Here are the readings for this month.

Current Theme: Space

Absolute Unity

The Secret Doctrine book i p.9-11

The Causeless Cause

SD i 35-36

Illusion and Reality

SD i 38-41

Being and Non-Being

SD i 44-47

Svabhavat and Sat

SD i 60-61

Light and Darkness

SD i 68-72


SD i 77-81

Ideation and Substance

SD i 325-339


SD  i 342-349

The Dimensions of Space

The Theosophist, April and May 1886

The Universal Aether

Lucifer, August 1893

Laya—The Zero Point

Transactions  pages 1-7


Transactions  pages 118-120

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

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From the First Section:  Absolute Unity  The Secret Doctrine book i p.9-11

The Occultists are, therefore, at one with the Adwaita Vedantin philosophers as to the above tenet. They show the impossibility of accepting on philosophical grounds the idea of the absolute ALL creating or even evolving the "Golden Egg," into which it is said to enter in order to transform itself into Brahmâ — the Creator, who expands himself later into gods and all the visible Universe. They say that Absolute Unity cannot pass to infinity; for infinity presupposes the limitless extension of something, and the duration of that "something"; and the One All is like Space — which is its only mental and physical representation on this Earth, or our plane of existence — neither an object of, nor a subject to, perception. If one could suppose the Eternal Infinite All, the Omnipresent Unity, instead of being in Eternity, becoming through periodical manifestation a manifold Universe or a multiple personality, that Unity would cease to be one. Locke's idea that "pure Space is capable of neither resistance nor Motion" — is incorrect. Space is neither a "limitless void," nor a "conditioned fulness," but both: being, on the plane of absolute abstraction, the ever-incognisable Deity, which is void only to finite minds,* and on that of mayavic perception, the Plenum, the absolute Container of all that is, whether manifested or unmanifested: it is, therefore, that ABSOLUTE ALL. There is no difference between the Christian Apostle's "In Him we live and move and have our being," and the Hindu Rishi's "The Universe lives in, proceeds from, and will return to, Brahma (Brahmâ)": for Brahma (neuter), the unmanifested, is that Universe in abscondito, and Brahmâ, the manifested, is the Logos, made male-female * in the symbolical orthodox dogmas. The God of the Apostle-Initiate and of the Rishi being both the Unseen and the Visible SPACE. Space is called in the esoteric symbolism "the Seven-Skinned Eternal Mother-Father." It is composed from its undifferentiated to its differentiated surface of seven layers.

* The very names of the two chief deities, Brahmâ and Vishnu, ought to have long ago suggested their esoteric meanings. For the root of one, Brahmam, or Brahm, is derived by some from the word Brih, "to grow" or "to expand" (see Calcutta Review, vol. lxvi., p. 14); and of the other, Vishnu, from the root Vis, "to pervade," to enter in the nature of the essence; Brahmâ-Vishnu being this infinite SPACE, of which the gods, the Rishis, the Manus, and all in this universe are simply the potencies, Vibhutayah.


When we project thought outward, to the farthest extreme, does it always end in the vault of a sphere? something of an egg perhaps?  Is this passage making a distinction between this sphere idea and what stands behind and beyond it?


Curious by how you visualize "projecting thought outward"? 

From my understanding, we share in ONE MIND, which is extended from the Eternal Mind of God. We share in all thoughts, in all idea's because of the true nature of mind. 


Yes but unless you have reached some level of consciousness that allows it, most of us  see our consciousness centered in our body, and to be even more specific our heads.  It takes a meditative effort to break out of the tropism.  There is a Buddhist meditation that talks about this very idea.  To close your eyes and send your compassion to everyone and thing within the building you are in, the city you are in, the province you are in, the country you are in, the hemisphere you are in, the planet you are on etc. etc.  I think what Grace is asking is when we do this why does our energy of thought extend out in the shape of a sphere.  It is an interesting question to me.  Is not the sphere the first form in space?


Grace,  HPB gives a description of your idea of projection in the Secret Doctrine:

“The simile of an egg also expresses the fact taught in Occultism that the primordial form of everything manifested, from atom to globe, from man to angel, is spheroidal, the sphere having been with all nations the emblem of eternity and infinity-a serpent swallowing its tail. To realize the meaning, however, the sphere must be thought of as seen from its centre. The field of vision or of thought is like a sphere whose radii proceed from one's self in every direction, and extend out into space, opening up boundless vistas all around. It is the symbolical circle of Pascal and the Kabalists, “whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere,” a conception which enters into the compound idea of this emblem.”

SD I 65

Perhaps we could say that awareness, in the sense of 'be-ing' is both a point in space and that space itself.  As a point it is dimensionless and ungraspable.  As space it is boundless in the sense that we cannot find its beginning nor its end.  Could we say about awareness that it is 'neither a "limitless void," nor a "conditioned fulness," but both'  to use HPB's description from Gerry's passage above?


“whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere,”

This is no doubt a seed thought for meditation.


Thank you very kindly.  It seems the critical concept is wrapped up in the conundrum of what is inside and what is outside?  This speaks to the mystery and illusion of identity.  HPB makes the point somewhere that there is no "outside".  Most of us identify with our bodies so that most everything is seen as outside.  It is an interesting problem to wrestle with.


From the Section: The Causeless Cause                 SD i 35-36


The "Parent Space" is the eternal, ever present cause of all — the incomprehensible DEITY, whose "invisible robes" are the mystic root of all matter, and of the Universe. Space is the one eternal thing that we can most easily imagine, immovable in its abstraction and uninfluenced by either the presence or absence in it of an objective Universe. It is without dimension, in every sense, and self-existent. Spirit is the first differentiation from THAT, the causeless cause of both Spirit and Matter. It is, as taught in the esoteric catechism, neither limitless void, nor conditioned fulness, but both. It was and ever will be. (See Proem pp. 2 et seq.)

Thus, the "Robes" stand for the noumenon of undifferentiated Cosmic Matter. It is not matter as we know it, but the spiritual essence of matter, and is co-eternal and even one with Space in its abstract sense. Root-nature is also the source of the subtile invisible properties in visible matter. It is the Soul, so to say, of the ONE infinite Spirit. The Hindus call it Mulaprakriti, and say that it is the primordial substance, which is the basis of the Upadhi or vehicle of every phenomenon, whether physical, mental or psychic. It is the source from which Akâsa radiates.


