Current Theme: Gods, Monads and Atoms

The One and the Many The Secret Doctrine book i p.138-151
The Monadic Host 
SD i 174-175
The Seven Kingdoms SD i 176-179
Gods, Monads and Atoms SD i 610-634
Creative Powers SD ii 57-60
Pitris and Devas SD ii 88-90
Gods and Men SD ii 95-96
The Monad and Manas  
SD Book ii 109-110
The Seven Suns 
SD Book ii 239-241
The Mineral Monad SD Book ii 273-278
The One Life The Theosophist, 1882
Atoms and Consciousness   Lucifer, 1890
Devas and Elementals Lucifer, 1890
Swara and Manas  
Lucifer, 1890
Properties of Matter 
Lucifer, 1891
Atoms and Molecules Tranactions pages 105-111

Here are the readings we will cover this month along this theme.


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Last paragraph of the One and the Many section: SD i page 150-151

If no physical intellect is capable of counting the grains of sand covering a few miles of sea-shore; or to fathom the ultimate nature and essence of those grains, palpable and visible on the palm of the naturalist, how can any materialist limit the laws changing the conditions and being of the atoms in primordial chaos, or know anything certain about the capabilities and potency of their atoms and molecules before and after their formation into worlds? These changeless and eternal molecules—far thicker in space than the grains on the ocean shore—may differ in their constitution along the line of their planes of existence, as the soul-substance differs from its vehicle, the body. Each atom has seven planes of being or existence, we are taught; and each plane is governed by its specific laws of evolution and absorption. Ignorant of any, even approximate, chronological data from which to start in attempting to decide the age of our planet or the origin of the solar system, astronomers, geologists, and physicists are drifting with each new hypothesis farther and farther away from the shores of fact into the fathomless depths of speculative ontology.* The Law of Analogy in the plan of structure between the trans-Solar systems and the intra-Solar planets, does not necessarily bear upon the finite conditions to which every visible body is subject, in this our plane of being. In Occult Science this law is the first and most important key to Cosmic physics; but it has to be studied in its minutest details and, "to beturned seven times," before one comes to understand it. Occult philosophy is the only science that can teach it. How, then, can anyone hang the truth or the untruth of the Occultist's proposition that "the Kosmos is eternal in its unconditioned collectivity, and finite but in its conditioned manifestations" on this one-sided physical enunciation that "it is a necessity of Nature to run down?"

* The Occultists, having most perfect faith in their own exact records, astronomical and mathematical, calculate the age of Humanity, and assert that the latter (as separate sexes) has existed in this Round just 18,618,727 years, as the Brahmanical teachings and even some Hindu calendars declare.


Are Gods, Monads and Atoms corollaries of each other?


Monads are a necessary corollary of material atoms or particles. To see this, we first start by demonstrating that these atoms are infinitely divisible. There are a few philosophical proofs of this. Rene Guenon (an author hostile to Theosophy but not totally devoid of good ideas) in his Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrinesprovides a couple. He writes that the foundational error in the idea of indivisible elements lies in supposing that simple elements can exist in the corporeal order, whereas all that is bodily is necessarily composite, being always divisible from the very fact that it is extended, that is to say subject to the spatial condition; in order to find something simple or indivisible it is necessary to pass outside space, and therefore outside that special modality of manifestation which constitutes corporeal existence. If, as must be done in this instance, the word atom be taken in its true sense of "indivisible," a sense which modern physicists no longer give to it, it may be said that an atom, since it cannot have parts, must also be without area; now the sum of elements devoid of area can never form an area; if atoms fulfil their own definition, it is then impossible for them to make up bodies. To this well-known and moreover decisive chain of reasoning, another may also be added, employed by Shankarâchârya in order to refute atomism: two things can come into contact with one another either by a part of themselves or by the whole; for atoms, devoid as they are of parts, the first hypothesis is inadmissible; thus only the second hypothesis remains, which amounts to saying that the aggregation of two atoms can only be realized by their coincidence purely and simply, whence it clearly follows that two atoms when joined occupy no more space than a single atom and so forth indefinitely: so, as before, atoms, whatever their number, will never form a body. Along the same lines, we may add an argument of the Buddhist Madhyamakas: if an object takes up any space at all, then it must have eastern and western sides. These two sides are parts. Ergo, the atom which is composed of them is divisible and so on ad infinitum. HPB gives us a fourth argument in the SD which she sources to the chemist Butlerov but which was actually originally formulated by Leibniz. This is the argument from elasticity. Particles are elastic, but elasticity can pertain only to divisible bodies. Ergo particles are divisible and so are their components ad infinitum.

Seeing from this that matter could not provide a basis for anything, Leibniz postulated his monads, which are infinitesimal mind-like points. Being infinitesimal, they are also indivisible and provide the support that mere matter could not give. Reality for Leibniz is thus composed of an infinite number of these infinitely small points. All of this is outlined in his wonderful Monadology which is a very short and tightly argued text which I recommend highly. A theosophist would correct and supplement Leibniz's theory by combining it with the seemingly opposed ideas of Spinoza.

As monads are continually evolving, there must be monads that are much higher on the chain than others. These monads are in turn dwarfed by other monads. Thus we see the necessity of gods. G. de Purucker writes that all these entities, from the elementals on up to the gods, and so on forever, are vehicles expressing different phases of the long, long evolutionary journey of the monads through space and time. A god is as much such a vehicle as is a man, only far greater in spiritual quality. Similarly an elemental is a vehicle of a monad. Can we ever reach an ultimate, an absolute ending, by going deeper and deeper into the heart of the heart of the monad? Never; for its root is Infinity.


Hi Samanatha - very interesting and insightful. Thanks.

I've often wondered about the nature of awareness in that it can described and even 'experienced' as a point in space.  The interesting thing about a point, of course, is that it is essentially dimensionless and ungraspable and yet IS - as is the nature of awareness and being.


One good thought picture HPB gives us concerning the Monad is it is a ray of universal consciousness.  

How would one change one's life if this was the foundation of one's identity?


Using logical reasoning to support spiritual teachings is a distinctive feature of Eastern religions. It is a refreshing contrast to the idea that we must accept religious teachings on faith alone. Nonetheless, I do not think that Sankaracarya has succeeded in refuting the Vaisesika teaching of ultimate atoms. I do not have Rene Guenon's book, Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines, but Sankaracarya's arguments against the Vaisesika teaching can be found in hisBrahma-sutras (or Vedanta-sutras), 2.2.11 to 2.2.17. The Sankaracarya who wrote this would have us believe that ultimate atoms cannot be the cause of the world, because God is the cause of the world. Now, is it more logical to believe that eternal, non-physical ultimate atoms, without parts and without any size, can produce the world? or is it more logical to believe that God, a conscious, thinking being, can produce the world? From what I have seen, the Theosophical teachings certainly favor the former and reject the latter with their own reasoning (e.g., Mahatma letter #10).


Thanks David! While this Sankaracarya's argument is completely ineffective against the teaching of nonphysical ultimate atoms (i.e. monads), I feel it is very effective against the Vaisesika teaching of the composition of the world from a finite number of indivisible material atoms. So I think this argument remains valid in spite of this Sankaracarya's teaching of a conscious, thinking Isvara.


I also want to echo you on the application of logical reasoning to spirituality. Reading the works of philosophers in the Madhyamaka tradition (especially Tsongkhapa) as well as the Platonic tradition has really impressed on me the value of having sound cognition that can apply reason to discern the true as true, the false as false, and solidify experiential insight.


I believe it is either Plato or Plotinus who said the truth cannot be obtained until it is verified by Intuition, Reason and Experience.   We need all three.

This gives new meaning to the concept in the SD page 272 of the first volume where she talks about The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages and countless Sages over enormous eras spent their lives verifying and testing the doctrines.

 "The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where an ordinary profane, however learned, would have perceived but the external work of form. But modern science believes not in the "soul of things," and hence will reject the whole system of ancient cosmogony. It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals. That it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity. That for long ages, the "Wise Men" of the Fifth Race, of the stock saved and rescued from the last cataclysm and shifting of continents, had passed their lives in learning, not teaching. How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organisations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions—so obtained as to stand as independent evidence—of other adepts, and by centuries of experiences."

The process was very thorough and very scientific and one would assume included reason, intuition and experience.


Samantha what exactly do you understand to be Shankara's argument against the concept of monads?    HPB hails Shankara as perhaps India's greatest philosopher. That would give me cause to wonder if we understand Shankara completely on this subject before saying his argument on one thing or another is  "ineffective".  It is kind of like saying Babe Ruth cannot hit a curve ball.

So please explain a little further.  Maybe I don't understand your point yet.


Well, I don't have the Brahma Sutra commentaries in front of me, but from the argument as it is presented by Rene Guenon it seems clear to me that it is meant to refute the idea of indivisible material atoms. It is ineffective against refuting the monads (ultimate spiritual atoms) because it was not meant to be an argument against them and makes no sense in that context. Hope that clarifies things.

