Here's a somewhat cryptic passage from the SD, p. 337 (Primordial Substance and Divine Thought)

In the Sepher Jezireh, the Kabalistic Book of Creation, the author has evidently repeated the words of Manu. In it, the Divine Substance is represented as having alone existed from the eternity, boundless and absolute; and as having emitted from itself the Spirit.* “One is the Spirit of the living God, blessed be Its name, which liveth for ever! Voice, Spirit, and Word, this is the Holy Spirit;”† and this is the Kabalistic abstract Trinity, so unceremoniously anthropomorphised by the Christian Fathers. From this triple One emanated the whole Kosmos. First from One emanated number Two, or Air (the Father), the creative element; and then numberThree, Water (the Mother), proceeded from the air; Ether or Fire completes the mystic four, the Arba-il.‡ “When the Concealed of the Concealed wanted to reveal Himself, he first made a point (primordial point, or the first Sephiroth, air, or Holy Ghost), shaped into a sacred form (the ten Sephiroth, or the Heavenly man), and covered it with a rich and splendid garment, that is the world.”§

Footnote(s) ———————————————

* The manifested Spirit; Absolute, Divine Spirit is one with absolute Divine Substance: Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are one in essence. Therefore, Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance in their primal character are one also.

† “Sepher Jezireh,” chap. 1, Mishna ix.

‡ Ibid. It is from Arba that Abram is made to come.

§ “Sohar,” I., 2a.

It gets repeated, somewhat clearer, on p. 447 - Westcott added the term in the Theos Glos

Arba-il (Chald.). The Four Great Gods. Arba is Aramaic for four, and il is the same as Al or El. Three male deities, and a female who is virginal yet reproductive, form a very common ideal of Godhead. [w.w.w.]

Is this some kabbalistic or masonic term? It can be found in Thomas Inman:

HPB actually develops the concept more fully in Isis (p. 170 et seq.) relating it to the Pythagorean upper Tetraktys.

In subsequent posts, I will endeavor to show some more recent research in Near East religion and the Kabbalah that tends to corroborate the notion.

Views: 793

 Reply to This

Upload Files

Follow – Email me when people reply

Replies to This Discussion


PS - the passage in question can also be found in Isis on page 272. Here's a brief summary chart of some of the examples of the Arba-il that HPB gives:





1 - Brahma




2 -Vishnu




3 - Siva



Holy Ghost

4 - Nari




Before addressing the Kabbalistic perspective, I'd like to share share a few modernized examples from the above groups. From India, there's the grouping of Brahma, Visnu and Siva with Devi-Mahatmaya:

Without Her force, no body would be able even to more their limbs.
That Supreme Auspicious Goddess is the preserving energy of Visnu, is the Creative power of Brahma, and is the destroying force of Siva.

Devi-Mahatmya 3. 30. 28-30

Also, I think there's an 18th century tantric statue of Durga with figures of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva placed across her body vertically.


SD 538 it says, "Brahma-Vishnu-the creator and the preserver of light-will have transformed himself into Siva the destroyer."  "Life-light"?


This is interesting, Casady!

Curious, would YA and RA fit in with EL in any way?


Thanky kindly for your charitable assessement of my humble research- I think the LIFE and LIGHT connection is interesting and pertinent and worth further investigation -

As for your question - if you are referering to the Hebrew language, off hand, I can't think of a specific interpretation related to those three words - but it seems possible - please forgive my ignorance on this matter...


No worries, Casady !  I had posted an image on a different discussion earlier, perhaps this is its proper place? There is a slivering chance to access a passport (excuse my freshness) of an small obstacle which may need some focussed attention. Forgive my vagueness but this is not a burning aspiration for a spiritual or material ego boost, even though it could be so easy acquired. Let the work begin =)



Thanks Sophia! nice diagram -

Below is an example from Christian theology:

Coronation of the Virgin

The Coronation of the Virgin by El Greco  (1541 – 1614). Oil on canvas. 90 x 100 cm c.1592-1605? Prado, Madrid, Spain

For the Ophite Tetrad, I'm not sure where she got that, probably the Ophite diagram in Origen, which can be interpreted variously.  It looks similar to a neoplatonized version of the Ophite cosmology from Synesios (see :

"Male thou and female, Voice thou and silence, Nature engendered of Nature. Thou King, Aeon of Aeons, What is it lawful to call thee?