From the Section: Illusion and Reality                   SD i 38-41

Maya or illusion is an element which enters into all finite things, for everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute, reality, since the appearance which the hidden noumenon assumes for any observer depends upon his power of cognition. To the untrained eye of the savage, a painting is at first an unmeaning confusion of streaks and daubs of color, while an educated eye sees instantly a face or a landscape. Nothing is permanent except the one hidden absolute existence which contains in itself the noumena of all realities. The existences belonging to every plane of being, up to the highest Dhyan-Chohans, are, in degree, of the nature of shadows cast by a magic lantern on a colourless screen; but all things are relatively real, for the cogniser is also a reflection, and the things cognised are therefore as real to him as himself. Whatever reality things possess must be looked for in them before or after they have passed like a flash through the material world; but we cannot cognise any such existence directly, so long as we have sense-instruments which bring only material existence into the field of our consciousness. Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities. As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached "reality;" but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya.


What is the relationship between Space and maya or illusion?


We need to bring the mind into the equation when we talk about illusion or maya.   Since our sense of space changes, it is very different in dreams as opposed to in waking consciousness,   I would think the space that we know it is related and depends on the different levels of our consciousness. 


Perhaps this leads to questions about Form and Formlessness.   Usually when we think of Space we think of it related to form.  But what would formless or dimensionless space "look like" conceptually?   We might say that anything with a form is mayavic.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on August 1, 2014 at 6:52pm

I think this is one of those fundamental questions that can lead us down many "rabbit holes" and can really bring us to some core ideas. It's a very interesting subject to investigate. I'll trace out a couple of ideas that I've been working with lately. Would love for others to provide feedback or further thoughts.

Of interest at the outset is a definition HPB gives for maya: "the cosmic power which renders phenomenal existence and the perceptions thereof possible." (Theosophical Glossary)

So HPB explains maya as a "power". If we look at the SD I:292-93 we see the fundamental Saktis, or "powers" listed (note that on p. 292 HPB equates "Sakti" with "Mahamaya"). There, HPB says that these Saktis "are those of the six Hierarchies of Dhyan Chohans synthesized by their Primary, the seventh, who personify the Fifth Principle of Cosmic Nature [Mahat or Maha-Buddhi], or of the "Mother" in its Mystical Sense."

"The earliest manifested Logos [Mahat or Maha-Buddhi again] was female everywhere—the mother of the seven planetary powers." (SD I:72)

So from this Fifth Principle of Cosmic Nature would seem to come that "cosmic power which renders phenomenal existence and the perceptions thereof possible," or Maha Maya:

"Mahâ Mâyâ (Sk.). The great illusion of manifestation. This universe, and all in it in their mutual relation, is called the great Illusion or Mahâmâyâ. It is also the usual title given to Gautama the Buddha’s Immaculate Mother—Mayâdêvi, or the “Great Mystery”, as she is called by the Mystics." (Theosophical Glossary)

In man, the microcosm, the six Saktis seem to basically represent the sub-principles of Buddhi. It's then interesting to look at the Vedanta system of principles (see SD I:157). Notice that each of the five names there are "mayas": the Anandamayakosha, for instance, or we might say: the kosha (sheath or vesture) rendered by the power of bliss (?), or the Manomaya kosha, the kosha rendered by the power of manas (?), and so on.

So perhaps we may begin to get a sense of Maya as fundamentally relating to the power that "renders", which means "to cause something to be in a specified condition", or theosophically we might say: to cause something to pass into objectivity, to become objective.

"The expansion "from within without" of the Mother, called elsewhere the "Waters of Space," "Universal Matrix," etc., does not allude to an expansion from a small centre or focus, but, without reference to size or limitation or area, means the development of limitless subjectivity into as limitless objectivity." (SD I:62)

Maya would seem, to me, to be the "inherent power in the matrix of Mother substance" mentioned in the commentary in SD: I:290 (see item XXV). And that "matrix of Mother substance" is Space.

So what does all this mean? It would seem that there is an inherent power in Space, which is to say, the power of Mahat (of the hierarchies of Dhyan Chohans) which power is either passive or active. When passive we have pralaya, when active we have manvantara, which we can express as an awakening of the illusion of manifestation. Maya per se seems not to be that illusion itself, but the power that renders it possible or active, just as in Man, the powers render koshas or vestures for us. That which is rendered (out of the substance of Space) is illusion, because only having a temporary existence (each rendering has a beginning and an end). But Space itself remains forever. I imagine something like water (relatively homogenous substance) being frozen and carved into a statue, then melting back to its original "no-shape", then being used to form new shapes, and so on. Each shape is an illusion rendered by the power of maya, but the water per se remains unaffected by the process of each rendering.

To go one step further.... this would mean that everything that can be perceived, the whole of the manifested universe, is within Mahat, or is Mahat. All is mind. And every rendering therein is a "maya". Perhaps, as one friend suggested not long ago, this could be called a "modification of cosmic mind", corresponding cosmically to what Patanjali refers to as the "modifications of mind" in Man. The whole of the manifested universe, then, would be a modification of the Mind of Cosmos. :)

Permalink Reply by barbaram on August 3, 2014 at 3:45pm

Here are some cursory thoughts on Maya in simple language -

Let us assume there is an ultimate reality and this One bifurcates into Spirit and Matter or subject (consciousness) and object (matter).  The only bridge that connects these two aspects of the One in our human existence is our Mental Perception.  The instruments we use for this purpose are our sense organs which, as we know, are very restricted and unreliable.  For example, we can only perceive a limited range of vibrations, anything outside of this range does not exist in our reality.  

The process of registering the outside world is based on the incessant flow of external stimuli - a result of moving atoms and molecules - impressing on our nerves of our sense organs, affecting different parts of our brain.   From there, somehow, these vibrations or movements of particles are translated into MENTAL IMAGES with shapes, colors, forms,  etc in our mind.  This is the Power of Maya. 

Our mind project these mental images to the outside; thus we think we are experiencing the "outside" world, while in fact, we are experiencing the images produced in our mind by the power of Maya.   Our life is nothing more but a continuous flow of mental images.  What is the nature of these forms, colors, shapes, textures, size?  Where do they originate if not from the seven elements?  Maya is both a Power and veils of illusion. 

"The mind is the Great Slayer of the Real, let the Disciple slay the Slayer."

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 9, 2014 at 4:21pm

From the Section: Being and Non-Being                 SD i 44-47

STANZA I. — Continued.


