday Thunresdaeg Day of Thor Zeus Jupiter
Friday Frigedaeg Day of Frigga Aphrodite Venus
Saturday Saeterndaeg Day of (?) Kronos Saturnus

Blavatsky writes that in the course of time the seven-headed or septenary Dragon-logos became split up into “four heptanomic parts or twenty-eight portions,” which suggests the division of the week and the month, into the seven days of the week, and the 28 days of the lunar month, and the four seasons of the year. “Each lunar week has a distinct occult character in the lunar month; each day of the twenty-eight has its special characteristics; as each of the twelve constellations, whether separately or in combination with other signs, has an occult influence either for good or for evil” (SD 1:409).

The ancient Mexicans had a different system of dividing their weeks and months: their week consisted of five days, and their month of 20 days. There were likewise other weeks among other nations or peoples as, for instance, the Athenians had a week of ten days, etc.


West The forces of the four cardinal points have each a distinct occult property, and are ruled over by the four regents. Blavatsky states that there is occult philosophy in the early Christian doctrine, echoes of which still linger in both the Orthodox Greek and the Roman Catholic Churches, that public calamities are due to invisible messengers from the north and west, and particularly from the west, the conjunction of the two points being combined in the northwest (SD 1:123). Most good, on the other hand, flows forth from the north and east. The Egyptian goddess Hathor is spoken of as the infernal Isis, the goddess preeminently of the west or nether world. East and west are not localities but directions, and when used in reference to localities the meaning is purely relative. Good and evil, too, are relative terms as experienced by human beings, for such messengers and influences are in all cases strictly karmic agents; and often what people in their blindness and weakness think a calamity or misfortune may indeed be a blessing in disguise. See also CARDINAL POINTS

Wheat Brought to earth by Lords of Wisdom from other spheres, as were all the grains, and indeed all plants and animals. Yet wheat is said not to be known in the wild state nor to have been developed from any grass. Plato speaks of inventors — gods and demigods incarnate in human beings — who appeared successively among the races of mankind after their divine rulers had departed, and discovered fire, wheat, and wine. The kabiri and also Isis are said to have brought wheat, as is Isis. In Egyptian symbology the Osirified defunct becomes Khem, who gleans the field of Aaru — i.e., “he gleans either his reward or punishment, as that field is the celestial locality (Devachan) where the defunct is given wheat, the food of divine justice” (SD 1:221).

In ancient Greece wheat was always associated with Demeter or Ceres (whence the word cereal), and as Demeter was the preeminent goddess of the Mysteries, sheaves of wheat also were associated with the Mysteries. Maize held the same place in ancient America. In the Christian Church wheat is still the food in the bread — the literal, physical “body of Christ.”

Wheel Perpetual gyratory motion; a vortex, a center of revolving force. Matter is not only motion itself in low ranges of the cosmos, but has likewise many modes of motion, although not in the sense in which this phrase was used in the 19th century. Lord Kelvin’s vortex-atoms illustrate the point, for he showed that many of the properties attributed to atoms could be represented by regarding atoms as vortices in a frictionless, incompressible fluid. More recent analysis of the atom has failed to resolve it into anything more than electric particles whose properties are functions of their motions. “Atoms are called ‘Vibrations’ in Occultism . . . ” (SD 2:633). Fohat traces spiral lines and forms wheels or centers of force around which primordial cosmic matter expands and contracts and passes through stages of consolidation ending in globes, and later through stages of etherealization. Vortical motion is a universal law, as seen in the stellar universe and in the electronic constitution of the physical atom, giving a fuller meaning to the word cycle.

Wheel, cycle, globes, and revolutions all pertain to the same fundamental conception of whirling, revolving, or gyratory motion of beings and substances; and as no motion can take place except in matter, space, and time, the whirlings and revolutions of beings and things include likewise the time periods or cyclic returns of beings and events throughout duration. Wherever there is a whirling or turning, whether of matter or of an event in time, it is because it is a being or thing which is active in reproducing itself in cyclic events (cf Ezekiel 1:15-21). This is one of the archaic ways of understanding what is now called the principle of Relativity. Indeed, so intimate and entangled are the actor and the act — the being and its movements in time — that it is not always easy to distinguish the actor inherent and moving from the effects in space and time of such movement; so that when we speak of a cycle of time we are perforce obliged to conceive of a moving entity producing the cycle, albeit the moving entity may not be visible to us and indeed may be incomprehensible. Hence, the frequent and often perplexing usage of wheel or wheelings found in ancient occult writings. See also WINGED WHEEL; GLOBE, WINGED

Whirling Souls Used in reference to the Hebrew Gilgulim, the cyclic journeys or whirlings of the monad, and the Qabbalistic teaching that during the course of these peregrinations or transmigrations it enters body after body.

Whirlwind A gyrating wind; in theosophy, when applied to the movements of a universe, a name for the moving of the Great Breath and for the various functions and activities of fohat. Motion, the divine breath, becomes the cosmic whirling or whirlwind and sets in motion the particles in space, bringing about now their coagulation and concretion, now their dissipation and dispersion. Deity thus mystically becomes a whirlwind; pulsatory life assumes a whirling movement. Stages in world formation are described as diffused cosmic matter, then the fiery whirlwind, the first stage in the formation of a nebula, leading eventually to the formation of solar system and more particularly of a globe or group of solar or planetary globes. The primordial seven forces, the first seven breaths of the cosmic dragon of wisdom or cosmic manifest intelligence, produce from their circumgyrating motions the fiery whirlwind. The first chapter of Ezekiel mentions a whirlwind and other descriptions of cosmic evolution, especially wheels.