Also, according to David's research (link), which I find compelling, the writer who wrote the extant commentaries on the Brahma Sutra is not THE Sankaracarya but a later one who introduced the idea of a personal God into the Advaita system. The real Brahma Sutra commentaries are still withheld. This is not to say that the commentaries we have now are not full of valuable insight, just that we should be cautious in how we use them and not take them to necessarily reflect the views of the actual Sankaracarya.


That is the question: Are the ultimate atoms, taught in Vaisesika, material atoms? Jagadisha Chandra Chatterji in his helpful 1912 book,The Hindu Realism, stresses again and again that the Vaisesika atoms have no magnitude whatsoever, and are therefore like pure points. They have no length, breadth, or thickness. Can such an atom be material or physical? On the Sanskrit term used: When we check the Vaisesika texts, we see that he is speaking of mahattva, not parimana, both of which have been translated as "magnitude" by different translators.

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Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 24, 2014 at 12:03pm

I think it is very hard to think away from conventional notions we have all gathered from our respective educations.  Atoms in the world of material science  has always been presented as discreet bodies or forms.  The sub atomic particles blew that out of the water and the divisions just keep getting more and more abstract.

What is crucial here, I believe, is what does the Secret Doctrine say about this? What is the view of Esoteric Science?  It is of secondary consequence what one school of thought or another might say.  Although interesting it is far more important to develop a conceptual framework that moves us closer to the Original Idea.

I wonder then if the notion that a Monad is a 'ray of universal consciousness', is of value when we look at atoms.  Perhaps Gods, Monads, and Atoms are all rays of universal consciousness at different stages of self-realization.

Permalink Reply by Samantha Province on April 24, 2014 at 2:08pm

This goes back to the point I raised earlier about Leibniz and Spinoza. HPB writes, "It may be correctly stated that were Leibnitz’ and Spinoza’s systems reconciled, the essence and Spirit of esoteric philosophy would be made to appear. From the shock of the two — as opposed to the Cartesian system — emerge the truths of the Archaic doctrine" (SD 1 628-9) Conceiving of monads as rays of universal consciousness is a very succinct way of getting at this. Leibniz's monads thus appear as Spinoza's pantheistic deity in subjective differentiation and at different stages of evolution, some of which from our relative perspective could be called "gods."

I think studying various schools of thought is important insofar as they agree with and illuminate the teachings of Esoteric Science. HPB gives us general proofs and outlines but points to other sources for a fuller illumination of this or that particular point. So by reading Leibniz we better understand the philosophical necessity of monads. By reading Spinoza we understand through reasoning why nature is identical with deity. Reading Baron d'Holbach allows us to free our minds from the grip of illogical supernaturalist notions. All of this helps us build a strong, robust, and rational conceptual framework that loosens the shackles of the arid and incomplete conventional notions of the universe that we are taught in school.

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 25, 2014 at 12:41pm

Gerry writes: I wonder then if the notion that a Monad is a 'ray of universal consciousness', is of value when we look at atoms.  Perhaps Gods, Monads, and Atoms are all rays of universal consciousness at different stages of self-realization.


'Again," God, Monad, and Atom are the correspondences of Spirit, Mind, and Body (Atma, Manas, and Sthula Sarira) in man." '

HPB quoting the Esoteric Catechism in SD I 619

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 29, 2014 at 4:01pm

This is an interesting idea Gerry but you might be stretching the concept of self-realization a bit far.  Mineral monads will not participate in self-consciousness for a very very long time so we might want to preserve the idea of self-realization for levels at the Man stage and higher.  Mineral monads have self-consciousness only in potentia.

Permalink Reply by Samantha Province on April 24, 2014 at 2:15pm

While there is certainly an element of truth in this conception and it corresponds in a sense to the monads, it still falls victim to the reductio ad absurdum of the Sankaracarya who wrote the Brahma Sutra commentaries. From my understanding of the Vaisesika school, all material objects are held to be finitely divisible. They can only be divided so far before they resolve into the ultimate atoms, which because of this have to be physical in a sense. These atomic points are held to bring about larger objects by conjunction. We then arrive back at the question: what constitutes the conjunction of these atoms? Is it with the whole of themselves or part of themselves? If it is with the whole, then size can not accumulate. If it is with a part, then they are divisible. As Leibniz writes, "a point is not a definite part of matter, and an infinity of points gathered into one would not make extension" (Garber, Monads, Bodies, and Corporeal Substances 361).

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 24, 2014 at 2:42pm

I agree wholeheartedly that it is helpful to study and understand various schools of thought like Leibnitz and Spinoza.  These people are giants and pathfinders. No argument there at all.

But I think it is important to remember what HPB says about "The Secret Doctrine".  It is sui generis, of its own kind.  And that is because we are aiming at reality here and not various points of view.  For this reason the question ought to be, what part of the Esoteric Science is revealed by Spinoza or Plato or Hegel.  But it is not necessary for the Esoteric Science, (The Secret Doctrine) to square with any exoteric system.  That is where the sui generis part comes in. 

I am saying the order of business here is crucial.

Permalink Reply by Samantha Province on April 24, 2014 at 3:22pm

Well put. I completely agree. :) Its necessary to keep to the Esoteric Science as given by the Mahatmas and their emissaries as our measuring stick when evaluating any school so as not to get caught up in unproductive speculation.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on April 25, 2014 at 6:07am

Theosophy is indeed sui generis, of its own kind; but Blavatsky says that she only gave out a very small part of the whole system. Does Theosophy accept eternal ultimate atoms? According to the Mahatma Morya, it does; but we are given very little information about them. This is where the teachings on eternal ultimate atoms preserved in the ancient Indian Vaisesika school, and their criticisms by writers such as Sankaracarya, can be very instructive.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on April 25, 2014 at 5:49am

As I understand it, the Theosophical teaching of the infinite divisibility of the atom means that at some point in the process of division a subtler plane is reached, and then another, and then another. In the cosmogonic process taught in Theosophy, the number one cannot manifest, nor can two, but it is only with three that manifestation can occur. If Sankaracarya's criticism is valid, that the whole (sarvatman) of an ultimate atom (paramanu) combined with another whole of an ultimate atom cannot accumulate to produce anything, then the Theosophical teaching on cosmogony is also negated.

This particular criticism of the Vaisesika position by Sankaracarya was also given by the Jaina writer Prabhacandra and by the Buddhist writer Santaraksita. It is only one of several criticisms given by Sankaracarya, and is found near the end of his commentary on Brahma-sutra or Vedanta-sutra 2.2.12. The rest are given from 2.2.11 to 2.2.17. George Thibaut's English translation of the Vedanta Sutras with the commentary of Sankara, from the Sacred Books of the East series, is undoubtedly online somewhere now. Prior to these Vaisesika criticisms, Sankara extensively criticizes the Samkhya view, and after these, he criticizes the Buddhist view.

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 25, 2014 at 6:39am

David, it’s an interesting topic - thanks.  As I’m sure you know,  the Vaisesika school reduces the Universe to six categories (a seventh was added later), the first of which is Substance (Dravya).  This ‘Substance’  can’t really be defined as mere material nature - in the sense we understand it -  since it includes spiritual substance within itself.  The nine types of Substance (Dravya) are:  Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether, Time, Space (akasa), spirit (Atman) and mind (Manas).  We might wonder to what extent the Substance of the Vaisesika school corresponds in it’s essence with Mulaprakriti as defined in Theosophy.

Sankara’s refutes the claim of the Samkhya school that Prakriti (Substance) is the causeless cause of the Universe coming into being. Sankara argues, in part, that insentient matter cannot be a cause of manifestation.  That cause must come from an Intelligent Principle i.e. Brahman.

Sankara goes on to refute the Vaisesika school claim that atoms are the cause of all objects in the world.  His argument, in part, is that part-less atoms (i.e. without magnitude) cannot combine to produce by their union a substance having magnitude.  This may be true as far as strict materiality is concerned, however, it’s interesting to note what HPB writes about Atoms her article ‘Psychic and Noetic Action.’

‘Occultism regards every atom as an “independent entity” and every cell as a “conscious unit.”  It explains that no sooner do such atoms group to form cells, than the latter become endowed with consciousness, each of its own kind, and with free will to act within the limits of the law.”  (see CW XII 365)

Vaisesika is one of the six schools of Hinduism which HPB believes all express the same truth underneath the exoteric gloss, so we would be wise not to too easily accept Sankara’s dismissal of the validity of this schools teaching. I believe this fits with your own caution here.

Permalink Reply by Samantha Province on April 25, 2014 at 9:13am

Thanks again David! In my understanding of infinite divisibility as taught in Theosophy, not only are there infinite planes but there are also infinite levels of each particle on its own plane.