(a) "The Causes of Existence" mean not only the physical causes known to science, but the metaphysical causes, the chief of which is the desire to exist, an outcome of Nidana and Maya. This desire for a sentient life shows itself in everything, from an atom to a sun, and is a reflection of the Divine Thought propelled into objective existence, into a law that the Universe should exist. According to esoteric teaching, the real cause of that supposed desire, and of all existence, remains for ever hidden, and its first emanations are the most complete abstractions mind can conceive. These abstractions must of necessity be postulated as the cause of the material Universe which presents itself to the senses and intellect; and they underlie the secondary and subordinate powers of Nature, which, anthropomorphized, have been worshipped as God and gods by the common herd of every age. It is impossible to conceive anything without a cause; the attempt to do so makes the blank mind This is virtually the condition to which the mind must come at last when we try to trace back the chain of causes and effects, but both science and religion jump to this condition of blankness much more quickly than is necessary; for they ignore the metaphysical abstractions which are the only conceivable cause of physical concretions. These abstractions become more and more concrete as they approach our plane of existence, until finally they phenomenalise in the form of the material Universe, by a process of conversion of metaphysics into physics, analogous to that by which steam can be condensed into water, and the water frozen into ice.

(b) The idea of Eternal Non-Being, which is the One Being, will appear a paradox to anyone who does not remember that we limit our ideas of being to our present consciousness of existence; making it a specific, instead of a generic term. An unborn infant, could it think in our acceptation of that term, would necessarily limit its conception of being, in a similar manner, to the intrauterine life which alone it knows; and were it to endeavour to express to its consciousness the idea of life after birth (death to it), it would, in the absence of data to go upon, and of faculties to comprehend such data, probably express that life as "Non-Being which is Real Being." In our case the One Being is the noumenon of all the noumena which we know must underlie phenomena, and give them whatever shadow of reality they possess, but which we have not the senses or the intellect to cognize at present.

Permalink Reply by Casady on July 13, 2014 at 4:41pm
Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 14, 2014 at 9:57am

Thanks Casady, this is very helpful.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 13, 2014 at 8:54pm

From Svabhavat and Sat                     SD i 60-61


(a) The Secret Doctrine, in the Stanzas given here, occupies itself chiefly, if not entirely, with our Solar System, and especially with our planetary chain. The "Seven Sons," therefore, are the creators of the latter. This teaching will be explained more fully hereafter. (See Part II., "Theogony of the Creative Gods.")

Svabhavat, the "Plastic Essence" that fills the Universe, is the root of all things. Svabhavat is, so to say, the Buddhistic concrete aspect of the abstraction called in Hindu philosophy Mulaprakriti. It is the body of the Soul, and that which Ether would be to Akasa, the latter being the informing principle of the former. Chinese mystics have made of it the synonym of "being." In the Ekasloka-Shastra of Nagarjuna (the Lung-shu of China) called by the Chinese the Yih-shu-lu-kia-lun, it is said that the original word of Yeu is "Being" or "Subhâva," "the Substance giving substance to itself," also explained by him as meaning " without action and with action," "the nature which has no nature of its own." Subhâva, from which Svâbhâvat, is composed of two words: Su "fair," "handsome," "good"; Sva, "self"; and bhava, "being" or "states of being."

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on July 15, 2014 at 10:53am

Gerry, you have no doubt been waiting for people to chime in with positive comments. I have been waiting to chime in when we reached svabhava, which has been a special interest of mine. Now, when the time comes, I feel obliged to point out that HPB's entire explanatory paragraph, from "Svabhavat" to "states of being," is copied from erroneous writings available in her day. There was nothing else then available for her to draw upon to annotate the idea of svabhava.

The idea that svabhava was a "plastic essence" was then thought to be what Buddhists taught. Brian Hodgson, when he was the British Resident in Nepal in the 1820s, had incorrectly gotten this idea from his Buddhist informant. This incorrect idea was then copied by other writers on Buddhism, such as Rev. Samuel Beal. HPB drew particularly upon Beal's 1871 book, A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, in which we find this phrase, "plastic essence." But, as later became clear, Buddhists do not teach this idea.

The material from Chinese sources given next in HPB's paragraph was copied directly from Rev. Joseph Edkins' 1880 book, Chinese Buddhism. It completely mis-states what is in Nagarjuna's Eka-sloka-sastra, which was not then understood at all. The etymology of svabhava, also copied from Edkins, is equally erroneous. The word subhava is not the same as svabhava, and the meaning of su, "fair, handsome, good," does not pertain to svabhava.

As for HPB's svabhavat rather than svabhava, this is a further error, copied from Max Muller, but misunderstanding what he wrote. She unfortunately used this incorrect spelling throughout her writings, starting even with Isis Unveiled. These errors, remaining unaddressed, do not help the cause of Theosophy in the world.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 16, 2014 at 9:30pm

Your waiting is unnecessary you are always welcome to chime in.  Is there a correlation to be made between the idea of Svabhava and the idea of 'self-existent'?  Something that emanates from within itself and requires no outside agency.  Is this not the concept she is referring to?  A primordial substance.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on July 19, 2014 at 1:14pm

Gerry, I enjoyed your humorous comparison of me to a leopard coiled on a limb waiting to strike. A friendly leopard, I might add. When I try to discuss the doctrines of The Secret Doctrine with non-Theosophists (the people we are supposed to be reaching with these teachings), this is the response I get, which I quote verbatim: "Madame Blavatsky, Colonel Olcott and Co. should better be left out of any serious discussion of philosophy. They can at best provide some comic relief."

Yes, there is a correlation to be made between the idea of svabhava and the idea of "self-existent," something that emanates from within and requires no outside agency. No doubt this is the concept she is referring to. When we reach "a primordial substance," however, the ways part. While this is clearly what she means, this is exactly what Buddhists deny. Therefore her statements about the Buddhist svabhava(t), and also the Vedantin mulaprakriti, are incorrect; e.g., SD 1.46:

"It is, in its secondary stage, the Svabhavat of the Buddhist philosopher, the eternal cause and effect, omnipresent yet abstract, the self-existent plastic Essence and the root of all things, viewed in the same dual light as the Vedantin views his Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti, the one under two aspects."

The Buddhist philosopher does not regard svabhava as a "self-existent plastic Essence and the root of all things," nor does the Vedantin view parabrahman and mulaprakriti as "one under two aspects." The teaching of mulaprakriti is a Samkhya teaching that was refuted by Vedantins, not a Vedanta teaching. For Vedantins (other than esoteric ones such as T. Subba Row), mulaprakriti is maya, illusion, not one of two aspect of the one reality.

It is for reasons like these that the philosophy of The Secret Doctrine is not taken seriously by non-Theosophists.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on July 19, 2014 at 4:21pm

How, then, do we "arrest the attention of the highest minds," as the "Chiefs" reportedly want (Mahatma letter no. 6)?

