HPB and others have taught that one important way to approach the Secret Doctrine is through the eyes and lens of the Three Fundamental Principles.  She says that in some ways all of the ideas found in the Gupta Vidya can be traced back to three fundamental ideas.

Here is the second.


Further, the Secret Doctrine affirms: —

(b.)The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically "the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing," called "the manifesting stars," and the "sparks of Eternity." "The Eternity of the Pilgrim"  is like a wink of the Eye of Self-Existence (Book of Dzyan.) "The appearance and disappearance of Worlds is like a regular tidal ebb of flux and reflux." (See Part II., "Days and Nights of Brahmâ.")
This second assertion of the Secret Doctrine is the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of nature. An alternation such as that of Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, is a fact so common, so perfectly universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in it we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the universe.

 "Pilgrim" is the appellation given to our Monad (the two in one) during its cycle of incarnations. It is the only immortal and eternal principle in us, being an indivisible part of the integral whole — the Universal Spirit, from which it emanates, and into which it is absorbed at the end of the cycle. When it is said to emanate from the one spirit, an awkward and incorrect expression has to be used, for lack of appropriate words in English. The Vedantins call it Sutratma (Thread-Soul), but their explanation, too, differs somewhat from that of the occultists; to explain which difference, however, is left to the Vedantins themselve of the Eye of Self-Existence (Book of Dzyan.) "The appearance and disappearance of Worlds is like a regular tidal ebb of flux and reflux." (See Part II., "Days and Nights of Brahmâ.")


How might we state this second fundamental principle in our own words?

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How might we state this second fundamental principle in our own words?


Well, I might approach it a little like this:

Because Motion, or Change, is an essential feature of the Universe (ref. Proem and 1st fundamental), anything manifest must be temporary (or "anything that has a beginning must have an end"). If a manifestation wasn't temporary, then it would have to be non-changing or not-in-motion, and we see this to be an impossibility. So this gives rise to periodic manifestations and complimentary periodic 'unmanifestations' (or withdrawals). And so we have cycles of activity and rest or 'creations' and 'dissolutions'. And because the Universe is boundless, these cycles are both beginningless and endless - i.e. they occur throughout boundless Space and go on forever.


Whereas the first principle addresses religion and the third principle philosophy, the second principle is about science. The laws of cyclic nature are easily observed in time, such as the great manvantric cycles and smaller ones, from the precession of the equinoxes to daily phases.  It is experienced as reincarnation and the return of karmic consequences.  The patterns in life that demonstrate cycles are many, including the characteristics that mark generations or the recurrences of ideas throughout history (the 1000-year patterns), supporting speculation about the future. Another of my favorite cycles is the hyrdrological cycle, showing the movement of water through condensation, evaporation, precipitation and gathering in aquifers, rivers and oceans (etc) back to the point of evaporation.  I've heard it (the 2nd principle) spoken of as motion, and I can understand this when I think of the constant flow of water (in some form).  


Another of my favorite cycles is the hyrdrological cycle, showing the movement of water through condensation, evaporation, precipitation and gathering in aquifers, rivers and oceans (etc) back to the point of evaporation.

Di, this is also my favorite example to use of cyclic motion. It really seems to unveil so many subtle details of how periodicity operates within manifestation; changing of states, purifying, etc., etc.


Do you find there are cycles of the mind as well?


Are you thinking about races and rounds, in the evolution of consciousness?  I haven't really tracked it since it's beyond known history, so to speak.  But I have thought about how we're supposed to be advancing as symbolized by the messianic cycle, toward a spiritualized individuality. 


Not really, I was thinking more about the patterns and cycles of thoughts that we have over time.  They seem to revolve in cycles like everything else.  Emotions seem to do the same thing.  Why do I feel bad every April when taxes are due? or something like that.  Thinking a lot about ones children at Christmas time is another example.

Cycles penetrate our entire being and all our experiences don't you think?