So I understand the ultimate atoms of theosophy to be essentially identical to the monads of Leibniz and to constitute the subjective side of the universe: purusha in differentiation. Thus while there is a lot of truth in the Vaisesika conception and it does correspond in a sense to the ultimate atoms of Theosophy, it goes astray (at least in its exoteric sense) in conceiving of these ultimate atoms as the objective material from which larger things are made. I think it is quite telling that criticisms of Vaisesika of this nature are offered not only by Advaita but also by Madhyamika and Jainism. I also do not think Theosophical cosmology is akin to the Vaisesika conception of the aggregation of paramanus and thus don't think it falls victim to the arguments against it.

Permalink Reply by Jacques on April 26, 2014 at 5:05am

Attached is a summary of the Vaisesika position, written by a modern hindou physicist.


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Permalink Reply by David Reigle on April 26, 2014 at 11:44am

Thanks, Peter, for finding and posting this helpful Blavatsky quote from CW XII 365. It points to the Theosophical teaching that atoms are alive, but not necessarily conscious, and that consciousness occurs when they group together to form cells. Recognizing that consciousness is a very broad term with many variations of meaning, it is still the case that here is the big difference between the Theosophical teachings and those of the Advaita Vedanta now known. The absolute brahman in Advaita Vedanta is conscious, while the absolute taught by the Theosophical Mahatmas is not.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on April 26, 2014 at 12:08pm

I much appreciate your replies, Samantha, which really get to the issues involved. Thanks for posting them.

It may be that the Vaisesika ultimate atoms are also essentially identical to the monads of Leibniz. I do not accept that the Vaisesika ultimate atoms are objective material, largely because they do not go out of manifestation when the cosmos does.

As for criticisms of the Vaisesika position by Sankara and by a Jaina writer and by a Buddhist writer, we find that, since the Indian religions use reasoning, everyone criticizes everyone. Thus, Sankara's Advaita Vedanta is criticized by the Buddhists for holding an unchanging brahman that is responsible for the world, which according to Buddhism could not produce anything if it is unchanging. Likewise, Sankara's Advaita Vedanta is criticized by Jainas for being one-sided; for not acknowledging the reality of the changing world when it acknowledges only the one unchanging brahman. Sankara's Advaita Vedanta is even criticized by the other Hindu schools of Vedanta, for its maya doctrine. Almost any doctrine that has been around long enough will have refutations by the other schools of Indian thought.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on April 26, 2014 at 1:04pm

Thanks, Jacques, for posting this article on Vaisesika by a modern Hindu physicist. We find much interest in trying to correlate modern science with ancient Indian thought. These attempts, of course, start from the standpoint of modern science, which accepts the existence of atomic particles in physical matter. Personally speaking, I doubt whether the Vaisesika writers when speaking of ultimate atoms were dealing with physical matter, since almost all of Indian philosophical thought was directed primarily toward planes beyond the physical.

Also, this article will need to be re-written. It is not possible to speak authoritatively about the Vaisesika position on the basis of the Vaisesika-sutras as commented on by Sankara-misra, and on the basis of his late commentary. In 1957 and in 1961 Vaisesika texts were published that changed or revolutionized Vaisesika studies, much like the Dead Sea Scrolls did for Old Testament studies, and the Nag Hammadi Library did for Gnostic studies.

It was long known that the Vaisesikas-sutras as we have them from Sankara-misra often did not match Vaisesika-sutras quoted by earlier writers such as Sankaracarya. In 1957 the Vaisesika-sutras along with an anonymous commentary were published by Anantalal Thakur, which included much improved readings of the sutras. Then in 1961 the Vaisesika-sutras were published by Muni Jambuvijaya with the commentary by Candrananda. One of the manuscripts used for this edition gave the sutras separately, as well as being repeated in the commentary, again with much improved readings. So from 1961 onward, anyone working with the Vaisesika-sutras would be expected to use these superior editions.

For example, in the present article, the author says on p. 8 and repeats on p. 9 that the word paramanu (ultimate atom) is not found in the Vaisesika-sutras. This is true for the received text with the Sankara-misra commentary. But the word paramanu is found in Vaisesika-sutra 4.1.7 in the new edition with Candrananda's commentary.

The anonymous commentary published in 1957 turns out to be an abbreviated version of a much larger commentary by Bhatta Vadindra, of which the first two chapters were published in 1985 by Anantalal Thakur. Although none of these texts have been translated into English, any scholar working with Vaisesika would have to consult the Sanskrit anyway.

We still do not have the early commentaries on the Vaisesika-sutras that are known to have once existed. But these intermediate-age commentaries are quite superior to the late commentary by Sankara-misra, who tells us that he had to interpret the sutras on his own, without help from earlier commentaries. It is not possible to say that Vaisesika teaches such and such, without cognizance of these facts.

An English translation accompanies an edition of the newly published Vaisesika-sutras in the book by Anantalal Thakur, Origin and Development of the Vaisesika System, which is cited in the bibliography of this article. Thakur does not call attention to the fact that his is a new edition, and this could easily be missed. Also, one would not know from the title of the book that a Sanskrit edition and English translation of the Vaisesika-sutras is included in it. It is quite the most definitive edition and translation of the Vaisesika-sutras now in existence.

Permalink Reply by Samantha Province on April 26, 2014 at 1:33pm

Thanks David! The feeling is mutual; your writing is always insightful.

My issue is that I can not make sense of the Vaisesika claim that that the world is finitely divisible and resolves into the paramanus if the paramanus are not objectively physical.
If they are not objective material entities then I can not see how they can provide the "base" at which the infinite regress stops. From my own understanding, this is directly contrary to the anti-atomistic teaching of Theosophy that extended material objects can be divided infinitely.

I think it should also be pointed out that the Vaisesika argument for finite divisibility (that one could build a mountain out of the infinitely divided pieces of a pebble) is based on an incorrect conception of infinity: Georg Cantor proved that some infinities ("transfinites") are larger than others. But perhaps there is an esoteric interpretation of Vaisesika teaching that does not fall into this error.

While various Indian spiritual schools have expended a great deal of energy logically refuting each other, Advaita Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism are generally agreed to be the schools that most closely mirror Theosophy, even exoterically. When they come together in refutation of a rival school, I think that is very relevant for the student of Theosophy.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on April 28, 2014 at 6:09pm

Samantha, I do not see the Theosophical teaching of the infinite divisibility of the atom as being anti-atomistic. Theosophy does have a teaching of ultimate atoms. To me, it is ONLY if the Vaisesika paramanus are not objectively physical that they can provide the "base" at which the infinite regress stops.

It so happens that in recent months I have been researching the Vaisesika position, and preparing a lengthy post for the Book of Dzyan blog. The parallels with the Theosophical teaching are too lengthy to be gone into here. With apologies, I must ask you to wait until I can spell these out more fully in that post. It seems that the infinite regress does have to stop somewhere, at least from our perspective, and that somewhere is on the seventh or highest plane taught in Theosophy. Moreover, this extends even into pralaya.

Like you, I think that we should take the teachings of Advaita Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism seriously, especially when they agree with each other. Yet they both refute, for example, the fundamental Theosophical teaching that substance is eternal. So they are not always reliable pointers toward the Theosophical teachings.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 29, 2014 at 11:34pm

Again this is where the Maya principle comes into play.  There is nothing discreet ultimately.  What appears discreet is only due to the limitations of the Perceiver.  Life works from within without, from the metaphysical to the physical, from thought to form.  Ultimately the domain of the Logos is formless and timeless. Mind has the capacity to create form, to summon an illusory or temporary body so to speak.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 29, 2014 at 11:41pm

Is the teaching telling us, broadly speaking that there are seven planes and seven sub divisions within each plane and seven subdivisions of these sub planes on ad infinitum?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 30, 2014 at 10:45am

David;  to  your point concerning the various Indian Schools of thought and the arguments in one direction and another.  In the field I work in,horticulture, we love to argue.   Does this plant grow here or not, is it good in full sun or not, will it survive in clay soil or not. And on and on.  With the seemingly endless number of microclimates and the huge variety of plants the debates never end.  I realized after a while that all this "fighting" wasn't bitter at all but rather part of the process of discovery and the exercise in looking at things from lots of different angles.

The Indian schools and their constant debates are really a good thing, in the end, because it develops flexibility of thought and the ability to shift perspectives.

Theosophy is ultimately the synthesis of the schools, we are told and esoteric and it is excellent exercise to look at things through the various vantage points of the schools.

I have always loved this quote from The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi:

"Although we must be prepared to visualize Absolute Truth, in practice we must ever regard truth not as a cast-iron dogma, a final statement or a fixed formula, but rather as a many-sided, evolving and dynamic dialectic."

