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Sometimes the terminology used in theosophical literature can be confusing due to the use of Sanskrit words or even what is meant when using English words.

  Below is a brief Glossary of Terms used. For a more detailed glossary click here (it may take a moment to load) or for an index of Glossary sites click here.





More properly just absoluteness. The One Everlasting Reality, never itself manifesting but underlying all manifestation. Parabrahman (lit. beyond Brahman). From THE SECRET DOCTRINE (Proem), "An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless and Immutable Principle on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception ... (it) is the

rootless root of "all that was, is or ever shall be."


Original, the first, supreme; 7th (highest) Tattva.




In THE SECRET DOCTRINE the equivalent of Akasha, the primeval manifested 'substance', undifferentiated - (see Akasha and Ether; divine luminiferous substance which pervades the whole universe.


"..the collective hosts of Spiritual Beings .. intelligent Forces that give to, and enact in, Nature her "laws" .. (The Secret Doctrine - Stanza I, sloka 3)


The egotistical, I-making principle in man.


(alternative Akasa) Primordial spacial substance (Aether).


lit. Intermediate instrument; regarded as the bridge between Lower and Higher Manas in H.P.B.'s works.


From anthropos(Greek), man, and genesis, origins or beginnings.


Usually taken to mean "parentless" in theosophical writings; 6th Tattva.

Astral Body

(or Astral Double). Astral is from the Latin word for star: shining body surrounding and interpenetrating the physical. The model in the inner world around which the physical body is formed. The vehicle of prana, the life principle.

Astral Light

The lower levels of Akasha; lasts for a Manvantara while Akasha is everlasting. The realm of powers, energies and qualities that show forth in manifest existence. The inner seat of all memory, a record of all that has happened


The Supreme Universal Self: the seventh Principle of Cosmos and correspondingly the divine aspect in Man's constitution, (as the latter it is usually spelt Atma).


In neuter form "is the impersonal supreme, uncognizable but all-pervading son of the universe", from "the essence of which all emanates and into which all returns".


With an accent over the second 'a' is male and regarded as the Creator aspect of the trinity of which Vishnu is the preserver and Siva the destroyer aspects.


Illumination, spiritual wisdom, receptive intelligence.


The vehicle of Atma; the potentiality of intelligence, 6th principle in Cosmos, and in man's constitution; often signifies intuition (direct perception).

Causal Body

Name given to Manas (higher) in conjunction with Buddhi. Sometimes the incarnating Entity or Ego.

Chain (Planetary)

In Occultism a series of seven globes, usually six subjective, and one objective (physical), as is our Earth with its six companion globes, three preceding and three succeeding it in evolutionary development. The Chain preceding the Earth Chain is said to have been the Lunar (or Moon) Chain.


(lit."a shadow") The rudiment of form, projected by the Lunar ancestors, of terrestrial man to become that of his astral model body.


United or combined with (dictionary spelling, coadunation)


The beginnings or origins of Cosmos


(Greek Kosmos) The world or universe as an orderly or systematic whole. The word is sometimes used in Esoteric Science to connote the immediate visible universe or even the solar system.


(Greek Kyklos, a circle) A period of time in which events happen in a certain order, and which constantly repeats itself; a necessary series of changes. In Occultism the whole process of universal becoming is regarded as cyclical and is itself seen as composed of an infinite series of cycles within cycles


The supernatural power that built the universe and man.


A celestial being with many popular meanings from god to angel (from div, to shine)


(lit. the dwelling of the gods) The subjective, blissful state enjoyed by the Ego after death, where there is no sorrow.

Dhyan Chohan

(lit. Lord of Light) The entities comprising the post-human kingdoms. The divine intelligences that conduct the processes of Cosmos, ruling the lesser intelligences, the elementals.


In Occultism usually spelt with a capital E, the higher trinity of aspects in the human constitution; the divinity within man; the persisting individuality as opposed to mortal, temporary personality, the ordinary ego (small e).


States or conditions of substance at all levels of being, reflecting into physical objective existence as the fiery; vaporous, airy, gaseous; watery, fluidic; and earthy, solid, states. To each of these states the medieval philosophers ascribed temperaments, viz sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholy

and choleric (or bilious).


The spirits of the Elements; the invisible creatures usually associated with the mediaeval philosophers' Elements, viz., Earth, Water, Air, Fire, but there are other kinds; the living forces in Nature.


The kama-manasic reliquae of the dead in Kama-loca after the departure to Devachan of the higher trinity. Because of their separation from the Egoic influence, they tend to manifest only the baser, more depraved elements in the deceased's character. They can materialize at seances through a

medium and can use elementals to produce phenomena.