White Regarded as the source whence the seven prismatic colors diverge, it stands for the Logos of a hierarchy. Nearly all the archaic religio-philosophies state that light or white is born of darkness, the incomprehensible deeps of universal life which is darkness only to our poorly evolved sense and mind. In this sense, darkness may often be spoken of as absolute light.

As opposed to black, it mystically signifies pure and good: for example, white magician or white magic.

White Island Translation of the Sanskrit sveta-dvipa; an island mentioned frequently in ancient Hindu Puranic accounts of the various continents or islands which have flourished and disappeared in past geologic ages, as well as those which now are or which will come into being in time. It was an actual continental system with outlying islands lying mainly within the arctic regions, and its remains (with partial submersions and re-elevations within geologic history) are today known as Greenland, Siberia, and several other places. It is equivalent to the second continent in theosophical teaching, although there were at much later dates than this continental system a few small islands also called white.

Another dvipa mentioned in the Puranas, Saka-dvipa, has not yet come into existence and is now mainly under the floors of the oceans. It may be called the sixth continent. Both Sveta-dvipa and Saka-dvipa have been confused by some writers with the islands called Ruta and Daitya, which have both disappeared: Ruta between 800 and 900 thousand years ago, and the smaller Daitya at a much later date but still several hundred thousand years ago. Ruta and Daitya were remnants of the fourth or Atlantean continent.

Mystically, although based on geological history, Sveta-dvipa is often called part of the Eternal Land or north pole and the lands immediately surrounding it. The unvarying traditions of a large part of the Orient state that it is the only locality which escapes the fate of most other dvipas: total submersion under the waters of the oceans. All the avataras of Vishnu were said to have come originally from the White Island. It is sometimes called preeminently the home or source of white magicians, and is contrasted with Atala, often called the abode of black magicians.

White Magic, White Magicians. See MAGIC

White Stone “To him that overcometh will I give of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it” (Rev 2:17). In Revelation, a symbolic record of John’s initiation, the white stone is the new, pure, inner psychological vehicle in the person which the spirit within him is enabled to acquire and work through when the victory in initiation has been won; and the new name signifies the new self which has thus become manifest in him. The stone “had the word prize engraved on it, and was the symbol of that word given to the neophyte who, in his initiation, had successfully passed through all the trials in the Mysteries. It was the potent white cornelian of the mediaeval Rosicrucians, who took it from the Gnostics” (TG 369). In exoteric rites this truth was represented by the gift of an actual stone or gem, and we hear of the alba petra (white stone) of initiation; while the Gnostic gems and their inscriptions are well known. It also calls to mind the philosopher’s stone.

Widow’s Son “A name given to the French Masons, because the Masonic ceremonies are principally based on the adventures and death of Hiram Abif, ‘the widow’s son,’ who is supposed to have helped to build the mythical Solomon’s Temple” (TG 369). See also HIRAM ABIF

Widblain. See VIDBLAINN


Will The ensouling creative essence of abstract, eternal motion throughout the kosmos. As an eternal principle it is neither spirit nor substance but everlasting ideation. In its abstract sense, it is a hierarchy of intelligent forces emanating from the aggregate of the hosts of beings, visible and invisible, which are nature itself. The so-called laws of nature are the action and interaction of the combined consciousnesses and wills which pervade the kosmos. The will pours forth in floods of light and life from the primal Logos. These floods, following the pathways of universal circulation, come to us from the central heart of the solar system — insofar as our solar universe is concerned. They thus descend, plane by plane and cycle by cycle, into the depths of matter, from which finally they arise again towards their primal source. In this progressive descent and ascent, will is made to manifest in keeping with each plane or state of consciousness which it enters. There is, therefore, the one fundamental kosmic will-ideation, breaking into innumerable streams of willing entities during periods of manifestation, and thus it operates in myriad ways, in every round of the endless ladder of life.

Divine or universal thought and will come into manifestation through the collective hosts of spiritual beings, the dhyani-chohans, who are the vehicles through which the unmanifested appears. “They are the Intelligent Forces that give to and enact in Nature her ‘laws,’ while themselves acting according to laws imposed upon them in a similar manner by still higher Powers; but they are not ‘the personifications’ of the powers of Nature, as erroneously thought” (SD 1:38). The natural law which preserves the balanced motion of planetary rotation was explained by Herschel’s saying “that there is a will needed to impart a circular motion and another will to restrain it” (SD 1:503).

In the composite human being — the microcosm — there are the divine, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, animal, astral, and even physical wills. The old maxim “behind will stands desire” accounts for the paradoxical influence of this colorless force which is used to energize both good and evil motives. Thus, as it operates through the intermediate human nature, the individual consciously and unconsciously gives it a right or wrong direction, according to his use of free will in choosing his course of conduct. The divine will is expressed in the sublime, impersonal desires of lofty celestial deities; while at the opposite pole, selfish, sensual, animal desires too often direct the action of the human will. The origin of good and evil lies respectively in the harmony and the conflict of wills in the kosmos.

The special physical organ of the human will is the pituitary gland. The brain and body show the different action of the conscious, positive, volitional will and of the negative, automatic, vegetative will. The latter energizes the mysteries of organic functions carried on by various conscious or semiconscious elemental entities who themselves act instinctively under the intelligent, harmonious laws of nature for the body’s welfare.