I think when we exercise the mind in the ways that you are recommending eventually it becomes supple enough to allow the Light of Buddhi to stream through and we experience the thing we contemplate.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on May 2, 2014 at 8:39pm

Gerry, I thought your examples from the field of horticulture were very appropriate. Such arguing can indeed be a process of discovery. It is the opponents of a position who are most helpful in clarifying it, and I have often found them more interesting than the exponents of the position itself.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on May 7, 2014 at 4:49pm

The lengthy post on Vaisesika that I mentioned has now been made, on the Book of Dzyan blog (, or It is titled: "Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vaiśeṣika System." Its first paragraph is as follows:

The Vaiśeṣika system, one of the six Hindu darśanas(worldviews or schools of philosophy), is not known for its cosmogony. It is known as an ancient Indian system of atomism. The cosmogony it has is the manifestation and dissolution of the four great elements (mahā-bhūta) that form the world (earth, water, fire, and air), and these are made up of ultimate atoms (paramāṇu). Here we find one of its most interesting teachings. Its ultimate atoms, which are apparently not atoms of physical matter, do not dissolve when the cosmos dissolves, but rather remain in a dissociated state. Such an idea has recently been brought to the attention of some modern scientists when the present Dalai Lama spoke of it at the Mind-Life Conferences. In these dialogues, he presented a Buddhist view of cosmogony, including empty ultimate atoms that remain when the cosmos goes out of manifestation.1 This idea comes from the Buddhist Kālacakra system, without cognizance of its parallel and possible origin in the more ancient Vaiśeṣika system. Such an idea is apparently also found in the allegedly even more ancient “Book of Dzyan,” according to a phrase from a commentary on it brought out by H. P. Blavatsky in 1888. She writes of “MOTION, which, during the periods of Rest ‘pulsates and thrills through every slumbering atom’ (Commentary on Dzyan)” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 116).

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 29, 2014 at 11:24pm

It is important to keep in mind the 4th Item of Cosmogony on page 274 of the first book:  "The Universe is called, with everything in it, Maya, because all is temporary therein, from the ephemeral life of the fire-fly to that of the Sun."

You might say one of the qualities of Maya is not only to make some temporary appear everlasting but also for a form or body to appear discreet when in fact there is more empty space than form.  It all depends upon the Observer and the vehicles of perception.

Therefore everything with a form is mayavic.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 19, 2014 at 3:18pm

The sevenfold constitution holds true at all levels and planes of existence.  Gods. Monads and Atoms is an illustration of the point.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 2, 2014 at 5:27pm

18,618,727 years

Has anybody run into the Hindu calendars or Brahmanical teachings she points to  here in the foot note?

Permalink Reply by Jacques on April 3, 2014 at 3:36am

Here is a study from David & Co linking this number to Hindu texts : The Tiru-Ganita-Pachanga Data

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 9, 2014 at 11:16pm

Thank you kindly Jacques.  Could you share a thought or two that you gained from this reference for those of us who have not read all of it?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 3, 2014 at 3:38pm

The Monadic Host  SD book i  page 174-5

The Monadic Host may be roughly divided into three great classes:—

1. The most developed Monads (the Lunar Gods or "Spirits," called, in India, the Pitris), whose function it is to pass in the first Round through the whole triple cycle of the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms in their most ethereal, filmy, and rudimentary forms, in order to clothe themselves in, and assimilate, the nature of the newly formed chain. They are those who first reach the human form (if there can be any form in the realm of the almost subjective) on Globe A in the first Round. It is they, therefore, who lead and represent the human element during the second and third Rounds, and finally evolve their shadows at the beginning of the Fourth Round for the second class, or those who come behind them.

2. Those Monads that are the first to reach the human stage during the three and a half Rounds, and to become men.*

3. The laggards; the Monads which are retarded, and which will not reach, by reason of Karmic impediments, the human stage at all during this cycle or Round, save one exception which will be spoken of elsewhere as already promised.

Now the evolution of the external form or body round the astral is produced by the terrestrial forces, just as in the case of the lower kingdoms; but the evolution of the internal or real MAN is purely spiritual. It is now no more a passage of the impersonal Monad through many and various forms of matter—endowed at best with instinct and consciousness on quite a different plane—as in the case of external evolution, but a journey of the "pilgrim-soul" through various states of not only matter but Self-consciousness and self-perception, or of perception from apperception. (See "Gods, Monads and Atoms.")

The MONAD emerges from its state of spiritual and intellectual unconsciousness; and, skipping the first two planes —too near the ABSOLUTE to permit of any correlation with anything on a lower plane—it gets direct into the plane of Mentality. But there is no plane in the whole universe with a wider margin, or a wider field of action in its almost endless gradations of perceptive and apperceptive qualities, than this plane, which has in its turn an appropriate smaller plane for every "form," from the "mineral" monad up to the time when that monad blossoms forth by evolution into the DIVINE MONAD. But all the time it is still one and the same Monad, differing only in its incarnations, throughout its ever succeeding cycles of partial or total obscuration of spirit, or the partial or total obscuration of matter—two polar antitheses—as it ascends into the realms of mental spirituality, or descends into the depths of materiality.

* We are forced to use here the misleading word "Men," and this is a clear proof of how little any European language is adapted to express these subtle distinctions.
It stands to reason that these "Men" did not resemble the men of to-day, either in form or nature. Why then, it may be asked, call them "Men" at all? Because there is no other term in any Western language which approximately conveys the idea intended. The word "Men" at least indicates that these beings were "MANUS," thinking entities, however they differed in form and intellection from ourselves. But in reality they were, in respect of spirituality and intellection, rather "gods" than "Men."
The same difficulty of language is met with in describing the "stages" through which the Monad passes. Metaphysically speaking, it is of course an absurdity to talk of the "development" of a Monad, or to say that it becomes "Man." But any attempt to preserve metaphysical accuracy of language in the use of such a tongue as the English would necessitate at least three extra volumes of this work, and would entail an amount of verbal repetition which would be wearisome in the extreme. It stands to reason that a MONAD cannot either progress or develop, or even be affected by the changes of states it passes through. It is not of this world or plane, and may be compared only to an indestructible star of divine light and fire, thrown down on to our Earth as a plank of salvation for the personalities in which it indwells. It is for the latter to cling to it; and thus partaking of its divine nature, obtain immortality. Left to itself the Monad will cling to no one; but, like the "plank," be drifted away to another incarnation by the unresting current of evolution.

Permalink Reply by Ryan Hauck on April 4, 2014 at 7:16am

"It is not of this world or plane, and may be compared only to an indestructible star of divine light and fire, thrown down on to our Earth as a plank of salvation for the personalities in which it indwells"

I am wondering what exactly the Monad "saves"? What is the nature of these personalities? Does the Divine Monad grant immortality to a particular personality through its incarnations? Would Jesus be an example of this? 

Permalink Reply by barbaram on April 6, 2014 at 6:41pm

The subject is very abstruse and I do not know the answer.  The materials of our personalities are made of life-atoms and the monad is supposedly "enwrapping itself in its own emanations" with these sheaths on the journey of descent to ascent.  Some could view this process as spiritualizing matter.  I imagine Jesus would be an example of taking the pilgrimage of descent to uplift humanity. 

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 8, 2014 at 7:49am

"What does the Monad save?"

Grimm, we’ve been looking at this in our study group on THE KEY.  Here is an extract from something I wrote there which hopefully goes a little way to answering your question.  The reference below is to the relationship between Buddhi and the personality.  Atma-Buddhi is the human monad:


Our spiritual perceptions, inclinations, intuitions, aspirations etc all have their source not in the sensory or phenomenal world around us but from the spiritual or noumenal essence within us.  It is with our physical eye that we see the physical sun, and it is with our spiritual ‘I’ that we perceive something of the spiritual sun.  It is only the ideation which flows from the latter and illumines the personal consciousness that can lift both our vision and our hearts.  As HPB puts it:

'No noble thought, no grand aspiration, desire, or divine immortal love, can come into the brain of the man of clay and settle there, except as a direct emanation from the higher to, and through, the lower Ego; all the rest, intellectual as it may seem, proceeds from the “shadow,” the lower mind, in its association and commingling with Kāma, and passes away and disappears forever. But the mental and spiritual ideations of the personal “I” return to it, as parts of the Ego’s essence, and can never fade out. Thus of the personality that was, only its spiritual experiences, the memory of all that is good and noble, with the consciousness of its “I,” blended with that of all the other personal “I’s” that preceded it––survive and become immortal.”' (CW XII 627)

In another place in her writings HPB refers to this as Buddhi absorbing its own waters back into itself:

 “Buddhi” per se can have neither self-consciousness nor mind; viz., the sixth principle in man can preserve an essence of personal self-consciousness or “personal individuality” only by absorbing within itself its own waters, which have run through that finite faculty..  (CW IV 581 from “The Septenary Principle in Esotericism”)

(From:  )

Permalink Reply by Ryan Hauck on April 8, 2014 at 5:29pm

So in other words its saves nothing, only recognizes what always was and is, and shall forever continue to be. 

What is the of the Divine if FOREVER, not made so through any means then the nature of the Supreme. 

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 9, 2014 at 2:35pm

It saves the personal consciousness through which the 'waters' of Buddhi have flowed during the life time.  Hence HPB's statement in the passage Gerry has quoted above:

"It [the Monad] is not of this world or plane, and may be compared only to an indestructible star of divine light and fire, thrown down on to our Earth as a plank of salvation for the personalities in which it indwells. It is for the latter to cling to it; and thus partaking of its divine nature, obtain immortality."

