H.P. Blavatsky tells us the Secret Doctrine, in addition to being an elaboration on the Stanzas of Dzyan, can also be thought of as treatise on Three Fundamental Propositions.  We take up the first of these Fundamental Propositions here:

The Secret Doctrine establishes three fundamental propositions: —

    (a) An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude. It is beyond the range and reach of thought — in the words of Mandukya, "unthinkable and unspeakable."

    To render these ideas clearer to the general reader, let him set out with the postulate that there is one absolute Reality which antecedes all manifested, conditioned, being. This Infinite and Eternal Cause — dimly formulated in the "Unconscious" and "Unknowable" of current European philosophy — is the rootless root of "all that was, is, or ever shall be." It is of course devoid of all attributes and is essentially without any relation to manifested, finite Being. It is "Be-ness" rather than Being (in Sanskrit,Sat), and is beyond all thought or speculation.

    This "Be-ness" is symbolised in the Secret Doctrine under two aspects. On the one hand, absolute abstract Space, representing bare subjectivity, the one thing which no human mind can either exclude from any conception, or conceive of by itself. On the other, absolute Abstract Motion representing Unconditioned Consciousness. Even our Western thinkers have shown that Consciousness is inconceivable to us apart from change, and motion best symbolises change, its essential characteristic. This latter aspect of the one Reality, is also symbolised by the term "The Great Breath," a symbol sufficiently graphic to need no further elucidation. Thus, then, the first fundamental axiom of the Secret Doctrine is this metaphysical ONE ABSOLUTE — BE-NESS — symbolised by finite intelligence as the theological Trinity.



We will take up further explanations of the first fundamental in subsequent discussions but for the purpose of discussion we will begin with this portion of the text.

Why is the word principle given here in all caps (PRINCIPLE)?  What is the distinction between Being and Beness?

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The all caps certainly draws my attention to the word when I read it. The Writer obviously doesn't want the reader to pass it by.

I know that 'Sat' is translated into English as 'Existence' by some Vedantin writers, and the suffix '-ness' denotes a "quality" or "state" according to Webster. So a straight dictionary construction would render Be-ness to mean "quality or state of existence". It is, after all, a constructed word, and I think it's important to note that HPB carefully chose to separate the verb from the suffix with a dash. Of course, the profoundly deep thought involved in "Be-ness" isn't conveyed through an analysis of word construction and definitions, but it is a logical place to begin.

The word "Being" is used by philosophers to denote positive existence as opposed to negative existence (non-being). My feeling is that HPB was very careful and deliberate in her choice of words for the sake of philosophical correctness.

Why is the word principle given here in all caps (PRINCIPLE)?  What is the distinction between Being and Be-ness?


By capitalising it HPB draws our attention to it, as Jimmy points out.  We can only speculate why this might be. Perhaps HPB wants us to reflect on the meaning of the word ‘Principle’?

A ‘principle’ is a fundamental truth.  So, we might say that this ‘Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE’ is THAT which is truly real: it is the Absolute truth; the underlying reality; the foundation on which the universe of spirit and matter rests.  

Everything that we know and have yet to know - even our very ‘knowing’ -  depends on this Immutable PRINCIPLE for its existence.  Yet, this PRINCIPLE depends on nothing for its existence.  Hence it is sometimes referred to as 'the Causeless Cause' of all.  

It is not ‘a being’ (e.g. a god) because all beings are finite entities which depend on causes and conditions for their existence.  Nor is it Being, in the sense that HPB uses that term in these pages.  Being, in this sense means ‘to be manifested’.  Rather, it is the source from which all Being arises and it which it returns - hence it is referred to as Be-ness.  

It is the one true existence (Sat). 


What similarities and differences do you and others see between the concept of "Law" and the concept of "Principle"?


What's the thinking behind your question, Gerry?  How are you seeing "Law" and "Principle" in relation to this First Fundamental proposition?


I just noticed the importance of the term "Priniciple" as it is used in the first fundamental and I wondered about it's relation to the concept of Law?  That was all really.  Perhaps there is something about planes of manifestion that applies to these ideas.  I was trying to draw similarities and distinctions between the two notions and looking for help from the group.