In Occultism taken to mean a hierarchy of creators in the formation of Cosmos. It is a plural noun.


In Occultism an Element (corresponding to the 5th Tattva) which will become manifest in the 5th Round. It is not to be confused with the chemical ether and is not the ether of 19th century science, i.e. the medium in which electromagnetic waves were supposed to travel; this latter meaning would

correspond to the non-physical Astral light.


The process of reproduction by division whereby a biological cell divides into two; as in nuclear fission, splitting an atom.


The primeval energy of Cosmos. Under its action the original homogeneous Substance Principle becomes atomic and differentiates; sometimes called Cosmic electricity and like electricity at physical level is transformable into

many forms of energy, viz, light, heat, etc.


Commonly Hermes Trismegistus, "thrice great", Egyptian or Greek. According to Plato, discovered numbers, geometry, astronomy and letters. The author of the famous Hermetic axiom "As above, so below" etc.


From the Greek, hieros, sacred, and archein, to rule; a body classified in successively subordinate grades. In Occultism the body and grades are represented by collective hosts.


The general cosmic Life Principle.


The highest spiritual (Life) Principle especially when regarded as individualized, as in man.


The 4th principle in Cosmos and man. It is fohatic force regarded as expressing itself as desire, emotion and passions, particularly in man.

Kama Loca

That region of, or place in, the Astral Light where the kamic remains of defunct human beings exist for a while (maybe up to some years) and then dissipate.

Kama Rupa

The kamic form of the defunct which takes form only after death and in which the deceased under some circumstances may retain some consciousness. It is this form which may manifest at seances.


(lit. action) In one sense the total of the dynamic effects of all cosmic processes. it has many aspects both cosmic and particular. It maintains, by its equilibrium (harmony) aspect, the universe as an orderly whole. For a fine definition see The Key to Theosophy Chap.XI, where it says, "it is the ultimate law of the universe, the source, origin and fount of all laws which

exist throughout nature ... etc."


The kingdoms of nature, but taken in Occultism to include three elemental ones below the mineral and three above the human, making ten in all.


The mysterious thought- (or will-) directed power that enables a potent user of it to produce phenomenal effects.


One class of Solar Pitris, closely concerned with humanity. In the formation of earth men they were said, because of their purity, to "refuse to create". They are sometimes referred to as "the mind-born Sons" and Agnishvattas,

sometimes equated to Egos.

Law, The

A synonym for Karma in its broadest sense. It is the whole Cosmic operation. In The Secret Doctrine it says, "Deity is Law and vice versa." Because everything from the highest to the lowest in Cosmos is living and therefore sentient, it behaves in its characteristic way fulfilling its role in the grand scheme of things. This is how they are ordered. The Universe is self

regulating; there is no outside Law-giver or Regulator.


A condition of dissolution, of rest, of non-activity. A laya centre is a state of inactive neutrality, where substance ceases to be differentiated; sometimes likened to Nirvana.


The model body, the Sanscrit name for the Astral Body, man's 2nd principle, the vehicle of prana.


(lit. The 'Recorders) They are said to enter in the book of the unfading cosmic memory every detail of all that has happened during a Manvantara. The highest in the Hierarchy of Celestial Beings; they create a division between the arupa (spiritual) and the rupa (lower, form) levels of existence.


(lit. word or sound) The Collective Being of a system, i.e. Solar or Planetary. Usually represented as being threefold; unmanifest (1st), manifest (2nd), intelligent (mind, Mahat, in action) (3rd).

Lunar Pitris

The beings who had reached the human stage in the Lunar (Moon) Chain who formed the chhayas (shadows) of the Astral bodies of the humanity to be on our planet.


Great, e.g. Mahatma, Great Soul.


Cosmic Ideation, Divine Mind, Universal Mind principle, which reflected into and individualized in man, is his Manasic principle (5th). Regarded in The Secret Doctrine as an Entity, the highest in our scheme, a collectivity of divine beings.


(lit. the Sons of Mind) Solar Pitris who bestowed the spark of Mind upon the up-until-then otherwise 'mindless' man of the Third Root Race.


The great Regents of a planetary system; the collective beings who act as the progenitors of the successive Races of men on the planet.


The period of influence of the Manu; otherwise a period of activity always alternating with a period of rest - Prayala.

Mayavi Rupa

An illusary, thought-projected form. The vehicle of so called 'astral' travel of any but a short distance from the physical body. Short distance travel may be in the Astral Body proper. The mayavi-rupa is also sometimes projected when someone dying thinks of another to whom it then appears.