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on July 19, 2014 at 5:18pm

Yep, that's the question right there, Nicholas. In our society we tend to imagine that the academics of the world are the "highest minds", but is that really so? A quote from the same Mahatma:

One... "may be a Bacon or an Aristotle in knowledge, and still not even make his current felt a feather's weight by us, if his power is confined to the Manas. The supreme energy resides in the Buddhi; latent—when wedded to Atman alone, active and irresistible when galvanized by the essence of "Manas" and when none of the dross of the latter commingles with that pure essence to weigh it down by its finite nature. Manas, pure and simple, is of a lower degree, and of the earth earthly: and so your greatest men count but as nonentities in the arena where greatness is measured by the standard of spiritual development. When the ancient founders of your philosophical schools came East, to acquire the lore of our predecessors, they filed no claims, except the single one of a sincere and unselfish hunger for the truth. If any now aspire to found new schools of science and philosophy the same plan will win—if the seekers have in them the elements of success."

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on July 20, 2014 at 12:01pm

Nicholas, the "highest minds" to me are the people that HPB referred to in her "Introductory" to The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. xxxvii:

"No one styling himself a “scholar,” in whatever department of exact science, will be permitted to regard these teachings seriously. They will be derided and rejected a priori in this century; but only in this one. For in the twentieth century of our era scholars will begin to recognize that the Secret Doctrine has neither been invented nor exaggerated, but, on the contrary, simply outlined; and finally, that its teachings antedate the Vedas."

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on July 20, 2014 at 9:39am
But non-theosophists become theosophists.

I was once a non-theosophist. And I assume Nicholas and David and most present day "theosophists" were once non-theosophists. Each of us ran across a book, an article or something that caught our attention...and this led to us becoming a theosophist. I know several "new" theosophists who have written me telling me their first encounter with Theosophy was reading my book THE ESOTERIC WORLD OF MADAME BLAVATSKY. I first encountered Theosophy in 1968 by reading THE ANCIENT WISDOM by Annie Besant.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on July 20, 2014 at 6:40pm

People come to theosophy in many mysterious ways.  We cannot claim to comprehend it.  Whenever a human being is seeking the truth they are moving towards Theosophy.  We all get lost from time to time.  Best never to give up. The Dalai Lama got it right for me, loving kindness.  That is the heart of the theosophical teaching for me.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on July 20, 2014 at 6:36pm

Is it necessary for The Secret Doctrine to square with Buddhist Doctrines or with Vedantin philosophy?  Doesn't The Secret Doctrine, the Gupta Vidya, come before and provide the source for these two philosophical systems?

Permalink Reply by Peter on July 21, 2014 at 4:15am

Tamiko is quite right - it isn't necessary for the Secret Doctrine to square with Buddhist, Advaita, Christian, Kabalistic or any other doctrines and HPB points out in many places where they don't.  

It seems that an important aim of the Secret Doctrine is to show that universal truths arising from a common source, the Wisdom Religion, underlie the doctrines of the major spiritual traditions in the world even though these may have diverged from their original source, become distorted, covered in exoteric gloss and so on.  Much of the referencing in the SD to scriptures and passages from other traditions seeking to bring out the commonality of terms, fundamental teachings and doctrines appears to be done with this aim in mind, even though mistakes with this are sometimes made.

Importantly, it's not difficult to discover for oneself through a study of HPB's works, the Mahatma Letters & so on, that there are key doctrines that HPB and the Mahatmas sought to convey or give hints about to the serious student of Theosophy.  Speaking for myself, I've found it useful whenever studying a topic in the SD - accompanied by pages of references to science and religion - is to ask 'what is the key teaching point HPB is seeking to convey here?'  There normally is one, as we've just seem in this group from the good contributions people have made on what HPB and the Mahatmas mean by the term 'svabhava'.  In other words, there is a theosophical doctrine with regards to svabhava which is valuable in its own right, regardless of whether it accords with that of another spiritual tradition.  The same is the case for the other topics covered in HPB's works.

No doubt if HPB had been as careful quoting and referencing her work as is the academic of today then we would be having a different kind of conversation about her remarks about the meaning of svabhava in buddhism. For we would more easily be able to see where the source of the mistake lies - in the works cited.  However, it's quite possible that those who view HPB and Theosophy merely as comic relief would continue to do so.  But then every area of knowledge, whether among the many different religions, the schools of philosophy, political and economic theories, psychological and social models of human nature & so on are subject to derision by some group or another.  That just seems to be the way we are as a humanity at this stage of development.  All we can do is press on in our respective fields of endeavour and seek to share our understanding and work with those who genuinely want to engage.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on July 21, 2014 at 6:41pm

Well said Peter. I concur on all points.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on July 21, 2014 at 9:02pm

Yes, indeed, Peter. Very well said.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on July 21, 2014 at 9:34pm

Emerson made the enigmatic remark that he knew he must be on the right track when he was attacked.  Perhaps he knew he was hitting a nerve.  HPB hits a whole lot of nerves.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on July 21, 2014 at 9:15am

Tamiko, I do not think that it is necessary for The Secret Doctrine to square with Buddhist Doctrines or with Vedantin philosophy. The Secret Doctrine, the Gupta Vidya, does indeed come before and provide the source for these two philosophical systems, according to Blavatsky. Blavatsky tried to use terms and ideas from Buddhism and from Vedanta, since these were more familiar, to explain the teachings of The Secret Doctrine that she was bringing out. When, however, she uses these terms and ideas from Buddhism and from Vedanta in meanings that differ from how they are understood in Buddhism and in Vedanta, this can and does create confusion in understanding the teachings of The Secret Doctrine that she is trying to explain. This is the reason for trying to get these sorted out.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 27, 2014 at 11:07pm

These points we are making here send us back to the initial problems of language and communication.   There is a beauty product called Philosophy.  Some people speak of philosophy as a strategy in a game, or a approach to a problem.  Still others talk of philosophy as a group of beliefs and opinions.  For Pythagoras, who apparently coined the phrase, it means Love of Wisdom.  There is  shallowness and depth to all concepts.  And a great deal of sifting is required.  I think the challenge put before us by the Teachers of Theosophy is to plumb the depths of terms like Svabhava to intuit their deepest meanings in relation to the universe itself and not only according to any one tradition or another.  The study of those traditions are indeed helpful because they serve as steps in a latter.  They creates a penumbra of meanings which give us a clue as to an inner meaning, the essence if you will.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on July 17, 2014 at 2:23pm

Hi David:

If Blavatsky used the wrong term because she did not have the correct information.  Do you think that changes the meaning that she was trying to convey?  What is the correct meaning of svabhava?