Will power is a mighty, colorless force or energy which can be set in motion by one who has the power and knowledge to do so. In India, in combination with abstract desire, it is mentioned as one of six primary powers (ichchhasakti) by which the adept accomplishes many of his wonders. “The ancients held that any idea will manifest itself externally, if one’s attention (and Will) is deeply concentrated upon it; similarly, an intense volition will be followed by the desired result . . . For creation is but the result of will acting on phenomenal matter, the calling forth out of the primordial divine Light and eternal Life “(SD 2:173). The occult power of will explains many scientific problems of animate and inanimate matter. In human beings, it may consciously and unconsciously act upon other human wills and upon that of beasts; likewise, it may act upon physical and astral substance to produce various phenomena such as levitation, fire-walking, birthmarks, etc. “Paracelsus teaches that ‘determined will is the beginning of all magical operations. It is because men do not perfectly imagine and believe the result, that the (occult) arts are so uncertain, while they might be perfectly certain’ ” (TG 370).

Will-born Used in The Secret Doctrine as equivalent to mind-born — referring specifically to those beings in the early third root-race “while it was yet in its state of purity” who were created by means of will power through kriyasakti by the Sons of Wisdom. This progeny is termed the Sons of Ad, Sons of the Fire-mist, or Sons of Will and Yoga. “It was not a Race, this progeny. It was at first a wondrous Being, called the ‘Initiator,’ and after him a group of semi-divine and semi-human beings. ‘Set apart’ in Archaic genesis for certain purposes, they are those in whom are said to have incarnated the highest Dhyanis, ‘Munis and Rishis from previous Manvantaras’ — to form the nursery for future human adepts, on this earth and during the present cycle” (SD 1:207). Theosophy teaches that in future ages generation by means of will power through krisyasakti will again be the method of producing offspring.

The Puranas also refer to will-born progeny, termed chhandajas.

Willi. See VILI

Will-less A condition of beings who have not yet evolved forth free will, hence without initiative or self-determination. A specific instance is the case where will-less may be applied to the gods in heaven against whom Satan rebelled (as narrated in Milton’s Paradise Lost). In theosophical literature, used in reference to mankind in its early stages before manas (mind) became awakened, hence to the first and second root-races and early third root-race. Even among these early races the will was not absent, but it had not yet come into functional activity.

Will Power. See WILL

Wind Often used synonymously with spirit and breath, which are denoted by similar or identical words in many languages. In the New Testament (John 3:8) Jesus uses the simile of wind for spirit: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Another equally exact translation reads: “The Spirit breathes wither it will, and you hear its voice (or power), but know not whence it comes and whither its destination; thus is everyone who arises out of the spirit.”

Wind is also used alternatively with air. The regents of the cosmic forces of north, south, east, and west — the four Maharajas connected with karma — have as their material agents the four corresponding winds or spirits, which mightily influence all living things.

With the Greeks, “the cave of the winds was the earth, and the winds were the winds of the spirit, the circulations of the universe figurated as winds: a cave of which the north gate was made of horn through which they ascend also, but mainly descend. And the south gate of the earth, or of the cave of the winds, was made of ivory, signifying the elephants of the south, as the horn does the tusks of the animals of the north. And out of the south gate go the hordes of men” (SOPh 321-2). See also ANIMA; PNEUMA; SPIRITUS

Wine Used as an emblem of life and spirit, as in the Mysteries, where at one stage of the initiatory rites wine and bread were offered to the candidate as symbols of spirit and body, the meaning being the same as that conveyed elsewhere by fire and water, or blood and flesh. It was necessary for the aspirant to be perfected in both ways. The rite was very early adopted from the Dionysian Mysteries by the Christian churches in the sacrament of the Eucharist where wine represents the blood of Christ, and the bread his body. Wine is also connected in the same mystical manner with the Greek god Dionysos or Bacchus, for this divinity represented the Christos or initiator, teacher, and savior of mankind; and thus wine stands for inspiration and holy enthusiasm, varying from divine inspiration and spiritual quickening all down the scale to merely phrenetic exaltation, and even when grossly degenerate, orgiastic, and drunken excitement, such as marked the degraded forms of Bacchic worship.

In the New Testament the parable of the turning of water into wine is another way of stating that exoteric or mythologic teachings were explained and illustrated so that the inner wisdom became known, the wine standing for the inner aspect. Only an adept or initiate is able to do this. See also BREAD AND WINE; SOMA; VINE

Wing(s) Often signifying flight, but more accurately the soaring power of the spirit, literally or metaphorically, as in the wings of Mercury, of Christian, Hebrew, and other angelic figures of the Mesopotamian nations, of the horse Pegasus, of the sphinxes representative of the several human powers, of the winged dragons, of the winged wheels mentioned in Ezekiel’s vision of initiation, and also as descriptive of the workings of fohat. The eternal bird, the flutter of whose wings produces life, represents the dual forces proceeding from boundless space, and the emblem is equivalent to Hansa, the Hindu bird of wisdom. Similar to this is the winged globe of Egypt.

As the emblem in ancient symbolic art, representative of the soaring power of the human spirit-soul within, and from this fundamental idea the emblem has been applied to derivative symbolic ideas, such as the flight of the inner self into interior worlds during the trials of initiation, or the soaring intelligence of the initiate penetrating into the mysteries and secrets of interior worlds.