Modus Operandi

Latin, literally the way or manner of operating or working.


(lit. a unit) An ultimate unit of being; in Occultism the Unit Spirit in or over shadowing everything. A unit of life. In man the combination of Atma and Buddhi when in association with an entity. Regarded cosmically as the indivisible One, the Unit Life of the System in existence, whence all 'lives'.

Moon Chain

See Chain. The Moon or Lunar Chain is said to be the one that next preceded ours, the Earth Chain, regarded as its re-incarnation inheriting its principles, life energies, etc.


Root-matter, undifferentiated, the abstract Substance-principle unmanifest; corresponds to Akasa as undifferentiated Substance in manifestation.


A state of Egoic consciousness free of the limitations and conditioning of ordinary existence; the highest spiritual attainment. Not extinction but absolute existence and consciousness.


Restraint of the mind achieved by controlling one's thoughts.


The inner, invisible, essential nature behind all visible, objective phenomena or anything that can be an object of sense.


Ordinarily, simply 'hidden' from Latin 'to hide'. "The doctrine or study of things hidden or mysterious - theosophy, etc." (Chambers). Occult Sciences, the Hermetic or Esoteric Sciences which explore the secrets of Nature.


(lit. beyond Brahm) The indescribable, unknowable, unvarying 'absolute' postulated as preceding and sustaining the manifest Universe.

Pari Passu

Latin, literally with equal pace; together.


The manifest substance aspect, as opposed to the spiritual (purusha) aspect of the One, the material of the universe.


The period of rest or inactivity after a Manvantara, or period of activity. Literally meaning dissolution but often applying to a state of suspended being. Can apply variously to a Universe, a solar system or a planet.


The Life Principle (Jiva) when associated with an individual, e.g. man. No body or even inner personal principle can live without it. The breath of life.


(lit. the Earth) Sometimes the Element Earth, when regarded as a Tattva.


The fourfold constitution of man in the rupa or form planes as distinct from the three arupa or spiritual planes. The quaternary is the Personality whereas the upper spiritual triad is the Individuality or Ego.


In Occultism, humanity is represented as passing through seven main development stages during one Round; (q.v.) each such stage is a Root Race, which is divided in seven Sub-Races and each of these is further sub divided.


A name given to the great (collective) Beings who initiate the cosmic 'creative' process after a Pralaya. They have other names, Maharajas, etc.


(lit. The Hymn Veda) The first and most important of the four Vedas; the most ancient sacred book of the Hindus; said to be "dozens of thousands" of years old.


As a man's skin demarks him, as an entity, from his  surroundings at physical level, so he is said in Occultism to be so 'entified' in the inner world by a ring-pass-not. Occultism also teaches that every manifest thing and creature has such a ring


In Occultism this word is used in a special way to denote the passage of the "Life Wave" round all the seven globes of a Chain once.


(lit. a form) This applies not only to the objective physical world but to inner worlds, normally invisible, but visible to clairvoyant sight. There even such normally subjective phenomena as feelings and thoughts become perceptible.


The "dispositions and tendencies" which persist through the after death states and condition the new personality of a re-incarnating Ego. Exoterically there are five but esoterically seven.


An ancient Egyptian musical instrument of the rattle type.


Sanscrit for the physical body; the first principle in man's occult constitution. The body which gives expression in the physical world to all man's facilities.


The mystic Essence, equivalent to Mulaprakriti, Father-Mother, the primordial Spirit-Substance Principle from which all manifest existence, Nature, proceeds, and into which all returns at the end of the Mahamanvantara.

Sui Generis

Of its own kind, the only one of its kind.


From Tejas, fire; radiant, flaming. As a Tattva, the Element Fire.


The thirst for life, that which brings us back into incarnation according to the Buddhists.


From Tat, That, the original homogeneous Element of Life, in which the several basic qualities of things in Nature arise as the Elements or Tattvas.




From theos, god, and sophia, wisdom or knowledge. If God is regarded as universal Deity with everything as a manifestation of the One, Theosophy can be taken to mean an inclusive knowledge of the whole Cosmic process. H.P.B. has said, "It is the last word of possible human knowledge".


A threefold unity; a trinity taken as one. In Occultism the higher triad is the Atma - Buddhi - Manas combination. Its symbol is the triangle.


(lit. substitute or disguise) Usually base or vehicle, through which something higher than itself is given expression. The physical body (vehicle) of man gives expression to his 'soul' principles.


Air, as such, and as a Tattva or Element.


Knowledge. Avidya, not knowing, ignorance.


(lit.) God of the Dead. Unrestrained activities of the mind