Thanks in advance.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on July 19, 2014 at 4:10pm

Barbara, I do not think that Blavatsky's use of the wrong term changes the meaning that she was trying to convey; it just makes it harder for students to figure out what she meant. HPB seems to be fully consistent throughout her writings in the meaning that she was trying to convey, including even when answering questions about The Secret Doctrine in the meetings of the Blavatsky Lodge. What confuses the issue is that she thought that Buddhists regarded svabhava(t) as a plastic essence, and thought that Vedantins regarded mulaprakriti as a co-equal aspect of the one reality. So her explanations using the terms svabhava(t) and mulaprakriti must be taken in the sense that she understood these terms in, not in the sense that Buddhists and Vedantins use them.

The correct meaning of svabhava is "inherent nature." The example always given in Sanskrit texts is that heat is the svabhava or inherent nature of fire. We never have fire without heat, so this svabhava of fire is something that is unchanging. In early Buddhism, each dharma, i.e., each of the fundamental elements of existence, has a svabhava, even though the dharmas themselves are momentary and constantly changing. The dharmas are real, and as such, they have svabhava. Mahayana Buddhism denied the ultimate reality of the dharmas, and therefore denied that anything really has svabhava. Fire, for example, is dependent on causes and conditions, i.e., fuel, etc., so it cannot be ultimately real; it cannot ultimately have svabhava. So svabhava is an unchanging inherent nature that makes something real. Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa order of Tibetan Buddhism, spent much of his life thoroughly denying svabhava.

So what is the svabhava spoken of in the stanzas from the Book of Dzyan? Assuming that this word is actually used in the Sanskrit versions of this text, it cannot refer to the inherent nature of individual things such as fire, since nothing in the phenomenal world is regarded by Theosophy as ultimately real. In Theosophy, there is only one reality. Therefore, svabhava must refer to it. The Book of Dzyan must be speaking of the svabhava or inherent nature of the one reality, the one element, the one life. According to the Theosophical sources we have, the inherent nature of the one element is its motion. The motion of the one element produces the illusory manifested world, just like a whirling torch produces the illusion of various shapes. For us, who live in this ultimately illusory world, it is quite real, and can well be called an essence.

Svabhava, however, is not an essence per se. We can say that heat is the essence of fire, meaning that heat is the essential nature of fire. But we do not say that heat is the essence of fire meaning its underlying substance. Svabhava is the inherent nature of something. If that something is an essence, then its inherent nature may also be called an essence. This is apparently what we have in Theosophy. The one reality, the one element, can loosely be called an essence, since there is nothing else but it in the whole universe. Philosophically speaking, however, we do not say that the illusory manifestation of the phenomenal world is the one element per se. Manifestation comes about as a result of the inherent, never-ceasing motion that is the life of the one element. This is the svabhava, the inherent nature, of the one element. It can be called an essence because the one element itself can loosely be called an essence. Loosely, because, like in Advaita Vedanta, the one reality cannot be said to be a something that does something, such as manifest the phenomenal world. So manifestation is distinguished as being the result of the svabhava, the inherent nature, of the one element.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on July 20, 2014 at 8:39am
Sometimes we need to stop and refresh our understanding of the basic definition(s) of a word. This word "essence" what does it mean? Not in terms of Buddhism, Hinduism, Theosophy, etc. Below is Merriam-Websters exposition of the word "essence."

es·sence noun \ˈe-sən(t)s\
: the basic nature of a thing : the quality or qualities that make a thing what it is

: a substance that contains in very strong form the special qualities (such as the taste and smell) of the thing from which it is taken

Full Definition of ESSENCE

a :  the permanent as contrasted with the accidental element of being
b :  the individual, real, or ultimate nature of a thing especially as opposed to its existence 
c :  the properties or attributes by means of which something can be placed in its proper class or identified as being what it is
:  something that exists :  entity
a (1) :  a volatile substance or constituent (as of perfume) (2) :  a constituent or derivative possessing the special qualities (as of a plant or drug) in concentrated form; also :  a preparation of such an essence or a synthetic substitute
b :  odor, perfume
:  one that possesses or exhibits a quality in abundance as if in concentrated form
:  the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a thing or person
— in essence
:  in or by its very nature :  essentially, basically
— of the essence
:  of the utmost importance


Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on July 20, 2014 at 8:53am
As I ponder on this word "essence" this quote from KH pops into my mind:

Look around you and see the myriad manifestations of life, so infinitely multiform; of life, of motion, of change. What caused these? From what inexhaustible source came they, by what agency? Out of the invisible and subjective they have entered our little area of the visible and objective. Children of Akasa, concrete evolutions from the ether, it was force which brought them into perceptibility and Force will in time remove them from the sight of man. Why should this plant in your garden to the right, have been produced with such a shape and that other one to the left with one totally dissimilar? Are these not the result of varying action of Force — unlike correlations?
Quoted from:

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on July 20, 2014 at 1:30pm

Daniel, This quote from KH gets right to the heart of the matter, and it also shows why the Theosophical teaching on this became secret. The word "force" that he is using here is used for svabhava, as he tells us in the preceding paragraph of that same letter (Mahatma Letter #22):

"Study the laws and doctrines of the Nepaulese Swabhavikas, the principal Buddhist philosophical school in India, and you will find them the most learned as the most scientifically logical wranglers in the world. Their plastic, invisible, eternal, omnipresent and unconscious Swabhavat is Force or Motion ever generating its electricity which is life."

In Indian philosophy the doctrine of svabhava (svabhavavada), exactly as described in the quote you gave, became associated with determinism, materialism, and fatalism. What caused the world and everything in it? It was force or svabhava that brought things into manifestation. This was understood to be the svabhava or inherent nature of each individual thing we see. A famous verse on this asks, "What made the sharpness of the thorns? Svabhava." This was understood to mean that the svabhava or inherent nature of thorns is to be sharp, and nothing else caused them. This led to the ethical doctrine that it is the svabhava or inherent nature of each individual human to be what he or she is, and nothing can be done about it.

This doctrine, with these ramifications, was given in the Buddhacarita of Asvaghosa. It is this text that was mistakenly drawn upon by Brian Hodgson and his Nepalese informant for the svabhava doctrine that was attributed to Buddhism for more than a century, the same svabhava idea that was picked up and used by Blavatsky. But in this text, it is not given as a Buddhist doctrine; it is given as an existing doctrine that was presented to the young Gautama, that he will reject.

Thus, in India, the doctrine of svabhava has been understood in this way, and has been rejected by virtually all the philosophical schools. For it was clearly understood that the doctrine one holds determines the actions one does or does not do. Now, after the svabhava doctrine had all but died out in India, we find a form of it given in the stanzas from the Book of Dzyan that Blavatsky published in 1888.

For more than a thousand years, the svabhava doctrine has been associated with the Lokayatas, or Carvakas, the so-called materialist school in India. Long dead, we can only reconstruct their teachings from the criticisms leveled against them by virtually all the other schools of Indian thought. This work has been done by Ramkrishna Bhattacharya, today the leading expert in this field.