Father of all Fathers, Father of thyself, Propator [Forefather] who hast no father, O Son of thyself

But the initiated mind Says this and that, Celebrating with dances The Ineffable Bythos." [Hymn III]


One can find a similar Sethian/Ophite tetrad in the Nag Hammadi text, Eugnostos (SeeThe Nag Hammadi Library, 1990, pp. 227-28) : 1- Unbegotten Forefather; 2-Self-Begetter; 3- Man of Depth; 4-Sophia.


(see also Ophite Gnosticism, Sethianism and the Nag Hammadi Library, Tuomas Rasimus,Vigiliae Christianae, Vol. 59, No. 3 (Aug., 2005), pp. 235-263).


Strangely, there's another somewhat obscure connection of the Arba-il with Gnosticism - the word 'Barbelo', has been conjectured to be derived from that term. See Wace, p. 714):

But I'll leave it at that, because then it gets too close to the use of the arba-il in pop esoteric speculation...



Inman, on page 279, references the Arba-il to Henry Rawlinson, known as the father of Assyriology, in an 1864 paper, "Bilingual Readings—Cuneiform and Phœnician. Notes on some Tablets in the British Museum, containing Bilingual Legends (Assyrian and Phœnician)".

HPB gives a Babylonian example, however, the tetrad concept can be found  as far back as Sumerian sources,  which takes us back to the beginning of Near East religion (see the Epic of Gilgamesh, N.K. Sandars, Penguin, 1960, p. 164).

A Sumerian creation fragment from Nippur has (Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis, 1945, 72):

When Anu, Enlil, Enki, and Ninhursagga

Had created mankind,

For the Kabalistic tetrad, in the Sefer Yetzirah 1, 9. I think de Zirkof adds an appropriate reference to 1, 12 which would refer to the tetrad of one, air, water, fire. She no doubt has her reasons using that reference for what she terms the abstract kabalistic trinity.

Interestingly, Aryeh Kaplan gives a very similar, albeit more straightforward interpretation in his commentary of the Sefer Yetzirah (1997, 71) 1, 9 he refers to a kabalistic tetrad of Keter, Chakmah, Binah and Ruach Hakodesh.

"This 'Holy Spirit' can be seen as the intermediate between Voice and Speech. It is thus also intermediate between Chakmah and Binah consciousness. Ruach HaKodesh is the divine inspiration and information that one can bring back from a state of Chakmah consciousness to one's normal state of Binah consciousness.

Such Ruach HaKodesh is like Keter, which stands between Chakman and Binah, but which is above them. Both Chakhmah and Binah are functions of the mind itself, while Ruach HaKodesh is the 'breath of God' mentioned in the verse, 'I will fill him with the Breath of God, with Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge.'

To sum up, below is a chart of the concept of the mystic four that takes into account original sources that have come to light more recently. It think it remains a fairly obscure concept, but seems to have had some noticeable presence in ancient theologies, with a deep theosophical significance:



Sethian Gnostic


1 - Brahma


Unbegotten Forefather


2 - Siva




3 -Vishnu


Man of Depth


4 – Devi Mahatmya



Ruach Hakodesh


Beautiful image! It was this photo that captured my attention to want to know more. In the SD V.2,  P.512 last paragraph, "In the great Valentinian gospel Pistis Sophia (§ 361) it is taught that of the three Powers emanating from the Holy names of the Three [[Tridunameis]], that of Sophia (the Holy Ghost according to these gnostics — the most cultured of all), resides in the planet Venus or Lucifer."