Which makes one wonder, how are new cycles initiated in a human life?


Question asked: "Which makes one wonder, how are new cycles initiated in a human life?"

Seems to me that the benefit of understanding cycles is in trying to plant seeds where we think they will be useful or find grounding.  That could be sending a child to school, or helping someone widen their experiences of life in positive ways through travel or sharing, or intentionally creating a habit by daily repetition (hopefully of something positive). One example could be rising early to meditate on passages that have one thinking about unity or compassion.


Perhaps, in a sense, we can say that all cycles are "cycles of the mind", since Theosophy teaches that the outer, objective universe emerges from Mind (Mahat) - in essence, 'everything is taking place within mind'. It seems to me that, from one perspective, manifested cycles are all essentially due to the 'motion of mind', so to speak.

In a more practical, down to earth sense, I can definitely see cycles in my psychological experience of life - for instance on my own 'path' I've experienced myself being inwardly drawn to deep study for a period, then moving away from study towards some other practical avenue, only to cycle back to deep study again later (and on a slightly 'higher plane', so to speak). I can see many subtle examples like this in my own inward life.


For my own use, I've charted out the 250/500/1000 year cycles in world history to see how ideas recur in 1000 and 1500 year patterns. It's based on theosophical ideas but also several other cycle theories.  Blavatsky's article on the Theory of Cycles (http://www.blavatsky.net/blavatsky/arts/TheoryOfCycles.htm) talks about waves of history in 250 year cycles...I think it's in Five Years of Theosophy as well.

One example, is to link to gender equality through a study of the cycles, reaching back I found, with the development of Zoroasterianism (bringing back ideas of gender equality and care for the natural world—in theory not practice), having its origins approx. 1000 BCE …and a revival of Zoroastrianism was prevalent during the Sassanid (Persian) Empire of 500 CE.   Going back further I wanted to look at the changing role of Isis mythology at 2500 and 1500 BCE, as the role changed from Isis as the dead pharoah’s wife to Isis as deity. I haven’t really completely looked into it, but there are patterns.

Most obvious in this study of 250 year cycles is the 1000-year pattern of quarterly rises and collapses in civilizations. Globalism is clearly a pattern for our time.  If you chart it out and up the line to 1000 CE (Papal Empire), 1 CE (Roman Empire), etc., each rise of the prominent civilization was preceded by a major opening of trade/communication globally—Silk Road/Grand Trunk Route and maritime travel, respectively. Equal to this is the Internet in opening up our global connections, before the start of the 21st century. Each of the waves follows a pattern like this, varying in the nature and severity of what occurs. After our wave comes collapse, after the next wave is a covergence such as regional unity; the next is a continued consolidation of networks, and after that the expansion that precedes our own wave cycle. There are seasonal correlations that can be made, and as far I can tell, that would be the autumnal season we are in (very accomplished, very individualistic, yet a sense of unraveling and anxiety).  [If you've read the Fourth Turning by Wm Strauss and Neil Howe, 1997, you can see parallels to their generational approach to cycles.]

It’s most interesting to look at how events chart out if you begin with some question to help select what events to track.  The idea is that groups of us reincarnate relatively at the same time, averaging out the years (est at 1500 yrs). Ideas prevalent in our previous lives can percolate up through the next time around, given our nature of what we bring forward with us. It's not very precise, however, considering how history trickles down and is interpreted.


Gerry asks: Do you find there are cycles of the mind as well?


The psychiatrist, Carl Jung, introduced into psychology the idea of enantiodromia (from Greek, meaning 'running in opposite ways'). The idea being that the one sided tendency of any conscious psychological attitude, when overly dominant or extreme, tends to bring about its opposite in due course. Jung believed that when one a sided attitude dominates our conscious life it sets up a counter force in the unconscious. As the unconscious counter force/tendency grows it at first begins to inhibit the conscious attitude until eventually it breaks through conscious control.

