Are there subtle differences between  the words analogy and correspondence?  Why are they always mentioned together in theosophical literature?

Continuing on From BP Wadia's Article: Scope. Structure and Method

"To comprehend this way of expounding teachings which are at once metaphysical and scientific, and to apply the two-fold process of deduction-induction to them for the purposes of a thorough understanding, is to grasp the real synthesis of The Secret Doctrine.

If synthesis and the processes of deduction and induction have undergone change for the worse, the law of analogy has met with a still sadder fate. Analogy which with the Ancients meant Correspondence on the side of life and principles, has, with the modern, become resemblance on the side of forms and appearances. The Law of Analogy used to provide indisputable facts; now one has to beware of “false analogy” all the time. InThe Secret Doctrine, on the authority of a Master’s letter we are advised “to hold to the doctrine of analogy and correspondences.” 2 In fact, without a clear understanding of what the Law of Analogy is in the conception of the Ancients, the study of The Secret Doctrine becomes very difficult indeed. “Analogy is the guiding law in Nature, the only true Ariadne’s thread that can lead us, through the inextricable paths of her domain, toward her primal and final mysteries.” 3 One more quotation and we will pass on:

From Gods to men, from Worlds to atoms, from a star to a rush-light, from the Sun to the vital heat of the meanest organic being — the world of Form and Existence is an immense chain, whose links are all connected. The law of Analogy is the first key to the world-problem, and these links have to be studied co-ordinately in their occult relations to each other. (I:604.)

The Law of Analogy of The Secret Doctrine speaks of manifestation proceeding from within without, refers to the Hermetic axiom of “as Above so Below,” and in full measure correlates Cosmos to atom, and clearly shows the interdependence of Noumena to phenomena, archetypes to types."

See the full article on the  site if you will in the Secret Doctrine section.

Views: 244

 Reply to This

Upload Files

Stop Following – Don't email me when people reply

Replies to This Discussion


My understanding of "the subtle differences between  the words analogy and correspondence" was made clearer after reading the following two excerpts from the full article on the  site:

"As you may infer by analogy every globe before it reaches its adult period, has to pass through a formation period — also septenary. Law in Nature is uniform and the conception, formation, birth, progress and development of the child differs from those of the globe only in magnitude".

 ". . The correspondence between a mother-globe and her child-man may be thus worked out. Both have their seven principles".

The analogy of the development  of a globe to the development of a child is explained by describing how both their individual developments correspond to a septenary process. The analogy is defined rather than just stated.

To answer the question, "Why are they always mentioned together in theosophical literature?" A simple answer would be "to provide greater understanding".



Is the construction of a form from the model of a more ethereal plane constitute a correspondence, an analogy or both?


To my understanding both. If the analogy is that the development of a form follows a process, then the correspondence is how that process unfolds in the development of different forms. 


Would someone  be willing to venture a theosophical definition of the concept of "analogy"? 


Gerry asks: Would someone  be willing to venture a theosophical definition of the concept of "analogy"? 


Here's a start for others to improve upon.

An analogy is normally seen as a process of reasoning or an explanation that compares two different things in order to bring out a particular correspondence (similarity) between them.  

For example, the argument for intelligent design in nature comes from comparing the operations of nature to the operations of machines created by humans. While these are different things, there is a correspondence between them which leads people to conclude that since human machines are the result of design and intelligence then so too must nature’s operations be the result of intelligent design.

HPB provides us with an analogy to help us understand a little bit about the hosts of great spiritual beings which are the Intelligences behind all of the laws of nature and its operations:

“This hierarchy of spiritual Beings, through which the Universal Mind comes into action, is like an army -- a "Host," truly -- by means of which the fighting power of a nation manifests itself, and which is composed of army corps, divisions, brigades, regiments, and so forth, each with its separate individuality or life, and its limited freedom of action and limited responsibilities; each contained in a larger individuality, to which its own interests are subservient, and each containing lesser individualities in itself.”  SD I 38

From this we can see that HPB uses analogy, the process that highlights the correspondences between things, to help us understand occult doctrines pertaining to realms and states of consciousness.  While these are as yet beyond our range of direct perception, analogy brings them within the grasp of our intuition.

HPB also refers to Analogy as a law.