Winged Globe. See GLOBE, WINGED

Winged Wheel Used in mystic philosophy worldwide, depicted under many forms, whether as a winged wheel, globe, egg, disk, etc. The Stanzas of Dzyan state that “Fohat takes five strides, and builds a winged wheel at each corner of the square for the four holy ones.” Here winged wheel is a name for the four Maharajas who are the guardians or regents of the cosmic forces of the cardinal points north, south, east, and west (SD 1:122).

More generally, the winged wheel or globe suggests cyclic time unrolling its mysterious destiny, emerging from the darkness of the mists of the past, passing through the present, and pursuing its equally mysterious but always karmic courses into the future. In a more restricted sense, it applies to the reimbodying monads, the egg, wheel, or disk representing the monad or consciousness-center, and its wings suggesting its passage through not only duration but space. See also WHEEL

Winter Solstice. See SEASONS


Wisdom-eye. See PINEAL GLAND

Witch of Endor The wise woman of Endor or ’Eyn-dor, mentioned in the Bible as having “a familiar spirit” (Sam 28:7-25), who called up the shade of Samuel at the request of the dejected Saul, saying: “I saw gods ascending out of the earth”; and the prophecy of Saul’s death and Israel’s fall into the hands of the Philistines proved to be correct. Blavatsky speaks of her as “Sedecla, the Obeah woman of Endor” (IU 1:494); Sedecla may be a transliteration of an old Hebrew name Tsedeqlah [from tsedeq righteous, just, exact, accurate] — a possible reference to her necromantic skill. She was one of the class of psychic seeresses so well known in ancient story, whose practices were almost universally condemned.

Passages in holy scriptures, such as 1 Samuel, have misled many Europeans into believing that such methods of attempting to peer into the future were proper and considered morally permissible by the wise of ancient days. Yet one has but to read this chapter to see that the woman knew her practice was done against the law then prevailing, which apparently made necromantic intercourse of this type punishable with death (cf 28:9). Traffic with the dead was not infrequently resorted to in ancient times, but was censured as unholy, if not evil. Such raisings of the dead have been common in all ages by necromancers, sorcerers, and traffickers in lower magic; although it is quite true that ancient legend and story provides a number of instances where people of prominence resorted in moments of desperation to such methods in an attempt to gain foreknowledge of events coming to pass: for example, the incident related by Homer of the raising of the shade of the seer Teiresias by Odysseus (Odyssey bk 11) and again the necromantic practices of Sextus, the son of Pompey, through the “witch” Erictho on the plains of Thessaly, as described by Lucan (Pharsalia Bk 6, vv. 570-820).

Witches’ Sabbath [from Anglo-Saxon wicca from wit-ga seer, prophet; later, wizard, witch] A gathering of witches for the purpose of celebrating their orgies, one of the functions of which was dancing around a goat, undoubtedly a remnant of the ancient worship of Pan. Every race and people believed that witches conferred directly with the devil, “and some believe in it still. Thus the chief headquarters and place of meeting of all the witches in Russian is said to be the Bald Mountains (Lyssaya Gora), near Kief, and in Germany the Brocken, in the Harz Mountains. In old Boston, U. S. A., they met near the ‘Devil’s Pond,’ in a large forest which has now disappeared. At Salem, they were put to death almost at the will of the Church Elders, and in South Carolina a witch was burnt as late as 1865. In Germany and England they were murdered by Church and State in thousands, being forced to lie and confess under torture their participation in the ‘Witches’ Sabbath’ ” (TG 371).

One of the mystical and popular meanings in medieval times of the Hebrew sabbath — signifying rest, inactivity, and therefore applicable in the cosmic scale to pralaya — is a midnight meeting.

Wittoba. See VITTHALA

Wodan, Woden. See ODIN

Woman In philosophy, symbolizes the mother aspect of nature or feminine characteristic of the universe always found in the triads of Father-Mother-Son (changed in the Christian scheme to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — the Holy Spirit in primitive Christianity always being considered feminine). From time immemorial it has been customary to associate primordial spirit-substance, later becoming matter, with the cosmic feminine principle represented symbolically by a horizontal line); and spirit has always been associated with the masculine principle (represented by a vertical line); but the words feminine and masculine are merely borrowed from human beings, and the characteristics of originating cosmic principles were far better expressed by pairs of opposites such as negative and positive.

In cosmogenesis, the feminine principle is represented by the waters of space or great deep, often called the womb of nature. From this figure of speech was born the conception found in some ancient cosmogonies, such as the Hebrew, of the ark, containing all the germs of lives of a universe and pictured as resting or moving on the cosmic waters. Another symbol for the feminine principle was that of the lotus, which likewise rests upon the water, finally rising above it when it blossoms. One symbol of the universe in germ before any aspect of manifestation occurs is the matripadma or closed “mother lotus,” before the cosmic blossom has been quickened by spirit into expanding into becoming the universe. It is also referred to as devamatri (the divine mother), the matrix from which all the suns and planets were born.

In the cosmogony of the Hebrew Qabbalah, the first Sephirah which emanates from latent divinity is at times represented as feminine; yet when this feminine emanation becomes creative it is then represented as conjoining masculine traits with its own, so that at this stage it is envisaged as masculine-feminine. This first spiritual emanation, emanating from itself the next phase of cosmogonical production, is termed the Shechinah, the mother of all the successively emanated Sephiroth. Thus the Shechinah is an echo of archaic Hindu cosmogonic speculation, corresponding to pradhana or prakriti.