The SD says that "Diety is Law", but this attribute must apply to the first Logos, or perhaps we can at least say that Law is an emanation of the Absolute. I'm not sure if we can attribute Law to the Absolute Itself. Doesn't Law imply limitation?

Gerry asks:  What similarities and differences do you and others see between the concept of "Law" and the concept of "Principle"? 


There's a valuable passage on the Absolute and Law from HPB in The Key to Theosophy.  Best to let HPB say it for herself:

THEOSOPHIST . . . . Our DEITY is neither in a paradise, nor in a particular tree, building, or mountain: it is everywhere, in every atom of the visible as of the invisible Cosmos, in, over, and around every invisible atom and divisible molecule; for IT is the mysterious power of evolution and involution, the omnipresent, omnipotent, and even omniscient creative potentiality.

ENQUIRER. Stop! Omniscience is the prerogative of something that thinks, and you deny to your Absoluteness the power of thought.

THEOSOPHIST. We deny it to the ABSOLUTE, since thought is something limited and conditioned. But you evidently forget that in philosophy absolute unconsciousness is also absolute consciousness, as otherwise it would not be absolute.

ENQUIRER. Then your Absolute thinks?

THEOSOPHIST. No, IT does not; for the simple reason that it is Absolute Thoughtitself. Nor does it exist, for the same reason, as it is absolute existence, and Be-ness, not a Being. Read the superb Kabalistic poem by Solomon Ben Jehudah Gabirol, in the Kether-Malchut, and you will understand: — "Thou art one, the root of all numbers, but not as an element of numeration; for unity admits not of multiplication, change, or form. Thou art one, and in the secret of thy unity the wisest of men are lost, because they know it not. Thou art one, and Thy unity is never diminished, never extended, and cannot be changed. Thou art one, and no thought of mine can fix for Thee a limit, or define Thee. Thou ART, but not as one existent, for the understanding and vision of mortals cannot attain to Thy existence, nor determine for Thee the where, the how and the why," etc., etc. In short, our Deity is the eternal, incessantlyevolving, not creating, builder of the universe; that universe itself unfolding out of its own essence, not being made. It is a sphere, without circumference, in its symbolism, which has but one ever-acting attribute embracing all other existing or thinkable attributes — ITSELF. It is the one law, giving the impulse to manifested, eternal, and immutable laws, within that never-manifesting, because absolute LAW, which in its manifesting periods is The ever-Becoming.

(The Key to Theosophy:  pp 64-65)


A principle is a fundamental cause.  Perhaps,  the caps on PRINCIPLE and BE-NESS denote pre-manifestation, that which is outside of time.  The laws of nature could be seen as thoughts of the Gods and are operative.  The mahatmas are servants of the Divine Laws, something we also strive to become. 

This Principle has been called by other names, such as God, The All, The One, That, The Unkowable, The Unconscious, The Absolute etc. WHY did HPB create a new word - Be-ness - to describe It?

Perhaps to draw a sharp metaphysical distinction from being.  This is important because Monotheistic theologians want to talk about a Supreme Being.  HPB wants to point beyond this and avoid the problem of concretizing the absolute.

The word PRINCIPLE really does avoid concretizing the Absolute. However, ANY word used to describe It can be only partially true. Is It Matter? Yes and no. Is It Energy? Yes and no. Is It Mind? Yes and no. Is It Law? Yes and no. The same goes for the many names given to It. The word PRINCIPLE, however, is so general and abstract that it's a good "jack-of-all-trades" when it comes to picking words. After all, how is it possible to name something that is unspeakable? Even "principle" must fall short.

Perhaps words like Principle and Absolute come as close as the English language can go.  You make excellent points here.

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Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 30, 2012 at 11:15am

To me, "Principle" is a wonderful word to use here, particularly if we look at the etymology of it. It comes from the latin 'principium' (think also of Newton's "principia"), which means both "a fundamental truth or proposition" and "a beginning" or a first. Because 'principle' is not a thing or a being, the core meaning of 'first or original truth' can be encompassed without the danger of monotheising it.