In the quote given by KH, however, we see a different svabhava doctrine. As said before, the svabhava taught in Theosophy can only be the svabhava of the one element, not the svabhava of each individual thing found in the world. There is a record of this kind of svabhavavada in the writings of Gaudapada, and in the Moksopaya and its later form, the Yoga-vasistha. It is this svabhava doctrine that I thought would be worthwhile to bring up, once the topic of svabhava was reached in this discussion.

Permalink Reply by David Reigle on July 24, 2014 at 12:31pm

Yes, the Moksopaya Project is progressing quite well. Earlier this year the fourth volume of the critical edition of the Sanskrit text was published. This completes the fifth book or major segment of the Moksopaya. All that now remains is the sixth book. However, the sixth book is equal in length to the preceding five books combined. Also released earlier this year were the first two volumes of the German translation of the Moksopaya. Since the Moksopaya Project is being funded by German institutions, a German translation was undertaken rather than an English translation. Whether the Project will fund an English translation in the future, I do not know. The Project seems to be on schedule so far, with a projected completion date of around 2018. We are fortunate to have good scholars working on this project, and good institutional funding of it.

In the meantime, as part of this Project, Jurgen Hanneder published a book titled Studies on the Moksopaya (2006). In this book, he drew upon the unedited transcript of the sixth book, in comparison with the oldest manuscripts of it. As in the key cosmogonic chapter from the third book that I translated, so the sixth book also holds that "creation" is the result of the svabhava of the one. In the Moksopaya, the one, brahman, is most often referred to as cit, pure consciousness. So (illusory) manifestation is the svabhava or inherent nature of cit, pure consciousness. Here is a verse from the sixth book of the Moksopaya (6.262.1), quoted and translated by Hanneder in his 2006 book (p. 173):

svabhāva jagad-ākāra cid-bhāvo 'nubhavan sthita
"The nature of consciousness constantly perceives its own nature [svabhāva] in the form of the world."

As in Madhyamaka Buddhism, nothing in the (phenomenal) world has a svabhāva, an inherent nature such that it can exist on its own. According to the Moksopaya, only the one, brahman, or cit, pure consciousness, has such a svabhāva, and this svabhāva is the world. This is the kind of svabhāva doctrine found in The Secret Doctrine, very different from the commonly known svabhāva doctrine that each phenomenal thing in the world has its own svabhāva, by which it comes into existence.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on July 20, 2014 at 6:43pm

Is it possible that she was using the best term available and asking us to use our intuition to see further than the word allows conventionally and ordinarily?  We know this is a practice of hers from many other terms like devachan, and matter.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on July 20, 2014 at 10:41am
Regarding the word ESSENCE  

"the true essence of every living being"
The Ratnagotravibhāga (Sanskrit) (abbreviated as RgV) and its vyākhyā commentary (abbreviated RgVV), also known as theUttara-tantra-shastra, are a compendium of the tathāgatagarbha literature. The text was originally composed in Sanskrit....

Doctrinal significance
Final teaching
The secondary title for this work, Uttara-tantra-shastra (The Ultimate Doctrine), highlights the text's claim that the tathāgata-garbha teachings represent the final, definitive teachings of the Buddha, in contrast to the earlier teachings on emphasizing intrinsic emptiness, such as contained in the Perfection of Insight Sutras (prajñā-pāramitā) and other Mahāyāna scriptures. In addition to the group of scriptures known as the Tathāgata-garbha sūtras, this work is the cornerstone of the tathāgata-garbha trend of thought in Mahāyāna Buddhism.

The Ratnagotravibhaga is notable for its exploration of the doctrine of the "buddha nature" [f], the view that all sentient beings are already buddhas or have the propensity to attain buddhahood.[36]

The Uttaratantra takes as its key topic the idea of the dhatu of the Buddha which is present in all beings:

The principal subject matter of this treatise is the special theory of Dhatu (fundamental element) of the Absolute (Tathagata-garbha = essence of Buddha)... It is an exposition of the theory of the Essence of Buddhahood (tathagata-garbha), the fundamental element (dhatu) of the Absolute, as existing in all sentient beings. ... This element which had been regarded as an active force (bija) before, is regarded, in this text, as eternal, quiescent and unalterable, as the true essence of every living being and source of all virtuous qualities.'....

The Uttaratantra constitutes a higher Buddhist doctrine than that of sunyata as found in the prajnaparamita sutras:

The sunyata teachings in the Prajna-paramita are true, but incomplete. They require still further elucidation, which the Uttaratantra provides. Thus it assumes the Prajna-paramita teachings as thepurva or prior teachings, and the tathagata-garbha teachings as the uttara, in the sense of both subsequent and superior.'[39]

.......Positive understanding of sunyata
Both the Srimala Sutra and the Uttaratantra enunciate the idea that the tathagatagarbha is possessed of four transcendental qualities:

The tathagatagarbha is ultimately identifiable as the dharmakaya."

Quoted from Wikipedia.

Permalink Reply by Peter on July 21, 2014 at 4:33am

There's a short and rough overview of 'emptiness' and 'self-nature' as found in different schools of buddhism in one of our earlier study groups, for those who may be interested.  See here:

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on July 20, 2014 at 10:08am
See what Wikipedia says about Svabhava:

Very informative with lots of threads to follow up on.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 27, 2014 at 10:57pm

Thank you Daniel, very interesting.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 15, 2014 at 9:43am

HPB tells us that the One Reality can be symbolized by Absolute Abstract Space and Absolute Abstract Motion.

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

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

This "Be-ness" is symbolised in the Secret Doctrine under two aspects. On the one hand, absolute abstract Space, representing bare subjectivity, the one thing which no human mind can either exclude from any conception, or conceive of by itself. On the other, absolute Abstract Motion representing Unconditioned Consciousness."

What can be said, or how can we characterize or elaborate perhaps on the concept of Absolute Abstract Space?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 17, 2014 at 10:37am

From the Section: Light and Darkness      SD i 68-72


(a) OEAOHOO is rendered "Father-Mother of the Gods" in the Commentaries, or the SIX IN ONE, or the septenary root from which all proceeds. All depends upon the accent given to these seven vowels, which may be pronounced as one, three, or even seven syllables by adding an e after the letter "o." This mystic name is given out, because without a thorough mastery of the triple pronunciation it remains for ever ineffectual.