In theosophic cosmogony space is often called the Great Mother before cosmic activity commences and, at the opening of manvantara, Father-Mother with space becomes emanative and is called svabhavat or mother-space. Svabhavat is the emanation from cosmic space or darkness — so called because its utter and undiluted essential spirit is virtually beyond the reach of the light of mind as manifested in humanity.

Metaphors such as woman and mother are always symbolical when referring to motherhood, and have no associations with physical sex, for “esotericism ignores both sexes. Its highest Deity is sexless as it is formless, neither Father nor Mother; and its first manifested beings, celestial and terrestrial alike, become only gradually androgynous and finally separate into distinct sexes” (SD 1:136n). This was clearly understood originally, so that there was no degrading or misinterpreting of these figures of speech. With descending cycles, however, humanity’s religious conceptions equally materialized: the key ideas having been forgotten or lost, abstractions became concreted into materializations, a masculine Creator or feminine Creatrix were then placed at the summit of the various pantheons, and early religious philosophy — which was as scientific as it was religious and philosophical — cast upon the background of the spatial universe images of human surroundings and way of life; so that the deities in the mythologies finally became human images, more powerful but equally swayed by passion, driven by impulse, and restricted by these even as human beings are. Such projection of human attributes into the cosmic spaces led to a still more materialized visioning of the divinities, so that the feminine or productive characteristics of nature in the popular religious mythologies finally gave way before the masculine, and the earlier, essentially beautiful idea of the mother of nature was swallowed up in the purely masculine traits of national divinities, many of them distinctly male and evil, such as the Jewish Jehovah, who waxed wroth and smelt the sweet savor of burnt sacrifices, or again the Greek Zeus swayed by ignoble passions.

“No exoteric religious system has ever adopted a female Creator, and thus woman was regarded and treated, from the first dawn of popular religions, as inferior to man. It is only in China and Egypt that Kwan-yin and Isis were placed on a par with the male gods” (SD 1:136n). The aspects of Isis, for instance, are familiar enough: as the mother with her child, and as the faithful spiritual consort of Osiris — these were for easier understanding by the populace; but in the sanctuary Isis remained universal cosmic nature, the cosmic producing mother, the goddess whose veil of nature no mere human had ever raised. Plutarch recorded an inscription addressed to Isis: “I am everything which has been, and which is, and which shall be, and no one has ever drawn my veil” (De Iside at Osiride); to which were added “the fruit of my womb became the Sun” (Proclus, Commentary on the Timaeus, 1:82).

In China, however, the ideal cosmic feminine was named Kwan-yin, the mother of mercy and knowledge, what in Hindustan is called mahat or cosmic buddhi; she is called the triple of Kwan-shai-yin “because in her correlations, metaphysical and cosmical, she is the ‘Mother, the Wife and the Daughter,’ of the Logos, just as in the later theological translations she became ‘the Father Son and (the female) Holy Ghost’ — the Sakti or Energy — the Essence of the three” (SD 1:136).

With the Gnostics truth itself was portrayed as a disrobed divinity, every part of her cosmic form being numbered and lettered. This divine wisdom they called Sophia, virtually the same as the Qabbalistic Shechinah. Even in the modern Occident, instinct has determined that justice shall be pictured as feminine, as also liberty and peace. “The Gnostic Sophia, ‘Wisdom’ who is ‘the Mother’ of the Ogdoad . . . is the Holy Ghost and the Creator of all, as in the ancient systems. The ‘father’ is a far later invention. The earliest manifested Logos was female everywhere — the mother of the seven planetary powers” (SD 1:72n).

Womb The productive and reproductive powers of nature have often been symbolized by peoples in world history; and as production or reproduction is perhaps most familiar in the sacred function of motherhood, to many minds the womb has seemed an especially suggestive emblem in the small of nature’s reproductive principles on the macrocosmic scale. There are various applications of the emblem; mystically as well as historically, the moon is one such, being not only the cosmic mother of the earth, but in fact its former material imbodiment. Hence both moon and womb are considered to have been, or to be, the containers and nourishers of the seeds of life. Very frequently instead of the womb, nature itself is considered. In a personified sense, it is called the Great Mother, mother-space, or primeval chaos. In a somewhat less clear application, nature’s womb is considered to be the waters of space, as found for instance in Genesis, for the manifested universes are conceived and nourished therein.

Still another emblem is that of the ark or argha, well known in the Occident from the Bible story, the ark here meaning the container or seeds of lives left by a departed life-wave or group of life-waves, remaining stored in the womb of nature for the generation of new races.

In a more mystical sense, the same series of ideas is connected with emblems such as the solar boat of ancient Egypt carrying the seeds of life across the waters of space from one cosmic world to another; even the navis or nave of a temple or church was connected with the original idea of the birth of the new person, the nave being but a later popular appearance of the initiation chamber of the sanctuary, which was the womb of the new life giving birth to the reborn — the dvijas of ancient India.

In archaic Sanskrit writings the same general ideas are frequently noted, as in the Sanskrit compound hiranyagarbha (golden womb), the life-germ enclosed in the golden light or womb of space, and more mystically for the individual, the golden womb of his inner consciousness, out of which regeneration of character into the new life is born.

Wondrous Being Often equivalent to Silent Watcher, the supreme head of a hierarchy; and since hierarchies are innumerable, there are innumerable Wondrous Beings. Thus there is a Wondrous Being or Silent Watcher of cosmic magnitude for the Brotherhood of Compassion; a Wondrous Being for our globe, who is identical on a smaller scale; and a Wondrous Being for our planetary chain. In the other direction, there are Wondrous Beings for all less hierarchies even down to that of the atom: it is the highest egoic form of the divine spark everywhere. In The Secret Doctrine the Wondrous Being is made equivalent to the root-base or ever-living-human-banyan.