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 9, 2014 at 11:20pm

Concerning the Monad 'saving' idea.  I wonder if what we are talking about is Soul Memories so to speak.  HPB tells us that the higher Individuality is practically omniscient.  In other words it has very little to save per se.  Therefore what is happening is the awakening of soul memories.

Plato:  " All learning is recollection."  Our experiences on the material plane have the capacity, when viewed in the right way to awaken deep soul memories that are lost to the personal consciousness.

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 10, 2014 at 11:11am

Gerry, there's two ways (at least) that we might understand Plato's statement that 'All learning is recollection'.  

Our individual intuition is a form of recollection from all the accumulated experiences the Reincarnating Ego has gathered ("saved") over its many, many lives.  

At the Cosmic level the Dhyani Chohans similarly carry over the accumulated experience from previous cycles or manvantaras.  These, perhaps, become the innate ideas or divine thought of the new manvantara.

This 'saving' and 'carrying forward'  appears to operate in both macrocosm and microcosm.

Permalink Reply by Samantha Province on April 10, 2014 at 1:46pm

The great Platonist Thomas Taylor teaches us that "recollection" does not ultimately derive from partial or sensible things. It comes rather from the soul's inherent knowledge of all things, as deriving from direct perception of the Forms which is ontologically prior to immersion in the body.

When the soul therefore has recovered her pristine perfection in as great a degree as is possible, while she is an inhabitant of earth by the exercise of the cathartic and theoretic virtues, she returns after death, as he says in the Timæus, to her kindred star from which she fell, and enjoys a blessed life. Then too, as he says in the Phædrus, being winged, she governs the world in conjunction with the gods. And this indeed is the most beautiful end of her labours. This is what he calls in the Phædo, a great contest, and a mighty hope. This is the most perfect fruit of philosophy to familiarize and lead her back to things truly beautiful, to liberate her from this terrene abode as from a certain subterranean cavern of material life, elevate her to ethereal splendours, and place her in the islands of the blessed.

From this account of the human soul, that most important Platonic dogma necessarily follows, that our soul essentially contains all knowledge, and that whatever knowledge she acquires in the present life, is in reality nothing more than a recovery of what she once possessed. This recovery is very properly called by Plato reminiscence, not as being attended with actual recollection in the present life, but as being an actual repossession of what the soul had lost through her oblivious union with the body. Alluding to this essential knowledge of the soul, which discipline evocates from its dormant retreats, Plato says, in the Sophista, "that we know all things as in a dream, and are again ignorant of them, according to vigilant perception." Hence too, as Proclus well observes, it is evident that the soul does not collect her knowledge from sensibles, nor from things partial and divisible discover the whole and The One. For it is not proper to think that things which have in no respect a real subsistence, should be the leading causes of knowledge to the soul; and that things which oppose each other and are ambiguous, should precede science which has a sameness of subsistence; nor that things which are variously mutable should be generative of reasons which are established in unity; nor that things indefinite should be the causes of definite intelligence. It is not fit, therefore, that the truth of things eternal should be received from the many, nor the discrimination of universals from sensibles, nor a judgment respecting what is good from irrational natures; but it is requisite, that the soul entering within herself, should investigate in herself the true and The Good, and the eternal reasons of things.

All knowledge is thus in a very real sense intuitive.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 11, 2014 at 5:57am

What a beautiful passage from Taylor, Samantha.  Many thanks.  I also enjoyed your recent post on Monads - great stuff.

Do you have any thoughts on Grimm's question, above - what exactly does the Monad save?

Permalink Reply by Samantha Province on April 11, 2014 at 6:35pm

Thanks! :) I've been working through Taylor's edition of Plato for a little bit and I am continually amazed by the depth and profundity of his insights. He's truly wonderful.

As for how and what the monad saves, it seems to me from the passage that the monad is more or less identical with the thread soul. It is the individuality, as opposed to the personality. The personality can only be rescued from drowning by clinging to the plank of the monad. It is only able to cling to this plank by cultivating spiritual virtues upon it. This recalls to mind a passage from St. Paul. "Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NKJV). If nothing spiritual has been cultivated and all there is of the personality is "wood, hay, straw," all of that will be burnt up; nothing of that particular personality remains. But even that is not the end, for as HPB writes, "left to itself the Monad will cling to no one; but, like the 'plank,' be drifted away to another incarnation by the unresting current of evolution."

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 28, 2014 at 5:40pm

Yes this defies conventional ideas about education.  "The blank slate that must be filled model" sounds puny in comparison to the all-wise Immortal Soul, whose wisdom is blocked by the separative consciousness.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 18, 2014 at 10:56am

Your comment reminds me of the First Item of Cosmogony in her summing up of the first volume when she calls the Secret Doctrine, "the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages".   The very notion seems to connect with your points on saving and carrying forward.

It seems we are the inheritors of a great wealth yet are unaware of it. We live like paupers yet have the wealth of kings at our disposal.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 19, 2014 at 3:22pm

What is the relationship between recollection and realization?  Are they essentially the same process or different?

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 19, 2014 at 3:21pm

When we talk about development of a Monad are we talking about the degree to which the light of the Atman can flow through all the vestures and levels?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 6, 2014 at 9:01pm

From the Section called The Seven Kingdoms  SD book i page177

Therefore it becomes evident why that which is pertinently called in Esoteric Buddhism "Wave of Evolution," and mineral-, vegetable-, animal- and man-"impulse," stops at the door of our Globe, at its Fourth cycle or Round. It is at this point that the Cosmic Monad (Buddhi) will be wedded to and become the vehicle of the Atmic Ray, i.e., it (Buddhi) will awaken to an apperception of it (Atman); and thus enter on the first step of a new septenary ladder of evolution, which will lead it eventually to the tenth (counting from the lowest upwards) of the Sephirothal tree, the Crown.

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. Thus, corresponding to the Sephirothal Crown (or upper triad) there are the three elemental Kingdoms, which precede the Mineral (see diagram on p. 277 in Five Years of Theosophy), and which, using the language of the Kabalists, answer in the Cosmic differentiation to the worlds of Form and Matter from the Super-Spiritual to the Archetypal.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 9, 2014 at 10:49pm

From the Section: Gods, Monads and Atoms  pages 611-612

It is only by acting on such lines that some of the truths, now called "exploded superstitions," will be discovered to be facts and the relics of ancient knowledge and wisdom.

One of such "degrading" beliefs—in the opinion of the all-denying sceptic—is found in the idea that Kosmos, besides its objective planetary inhabitants, its humanities in other inhabited worlds, is full of invisible, intelligent Existences. The so-called Arch-Angels, Angels and Spirits, of the West, copies of their prototypes, the Dhyan-Chohans, the Devas and Pitris, of the East, are no real Beings but fictions. On this point Materialistic Science is inexorable. To support its position, it upsets its own axiomatic law of uniformity in the laws of nature, that of continuity, and all the logical sequence of analogies in the evolution of being. The masses of the profane are asked, and made, to believe that the accumulated testimony of History, which shows even the Atheists of old—such as Epicurus and Democritus—believing in gods, was false; and that philosophers like Socrates and Plato, asserting their existence, were mistaken enthusiasts and fools. If we hold our opinions merely on historical grounds, on the authority of legions of the most eminent Sages, Neo-Platonists, Mystics of all the ages, from Pythagoras down to the eminent Scientists and Professors of the present century, who, if they reject "gods," believe in "spirits," shall we consider such authorities as weak-minded and foolish as any Roman Catholic peasant, who believes in and prays to his once human Saint, or the Archangel, St. Michael? But is there no difference between the belief of the peasant and that of the Western heirs to the Rosicrucians and Alchemists of the Middle Ages? Is it the Van Helmonts, the Khunraths, the Paracelsuses and Agrippas, from Roger Bacon down to St. Germain, who were all blind enthusiasts, hysteriacs or cheats, or is it the handful of modern sceptics—the "leaders of thought"—who are struck with the cecity of negation? The latter, we opine. It would be a miracle indeed, quite an abnormal fact in the realm of probabilities and logic, were that handful of negators to be the sole custodians of truth, while the million-strong hosts of believers in gods, angels, and spirits—in Europe and America alone—namely, Greek and Latin Christians, Theosophists, Spiritualists, Mystics, etc., etc., should be no better than deluded fanatics and hallucinated mediums, and often no higher than the victims of deceivers and impostors! However varying in their external presentations and dogmas, beliefs in the Hosts of invisible Intelligences of various grades have all the same foundation. Truth and error are mixed in all. The exact extent, depth, breadth, and length of the mysteries of Nature are to be found only in Eastern esoteric sciences. So vast and so profound are these that hardly a few, a very few of the highest Initiates—those whose very existence is known but to a small number of Adepts—are capable of assimilating the knowledge. Yet it is all there, and one by one facts and processes in Nature's workshops are permitted to find their way into the exact Sciences, while mysterious help is given to rare individuals in unravelling its arcana. It is at the close of great Cycles, in connection with racial development, that such events generally take place. We are at the very close of the cycle of 5,000 years of the present Aryan Kaliyuga; and between this time and 1897 there will be a large rent made in the Veil of Nature, and materialistic science will receive a death-blow.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 19, 2014 at 3:26pm

Is there anyone in the scientific community that acknowledges a hierarchy of intelligence above and below man other than the fundamentalists that leap to the personal god notion? Are those intelligences above man none other than "manasas" from previous manvantara and therefore also "man"?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 11, 2014 at 7:25pm

Continuing on with the long section called "Gods, Monads and Atoms" SD book i page 613

Whatever ignorance, pride or fanaticism may suggest to the contrary, Esoteric Cosmology can be shown inseparably connected with both philosophy and modern science. The gods of the ancients, the monads—from Pythagoras down to Leibnitz—and the atoms of the present materialistic schools (as borrowed by them from the theories of the old Greek Atomists) are only a compound unit, or a graduated unity like the human frame, which begins with body and ends with spirit. In the occult sciences they can be studied separately, but never mastered unless viewed in their mutual correlations during their life-cycle, and as a Universal Unity during Pralayas.