We sometimes witness examples of this in people who take up a religious calling and while doing so develop a very one sided, puritanical attitude to life. At some stage the non-puritanical aspect of their character breaks through often as a shock to themselves and to those who know them. Jung's remark that the unconscious counter attitude breaks through 'conscious control' is evidenced when the person, quite understandably, says 'I don't know what came over me.'  

No doubt we can each find examples of one kind or another that apply to ourselves.

An analogous force would be like that at work in the movement of a pendulum. The force that sends it in one direction builds up a counter force which eventually a) prevents movement in the direction of travel and the b) brings about its return in the opposite direction.

Jung's view was that, ultimately, we have to learn to transcend the opposites rather than seek to overcome one with the other.  We need to tackle the problem of the opposites from a higher standpoint or perspective.

Actually, at a much simpler level we can see the principle of enantiodromia at work in our lives all the time. When we have been busy on our feet all day we look forward to sitting down. At fist sitting is really good, a nice relief. But if we stayed sitting eventually we become restless, uncomfortable and want to move about. In the winter months we long for sun and heat, but after a period of time with only sun and heat, we begin thinking how nice it would be if there was shade, a refreshing shower of rain etc. etc.


Thanks for this Peter.  Much to ponder here.  If one is wanting to overcome a bad  habit how could a person use these ideas to create countervailing forces? Use the law of periodicity to help one overcome a problem perhaps?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on January 16, 2013 at 9:28pm

The idea of aligning ourselves with the seasons comes to mind. Resolutions and interior work in the winter, first efforts in the spring, relaxed outer work in the summer, aiming for harvesting in the autumn. (and yes, this could even apply in california with its conveniently neutral seasons ;P)

Seems that working 'in-tune' with the larger cycles around us would sort-of 'streamline' our efforts - a little like swimming with the current instead of against it.

Permalink Reply by Peter on January 17, 2013 at 5:16am


Perhaps there is a clue in something you wrote recently in the Sacred Texts forum, "Theosophy teaches we are a soul, not that we have one."

From this we can also say, 'theosophy teaches we have a personality, not that we are the personality.'

By personality we mean the mind in conjunction with the principles of kama (desire), prana (life principle) and the physical body. So, a major task for us is to discover what we truly are and to stop identifying with what we are not. Our habits and tendencies whether so called 'good' or 'bad' are aspects of the personality. To identify with either the 'good' or the 'bad' is to lose sight of our real nature.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 17, 2013 at 11:37am

It appears that one of our first objects in the spiritual quest is to establish some critical distance from the personality.  This does not mean to disparage it or run from it but simply to be able to extract ourselves from the circumstances of life on this plane of existence and be able to look at things and one's personality more objectively.  This is a difficult process but much worthwhile for gaining clarity and calmness, we are told.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 31, 2013 at 12:02am

Di;  that is a very interesting correlation.  Could you elaborate?  How is the First Fundamental related to Religion, the second to science and the third to philosophy?  This is a fascinating correlation.

Permalink Reply by Di Kaylor on January 31, 2013 at 4:35pm

When I started studying theosophy, the three fundamental principles would be explained each week by some volunteering student and it produced such a great sense of how they could be expressed.  It made me too nervous to do it, but I always played with the three words most represented in their expressions of it. I kept a list of threesomes that represented these fundamental ideas. For religion, science and philosphy:

The first fundamental is where divinity appears, the "god idea" revisited, and the essence of religion, and so is labeled religion in this case. 

The second (labeled science) focuses mostly on nature's cycles, physical and metaphysical (reincarnation, for example), and it is easily demonstrated through science (a natural science view of the reality). 

The third (labeled philosophy) is where individual evolution comes in, rooted in karma-driven, self-devised path. What is that but philosophy and the basis for ethical behavior.

Blavatsky's triple header description of theosophy: a synthesis of science, religion and philosophy fits so nicely (as a good way to remember them for beginners). 