“This ‘Wondrous Being’ descended from a ‘high region,’ they say, in the early part of the Third Age, before the separation of the sexes of the Third Race. . . .
“The ‘Being’ just referred to, which has to remain nameless, is the Tree from which, in subsequent ages, all the great historically known Sages and Hierophants, such as the Rishi Kapila, Hermes, Enoch, Orpheus, etc., etc., have branched off. As objective man, he is the mysterious (to the profane — the ever invisible) yet ever present Personage about whom legends are rife in the East, especially among the Occultists and the students of the Sacred Science. It is he who changes form, yet remains ever the same. And it is he again who holds spiritual sway over the initiated Adepts throughout the whole world. He is, as said, the ‘Nameless One’ who has so many names, and yet whose names and whose very nature are unknown. He is the ‘Initiator,’ called the ‘great sacrifice.’ For, sitting at the threshold of light, he looks into it from within the circle of Darkness, which he will not cross; nor will he quit his post till the last day of this life-cycle” (SD 1:207-8).

The Wondrous Being of the human constitution is the higher monad called atma-buddhi-manas or the inner god, to which Jesus referred when he spoke of his Father. See also WATCHER

Word In religious and philosophical usage, a translation of the Greek logos or Latin verbum. Its meaning here is that of reason manifested, employed mainly in a cosmogonic sense. “The esoteric meaning of the word Logos (speech or word, Verbum) is the rendering in objective expression, as in a photograph, of the concealed thought. The Logos is the mirror reflecting divine mind, and the Universe is the mirror of the Logos, though the latter is the esse of that Universe. As the Logos reflects all in the Universe of Pleroma, so man reflects in himself all that he sees and finds in his Universe, the Earth” (SD 2:25). This word was chosen because human thought, or immanent conscious intelligence or mind, manifests itself through words. It is familiar to Christians through the opening verse of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”; “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (1:1, 14). In the former quotation the meaning is entirely cosmogonic; in the latter, it has been diminished to signify the innate Word or divinity in man, which when in full control of the human adept can, by a stretch of metaphor, mean that the innate Christ, Buddha, or god in man so controls the human personality as to have become the latter, and thus to manifest among men.

Cosmogonically, theosophy considers the universe and all in it, from its first divine appearance to its last material modification, as being in toto as well as in all manifested details an emanation from the universal mind. This emanation takes place at the beginning of a manvantara in three separate stages or degrees: the First or unmanifest Logos; the Second or manifest-unmanifest Logos; and finally the Third or manifest Logos. Logos is applicable to these three stages because each is the manifesting of the wisdom in its divine predecessor, each stage carrying within itself, on the principle of the emanational scheme, the attributes or qualities of its predecessors. The Second Logos has invariably been considered feminine, and the Third Logos is regarded as the creative power.

Corresponding to the three Logoi in the Hindu scheme are Brahman, Brahma, and Isvara emanating originally from parabrahman-mulaprakriti. In the highly philosophical visioning of Mahayana Buddhism is adi-buddha, mahabuddhi, and the celestial buddha, occasionally indirectly called dharmakaya. On a scale of less magnitude, Hindu thought has developed the triad Brahma, the emanator or original emanation; Vishnu, the supporter or sustainer, a feminine characteristic nevertheless; and Siva at once the regenerator and producer in the sense of destroying but to regenerate. Still a third Hindu scheme is found in the series of paramatman, mahabuddhi or alaya, and mahat or cosmic creative mind.

A somewhat similar usage in the Qabbalah is Meimra, or ’imrah (word, particularly from divinity) [both from Hebrew verbal root amar to say, speak, use words]. One of the Stanzas of Dzyan refers to the Army of the Voice, which is explained to be “the prototype of the ‘Host of the Logos,’ or the ‘word’ of the Sepher Jezirah, called in the Secret Doctrine ‘the One Number issued from No-Number’ — the One Eternal Principle” (SD 1:94). See also LOGOS

Wordpassing, Passwords Communication or passing of the word or words in two contexts: 1) in the sacred Mysteries, by one hierophant just before his death to his successor; and 2) as the culminating act of initiation, from the initiate to the candidate or neophyte, as in Freemasonry by the Master of the Lodge, representing King Solomon, to the candidate after his raising.

In the first case, the hierophant could either offer his pure life “as a sacrifice for his race to the gods whom he hoped to rejoin,” or an animal victim. This last is a blind, for no initiate of the right-hand path ever sacrificed the life of an animal or any life. The sacrifice performed is the complete conquest of the lower, animal nature, either in this or a lower degree; hence the alternative. The sacrifice of their lives “depended entirely on their own will. At the last moment of the solemn ‘new birth,’ the initiator passed ‘the word’ to the initiated, and immediately after that the latter had a weapon placed in his right hand, and was ordered to strike. This is the true origin of the Christian dogma of atonement” (IU 2:42). Blavatsky mentions a widespread superstition among the Slavs and Russians that a magician or wizard cannot die before he has passed the word to a successor, which she traces to the ancient Mysteries.