La Pluche shows sincerity, but gives a poor idea of his philosophical capacities when declaring his personal views on the Monad or the Mathematical Point. "A point," he says, "is enough to put all the schools in the world in a combustion. But what need has man to know that point, since the creation of such a small being is beyond his power? A fortiori, philosophy acts against probability when, from that point which absorbs and disconcerts all her meditations, she presumes to pass on to the generation of the world. . . ."

Philosophy, however, could never have formed its conception of a logical, universal, and absolute Deity if it had no Mathematical Point within the Circle to base its speculations upon. It is only the manifested Point, lost to our senses after its pregenetic appearance in the infinitude and incognizability of the Circle, that made a reconciliation between philosophy and theology possible—on condition that the latter should abandon its crude materialistic dogmas. And it is because it has so unwisely rejected the Pythagorean Monad and geometrical figures, that Christian theology has evolved its self-created human and personal God, the monstrous Head from whence flow in two streams the dogmas of Salvation and Damnation. This is so true that even those clergymen who would be philosophers and who were masons, have, in their arbitrary interpretations, fathered upon the ancient sages the queer idea that "the Monad represented (with them) the throne of the Omnipotent Deity, placed in the centre of the Empyrean to indicate T.G.A.O.T.U." *—read "the Great Architect of the Universe." A curious explanation this, more Masonic than strictly Pythagorean.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 14, 2014 at 10:51pm

Next Paragraph from the Gods, Monads and Atoms section page 613-614

Nor did the "hierogram within a Circle, or equilateral 
ever mean "the exemplification of the unity of the divine Essence"; for this was exemplified by the plane of the boundless Circle. What it really meant was the triune co-equal Nature of the first differentiated Substance, or the con-substantiality of the (manifested) Spirit, matter and the Universe—their "Son," who proceeds from the Point (the real, esoteric LOGOS) or the Pythagorean MONAD. For the Greek Monas signifies "Unity" in its primary sense. Those unable to seize the difference between the monad—the Universal Unit—and the Monads or the manifested Unity, as also between the ever-hidden and the revealed LOGOS or the Word, ought never to meddle in philosophy, let alone the Esoteric Sciences. It is needless to remind the educated reader of Kant's Thesis to demonstrate his second Antinomy.* Those who have read and understood it will see clearly the line we draw between the absolutely Ideal Universe and the invisible though manifested Kosmos. Our Gods and Monads are not the Elements of extension itself, but only those of the invisible reality which is the basis of the manifested Kosmos. Neither esoteric philosophy, nor Kant, nor Leibnitz would ever admit that extension can be composed of simple or unextended parts. But theologian-philosophers will not grasp this. The Circle and the Point, which latter retires into and merges with the former, after having emanated the first three points and connected them with lines, thus forming the first noumenal basis of the Second Triangle in the Manifested World, have ever been an insuperable obstacle to theological flights into dogmatic Empyreans. On the authority of this Archaic Symbol, a male, personal god, the Creator and Father of all, becomes a third-rate emanation, the Sephiroth standing fourth in descent, and on the left hand of En-Soph (see the Kabalistic Tree of Life). Hence, the Monad is degraded into a Vehicle—a "throne"!

The Monad—only the emanation and reflection of the Point (Logos) in the phenomenal World—becomes, as the apex of the manifested equilateral triangle, the "Father." The left side or line is the Duad, the "Mother," regarded as the evil, counteracting principle (Plutarch, De Placitis Placitorum); the right side represents the Son ("his Mother's husband" in every Cosmogony, as one with the apex); at the basic line is the Universal plane of productive Nature, unifying on the phenomenal plane Father-Mother-Son, as these were unified in the apex, in the supersensuous World. † By mystic transmutation they became the Quaternary—the triangle became the TETRAKTIS.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 18, 2014 at 10:50am

From the Gods, Monads and Atoms selection (which is quite long) book i page 616

It consists of ten points inscribed pyramid-like (from one to the last four) within its three lines, and it symbolizes the Universe in the famous Pythagorean Decad. The upper single dot is a Monad, and represents a Unit-Point, which is the Unity from whence all proceeds, and all is of the same essence with it. While the ten dots within the triangle represent the phenomenal world, the three sides of the equilateral triangle which enclose the pyramid of dots are the barriers of noumenal Matter, or Substance, that separate it from the world of Thought. "Pythagoras considered a point to correspond in proportion to unity; a line to 2; a superficies to 3; a solid to 4; and he defined a point as a Monad having position, and the beginning of all things; a line was thought to correspond with duality, because it was produced by the first motion from indivisible nature, and formed the junction of two points. A superficies was compared to the number three because it is the first of all causes that are found in figures; for a circle, which is the principal of all round figures, comprises a triad, in centre—space—circumference. But a triangle, which is the first of all rectilineal figures, is included in a ternary, and receives its form according to that number; and was considered by the Pythagoreans to be the creator of all sublunary things. The four points at the base of the Pythagorean triangle correspond with a solid or cube, which combines the principles of length, breadth, and thickness, for no solid can have less than four extreme boundary points." (Pythag. Triangle, p. 19.)

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 23, 2014 at 11:39am

From the Selection called: Creative Powers    SD book ii  page 60

Finally Brahmâ assumed his last form pervaded by the quality of foulness, "and from this MEN, in whom foulness and passion predominate, were produced." This body when cast off became the dawn, or morning twilight — the twilight of Humanity. Here Brahmâ stands esoterically for the Pitris. He is collectively the Pitar, "father."

The true esoteric meaning of this allegory must now be explained. Brahmâ here symbolizes personally the collective creators of the World and Men — the universe with all its numberless productions of things movable and (seemingly) immovable.* He is collectively the Prajâpatis, the Lords of Being; and the four bodies typify the four classes of creative powers or Dhyan Chohans, described in the Commentary directly following Stanza VII. in Book I. The whole philosophy of the so-called "Creation" of the good and evil in this world and of the whole cycle of Manvantaric results therefrom, hangs on the correct comprehension of these Four bodies of Brahmâ.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 25, 2014 at 11:40pm

From the Section Pitris and Devas  SD book ii page 90

We could multiply our proofs ad infinitum, but it is useless. The wise will understand our meaning, the unwise are not required to. There are thirty-three crores, or 330 millions, of gods in India. But, as remarked by the learned lecturer on the Bhagavad Gitâ, "they may be all devas, but are by no means all 'gods', in the high spiritual sense one attributes to the term." "This is an unfortunate blunder," he remarks, "generally committed by Europeans. Deva is a kind of spiritual being, and because the same word is used in ordinary parlance to mean god, it by no means follows that we have to worship thirty-three crores of gods." And he adds suggestively: "These beings, as may be naturally inferred have a certain affinity with one of the three component Upadhis (basic principles) into which we have divided man."—(Vide Theosophist, Feb., 1887, et seq.)

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 27, 2014 at 5:13am

David, I've had to put this reply at the end of the threads as there is no facility to reply under your original post.  You wrote:

". . . it is still the case that here is the big difference between the Theosophical teachings and those of the Advaita Vedanta now known. The absolute brahman in Advaita Vedanta is conscious, while the absolute taught by the Theosophical Mahatmas is not."

Yes, there are also some big differences between Buddhism along with other spiritual traditions and the Theosophical teachings.

With regards to Advaita - there are plenty of flowery descriptions of Brahman in the Upanishads and the Advaitin commentaries which give the impression you refer to, i.e that Brahman is an agent which thinks, desires or is conscious.  There are also descriptions that state the opposite.  Importantly, how would your statement about the Absolute, Advaita and Theosophy fit in with the following statement by the Mahatma KH?

