The Theosophical Forum – April 1940


[Some years ago The Theosophical Forum mentioned that preparations were under way for the publication of an Encyclopedic Glossary of Theosophical Terms. Our readers will be glad to know that this work has been steadily going forward during the ensuing years and is now nearing completion. The material, which will probably fill several volumes, covers the whole exoteric field of ancient and modern Occultism and Theosophy, including mythology, anthropology, cosmogony, symbolism, the ancient Mysteries and allied subjects, and will prove to be an exhaustive mine of philosophical, religious, and scientific information. The work of writing and compilation has been carried on by a group of students at the General Offices Dr. de Purucker has then carefully checked the definitions and in many cases added new and valuable material.

It is too early to state when this Encyclopedic Glossary will be published, but the Forum Editors have obtained permission to share with readers of our magazine extracts from this forthcoming work. No effort has here been made to follow any special sequence of arrangement, but random pages have been purposely chosen. — Eds.]


(Sanskrit) One of the mystic and recondite powers in the human constitution. The essential meaning of the word is "circular" or "spiral." "Kundalini is called the 'Serpentine' or the annular power on account of its spiral-like working or progress in the body of the ascetic developing the power in himself. It is an electric fiery occult or Fohatic power, the great pristine force, which underlies all the organic and inorganic matter." (The Voice of the Silence, 77-8) "The 'Power' and the 'World-mother' are names given to Kundalini — one of the mystic 'Yogi powers.' It is Buddhi considered as an active instead of a passive principle (which it is generally, when regarded only as the vehicle, or casket of the Supreme Spirit atma). It is an electro-spiritual force, a creative power which when aroused into action can as easily kill as it can create." (The Voice of the Silence, 76-7)

Kundalinî-śakti is "Literally the power or force which moves in a serpentine or curved path. It is the universal life-principle which everywhere manifests itself in Nature. This force includes in itself the two great forces of attraction and repulsion. Electricity and magnetism are but manifestations of it. This is the power or force which brings about that 'continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations' which is the essence of life according to Herbert Spencer, and that 'continuous adjustment of external relations to internal relations' which is the basis of transmigration of souls or punarjanmam (re-birth) according to the doctrines of the ancient Hindu philosophers.

"A Yogi must thoroughly subjugate this power or force before he can attain moksham. This force is, in fact, the great serpent of the Bible." (Five Years of Theosophy, 111)

"Kundalinî-śakti is derivative of one of the elemental forces of Nature. It works in and through, in the case of man, his Auric Egg, and expresses itself in continuous action in many of the most familiar phenomena of existence even when man himself is unconscious of it. In its higher aspect Kundalinî is a power or force following winding or circular pathways carrying or conveying thought and force originating in the Higher Triad. Abstractly in the case of man it is of course one of the fundamental energies or qualities of the Prânas. Unskilled or unwise attempts to interfere with its normal working in the human body may readily result in insanity or malignant or enfeebling disease." (Occult Glossary, 92-3)


(Greek) "Flower-festival," from anthos, "a flower'; celebrated in the month of Anthesterion in early Spring, as a part of the Dionysiac Mysteries. "At the mysteries of the Anthesteria . . . after the usual baptism of purification by water, the Mystae were made to pass through to another door (gate), and one particularly for that purpose, which was called "the gate of Dionysus," and that of "the purified:" (Isis Unveiled, II, 245-6)

These were the Less Mysteries, preliminary and complementary to those held in the month of Boedromion (September) in Eleusis. Modern scholars, seeing the analogy between climatic seasons and the stages of initiation, but beginning at the wrong end, have supposed that the festival celebrated primarily the advent of Spring, and that the rites were "symbolic" of this. Older and wiser heads knew that the initiations were the main events, and that they were held at times when Nature harmonized with the purpose in view.