(b) This refers to the Non-Separateness of all that lives and has its being, whether in active or passive state. In one sense, Oeaohoo is the "Rootless Root of All"; hence, one with Parabrahmam; in another sense it is a name for the manifested ONE LIFE, the Eternal living Unity. The "Root" means, as already explained, pure knowledge (Sattva),*eternal (Nitya) unconditioned reality or SAT (Satya), whether we call it Parabrahmam or Mulaprakriti, for these are the two aspects of the ONE. The "Light" is the same Omnipresent Spiritual Ray, which has entered and now fecundated the Divine Egg, and calls cosmic matter to begin its long series of differentiations. The curds are the first differentiation, and probably refer also to that cosmic matter which is supposed to be the origin of the "Milky Way" — the matter we know. This "matter," which, according to the revelation received from the primeval Dhyani-Buddhas, is, during the periodical sleep of the Universe, of the ultimate tenuity conceivable to the eye of the perfect Bodhisatva — this matter, radical and cool, becomes, at the first reawakening of cosmic motion, scattered through Space; appearing, when seen from the Earth, in clusters and lumps, like curds in thin milk. These are the seeds of the future worlds, the "Star-stuff."

* The original for Understanding is Sattva, which Sankara (acharya) renders antahkarana. "Refined," he says, "by sacrifices and other sanctifying operations." In the Katha, at p. 148, Sattva is said by Sankara to mean buddhi — a common use of the word. ("The BHAGAVATGITA with The Sanatsugâtîya and The Anugitâ," translated by Kashinath Trimbak Telang, M.A.; edited by Max Muller.) Whatever meaning various schools may give the term, Sattva is the name given among Occult students of the Aryasanga School to the dual Monad or Atma-buddhi, and Atma-buddhi on this plane corresponds to Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti on the higher plane.

Permalink Reply by Daniel Caldwell on July 21, 2014 at 10:27am

Compare what HPB says about SPACE in "The Secret Doctrine" with the following from Wikipedia:

According to the Tathagatagarbha sutras, the Buddha taught the existence of this spiritual essence called the tathagatagarbha or Buddha-nature, which is present in all beings and phenomena. Dr. B. Alan Wallace writes of this doctrine:

"The essential nature of the whole of samsara and nirvana is the absolute space (dhatu) of the tathagatagarbha, but this space is not to be confused with a mere absence of matter. Rather, this absolute space is imbued with all the infinite knowledge, compassion, power, and enlightened activities of the Buddha. Moreover, this luminous space is that which causes the phenomenal world to appear, and it is none other than the nature of one's own mind, which by nature is clear light."—Dr. B. Alan Wallace[38]

Dr. Wallace further writes on how the primal Buddha, Samantabhadra, who in some scriptures is viewed as one with thetathagatagarbha, forms the very radiating foundation of both samsara and nirvana. Noting a progression within Buddhism from doctrines of a mind-stream (bhavanga) to that of the absolutised tathagatagarbha, Wallace comments that it may be too simple in the light of such doctrinal elements to define Buddhism unconditionally as "non-theistic":

"Samantabhadra, the primordial Buddha whose nature is identical with the tathagatagarbha within each sentient being, is the ultimate ground of samsara and nirvana; and the entire universe consists of nothing other than displays of this infinite, radiant, empty awareness. Thus, in light of the theoretical progression from the bhavanga to the tathagatagarbha to the primordial wisdom of the absolute space of reality, Buddhism is not so simply non-theistic as it may appear at first glance."—Dr. B. Alan Wallace[39]


Quoted from:

Permalink Reply by Peter on July 22, 2014 at 6:14am

Very interesting, Daniel - thanks.   

Ranjung Dorje's (1284-1339),the Third Karmapa, wrote a treatise on Buddha Nature which suggests a view of Dhatu or Essence as similar to the One Element of Theosophy.  For example, in his treatise he quotes The Mahayana Abhidarma Sutra:

The element of beginning less time
Is the location of all phenomena.
Due to its existence, there are all beings
And also the attainment of nirvana.

Khechen Trangu draws upon Jamgon Kontrul's commentary on this work to explain the meaning as follows:

     “There is a quotation from the Mahayana Abhidharma Sutra that says that there is the element (Skt. dhatu) of beginningless time. The word dhatu, or element, means "essence" or "seed." The Mahayana Abhidharma Sutra says that this element has been there throughout beginningless time; it is primordial, something we have always had. This element is also said to be the location for all dharmas. The word dharma is used in various ways; here it means all that can be known, all knowable phenomena. So this element is the location or the foundation for all phenomena, for all that can be known. Due to having this element, the text says, all beings exist. So all beings who are in samsara are there due to their possession ofthis element, the buddha nature, or the buddha essence. Because beings do not recognize the buddha nature, they wander in the six realms of samsara. Nirvana is also attained due to this element or seed because it is through realizing the buddha nature that nirvana is attained. Therefore both samsara and nirvana are due to the presence of this element, the buddha nature.”

(from, “On Buddha Essence: a commentary on Ranjung Dorje’s Treatise”, page 8, by Khenchen Thrangu.)

While Tsong Khapa and the Gelugpa School may well object to this view of essence it has been the doctrine of other buddhist schools for many centuries.

The reference to this element as being both nirvana and samsara reminds me of the statement by the Mahatma KH in his letter to Hume:

“To comprehend my answers you will have first of all to view the eternal Essence, the Swabavat not as a compound element you call spirit-matter, but as the one element for which the English has no name. It is both passive and active, pure Spirit Essence in its absoluteness, and repose, pure matter in its finite and conditioned state…”

“. . . we recognise but one element in Nature (whether spiritual or physical) outside which there can be no Nature since it is Nature itself..”

(From Mahatma Letters to Sinnett, no 11, Barker edition.)

There are a number of valuable passages on the One Element throughout the Mahatma Letters and HPB’s works.  I’ve put just a couple of these below.

“The one element not only fills space and is space, but interpenetrates every atom of cosmic matter..”   (Mahatma Letters…: 15)

“if the universe as a whole is formed out of the Eternal One Substance or Essence, it is not that everlasting Essence, the Absolute Deity, that builds it into shape; this is done by the first Rays, the Angels or Dhyāni-Chohans, that emanate from the One Element, which becoming periodically Light and Darkness, remains eternally, in its Root-Principle, the one unknown, yet existing Reality.

(CW XIV 210)

'For the Occultist “Space” and “Universe” are synonyms. In Space there is not Matter, Force, nor Spirit, but all that and much more. It is the One Element, and that one the Anima Mundi—Space,  Akāsa, Astral Light—the Root of Life which, in its eternal, ceaseless motion, like the out and in-breathing of one boundless ocean, evolves but to reabsorb all that lives and feels and thinks and has its being in it.'