In the Egyptian initiatory rites taking place in the Great Pyramid, the neophyte,

“upon returning — received the Word, with or without the ‘heart’s blood’ of the Hierophant.
“Only in truth the Hierophant was never killed — neither in India or elsewhere, the murder being simply feigned — unless the Initiator had chosen the Initiate for his successor and had decided to pass to him the last and supreme Word, after which he had to die — only one man in a nation had the right to know that word . . .
“But he died, he was not killed. For killing, if really done, would belong to black, not to divine Magic. It is the transmission of light, rather than a transfer of life, of life spiritual and divine, and it is the shedding of Wisdom, not of blood” (BCW 14:262-4).

That the initiate was compelled to kill the initiator was allegorical and exoteric.

Turning to the second meaning, in Freemasonry every degree has its password or words, which are given to the neophyte during initiation into that degree, the possession of which is a requisite for admission into the working of that degree, and to the conferring of it upon others. By means of it, initiates, as of Freemasonry, may become known to one another. In the ancient Mysteries such words were key words, words of power — not mere words or phrases which could be communicated to anyone merely after taking part in a ceremony however symbolic, but only to those who were inwardly qualified and worthy of receiving them; who, in fact, had achieved the right of demanding them. Thus in a sense such words were ineffable, not only not to be uttered but unutterable to anyone not entitled to receive them, anyone who had not attained through aspiration, self-conquest, and inner development of mind and heart that stage wherein an understanding of them would be possible. Such inner development must in fact have been begun before one could be truly initiated even into the lowest degree, and must be attained progressively in greater and greater measure as an indispensable qualification for advancement into a higher degree. This use of passwords is also seen in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

World Frequently used to signify various facts of nature: a cosmic plane or subplane, a cosmic sphere, or less accurately an entire cosmic hierarchy. Hence it is common to speak of superior and inferior worlds, or worlds of spirit and of matter, which are not separated from each other; for the worlds of spirit or the superior worlds are the origins of the lower or inferior worlds, as these latter are in the course of cosmic emanation unfolded from cosmic space.

A division is generally made between the superior (arupa or formless) worlds and the inferior (rupa or form) worlds, the latter situated on the four lower planes of the septenary hierarchy. These are also referred to as the noumenal and phenomenal, unmanifested and manifested, “the worlds of Idea and the worlds of Matter. ‘As above, so below,’ states the Hermetic philosophy. This lower world is formed on its prototype — the higher world; and ‘everything in the lower is but an image (a reflection) of the higher.’ (Zohar, ii, fol. 20 A.)” (TG 372).

World Egg, Mundane Egg The virgin or eternal egg is chaos, which is fecundated by the ray from spirit, and yet remains immaculate. According to the Stanzas of Dzyan, “The ray shoots through the virgin egg; the ray causes the eternal egg to thrill, and drop the non-eternal germ, which condenses into the world-egg” (SD 1:28). The non-eternal egg signifies the transitory worlds of manifestation and is often used for the universe in germ preceding its emanational unfolding. The first cause of a universe, its emanating spirit, was figurated as a bird which dropped an egg into chaos, the egg in course of aeons becomes the manifested universe.

According to the Laws of Manu, hiranyagarbha “is Brahma the first male formed by the undiscernible Causeless cause in a ‘Golden Egg resplendent as the Sun,’ ” (SD 1:89). The Rig-Veda says that the incomprehensible divine germ of our universe, ” ‘the one Lord of all beings . . . the one animating principle of gods and man,’ arose, in the beginning, in the Golden Womb, Hiranyagarbha — which is the Mundane Egg or sphere of our Universe” (ibid.).

Ptah, the Egyptian god of creation, is represented as bringing forth beings from a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel. This lump of clay represents the world egg, out of which all the beings creep. And the winged globe, so prominent in Egyptian symbology, is another symbol of the world egg. See also EGG

World-germs A metaphor for cosmic monads, fundamental elementary principles of all ancient religious and philosophical systems. Each monad is an eternal cosmic unity, albeit they appear, disappear, and reappear during the eternally revolving cosmic cycles. In themselves they are divine consciousness-centers, divine-spiritual particles, points of abstract, conscious, cosmic substance existing during manvantaras in a state of primeval differentiation. The world-germs, are scattered like spawn throughout space. Each one pursues its karmic destiny, descending from a state of pure spirit through various phases by emanating from itself a series of sheaths or veils until the karmic limit has been reached, when each has become the cosmic spirit of a universe, world, sun, planet, etc., as the case may be. The spiritual essence of any world-germ or cosmic monad at no time actually descends or leaves its own high plane or status, but in the words of Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita, each establishes a world, universe, or hierarchy with karmically destined portions of itself, and yet remains separate, transcendent.

During the course of this descent into manifestation, fohat sets in motion the primordial world-germs, the aggregation of cosmic atoms and matter, some one way, some another. The world-germs come into frequent meetings and separations, or collisions and partings, until forming their final cosmic aggregation; afterwards as individuals they pass through the nebular phase and then become comets in space.

World-germs are “viewed by Science as material particles in a highly attenuated condition, but in Occult physics as ‘Spiritual particles,’ i.e., supersensuous matter existing in a state of primeval differentiation” (SD 1:200-1).