It's also worth noting that in the Latin bible, the first word of Genesis (בְּרֵאשִׁית / Bereshith) is translated as "principio", and then into English as "beginning". How different does that verse read if we use the full meaning of principle instead of the limited meaning of "beginning"!? Even in Genesis this "principle" is beyond and greater than God (or Elohim), as it is within this principle that all activity of Elohim takes place.

"Absolute" is another fantastic word if we look at the origins, from latin "Absolutum", meaning 'unrestricted, unconditional' and also 'finished or complete'.

So the combination of these two terms really sums it up in my mind: Absolute Principle.

I also think the words preceding the capitalized PRINCIPLE in the Proem are exceedingly important:

"Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE."

She doesn't just call it "principle"; she prefaces it so as to expand the term principle to its highest possible meaning. Looking at each of these words for its core-meaning really sheds a lot on what she means by Principle, I think.

Permalink Reply by Sharisse on December 1, 2012 at 11:53am

This made me smile,

Even in Genesis this "principle" is beyond and greater than God (or Elohim)

Because it correlated the whole paragraph...

How different does that verse read if we use the full meaning of principle instead of the limited meaning of "beginning"

And how such minor words can change whole meanings.


Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on December 1, 2012 at 1:01pm

I love reading Genesis with the light of theosophy thrown upon it. :)

That first verse is often translated:

"In the Beginning, God created the heaven and the earth."

But here's a completely different meaning (my own translation from the Hebrew):

"Within the Principle, the Elohim did fill (or fatten or swell (as a pregnant woman is fattened or swelled)) the sky and the land (i.e. the above and the below)."

Here's a wonderful resource:



And how such minor words can change whole meanings.

Totally changes everything! Drops the monotheistic God (turns it into plural, feminine), loses the word "create" (the word 'create' doesn't appear in the hebrew genesis), loses the "beginning" (and thus let's go of "creatio ex nihilo" - something out of nothing), loses the term "heaven", adds in a universal Principle, and so on. Totally changes the entire Christian dogma in one verse ;)

Permalink Reply by Sharisse on December 2, 2012 at 9:06pm

Wow, this is wonderful! I am going to be glued to these resources for a bit studying them. :)

"Within the Principle, the Elohim did fill (or fatten or swell (as a pregnant woman is fattened or swelled)) the sky and the land (i.e. the above and the below)."

If one is to seek the truth, I can see this translation as acting with both fairness and impartiality. Absolutely amazing how it changes everything. It's like that game we would play in elementary school, one person starts with a sentence to say and shares it with the person in front of them, they in turn share it with the person in front of them, and so on. By the time it reached even the 5th person it was a completely different sentence. Thank you for the resource, I really appreciate it, and I'm going to go dive into right now :)


Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on December 3, 2012 at 10:29am

Wonderful Nicholas. I hadn't seen this before!

“out of the ever-existing Essence [divine] [or out of the womb—also head-thereof] the dual [or androgyne] Force [Gods] shaped the double heaven”; the upper and the lower heaven being generally explained as heaven and earth.

What a meaningful translation :)

Permalink Reply by Sharisse on December 4, 2012 at 9:51pm

Thanks Nicholas, this is really helpful also. Not only the different meanings of Elohim, but I never realized this:

And it is even more erroneous to identify these first differentiations—the Purusha and Prakriti of Indian Philosophy—with the Elôhîm, the creative powers here spoken of; and to ascribe to these (to our intellects) unimaginable abstractions, the formation and construction of this visible world, full of pain, sin, and sorrow. In truth, the “creation by the Elôhîm” spoken of here is but a much later “creation,” and the Elôhîm, far from being supreme, or even exalted powers in Nature, are only lower Angels.

So I am viewing this, as Elohim was not the Absolute, as there seems to be a higher and lower Elohim within this. Or was it (the word Elohim) was just used for the inferior also?


Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on December 4, 2012 at 10:53pm

Sharisse, for another little tidbit on this subject, check out the footnote on page 246 of Volume 1 of the Secret Doctrine. :)

Permalink Reply by Sharisse on November 28, 2012 at 11:22pm

The capitalizing of PRINCIPLE draws my attention to the first four descriptions of an ineffable truth. Like rewinding and reading again. And what those words really mean to me, or anyone.