“ . . . We are not Adwaitees, but our teaching respecting the one life is identical with that of the Adwaitee with regard to Parabrahm. ”  (Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett, no.10)

ps:  Both HPB and the Mahatmas refer to a "para-parabrahmam", which may or may not throw some light on this question.


Permalink Reply by David Reigle on April 28, 2014 at 3:21pm

Regarding: “. . . We are not Adwaitees, but our teaching respecting the one life is identical with that of the Adwaitee with regard to Parabrahm.” (Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett, no.10)

My understanding is that, insofar as both accept the one life as the sole reality, the teachings are the same. This is what the Theosophical movement wished to emphasize. When we go on to specifics, whether this one life is eternal absolute consciousness or not, differences emerge. These were laid out by Blavatsky in her comments on T. Subba Row's article, "The Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principle in Man," Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 3, pp. 422-423, note IV. There she says why the Arhat system cannot accept an absolute consciousness, as is taught in Advaita Vedanta. E.g.:

"Buddhist rationalism was ever too alive to the insuperable difficulty of admitting one absolute consciousness, as in the words of Flint—'wherever there is consciousness there is relation, and wherever there is relation there is dualism.' . . . Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on cosmogony admits but of one absolute, indestructible, eternal, and uncreated UNCONSCIOUSNESS (so to translate), of an element (the word being used for want of a better term) absolutely independent of everything else in the universe; . . ."

Further, it seems that the Mahatmas and their chelas often took for granted the esoteric understanding of Advaita Vedanta rather than how it is understood exoterically. Thus, Subba Row argued vehemently with the Advaita Vedantin Almora Swami that Advaita Vedanta teaches that matter is eternal. I do not know of Advaita Vedantins other than Subba Row who would accept this. Considerable detail about these things is provided in my article, "Confusing the Esoteric with the Exoteric: T. Subba Row on Advaita Vedanta." (

From the Mahatmas we have important statements giving what Advaita Vedanta really teaches. This would be what it originally taught, which has now become esoteric. Some of these statements are:

Mahatma K.H. to A. O. Hume: "In the first [letter] you notify me of your intention of studying Advaita Philosophy with a 'good old Swami'. The man, no doubt, is very good; but from what I gather in your letter, if he teaches you anything you say to me, i.e., anything save an impersonal, non-thinking and non-intelligent Principle they call Parabrahm, then he will not be teaching you the true spirit of that philosophy, not from its esoteric aspect, at any rate." (Letters from the Masters of the the Wisdom, First Series, no. 30)

Mahatma K.H. to A. O. Hume: "Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute immutable law, and Iswar is the effect of Avidya and Maya, ignorance based on the great delusion." (Mahatma letter no. 10)

A Hindu Adept: "Moreover, I assert that the Parabrahm of the Vedantins and the 'Adi-Buddha' of the northern Buddhists are identical. Both are Abstract Principles, or non-entities; . . ." ("A Mental Puzzle," signed, "One of the Hindu founders of the parent Theosophical Society. Tiruvallam Hills," published in The Theosophist, vol. 3, June 1882, Supplement, p. 7)

However, according to the single most authoritative source by the founder of the Advaita Vedanta school, Sankaracarya's commentary on the Brahma-sutras, all these statements by the Mahatmas about Parabrahman are fully contradicted. There, Parabrahman isabsolute consciousness, is thinking, is intelligent, is God (isvara), and is an entity. So when the Mahatma K.H. says that "our teaching respecting the one life is identical with that of the Adwaitee with regard to Parabrahm," he apparently means only that both accept the one life as the sole reality, or else he is taking Parabrahman as understood in the original Advaita Vedanta teachings, which are now esoteric.

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 30, 2014 at 4:34am

David, thanks for the reply, which has given me a better understanding of your line of thought. My own view is similar in some respects to your own.  My understanding is that the Absolute of Theosophy is not strictly identical to the Parabrahm of the Advaitees, although the two have much in common. I conceive of the difference as largely based on the role of Mulaprakriti which is an aspect of the Absolute in Theosophy but not in Advaita.    I don’t believe Theosophy rejects the idea of an Absolute Consciousness, which you appear to suggest in your post.  

As you rightly point out, in her article, "The Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principle in Man,” HPB refutes the absolute consciousness as taught in Advaita Vedanta on the basis of – “…’wherever there is consciousness there is relation, and wherever there is relation there is dualism.' . . . Hence, the Arahat secret doctrine on cosmogony admits but of one absolute, indestructible, eternal, and uncreated UNCONSCIOUSNESS (so to translate), of an element (the word being used for want of a better term) absolutely independent of everything else in the universe; . . .”.  

However, the ABC of fundamentals in the Advaita teaching is that Parabrahm IS indeed non-dual and non-relational, usually expressed along the lines of ‘it is One Alone, with nothing for It to know and no one to know It.’   So, in this respect both the Advaitee and HPB are in agreement.   We might also note that in the Key to Theosophy a challenge - put there by HPB - is made to her own definition of the Absolute as “UNCONSCIOUSNESS”:

    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 Thought itself. Nor does it exist, for the same reason, as it is absolute existence, and Be-ness, not a Being.

(Key to Theosophy p64, emphasis added)

If we accept HPB’s definition that “in philosophy absolute unconsciousness is also absolute consciousness”, then the Theosophical definition of the Absolute now appears to be identical to that of the Advaitee in so far as that definition entails an Absolute Consciousness which is non-dual and non-relational.

We also see in the above passage from The KEY that HPB believes it is possible to attribute Omniscience and Thought to the Theosophical Absolute providing that we don’t mistake this as meaning that the Absolute is a Being which thinks or is involved in thinking.  Sankara makes a similar statement with regards to the definition of the Absolute Brahman as ‘satyam, jñānam, anantam’ (‘Brahman is Truth, Knowledge and Infinity’).  In his commentary on the Taittiriya Upanishad Sankara states that when it comes to definitions of Brahman we must not mistake abstract nouns for their verbs, for to do so turns the thing discussed into an agent or doer of some kind - something which Brahman is not.  He explains:

“…Brahman is jñānam. Jñāna means knowledge, consciousness.  The world jñāna conveys the abstract noun of the verb (jñā, to know); and being an attribute of Brahman along with truth and infinitude, it does not indicate the agent of knowing. If Brahman be the agent of knowing, [then] truth and infinity cannot justly be attributed to it. For, as the agent of knowing, It becomes changeful; and, as such, how can It be true and infinite?  That, indeed, is infinite which is not separated from anything.  If it be the agent of knowing, It becomes delimited by the knowable and knowledge, and hence there cannot be infinitude, in accordance with the Vedic text:  “The Infinite is that where one does not understand anything else.  Hence, the finite is that where one understands something else.’ (Ch. VII.xxiv.1)  

… From  Sankara’s commentary on Taittiriya Unpanishad II.i.1 (Trans. Gambhirananda)

It’s true that there are many reference to Isvara (Brahman as it appears to empirical consciousness) as a personal God in Advaita, which has become a source of worship even though Isvara is also taught to be impermanent and illusory.  However, it’s also important not to lose sight of the kind of statements about the Absolute made by Sankara above, whose words couldn’t be more similar to those of the Mahatma KH in Letter No. 10:

“We are not Adwaitees, but our teaching respecting the one life is identical with that of the Adwaitee with regard to Parabrahm. . . . . We deny the existence of a thinking conscious God, on the grounds that such a God must either be conditioned, limited and subject to change, therefore not infinite..” (ML no.10, Barker Edition)

With regards to the One Life of Theosophy and Absolute Consciousness we find the following in the Secret Doctrine:

“It is the ONE LIFE, eternal, invisible, yet Omnipresent, without beginning or end, yet periodical in its regular manifestations, between which periods reigns the dark mystery of non-Being; unconscious, yet absolute Consciousness…”   SD I: 2

In the Secret Doctrine there are other links between the Absolute of Theosophy as Absolute Consciousness.  For example, the First Fundamental Proposition of the SD describes the Absolute as:

“Parabrahm (the One Reality, the Absolute) is the field of Absolute Consciousness,i.e., that Essence which is out of all relation to conditioned existence, and of which conscious existence is a conditioned symbol. But once that we pass in thought from this (to us) Absolute Negation, duality supervenes in the contrast of Spirit (or consciousness) and Matter, Subject and Object.”  (SD I: 14)

In the Mahatma Letters, we find a reference to “Absolute consciousness” as para-nirvana (see Letter 16, note 5, Barker Ed.).