On P.462 the SD says, "In [[PISTIS SOPHIA]], the seven great gods, divided into two triads and the highest God (the Sun) are: the lower [[Tridunameis]], whose powers reside respectively in Mars, Mercury and Venus; and the higher Triad ("the three unseen gods") who dwell in the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn; (vide §§ 359 and 361 et seq)." 

Also it might be worth reading P. 385 last paragraph to about P. 390


Digging deeper it's hard to escape the idea of "Magnus Annus" when putting all of this together. {Goddess Astraea, Sophia?} 

"For all things are from you, who unites the cosmos,

You will the three-fold fates, you bring forth all things,

Whatever is in the heavens, and in the much fruitful earth and the deep sea"


"Hail Goddess and save this people in harmony and prosperity. In the fields bring us all pleasant things. Feed our kine, bring us flocks, bring us the corn ear, bring us the harvest! And nurse peace that those who sow may reap. Be gracious thrice prayed for, Great Queen of Goddesses"


Astraea {Virgo} = Venus-Lucifer {Life-Light} = Sophia? 


Nice research! I reckon one could probably find examples of the Arba-il in most of the more esoteric sides of the various mystical traditions -

Here's a video of Aryeh Kaplan, by the way - one of the most erudite kabbalist Rabbi's of the 20th century.


4 bodies of Brahma with 3 qualities?


Is that the four-faced figure of Brahma? There could be some specific relations there, it's possible, but it's a vast topic - one could take any page of Fraser's Golden Bough and find some interesting connections...

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Casady on July 26, 2013 at 11:49am

Here's a passage that seems to fit the bill:

It is the first triangle or the Pythagorean triad, the “God of the three Aspects,” before it is transformed through its perfect quadrature of the infinite Circle into the “four-faced Brahma.”

Chaos, Theos, Kosmos, SD I, 2, 4, 344

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on July 26, 2013 at 1:38pm

I remember reading about that. I believe it said, "First Cause".

Permalink Reply by Casady on October 22, 2014 at 3:17pm

Not surprisingly, this concept can be found in alchemy, thus corroborating its esoteric pedigree. The following image is from the Rosarium philosophorum 1550 , (Jung, p. 429)


Jung calls this concept the ''Three and the One'' Alchemical quaternary and he cites a text by a certain Orthelius in relation to the above image (a very theosophy-friendly passage):

''There are said to be two treasures: one is the written word and the other is the word become fact (verbum factum). In the verbum scriptum Christ is still in swaddling clothes in his cradle (in cunis suis involutus); but in the verbum dictum et factum the word is incarnate in God’s creatures, and there, in a manner of speaking, we may touch it with our hands. From them we must raise up our treasure, for the word is nothing other than the fire, the life, and the spirit which the Holy Trinity did scatter abroad from the beginning of creation, and which brooded (incubavit) on the face of the waters, and which was breathed into (inspiratus) all things by the word of God, and embodied in them, as it is written: ‘’The spirit of God filled the whole world.’’ Some have expressed the opinion that this world spirit (spiritus mundi) was the third person of the Godhead; but they have not considered the word ‘Elohim,’’ which, being plural extends to all  persons of the Trinity. They say this spirit proceeded from thence and was by it created, that I became corporeal and is the chief constituent of the Saviour (salvatoris) or Philosophical Stone, and is the true medium whereby body and soul are held united during our life.''

Jung, C.G. (1968). Psychology and Alchemy, Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 12, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. pp.428-29

Permalink Reply by Casady on January 23, 2015 at 2:04pm
Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on January 23, 2015 at 2:19pm
Solar System
Parabrahman   Beyond Brahman
Brahman, Paramatman   Cosmic Monad
Atman   Essential Self
Mulaprakriti   Primordial Thread-Self
Sutratman   Causal Vehicle
Karana-sarira   Essential Egoity
Isvara   The Logos
Hiranyagarbha   Golden Egg
Sukshma-sarira   Subtle Vehicle
 Personal Monad
Daiviprakriti   Light of the Logos
Visvanara   Subtle Essence
   of Physical Vehicle
Sthula-sarira   Manifested Universe

"In these three columns there are correspondences reading right to left which apply to three vastly differing scales of magnitude both in quality and in explanation. Thus the last term in the first column is daiviprakriti, which really means spirit-matter in manifestation, and therefore is a gross body of the universe, although in the human case this is equivalent to the sthula-sarira or gross physical body."

