“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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One of the more influential mystics of my life, Joel Goldsmith, shared this in one of his letters. 



I know many theosophists, including myself, have been thrown off balance by the phrase "poor in spirit".  There has been much written on this topic.  What do members think Jesus is alluding to with this term?


Well, let's throw something a little different in here. We all know how poorly the bible tends to be translated. Here are the "beautitudes" from James Pryse's "New Testament Restored", a theosophical translation.

Beautified are the supplicants in the Air: for theirs is the kingdom of the skies.
Beautified are the mourners: for they shall be inspirited.
Beautified are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Beautified are they who hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall be feasted.
Beautified are the merciful: for they shall find mercy.
Beautified are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Beautified are the peacemakers: for they shall be called Sons of God.

With this translation, we eliminate entirely the English ideas that tend to arise from the phrase "poor in spirit".

The original Greek of this phrase is "πτωχοι τω πνευματι" or "ptóchos to pneumati", "pneuma".

HPB says this about "pneuma":

"Now Wind, Air and Spirit have ever been synonymous with every nation. Pneuma (Spirit) and Anemos (the wind) with the Greeks, Spiritus and Ventus with the Latins, were convertible terms even if dissociated from the original idea of the breath of life." (SD I:342)

And this:

"This Breath, Voice, Self or “Wind” (pneuma?) is the Synthesis of the Seven Senses, noumenally all minor deities and esoterically—the septenary and the “Army of the Voice.”" (SD 1:96)

And again:

"Thus here again divine Spirit is symbolised by the Sun or Fire; divine Soul by Water and the Moon, both standing for the Father and Mother of Pneuma, human Soul, or Mind, symbolised by the Wind or air, for Pneuma, means “ breath.”" (SD 1:113)

And so on.

So, those poor (or lacking, or destitute of) the "breath of life", or "human soul", or "mind", etc. inherit the kingdom of "heaven" or the "skies", etc. Or again, those who are "poor" in that which represents the synthesis of the seven senses, inherits a kingdom beyond those senses....

Further, the "kingdom" mentioned here is the "kingdom of Orounon" in the Greek text of the verse, this being the Greek god Ouranos, Uranus (Latin).

Ouranos (Greek) Uranus (Latin) [cf Sanskrit Varuṇa] Originally the celestial spaces of the starry deep, its spiritual, invisible fullness. Heaven or Ouranos is sometimes represented as the son of earth and sometimes as her husband; but earth may stand for Aditi (mulaprakriti) or for prakriti, unformed matter, in which case Ouranos, as chief of the adityas or seven planetary and solar gods, is a son; but Ouranos afterwards, with the Greek Gaia, becomes parent of many titans. (Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary)

There's likely a good deal of potential esoteric symbolism embedded in the idea that those who are "poor" or "destitute of" pneuma go to the kingdom of Ouranos. I'm sure if we searched, we could find a thing or two on the subject in the Secret Doctrine, or in the works of the neoplatonists, etc. If, as many people suspect, the "gospels" are veiled symbolic stories containing esoteric truths, this method of exploration is likely the way to uncover some of those truths.


A translation from the Aramaic - HOLY BIBLE from the ancient eastern text, Georges M. Lamsa - gives : "Blessed are the humble(1), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The note says : (1) Aramaic, poor in pride.

Humility, or poor in pride, may make more sense. St Philotheos of Sinai gives a description and references to other Gospels on this subject in Texts on Watchfulness (Philokalia) :

" Our Lord Jesus Christ himself, being God incomprehensible, unknown and ineffable, wishing to show us the way of eternal life and holiness, was clothed in humility during His whole life in the flesh...Let us humble ourselves in soul and body, in thought and will, in words and ideas, in our outer bearing and our inner state. For unless we strive to do this we will turn our advocate, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God, against us."

St Peter of Damaskos (Twenty-four Discourses) has a chapter on humility where he gives some advice's :

"Yet let no one think that it is a simple, casual matter to become humble. It is something beyond our natural powers; and it is almost true to say that the more a person is gifted, the harder it is for him to attain humility."


You makes some good points here.  Humility is certainly a virtue in every tradition.  Might you care to define it?  What is humility?  What does it mean to be poor in pride?


There has been many different idea's and interpretations of this verse, and the one which resonates with me the most would be thus;

In this verse, I feel Jesus is pointing to the "Spiritualized Ego", or the trap of believing we of "our own power" can do anything. 

He is reminding us God is the only power, presence, and real "doer" of ALL, and to surrender to this Truth. 

One of the cardinal idea's put forth in A Course in Miracles, Jesus continually reminds us that it has been our own false idea's about life and God which we have put in place of Truth that has caused our suffering. 


Poor in spirit might be thought of as 'self-restrained' which is a prominent quality Krishna gives for describing  the Sage.  The will of the shadow self, the personal desire mind, is "poor".


This from Emmett Fox founder of The Divine Science and theologian during the Great Depression in the US

Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

To be poor in spirit does not in the least mean the thing we call 'poor spirited' nowadays. To be poor in spirit means to have emptied yourself of all desire to exercise personal self-will, and, what is just as important, to have renounced all preconceived opinions in the wholehearted search for God. It means to be willing to set aside your present habits of thought, your present views and prejudices, your present way of life if necessary; to jettison, in fact, anything and everything that can stand in the way of your finding God.


Blessed are those whose ego-will is poor or restrained.  How about that?


Gerry and folks, 

The words 'ego', 'will' and 'poor' have strong and sometimes negative connotations in Western culture. 

Maybe the idea here is not putting ourselves above others. A person who does this does not have to be poor, wilful or egotistical. IMHO there might be great strength of heart in not putting ourselves above others?




Yes indeed.  If we have control over self-desires (ego-will) and base our choices and path upon universal principles (back to the Kant quotes we have been talking about in another discussion) we will naturally put the human race and others before the personal self.  This is what is called selflessness particularly in Eastern traditions.  In the west we call it altruism.  So I think you hit the nail on the head in my book at least.   (But as you mentioned it earlier it is important not to under-estimate the magnitude of this task.  It requires a complete self-transformation, that no doubt will take lifetimes.)


"The one thing you should always be on guard against is the reading of any line of these Christian Scriptures as recounting an actual historical physical event. Every main thought or idea in the Christian Scriptures is allegorical, and refers directly to the cycle of initiation and to some of the teachings given during the initiation ceremonies."


How does this suggestion apply to the Beatitudes?