"From Gods to men, from Worlds to atoms, from a star to a rush-light, from the Sun to the vital heat of the meanest organic being -- the world of Form and Existence is an immense chain, whose links are all connected. The law of Analogy is the first key to the world-problem, and these links have to be studied coordinately in their occult relations to each other.”  SD I 604

The implication here is that when the Plan which is in the Divine Thought during pralaya (see SD I 1) comes into operation, the process of unfoldment from within - without, from above-below, and brought into being by those spiritual Intelligences referred to above, this plan unfolds from plane to plane on the strict law of correspondences at each stage.

HPB sums this up when she says: ‘Everything in the Universe follows analogy. "As above, so below"; Man is the microcosm of the Universe. That which takes place on the spiritual plane repeats itself on the Cosmic plane. Concretion follows the lines of abstraction; corresponding to the highest must be the lowest; the material to the spiritual.’  SD I 177

The Law of Analogy, as used in the Secret Doctrine, is both an aid to understanding and a description of the way the universe comes into being. It brings the Occult Doctrines within our intuitive reach.  The rule of correspondences also provides a key to practical occultism which, no doubt, is why seemingly harmless facts about the human races, for example, are withheld.


So would it be fair to say that analogy is a bridge between the known and the unknown for the student?


I've heard it said that analogy and correspondence differ in the following way:

Analogy serves to indicate two things or two processes, etc., that have similarities between them or can be seen as roughly following some general blue-print or outline, whereas

Correspondence serves to indicate that which holds the same place in one system as in another, or has the same function in one place as in another.


Analogy: the hierarchy-army analogy from Peter's reply.

Correspondence: Manas corresponds to Globe F, Atma to globe G, etc. (see SD 1:153)

The former is a general analogy, the latter is an exact correspondence.

Any thoughts on this idea? Does it hold up to scrutiny?


This is good.  Would you mind giving examples of these two ideas at the level of common experiences?



Analogy: the first stages of waking up in the morning is a little like the first years as an infant. We emerge, takes a little while to orient ourselves, for dreams to fade and waking reality to replace it, to settle into our day/life.

Analogy: Eating healthy food brings health to the body, just as thinking healthy thoughts brings health to the mind.

Correspondence: I am to my father as my nephew is to my brother.

Correspondence: Winter corresponds to Night, as Summer to Day, spring to morning and autumn to evening.

Crude examples, but it's a start. Any one else?


These are excellent Jon.  What is crude about them?


Haha... just seems that there must be better examples out there. It was a good exercise to come up with these, and the distinction between analogy and correspondence seems clearer because of it (if this is, indeed, an accurate way of approaching the two terms).


I think the use of analogy does create a bridge between the known and the unknown as our discussions have illustrated. This is the beauty of occultism; lofty concepts can be understood at the level of common expediences such as the processes of infancy and waking...we can understand that the unfolding of a lifetime is similar to the unfolding of a single day within our life, "...analogy brings them within the grasp of our intuition". When I think of my life in these terms I try to consider the importance of my daily actions knowing that they also have an effect on an esoteric level...and what I don't get right today, I will have to try to improve upon tomorrow...rebirth and  karma.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 12, 2012 at 10:31am

My personal view is that the terms 'analogy' and 'correspondence' are used loosely and interchangeably in many places of the Secret Doctrine to refer to the process of 'As above, so below.'  I think it's important not to be too rigid about the way these two terms are used by HPB.

In general - the Law of Correspondence refers to those entities or events associated with the 'realms' of 'the above and the below'. For example, the physical sun in our solar system, and the Logos in the Ideal World.

In general - the law of Analogy is the process by which we derive meaning from these correspondences and draw further conclusions from them. For example, by reflecting on the nature of our sun in the solar system we may gain some insight into the nature of the Logos. By reflecting on the teachings related to the Logos, we may gain some insight into the occult properties of the sun and its role in our system.

'...[bear] in mind the old adage, "As below so above" — that is, the universal system of correspondences — try to understand by analogy.'
Mahatma Letter 67 to A.P.Sinnett

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 12, 2012 at 11:28am

This is quite helpful. Thanks Peter.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on November 18, 2012 at 12:11pm

That has been my assumption too, that these two words have been used interchangeably.