And just as Peter was saying above. Be-ness is not finite. Being is action or matter. I meditated on this the other day, as I watched a tree. Within this eternal, boundless, full, empty and immutable principle, was this beautiful being, manifested into this visible matter, alone in the sky. It took up Some space, within my view, yet it still was not space. Be-ness is not being. The Rootless root, the causeless one cause just as Peter was saying. All that was, is, or ever shall be. 

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on November 29, 2012 at 10:38am

It took up Some space, within my view, yet it still was not space. Be-ness is not being.

Wonderfully put! :)

The tree is, in fact, not even the space it takes up. I love a sand castle analogy:

Build a castle of sand. The castle (matter, the object of sense) doesn't truly 'exist', per se, it's only sand (i.e. substance). "Castle" is revealed because the sand occupies a certain space and does not occupy other space and we identify the former as 'castle' (i.e. it is primarily a mental construct, not a 'material' one). Remove the sand, and that space still exists, and we might even be able to imagine the castle as existing potentially in that space (remove your tree and you might be able to imagine the tree still being there, like an invisible outline of potential 'tree').

We cannot remove the space itself, and within that space exists the potential of any possible construct (i.e. combination of mind and substance). And to me, that 'potential-filled' space provides a fine analogy for PRINCIPLE.

Permalink Reply by Sharisse on November 29, 2012 at 10:47pm

This is great! The space is ever present. I imagined the tree being gone, the sand being washed away. The space is impermeable. This was really helpful, gave me a lot to think about. Even down to my thoughts are not my own.  

Permalink Reply by Di Kaylor on December 3, 2012 at 3:34pm

PRINCIPLE, the ultimate source, may be capitalized following a pattern in HPB's works, such as capitalizing such SELF, Self, or self, each denoting levels that are (let's say) universal, individual or personal (diminishing in scope). She repeats caps in the line about the first axiom as ONE ABSOLUTE -- BE-NESS, all caps and already qualified as beyond all thought. Likewise be-ness is not finite, rather the objective essence beyond the word; "being" as finite and having some sort of physicality, produced during a cycle of manifestation, even if it is subtle beyond recognition. Be-ness helps clarify what we are talking about as not being a personal god concept.

For me, it also starts to set out the distinction between religion in its basic meaning as it differs from "a religion," an instutional structure in our mind and culture. 

I too really like the sand castle analogy. I should have read on before writing. So much has already been said, so nicely, too.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on December 3, 2012 at 4:15pm

Thanks Di. In my studies of HPB's writings I'd have to agree that the use of all-caps, of single capitalization and of all lower caps is used quite purposefully to indicate various "levels".

This reference from the Voice of the Silence shows clearly what you're referencing about 'self' (this is a reproduction of exactly how the original looked):

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Permalink Reply by Sharisse on December 5, 2012 at 10:26pm

This is wonderful Nicholas, I see the whole co-relation within the diagram from the Fundamentals of Esoteric Philosophy given the other day. Not as it's the same, but the systems are, I am not sure if system would be the right word here, just the higher, agnishvatta-pitris, to the lower, barhishad-pritis. Spirit-matter, the Lokas, globes... But that it shows itself in so many different ways! I really like what Jon just showed me also, it's from SD I:246

Genesis begins its anthropology at the wrong end (evidently for a blind) and lands nowhere.* Had it begun as it ought, one would have found in it, first, the celestial Logos, the “Heavenly Man,” which evolves as a Compound Unit of Logoi, out of whom after their pralayic sleep — a sleep that gathers the cyphers scattered on the Mayavic plane into One, as the separate globules of quicksilver on a plate blend into one mass — the Logoi appear in their totality as the first “male and female” or Adam Kadmon, the “Fiat Lux” of the Bible, as we have already seen. But this transformation did not take place on our Earth, nor on any material plane, but in the Spacial Depths of the first differentiation of the eternal Root-matter.

And the first two sentences of the footnote were most prominent, to me.