"It is likewise to be noted that the Vedantist classification of the principles, whether of a universe or an individual, is six in number: the essential self or atman, and five kosas emanating from it; the main reason for the Taraka-Raja-Yoga fourfold division lies in the fact that the atman of a person may be used in any one of the three upadhis independently as it were of the others, without the person’s running the risk of killing himself. In this way they form a natural division of the human being."

"Comparing this fourfold classification of the human constitution with the sevenfold division commonly set forth in theosophical literature: atman (the essential principle of selfhood and therefore the highest) is the same in both; karana-sarira is equivalent to buddhi and the higher manas; sukshma-sarira comprises manas and kama; while sthula-sarira takes in the three lower principles — prana, linga-sarira, and sthula-sarira. The reason for the two classifications is that Subba Row fastened “attention on the monads, looking upon the universe as a vast aggregate of individualities; while H. P. B. for that time of the world’s history saw the need to give to the inquiring Western mind . . . some real explanation of what the composition of the universe is as an entity — what its ‘stuff’ is, and what man is as an integral part of it. Now the seven principles are the seven kinds of ‘stuff’ of the universe. . . . [however] we must not have our minds confused with the idea that the seven principles are one thing, and the monads are something else which work through the principles as disjunct from them”"

Permalink Reply by Sophia Fields on January 23, 2015 at 2:22pm

The number four is considered feminine on the planes of matter; it is considered to be masculine and energic only on the highest plane of abstraction. When united with three (spirit), “their union is the emblem of life eternal in spirit on its ascending arc, and in matter as the ever resurrecting element — by procreation and reproduction” (SD 2:592).

In ancient and modern occultism, 3, 4, and 7 are respectively held sacred as symbolizing light, life, and union — at least during our present manvantara; for the reckoning was somewhat as follows: unity, the One or the monad, was the generating point of spirit, from which flowed forth the first manifested stream of energy or the duad, which became in expressing itself the triad, the carrier and holder of cosmic wisdom and therefore light to our view. These three expressing themselves in the next stage of differentiation clothed themselves in a vehicle, the square or four, which thus became manifested life. Hence, when light and life conjoin in unitary action we have the complete septenary, the significant number of complete monadic being on this plane — the septenary individual.

Permalink Reply by Casady on January 27, 2015 at 2:06pm

Interesting texts - nice Blavatsky quote - that Pasadena glossary has some good stuff, here's another:

Arba-Il (Hebrew) ’Arba‘-’ēl [from ’arba‘four + ’ēl divinity] Four great divinities synthesized into a unity;  mystically the four are one, precisely as the divine triad in nearly all ancient  religious philosophies are both a divine unity and a trinity — one in three,  three in one, according to the Christian system. “This is the Kabalistic  abstract Trinity, so unceremoniously anthropomorphized by the Fathers. From this  triple one emanated the whole Kosmos. First from one emanated number two, or  Air, the creative element; and then number three, Water, proceeded from  the air; Ether or Firecomplete the mystic four, the Arba-il” (SD 1:447). “These are the ten Sephiroth out of Space (or the Void); One, from  the Soul of the ’Elohim (or divinities) of living beings emanated Soul (Air);  from the Air Water; from the Water Fire or Ether”; and from this last the  manifested universe (Sepher Yetzirah 1:9). See also ’AHATH-RUAH-’ELOHIM-HAYYIM.

Stanza 2.4 in the SD, gives a pretty decent basic definition of the concept, if such is at all possible (pp.59-60).