World of Action. See ‘ASIYYAH

World of Emanations. See ’ATSTSILOTH

World of Formation. See YETSIRAH

World Pillars. See COSMOCRATORES

World Serpent or Snake Ideas connected with the world snake are not those associated with the legend of a hero slaying a serpent but with a more profound concept. In the Hindu system, there is Ananta-Sesha, the serpent of infinity; in the ancient Scandinavian cosmogony, the world serpent Nidhogg, is represented as encircling the globe with its tail in its mouth. The same representation is found in the Egyptian teachings:

“In the oldest Egyptian imagery, as in the cosmogonic allegories of Kneph, the mundane snake, when typifying matter, is usually represented as contained within a circle; he lies straight across its equator, thus indicating that the universe of astral light, out of which the physical world evolved, while bounding the latter, is itself bound by Emepht, or the Supreme First Cause. . . . When the serpent represents eternity and immortality, it encircles the world, biting its tail, and thus offering no solution of continuity. It then becomes the astral light” (IU 157).

Another interpretation of the snake in the circle is that “The active is attracted by the passive principle and the Great Nag [Ananta-Sesha], the serpent emblem of the eternity, attracts its tail to its mouth forming thereby a circle (cycles in the eternity) in that incessant pursuit of the negative by the positive” (ML 71).

A sublime conception has also its human analog: the world serpent as the cosmic naga or grand universal ’Adam Qadmom, the sublime cosmic initiate, the cosmic wisdom which lives from manifesting universe to manifesting universe as its Purusha or spirit. It is the source of cosmic laws, wisdom, and life which infill the universe of which each such world serpent is the divine originating cause. The same thought in its human application refers to the great adept or master of wisdom and love.

World-soul, World-spirit World-soul pertains to the lower or active side of cosmic manifestation, world-spirit to the passive side of cosmic life. World-soul is but another name for the anima mundi, whereas the world-spirit corresponds directly to the Hindu Brahman and to either the First or Second Logos, according to the manner of thinking when the application is made.

World-stuff Primordial substance out of which universes, solar systems, or worlds are developed; mulaprakriti (root-matter). Primordial matter in its first form of condensation, the radiant spiritual essence, the spiritual or ethereal “curds” which later become differentiated into the prakritis.


Wraith, Wraie The fleeting apparition of a person, about the moment of death, to another person in kinship or psychomagnetic sympathy. Though wraith may cover different cases, in general it is due to the mayavi-rupa of the person who is dying. It is produced by his thought, though he is unaware of the effect he is producing. An intense and anxious thought about the person he wishes to see becomes objective to the seer, and the apparition wears the aspect and commonly the ordinary clothing of the dying person. In some cases the apparition may not be due to any thought on the part of the dying person, but to abnormal sensitiveness or clairvoyance on the part of the seer. Being in close sympathy with the dying one, he bears the image of that one in his latent memory; and when the event occurs, his higher senses, being aware of it, cause the objectivization of this memory as a visual apparition. The thought itself is objective to a mind capable of perception on that plane; but to become objective to the physical senses, it must clothe itself in matter of a lower grade; and this objectivization may vary from a picture in the mind’s eye to an apparition seen by the physical vision. In any case the organism of the seer can provide the necessary vehicle for such an objectivization. Distance plays no part in the phenomenon, and there is no projection of a physically substantial body through space from one place to another. The above case should be distinguished from an appearance of the astral double seen near the graves of the recently deceased. See also EIDOLON; PHANTOM; SPECTER


Wu-liang-shih, Wu-liang-shu (Chinese) Also Wuliang-sheu. Boundless age; equivalent to the Hebrew ’eyn soph (without bounds). The root of wu-liang-shih is the unknown darkness — the Self-existent (tsi-tsi). See also AMITABHA

Wu Wei (Chinese) Inaction, inactivity; quiescence, placidity. Used in Taoism in relation to the tao of man, the idea being that “Heaven is emptiness” and by practicing wu wei (inaction) and becoming “empty” one becomes at one with heaven or tao. Reminiscent of the highly mystical import of the Buddhist sunyata (Sanskrit, “emptiness,” “void”). In all such words the difficulty is in finding ordinary language to convey the thought. There is not an absolutely empty point of space in all infinitude; what seems to the human senses to be cosmic vacuity is actually complete or absolute fullness, a pleroma as the Gnostics said. Cosmic sunyata or wu wei is emptiness simply because it lacks the lowest forms of matter — forms and bodies which are like the spume or bubbles on the sea of cosmic reality, which to human senses is empty because invisible, intangible, and not subject to sense perception.

Xisuthrus, Xisuthros (Greek) [from Chaldean Khas-is-adra] Also Sisuthrus. The tenth king of Chaldea, son of Ardates according to Berosus, the last king of the mythical age, who reigned for 18 Sari. According to Chaldean legend during his reign a great flood occurred. Xisuthrus was warned in a vision by the gods to build a vessel five stadia long and two in breadth, and to take with him into it his friends and relatives, likewise to place therein all species of animals, and to trust himself to the deep. Eventually the ark settled on the mountain of Nizir, the dwelling of the gods, also regarded as the cradle of the Chaldean race. The Jewish story of Noah was taken from this earlier Chaldean legend.

The Xisuthrus-Noah story has more than one application in now forgotten human history. In one, Xisuthrus is the ideal figure of a race passing over from one to the next succeeding continental system; or on the cosmic scale, of the transmigration of the various classes of monads with their chief from one dying planet to the succeeding planet, the child of the former. In the case of the earth, it is the transmigration of the ten or twelve classes of monads from the moon-chain to the earth-chain, the ark standing for the cosmic surroundings governed by karmic law and holding the monads together as classes. Xisuthrus or Noah, therefore, is the collectivity of all these monadic classes into a unity for purposes of mythologic story.

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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