(CW XIV 412)

Perhaps we could experiment now and again with replacing the word ‘emptiness’ in Buddhism with the notion of  ‘Space’ or ‘the One Element’ of Theosophy and see if that opens up any new meanings or  understandings when looking at buddhist texts?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 26, 2014 at 10:12am

From the Section entitled: Kalahansa      SD i 77-81

As to the strange symbol chosen, it is equally suggestive; the true mystic significance being the idea of a universal matrix, figured by the primordial waters of the "deep," or the opening for the reception, and subsequently for the issue, of that one ray (the Logos), which contains in itself the other seven procreative rays or powers (the logoi or builders). Hence the choice by the Rosecroix of the aquatic fowl—whether swan or pelican,* with seven young ones for a symbol, modified and adapted to the religion of every country. En-Soph is called the "Fiery Soul of the Pelican" in the Book of Numbers. † (See Part II. "The Hidden Deity and its Symbols and Glyphs.") Appearing with every Manvantara as Narâyan, or Swayambhuva (the Self-Existent), and penetrating into the Mundane Egg, it emerges from it at the end of the divine incubation as Brahmâ or Prajâpati, a progenitor of the future Universe into which he expands. He is Purusha (spirit), but he is also Prakriti (matter). Therefore it is only after separating himself into two halves — Brahmâ-vach (the female) and Brahmâ-Virâj (the male), that the Prajâpati becomes the male Brahmâ.

* Whether the genus of the bird be cygnus, anser, or pelecanus, it is no matter, as it is an aquatic bird floating or moving on the waters like the Spirit, and then issuing from those waters to give birth to other beings. The true significance of the symbol of the Eighteenth Degree of the Rose-Croix is precisely this, though poetised later on into the motherly feeling of the Pelican rending its bosom to feed its seven little ones with its blood.

† The reason why Moses forbids eating the pelican and swan, classing the two among the unclean fowls, and permits eating "bald locusts, beetles, and the grasshopper after his kind" (Leviticus xi. and Deuteronomy xiv.) is a purely physiological one, and has to do with mystic symbology only in so far as the word "unclean," like every other word, ought not to be read and understood literally, as it is esoteric like all the rest, and may as well mean "holy" as not. It is a blind, very suggestive in connection with certain superstitions — e.g., that of the Russian people who will not use the pigeon for food; not because it is "unclean," but because the "Holy Ghost" is credited with having appeared under the form of a Dove.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 29, 2014 at 1:54pm

From the Section: Ideation and Substance            SD  i 325-339

Ether, this hypothetical Proteus, one of the "representative Fictions" of modern Science ― which, nevertheless, was so long accepted ― is one of the lower "principles" of what we call PRIMORDIAL SUBSTANCE (Akâsa, in Sanskrit), one of the dreams of old, and which has now become again the dream of modern science. It is the greatest, just as it is the boldest, of the surviving speculations of ancient philosophers. For the Occultists, however, both ETHER and the Primordial Substance are a reality. To put it plainly, ETHER is the Astral Light, and the Primordial Substance is AKÂSA, the Upadhi of DIVINE THOUGHT.

In modern language, the latter would be better named COSMIC IDEATION ― Spirit; the former, COSMIC SUBSTANCE, Matter. These, the Alpha and the Omega of Being, are but the two facets of the one Absolute Existence. The latter was never addressed, or even mentioned, by any name in antiquity, except allegorically. In the oldest Aryan race, the Hindu, the worship of the intellectual classes never consisted (as with the Greeks) in a fervent adoration of marvellous form and art, which led later on to anthropomorphism. But while the Greek philosopher adored form, and the Hindu sage alone "perceived the true relation of earthly beauty and eternal truth" ― the uneducated of every nation understood neither, at any time.

They do not understand it even now. The evolution of the GOD-IDEA proceeds apace with man's own intellectual evolution. So true it is that the noblest ideal to which the religious Spirit of one age can soar, will appear but a gross caricature to the philosophic mind in a succeeding epoch! The philosophers themselves had to be initiated into perceptive mysteries, before they could grasp the correct idea of the ancients in relation to this most metaphysical subject. Otherwise ― outside such initiation ― for every thinker there will be a "Thus far shalt thou go and no farther," mapped out by his intellectual capacity, as clearly and as unmistakeably as there is for the progress of any nation or race in its cycle by the law of Karma. Outside of initiation, the ideals of contemporary religious thought must always have their wings clipped and remain unable to soar higher; for idealistic as well as realistic thinkers, and even free-thinkers, are but the outcome and the natural product of their respective environments and periods.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 30, 2014 at 4:23pm

from the section: Chaos-Theos-Kosmos                SD  i 342-349


THESE three are the containment of Space; or, as a learned Kabalist has defined it, "Space, the all containing uncontained, is the primary embodiment of simply Unity. . . . boundless extension."* But, he asks again, "boundless extension of what?" ― and makes the correct reply ― "The unknown container of all, the Unknown FIRST CAUSE." This is a most correct definition and answer, most esoteric and true, from every aspect of occult teaching.

SPACE, which, in their ignorance and iconoclastic tendency to destroy every philosophic idea of old, the modern wiseacres have proclaimed "an abstract idea" and a void, is, in reality, the container and the body of the Universe with its seven principles. It is a body of limitless extent, whose PRINCIPLES, in Occult phraseology ― each being in its turn a septenary ― manifest in our phenomenal world only the grossest fabric of their sub-divisions. "No one has ever seen the Elements in their fulness," the Doctrine teaches. We have to search for our Wisdom in the original expressions of the primeval people and in their synonyms. Even the latest of them ― the Jews ― show in their Kabalistic teachings this idea, e.g., the seven-headed Serpent of Space, called "the great Sea." "In the beginning, the Alhim created the heavens and the earth; the 6 (Sephiroth). . . . They created six, and on these all things are based. And those (six) depend upon the seven forms of the cranium up to Dignity of all Dignities (Siphrah Dzenioota, i, § 16), see part ii., vol. ii. "Ancient Divisions and the Mystic Numbers."

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 31, 2014 at 1:13pm

What is the relationship between the notions of Space and Self?

Permalink Reply by Casady on August 2, 2014 at 1:58pm

There's HPB"s meditation diagram, that comes to mind, it deals with this question:

Permalink Reply by barbaram on August 3, 2014 at 2:58pm

Hi Jon:

"I think this is one of those fundamental questions that can lead us down many "rabbit holes" and can really bring us to some core ideas."

What question are you referring to?

"It's a very interesting subject to investigate."

Reading your message, I assume the subject you are referring to is "maya."


Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on August 3, 2014 at 7:15pm

Hi Barbara. Sorry for not being clear. I was addressing Grace's earlier question: "What is the relationship between Space and maya or illusion?"