I've always sensed the order of the principles had a sense of priority, and certainly this threesome doesn't fit as neatly for many people who seem to say that science or Nature holds a place before religion, but I don't really see that if your definition of religion matches Blavatsky's (as religion itself, not a religion).  If science appeals to you as "Law" and the primary fundamental, then my "categorization" doesn't really work as well.  But creation takes place in the first and so I think religion is an appropriate description. The ideas begin to overlap and run into each other any way you look at it.  They can't be separated so easily as we have managed to separate the three disciplines. 

Would you say the first fundamental is more like science or religion? 

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 1, 2013 at 3:07am

What a good idea, Di.  I don't think it matters if other people don't see our threesome in quite the same way, so long as what we come up with makes sense and brings the three fundamentals alive in ourselves.  

I think, like you, I would link the second to science.  I might link the first to philosophy on the basis that, for me, speculating on that which is beyond the range and reach of thought is deeply philosophical and metaphysical.  The third fundamental evokes for me the notion of a spiritual path and practice, so I would link that to religion.  But I don't have any sense that this is the correct way to link them.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 1, 2013 at 3:28pm

Like you said earlier Peter, there is no right or wrong way to make these correlations. In fact I think you could link each fundamental with a key idea from Philosophy, Science and Religion.  In other words it might be interesting to state the three fundamental in terms of Religion, then start over and do it in regards to Philosophy.  That sort of thing.  Could you take a stab at that?

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 3, 2013 at 2:00am

Gerry asksL ...it might be interesting to state the three fundamental in terms of Religion, then start over and do it in regards to Philosophy.  That sort of thing.  Could you take a stab at that?


If you asked me this again to tomorrow I may well give a different answer.  But here goes...

1. The origin of all life.
2. motion
3. Evolution

1. What is Existence?
2. The nature of change.
3. development of 'the soul' and the 'self idea'

1. That which is both Being and non-Being
2. beginningless and endless series of manifestation
3. The Pilgrim's progress.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 3, 2013 at 1:41pm


These are excellent and thought provoking.  Thank you kindly.  I wonder if others might give it a shot as well?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 1, 2013 at 3:13pm


These correlations are good.  They give us hooking points to start conceptualizing the ideas. (Ironically the first fundamental is beyond conceptualization).  But it helps train our minds and builds in flexibility.  I have heard the threesomes over the years too.

God, Law, Nature

Absolute, Cycles, Evolution

Divinity, Periodicity, Man


Do you have others to share?

Permalink Reply by Di Kaylor on February 1, 2013 at 5:00pm

It's been too long to find them easily but I think I may like to build it up again.  I'll put some thought to it. You have given me an excellent start, with your examples.

Permalink Reply by Di Kaylor on February 4, 2013 at 7:10am

You inspired me to do the other exercise of recreating my list of threesomes, each representing a set of words describing the 3 fundamentals. I came up with the following, but then also a similar set that is more like applying the fundamentals to sets of words that describe something else. 

(BTW, I love to see your list and try to think of these from a different perspective.)








Now for the fun:








Generosity/patience/ethical harmony (virtues)


Ideation/perspective/expression (art)






This is where you beg me to stop <G>

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 16, 2013 at 12:43am

No begging needed.

How about God, Law and Being.


The Absolute, Cycles, Evolution.

Permalink Reply by Sharisse on January 9, 2013 at 10:47pm

Constant renewal! How I view it now, since I'm just learning and only going by my own experiences, death can mean many things and not a 'catastrophic end of the world' type view some seem to have. If my thought, or even my love of something dies, it is only replaced with a new thought or a new way of loving, not the end just renewed, change is love. If we did not embrace this constant ebb and flow, we would not see the new growth, and some could view it as stagnant water, but inside this stagnant water, life is still blooming. Sure it might be bacteria or parasites and could make the view murkier, yet it is still life, and that life inside the stagnant water will eventually change again. Or in the words of Bob Marley "Why do you look so sad and foresaken, Don't you know when one door is closed, Don't you know many more is open?"


Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 16, 2013 at 11:57pm

What does it mean to renew oneself? How is that related to cycles?

Permalink Reply by Sharisse on January 17, 2013 at 10:22pm

To me, it can mean a few things. Mostly its mental, and death and rebirth to thoughts and views is usualy consistent and a cycle in itself (like letting go). The thoughts and views are usually replaced with new ones after reflecting, (hopefully ones that give you a new outlook) and since I have no idea how to get past my mind as of yet, this is one way of renewing oneself. Regenerating is another, I have not yet figured out how to regenerate new limbs as of yet, but my muscle tissue seems to grow back, so far. And thats a cycle as the old tissue dies the new tissue grows after rest.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 10, 2013 at 11:01am

How do you think the ancient notion "music of the spheres" relates to the second fundamental?  Do the cycles of nature produce a kind of ethereal music?

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on January 10, 2013 at 7:24pm

Well, I would say that 'cycles' produce all music, all objective 'sound', given that the base form of sound (or motion (and matter) of any kind) is the waveform, which is cyclic in nature.

We've also touched on this question from a different angle here, where we see the layout of the planets following the same structure as an octave. Given that the planets are in 'eternal' cyclical motion, we would seem to have each playing the role of a given 'note' in the music of the spheres.

Permalink Reply by Peter on January 12, 2013 at 3:21am

Perhaps one way to put this 2nd Fundamental principle simply is,  'Birth is not the beginning, death is not the end - whether for the life expressing itself through the smallest microbe, the human being or the largest universe.  Life is an endless becoming, alternating between cycles of activity and rest.'

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 17, 2013 at 12:41am

That encompasses a profound vision.  Well put.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 16, 2013 at 8:58pm

What is the relationship between the idea of the second fundamental and the concept of Karma?

Permalink Reply by Peter on January 17, 2013 at 6:00am

Karma is said to be the LAW of Laws.  It would seem reasonable to suggest, therefore, that the law of cycles is subject to and guided by Karma.  HPB writes:

"...it as the Ultimate Law of the Universe, the source, origin and fount of all other laws which exist throughout Nature. Karma is the unerring law which adjusts effect to cause, on the physical, mental and spiritual planes of being. As no cause remains without its due effect from greatest to least, from a cosmic disturbance down to the movement of your hand, and as like produces like, Karma is that unseen and unknown law which adjusts wisely, intelligently and equitably each effect to its cause, tracing the latter back to its producer. Though itself unknowable, its action is perceivable."  (Key to Theosophy, 201)

We normally talk about Karma in solely in reference to the moral effects generated by our actions - i.e. via our thoughts, words and deeds.  Karma is far more than this, as the above quote suggests. 

Interestingly, in Shankara's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita he places Jnana Yoga higher than Karma Yoga on the basis that only the former can bring about realisation of The Self.   Theosophy agrees with this view, for in the Key to Theosophy HPB has this to say: 

"Neither Atma nor Buddhi are ever reached by Karma, because the former is the highest aspect of Karma, its working agent of ITSELF in one aspect, and the other is unconscious on this plane."  (Key to Theosophy 135)

Once again, in the above quote the reference to Karma is to the effects brought about by the actions of the individual. 

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 17, 2013 at 11:28am

It is also interesting to note that the Voice of the Silence calls Compassion the "LAW of Laws."

It would be interesting to draw connections between the notion of compassion and karma as well.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on January 17, 2013 at 11:48am

I'm just throwing this out there for consideration, but perhaps Compassion is the name we use for the conscious experience of that LAW, and karma is the name we use for the intellectual understanding of it. (?)