The attention of the student is called to the fact that the name "Eleusis" where the Greater Mysteries were held in Greece signifies "Advent" or "Coming'; and the adjective from the name of this town or "Eleusinia" signified or meant "the things that are to come." The meaning of all this is that in the Mysteries the initiates or neophytes were taught of the secrets of the Universe and of man; and included in these Mysteries was the teaching concerning what was to happen in the future depending upon the history of the various Root-Races of mankind succeeding one another, and the passage of the seven or ten classes of monads from the seven or twelve Globes of the Planetary Chain. The teaching however was much more largely symbolic and allegorical than matters of fact delivered in plain language, as is more or less done in the teachings of Theosophy today.


(Latin) A herald's staff; specially, the wand of Mercury, God of Wisdom, son of Apollo-Python, one with Thoth and Hermes. It consists of a rod (or tree) with two serpents wound in opposite directions round it, their tails meeting below, and their heads approaching each other above. At the top of the rod is a knob in the Greek version, a serpent's head in the earlier Egyptian form, from which spring a pair of wings. The Caduceus signifies the dual aspect of Wisdom by its twin serpents, Agathodaimon and Kakodaimon, "good" and "evil" in a relative sense, spirit and matter, etc. The emblem of the evolution of gods and atoms is shown by the two forces, positive and negative, spirit and matter, ascending and descending and meeting in several places denoting planes. An esoteric commentary quoted in The Secret Doctrine, I, 549 says: "The trunk of the Asvattha (the tree of Life and Being, the rod of the caduceus) grows from and descends at every Beginning (every new manvantara) from the two dark wings of the Swan (Hansa) of Life. The two Serpents, the ever-living and its illusion (Spirit and matter) whose two heads grow from the one head between the wings, descend along the trunk, interlaced in close embrace. The two tails join on earth (the manifested Universe) into one, and this is the great illusion, O Lanoo!"

Mercury in his character of Psychopomp or conductor of souls uses it to conduct them to Hades, and to recall the dead to life. Like other symbols, it has been bedeviled by theology and degraded by unclean fancy. The physiological significance of the rod or tree with twined serpents on right and left and two wings above, needs no comment.

The Caduceus, like every one of the other great symbols or symbolic images of antiquity and of whatever nation, can be read or interpreted from several different standpoints. There is, for instance, a cosmic or astronomical significance, as well as a spiritual one, likewise an ethical one and indeed a physiological one. The significance changes with the application of the symbol to different things. The Caduceus likewise is one of the most revealing and mysterious of the symbols connected with the esoteric portion of Theosophy; for it is directly connected in its symbology with the Globes of the Planetary Chain and the circulations of the beings or Waves of Life on these globes, as well as with the human septenary or denary constitution and the mysterious events that happen to man after death. Just here we see the significance of the ancient Greek mythological stories making Mercury the Psycho-pomp or Psychagog or "conductor of souls" after death to the various inner spheres of the Universe; such as the Elysian Plains or the Meads of Asphodel.


(Sanskrit) " "Om" is a word considered very holy in the Brahmanical literature. It is a syllable of invocation, and its general usage as elucidated in the literature treating of it — which is rather voluminous, for this word "Om" has attained to almost divinity — is that it should never be uttered aloud, or in the presence of an outsider, a foreigner, or a non-Initiate, but it should be uttered in the silence of one's heart, in the intimacy of one's inner closet. We also have reason to believe, however, that it was uttered and uttered aloud in a monotone by the disciples in the presence of their Teacher. This word is always placed at the beginning of any scripture that is considered of unusual sanctity.

"The teaching is, that prolonging the uttering of this word, both of the O and the M, with the mouth closed, it re-echoes in and arouses vibration in the skull, and affects, if the aspirations be pure, the different nervous centers of the body for great good.

"The Brahmanas say that it is an unholy thing to utter this word in any place which is unholy." (Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, 14, IS)

William Q. Judge states that Om "represents the constant undercurrent of meditation, which ought to be carried on by every man, even while engaged in the necessary duties of this life" (The Path, I, 7). "Om is the bow, the Self is the arrow, Brahman is called its aim." (Mandukya-Upanishad, II, Kh. 2)

The virtue or spiritual and magical properties attributed to this word arise out of the purity and devotion of the one uttering it.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition