The Book of Dzyan: Some Themes Related to Chinese Traditional Religion

By Ingmar de Boer on October 24, 2023 at 10:04 pm

1. Introduction on Shenism

In a previous article, On the Etymology of the Term Fohat, I have identified with reasonable certainty the syllable “fo” in the term “fohat”. H.P. Blavatsky (HPB) mentions in an editorial note to an article in The Theosophist entitled Theosophy and the Avesta (see also CW IV, 242-243), a number of terms from Chinese traditional religion and their corresponding principles as part of the “septenary division of man”. In the same note she refers to the 1847 work A Dissertation on the Theology ofthe Chinese by Walter Henry Medhurst (1796-1857)1, where the Chinese syllable 魄 (pò) was found2, corresponding to the syllable “fo” of The Secret Doctrine (SD). Further research exposed quite a few interesting connections between the text of the stanzas of volume one of the SD, and elements of Chinese Traditional Religion and the literature connected with it, which I will describe in the following paragraphs of this article.

Chinese traditional religion or Chinese folk religion is usually defined as the syncretic forms of the three great religions of China, Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, and the veneration of the shén and the ancestors. All of these components occur in Chinese traditional religion, mixed in different proportions, varying with time in different social settings. This multidimensional and dynamic religious complex was first called “shenism” by the anthropologist Allan J.A. Elliott in his 1955 work Chinese spirit-medium cults in Singapore.3

Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, several forms of divination and astrology, and also several forms of martial arts and their derivatives are connected to shenism, to various degrees. Japanese Shinto has strong parallels with shenism, and the syllable shin in the word shinto (神道, Chin. shén dào, the way of the shén) is cognate with shén (神). The shén (神) themselves are called kami (神, the same character) in Japanese. According to scholars in the field, the veneration of the shén is very ancient, however it would have evolved particularly strong during the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). Today, shenism is still very popular in China and according to some researchers it is the most important religion in mainland China, with more than a quarter of the Chinese population being considered shenist. That would amount to more than 375 million people.4

2. The Divine Breath

Medhurst explores in his dissertation the meaning of the word shîn (神, pīnyīn: shén, spirit), summing up different occurrences of this word in Chinese dictionaries and classical works. To theosophists, the shén are most easily explained as the dhyan chohans in the SD. The same term dhyan chohans is used for the seven great lords of meditation as well as for the hierarchies of beings under their rule, while similarly the word shén is also used to denote both of these in the context of Chinese religion.

On p. 7 of his dissertation, Medhurst translates and paraphrases several definitions from the famous Kāng Xī dictionary (康熙, 1716 CE) appearing under shîn (神, shén, spirit), one of which explains the relations between shîn (shén), kweì (guǐ), hwăn (hún), pĭh (HPB’s Pho, 魄, pò), the life breath k’he (qí, 祇), and the fundamental concepts of 隂 (yīn) and 陽 (yáng)5:

In the next definition of Shîn, given in the Dictionary, we meet with 鬼神 kweì shîn, under which the writer says, 陽魂爲神隂魄爲鬼 the soul of the male or superior principle of nature [陽, yáng] is called shîn, and the anima of the female or inferior principle of nature [隂, yīn] is called kweì; again, lest we should suppose that anything really divine is intended by the hwăn and pĭh, he says 氣之伸者爲神屈者爲鬼 the expanding quality of the breath or spirit of nature [祇, qí] is the shîn, and its contracting quality the kw.

We could compare this text to śloka 10 and 11 of stanza III (SD I, 83):



The “breath of fire” in this comparison corresponds to shîn and the “breath of the mother” correpsonds to kweì. The “fire”, or “father”, matches the “superior principle of nature” (yáng) and the mother the “inferior principle of nature” (yīn). Father-Mother is the unity of yīn and yáng. This is a thought that we might have had when we first read these ślokas, but here we have it layed out for us. Mencius calls the “breath or spirit of nature” qí, which is generally known from traditional Chinese medicine and other fields of interest, often spelled “chi” or “ki”. The soul of the male or superior principle of nature (yáng) is actually called hún in Medhurst’s text, and the anima of the female or inferior principle of nature (yīn) is called pò. The hún and pò are called shén and guǐ since their “qualities” of expanding and contracting are shén and guǐ respectively.

In śloka 11 the sons expand and contract, being under the influence of the qualities of the breath (qí). The sons are the (seven) elements, but they have (seven) corresponding powers or intelligences. Elsewhere in the SD, the sons are called the sons of fohat, who are also his brothers. Fohat is himself one of the sons (powers), or the “synthesis” of these powers. (SD I, 293) The sons expand and contract “through their own selves and hearts”, because they are forces which are intrinsically of expanding (shén) or contracting (guǐ) quality. As we know, in the summary to the first part of the first volume of the SD (I, 269-299), they are described as six primary forces, or śakti’s, and as the six hierarchies of dhyan chohans (dhyāni buddhas).

On p. 5 Medhurst continues to cite from the Kāng Xī dictionary:

[…] for 申卽引也 to expand […] means to lead forth; for 天主降氣以感萬物 heaven manages or directs the sending down of the k’he or breath of nature to influence all things, 故言引出萬物 therefore it is said, lead forth all things. […] It is Heaven that sends down its breath or spirit to influence or lead forth all things, and Shîn is the spirit thus employed.

We may compare these passages to śloka 12 (SD I, 85):


On p. 15 in Medhurst’s dissertation we find also the element of the “web”, here a “net”, spun between heaven and earth, or spirit and matter in the Book of Dzyan:

Betwixt heaven and earth there is nothing so great as this breath of nature; that which enters into every fibre and atom is the male and female principle of nature, and that which incloses heaven and earth as in a net, is this male and female principle of nature.

This fragment is, according to Medhurst, a commentary to a quote from Confucius (孔子, Kǒng Zǐ, 551-479 BCE), but I have as yet not been able to find original texts of the quote or its commentary. I think however, that the correspondence with the already cited ślokas 10 and 11 is evident.

3. Father-Mother

In the Shū jīng (書經), the Book of Documents, originally written before or at the beginning of the Han dynasty, we find again the theme of heaven and earth as the basis of all subsequent phenomena. In Legge’s 1879 translation in volume 3 of the Sacred Books of the East series (p. 125), we find for example about the emperor:

Heaven and earth is the parent of all creatures; and of all creatures man is the most highly endowed. The sincerely intelligent (among men) becomes the great sovereign; and the great sovereign is the parent of the people.

In the first phrase of this quotation we read the word “parent”, a word we know is used in the first śloka of the Book of Dzyan as it is presented in the SD. Interestingly, in the English sentence by Legge, heaven and earth are plural, but are translated as singular. We have here an example of “heaven-earth”, a nominal compound in the Chinese source text, translated by Legge as a single noun. The word parent however, is also a nominal compound in the source text, namely 父母 (fù mǔ), which is litterally “father-mother”.

At the time HPB wrote the SD, there was at least one translation which rendered fù mǔ literally as father-mother. In the 1770 French translation by sinologists Joseph de Guignes and Antoine Gaubil (Le chou-king, un des livres sacrés des Chinois, p. 150), the same quotation from Confucius is as follows:

Le Ciel & la terre ſont le pere & le mere de toutes choſes. L’homme, entre toutes ces choſes, eſt le ſeul qui ait un raiſon capable de diſcerner; mais un Roi doit l’emporter par ſa droiture & pas ſon diſscernement; il eſt maître des hommes, il eſt leur pere & leur mere.

Heaven and earth are the father and mother of all things. Man, among all these things, is the only one who has a rationality capable of discerning; but a King must prevail by his righteousness and not his discernment; he is master of men, he is their father and their mother. [tr. IdB]

Much later, that is after the SD was written, sinologist William Edward Soothill actually uses the compound father-mother in his English translation (1913, The Three Religions of China, p.196):

Heaven and earth are the father-mother of all creatures, and of all creatures men are the most intelligent. The sincere, wise, and understanding among them becomes the great sovereign, and the great sovereign is the father-mother of the people.

Without unambiguously identifying the source of HPB’s use of father-mother in śloka 10 and 11 of stanza III and other places, we can imagine that this characteristic grammatical feature of the Book of Dzyan as given by HPB might be based upon the Chinese nominal compound.

4. Being is Non-Being

One of the ideas we come across in the Book of Dzyan is the “identity of opposites”, in particular when it comes to Being and Non-Being. HPB herself calls it a paradox or a “contradiction in terms”. We find it in several places in the first stanza, for example in SD I, 42:


We find HPB’s commentary on 6 in SD I, 43 under (c):

(c) By “that which is and yet is not” is meant the Great Breath itself, which we can only speak of as absolute existence, but cannot picture to our imagination as any form of existence that we can distinguish from Non-existence.

In SD I, 44 we find:


The commentary on 7 we find in SD I, 45 under (b) (the page header of p. 45 is “BEING AND NON-BEING”):

(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; […] 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.

In SD I, 47 paramārthasatya (absolute truth) and saṃvṛttisatya (relative truth) are contrasted:

9. […] Absolute Being and Consciousness which are Absolute Non-Being and Unconsciousness […]

This idea of the “identity of opposites” is also found in Lao Tze’s well-known classic Tao Te Ching (道德经, dào dé jīng). In the Introductory to the SD (I, xxv), the “Tao-te-King” is mentioned, and its 1842 translation into French by Stanislas Julien. This translation was the first translation of the Tao Te Ching into a Western language, and an outstanding piece of scholarly work. The idea of identity of opposites is presented in chapters I and II of the Tao Te Ching: in chapter I the concept of Tao itself is explained, while in chapter II the unity of opposites is discussed. In chapter II we find in Julien’s text:


C’est pourquoi l’être et le non-être naissent l’un de l’autre.

That is why being and non-being are born from each other. [tr. IdB]

An example of a more modern English translation of the same passage would be that of John C.H. Wu (1961):

Indeed, the hidden and the manifest give birth to each other.

The terms hidden and manifest may be closer to the SD, but they are not literal translations.

On p. 8 in Julien, in the comments of the later editors, we find in “edition B” from the Song era:

The non-being produces the being; the being produces the non-being. These beings, not being able to subsist eternally, end by returning to the non-being. [tr. IdB]

We can see here, that being and non-being are described as co-originated and interdependent. They create, complement and shape each other. We may associate this with yin and yang as complementary factors in the universe. The Book of Dzyan however goes one step further, in saying that they are identical, or that they are one and the same noumenon.

A different source of the SD on this topic is Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s Wissenschaft der Logik. In SD II, 449n we find:

* The Hegelian doctrine, which identifies Absolute Being or “Be-ness” with “non-Being,” and represents the Universe as an eternal becoming, is identical with the Vedanta philosophy.

and in SD I, 16 we find a similar sentence:

The ABSOLUTE; the Parabrahm of the Vedantins or the one Reality, SAT, which is, as Hegel says, both Absolute Being and Non-Being.

and in SD II, 490:

A thing can only exist through its opposite — Hegel teaches us […]

For comparison: in Hegel’s Wissenschaft der Logik we find for example in Vol. I p. 12:

Der Anfang enthält alſo beydes, Seyn und Nichts; iſt die Einheit von Seyn und Nichts; — oder iſt Nichtseyn, das zugleich Seyn, und Seyn, das zugleich Nichtseyn iſt.

The beginning therefore contains both, Being and Nothing; is the Unity of Being and Nothing; — or is Non-Being, which is at the same time Being, and Being, which is at the same time Non-Being. [tr. IdB]

and on Becoming out of Non-Being and Being, Vol. I. p. 23:

Ihre Wahrheit iſt also dieſe Bewegung des unmittelbaren Verſchwindens des einen in dem andern; das Werden;

Its truth is therefore this movement of the immediate disappearance of the one in the other; the becoming; [tr. IdB]

Here it is clear that there is an actual identity of opposites, which is perhaps a deeper level of insight which may be associated with the so-called yin and yang symbol. The black and white dots may be thought of as representing this idea. The movement suggested by the two halves may represent the eternal becoming, which is called Motion in the text of the SD, and is symbolised in the Book of Dzyan as the Great, or Divine, Breath.

5. The Great Extreme

Searching the SD for Chinese philosophy and related topics, we find Confucius and confucianism mentioned twenty-three times in volumes I and II. In these locations, we come across the “Great Extreme” several times. It is a term from neo-confucianism, but connected to the ancient philosophy of the I-Ching (易經, yì jīng), the Book of Changes. It signifies the “the commencement ‘of changes’ (transmigrations)”. (SD I, 440) Its character representation is 太極 (tài jí). Different Western scholars have used different translations of his term, ranging from “le grand faîte”, “magnus terminus”, “la grande limite” (Guillaume Pauthier), “le grand terme” (Joseph Prémare), “the Grand Terminus” (James Legge), to “the Great Extreme”, a term used by Medhurst in his already mentioned Dissertation.

HPB not only had read Medhurst’s Dissertation on this topic, but also Legge’s well-known translation of the I-Ching with its appendices. This translation was first published in 1882 as volume 16 in Max Müller’s Sacred Books of the East series. For instance, on p. 373 as part of Legge’s translation of the Xì Cí (繫辭) I.11, we find:

70. Therefore in (the system of) the Yî there is the Grand Terminus, which produced the two elementary Forms. Those two Forms produced the Four emblematic Symbols, which again produced the eight Trigrams.

This fragment is rendered in SD I, 440. The Yî (易, yì) is of course the I-Ching, and the two elementary forms are symbolised there by the straight and broken lines of the system of the I-Ching, which is its representation of the cosmos. With two basic lines, 26=64 hexagrams are formed, each one characterising a stage in a model process of evolution.

In a different appendix to the I-Ching, the Xù Guà (序卦), in paragraph 1 (tr. Legge, appendix VI, p. 433), we find:

When there were heaven and earth, then afterwards all things were produced. What fills up (the space) between heaven and earth are (those) all things. Hence (Qian [hexagram I, 天, qián, heaven] and Kun [hexagram II, 坤, kūn, earth]) are followed by Zhun [hexagram III, 屯, tún, sprouting].

So, from the Great Extreme, heaven and earth are produced, the “two elementary forms”, “the twofold” (兩儀, liǎng yí), which serves as a basis for all other productions.6

Just for comparison, we can read again part of stanza III śloka 10 (SD I, 83):


In SD II, 553, the Great Extreme (太極, tài jí) is identified as the “concealed unity of the secret doctrine”, and compared to parabrahman, ein-sof and equivalent concepts from different cultural backgrounds. These are however limitless, noumenal instances, while the neo-confucian philosophers generally distinguish between the Great Extreme and different varieties of infinity. The term “extreme” itself signifies a limit, and the Great Extreme, or Terminus, is defined as an upper limit of the manifested cosmos. Zhū Xī (朱熹, 1130-1200), one of the most important thinkers among the “Sung sages”, places another concept next to the Great Extreme, namely 無極 (wú jí), literally “without boundary”. We can think of it as not only without spatial boundary, but also without temporal limitations. Zhū Xī inserts between these two characters the particle 而 (ér, and) to form a new concept, 無極而太極, wú jí ér tài jí, which is symbolised by a circle. The concepts of yīn and yáng are then defined as its movement 陽 yáng and its retraction 陰 yīn. Perhaps we could think of the Great Extreme as the protogonos or Second Logos, and the Being-without-limits (wú jí) as the concealed Lord, the First Logos of the secret doctrine. Alternatively we could think of wú jí ér tài jí, the Being-with-and-without-limits, as parabrahman, represented as the “immaculate white disk within a dull black ground” in the archaic manuscript in SD I, 1.

6. Alchemy and the Human Soul

Stevan Harrell, in the opening sentences of his article The Concept of Soul in Chinese Folk Religion, states that7:

The concept of “soul” (ling-hun) [灵魂, líng hún] is central to the study of Chinese folk religion for at least three reasons. First, the idea of ling-hun underlies most notions of supernatural beings. […] Second, the loss of one’s “soul” is an extremely common explanation for many kinds of diseases and abberation, both mental and physical, that are treated by Chinese “sacred medicine.” […] Third, trance—a state common to folk practitioners in many parts of southern China—is invariably explained in terms of “soul” travel of spirit possession.

Elliott, whom we came across in the introduction, briefly describes the role of the shén (shen) and guǐ (kuei) in human psychology (op. cit. p. 28-29):

The Chinese concept of shen is closely associated with the idea of the human soul. The soul of a living man is conceived as having two components, the hun [魂] or positive component, which has three parts representing the three spiritual energies, and the p’o [魄] or negative component, which has seven parts representing the seven emotions. Shen and kuei are the ultimate spiritual influences, positive and negative respectively, which underlie the two components of the soul.

Legge in Chinese Classics Vol. I , p. 262, in his commentary to chapter 16 of The Doctrine of the Mean (中庸, zhōng yōng), formulates the same idea as follows:

[shén] signifies “spirits”, “a spirit”, “spirit”; and [guǐ] “a ghost”, or “demon”. The former is used for the animus, or intelligent soul [魂, hún], and the latter for the anima, or animal, grosser, soul [魄, pò], so separated.

In an earlier stage of this investigation into the term fohat, I had already come across an original Chinese text where the term pò (魄) is used within the broader context of traditional Chinese religion, in The Secret of the Golden Flower (太乙金華宗旨, Tài yǐ jīnhuá zōngzhǐ), a Taoist alchemical work translated by Richard Wilhelm into German, first published in 1929.

In 1931 an English translation was published, with an extensive commentary by Carl Gustav Jung. In Jung’s commentary (p. 65), a diagram may be found in which the various concepts are laid out on which the alchemical system is based. I reproduced it here in part. In this diagram we find the term pò (“anima”), and in the Chinese text the same character 魄 (pò) is used as in “fohat”.

In the diagram as it is partly reproduced here, we see Tao (dào) at the top, splitting into a masculine and a feminine spirit, yáng and yīn. The human principles hún and pò are labeled animus and anima. According to Jung’s commentary, the two human souls pò and hún, which are in conflict during the life of an individual. The terms animus and anima are the masculine and feminine meta-physical dimensions of the human being. They have a different sense than animus and anima in Jung’s writings on archetypes. At death they pass into guǐ (鬼), a ghost being, and shén (神), a spirit or god. It is clear that the same subject matter is discussed here as in HPB’s editorial note to the article Theosophy and the Avesta and in Medhursts dissertation.

If we compare the details of the model we find however, that the human principles HPB describes in her editorial note do not match those in The Secret of the Golden Flower. For example, if hún and pò are opposing principles, why do we find them related to ātman and kāma manas, which are by no means natural opposites? Perhaps we will have to conclude that the correspondence given by HPB, between the human principles and the Chinese terms is again a “blind”, and that we have to rely on our own understanding to find the actual correspondence here.

In the alchemical transformation which is described in The Secret of the Golden Flower, the opposing principles hún and pò are involved in the creation of the Golden Flower which is eventually dissolved into Tao (dào). In the commentary, Jung describes the hún and pò principles in man as logos and eros, the intellectual and passionate principles, which theosophists would perhaps call manas and kāma. He refers to chapter V of his own 1921 work Psychologische Typen, where he discusses the hún and pò souls:

Die Existenz der zwei auseinanderstrebenden, gegensätzlichen Tendenzen, die beide den Menschen in extreme Einstellungen hineinzureissen und ihn in die Welt — sei es in deren geistige, sei es in deren materielle Seite — zu verwickeln und dadurch mit sich selber zu veruneinigen vermögen, fordert die Existenz eines Gegengewichtes, welches eben die irrationale Grösse des Tao ist.

The existence of two mutually contending tendencies, both striving to drag man into extreme attitudes and entangle him in the world—whether upon the spiritual or material side—thereby setting him at variance with himself, demands the existence of a counter-weight, which is just this irrational fact, Tao. [1923 Eng. ed. p. 267, tr. H. Godwin Baynes]

So described, the process of unification is doubtlessly more than just unification of the intellectual and passionate principles in man. In the context of alchemical transformation of The Secret of the Golden Flower, the shén and guǐ apparently represent the spiritual and material in man, the heaven and earth aspects of the human entity, ultimately to be unified in Tao.


In studying the SD, and a fortiori its presentation of the text from the Book of Dzyan, one of the main questions is still “what were HPB’s actual sources”? Is the Book of Dzyan an existing text she translated from the secret books of Kiu Te, or their commentaries, from some mysterious language like Senzar, or did HPB derive her often innovative ideas from contemporary works by Medhurst, Legge and others? Was the information passed on through the Masters of Wisdom or was she perhaps only inspired by them, while getting basic information from publicly accessible literature? Without any doubt she was intensely driven by her ideas, throughout her whole life, and arguably these ideas together constitute an important framework, perhaps even more so for today’s world. That in itself may speak for her authenticity as a writer. We could argue that if there would have been no mention of books of Kiu Te, if there would have been no Masters involved, no foreign languages, that her ideas would still be have been of great value. For a serious reader however, she often made it very difficult to distinguish between different layers of message and packaging. The SD has multiple layers of interpretation, and perhaps we should not at all be surprised about that, as in esoteric literature that is often the case.

The themes of the different paragraphs of this article, “The Divine Breath”, “Father-Mother”, “Being is Non-Being”, “The Great Extreme” and “Alchemy and the Human Soul” may all be starting points for further study in the highly interesting field of Chinese traditional religion. Perhaps the esoteric world view presented in the SD can be of use as a study tool, a means to gain more insight into a world of spells, mediumship and shamanic travels. Only in the last few decades academic research in different disciplines seems to be moving in a direction where scholars are trying to understand these as cultural phenomena in their own right, rather than to depreciate them, trying to describe them as Western ideas in distorted form, as misguided religion or failed science. In the nineteenth century HPB already tried to understand religious phenomena from a universal standpoint, finding out the meaning of the elements of different religious traditions for humans in their personal lives and for humanity as a whole. It is this attitude which served as a model idea for the Theosophical Society, which only later resulted in its three objects. ■


1. Rev. Medhurst was a Calvinist (Congregationalist) missionary stationed in Malacca, Batavia, Shanghai and a few other locations in East-Asia from 1816 to 1856. His aim with this dissertation is to find a word with a meaning closest to that of the word “God” in Christianity. Moreover, Medhurst composed four dictionaries himself, including a Chinese-English dictionary, and together with other translators he was the first to translate the Bible into Chinese. The Chinese phrases in Medhurst’s text are without exception immediately followed by their English translation. In the present article, when introduced, Medhurst’s old style Chinese transliteration is each time accompanied by contemporary pīnyīn transliteration and Chinese characters in their traditional form. The word “Chinese” in connection to language refers to Mandarin Chinese.

2. Boer, Ingmar de, On the Etymology of the Term Fohat, published October 24, 2023 on the Book of Dzyan website, at http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/

3. Elliott, Alan J.A., Chinese Spirit-Medium Cults in Singapore, The Athlone Press, London & Atlantic Higlands NJ, reprinted 1990 (first published 1955), p. 27-29

4. The Dutch researcher J.J.M. de Groot wrote extensively on the different human souls, or aspects of the human soul, in shenism. In volume IV of his monumental The Religious System of China, published in 1901, he describes the different souls in human psychology, various religious ceremonies, and physical and mental pathology.

5. This definition in the Kāng Xī dictionary is a paraphrase of a quotation from a work by Mencius (孟子, Mèng Zǐ, 372-289 BCE). Within Medhurst’s quotations from dictionaries and other works, other (third) works are often quoted. Here we have four levels: myself quoting Medhurst quoting the Kāng Xī dictionary quoting Mencius.

6. In Chinese, the conjunction “heaven and earth” is also written as a nominal compound, “heaven-earth” (天地, qián kūn), in a similar way to “father-mother” in the Book of Dzyan (vol. I stanza II, śloka 10), or, if you will, like a dvandva compound in Sanskrit. Two modern translators of the I-Ching, Rudolf Ritsema & Stephen Karcher, in their 1994 translation (p. 115), render heaven and earth as “Heaven[and]Earth”, expressing the inherent unity and interdependence of the two elements.

7. Harrell, Stevan, The Concept of Soul in Chinese Folk Religion, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 38, No. 3 (May, 1979), p. 519-528

© 2023 Ingmar de Boer, published in The Netherlands

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On the Etymology of the Term Fohat

By Ingmar de Boer on at 8:03 am


In the great play called The Secret Doctrine (SD), perhaps the most important actor is fohat, and certainly the most enigmatic. The term has not yet been identified as part of any known language, although several suggestions are given by H.P. Blavatsky (HPB) in the SD and some of her other writings.

Many of the terms used in the SD were also used in Isis Unveiled (IU), the work HPB considered as a precursor of the SD. The term fohat however, is an exception in this respect. It was used in instructions of the Masters of Wisdom to A.P. Sinnet and A.O. Hume in September or October 1881. Sinnett’s notes of these instructions were published as Appendix II in The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett p. 376-386 under the title Cosmological Notes, and later partly as letter no. I in The Early Teachings of the Masters p. 184-193 (through question no. 16). It appeared in Mahātma letter no. XIII (Barker, i.e. 44 chronological) from M. to A.P. Sinnet, received January 1882 at Allahabad.

It first appeared in theosophical literature in 1882, when HPB wrote an editor’s note to T. Subba Row’s article The Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principle in Man. (The Theosophist, Vol. III No. 4, January 1882, p. 93-99, later published in CW III, 400-418)

From then onwards, the term was used in HPB’s publications, various letters from the Masters of Wisdom, other writings by theosophists and other authors.

If we trace the locations where the term fohat is mentioned in this initial phase, we can set up a list of direct references to the meaning of the word or its etymology. In the table on page 1, these locations are listed, each with a short indication of their content and a suggested language if explicitly mentioned. The suggested languages are, in order of high to low frequency: Tibetan, Turanian, Sanskrit and Chinese. The word Turanian is used by HPB in a way that was common in her time, to indicate what we would now call the Altai or Altai-Uralic language family. If we consider the languages in terms of language families besides the Altai or Altai-Uralic, we can see that Chinese and Tibetan are members of the same language family, that is the Sino-Tibetan language family, whereas Sanskrit is a member of the Indo-European language family. The eight clues therefore point to three different language families. If words are of the same language family, that means that they may have cognate roots. If they are not, they may be related typically because they may be borrowed from languages belonging to the different language family. The fact that the different clues are pointing to several different language families, raises the question: is this puzzle solvable provided that all of the clues are valid? We will now analyse the different clues to see if we can find out more on the origin of the term fohat.

Clues 1-5: “a Tibetan Term”

In many places in the SD, HPB mentions that fohat is a buddhist term, used by occultists, esoteric philosophers, the brotherhood north of the Himalayas, the arahats of Tibet etc. In the Tibetan alphabet however, there is no letter “f”, and the language does not have sounds quite similiar to the English “f”. The letter “pha” is perhaps closest to our “f”. It is unclear why fohat is most often written with “f”. The syllable structure in Tibetan is subject to strict rules, which allow only for the two syllables being fo and hat, and not, for example, foh and at. If it would be a Tibetan “compound” word, it would therefore be a combination of the sounds fo and hat, perhaps most likely pho and hat. In location 8 it is spelled as “Pho-hat”, suggesting that it is indeed this two-part compound. In location 6 it is also suggested that fohat might be a compound, optionally bilingual. In location 5, in the Glossary near the end of Five Years of Theosophy, page 562, we find again “Fohat, Tibetan for Sakti: cosmic force or energizing power of the universe.”. In modern and older Tibetan dictionaries there is no mention of a word pho hat, or pho, with a meaning anywhere near our enigmatic term from the SD.

As a sidenote: we may be inclined to think that mahat and fohat are etymologically related, but in the case of fohat being a Tibetan compound this would not be possible. Mahat is a present active participle from the Sanskrit root “mah”, “to be or make great or big”. It means “making great” or “being big”, expressing the important role that was attributed to intellect or intelligence in ancient Indian philosophy. Being derived from the root mah plus ending -at, mahat is composed differently than fo/pho plus hat.

The numbers 6a and 6b are different renderings of the same question-and-answer session, so that we can take them together as one location.

Clue 6: “a Turanian compound” and Sanskrit bhū

That a word would be a “Tibetan term” on the one hand and a “Turanian compound” on the other, are in principle two linguistically incompatible statements, so strictly speaking the clues 1-5 and 6 contradict each other. The attributes Tibetan and Turanian (Altai-Uralic) point to different language families, but these particular languages are used in neighbouring areas, which is why, for example, a word is likely to have a false etymology, while in reality it is borrowed from one of the two. Another explanation might be that HPB received different pieces of information in the course of time. In any case, it remains up to us to decide which of the given options are correct. After a searching a selection of current literature, dictionaries and etymological databases, no Altai-Uralic candidates for “fo” or “hat” were found.

In location 6, a second idea is presented: the Chinese word “pho” being derived from the Sanskrit root bhū. This derivation is implausable, again because Chinese and Sanskrit are generally considered unrelated languages. Although there has been a lot of work done to try to unite the known language families into superfamilies, the Sino-Tibetan and Indo-European families are among the most unlikely partners. Moreover, we can see that the semantic fields of the Chinese and Sanskrit roots pho and bhū have nothing in common.

Clue 7: “Chinese characters”

Like locations 6a and 6b, location 7 is part of the transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, but it was not published in the book bearing that title. These transactions were question-and-answer sessions, where HPB answered questions of the lodge members about successive stanzas from the Book of Dzyan. The larger part of the original handwritten notes of these sessions was recovered by Daniel Caldwell in 1995 and published in book form by Michael Gomes in 2010.

On March 28, 1889, the twelfth session was held at 17, Lansdowne Road, Holland Park, London, where a Mr. Atkinson (William Walker Atkinson), one of the participants who knew some Chinese, asks HPB if she could give the Chinese characters of the word fohat, to be able to look it up in a Chinese dictionary. On the question if the Chinese representation of the word consists of two syllables, HPB answers:

It is from those parts something I have been asking many times. Fo means brilliant. […] Mme. Blavatsky: I wish you would look somewhere where you could find it, because I have been looking for it in India. Mr. Atkinson: If you will only give me the Chinese characters, I will find that at once. Mme. Blavatsky: I have got it somewhere, but not in the Chinese.

It is remarkable that she gives yet another meaning of “fo”. In a modern Chinese dictionary the syllable fo is easy to identify, since there is only one matching syllable and character, which is 佛, fó, with rising tone, meaning Buddha. This syllable is mentioned several times by HPB, also as the origin of the first part of the word fohat. In fact, this syllable fó is borrowed from Sanskrit, as a Chinese rendering of “bu” in “buddha”. Probably the idea that the origin of fo(hat) is the Sanskrit root bhū is based on this, as HPB connects these two in location 6b. However, the two roots bud (to awaken, in “Buddha”) and bhū (to be) are unrelated. The syllable fó only means “Buddha” and not “brilliant”, so for clue 7 we are at a clear dead end.

Clue8: “Pho-hat” and the I Ching

Location 8 (CW IV, 242-243) is a footnote by HPB to an article on the sevenfold in Zoroastrianism, Theosophy and the Avesta, in The Theosophist Vol. IV, No. 1, October, 1882, p. 22. The footnote starts with:

Our Brother has but to look into the oldest sacred books of China—namely the Yi King, or Book of Changes (translated by James Legge) written 1200 B.C., to find that same Septenary division of man mentioned in that system of Divination.

Then seven Chinese terms are mentioned in connection with the seven human principles, see the following table.

The first edition of James Legge’s translation of the I Ching, published in 1882, is the only Western language edition published in HPB’s time. Following HPB’s advice, we have consulted this edition. We find that some of the terms of the “septenary division” are discussed in chapter three, so that we can determine the correct Chinese spelling. But again, our candidate for “fo”, the animal soul, “Pho”, is not to be found there.

If we continue reading the footnote, we find a reference to A Dissertation on the Theology of the Chinese by Walter Henry Medhurst, published in Shanghai in 1847. In this work we also find the terms of HPB’s septenary division, with their correct Chinese spelling. If we put together the information from Legge and Medhurst, we can set up another table, containing the orthography of all seven terms.

On page 5 in “A Dissertation…” we find: “The 鬼 kweì or 魄 pĭh in man, is the anima or grosser part of his spiritual nature […]”. If we look up the character 魄 in a modern Chinese dictionary we find that in modern pīnyīn transliteration it is spelled pò, and that its general meaning is “animal soul”. Could this be the “pho” of the septenary division? HPB writes in location 8:

In the Hwân, or soul (animus), the Khien predominates, and the Zing in the Pho or animal soul. At death the Hwân (or spiritual soul) wanders away, ascending, and the Pho (the root of the Tibetan word Pho-hat), descends and is changed into a ghostly shade (the shell).

From this sentence it is already clear without a doubt that this pho, or, as we now know, 魄 (pò), is indeed a rendering of the first syllable of the word fohat.

This character pò (魄), composed of 白 (bái) and 鬼 (guǐ), is found in some of the oldest Chinese dictionaries, the Ěryǎ (爾雅) and the Shuō wén jiě zì (說文解字), dating from the 3rd century BCE and the early 2nd century CE respectively. Very likely, it predates the Han-dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). A substantial lemma is found in the Kāng Xī dictionary (康熙, 1716 CE). Linguists see cognates in the Tibetan words bla (soul, spirit) and zla (moon). (James A. Matisoff and others) The character is used in the Tao Te Ching (道德經), Lǎozi’s well known (arguably) 6th century BCE classic, where it is used in the sense of “animal soul”. (10.1) Another example of a relevant text is the The Secret of the Golden Flower (太乙金華宗旨, Tài Yǐ Jīnhuá Zōngzhǐ), a Taoist alchemical work translated by Richard Wilhelm and published in German in 1929. In 1931 an English translation (from German, by Cary F. Baynes) was published, with a preface by Carl Gustav Jung.

In the present article only the etymological dimension is investigated. Religious and philosophical aspects may be discussed in a second article.


Of the eight etymological clues, only the last one holds up.

Clues 1-5: The idea that fohat is a Tibetan word is not disproven entirely, but it is implausible, and a corresponding Tibetan root is not found.

Clue 6: Fohat being a Turanian compound is equally implausible. No cognate Altai-Uralic roots were found in current literature, dictionaries or etymological databases.

Clue 7: The first syllable being derived from the Chinese word for Buddha, which is the syllable 佛 (fó), or from the Sanskrit root bhū is both implausible.

Clue 8: The first syllable fo can be traced back to the Chinese character 魄 (pò), meaning “soul”, or “animal soul”. It has a role in Chinese traditional religion and philosophy which is at the basis of the cosmology and divination system of the I Ching.

Having exhausted all of HPB’s clues, a next step could be to find relevant original texts in the field of Chinese traditional religion. This would enable us to gather more information on fohat to be able to shed more light on the many remaining questions. A lot of useful information is already available in Medhurst’s 1847 work, but there will also be modern scholarly works perhaps presenting a more comprehensive picture. ■

© 2023 Ingmar de Boer, published in The Netherlands

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Category: Book of Dzyan, Cosmogenesis, Fohat | 3 comments


The three-tongued flame of the four wicks

By David Reigle on January 1, 2021 at 11:43 pm

The Book of Dzyan, Stanza 7, verse 4, begins:

“It is the root that never dies; the three-tongued flame of the four wicks . . .”

In the commentary on this (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 237), Blavatsky appears to quote a parallel passage from the Egyptian Book of the Dead:

“‘I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal,’ says the defunct. ‘I enter into the domain of Sekhem (the God whose arm sows the seed of action produced by the disembodied soul) and I enter the region of the Flames who have destroyed their adversaries,’ i.e., got rid of the sin-creating ‘four wicks.’ (See chap. i., vii., ‘Book of the Dead,’ and the ‘Mysteries of Ro-stan.’)”

If the defunct really says “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal” in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, this would be a parallel passage of much significance. So, years ago the late Jeanine Miller contacted me to see if I could find this in the improved translations published since Blavatsky’s time. Blavatsky used the 1882 French translation by Paul Pierret, Le Livre des morts des anciens Égyptiens, for her references to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In Pierret’s translation, Blavatsky’s reference to chapter i, line vii, is in the midst of a sentence. I here quote the whole sentence (p. 5):

“Je suis avec Horus ce jour d’envelopper Teshtesh, d’ouvrir la porte au vengeur de l’immobile de coeur

l. 7.  et de rendre mystérieux les mystères de Ro-stau. Je suis avec Horus dans l’acte de pétrir ce bras gauche de l’Osiris qui est à Sekhem; je sors et j’entre dans la demeure des flammes, détruisant les adversaires,

l. 8.  autrement dit les rebelles dans Sekhem.”

Pierret’s French translation was translated into English by Charles H. S. Davis, and published in 1895, titled The Egyptian Book of the Dead. That sentence was rendered into English as (p. 69):

“I am with Horus on this day for covering Teshtesh, for opening the door to the avenger of the god with a motionless heart

7. and for making mysterious the mysteries in Restau. I am with Horus in the act of supporting this left arm of the Osiris who is in Sechem; I go out and enter the blazing-abode, exterminating the opponents,

8. in other words, the rebels in Sechem.”

As may be seen, this is indeed what Blavatsky referred to in her commentary on this stanza from the Book of Dzyan; but the phrase “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal” is not there in either Pierret’s French translation or in its translation into English by Davis. The only reference to flame there is “blazing-abode,” “demeure des flammes.”

Notice that Ro-stau in Pierret’s “mystères de Ro-stau,” Restau in Davis’s “mysteries in Restau,” is Ro-stan in Blavatsky’s “Mysteries of Ro-stan.” This is obviously nothing more than a typographical error in The Secret Doctrine, reading the “u” in Blavatsky’s handwritten Ro-stau as “n.” This was then repeated in The Theosophical Glossary, but without the hyphen: “Rostan. Book of the Mysteries of Rostan; an occult work in manuscript.” As we shall see, other Egyptologists use other variant spellings of this word. More importantly, the “occult work in manuscript” referred to must be the source of the phrase, “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal,” and the source of Blavatsky’s interpretation of it. Contrary to Jeanine Miller’s hopes, the improved translations published since Blavatsky’s time do not have this phrase.

Since Pierret’s 1882 French translation used by Blavatsky, the Egyptian Book of the Dead has been translated a few more times. The most famous of these translations is by E. A. Wallis Budge, published in 1895, with a revised translation in 1913. Despite the popularity of the Budge translations up to the present, Egyptian language studies have progressed much since then, and these have been superseded by what are regarded as the more accurate translations made by Raymond O. Faulkner (1972), and by Thomas George Allen (1974), independently of each other. As is well-known, there is no single Egyptian Book of the Dead, but rather a number of somewhat differing collections of “spells.” There are nearly 200 of these spells. A numbering system for them was introduced by Karl Richard Lepsius in the mid-1800s, and it is still in use by Egyptologists. So it is easily possible to locate the same spell in the different published translations of the various versions.

In the 1972 translation by Raymond O. Faulkner, as reprinted in The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead (University of Texas Press, Austin, Published in Cooperation with British Museum Press, 1985), this passage (with fuller surrounding sentences) is translated as (p. 35):

“Thoth has helped me so that I might be with Horus on the day of the clothing of the Dismembered One and of the opening of the caverns for the washing of the Inert One and the throwing open of the door of the secret things in Rosetjau; so that I might be with Horus as the protector of the left arm of Osiris who is in Letopolis. I go in and out among those who are there on the day of crushing the rebels in Letopolis so that I may be with Horus on the day of the Festival of Osiris; . . .”

In this translation there is no mention of flame. Instead it has “among those who are there.”

In the 1974 translation by Thomas George Allen, The Book of the Dead, or Going Forth by Day (The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, University of Chicago Press), this passage (with fuller surrounding sentences) is translated as (p. 5):

“I was with Horus on the day of wrapping the Dismembered One and opening the pits, of washing the weary-hearted one and secreting the entrance to the secrets of Rosetau. I was with Horus as savior of that left shoulder of Osiris that was in (Letopolis), going into and out of the devouring flame on the day of expelling the rebels from (Letopolis).”

As in Pierret’s translation used by Blavatsky, there is a reference to flame, but nothing about “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal.”

To be more complete, in the 1895 translation by E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani in the British Museum. The Egyptian Text with Interlinear Transliteration and Translation, a Running Translation, Introduction, Etc., this passage (with fuller surrounding sentences) is translated as (pp. 271-272):

“I am with Horus on the day of the clothing of Teshtesh and of the opening of the storehouses of water for the purification of the god whose heart moveth not, and of the unbolting of the door of concealed things in Re-stau. I am with Horus who guardeth the left shoulder of Osiris in Sekhem, and I go into and come out from the divine flames on the day of the destruction of the fiends in Sekhem.”

Budge here adds a footnote on Re-stau: “I.e., ‘the door of the passages of the tomb.’”

In the 1913 revised translation by E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Dead: The Hieroglyphic Transcript of the Papyrus of ANI, the Translation into English and An Introduction, this passage (with fuller surrounding sentences) is translated as (p. 358):

“I am with Horus on the day of dressing Teshtesh. I open the hidden water-springs for the ablutions of Urt-ab. I unbolt the door of the Shetait Shrine in Ra-stau. I am with Horus as the protector (or defender) of the left shoulder of Osiris, the dweller in Sekhem. I enter in among and I come forth from the Flame-gods on the day of the destruction of the Sebhau fiends in Sekhem.”

Budge here adds a footnote on Ra-stau: “Ra-stau is the name given to the entrance to the corridors which led down to the Kingdom of Seker at or quite near to the modern region of Sakkarah.”

The Budge translations refer to “the divine flames,” or “the Flame-gods,” but again, nothing like the phrase “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal.”

The first ever English translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead was made by Samuel Birch, and was included in the 1867 book, Egypt’s Place in Universal History, volume 5. This translation was not used by Blavatsky. In it, this passage (with fuller surrounding sentences) is translated as (p. 162):

“I am with Horus the day of clothing Tesh-tesh [the Nile], to open the door to wash the heart of the meek one, keeping secret the secret places in Rusta. I am with Horus supporting the right shoulder of Osiris in Skhem. I come and go from the Realms of Fire [the Phlegethon]. I expel the wicked [or the opposers] from Skhem.”

None of these translations of the Egyptian Book of the Dead have anything like the phrase, “I am the three-wicked Flame and my wicks are immortal.” Nor do they suggest anything like Blavatsky’s interpretation of this phrase. We must therefore assume that this phrase, and this interpretation, come from the “Book of the Mysteries of Rostan [i.e., Rostau]; an occult work in manuscript.”

Category: Book of Dzyan, Cosmogenesis, Parabrahman | 4 comments



By David Reigle on August 31, 2020 at 3:49 am

This is part of an ongoing glossary of terms relating to the Book of Dzyan.

            The term parabrahman is used in The Secret Doctrine to refer to one of the two aspects under which the “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle” is symbolized, the other aspect then being referred to as mūlaprakṛti. These two terms were adopted from the writings of T. Subba Row as the Advaita Vedānta terms for the two aspects that H. P. Blavatsky had called “absolute abstract motion” or “pre-cosmic ideation,” and “absolute abstract space” or “pre-cosmic substance,” respectively. However, the one reality (the “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle” of The Secret Doctrine) is referred to in Advaita Vedānta as brahman or parabrahman only. The term mūlaprakṛti is rarely used in Advaita Vedānta; and when it is, it is equated with māyā, the illusion of an ever-changing universe that is superimposed on the one changeless brahman. Blavatsky used these two terms because, following Subba Row’s earlier writings (not his later lectures on the Bhagavad-gītā), she thought that this was the Advaita Vedānta teaching: “. . . viewed in the same dual light as the Vedantin views his Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti, the one under two aspects” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 46). This is not the Advaita Vedānta teaching.

            The term brahman is the normal and usual word for the absolute in the Hindu Upaniṣads, and therefore in Vedānta of whatever school. In the Advaita school of Vedānta, brahman is non-dual (advaita), the one only, without a second (“ekam evādvitīyam,” Chāndogya Upaniṣad 6.2.1-2), and without qualities (nirguṇa). When some passages of the Upaniṣads seem to speak of brahman as having qualities (saguṇa), there may arise a need to distinguish brahman as it really is according to Advaita Vedānta, without qualities, from brahman as seeming to have qualities. Therefore we occasionally find the term param brahman, or parabrahman, used in contrast to aparam brahman, or aparabrahman (e.g., Praśna Upaniṣad 5.2). This is not common, since the term brahman is the normal and usual word for the absolute, requiring no qualifier such as param, “higher, highest, supreme,” in contrast to aparam, “lower.”

            As explained by Śaṅkarācārya in his Brahma-sūtra commentary on 4.3.14, brahman is only referred to as higher (param) and lower (aparam) brahman when we attribute to it upadhi-s, “limiting adjuncts,” of name and form, due to wrong knowing (avidyā). The Upaniṣads themselves may and do attribute such names and forms to brahman for the sake of imparting kinds of meditation on brahman. Because of this, the Hindu writings sometimes distinguish brahman as parabrahman, the “higher” brahman, from aparabrahman, the “lower” brahman, to which names and forms are figuratively attributed. The lower brahman is then regarded as īśvara, “God,” or sometimes as Brahmā, the creator god, but not as mūlaprakṛti.

            In Theosophical writings we sometimes see parabrahman defined as “beyond Brahmā,” where Brahmā is the masculine creator deity (H. P. Blavatsky, Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, p. 4). This meaning of parabrahman is not grammatically possible. When the word param is taken as “beyond,” it is preceded by some word declined in the ablative case, meaning “than” that something; literally “higher than,” or less literally “beyond,” that something. We do not have that here. Nor is the word parabrahman understood as “beyond Brahmā” in the Hindu texts. It means simply the “higher brahman,” even though the lower brahman, aparabrahman, can be understood as the masculine Brahmā.

            The Sanskrit word that we write as brahman is the undeclined form. It may be declined in the neuter gender or in the masculine gender. When declined in the neuter nominative singular it is brahma, the absolute. When declined in the masculine nominative singular it is brahmā, the masculine creator god. Without the diacritic mark on the final “a” these words cannot be distinguished. Since English does not use diacritics, there arose the convention of writing the undeclined form brahman to mean the neuter form, the absolute, leaving brahma (without diacritics) to mean the masculine form, the creator god, often capitalized as Brahma. In publications that use diacritics, it would be written as Brahmā. In English language books written before this convention became established, the neuter declined form brahma was often used for the absolute, like it is in the Sanskrit texts themselves. This potentially confusing situation must always be taken into account.

            In Theosophical writings we sometimes even see parabrahman defined as “beyond brahman,” the neuter absolute (G. de Purucker, Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 521), saying that this is “what the Oriental means when he says Parabrahman.” This meaning, too, is not grammatically possible, and there is no warrant for it in the Hindu texts. It is not what the Oriental means when he says parabrahman. Indeed, where the phrase param brahma occurs at the end of the Praśna Upaniṣad, it is followed by: na ataḥ param asti, translated by S. Radhakrishnan as “There is naught higher than that,” or as translated by Charles Johnston, “there is naught beyond.”

            In the Hindu Advaita Vedānta texts, brahman (or parabrahman) is described as “pure consciousness” (cin-mātra). More fully, brahman is described at the beginning of Śaṅkarācārya’s commentary on the Brahma-sūtras as “by nature eternally pure, intelligent, and free, omniscient and endowed with all powers” (nitya-śuddha-buddha-mukta-svabhāvaṃ sarva-jñaṃ sarva-śakti-samanvitam). This is taught in direct contrast to the unconscious pradhāna, “primary substance,” or mūla-prakṛti, “root-substance,” taught in the Hindu Sāṃkhya worldview, this being rejected by Śaṅkarācārya for the very reason that the absolute cannot be unconscious (acetana). In the Theosophical model, following an esoteric Buddhist or Arhat model, the one reality is described as unconscious(ness). These two opposing views are usually taught in Theosophy as merely being two ways of looking at the same thing. In the one place where Blavatsky clearly makes this distinction, she writes:

“We have already pointed out that, in our opinion, the whole difference between Buddhistic and Vedantic philosophies was that the former was a kind of rationalistic Vedantism, while the latter might be regarded as transcendental Buddhism. . . . 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.’ The ONE LIFE is either ‘MUKTA’ (absolute and unconditioned) and can have no relation to anything nor to any one; or it is ‘BADDHA’ (bound and conditioned), and then it cannot be called the ABSOLUTE; the limitation, moreover, necessitating another deity as powerful as the first to account for all the evil in this world. 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; a something ever present or ubiquitous, a Presence which ever was, is, and will be, whether there is a God, gods or none; whether there is a universe or no universe; existing during the eternal cycles of Maha Yugas, during the Pralayas as during the periods of Manvantara: and this is SPACE, the field for the operation of the eternal Forces and natural Law, the basis (as our correspondent rightly calls it) upon which take place the eternal intercorrelations of Akâśa-Prakriti, guided by the unconscious regular pulsations of Śakti—the breath or power of a conscious deity, the theists would say—the eternal energy of an eternal, unconscious Law, say the Buddhists.”

(“Editorial Appendix” by H. P. Blavatsky to “The Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principle in Man,” by T. Subba Row, from The Theosophist, vol. 3, no. 4, January, 1882, pp. 93-99, reprinted in Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 3, this quote on pp. 422-423.)

            It is useful to be aware of this distinction when studying these things, since the Sāṃkhya teaching of the unconscious pradhāna, “primary substance,” or mūla-prakṛti, “root-substance,” is taken as the primary target for refutation by Śaṅkarācārya in his Brahma-sūtra commentary, the single most authoritative work on Advaita Vedānta. When Blavatsky used the term parabrahman to describe the “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle,” or one aspect under which it is symbolized, she would have been regarding pure consciousness and unconsciousness as merely being two ways of looking at the same thing. For, when speaking of something that is beyond the range and reach of thought, one description may be as adequate (or inadequate) as the other. Nonetheless, how brahman or parabrahman is understood in Advaita Vedānta does not quite match how the one reality is understood in Theosophy. The term parabrahman is a synonym of the Theosophical “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle” only insofar as both refer to the absolute in their respective systems of thought.

Category: Book of Dzyan, Cosmogenesis, Parabrahman | No comments yet



By David Reigle on July 27, 2020 at 1:57 am

This is part of an ongoing glossary of terms relating to the Book of Dzyan.

            The term mūlaprakṛti is used in The Secret Doctrine to refer to one of the two aspects under which the “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle” is symbolized, the other aspect then being referred to as parabrahman. These two terms were adopted from the writings of T. Subba Row as the Advaita Vedānta terms for the two aspects that H. P. Blavatsky had called “absolute abstract space” or “pre-cosmic substance” and “absolute abstract motion” or “pre-cosmic ideation,” respectively. However, this is not exactly what these two terms refer to in Hinduism, and mūlaprakṛti is not really an Advaita Vedānta term.

            The term mūlaprakṛti is defined in The Secret Doctrine as “the root of Nature” (vol. 1, pp. 62, 136), “the Root of all” (vol. 1, pp. 147, 256, 340), “the ‘root-Principle’ of the world stuff and of all in the world” (vol. 1, p. 522), and “the root of Prakriti” (vol. 2, p. 65). The entry in the Theosophical Glossary shows that this is what Blavatsky thought was the literal meaning of the term: “Mûlaprakriti (Sk.). . . . undifferentiated substance . . . Literally, ‘the root of Nature’ (Prakriti) or Matter” (p. 218). This is not the literal meaning of the term, nor can it be. The term is a Sanskrit compound, consisting of mūla, “root,” and prakṛti, “substance, matter, nature.” In order to mean “the root of nature,” the compound would have to be prakṛti-mūla, not mūla-prakṛti.

            The term mūlaprakṛti is a Sāṃkhya term, despite the fact that Subba Row used it as an Advaita Vedānta term, and Blavatsky adopted it as such from him. It occurs in the third verse of the authoritative Sāṃkhya-kārikā. The standard commentary by Vācaspati-miśra, the Sāṃkhya-tattva-kaumudī, glosses it there as: mūlaṃ cāsau prakṛtiś ceti mūlaprakṛtiḥ, which Ganganatha Jha translates as: “it is that ‘Matter’ which is the ‘Root’.” Grammatically it is, and can only be, a karmadhāraya compound, not a tatpuruṣa compound. This is why it cannot mean “the root of substance,” but can only mean “that substance which is the root,” or simply, “root-substance.”

            The term mūlaprakṛti is found only rarely in Advaita Vedānta texts; and when it is, it is used as a synonym of māyā, “illusion,” or avidyā, “wrong knowing.” The term parabrahman that it is paired with in The Secret Doctrine is not much used in Advaita Vedānta texts, since they almost always simply use brahman for the absolute, the one reality, with no need for any qualifying adjective like para, “supreme” or “highest.” Thus, mūlaprakṛti is paired with parabrahman or brahman only like māyā is paired with brahman, as an illusory something that is not ultimately real because it goes away when brahman is realized through right knowing. It is without beginning, anādi, but not without end.

            The idea that root-substance or mūlaprakṛti is eternal, and therefore could be an aspect of the absolute, is a Theosophical idea and a Sāṃkhya idea, but not an Advaita Vedānta idea. Subba Row strongly advocated that matter or substance is eternal in his articles written in response to the Almora Swami, thus giving an esoteric teaching as if it was the standard Advaita Vedānta teaching. Later, however, in his lectures on the Bhagavad-gītā he reverted to the standard Advaita Vedānta teaching, strongly distinguishing mūlaprakṛti from parabrahman as being only the veil of parabrahman. This was copied in The Secret Doctrine several times (vol. 1, pp. 10, 130, 274, 351, 426, 428, 429, 430, 432, 536) as being the true esoteric teaching.

            Subba Row had stated clearly in his first lecture on the Bhagavad-gītā that mūlaprakṛti is not parabrahman, and this was quoted approvingly in The Secret Doctrine (vol. 1, p. 428): “Parabrahmam appears to it as Mulaprakriti. . . . This Mulaprakriti is material to it (the Logos), as any material object is material to us. This Mulaprakriti is no more Parabrahmam than the bundle of attributes of a pillar is the pillar itself; Parabrahmam is an unconditioned and absolute reality, and Mulaprakriti is a sort of veil thrown over it.” Following upon this in The Secret Doctrine (vol. 1, p. 629), Blavatsky tells us to draw a deep line in our thought between the one reality and mūlaprakṛti (vol. 1, p. 629): “. . . the One Reality . . . a true spirit of esoteric philosophy . . . the impersonal, attributeless, absolute divine essence which is no ‘Being,’ but the root of all being. Draw a deep line in your thought between that ever-incognizable essence, and the, as invisible, yet comprehensible Presence (Mulaprakriti), . . .”

            Yet, as one of the two aspects under which the one reality is symbolized, The Secret Doctrine makes it clear that no such distinction can be made: “. . . the ONE Immutable—Parabrahm = Mulaprakriti, the eternal one-root” (1.340). “. . . eternal (Nitya) unconditioned reality or SAT (Satya), whether we call it Parabrahmam or Mulaprakriti, for these are the two aspects of the ONE” (1.69). “Absolute, Divine Spirit is one with absolute Divine Substance: Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are one in essence. Therefore, Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance in their primal character are one also” (1.337 fn.). “In its absoluteness, the One Principle under its two aspects (of Parabrahmam and Mulaprakriti) is sexless, unconditioned and eternal” (1.18). Blavatsky used these two terms because, following Subba Row’s earlier writings, she thought that this was the Advaita Vedānta teaching: “. . . viewed in the same light as the Vedantin views his Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti, the one under two aspects.” (1.46). This is not the Advaita Vedānta teaching, but it is the Theosophical teaching.

            The term mūlaprakṛti is not used in Theosophy like in Advaita Vedānta, where it is synonymous with māyā, “illusion,” the few times it occurs there. In Theosophy it is used much more like in Sāṃkhya, where it is one of the two eternal cosmic principles, mūla-prakṛti, “root-substance,” and puruṣa, “spirit,” with one fundamental difference. Theosophy teaches a single, non-dual reality, while Sāṃkhya as now known is a dualistic system, although it may not have always been dualistic. Sāṃkhya is regarded as the oldest philosophical system or worldview (darśana) in India, and its founder, Kapila is traditionally known as the “first knower,” ādi-vidvān. There are references to an old Sāṃkhya in which the absolute is brahman, and puruṣa and prakṛti are merely its two aspects, just like in Theosophy. As such, it makes no difference whether one refers to the absolute as spirit or as substance, since they are only two ways of looking at the same one reality.

            Thus we can have the rather surprising statement in the Mahatma letter (#10, chronological #88): “In other words we believe in MATTER alone, in matter as visible nature and matter in its invisibility as the invisible omnipresent omnipotent Proteus with its unceasing motion which is its life, and which nature draws from herself since she is the great whole outside of which nothing can exist.” This does not at all rule out spirit, since the letter is speaking of living substance. It is matter or substance endowed with life or motion, motion which never ceases even during pralaya when the cosmos is out of manifestation. It is this living substance that was referred to in another Mahatma letter as mūlaprakṛti (#59, chronological #111):

“The One reality is Mulaprakriti (undifferentiated Substance)—the ‘Rootless root,’ the . . . But we have to stop, lest there should remain but little to tell for your own intuitions.”

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Svabhāva as Prima Materia (v. 4)

By Ingmar de Boer on June 24, 2020 at 8:47 am


Several of the concepts central to the philosophy of H.P. Blavatsky’s (HPB’s) work The Secret Doctrine, may be defined in terms of “svabhâvât”. Some of these concepts will be listed in this introduction. In the following paragraphs we can have a look at some examples of the use of the term svabhâvât (svabhāva), in relevant scholarly, philosophical and religious works, to see if we can find any resemblance to the concept of svabhāva as it is presented in The Secret Doctrine.

In the Proem to The Secret Doctrine (SD I, 1), in the “archaïc manuscript”, boundless abstract space is symbolised as an immaculate white disk on a dull background. In SD I, 35, abstract space is described as unconditional, and eternal (timeless or independent of time):

“What is that which was, is, and will be, whether there is a Universe or not; whether there be gods or none?” asks the esoteric Senzar Catechism. And the answer made is — SPACE.

In the very first śloka from the Book of Dzyan as presented in The Secret Doctrine, stanza 1 śloka 1 (SD I, 35), abstract space is called the eternal parent:


The invisible robes in which the parent is “wrapped” are interpreted in stanza 1 śloka 5 as mūlaprakṛti, the one primordial substance. In stanza 1 śloka 5 (SD I, 40-41) then, abstract space is called darkness:


HPB explains in SD I, 41:

When the whole universe was plunged into sleep — had returned to its one primordial element — there was neither centre of luminosity, nor eye to perceive light, and darkness necessarily filled the boundless all.

In stanza 2 śloka 5 (SD I, 60), we find the same identification, and furthermore, darkness is called father-mother, and svabhâvât:


This applies only to the state of pralaya, the sleep of the universe, and svabhâvât may appear in at least two respective stages. The nivṛitti (also incorrectly spelled nirvṛtti) stage is also called pradhāna, when svabhâvât is in darkness, while the pravṛtti stage is called prakṛti, when svabhâvât has become the manifested matter which is at the basis of the various planes of manifestation. Not in each case in HPB’s writings the term pradhāna is used for the unmanifested root of matter, but in volumes I and II of the SD we find it used consistently in this manner. For example in SD I, 257 we find:

the former term (pradhāna) being certainly synonymous with Mulaprakriti and Akasa, […]

Here we see that ākāśa is also identified with mūlaprakṛti, the unmanifested “root of matter”.

1. The Orthography of Svabhâvât

Concerning svabhâvât, Friedrich Max Müller reported the following in 1876 in his Chips from a German Workshop Vol. I. p 278:

The Svâbhâvikas maintain that nothing exists but nature, or rather substance, and that this substance exists by itself (“svabhâvât), without a Creator or a Ruler. It exists, however, under two forms : in the state of Pravritti, as active, or in the state of Nirvritti, as passive.

Daniel Caldwell has suggested that this passage might have been HPB’s source for the term svabhâvât, and that the ending in -ât would indicate the ablative case of svabhāva, meaning “by itself”. If this is true, these two terms would be two forms of the same base word, which is spelled in the current IAST orthography as svabhāva.

2. Svabhāva: Nature or Substance

Based on this identification of svabhâvât as svabhāva, we can look up this term in common dictionaries and start reviewing what was written in the time of HPB in sources she has consulted or might have consulted, which is not always clear. In this last quotation from Müller, he distinguishes two senses of the word svabhāva: “nature” and “substance”. Perhaps he is echoing Brian Houghton Hodgson at this point. In the standard Monier-Williams’ A Sanskrit-English Dictionary (MW), this second sense is not mentioned in the main lemmata for svabhāva and svabhāvāt:

m. own condition or state of being, natural state or constitution, innate or inherent disposition, nature, impulse, spontaneity

m. (…vāt or …vena or …va-tas or ibc.), (from natural disposition, by nature, naturally, by one’s self, spontaneously) ŚvetUp. Mn. MBh. &c.

A specific use of svabhāva or svabhāvāt as a philosophical term in Mahāyāna Buddhist literature as mentioned by HPB is not included in MW. In HPB’s time there were also the dictionaries by Horace Hayman Wilson (whom she held in high regard as a researcher), and later the great Sanskrit-German dictionary by Rudolf Roth and Otto von Böhtlingk, which also do not mention svabhāva as “substance”.

If we look at the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad (ŚvUp, ca. 400 BCE ±100), the oldest extant work where the term svabhāva is mentioned, in ŚvUp 1.2 we find in the discussion on the first cause of things, svabhāva as a possible first cause (tr. Robert Ernest Hume, 1921) :

kālaḥ svabhāvo niyatir yadṛcchā bhūtāni yoniḥ puruṣeti cintyam /
saṃyoga eṣāṃ na tv ātmabhāvād ātmā hy anīśaḥ sukhaduḥkhahetoḥ //

Time (kāla), or inherent nature (sva-bhāva), or necessity (niyati) or chance (yadṛcchā), or the elements (bhūta), or a [female] womb (yoni), or a [male] person (puruṣa) are to be considered [as the cause]; […]

This verse answers the question “kutaḥ sma jātā”, “whence are we born?”, from the previous verse. Again we find svabhāva as “inherent nature” and not as “substance”. Moreover, from the translation it is not clear if svabhāva is intended here as 1. inherent nature of individual entitites (pluralistic) or 2. of entities in general or the universe as a whole. (monistic) In the Book of Dzyan, svabhāva is in principle a monistic concept, as we have seen in the introduction to this article.

3. HPB’s quote from the Anugītā

In the SD, HPB refers to one extant work from the context of Hinduism where svabhāva is used in the sense of “substance”. In SD I, 571 she quotes the Anugītā:

[…] Gods, Men, Gandharvas, Pisâchas, Asuras, Râkshasas, all have been created by Svabhâva (Prakriti, or plastic nature), not by actions, nor by a cause” — i.e., not by any physical cause.

In the 1882 translation of the Anugītā by K.T. Telang, a work HPB has consulted on other occasions, on p. 387 we find what is presumably the source of this quotation:

Gods, men, Gandharvas, Pisâkas, Asuras, Râkshasas, all have been created by nature5, not by actions, nor by a cause.

where note 5 refers to:

5. The original is svabhâva, which Arguna Misra renders by Prakriti.

From her substitution of “nature” by “Svabhâva (Prakriti, or plastic nature)” we may derive that HPB interprets svabhâva here as the term svabhâvât appearing in the Book of Dzyan, which is described as “plastic essence” (SD I, 61), the plastic root of physical Nature (SD I, 98), which in its “active condition” is called prakṛti.

Note 5 refers to the commentary to the Mahābhārata by Arjuna Miśra (16th c.), who, according to the note, renders svabhāva as prakṛti. We can read the original verse in book 14, chapter 50 (Bombay ed. 51), verse 11 of the Mahābhārata, the Anugītā being part of its Aśvamedha parvan:

devā manuṣyā gandharvāḥ piśācāsurarākṣasāḥ
sarve svabhāvataḥ sṛṣṭā na kriyābhyo na kāraṇāt || 14.50.11 ||

Indeed in this verse, “by nature” seems to be an inadequate translation for svabhāva. Although Arjuna Miśra, and HPB, have thought that in this verse svabhāva should be identified with prakṛti, it is still possible that the author has intended “inherent nature” and not “substance”. Just as in the quotation from the ŚvUp, it is not exactly clear here if svabhāva is intended as an individual (pluralistic) or a collective “cause”.

4. The Mahāvyutpatti

In the Mahāvyutpatti (Mv, Toh. 4346), the famous Tibetan-Sanskrit dictionary, a work from a Buddhist context dating back to the first half of the 9th century, the Sanskrit entry for prakṛti (no. 7497) is linked to Tibetan “rang bzhin”, “rang bzhin ngo bo nyid”, and “rang bzhin ngo bo nyid dam rang bzhin.” These three terms are expressions for svabhāva as the “inherent nature” of Mahāyāna Buddhism. The two terms rang bzhin and ngo bo nyid are derived from rang (own, self) and ngo or ngo bo (face), and therefore their primary meaning will be closer to svabhāva as “nature” than to “substance”. The next entry in the Mv, no. 7498, is indeed svabhāva, to which are linked the same three expressions.

No. Sanskrit Tibetan
7497 prakṛti rang bzhin; rang bzhin ngo bo nyid; rang bzhin ngo bo nyid dam rang bzhin
7498 svabhāva rang bzhin; rang bzhin ngo bo nyid; rang bzhin ngo bo nyid dam rang bzhin

This may suggest that at the time the Mv was composed, the terms svabhāva and prakṛti were seen as completely synonymous, by the team of creators of the dictionary, but also by extension by the lotsavas who considered the Mv their golden standard. However, it does not say anything about whether in the Mv svabhāva/prakṛti is considered a pluralistic or monistic concept or perhaps even both.

5. The Svabhāva Mantra

Eugène Burnouf, on p. 393 of his Introduction à l’Histoire du Bouddhisme Indien (1876), notices that “the word Nature does not render at all that which the Buddhists understand as Svabhāva” [tr. IdB]:

They see it at the same time as Nature which exists in itself, absolute Nature, the cause of the world, and as the own Nature of every existence, that which constitutes that it exists.

Here we have the two standpoints, of Mahāyānist monism and Hīnayāna pluralism, combined into one. In connection with the elusive or illusive school of the Svābhāvikas (spelled by Burnouf with the extra macron), Burnouf remarks on p. 395: “When they were asked: Where do existences come from? they answered: Svabhāvāt, ‘from their own nature’ — And where do they go after this life? — Into other forms produced by the irresistable influence of that same nature. […]”.

On pp. 572-3 Burnouf adds:

The second of the two meanings of the word Svabhāva, which I set out in my text, is perfectly demonstrated in a passage of the Pañcakramaṭippaṇī which I think is useful to cite. The yogi must, according to the text of that work, pronounce the following axiom: Svabhāva śuddhaḥ sarvadharmāḥ svabhāva śuddho ‘ham iti. ‘All conditions or all existences are produced from their own nature; I am myself produced from my own nature.’ I believe that this meaning of svabhāva is the most ancient; if, as Hodgson thought, the Buddhists understood by this term the abstract nature, this metaphysical notion may have been added to the word afterwards, of which the natural interpretation is that which is indicated by the axiom I have just cited. It may be useful to remark that taking the participle śuddha, in the sense of ‘complete, accomplished;’ is colloquial in Buddhist Sanskrit.

The ṭippaṇī in question is also known as the Piṇḍīkramaṭippaṇī, which is Parahitarakṣita’s short commentary on the first part of the tantric Nāgārjuna’s Pañcakrama. Both the Pañcakrama and the ṭippaṇī were published by Louis de la Vallée Poussin in 1896, in one volume in the series Études et textes tantriques of Ghent university. On p. 15, lines 5-7 we find this passage. (see the Sanskrit Texts division of the Book of Dzyan web site, at http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/sanskrit-texts-3/sanskrit-buddhist-texts/)

Burnouf’s “axiom” is widely known as a mantra, under various names. It is called Svabhāva Mantra, Śuddha Mantra, or Śūnyata Mantra although this name is also used for another well known mantra. It is part of the sādhanas of quite a number of different traditions. Since the Pañcakrama and Piṇḍīkramaṭippaṇī are (sub-) commentaries to the Guhyasamājatantra, we might expect to find this mantra in the Guhyasamāja root text, but, searching visually several times, I have not been able to find it there. It is however a part of a commonly used daily sādhana of Guhyasamāja. In the Sādhanamālā, which is a later collection of 312 Buddhist ceremonial practices, the mantra is found 30 times. An example of a ceremony is the sādhana of Tārā, which is also studied by Stephan Beyer in The Cult of Tara. The mantra is found there as part of the Four Mandala Offering to Tara, where it is used to purify the location and attributes for the ritual, before the ceremony. (p. 180)

The mantra is also part of long and short versions of the Kālacakra sādhana, and as such it is discussed by David Reigle in his article on Sanskrit Mantras in the Kālacakra Sādhana. It was published in As Long as Space Endures: Essays on the Kālacakra Tantra in Honor of H.H. the Dalai Lama, where the mantra is found on p. 302. As a source for this mantra, Reigle refers to the Kālacakrabhagavatsādhanavidhiḥ (Toh. 1358). His translation is the following:

Oṃ svabhāvaśuddhāḥ sarvadharmāḥ svabhāvaśuddho ‘ham.

oṃ; Naturally pure are all things; naturally pure am I.

In this translation, svabhāvaśuddhāḥ is interpreted as “pure of nature”, or “pure by nature” instead of Burnouf’s “produced from its/their own nature”.

Lama Thubten Yeshe, in An Explanation of the Shunyata Mantra and a Meditation on Emptiness (in: Mandala, January/March 2009) explains the meaning of this same mantra as follows:

Also, this mantra contains a profound explanation of the pure, fundamental nature of both human beings and all other existent phenomena. It means that everything is spontaneously pure – not relatively, of course, but in the absolute sense. From the absolute point of view, the fundamental quality of human beings and the nature of all things is purity.

Svabhāva is here interpreted by Lama Yeshe as the “fundamental nature” of entities, or absolute reality, called paramārtha or pariniṣpanna in the Book of Dzyan. Ultimate reality or absolute reality is “pure” in the sense that it is the state of matter (mūlaprakṛti/prakṛti) where it is still unmanifested, or as HPB might have called it, non-manvantaric, or nivṛtti.

In the three examples presented here svabhāva is viewed also as absolute reality, paramārtha in Madhyamaka terminology, and not only as conditional reality, saṃvṛtti. Of course in any form of Buddhism, “natural purity” would be associated with “non-ego”, but in a different sense, the term svabhāva is commonly found in Madhyamaka oriented Buddhist writings. For example in the term niḥsvabhāva, often used as a synonym for nairātmya, anātman or “non-ego”, it indicates exactly the opposite, that is svabhāva only as conditional reality, or in HPB’s corresponding terminology, pravṛtti as opposed to nivṛtti.

The Book of Dzyan on the other hand explicitly describes svabhāva as going through the two different stages: 1. nivṛitti, when “darkness alone was […] svabhâvât” (“in paramārtha”, absolute reality), and 2. pravṛtti, when svabhāva is prakṛti, the basic substance of the manifested universe, that is conditional reality.

6. Hodgson’s Essays

On p. 73 of Brian Houghton Hodgson’s Essays on the Languages, Literature and Religion of Nepal and Tibet (1874) we find a list of principles from the “Svabhavika doctrine”, the first of which appears to be a translation of the Svabhāva Mantra:

All things are governed or perfected by Swabháva; I too am governed by Swabháva.

This is again a very different translation, where śuddha is taken as “governed/perfected by”. David N. Gellner responds to this in his 1989 article Hodgson’s Blind Alley? On the So-Called Schools of Nepalese Buddhism, calling it a misunderstanding of the term svabhāvaśuddha, which he translates as “free of essence”.

The “Ashta Sáhasrika” is given by Hodgson as a reference, but I have not found the mantra literally in the text of the Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā. Some similar passages are to be found in the text, of which the following is an example (Edward Conze’s translation p. 250 and Sanskrit from ed. Vaidya p. 211, my (IdB’s) comments in square brackets):

Subhuti: But if, O Lord, as we all know, all dharmas [Skt. sarvadharmāḥ] are by nature perfectly pure [Skt. prakṛtipariśuddhāḥ], […]

The Lord: So it is, Subhuti. For all dharmas [sarvadharmāḥ] are just by (their essential original) nature perfectly pure [Skt. prakṛtyaiva pariśuddhāḥ]. When a Bodhisattva who trains in perfect wisdom […] remains uncowed although all dharmas [Skt. sarvadharmeṣu] are by their nature perfectly pure [Skt. prakṛtipariśuddheṣu], then that is his perfection of wisdom [Skt. prajñāpāramitāyāṃ].

Here we see that instead of svabhāvaśuddha (Reigle: pure by nature) the compound prakṛtipariśuddha (Conze, 2nd ed. 1975: by nature perfectly pure) is used in the same sense, reflecting the semantic agreement between svabhāva and prakṛti.

Further, the Tibetan version in the Derge Kanjur (Toh. 12) shows how the compound was analysed by the lotsavas of the Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā: it was taken as rang bzhin gyis yongs su dag pa, which is “completely pure by nature”, as opposed to “free of essence”.

7. Prasannapadā and Mūlamadhyamakakārikā

In Candrakīrti’s Prasannapadā (PsP), we find a lengthy discussion of the concept of svabhāva. In the 1931 partial edition of Stanisław Schayer, Ausgewählte Kapitel…, in an extensive note on pages 55-57, four different meanings of svabhāva are distinguished (paraphrased IdB):

  1. Svabhāva as “nījam ātmīyam svarūpam”, an “essential” as opposed to “accidental” quality, like the hotness of fire. This is an idea compatible with Hīnayāna pluralism.
  2. Svabhāva as svalakṣaṇa, the own individual mark which is carried by the individual substrate of a dharma. The Hīnayānists are called Svabhāvavādins in the sense that they accept a manyfold of these individual substances (pluralism).
  3. Svabhāva as equivalent of prakṛti, of upādāna [[material cause]] and of āśraya [[basis of perception]], of the unchanging, eternal substrate of all changes. In the Hīnayāna schools, the Vaibhāṣikas accept this view, while the Sautrāntikas agree with the Mādhyamikas at this point, calling a transcendental lakṣya [[characteristic]] completely illusory. [[But being Hīnayāna schools, both of these are considered pluralist.]]
  4. Svabhāvaḥ as “svato bhāvaḥ”, the absolute being, “nirapekṣaḥ svabhāvaḥ”. The universe as “one and whole” is absolute. This idea is not compatible with Hīnayānist pluralism.

In the third and fourth points we may recognise concepts similar, both in a different way, to the svabhāva presented in the Book of Dzyan. In the text of the PsP, chapter XV § 2 (Schayer § 5 p. 63, cp. Vaidya ed. p. 116) the third point is analysed as follows (tr. from German IdB):

yā sā dharmāṇāṃ dharmatā nāma, saiva tatsvarūpam | atha keyaṃ dharmāṇāṃ dharmatā? dharmāṇāṃ svabhāvaḥ | ko ‘yaṃ svabhāvaḥ? prakṛtiḥ | kā ceyaṃ prakṛtiḥ? yeyaṃ śūnyatā | keyaṃ śūnyatā? naiḥsvābhāvyam | kimidaṃ naiḥsvābhāvyam? tathatā | keyaṃ tathatā? tathābhāvo ‘vikāritvaṃ sadaiva sthāyitā | sarvathānutpāda eva

Diese Eigenwesen [[tatsvarūpam]] ist die dharmatā der dharmas. — Und was ist die dharmatā der dharmas? — Der svabhāva der dharmas. — Und was ist dieser svabhāva? — Die prakṛti. — Und was ist diese prakṛti? — Die śūnyatā. — Und was ist diese śūnyatā? — Das naiḥsvābhāvya. — Und was is dieses naiḥsvābhāvya? — Die tathatā, d.h. die Unwandelbarkeit der wahren Beschaffenheit (tathābhāvāvikāritva), das ewige Beharren [in seinem An-sich-Sein] (sadā sthāyitā), das absolute Nicht-entstehen (sarvadānutpāda).

This own essence [[tatsvarūpam]] is the “entitiness” of entities. And what is the “entitiness” of entities? It is the svabhāva of entities. And what is this svabhāva? It is its basic material. And what is this basic material? It is emptiness. And what is this emptiness? It is the fundamental absence of svabhāva. And what is this fundamental absence of svabhāva? It is thusness, that is the unique property of the true being-thus, the eternal fixedness [in its being per se], the absolute non-origination.

To Candrakriti this line of reasoning proves that svabhāva cannot exist as a basic substance in which (or on the basis of which) change is taking place. The reasoning is based on Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (MMK) XV.8, to which this PsP passage is a commentary (tr. Mark Siderits and Shōryū Katsura, 2013):

yady astitvaṃ prakṛtyā syān na bhaved asya nāstitā |
prakṛter anyathābhāvo na hi jātūpapadyate ||

If something existed by essential nature (prakṛti), then there would not be the nonexistence of such a thing. For it never holds that there is the alteration of essential nature.

8. Conclusions

The examples discussed here, from the Anugītā, the Mahāvyutpatti, the Svabhāva Mantra and the Prasannapadā/Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, do not sufficiently show that the term svabhāva has been used, in original Hindu or Buddhist texts, not only in the sense of an “inherent nature”, but also in the sense of “substance”. In the Book of Dzyan it is described primarily as “substance”.

In Buddhism, pluralism is generally associated with Hīnayāna and monism with Mahāyāna. We have seen that in Buddhist texts another distinction of two senses of the word svabhāva may be recognised: in the svabhāva mantra we have found the term svabhāva as “fundamentally pure”, while the part svabhāva in the “doctrine of niḥsvabhāva” is used as exactly the opposite. We can define these two senses of the svabhāva as nivṛtti and pravṛtti respectively. In the Book of Dzyan, svabhāva is described primarily as “monistic”, but going through the nivṛtti and pravṛtti phases of manifestation. This may imply that svabhāva is in these two phases “monistic” and “pluralistic” respectively. •


Category: Book of Dzyan, Cosmogenesis, Mulaprakriti, Space, Svabhavat | No comments yet


Panchen Lama, Book of Dzyan, and Kālacakra

By David Reigle on May 31, 2020 at 11:58 pm

            The “Book of Dzyan” is said to be “the first volume of the Commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te”:

“The Book of Dzyan . . . is the first volume of the Commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te, and a Glossary of the public works of the same name. Thirty-five volumes of Kiu-te for exoteric purposes and the use of the laymen may be found in the possession of the Tibetan Gelugpa Lamas, in the library of any monastery; and also fourteen books of Commentaries and Annotations on the same by the initiated Teachers.” (“The Secret Books of ‘Lam-rim’ and Dzyan,” H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 422)

These fourteen volumes of commentaries are said to be “in the charge of the Teshu-Lama of Shigatse,” i.e., the Panchen Lama:

“Strictly speaking, those thirty-five books ought to be termed ‘The Popularised Version’ of the Secret Doctrine, full of myths, blinds, and errors; the fourteen volumes of Commentaries, on the other hand—with their translations, annotations, and an ample glossary of Occult terms, worked out from one small archaic folio, the Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World—contain a digest of all the Occult Sciences. These, it appears, are kept secret and apart, in the charge of the Teshu-Lama of Shigatse.” (H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 422)

The known “Books of Kiu-te,” i.e., rgyud-sde, are the Buddhist tantras. It is further said that these “must be read with a key to their meaning, and that key can only be found in the Commentaries”:

“The Books of Kiu-te are comparatively modern, having been edited within the last millennium, whereas, the earliest volumes of the Commentaries are of untold antiquity, some fragments of the original cylinders having been preserved. With the exception that they explain and correct some of the too fabulous, and to every appearance, grossly-exaggerated accounts in the Books of Kiu-te—properly so-called—the Commentaries have little to do with these. They stand in relation to them as the Chaldaeo-Jewish Kabalah stands to the Mosaic Books. . . . No student, unless very advanced, would be benefited by the perusal of those exoteric volumes. They must be read with a key to their meaning, and that key can only be found in the Commentaries.” (H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 14, pp. 422-424)

            The first volume of the known “Books of Kiu-te” contains the Kālacakra-tantra. Tashi-lhunpo monastery at Shigatse had one of the few Kālacakra colleges in Tibet. It was the Ninth (sometimes called the Sixth) Panchen Lama, Lozang Chokyi Nyima (1883-1937), who gave the first large public Kālacakra Initiations outside of Tibetan Buddhist lands, thus starting something that has been so widely continued by the present Fourteenth Dalai Lama. After leaving Tibet in late 1923, the Ninth Panchen Lama gave nine large public Kālacakra Initiations. The first five were given in Mongolia, the next two in China, and the last two in Eastern Tibet.1 The two given in China, outside of Tibetan Buddhist lands, were very influential. Photos of these were taken by Westerners who attended, and have been published.2 This was the first time since the appearance of the Kālacakra teachings in India a millennium ago and their transference to Tibet shortly thereafter that anyone outside of these lands had access to these teachings.

            The Kālacakra teachings are full of abstruse symbolism and obscure statements, which could well be regarded as blinds. Although called exoteric in relation to the fourteen volumes of secret commentaries, they have always been considered esoteric in India and Tibet. According to the information given by Blavatsky, they would be directly based on the secret commentaries, and thus would be esoteric in that sense. The Panchen Lamas followed Indian and Tibetan tradition in considering them esoteric. No doubt many students would welcome having a key to their meaning, as said to only be found in the secret commentaries.

            The first installment of teachings said to be brought out from the secret commentaries was given by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine. She had made contact with teachers associated with a secret school, said by her to be “attached to the private retreat of the Teshu-Lama,” i.e., the Panchen Lama:

“. . . Tsong-Kha-pa. This great Tibetan Reformer of the fourteenth century, . . . is the founder of the secret School near Shigatse, attached to the private retreat of the Teshu-Lama.” (H. P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 425)

It is not clear whether the “private retreat” of the Panchen Lama is the same as his private residence. As seen in the post, “The Kālacakra College at Tashi-lhunpo” (April 30, 2020), the Panchen Lama “built a new house for the 22-foot square Kalacakra mandala (dkyil ‘khor) at his residence,” and the Kālacakra maṇḍala was constructed there out of colored sand every year, along with the accompanying Kālacakra ritual performed by him:

“Panchen Rinpoche built a new house for the 22-foot square Kalacakra mandala (dkyil ‘khor) at his residence. That was the biggest Dus’kor mandala in Tibet. During his time, he (Panchen Rinpoche) built that 22-foot square mandala of dultson (rdul tshon) [i.e., sand] every year and did the Dus’kor ritual. From that time onward the Dus’kor Da-tsang followed the same up to 1959.”

            The movement for the spread of the Kālacakra teachings outside of Tibetan Buddhist lands was started by the Ninth Panchen Lama four or five decades after Blavatsky’s time. Only in the last few decades have these teachings become known throughout the world, thanks to the many Kālacakra Initiations given by the present Fourteenth Dalai Lama and other Tibetan lamas. The stage has now been set for some of the keys to these teachings to come out from the secret commentaries referred to by Blavatsky.


1. Information about the nine Kālacakra Initiations given by the Ninth Panchen Lama after his departure from Tibet can be found in: Biographies of the Tibetan Spiritual Leaders: Panchen Erdenis, by Ya Hanzhang, translated by Chen Guansheng and Li Peizhu, pp. 266, 271, 274, 283-284, 295, and 296 (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1994); and in: The Ninth Panchen Lama (1883-1937): A Life at the Crossroads of Sino-Tibetan Relations, by Fabienne Jagou, translated by Rebecca Bissett Buechel, pp. 65-74, and summarized in note 16, p. 259 (Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, and Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2011).

2. A photo of the Kālacakra maṇḍala taken by Ferdinand Lessing at the Kālacakra Initiation given in Peking (now Beijing) in 1932 can be found in: The Buddhist Tantras: Light on Indo-Tibetan Esotericism, by Alex Wayman, p. 80 (see pp. xii, 63), New York: Samuel Weiser, 1973. Photos taken by Gordon Enders at the Kālacakra Initiation given in Hangchow (Hangzhou) in 1934, including one of the Kālacakra maṇḍala, can be found in: Nowhere Else in the World, by Gordon B. Enders and Edward Anthony, pp. 311, 321, 325 (see pp. 303, 322), New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1935.

Category: Book of Dzyan, Kalacakra, Kālacakratantra | 1 comment


Wash, Rinse, Repeat. The Cosmical Cycle of Manifestation-Dissolution. Defined, or Redefined

By Robert Hütwohl on September 2, 2016 at 9:34 pm

“. . . there never was a first Kalpa, nor will there ever be a last one, in Eternity.”1

—H. P. Blavatsky

Georges Lemaître, a Catholic astronomer, physicist and professor, proposed in 1927, based on Einstein’s theory of gravitation, the cosmos was not static and was in fact expanding and therefore could be traced back in time to a single point or primordial atom. This theory eventually became known as the “Big Bang.” If we were able to play the great cosmic-movie, in reverse from today, we would see the currently expanding galaxies eventually moving together or coalescing into a single point.2

The expanse of time as to when the “Big Bang” occurred, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 13.8 billion years.3 The “Big Bang” theory is of course, the physical theory, and cannot accommodate the metaphysical realms, but nevertheless the “as above, so below” correspondence or analogy (the “old Hermetic axiom” as Blavatsky calls it) should have some validity. (However, some clues to the existence of the more subtle realms may lie in that of dark matter and dark energy.4)

Some years ago, upon reading about the cycle of periodicity in The Secret Doctrine, i.e., the Stanzas from the Book of Dzyan,5 sporadically in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (for the ideas of mahā-manvantara, mahā-kalpa and mahā-pralaya, for instance)6 and the Ṛg-veda, I found, after learning about the “Big Bang” theory in my science courses at the University, this science-based theory was highly incongruent and amiss, as I was expecting some correlation with the Ancients and modern science. (I was exposed to Theosophy first before being vulnerable to the onerous science courses which I had to take at the University.)

Recently however, a new cosmical-origins theory has come to light which may appear to approach justifying H. P. Blavatsky’s statement about beginning-less kalpas.

In a scientific paper published last July, “Perfect Quantum Cosmological Bounce,”7 the idea is “the [conventional] big bang” may actually be the result of a preceding “big bang” but based on a modification of the prevailing “big bang” theory due to quantum mechanics. Physicists Steffen Gielen and Neil Turok, have developed a mathematical-cosmological model or simulation which indicates the present universe is the result of a previous universe. Inherent in their theory is periodicity, an endless cycle of manifestation and dissolution, with subsequent manifestations dependent upon the previous collapsed manifested universes.

The predecessor universe would have contracted toward a dense state that marked its big crunch end, and our universe’s big bang beginning. . . . the universe does not completely get destroyed because the effects of quantum mechanics preserves it.8

What is yet to be determined is how long the collapsed state is preserved, which is a critical component of the entire theory and must eventually be resolved.

Their model postulates the present condition of our universe is an expansion from a previous contraction. It is being described as an eternal bounce, built on conformal cyclicity.

The Big Bounce theory states that the universe follows a cycle of contraction and expansion, repeated infinitely. According to this theory, the universe did not begin with a violent explosion, but rather formed as a previous universe expanded or ‘bounced’ back collapsing during the contraction phase of this endless cycle.

One of the main issues that had prevented the Big Bounce theory from securing its validity is that there was no proposed explanation as to how the universe could expand back after its full collapse. The team’s simulation suggests that once the universe reaches its smallest point, the common laws of physics governing our daily environment are abandoned and the rules of quantum mechanics come into play. The effects of quantum mechanics would preserve of the universe, keeping it from destruction and allowing the emergence of another universe like the one we’re in today.

Quantum mechanics saves us when things break down,” explains team member Steffen Gielen, from Imperial College London. “It saves electrons from falling in and destroying atoms, so maybe it could also save the early Universe from such violent beginnings and endings as the Big Bang.

Using quantum mechanics in a computer simulation, the team was able to formulate how the universe could spring back from deflation, even with only radiation and a little matter remaining in it.

The big surprise in our work is that we could describe the earliest moments of the hot Big Bang quantum mechanically, under very reasonable and minimal assumptions about the matter present in the Universe,” said team member Neil Turk [Turok], from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada. “Under these assumptions, the Big Bang was a ‘bounce’, in which contraction reversed to expansion.

What’s next for this simulation is to find out if the entities within the universe, such as galaxies, can come into existence under these circumstances. As technology evolves, the chances that quantum computers could finally catch up with the enigmas of the universe are looking better and better.9

Although this theory has been around for about ten years now, the breakthrough is the theorists have been able to pass through an undefined singularity, not occupying space and time, which is an impossibility. Now, Turok and Gielen have been able to pass over the singularity and out the other side.

Obviously, all these discoveries by science can only address the material cause, but again, but transposed, as below, so above. This model by Gielen and Turok is at its earliest stages and future models will require more powerful quantum computers with which to expand and complete the theory and take in more variables. The Ancient’s have taught, the contraction cycle is equivalent to the manifestation cycle in terms of time or duration. Hopefully this “Big Bounce” theory will incorporate that idea, and I have no doubt it eventually will.

Metaphorically, there must be some highly abstruse system involved in any cycle or Mahā-cycle, similar to the idea of a śiṣṭa (from the Sanskrit verb root, śiṣ, allow to remain or leave a residue) or remainder, no matter what level of consciousness we are describing. It is that śiṣṭa of quantum mechanics which science may have begun to have discovered and I think this is quite amazing. I use the term “śiṣṭa” because, it is these “remainders or latent seeds” which are left on a planet as the life-wave leaves that planet to pass through the round to the next of the other planets within that septenary, and once the life-wave returns again to that former planet, the śiṣṭa-s are responsible for reinvigorating the new cycle or life-wave.

What then, keeps these cycles, as far as we know based on what the Ancients describe, progressing? In the case of a human, we understand karma is a direct motivational factor. Can we then, correspondingly, “as above, so below,” consider cosmic karma as responsible for the cycles of the solar systems, galaxies and universe? There would be no reason to require a cycle to repeat itself unless the fruits of a previous cycle contribute to the grandeur of a future progressive cycle. Science however, does not go that far yet, as it does not recognize karma and can’t even imagine such details of cycles within cycles of interconnectivity beyond the physical. That, is simply too vast and requires too much information from the mental, intuitional and spiritual levels, much less the divine correspondents (i.e., the seven planes of the human is but the physical plane, consisting of seven sub-planes, of the divine). But if this new finding approaches validation, I see science eventually looking to the Ancients for guidance, which is something science rarely ever probably does. That is still a long way in the future. But I do see scientists using ancient information to guide their horses; it is just that they require empirical data to hold the reins of everything.

But, this new scientific model is the most advanced to be developed for almost 100 years.

Science and metaphysics of the Ancients are slowly melding in agreement.10 Although “as above, so below”11 nevertheless applies here, science is helping us to understand the process of the cycles of manifestation and dissolution. Obviously, due to the makeup of the matter involved, science can never empirically discern the metaphysical, but they should be able to eventually approach and prove the existence of the four etheric sub-planes of the higher physical. Over time, proof can be ascertained by various ways towards consciousness operating through the emotional and mental vehicles.12 And, indirectly, science should be able, to determine the phenomena of clairvoyance. But, science’s understanding of SPACE as an infinite extension of an eternal, unchangeable “entity,” or “Eternal Parent” which transcends thought, that may never come to be.

The metaphysics I am referring to, citing only out of many examples, is that from The Secret Doctrine, Proem, one of the fundamental propositions:

(b) The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically ‘the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing,’ called ‘the manifesting stars,’ and the ‘sparks of Eternity.’ . . .

Further, we have what I consider the most sublime creation myth or story, other than the most sublime, The Book of Dzyan,13 is that of the Ṛg-veda.14 These hymns originated from the Vedic Ṛiṣis of the 1st sub-race of the Aryan root stock, the 5th. They arrived into northern India or Āryāvarta from the north, last, compared to the 2nd-5th sub-races, for various reasons.

And in the Ṛg-veda, Maṇḍala (Book) X, Sūkta (Hymn) 129 (X.129) in the triṣṭubh meter, consisting of seven mantras or verses, initially describes the state or condition prior to the first great manifestation or mahā-sṛṣṭi. The Hymn is also known as the Nāsadīya Sūkta. I should note, the tenor, poetic beauty, vibration, and content of X.129, though brief and succinct, may be compared to the more extensive and illuminating Stanzas I and II of The Book of Dzyan. In a measure, my sense is the Nāsadīya Sūkta was extracted from The Book of Dzyan, long ago.

The content of the Nāsadīya Sūkta, written by a certain Parameṣṭhī Prajāpati, contains:

“. . . in the seven mantras of this Sūkta we find a complete statement of Vedic metaphysics which is the quintessence of the Ṛigveda. . . . The seed of knowledge lies somewhere in its heart. It is saturated with the fragrance of thought that was in the intuition of the Ṛishis. One may repeat the hymn and breathe its aroma even now. The words are merely symbols which explode as thought advances to more subtle sheaths of Truth. ‘This hymn is the finest effort of the imagination of the Vedic poet, and nothing else equals it.’”15

Out of the approximately seventy-two complete or partial translations of this Hymn since 1805 (H. T. Colbrooke) I am quoting David Reigle’s recent translation, as found in his Creation Stories-The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas Part 2-Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129, the “Hymn of Creation” By David Reigle on February 28, 2013 at 11-41 pm. See sources below for the grammatical and etymological comments.16 The mantras are written in the padapāṭha. That is: a word-by-word breakdown, irrespective of sandhi rules. The Sanskrit padapāṭha verses are listed first, then David’s English translation.


nā́sad āsīn nó sád āsīt tadā́nīṃ nā́sīd rájo nó výomā paró yát

kím ā́varīvaḥ kúha kásya śármann ámbhaḥ kím āsīd gáhanaṃ gabhīrám || 1 ||

[1.] [It] was not non-existent, nor was [it] existent then. There was no world, nor sky, [nor] what is beyond. What moved incessantly? Where? In the abode of what? Was [it] water, dense [and] deep?


ná mṛtyúr āsīd amṛ́taṃ ná tárhi ná rā́tryā áhna āsīt praketáḥ

ā́nīd avātáṃ svadháyā tád ékaṃ tásmād dhānyán ná paráḥ kíṃ caná̄sa || 2 ||

[2.] There was not death nor life (“non-death”) then. There was no distinguishing sign of night [or] of day. That one breathed without air by [its] inherent power. Other than just that, there was not anything else.


táma āsīt támasā gūḷhám ágre ’praketáṃ saliláṃ sárvam ā idám

tucchyénābhv ápihitaṃ yád ā́sīt tápasas tán mahinā́jāyatáikam || 3 ||

[3.] Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning. All this was water without distinguishing sign. That one germ which was covered by the void was born through the power of heat.


ká̄mas tád ágre sám avartatā́dhi mánaso rétaḥ prathamáṃ yád ā́sīt

sató bándhum ásati nír avindan hṛdí pratī́ṣyā kaváyo manīṣā́ || 4 ||

[4.] Desire in the beginning came upon that [germ], which was the first seed of mind. Sages, having searched in the heart with inspired thought, found out [desire to be] the link of the existent in the non-existent.


tiraścī́no vítato raśmír eṣām adháḥ svid āsī́3d upári svid āsī3t

retodhā́ āsan mahimā́na āsan svadhā́ avástāt práyatiḥ parástāt || 5 ||

[5.] Their cord was extended across. Was there a below? Was there an above? There were seed-placers, there were powers; inherent power below, impulse above.


kó addhā́ veda ká ihá prá vocat kúta ā́jātā kúta iyáṃ vísṛṣṭiḥ

arvā́g devá̄ asyá visárjanenā́thā kó veda yáta ābabhū́va || 6 ||

[6.] Who really knows? Who here can say? From where has [it] been born? From where [has come] this manifestation? The gods are later than the manifestation of this [cosmos]. Then who knows from what [it] has come into being?


iyáṃ vísṛṣṭir yáta ābabhú̄va yádi vā dadhé yádi vā ná

yó asyā́dhyakṣaḥ paramé výoman só aṅgá veda yádi vā ná véda || 7 ||

[7.] From what this manifestation has come into being, whether [it] was made or whether not, its overseer who is in the highest heaven, he surely knows; or else [he] knows not.


In the seventh verse,17 some translators use the pronoun “he” (Sanskrit, saḥ), while others translate “it” as the subject, depending upon the verb “dadhe” and what form it takes in the sentence and whether an “agency” was involved for the process of creation or manifestation. David Reigle has gone over these particulars. This Hymn should not be mistakenly considered a Hymn of Creation but a Hymn of Manifestation or Periodicity. That is why I prefer to call it the Cosmogonic Hymn. Using the term Creation can imply a Creator, which further implies an anthropomorphic agent, as in the Genesis of the Bible creation story.

Considering the new scientific model, out of the cycle of Periodicity the seeds of a new, future cycle are inherent in the next manifestation cycle, which empowers the continuing cycle. There is no reason to doubt cycles encompass a progressive or evolutionary effect (described by some writers as a spiral cycle). The cycles of the universe, infant and mature galaxies, and solar systems and planets and root-races and all forms of life, cyclically, sṛṣṭi (San.) = “manifestation or letting go” and pralaya = “dissolution or reabsorption,” are uninterrupted and undeterred, if we can rely on the information given to us. The lessor cycles contribute to the greater cycles. Such details are, however, not indicated in the Cosmogonic Hymn in the Ṛg-veda.

The Hindu Vaiśeṣika system, concurs with The Mahatma Letters ( such as letter no. 10)  that an anthropomorphic god is not necessary for the manifestation and dissolution of a “system,” whereby a “system,” can range from an atom, living being, root-race, planet, solar system, galaxy or universe beyond to aditi (the unbound). Although the masses may believe in an anthropomorphic deity, evidence by extensive study has shown this is a figment of the imagination.18

Is the nāsadīya sūkta describing periodicity other than one cycle? No, as further explanation is required. The Proem of The Secret Doctrine indicates this, however. The topic of the big bang repeating itself does also, therefore it would go more with the Proem. The point of the Ṛg-veda verses are that at the beginning, there was (an inherent state of) nothing. Actually, the Proem (b) speaks of periodicity and then nothingness, then periodicity all over again. It says nothing as to whether each successive manifestation is greater than the previous manifestation.



1Blavatsky, H. P., The Secret Doctrine, vol. I, 368.


2 A contrasting theory, the Steady State, as theorized by astronomer Fred Hoyle, argued the universe was static and ever eternal. This theory never won out over the “Big Bang” theory because, over time, it has been proven there is a cosmic microwave background radiation remaining from the original big bang explosion. Hoyle coined the term, Big Bang, out of disrespect to that theory, which eventually stuck. However, behind Hoyle’s argument against the Big Bang theory was his belief that the universe did not have a creator but at the same time could not be described in scientific terms, as it was irrational, since it was eternal.


3 The quite capable Hubble Space Telescope, using a certain gravitation lensing  technique, has been able to capture a field of galaxies (called Abell S1063) which are from the very earliest, about one billion years after the “Big Bang.” This is its most astounding feat so far.

And yet, The Book of Dzyan indicates a period of manifestation of 311,040 trillion years (seven eternities)!


4 Several excellent works, among many, have come to the forefront, hoping to crack the cosmic veil:

Gleyzes, Jérôme (2016) Dark Energy and the Formation of the Large Scale Structure of the Universe. Switzerland: Springer.

Mazure, Alain (2011) Matter, Dark Matter, and Anti-Matter. In Search of the Hidden Universe. London: Springer.

Panek, Richard (2011) The 4% Universe. Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.


5 While my hypothesis is still in the formative states, there is evidence, for each root-race and its sub-races, there is a root teacher and a root Creation myth. The earliest Pelasgians, not the later, were the original Keltic peoples or 4th sub-race of the 5th root-race. They had their own teacher, Orpheus and there is a Pelasgian Creation story. The Ṛg-veda is the root text for the 1st sub-race of the 5th root-race, redacted by Vyāsa and the seven Rishis (Ṛṣi-s). I believe The Book of Dzyan, although having begun during the 4th or Atlantean root-race, is the root text for all of Humanity.


6 From the stanzas of The Book of Dzyan, Stanza I. “The Night of The Universe. The eternal parent [mother-space], wrapped in her ever-invisible robes [root-matter], had slumbered once again for seven eternities.”


7 Gielen, Steffen and Turok, Neil (2016) “Perfect Quantum Cosmological Bounce” in Physical Review Letters, PRL 117, 021301 (2016) week ending 8 July 2016, 1-5. From beginning to end, this paper is full of differential calculus and was not written for the non-professional, unsurprisingly. Since it is in copyright, I cannot supply it as an attachment.


8 See: http://futurism.com/new-simulation-supports-the-theory-of-the-big-bounce-instead-of-the-big-bang/


9 Big Bang – Or Big Bounce? | Perimeter Institute, dated July 6, 2016 at: https://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/node/101077


10 Another example is the recent determination of a new, fifth fundamental force of nature (due to the discovery of a new type of boson subatomic particle) and its possible connection with dark matter (85% of the universe consists of dark matter). This would be a sector outside of the standard model of physics. Further, the dark matter theory is considering that it is a “back door” to the universe. All this is approaching the realm of etheric matter. Recently, Astronomers have discovered a galaxy made of 99.99% dark matter.


11 “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. . . .  ‘Physically or constitutionally the mineral monad differs, of course, from the human monad, which is neither physical nor can its constitution be rendered by chemical symbols and elements.’ In short, as the spiritual Monad is One, Universal, Boundless and Impartite, whose rays, nevertheless, form what we, in our ignorance, call the ‘Individual Monads’ of men, so the Mineral Monad—being at the opposite point of the circle—is also One—and from it proceed the countless physical atoms, which Science is beginning to regard as individualized.” The Secret Doctrine, vol. I, 177-8.

“The Universe is worked and guided  from within outwards.  As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth ; and man—the microcosm and miniature copy of the macrocosm—is the living witness to this Universal Law and to the mode of its action.” The Secret Doctrine, vol. I, 274.

The occult or alchemical process from the Smagdarine Tablet of Hermes (Tabula Smaragdina Hermetis) states: “It is true, certain, and without falsehood, that whatever is below is like that which is above; and that which is above is like that which is below . . .” This work is so ancient, the speculation about it predominantly considers it never existed.

The planetary-microcosm relation and analogy to the cosmic-macrocosm process is also found in the human-microcosm (cakras, prāṇas within the nāḍis, etc.) to the cosmic-macrocosm.

This alchemical statement is also found in the Buddhist tantras, particularly the Hevajra Tantra [Part II volume. iv. lines 49cd of the Snellgrove Sanskrit/Tibetan on pages 68-9 and the English translation by Snellgrove on page 105 of Part I volume of Snellgrove, David (1959), The Hevajra Tantra. A Critical Study, Part I. Introduction and Translation. Part II Sanskrit and Tibetan Texts (London: Oxford University Press)]

yoginyā dehamadhyasthaṃ A-kārasamvarasthitaṃ || yathā bāhyaṃ tathādhyātmaṃ samvaraṃ tat prakāśitaṃ  ||49||

a yi rnam paḥi sdom pas gnas || sdom pa de ñid rab tu phye  ||49||

We explain the internal maṇḍala as being comprised in the unity of the sound A which exists at the centre of the yogini’s body, and just as the external maṇḍala (evolves from the seed-syllable), so also does the internal.


This is also quoted in Vanaratna’s commentary Rahasyadīpikā on Kṛṣṇācarya’s treatise Vasantatilakā, ed. by Rinpoche and Dwivedi, 1990: 90; in Bhattacharya, B., Ed. (1972) Abhayākaragupta’s Niṣpannayogāvalī, Baroda: Oriental Institute,  4 (only the first pāda of the line); for the reference to the Niṣpannayogāvalī and discussion on the analogical thinking, see: Wayman, Yoga of the Guhyasamājatantra, 62ff.

Likewise, in the Kālacakra-tantra literature we have in the Kālacakra-tantra commentary, Vimalaprabhā 3.57 (vol. II, page 57, lines 18-19 of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies edition) the following verse:

yathā bāhye tathā dehe yathā dehe tathāpare |

[As without, so it is within the body. As in the body, so it is within the other (i.e., the maṇḍala)]


trividham maṇḍalam jñātvā ācāryo maṇḍalaṃ likhet ||

[Having understood the three-fold maṇḍala, the teacher should draw the maṇḍala (the macrocosm).]


The Kālacakra-tantra contains in chapter I, the cosmogenesis chapter (lokadhātu paṭala) and in chapter II is the anthropogenesis chapter (adhyātma paṭala). They thus work together to cohere and explain the “as above, so below” relating the cosmos (macrocosm) to the human (microcosm).


12 Depending upon which nomenclature one prefers to describe the bodies or vehicles of consciousness, there are the kośa-s, upādhi-s and śarīra-s. Thus the etheric body is sometimes referred to as the prāṇamaya-kośa, higher sthūlopādhi, liṅga-śarīra, etc.


13 I don’t italicize the title, as we don’t really know its real title, however there is no question to me as to its existence. But my question is how it can be conveyed into a language such as Sanskrit. I think that, however, has already been done and awaits the day, when Humanity is ready for it. From, Annie Besant, D. L. and The Rt. Rev. C. W. Leadbeater, “The Book of the Golden Precepts or Voice of the Silence” in Talks on the Path of Occultism – Vol. II. A Commentary on “The Voice of the Silence:

The book has, however, several peculiarities which she does not there [The Secret Doctrine] mention. It appears to be very highly magnetized, for as soon as a man takes a page into his hand he sees passing before his eyes a vision of the events which it is intended to portray, while at the same time he seems to hear a sort of rhythmic description of them in his own language, so far as that language will convey the ideas involved. Its pages contain no words whatever – nothing but symbols.


14 The most recent complete translation, devoid of the Vedic Sanskrit verses and also without grammatical justification, is: Jamison, Stephanie W., Brereton Joel P., Trans. (2014) The Rigveda. The Earliest Religious Poetry of India (3-Volume Set) New York: The University of Texas South Asia Institute and Oxford University Press.


15 Agrawala, Vasudeva S. (1983) Hymn of Creation (Nāsadīya Sūkta, Ṛigveda X. 129) (Varanasi: Prithivi Prakashan), viii.


16 David Reigle is, as far as I have researched, the only translator who has thoroughly documented his work for the translation process of this sūkta. Grammatically, his work is impeccable. Among the many translations available for the Cosmogonic Hymn, most translators, with a few exceptions, do not justify their work. David has compiled a large number of sources, i.e, Sanskrit and/or English translations. See next footnote. See the series of articles on this website and his: http://prajnaquest.fr/blog/creation-stories-the-cosmogony-acount-from-the-vedas/


17 See David Reigle’s articles on the Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas, especially a survey of the Cosmogonic Hymn, listed here chronologically:

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 1: Introduction

By David Reigle on January 27, 2013 at 12:08 am

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129,

the “Hymn of Creation” By David Reigle on February 28, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129,

the “Hymn of Creation” Translation Notes (continued) By David Reigle on March 2, 2013 at 5:33 am

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129,

the “Hymn of Creation” Translation Notes (continued) By David Reigle on March 19, 2013 at 5:03 am

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129,

the “Hymn of Creation” Translation Notes (continued and concluded) By David Reigle

on March 31, 2013 at 5:29 am

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 2: Translation of Ṛg-veda 10.129,

the “Hymn of Creation” Translation Notes (continued and concluded)

By David Reigle on April 2, 2013 at 1:44 am

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas. Part 3: Comparison of Ṛg-veda 10.129

with the Book of Dzyan. By David Reigle on April 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas

By David Reigle on April 30, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Vedas


18 An example of an excellent study:

Römer, Thomas. Trans. Raymond Geuss (2015) The Invention of God, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press

Category: Book of Dzyan, Cosmogenesis, Creation Stories | Tags: | No comments yet


The Basic Premises behind the Book of Dzyan

By David Reigle on July 31, 2016 at 6:45 pm

“Before the reader proceeds to the consideration of the Stanzas from the Book of Dzyan which form the basis of the present work, it is absolutely necessary that he should be made acquainted with the few fundamental conceptions which underlie and pervade the entire system of thought to which his attention is invited. These basic ideas are few in number, and on their clear apprehension depends the understanding of all that follows; therefore no apology is required for asking the reader to make himself familiar with them first, before entering on the perusal of the work itself.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 13)

In this way, H. P. Blavatsky introduced the three fundamental propositions of the Secret Doctrine. When she was later asked by Robert Bowen how to study The Secret Doctrine, she reiterated this, adding the somewhat alarming words, “even if it takes years”: “The first thing to do, even if it takes years, is to get some grasp of the ‘Three fundamental principles’ given in the Proem.”

After reading the first fundamental proposition of the Secret Doctrine, “an omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle,” our first reaction might be something like: “That makes sense. Of course. What else would it be?” However, I think that some of the implications of this apparently simple idea may be surprising, and this may explain why it could take years to get a clear apprehension of these fundamental propositions. In order to get these fundamental ideas as directly as possible, and with the least distortion, it will be necessary to quote the primary sources extensively.

“The Secret Doctrine establishes three fundamental propositions:

“(a) An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable Principle on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude. It is beyond the range and reach of thought—in the words of Māṇḍūkya Upanishad, ‘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 symbolized in the Secret Doctrine under two aspects. On the one hand, absolute abstract Space, representing bare subjectivity, the one thing which no human mind can either exclude from any conception, or conceive of by itself. On the other, absolute abstract Motion representing Unconditioned Consciousness. Even our Western thinkers have shown that Consciousness is inconceivable to us apart from change, and motion best symbolizes change, its essential characteristic. This latter aspect of the one Reality, is also symbolized by the term ‘The Great Breath,’ a symbol sufficiently graphic to need no further elucidation. Thus, then, the first fundamental axiom of the Secret Doctrine is this metaphysical One AbsoluteBe-ness—symbolized by finite intelligence as the theological Trinity.”

“(b) The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically ‘the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing,’ called ‘the manifesting stars,’ and the ‘sparks of Eternity.’ ‘The Eternity of the Pilgrim’ is like a wink of the Eye of Self-Existence (Book of Dzyan.) ‘The appearance and disappearance of Worlds is like a regular tidal ebb of flux and reflux.’

“This second assertion of the Secret Doctrine is the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of nature. An alternation such as that of Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, is a fact so common, so perfectly universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in it we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the universe.”

My comment: While no one would doubt that the law of periodicity is true, none of the known systems of philosophy and religion make it a fundamental proposition of their system.

“(c) The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul, the latter being itself an aspect of the Unknown Root; and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul—a spark of the former—through the Cycle of Incarnation (or ‘Necessity’) in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term.”

My comment: Take note of the tacit acceptance of the “Universal Over-Soul,” which is by no means widely accepted in the philosophical and religious systems of the East.

“In other words, no purely spiritual Buddhi (divine Soul) can have an independent (conscious) existence before the spark which issued from the pure Essence of the Universal Sixth principle—or the over-soul—has (a) passed through every elemental form of the phenomenal world of that Manvantara, and (b) acquired individuality, first by natural impulse, and then by self-induced and self-devised efforts (checked by its Karma), thus ascending through all the degrees of intelligence, from the lowest to the highest Manas, from mineral and plant, up to the holiest archangel (Dhyāni-Buddha). The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations.”

(All of the above quotes are from The Secret Doctrine, as edited by Boris de Zirkoff, 1978, pagination the same as in the original 1888 edition, vol. 1, pp. 14-17.)

The implication of this third fundamental proposition is that one cannot attain enlightenment without going through the whole series of rebirths. So the Secret Doctrine does not accept instant or sudden enlightenment, as this is commonly understood in the philosophical and religious systems that teach it. Rather, this third fundamental proposition of the Secret Doctrine makes the gradual or graded path an absolute necessity.

The first fundamental proposition of the Secret Doctrine makes the philosophical doctrine of non-duality or radical unity an absolute necessity. If there is an “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle,” there can be no real plurality. As Blavatsky explained to Robert Bowen (reported by him):

“No matter what one may study in the S.D. [Secret Doctrine] let the mind hold fast, as the basis of its ideation, to the following ideas:

“(a) The Fundamental Unity of all Existence. This unity is a thing altogether different from the common notion of unity—as when we say that a nation or an army is united; or that this planet is united to that by lines of magnetic force or the like. The teaching is not that. It is that existence is One Thing, not any collection of things linked together. Fundamentally there is One Being. This Being has two aspects, positive and negative. The positive is Spirit, or Consciousness. The negative is Substance, the subject of consciousness. This Being is the Absolute in its primary manifestation. Being absolute there is nothing outside it. It is All-Being. It is indivisible, else it would not be absolute. If a portion could be separated, that remaining could not be absolute, because there would at once arise the question of comparison between it and the separated part. Comparison is incompatible with any idea of absoluteness. Therefore it is clear that this fundamental One Existence, or Absolute Being must be the Reality in every form there is.

. . . . . . .

“The Atom, the Man, the God (she says) are each separately, as well as all collectively, Absolute Being in their last analysis, that is their real individuality. It is this idea which must be held always in the background of the mind to form the basis for every conception that arises from study of the S.D. The moment one lets it go (and it is most easy to do so when engaged in any of the many intricate aspects of the Esoteric Philosophy) the idea of separation supervenes, and the study loses its value.”

(“The ‘Secret Doctrine’ and Its Study,” cited from An Invitation to The Secret Doctrine, pp. 3-4)

In The Secret Doctrine Blavatsky had stated this succinctly:

“The radical unity of the ultimate essence of each constituent part of compounds in Nature—from Star to mineral Atom, from the highest Dhyāni-Chohan to the smallest infusoria, in the fullest acceptation of the term, and whether applied to the spiritual, intellectual, or physical worlds—this is the one fundamental law in Occult Science.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 120)

The teaching of radical unity or non-duality has been criticized by philosophical and religious systems that do not accept it. They say that if we are all ultimately one, the implication is that we would all already be enlightened. In reply, two levels of truth are posited: one ultimate and one conventional. It is only in ultimate truth that all is one. In conventional truth, where we live our conventional lives, we are obliged to strive for enlightenment over a long series of lives.

The truth of the first fundamental proposition of the Secret Doctrine, that might have seemed so self-evident, becomes much less so when compared with the teachings of other philosophical and religious systems. Thus, an “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle” is greatly at variance with God as taught in theistic religions. God is there usually transcendent, not immanent, as the word “omnipresent” would imply. Even in a non-dualistic system that posits a God who is immanent rather than transcendent, we still have a problem. God as the Creator, or a God that can be prayed to for granting favors, cannot legitimately be described as “immutable.”

How, then, can we legitimately describe this “omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle” without using this whole phrase each time? What can we call it with accuracy? The “esoteric Senzar Catechism,” or the “Occult Catechism,” puts the question and answer as follows:

“‘What is that which was, is, and will be, whether there is a Universe or not; whether there be gods or none?’ asks the esoteric Senzar Catechism. And the answer made is—space.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 9)

“The Occult Catechism contains the following questions and answers:

What is it that ever is?’ ‘Space, the eternal Anupapādaka.’ ‘What is it that ever was?’ ‘The Germ in the Root.’ ‘What is it that is ever coming and going?’ ‘The Great Breath.’ ‘Then, there are three Eternals?’ ‘No, the three are one. That which ever is, is one, that which ever was, is one, that which is ever being and becoming, is also one: and this is Space.’”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 11)

Seven years before these extracts from the catechism were published in The Secret Doctrine in 1888, the same thing had been said in the “Cosmological Notes” by the Mahatma Morya in 1881:

“What is the one eternal thing in the universe independent of every other thing?


(The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, Appendix 2, p. 376)

In the following year, 1882, Blavatsky had explained this in her “Notes” to T. Subba Row’s article, “The Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principle in Man,” using phrases from the catechism:

“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; a something ever present or ubiquitous, a Presence which ever was, is, and will be, whether there is a God, gods or none; whether there is a universe or no universe; existing during the eternal cycles of Maha Yugas, during the Pralayas as during the periods of Manvantara: and this is Space, . . .”

(H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 3, p. 423)

The consistent use of the term “space” in the primary sources from 1881 to 1888 indicates that this is what the first fundamental proposition of the Secret Doctrine describes as “an omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle.” This principle can more simply be referred to as “space.” The question now is: What is space? Is this empty space?

As Blavatsky’s words were reported by Robert Bowen, spoken not long before she died in 1891:

“(b) The second idea to hold fast to is that there is no dead matter. Every last atom is alive. It cannot be otherwise since every atom is itself fundamentally Absolute Being. Therefore there is no such thing as ‘spaces’ of Ether, or Akasha, or call it what you like, in which angels and elementals disport themselves like trout in water. That’s the common idea. The true idea shows every atom of substance no matter of what plane to be in itself a life.”

(“The ‘Secret Doctrine’ and Its Study,” cited from An Invitation to The Secret Doctrine, p. 4)

Blavatsky earlier had written in a footnote to T. Subba Row’s 1882 article referred to above:

“. . . Space filled with whatsoever substance or no substance at all; i.e., with substance so imponderable as to be only metaphysically conceivable.”

(Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 3, p. 405 fn.)

In The Secret Doctrine Blavatsky had quoted a secret commentary:

Extracts from a private commentary, hitherto secret:

“. . . As its substance is of a different kind from that known on earth, the inhabitants of the latter, seeing through it, believe in their illusion and ignorance that it is empty space. There is not one fingers breath (angula) of void Space in the whole Boundless [Universe]. . . . .”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 289)

No, it is not empty space. It is substance, imponderable substance, living substance. The following quotes show that this space, this imponderable living substance, is the one eternal thing, and it periodically produces the visible cosmos.

Book of Dzyan, stanza 1, verse 1:

The Eternal Parent (Space), wrapped in her ever invisible robes, had slumbered once again for seven eternities.”

Blavatsky explains this:

“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 fullness, but both. It was and ever will be.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 35)

Further on in The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky quotes what is apparently a commentary on the Book of Dzyan:

“‘The ever (to us) invisible and immaterial Substance present in eternity, threw its periodical shadow from its own plane into the lap of Māyā.’”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, pp. 62-63)

Then later in a footnote, Blavatsky writes:

“‘Creation’—out of pre-existent eternal substance, or matter, of course, which substance, according to our teachings, is boundless, ever-existing space.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, p. 239 fn.)

Not only is space described as imponderable living substance, the one eternal thing, it is also called darkness in the stanzas on cosmogenesis from the Book of Dzyan (and once dark space in contradistinction to bright space, stanza 3, verse 7).

Book of Dzyan, stanza 1, verse 5:

Darkness alone filled the boundless all, . . .”

Blavatsky elsewhere quotes this verse and explains darkness as space:

“This, then, is the meaning:

“‘Darkness alone filled the Boundless All, for Father, Mother and Son were once more One.

“Space was, and is ever, as it is between the Manvantaras. The Universe in its pre-kosmic state was once more homogeneous and one—outside its aspects.”

(The Secret Doctrine, 3rd ed., vol. 3, p. 180; Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 186)

Blavatsky then quotes what is apparently a secret commentary, which uses divine substance in place of darkness or space:

“Says the Secret Doctrine:

It is called to life. The mystic Cube in which rests the Creative Idea, the manifesting Mantra [or articulate speech—Vāch] and the holy Purusha [both radiations of prima materia] exist in the Eternity in the Divine Substance in their latent state

—during Pralaya.”

(The Secret Doctrine, 3rd ed., vol. 3, p. 181; Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 187)

These three designations of the omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle, namely, space, substance, and darkness, are put together in the following quote, which uses primordial matter in place of divine substance:

Space filled with darkness, which is primordial matter in its pre-cosmic state. . . . and Space is the ever Unseen and Unknowable Deity in our philosophy.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 336 fn.)

In the recapitulation of the teachings in the “Summing Up” section of The Secret Doctrine, the centrality of the teaching of the one fundamental substance-principle is stressed:

“The fundamental Law in that system, the central point from which all emerged, around and toward which all gravitates, and upon which is hung the philosophy of the rest, is the One homogeneous divine Substance-Principle, the one radical cause.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 273)

So we have seen the terms space, substance or matter, and darkness used to designate the one fundamental principle. Blavatsky’s Mahatma teachers also called it the one element, as did Blavatsky after them:

“However, you will have to bear in mind (a) that we recognize but one element in Nature (whether spiritual or physical) outside which there can be no Nature since it is Nature itself, and which as the Akasa pervades our solar system, every atom being part of itself, pervades throughout space and is space in fact, which pulsates as in profound sleep during the pralayas, . . . (b) that consequently spirit and matter are one, being but a differentiation of states not essences, . . . (c) that our notions of “cosmic matter” are diametrically opposed to those of western science. Perchance if you remember all this we will succeed in imparting to you at least the elementary axioms of our esoteric philosophy more correctly than heretofore.”

(The Mahatma Letters, letter #11, 3rd ed., p. 63; chronological #65)

“Yes, as described in my letter—there is but one element and it is impossible to comprehend our system before a correct conception of it is firmly fixed in one’s mind. You must therefore pardon me if I dwell on the subject longer than really seems necessary. But unless this great primary fact is firmly grasped the rest will appear unintelligible. This element then is the—to speak metaphysically—one sub-stratum or permanent cause of all manifestations in the phenomenal universe.”

(The Mahatma Letters, letter #15, 3rd ed., p. 89; chronological #67)

“If the student bears in mind that there is but One Universal Element, which is infinite, unborn, and undying, and that all the rest—as in the world of phenomena—are but so many various differentiated aspects and transformations (correlations, they are now called) of that One, from Cosmical down to microcosmical effects, from super-human down to human and subhuman beings, the totality, in short, of objective existence—then the first and chief difficulty will disappear and Occult Cosmology may be mastered.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 75)

In the earlier Theosophical writings the one element was sometimes referred to as matter, before substance was chosen as a better term than matter:

“. . . the Eastern Occultists hold that there is but one element in the universe—infinite, uncreated and indestructible—matter; which element manifests itself in seven states . . . . Spirit is the highest state of that matter, they say, since that which is neither matter nor any of its attributes is—nothing.”

(Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 602)

As in Blavatsky’s commentary on Book of Dzyan, stanza 1, verse 1, where she says, “Spirit is the first differentiation from That, the causeless cause of both Spirit and Matter,” so here she says that Spirit is the highest state of the seven states that that matter, the one element, manifests itself in. The idea of ultimate substance or matter rather than ultimate spirit or God was hard for one of the Mahatma’s correspondents to accept. In a forceful reply, Mahatma K.H. makes it clear what they mean by their teaching of the “one life,” saying that “we believe in matter alone”:

“If people are willing to accept and to regard as God our ONE LIFE immutable and unconscious in its eternity they may do so and thus keep to one more gigantic misnomer. . . .

“When we speak of our One Life we also say that it penetrates, nay is the essence of every atom of matter; and that therefore it not only has correspondence with matter but has all its properties likewise, etc.—hence is material, is matter itself. . . .

“Matter we know to be eternal, i.e., having had no beginning (a) because matter is Nature herself (b) because that which cannot annihilate itself and is indestructible exists necessarily—and therefore it could not begin to be, nor can it cease to be (c) because the accumulated experience of countless ages, and that of exact science show to us matter (or nature) acting by her own peculiar energy, of which not an atom is ever in an absolute state of rest, and therefore it must have always existed, i.e., its materials ever changing form, combinations and properties, but its principles or elements being absolutely indestructible. . . .

“In other words we believe in MATTER alone, in matter as visible nature and matter in its invisibility as the invisible omnipresent omnipotent Proteus with its unceasing motion which is its life, and which nature draws from herself since she is the great whole outside of which nothing can exist. . . .

“The existence of matter then is a fact; the existence of motion is another fact, their self existence and eternity or indestructibility is a third fact. And the idea of pure spirit as a Being or an Existence—give it whatever name you will—is a chimera, a gigantic absurdity.”

(The Mahatma Letters, letter #10, 3rd ed., pp. 53-56; chronological #88)

So the unceasing motion of matter or substance that is its life is what they call the one life. Thus, as stated in The Secret Doctrine’s explanation of the first fundamental proposition, we conceive of the omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle under two aspects: as absolute abstract space, and as absolute abstract motion. Either of these terms (or their synonyms) may be used to refer to this principle, because they both refer to the same thing. We in fact find both used in the Theosophical primary sources. Nonetheless, we find a clear preference for “space,” as best illustrated in the esoteric or occult catechism, quoted above. The reason for the preference for using space (or its synonyms: substance, matter, darkness, the one element) is that there can be no motion if there is not something to move. The Mahatma K.H. writes:

“Motion is eternal because spirit is eternal. But no modes of motion can ever be conceived unless they be in connection with matter.”

(The Mahatma Letters, letter #22, 3rd ed., p. 139; chronological #90)

The Mahatma Morya had also addressed this in the “Cosmological Notes,” in reply to queries, again referring to motion as the life of matter:

“Your all-pervading supreme power exists, but it is exactly matter, whose life is motion, will, and nerve power, electricity. Purusha can think but through Prakriti.”

(The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, Appendix 2, p. 381)

The Mahatma K.H. explained this more fully in the article, “What is Matter and What is Force?,” using the phrase, “matter in motion”:

“Light, then, like heat—of which it is the crown—is simply the ghost, the shadow of matter in motion, the boundless, eternal, infinite space, motion and duration, the trinitarian essence of that which the Deists call God, and we—the One Element; Spirit-matter, or Matter-spirit, . . .”

(Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 220)

The same phrase, “matter in motion,” was repeated in The Secret Doctrine by Blavatsky:

“. . . we must seek for the ultimate causes of light, heat, etc., etc., in MATTER existing in super-sensuous states—states, however, as fully objective to the spiritual eye of man, as a horse or a tree is to the ordinary mortal. Light and heat are the ghost or shadow of matter in motion.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 515)

And matter or substance is always in motion:

“It is a fundamental law in Occultism, that there is no rest or cessation of motion in Nature.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 97)

“We say and affirm that that motion—the universal perpetual motion which never ceases, never slackens nor increases its speed, not even during the interludes between the pralayas, or ‘nights of Brahma,’ but goes on like a mill set in motion whether it has anything to grind or not (for the pralaya means the temporary loss of every form, but by no means the destruction of cosmic matter which is eternal)—we say this perpetual motion is the only eternal and uncreated Deity we are able to recognise.”

(The Mahatma Letters, letter #22, 3rd ed., p. 135; chronological #90)

“What things are co-existent with space? . . .

“(iii) Motion, for this is the imperishable life (conscious or unconscious as the case may be) of matter, even during the pralaya, or night of mind.”

(“Cosmological Notes,” The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, Appendix 2, p. 377)

Matter or substance is always in motion, even during pralaya or while asleep, because motion is its life. As its life, “the one life,” it is also referred to as its breath, “The Great Breath”:

“‘The Mother sleeps, yet is ever breathing.’”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 143, apparently quoting a secret commentary)

“This latter aspect [absolute abstract Motion] of the one Reality, is also symbolized by the term ‘The Great Breath,’ a symbol sufficiently graphic to need no further elucidation.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 14)

“It is the one life, eternal, invisible, yet Omnipresent, without beginning or end, yet periodical in its regular manifestations, . . . Its one absolute attribute, which is itself, eternal, ceaseless Motion, is called in esoteric parlance the ‘Great Breath,’ which is the perpetual motion of the universe, in the sense of limitless, ever-present space. . . . Intra-Cosmic motion is eternal and ceaseless; cosmic motion (the visible, or that which is subject to perception) is finite and periodical.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, pp. 2-3)

That, which is neither Spirit nor matterthat is IT — the Causeless CAUSE of Spirit and Matter, which are the Cause of Kosmos. And THAT we call the ONE LIFE or the Intra-Cosmic Breath.

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 258, quoting a secret commentary)

“The ‘Breath’ of the One Existence is used in its application only to the spiritual aspect of Cosmogony by Archaic esotericism; otherwise, it is replaced by its equivalent in the material plane—Motion. The One Eternal Element, or element-containing Vehicle, is Space, dimensionless in every sense; co-existent with which are—endless duration, primordial (hence indestructible) matter, and motion—absolute ‘perpetual motion’ which is the ‘breath’ of the ‘One’ Element. This breath, as seen, can never cease, not even during the Pralayic eternities.”

(The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 55)

So motion, the unceasing motion of substance or matter, its life, is also called its breath, “The Great Breath,” the breath of the one element. Besides life and breath, this motion was referred to as svabhāva by the Mahatma K.H., and equated with force:

“Their [the Swabhavikas] plastic, invisible, eternal, omnipresent and unconscious Swabhavat is Force or Motion ever generating its electricity which is life.”

(The Mahatma Letters, letter #22, 3rd ed. p. 136; chronological #90)

The word svabhāva means the “inherent nature” of something. For example, heat is the inherent nature of fire. Here, the something that motion is the inherent nature of would of course be the one element, living substance. The inherent nature of living things is to breathe; and substance or matter, the one element, is taught in the Secret Doctrine as living. Its life or breath is its motion, and this is its inherent nature. So motion can be described as the life of the one element, or the breath of the one element, or the inherent nature of the one element. The equation of svabhāva and motion is important for understanding the stanzas we have from the Book of Dzyan, where the term svabhāva [svâbhâvat] occurs seven times.

We here have yet another term used for motion, namely, force. The Mahatma K.H. uses “force” very much like “the force” from the Star Wars movies. It is the sole force in the universe:

“Yes; there is a force as limitless as thought, as potent as boundless will, as subtle as the essence of life, so inconceivably awful in its rending force as to convulse the universe to its centre were it but used as a lever, but this Force is not God, since there are men who have learned the secret of subjecting it to their will when necessary. 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.”

(The Mahatma Letters, letter #22, 3rd ed., pp. 136-137; chronological #90)

The Mahatma K.H. had begun the letter speaking of the universal mind, or infinite mind. In the next paragraph he comments:

“. . . the ‘infinite mind,’ which we name so but for agreement sake, for we call it the infinite FORCE . . .”

(The Mahatma Letters, letter #22, 3rd ed., p. 134; chronological #90)

He concludes:

“The world of force is the world of Occultism and the only one whither the highest initiate goes to probe the secrets of being.”

(The Mahatma Letters, letter #22, 3rd ed., p. 140; chronological #90)

In another letter the Mahatma K.H. brings many of these synonymously used but potentially confusing terms together:

“We will say that it is, and will remain for ever demonstrated that since motion is all-pervading and absolute rest inconceivable, that under whatever form or mask motion may appear, whether as light, heat, magnetism, chemical affinity or electricity—all these must be but phases of One and the same universal omnipotent Force, a Proteus they bow to as the Great ‘Unknown’ (See Herbert Spencer) and we, simply call the ‘One Life,’ the ‘One Law’ and the ‘One Element.’”

(The Mahatma Letters, letter #23B, 3rd ed., pp. 155-156; chronological #93B)

The Mahatma K.H. similarly concluded his article, “What is Matter and What is Force?,” by making it very clear that to speak of force or spirit is to speak of matter or substance, because these are in essence not two different things. Whether we speak of space or substance or matter or the one element on the one side, or motion or spirit or force or the one life on the other side, these are only different descriptions of one and the same thing. It is the same one fundamental principle symbolized in the Secret Doctrine under two aspects, the same one eternal element with its unceasing motion which is its life, the one life. The Mahatma K.H. could say that “we believe in matter alone” because spirit is the motion or life of matter or substance. Again stressing the indispensable side of the equation that is usually left out, but which cannot be separated from spirit because the two are one, he here concludes by referring to the one as indestructible matter:

“Therefore do the Occultists maintain that the philosophical conception of spirit, like the conception of matter, must rest on one and the same basis of phenomena, adding that Force and Matter, Spirit and Matter, or Deity and Nature, though they may be viewed as opposite poles in their respective manifestations, yet are in essence and in truth but one, . . . This is why . . . the Occultist . . . claims . . . that Life, whether in its latent or dynamical form, is everywhere. That it is as infinite and as indestructible as matter itself, since neither can exist without the other, . . . ‘Purush’ is non-existent without ‘Prakriti’; nor, can Prakriti, or plastic matter have being or exist without Purush, or spirit, vital energy, Life. Purush and Prakriti are in short the two poles of the one eternal element, and are synonymous and convertible terms. . . . Therefore, whether it is called Force or Matter, it will ever remain the Omnipresent Proteus of the Universe, the one element—Life—Spirit or Force at its negative, Matter at its positive pole; the former the Materio-Spiritual, the latter, the Materio-Physical Universe—Nature, Svabhavat or Indestructible matter.”

(Blavatsky Collected Writings, vol. 4, p. 225-226)


In summary, we are asked to get some grasp of the three fundamental propositions of the Secret Doctrine, before proceeding to the study of the stanzas from the Book of Dzyan. They appear to be simple enough: (1) an omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle, symbolized under two aspects: absolute abstract space, and absolute abstract motion; (2) the law of periodicity; (3) all souls are one with the universal over-soul, itself an aspect of the unknown root, and the obligatory pilgrimage for every soul throughout the whole cycle of incarnation.

When we follow this out, comb through the primary sources and put together the references, a somewhat unexpected picture emerges. As expected, we find the teaching of radical unity, or non-duality. Then when we might have expected the one omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle to be described as spirit, we instead find it described as space, as substance that is imponderable, immaterial, invisible, indestructible, and most notably, living, as darkness, as the one element, and as matter with its life which is its motion. When this one fundamental principle is symbolized under the aspect of absolute abstract motion, we do find it described as spirit, and as unconditioned consciousness, although more often as the one life, and as the great breath. Here spirit, however, is not something distinct from and above matter, but is only a way of referring to the life or motion of imponderable matter or substance.

Additionally, the motion or life or breath of substance or matter may be called the svabhāva or inherent nature of the one element. This has important philosophical ramifications. The motion of living substance may also be called force, which is the cause of light, heat, magnetism, electricity, and all other such manifestations. Modern science studies these manifestations without being able to reach their invisible cause, super-sensuous matter in motion. The philosophical and religious systems that posit ultimate reality as spirit, or pure consciousness, or the one mind, are seeing only the aspect of the one fundamental principle that is symbolized as absolute abstract motion. According to the Secret Doctrine, they are missing the aspect symbolized as absolute abstract space. There can be no spirit distinct from substance, because the two in our conceptions are actually one and inseparable.

In brief, ultimate reality as taught in the first fundamental proposition of the Secret Doctrine, an omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle, is space (Sanskrit dhātu), the one element, imponderable living substance with its motion which is its life.

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Water-Men, Terrible and Bad

By David Reigle on May 12, 2016 at 6:43 pm

(continued and concluded)

The water-men, terrible and bad, were not dense physical men like those of today, as The Secret Doctrine tells us. The immediately preceding verse from the Book of Dzyan, verse 4, gives the time explained as the first of “the seven geological changes which accompany and correspond to the evolution of the Seven Root-Races of Humanity,” and at the beginning of the fourth Round (SD 2.47). Dense physical humanity would not appear until the middle of the third root-race, eighteen million years ago, while “the first Root-Race was as ethereal as ours is material” (SD 2.46; see also 2.156). This was in accordance with the ethereal state of our globe at that time, since “man’s organism was adapted in every race to its surroundings” (SD 2.46). Hence, the water-men would have left no physical traces. Moreover, they would have preceded even the ethereal first root-race. They are not described in our history books because the time when they lived was pre-history, and the only records we now have of pre-history are myths.

The two stories that involve water-men given earlier from the Kathā-sarit-sāgara, “Ocean of the Streams of Story,” are useful to this inquiry only insofar as they preserve the idea of water-men, and provide Sanskrit names for water-men from among many possibilities. The Sanskrit names they use are jala-mānuṣa and jala-pūruṣa (and these forms rather than jala-manuṣa and jala-puruṣa). These stories, even as myths that might preserve dim memories or echoes of the past, would not pertain to the prehistorical water-men described in the Book of Dzyan.

The account given by the Babylonian priest Berossos is in quite a different category. It purports to be based on very ancient records, much like the Book of Dzyan. Like the Book of Dzyan, the Babylonian account is said to have come from a divine instructor, a being who is not of earth’s humanity. Only such a being could know the (pre-)history of our globe prior to the time of humanity. Such beings are said, both in the Babylonian account and in the Book of Dzyan, to have taught infant humanity all the arts and sciences necessary for civilization, and also the (pre-)history of our globe. The Babylonian account provides us with the only parallel source to the Book of Dzyan so far found on the time of the water-men, terrible and bad. It will therefore be worthwhile to see what has been learned about this account since Blavatsky quoted it in 1888 from an 1832 translation.

The history of Babylonia by Berossos (written about 280 B.C.E.) remains lost. The book by Greek historian Alexander Polyhistor (who lived circa 105 to 35 B.C.E.) that quoted or summarized it remains lost. The book by historian of the Christian church Eusebius (who lived circa 260 to 340 C.E.) that quoted or abridged it from Polyhistor, remains lost. The account by Berossos has reached us in the book by Byzantine Christian historian George Syncellus (written 808-810 C.E.) that quoted it from Eusebius. This is the source that Isaac Preston Cory translated it from in his 1832 Ancient Fragments, which is the source that Blavatsky used. Thus, for the Babylonian account by Berossos we have no new source material. We now have newer editions of the Greek text and newer English translations of it,1 although these do not substantially differ from the 1832 edition and translation by Cory.

In the case of the very fragmentary Babylonian clay tablets giving The Chaldean Account of Genesis (1876), a book that Blavatsky used and cited along with the related account by Berossos, the situation has changed greatly. These seven ancient cuneiform tablets have now been almost entirely recovered.2 The text that they contain, called the Enūma Eliš (Enuma Elish), has come to be known in modern times as the Babylonian “Epic of Creation.” This is because it includes an account of creation, often taken to be the standard Babylonian one, and comparison of this to the Biblical book of Genesis has been of much interest. However, this epic is better described as “a narrative myth composed to assert and justify the status of Marduk as head of the pantheon,”3 and its account of creation is only one among others, although it is the best preserved one. The Enuma Elish appears to have been in widespread use from around 1100 B.C.E. until the end of Babylonia as a nation, even being recited during the annual new year’s festival at Babylon.4 It is clearly an exoteric account, written for the general public in the form of an epic poem.

Berossos is now usually thought to have based his account of creation on the Enuma Elish. The truthfulness of his account had been doubted since early times, especially by his two Christian transmitters, Eusebius and George Syncellus. The discovery of the cuneiform writings in the mid-1800s, and in particular the recovery of the Enuma Elish with its similar creation account, showed that Berossos was a faithful recorder of Babylonian traditions. A comparison of the two shows that the broad lines of the creation account do indeed agree in both. However, there are a number of significant differences between the two.

Berossos, in agreement with the Enuma Elish, wrote about the great god Bel (Marduk) cutting the primordial woman in half to form the earth with one half of her and the heavens with the other half. He then says, as reported by Polyhistor, that this is allegorical. The Enuma Elish gives this as a straightforward narrative (tablets 4 and 5), culminating in Marduk forming the heavens with half of her (tablet 4, lines 137-138), and the earth with the other half of her (tablet 5, line 62), with no indication that it is allegorical. The statement by Berossos that this is allegorical was presumably based on esoteric texts that he, as a Babylonian priest, would have had access to. The assumption that Berossos had access to secret texts was confirmed by the research of G. Komoróczy presented in his article, “Berosos and the Mesopotamian Literature” (Acta Antiqua, Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, vol. 21, 1973, pp. 125-152), where he writes (pp. 128-129):

“It is a fact known for a long time that part of the literature written in cuneiform was regarded as secret science. Tablets originally prepared in a cryptographic system of writing have been preserved, but much more important and characteristic than these are those texts, which are qualified as secret by their colophons. . . . From the investigations of R. Borger we also know that the secret tablets were accessible for the priests. Initiation, priestly education and priestly office were prerequisites for the survey of the whole of the tradition. Berosos, who was a priest, on account of his position could reach the whole literature of the age, the fresh copies just like the «closed», library material.

“. . . In the prologue, among the remarks on the sources used by Berosos we read that Berosos found numerous «recordings» (ἀναγϱαφή) in Babylon. These recordings were preserved there from time immemorial, «with great care». The remark expresses exactly the same thing as the colophon of the tablets in cuneiform writing, when for example it writes as follows: ki-ma gaba-ri labiri (LIBIR.RA) bābili ki šaṭir (AB.SAR), «Written on the basis of an old Babylonian specimen». However, beyond this, the whole formula of Berosos, especially the phrase μετὰ πολλῆς πιμελείας, points to the same thing as the colophon of the secret clay tablets. That is, Berosos used the ancient, carefully preserved, secret texts of the Babylonian temple.”

The carefully preserved records that Berossos used covered a period going far back in time, he reports. As his text has come down to us through Polyhistor to Eusebius to Syncellus, he says that they covered a period of more than 150,000 years. His text in the Armenian translation of the still lost chronicle by Eusebius here has 2,150,000 years. While this discrepancy cannot in our present state of knowledge be rectified, the first number appears to be too short. It should be more than 432,000 years, since in the second part of his history Berossos gives the reigns of kings covering 432,000 years up to the time of the flood. Thus, regarding the number 150,000, the newer English translation by Verbrugghe and Wickersham notes:

“The manuscript reading of this number is in doubt. Pliny the Elder says Berossos had records going back 490,000 years; Khairemon of Alexandria, who was the emperor Nero’s tutor and was most likely referring to Berossos, says that Babylonian records go back over 400,000 years; and Cicero de Divinatione (On Divination) 1.36 gives the number of years for which Babylonian records supposedly existed as 470,000.”5

Likewise, the newer English translation by Burstein notes:

“Since the chronological data scattered through books two and three total almost 468,000 years, it is clear that neither the 150,000 years of the Greek nor the 2,150,000 years of the Armenian text can represent Berossus’ total for the period of time supposedly covered by these records. Unfortunately, no solution to the problem is possible although figures given by authors dependent on Berossus for the age of the Babylonian astronomical records—490,000 years according to Pliny the Elder; 480,000 years according to Sextus Julius Africanus; and 400,000 years according to Chaeremon—also point to a figure somewhat over 400,000 years.”6

Thus, Berossos had access to records reportedly covering a period of more than 400,000 years that he said had been preserved at Babylon with great care. He had access not only to the public ones but also to the secret ones, as confirmed by the research of Borger and Komoróczy. While the Christian transmitters of his text (Eusebius and George Syncellus) regarded him as a fabricator because of these unbelievably high numbers of years, students of Theosophy with its even higher numbers of years will be more sympathetic to Berossos.7

We had noted that there are a number of significant differences between the account by Berossos and the Enuma Elish. Since the parts in which the account by Berossos differs from the Enuma Elish have not so far been found in other Babylonian or Sumerian creation accounts, it is reasonable to think that they come from the secret texts that he had access to. What, then, are the parts of the account by Berossos in which he differs from the Enuma Elish, and do these agree with the Book of Dzyan?

In the account by Berossos, the creation story is told by the fish-man Oannes, a divine instructor who brought civilization to the people. In the Enuma Elish, the creation story is an integral part of the epic, not told by someone else. In the account by Berossos, the primordial woman or sea is simply there when the great god Bel (Marduk) comes and divides her in half to form the earth and the heavens. In the Enuma Elish, the primordial woman or sea (Tiamat) engages in an epic battle with Marduk that Marduk wins and then divides her. In the account by Berossos, at the beginning there was only darkness and water. In the Enuma Elish, at the beginning there was Apsu, the subterranean waters, and Tiamat, the primordial woman or sea, who had mingled their waters together, with no mention of darkness.8 In the account by Berossos, unusual creatures were produced in this water without a stated reason. In the Enuma Elish, the primordial woman or sea (Tiamat) creates unusual and fearsome creatures to help her in her fight against Marduk. Since this occurs later in the story, the unusual creatures are not said to be created in the water, nor are they said to dwell in the water. Moreover, the unusual creatures described in the two sources differ significantly. In all these cases, the account by Berossos agrees with the Book of Dzyan, while the Enuma Elish does not.

The water-men, terrible and bad, are described in the Book of Dzyan (stanza 2, verse 8) as “the forms which were two- and four-faced”; “the goat-men, and the dog-headed men, and the men with fishes’ bodies.” The unusual creatures in the account by Berossos are described as follows (Burstein translation, 1978, p. 14):

“It (sc. Oannes) says that there was a time when everything was darkness and water and that in this water strange beings with peculiar forms came to life. For men were born with two wings and some with four wings and two faces; these had one body and two heads, and they were both masculine and feminine, and they had two sets of sexual organs, male and female. Other men were also born, some with the legs and horns of goats, and some with the feet of horses and the foreparts of men. These were hippo-centaurs in form. Bulls were also born with human heads and four-bodied dogs with fish tails growing from their hind quarters, and dog-headed horses and men and other beings with the heads and bodies of horses and the tails of fish and still other creatures with the forms of all sorts of beasts. In addition to these there were fish and creeping things and snakes and still further amazing (variously formed) creatures differing in appearance from one another. Images of these also are set up (one after another) in the temple of Bel.”

We notice that most of these are unusual kinds of men, or hybrids of men with animals. They well agree with the kinds of water-men, terrible and bad, of the Book of Dzyan. Only a few are unusual kinds of animals, animals that are not hybrids of men with animals.

The unusual creatures in the Enuma Elish are listed only by their names; their descriptions are not given (tablet 1, lines 133-143). Since the Babylonian language has been extinct for two thousand years, what these creatures are had to be determined by other means. While the identifications of some of them remain uncertain, it can be said that only three, four, or five of the stated eleven are unusual kinds of men, or hybrids of men with animals.

The Enuma Elish says that there are eleven of these unusual creatures (line 146), after giving only eight individual names. If we take the eight names that are listed, and add the generic-sounding name that is used in this grouping, “fierce demons,” and then add the two generic-sounding names that are mentioned in the preceding lines, “giant serpents” and “fearful monsters,” we can arrive at eleven: giant serpents, fearful monsters, the Hydra, the Dragon, the Hairy Hero, the Great Demon, the Savage Dog, the Scorpion-man, fierce demons, the Fish-man, and the Mighty Bull (Lambert translation, 2013). As may be seen, only three of these are unusual kinds of men, or hybrids of men with animals: the Hairy Hero, the Scorpion-man, and the Fish-man. Additionally, the “Mighty Bull” could be a “Bull-man,” and the “Savage Dog” might be a “Lion-man.”9

The account of the unusual creatures in the Enuma Elish is given in the following lines, along with some preceding lines for context (Lambert translation, 2013, pp. 57-59):

110       The gods took no rest, they . . . . . . .
111 In their minds they plotted evil,
112       And addressed their mother Tiāmat,

“. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
123 Make battle, avenge them!
124       [ . . ] . . . . reduce to nothingness!”
125 Tiāmat heard, the speech pleased her,
126       (She said,) “Let us do now all you have advised.”
127 The gods assembled within her.
128       They conceived [evil] against the gods their begetters.
129 They . . . . . and took the side of Tiāmat,
130       Fiercely plotting, unresting by night and day,
131 Lusting for battle, raging, storming,
132       They set up a host to bring about conflict.
133 Mother Hubur, who forms everything,
134       Supplied irresistible weapons, and gave birth to giant serpents.
135 They had sharp teeth, they were merciless . . . .
136       With poison instead of blood she filled their bodies.
137 She clothed the fearful monsters with dread,
138       She loaded them with an aura and made them godlike.
139 (She said,) “Let their onlooker feebly perish,
140       May they constantly leap forward and never retire.”
141 She created the Hydra, the Dragon, the Hairy Hero,
142       The Great Demon, the Savage Dog, and the Scorpion-man,
143 Fierce demons, the Fish-man, and the Mighty Bull,
144       Carriers of merciless weapons, fearless in the face of battle.
145 Her commands were tremendous, not to be resisted.
146       Altogether she made eleven of that kind.

As is clearly evident, the Enuma Elish is an epic poem written for the general public. By contrast, the account by Berossos was intended as history, being part of a history of Babylonia written for educated Greeks. Berossos may have realized that there would be no more Babylonian priests. He may have wished to preserve some of his esoteric knowledge in Greek before it was lost forever. Whatever the facts of this may be, he has given us an account that is unique in the annals of history. Although what we have of the history by Berossos is only a brief summary, passed from one writer to another, it is extremely valuable. It is our only window into ancient sources that apparently agree with the Book of Dzyan on the pre-history of our globe at the time of the water-men, terrible and bad.