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on January 17, 2013 at 10:48am

It seems to me that one of the ways to look at 'cycles' is the idea of moving from the one to the many and back to the one. In fact, this might be the underlying nature of every cycle. WQJ says, in Ocean of Theosophy that "Nature never does her work in a hasty or undue fashion, but, by the sure method of mixture, precipitation, and separation, brings about the greatest perfection."

So, if Nature moves by this process of 'separation' and 'recombination' (mixture), which is a cycle, then it would seem to me that Karma underlies the entire process, being the Law that determines that all things remains as One (in unity), even when seemingly 'separated', so that the motion of 'separating' can only go so far before the 'counter-force' of unity brings it all back together again ('balance' being essentially a property, so to speak, of Unity).

This quote from the SD (Vol 1, p 641) has always really jumped out at me in regards to the relation between Karma and Periodicity:

"There is a predestination in the geological life of our globe, as in the history, past and future, of races and nations. This is closely connected with what we call Karma and Western Pantheists, "Nemesis" and "Cycles." The law of evolution is now carrying us along the ascending arc of our cycle, when the effects will be once more re-merged into, and re-become the (now neutralized) causes, and all things affected by the former will have regained their original harmony. This will be the cycle of our special "Round," a moment in the duration of the great cycle, or the Mahayuga."

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 17, 2013 at 11:23am

So to summarize your excellent point here:  Nature maintains a unity in its diversity.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on January 17, 2013 at 11:44am

Well, yes, but with a little addition. "Nature maintains a unity in its diversity" doesn't imply that Nature also moves from one to many and back to one. So perhaps:

Nature is both unity and diversity, and seemingly alternates between them.

Permalink Reply by Casady on January 26, 2013 at 10:03am

In Ancient Greece, the Stoics adopted the Heraclitean notion of cosmic cycles. Perhaps the classic Greek expostion of the cycle of opposites notion is in Plato's Phaedo, where it plays an important part in arguing for the immortality of the soul.

At about 70a, Socrates begins by introducing the notion of generation from opposites, giving the examples of beautiful-ugly; just-unjust; larger-smaller; stronger-weaker; better-worse.  Two processes of coming to be – one from the other and the reverse - giving the examples of increasing-decreasing; separating-combining; cooling-heating; sleeping-awake; living-dying. The argument essentially focuses on the simple analogy between waking/sleeping and living/dying.

The notion of recollection provides a more specific rationale for immortality of individual souls and explains the pre-existence of the soul. The theory of ideas provides an insight on why  souls are immortal:  their recollection is of eternal principles.

The final argument adds details about the cycle of opposites. The life –death model expands to Heat-Fire – Cold- Snow (and I will assume a burning log).  It is a process involving individuals (burning log), character (Fire) and form (Heat). It is important because it offers a rationale for disembodiment. 

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on January 30, 2013 at 12:37pm

Are you trying to draw a connection between the doctrine of cycles and the immortality of the soul in Platonic thought and in Theosophy?

Permalink Reply by Casady on February 1, 2013 at 2:20pm

I hadn't really thought of it that specifically, just the general notion of the dual cycles of nature, which is very prevalent in various ancient philosophical systems. I suppose it is compatible with theosophical notions - reincarnation is a cyclical process in both philosophies and you could say that the soul is the eternal pilgrim in the cycle of incarnations in both philosophies.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 1, 2013 at 3:07pm

Most theosophists consider Plato part of the Theosophical tradition.  One of the main ideas is that all the major religious and philosophical systems can find their source in a common ancient theosophical source.  Most and many of the traditions have been distorted or trivialized and have lost the vibrancy of their original meanings.

Cycles are one way stating the second fundamental principle of the Secret Doctrine.

Please explain what you mean by the dual cycles of nature?

Permalink Reply by Casady on February 2, 2013 at 9:31am

Works for me - by dual cycles I meant the basic binary cycles - Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, that kind of thing - yin and yang... Empedocles had a binary cosmic cycle theory involving the notions of Love and Strife.