In the Key to Theosophy, HPB describes the Absolute as:

“ABSOLUTE CONSCIOUSNESS or Deity for ever invisible and unknowable . . . though it eludes for ever our human finite conception, is still universal Spirit-matter or matter-Spirit in its absolute infinitude.. “ (P100)

While there is an Absolute Consciousness in both Theosophy and Advaita, it is this very issue of IT being “universal Spirit-matter or matter-Spirit” that distinguishes Theosophy from traditional Advaita - unless, perhaps, we can see a correspondence between Mulaprakriti (root-substance) and the creative Maya of the Advaita system.  For in the Theosophical system there is no such thing as Consciousness completely independent of Matter, or Matter completely independent of Consciousness.  Both of these, in their essence, are aspects of the Absolute.  As the Secret Doctrine states:

“Spirit (or Consciousness) and Matter are, however, to be regarded, not as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute (Parabrahm), which constitute the basis of conditioned Being whether subjective or objective.  Considering this metaphysical triad as the Root from which proceeds all manifestation, the great Breath assumes the character of precosmic Ideation. It is thefons et origo of force and of all individual consciousness, and supplies the guiding intelligence in the vast scheme of cosmic Evolution. On the other hand, precosmic root-substance (Mulaprakriti) is that aspect of the Absolute which underlies all the objective planes of Nature.”

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 30, 2014 at 7:37am

ps:  I meant to say in my post above that there are plenty of places in the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras commentaries of Sankara where his principle of differentiating abstract nouns from their verbs (so as not to imply Brahman is an agent) appears to fall by the wayside in a big way! Whether, in these cases, we should accept the teaching as literally given or whether we should read between the lines and apply the above principle may well be a matter of debate with no universal agreement.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on May 1, 2014 at 9:08pm

Thanks, Peter, for your well-considered reply. I think there can be no doubt that Theosophy accepts Absolute Consciousness as equivalent to Unconsciousness, and I almost added that to my post. But it may have been beneficent that I did not, since you have now assembled for us an excellent array of Theosophical sources on Absolute Consciousness.

Thank you also for bringing in the fundamental quote on brahman from the Taittirya Upanisad. It is quite possible that the commentary on this by Sankaracarya, that you quoted, is by the original Sankaracarya. I say this, not only because of the content of what you quoted from it, but also because this content exactly matches what is said in the Taittirya-Upanisad-Bhasya-Varttika by Sankaracarya’s disciple Suresvara.

At the same time, this content differs dramatically from what is said in Sankaracarya’s Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya, apparently by a later Sankaracarya, especially on 1.1.2. There he says that there can be no other source of the world than an omniscient (sarvajna), omnipotent (sarvasakti) brahman, who he calls God (isvara). It is this content that has become dominant in Advaita Vedanta as known and practiced in India today.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 27, 2014 at 5:05pm

SD book i page 21

Some important words from HPB on Monads:  Italics are my own.

Stanza III. describes the Re-awakening of the Universe to life after Pralaya. It depicts the emergence of the "Monads" from their state of absorption within the ONE; the earliest and highest stage in the formation of "Worlds," the term Monad being one which may apply equally to the vastest Solar System or the tiniest atom.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on April 28, 2014 at 3:37pm

Thanks for picking this out, Gerry. I agree that it is very important. It explains a lot, showing that monad and atom can be synonymous.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 28, 2014 at 5:26pm

It is one of those extremely mysterious concepts in the Secret Doctrine which defies boundaries and dares us to think big.  It seems to be the basic building block of the evolutionary and involutionary scheme and mysterious key to identity. It makes me think of the Blake poem:

To see World in a Grain of Sand

And Heaven in a Wild Flower.

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 27, 2014 at 5:22pm

From the Section called: Gods and Men  SD ii page 95-96

Each class of Creators endows man with what it has to give: the one builds his external form; the other gives him its essence, which later on becomes the Human Higher Self owing to the personal exertion of the individual; but they could not make men as they were themselves — perfect, because sinless; sinless, because having only the first, pale shadowy outlines of attributes, and these all perfect — from the human standpoint — white, pure and cold as the virgin snow. Where there is no struggle, there is no merit. Humanity, "of the Earth earthy," was not destined to be created by the angels of the first divine Breath: therefore they are said to have refused to do so, and man had to be formed by more material creators,* who, in their turn, could give only what they had in their own natures, and no more. Subservient to eternal law, the pure gods could only project out of themselves shadowy men, a little less ethereal and spiritual, less divine and perfect than themselves — shadows still. The first humanity, therefore, was a pale copy of its progenitors; too material, even in its ethereality, to be a hierarchy of gods; too spiritual and pure to be MEN, endowed as it is with every negative (Nirguna) perfection. Perfection, to be fully such, must be born out of imperfection, the incorruptible must grow out of the corruptible, having the latter as its vehicle and basis and contrast. Absolute light is absolute darkness, and vice versa. In fact, there is neither light nor darkness in the realms of truth. Good and Evil are twins, the progeny of Space and Time, under the sway of Maya. Separate them, by cutting off one from the other, and they will both die. Neither exists per se, since each has to be generated and created out of the other, in order to come into being; both must be known and appreciated before becoming objects of perception, hence, in mortal mind, they must be divided.

* In spite of all efforts to the contrary, Christian theology — having burdened itself with the Hebrew esoteric account of the creation of man, which is understood literally — cannot find any reasonable excuse for its "God, the Creator," who produces a man devoid of mind and sense; nor can it justify the punishment following an act, for which Adam and Eve might plead non compos. For if the couple is admitted to be ignorant of good and evil before the eating of the forbidden fruit, how could it be expected to know that disobedience was evil? If primeval man was meant to remain a half-witted, or rather witless, being, then his creation was aimless and even cruel, if produced by an omnipotent and perfect God. But Adam and Eve are shown, even in Genesis, to be created by a class of lower divine Beings, the Elohim, who are so jealous of their personal prerogatives as reasonable and intelligent creatures, that they will not allow man to become "as one of us." This is plain, even from the dead-letter meaning of the Bible. The Gnostics, then, were right in regarding the Jewish God as belonging to a class of lower, material and not very holy denizens of the invisible World.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 28, 2014 at 5:30pm

From the Section: The Monad and Manas SD book ii page 109-110

This fire is the higher Self, the Spiritual Ego, or that which is eternally reincarnating under the influence of its lower personal Selves, changing with every re-birth, full of Tanha or desire to live. It is a strange law of Nature that, on this plane, the higher (Spiritual) Nature should be, so to say, in bondage to the lower. Unless the Ego takes refuge in the Atman, the ALL-SPIRIT, and merges entirely into the essence thereof, the personal Ego may goad it to the bitter end. This cannot be thoroughly understood unless the student makes himself familiar with the mystery of evolution, which proceeds on triple lines — spiritual, psychic and physical.

That which propels towards, and forces evolution, i.e., compels the growth and development of Man towards perfection, is (a) the MONAD, or that which acts in it unconsciously through a force inherent in itself; and (b) the lower astral body or the personal SELF. The former, whether imprisoned in a vegetable or an animal body, is endowed with, is indeed itself, that force. Owing to its identity with the ALL-FORCE, which, as said, is inherent in the Monad, it is all-potent on the Arupa, or formless plane. On our plane, its essence being too pure, it remains all-potential, but individually becomes inactive: e.g., the rays of the Sun, which contribute to the growth of vegetation, do not select this or that plant to shine upon. Uproot the plant and transfer it to a piece of soil where the sunbeam cannot reach it, and the latter will not follow it. So with the Atman: unless the higher Self or EGO gravitates towards its Sun — the Monad — the lower Ego, or personal Self, will have the upper hand in every case. For it is this Ego, with its fierce Selfishness and animal desire to live a Senseless life (Tanha), which is "the maker of the tabernacle," as Buddha calls it in Dhammapada (153 and 154). Hence the expression, "the Spirits of the Earth clothed the shadows and expanded them." To these "Spirits" belong temporarily the human astral selves; and it is they who give, or build, the physical tabernacle of man, for the Monad and its conscious principle, Manas, to dwell in. But the "Solar" Lhas, Spirits, warm them, the shadows. This is physically and literally true; metaphysically, or on the psychic and spiritual plane, it is equally true that the Atman alone warms the inner man; i.e., it enlightens it with the ray of divine life and alone is able to impart to the inner man, or the reincarnating Ego, its immortality. Thus, as we shall find, for the first three and a half Root-Races, up to the middle or turning point, it is the astral shadows of the "progenitors," the lunar Pitris, which are the formative powers in the Races, and which build and gradually force the evolution of the physical form towards perfection — this, at the cost of a proportionate loss of spirituality. Then, from the turning point, it is the Higher Ego, or incarnating principle, the nous or Mind, which reigns over the animal Ego, and rules it whenever it is not carried down by the latter. In short, Spirituality is on its ascending arc, and the animal or physical impedes it from steadily progressing on the path of its evolution only when the selfishness of the personality has so strongly infected the real inner man with its lethal virus, that the upward attraction has lost all its power on the thinking reasonable man. In sober truth, vice and wickedness are an abnormal, unnatural manifestation, at this period of our human evolution — at least they ought to be so. The fact that mankind was never more selfish and vicious than it is now, civilized nations having succeeded in making of the first an ethical characteristic, of the second an art, is an additional proof of the exceptional nature of the phenomenon.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on April 29, 2014 at 11:45pm