* The introductory chapters of Genesis were never meant to represent even a remote allegory of the creation of our Earth. They embrace a metaphysical conception of some indefinite period in the eternity, when successive attempts were being made by the law of evolution at the formation of universes. The idea is plainly stated in the Zohar: “There were old worlds, which perished as soon as they came into existence, were formless, and were called Sparks. Thus, the smith, when hammering the iron, lets the sparks fly in all directions. The sparks are the primordial worlds, which could not continue because the Sacred Aged (Sephira) had not as yet assumed its form (of androgyne, or opposite sexes) of King and Queen (Sephira and Kadmon), and the Master was not yet at his work.” See Zohar, “Idra Suta,” Book iii., p. 292, b. The Supreme consulting with the Architect of the world — his Logos — about creation. (“Isis Unveiled,” vol. ii., p. 421.)

What I keep learning and seeing, so far, never falters, substantiated in multitudes.


Permalink Reply by Jimmy on December 16, 2012 at 2:46pm
In the very first paragraph of this proposition, the PRINCIPLE is directly referred to the Mandukya Upanishad. In this Upanishad, four states or tiers of consciousness are described: waking, sleep, dreamless sleep, and a fourth called Turiya which is the substratum of the other three; and it is Turiya that is "unthinkable and unspeakable".

The first proposition is quite lengthy and contains a few very complex ideas. And with this in mind, here are some questions:

1) Why did HPB mention this first?

2) What is Turiya?

3) Should the rest of the proposition be understood within the framework of the Mandukya Upanishad's teaching of Turiya?
Permalink Reply by Peter on December 16, 2012 at 4:27pm

With regards to your question 2, Jimmy - on Turiya and the states mentioned in the Mandukya Upanishad. They are described in Advaita Vedanta as follows:

If we look at the table of principles in the Secret Doctrine, vol 1, p157. The three states of waking, dreaming and deep (dreamless) sleep are the states of consciousness-experience associated with the three upadhis shown there. Turiya is not a state, as it is and can never be an experience, it is the non dual Atman.

Sthulopadhi       -    waking state   (vishva)
Sukshmopadhi   -    dream state    (taijasa)
Karanopadhi      -    deep (dreamless) sleep. (praj~na)
Atma                 -    non-dual consciousness (turIya)

In Vedanta Atman and Brahman (the Absolute) are one, therefore the phrase 'unthinkable and unspeakable' apply whether we speak of Atman or Brahman.

See chart below from SD I 157, as given by T. Subba Row.

Permalink Reply by Peter on December 17, 2012 at 4:13am

Just to add a little more on Jimmy's question on the Mandukya Unpanishad, Turiya and so on.  See table below:

Brahman is referred to in two ways in Advaita Vedanta: nirguna and saguna.

Nirguna Brahman is ‘without qualities’, the unconditioned, changeless, timeless, para (supreme) brahman. The one reality which is the substratum of all. 

Saguna  Brahman is ‘with qualities’,  finite, conditioned.  Saguna Brahman or Isvara is the power of Brahman covered by maya (illusion) – the manifested One.  There are as many Isvaras as there are Universes.  In Theosophy we would call it the Logos. 

‘This Atman is Brahman’ is one of the four great sentences (Mahavakyas) of the Upanishads and is found in the Mandukya Upanishad.  See verse 2: 

“All this is surely Brahman.  This Self is Brahman. This Self, such as It is, is possessed of four quarters.”

The four quarters (pada) or feet correspond to the four cosmic and human principles, the four levels of consciousness and the OM (the fourth quarter of this being the silence from which it arises and returns.)  

In other words,  whether we are looking at the cosmic or human level it is that same unconditioned consciousness which is the underlying reality of all planes of existence.  It is the One True Existence and  Paramarthasatya – the Absolute Truth.  The knowledge pertaining to the three planes (upadhis) of conditioned consciousness is Samvritisatya (relative truth).

The Mandukya Upanishad, perhaps more than any other, particularly links together the cosmic and human principles as shown in the above table.  It’s very terse, as you know – only 12 verses-  and is best studied with the commentary of  Sri Guadapada, reputed to have been the paramaguru of Sri Sankaracarya.  There is also a commentary by Sankaracarya on Guadapada’s commentary (see the translations of Swami Gambhirananda and Swami Nikhilananda, which are both excellent).

By the way, with regards the table on SD I 157  (mentioned in previous post) although the middle column is termed Vedantic and the right hand column is termed ‘Taraka Raja Yoga’ , both of these classifications are found in traditional  Advaita Vedanta.