  1. Newer editions of the Greek text of Berossos, in chronological order starting with the most recent:

De Breucker, G. “Berossos of Babylon (680).” Brill’s New Jacoby. Editor in Chief: Ian Worthington. Brill Online, 2010. Reference. <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/brill-s-new-jacoby/berossos-of-babylon-680-a680>

Mosshammer, Alden A. In Georgii Syncelli, Ecloga Chronographica, pp. 28-40. Leipzig: BSB B. G. Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft, 1984. See: Berossos, Greek, Mosshammer 1984

Jacoby, Felix. Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, Teil 3, Band C.1, Numbers 680 and 685, pp. 364-397 and 398-410. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1958. See: Berossos, Greek, Jacoby 1958

Newer English translations of the text of Berossos, in chronological order starting with the most recent:

De Breucker, G. “Berossos of Babylon (680).” Brill’s New Jacoby. Editor in Chief: Ian Worthington. Brill Online, 2010. Reference. <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/brill-s-new-jacoby/berossos-of-babylon-680-a680> Brill’s New Jacoby, started in 2007 and expected to be completed in 2017, is a new expanded version of Felix Jacoby’s multi-volume collection of the fragments preserved by Greek historians (listed above). While Jacoby often included German translations, this collection includes English translations. The Greek text and English translation of Berossos by Geert de Breucker were added to this database in 2010. See: Berossos, English, de Breucker 2010

Adler, William, and Paul Tuffin. The Chronography of George Synkellos: A Byzantine Chronicle of Universal History from the Creation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. This is the first complete translation of the Greek book by Synkellos or Syncellus that includes the account by Berossos from Polyhistor by way of Eusebius. The Berossos account begins on p. 38. See: Berossos, English, Adler and Tuffin 2002

Verbrugghe, Gerald P., and John M. Wickersham. Berossos and Manetho, Introduced and Translated: Native Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press,1996. About their translation they write, p. 10: “We want to add that it is not our goal to present a complete and scholarly commentary on Berossos’s and Manetho’s histories. . . . Rather, we want to present in one volume an accurate translation of what remains of Berossos’s and Manetho’s histories in a form that will appeal to the student interested in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt as well as to one interested in Hellenistic Mesopotamia and Egypt.” See: Berossos, English, Verbrugghe and Wickersham 1996

Burstein, Stanley Mayer. The Babyloniaca of Berossus. Sources and Monographs: Sources from the Ancient Near East, vol. 1, fasc. 5. Malibu: Undena Publication,1978. About his translation he writes, p. 11: “The basis of the translation is the excerpts from Eusebius’ abridgement of Polyhistor’s epitome preserved by Syncellus . . . . Like all compromises, the resulting translation is not perfect, but it does make it possible for the first time for scholars and students interested in the content of Berossus’ work to read it in a form as close to the original structure of his book as can now be determined.” See: Babylonaica of Berossus

A partial English translation is found in: Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis: The Story of Creation, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942; 2nd ed., 1951, pp. 77-78 (the excerpt on creation). https://oi.uchicago.edu/research/publications/misc/babylonian-genesis-story-creation

A partial English translation from the 1923 German translation by Paul Schnabel is found in pieces in: Brandon, S. G. F. Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1963, pp. 111-113, 117.

It may be noted that there were three editions of Isaac Preston Cory’s Ancient Fragments. The 1832 edition that Blavatsky cited is the 2nd edition, greatly expanded from the 1st edition. The 1st edition, 1828, nonetheless also included the Berossos text in Greek and English. The third edition, 1876, prepared by E. Richmond Hodges, was called “a new and enlarged edition,” although it omitted the Greek text, Cory’s lengthy “Introductory Dissertation,” and what Hodges regarded as “the Neo-Platonic forgeries which Cory had placed at the end.”

  1. The most complete editions of the Akkadian text of the Enūma Eliš (Enuma Elish), in chronological order starting with the most recent:

Lambert, W. G. In Babylonian Creation Myths. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2013. https://www.eisenbrauns.com/ECOM/_4MQ0W1WZY.HTM

Kämmerer, Thomas R., and Kai A. Metzler. Das babylonische Weltschöpfungsepos Enūma elîš. Alter Orient und Altes Testament, Band 375. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2012.

Talon, Philippe. Enūma Eliš: The Standard Babylonian Creation Myth, Introduction, Cuneiform Text, Transliteration, and Sign List with a Translation and Glossary in French. [Helsinki]: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2005.

Lambert, W. G., and Simon B. Parker. Enuma Eliš: The Babylonian Epic of Creation, The Cuneiform Text; text established by W. G. Lambert and copied out by Simon B. Parker. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966.

The most complete English translations of the Enūma Eliš (Enuma Elish), in chronological order starting with the most recent:

Lambert, W. G. In Babylonian Creation Myths. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2013. https://www.eisenbrauns.com/ECOM/_4MQ0W1WZY.HTM

Lambert, W. G. “Mesopotamian Creation Stories.” In Imagining Creation, ed. Markham J. Geller and Mineke Schipper, pp. 15-59. Leiden: Brill, 2008.

Foster, Benjamin R. In Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press. 1st ed. 1993; 2nd ed. 1996; 3rd ed. 2005. The 1st and 2nd eds. are in two volumes, and the translation is in vol. 1. Foster’s translation is also in The Context of Scripture, ed. William W. Hallo, vol. 1, Leiden: Brill, 1997, but omitting tablets 6 and 7. See: Enuma Elish, English, Foster 2005

Dalley, Stephanie. In Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1989; revised edition, 2000.

Speiser, E. A., revised and supplemented by A. K. Grayson in the 3rd edition. In Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. James B. Pritchard. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1st ed., 1950; 2nd ed., 1955; 3rd ed., 1969. See: Enuma Elish, English, Speiser and Grayson 1969

Heidel, Alexander. In The Babylonian Genesis: The Story of Creation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1st ed. 1942; 2nd ed. 1951. This translation was made before the publication in 1966 of what became the standard edition of the cuneiform text, by Lambert and Parker, and remained so for four decades.

King, L. W. The Seven Tablets of Creation, 2 vols. London: Luzac and Co., 1902. Volume 1 is “English Translations” of the Enuma Elish, and Volume 2 is “Supplementary Texts,” consisting of facsimiles of the cuneiform text fragments. At this point in time, the text was still quite fragmentary, even though King had identified many more fragments of it than George Smith was able to use in his 1876 book, The Chaldean Account of Genesis.

3. Lambert, “Mesopotamian Creation Stories,” 2008, p. 17. See also the chapter titled “The Rise of Marduk in the Sumero-Babylonian Pantheon” in Lambert’s 2013 book, Babylonian Creation Myths, which begins (p. 248): “Since the purpose of the Epic was to show that Marduk had replaced Enlil as head of the pantheon, . . .” Lambert had earlier attempted to clarify what the Enuma Elish is in relation to previous ideas that it is “the” Babylonian Epic of Creation in his article, “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis” (The Journal of Theological Studies, n.s., vol. 16, 1965, pp. 287-300). He there writes (p. 291): “The first major conclusion is that the Epic of Creation is not a norm of Babylonian or Sumerian cosmology. It is a sectarian and aberrant combination of mythological threads woven into an unparalleled compositum. In my opinion it is not earlier than 1100 B.C. It happens to be the best preserved Babylonian document of its genre simply because it was at its height of popularity when the libraries were formed from which our knowledge of Babylonian mythology is mostly derived. The various traditions it draws upon are often perverted to such an extent that conclusions based on this text alone are suspect. It can only be used safely in the whole context of ancient Mesopotamian mythology.” Foster agrees, saying in the introduction to his translation of the Enuma Elish (2005, p. 436): “This poem should not be considered ‘the’ Mesopotamian creation story; rather, it is the individual work of a poet who viewed Babylon as the center of the universe, and Marduk, god of Babylon, as head of the pantheon.”

4. For the dating, see Lambert, “Mesopotamian Creation Stories,” 2008, p.17. Interestingly, G. Komoróczy provides good evidence that the Enuma Elish was not a re-working of earlier Babylonian or Sumerian accounts, as we might expect, but was imported from outside in the latter part of the second millennium B.C.E. See his article, “‘The Separation of Sky and Earth,’ The Cycle of Kumarbi and the Myths of Cosmogony in Mesopotamia,” Acta Antiqua, Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, vol. 21, 1973, pp. 21-45, especially pp. 30-33. For the new year’s festival, see Alexander Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis, 2nd ed., 1951, pp. 16-17, and Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia, rev. ed., 2000, p. 231.

5. Verbrugghe and Wickersham, Berossos and Manetho, 1996, p. 40 fn. 13.

6. Burstein, The Babyloniaca of Berossus, 1978, p. 13 fn. 3.

7. Theosophy teaches that our current fifth root-race humanity has been in existence for about one million years (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, p. 435), and that the cradle of humanity, meaning our current fifth root-race humanity, is India. At present, Sumer is often regarded as the world’s oldest civilization, going back to somewhere around 4000 B.C.E. See, for example, Samuel Noah Kramer’s History Begins at Sumer (3rd rev. ed., Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981; first published in 1956), and his The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963). At the time Blavatsky wrote Isis Unveiled, published in 1877, Sumer was just being identified as distinct from the later Mesopotamian civilizations of Assyria and Babylonia, on the basis of the cuneiform writings that were discovered in the mid-1800s. The term “Sumerian” for these early people and their language and civilization, proposed by Jules Oppert in 1869, had not yet come into general use. Henry C. Rawlinson, who in 1852-1853 was the first to definitely identify Sumerian as a distinct language, called it Akkadian. Other scholars of that time, including Joseph Halévy whom Blavatsky referred to, followed him in using this term for the language and the people. However, the term Akkadians later came to be used for the Assyrians and Babylonians as distinguished from the Sumerians, and is so used today. (For this history, see Kramer, The Sumerians, pp. 20-21.) Using the term Akkadians in the old sense of the earliest civilization of Mesopotamia, now called Sumerians, Blavatsky wrote about them (first in Isis Unveiled, vol. 1, p. 576, and then repeated in The Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, p. 203): “They were simply emigrants on their way to Asia Minor from India, the cradle of humanity, and their sacerdotal adepts tarried to civilize and initiate a barbarian people.” According to this, the old records that Berossos said were preserved at Babylon with great care ultimately came from India.

8. Regarding “darkness” in the account by Berossos: The Enuma Elish had shown that the creation account given by Berossos was not fabricated by him, but rather that it agreed in general with this “standard” Babylonian creation account. So much so that the Enuma Elish was sometimes used in textual criticism regarding the Berossos text that was transmitted to us. This was done in the 1923 book by Paul Schnabel, Berossos und die babylonisch-hellenistische Literatur, described as “the great summarization closing down the earlier investigations” (Komoróczy, “Berosos and the Mesopotamian Literature,” p. 126). In his book Schnabel concluded (p. 156) that the Greek word skotos, “darkness,” must be an interpolation by a Jew or Christian in the Berossos text, influenced by the Biblical book of Genesis (chapter 1, verse 2: “darkness was upon the face of the deep”), partly because “darkness” does not occur in the opening of the Enuma Elish. The Berossos text has: “It (sc. Oannes) says that there was a time when everything was darkness and water” (Burstein translation). Burstein (1978 translation), and Verbrugghe and Wickersham (1996 translation), and Adler and Tuffin (2002 translation), and de Breucker (2010 translation) all have notes here saying that “darkness” is or is most likely an interpolation, agreeing with the influential conclusion of Schnabel, which was also accepted by Felix Jacoby in his 1958 standard Greek edition and accompanying German translation (p. 370). However, one must wonder why a writer such as Eusebius or Syncellus would want to make the account by Berossos sound more like Genesis, when their purpose in quoting the account by Berossos was to show how false it was for the very reason that it did not agree with scripture. De Breucker (2010) adds to his note about “darkness” being an interpolation: “In a sense, it is true that according to Enuma Elish, the universe was initially dark: Bel-Marduk had yet to create the light-giving heavenly bodies. Since Abydenos (BNJ 685 F 1), however, only mentions water, we accept that ‘darkness’ is an interpolation.” The parallel account of Berossos by Abydenos would provide weighty evidence, if it was not so very brief. Abydenos sums up all of the first book by Berossos in not even a full sentence, and in the same sentence moves on to the material from the second book by Berossos. Thus, the omission of “darkness” in his too brief account means little. Then, if “darkness” is an interpolation here at the beginning of the account by Berossos in his first book, it must also be an interpolation later in this book where he says (de Breucker translation, 2010): “Belos, whom they translate as Zeus, cut the darkness in half and separated earth and sky from each other and ordered the universe.” Indeed, Schnabel so regarded it. Now comes the next sentence: “The creatures could not endure the power of the light and were destroyed.” At this point, we have to assume not only the interpolation of a word, “darkness,” but of a whole sentence. Indeed, Jacoby (but not Schnabel) regarded the whole paragraph that includes this sentence as an interpolation. Yet he does not regard the sentence after this paragraph as an interpolation: “Belos also completed the stars and the sun and the moon and the five planets.” We may note that the Burstein translation and the Verbrugghe and Wickersham translation were based on Jacoby’s Greek text, and the de Breucker translation in Brill’s New Jacoby followed it in bracketing off these alleged interpolations. As opposed to this now widely held idea that “darkness” is an interpolation, there are yet more reasons. Berossos did not base his account solely on the Enuma Elish, as had been assumed after its discovery, nor is the Enuma Elish even primarily an “Epic of Creation,” as it has come to be called, let alone “the” Babylonian Epic of Creation. We do not have, by any means, the whole of the Mesopotamian literature, whether the Babylonian, or especially the older Sumerian. Komoróczy has shown that Berossos must have drawn upon Sumerian sources, already ancient in his time, and not just on Babylonian sources (“Berosos and the Mesopotamian Literature,” pp. 140-142). Berossos also drew upon “secret texts of the Babylonian temple,” as confirmed by Komoróczy. The absence of “darkness” in the public Enuma Elish, or in other fragmentary Babylonian creation tales that have so far been recovered (see Lambert, “Further Babylonian Creation Tales,” in his Babylonian Creation Myths, 2013), does not prove its absence in the secret texts that Berossos could draw upon, or in other public texts that have not yet been recovered. For all the above reasons, I do not find the idea that “darkness” is an interpolation in the account by Berossos to be convincing.

9. The Mighty Bull had been translated by Lambert earlier as the Bull-man (2008, p. 40), in agreement with the Dalley translation (2000, p. 237) and the Foster translation (2005, p. 444). For “the Savage Dog” in the Lambert translation (2008 and 2013), which is “a rabid dog” in the Dalley translation (2000), the Foster translation (2005) has “lion men.” Foster has put these all in the plural (2005, p. 444): monster serpents, fierce dragons, serpents, dragons, hairy hero-men, lion monsters, lion men, scorpion men, mighty demons, fish men, and bull men. Two detailed studies of these creatures in English can be found in the two-part article, “Mischwesen,” by F. A. M. Wiggermann and by A. Green in Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie, Band 8, 3./4. Lieferung, 1994, pp. 222-264. Wiggermann provides more background on these creatures and their identifications in his 1992 book, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, “Inventory of Monsters,” pp. 143-188.

Category: Book of Dzyan | No comments yet


The Unusual History of Beings From India, by the Greek physician, Ktesias (5th century BCE)

By Robert Hütwohl on April 17, 2016 at 8:08 pm

The Greek physician, author, courtier, naturalist and traveler, Ctesias (Gr. Κτησίας = Ktesias), wrote a history of Persia and Assyria (“The Persica”1) and India (“Indica”2) totaling some 23 volumes of historical accounts. His accounts have come down to us but as fragments. He flourished during the 5th century BCE Present at the court of the Persian king Artaxerxes II, Ctesias took notes from travelers’ adventures and reports from far off lands. Certain accounts are probably of long extinct species. Although some writers have questioned his accuracy, others have substantiated them. At times, he countered what Herodotus had reported in his “The Histories.”3 Particularly, it is Ktesias’ “Indica” which I examined, noting some of the more unusual observations and reports.

“On India” was the first writing to introduce westerners to the people, places and things of India. We are indebted to Photios I of Constantinople (Gr. Φώτιος = Fotios) and his 280 volumes called Myriobiblon (Bibliotheca) for most of what has survived from Ktesias.

I did read Ktesias’ “The Persica” but found nothing in it which met my objective, which was to supplement David Reigle’s excellent findings on the topic of the Book of Dzyan and his two posts in March about “Water-Men, Terrible and Bad.” Blavatsky does not mention Ktesias, possibly because nothing was available early enough prior to the release of “The Secret Doctrine.”

Of course, as expected, these reports by Ktesias do not exactly correspond to what is in “The Secret Doctrine,” Anthropogenesis. At least, not yet. As we know, from the stanzas of the Book of Dzyan we have only fragments from the original and therefore our and others’ findings might eventually correspond, if more stanzas were to be released in the future and further fragments, such as in the Mesopotamian, Greek and Sanskrit and possibly Chinese come to light. We do not know even the most vague time periods for the “Water-Men, Terrible and Bad” other than long periods in this round prior to incrustation and before the arrival by the Lords of Flame and the inception of the manas principle in the human. These Water-men would have amassed from nature’s previous remains of the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms still lingering from the first, second and third rounds which would have produced bizarre (to us) creatures.

Nature, however, had eventually progressed from those long distant periods, and evolved the ability for each species to genetically protect itself from forming with other species, protecting the ovum from penetration by species not of its own kind, which resulted in chimeras. Can anomalies repeat themselves from past organisms? I would say they can, as so-called “accidents” have occurred from the past.

And, now we live at a time when long past “unaided, physical nature fails” has presented itself with the intervention by humans which can reverse millions of years of progress. Evidence exists where certain labs around the world are attempting to intervene in animal and human organisms, by using the relatively new and amazingly simple cut and paste technique called CRISPR Gene-Editing, and synthetic biological manipulation which is proceeding unabated in human and dog genetic material. Stem cell research and 3-D printing has advanced so quickly, we will be able to replace entire organs and body parts such a noses, ears and appendages and even the heart.

It is unfortunate for extant and future humanity, we have only fragments from the ancient past, which would indicate, as in Stanza II of Book II Anthropogenesis: “They [the Lhas] slew the forms which were two- and four-faced. They fought the goat-men, and the dog-headed men, and the men with fishes’ bodies.” But new written fragments will be discovered whereby archaeology will continue to amaze us with new and wonderful discoveries to vindicate the ancient records of the past.


1The Fragments of the Persika of Ktesias, edited with introduction and notes by John Gilmore. Ctesias. London, Macmillan, 1888


Ctesias’ ‘History of Persia.’ Tales of the Orient. LLoyd Llewellyn-Jones, James Robson (Routledge Classical Translations) Routledge, 2010

2Ctesias. On India.” Translation and Commentary by Andrew G. Nichols. Bristol Classical Press, Bloomsbury, 2011

3Herodotus. The Histories. A New Translation by Robin Waterfield. Oxford University Press, 2008


the translation which Blavatsky used: Herodotus, History of Herodotus, tr. George Rawlinson, assisted by Henry Rawlinson and J. G. Wilkinson, in 4 volumes, new edition.  London: John Murray, 1862


Samples from Ctesias’ “Indica”:

pp. 48-9

(15) There lives in India a beast called the martichora which has a human face, is the size of a lion, and is red like cinnabar. It has three rows of teeth, human ears, and light blue eyes like a man’s. It has a tail like a land scorpion on which there is a stinger more than a cubit long. It also has stingers on either side of the tail as well as on the end like a scorpion. If approached, it stabs with a stinger inflicting a fatal wound. If its opponent fights from a distance, then it points its tail at him and fires stingers as if from a bow, but when assailed from behind, it stretches its tail straight out. It can fire stingers as far as a pletheron and the stingers are completely fatal to everything except elephants. Each stinger is one foot long and as wide as the thinnest reed. The word ‘martichora’ means man-eater in Greek because it mostly captures and devours humans, but eats other animals as well. It fights with both its talons and stingers, which Ctesias claims grow back after being fired.


pp. 53-54

(37) According to Ctesias, in these mountains live men who have the head of a dog. Their clothes come from wild animals and they converse not with speech, but by barking like dogs, and this is how they understand each other. They have larger teeth than dogs and claws that are similar but longer and more rounded. They live in the mountains as far as the Indus River and they are black and very just, like the rest of the Indians with whom they associate. Since they understand what the other Indians say but cannot converse, they communicate by barking and making gestures with their hands and fingers like the deaf and mute. The Indians call them Kalystrioi which in Greek means Cynocephaloi (‘Dog-Headed People’). They have 120,000 people in their tribe.


pp. 55-6

(44) They say another race lives beyond these people past the source of the river. These men are dark like the rest of the Indians and do not work, eat grain, or drink water. Instead, they tend many flocks of sheep, oxen, goats, and cattle and drink only milk and nothing else. When their young are born, they do not have an anus nor do they have bowel movements. They have buttocks but the orifice is grown together. Consequently, they do no pass excrement but they say their urine is like cheese, not thick but foul. They say that once they drink early in the morning and again in the middle of the day, they ingest a sweet root which does not allow milk to solidify in their abdomen. They gnaw on this root in the evening and vomit everything up with ease.


pp. 59

(50) In the mountains of India where the reed grows, there is a tribe of men numbering 30,000. Their women give birth only once in their lifetime and their children have very beautiful teeth on both the upper and lower jaws. From birth each man and woman has white hair on their head and eyebrows for the first thirty years of their life. Their hair all over their body is white; after this it begins to turn black. When they reach the age of sixty, their hair is totally black. These men have up to eight fingers on each hand and likewise eight toes on each foot; the same goes for the women. They are very warlike and 5,000 of them serve the king of the Indians as archers and javelin men. According to Ctesias, they have ears big enough to cover their arms as far as the elbow and their entire back at the same time and one ear can touch the other.

(51) These are the stories Ctesias writes and asserts that they are completely truthful; adding that he personally saw some of the things he wrote about while others he heard from first- hand witnesses. He says that he omitted many other more incredible tales in order to not seem untrustworthy to those who have not seen them personally. These are some of the stories in his work.


pp. 65-6

F45h. Aelian H 4.27
I hear that the griffin is an Indian animal with four feet with exceedingly strong talons which most closely resemble a lion’s. They have plentiful feathers on their backs with black plumage but red in the front while their wings are white. Ctesias claims that the neck is adorned with deep blue feathers; the beak and head are like an eagle, similar to what an artisan would draw or mould, and its eyes are a fiery red. It makes its nest in the mountains but it is impossible to capture a full grown one; however, they can be taken into captivity when they are young. The Bactrians who are neighbours with the Indians say that the griffins guard the gold in that region and that they dig it out and weave their nests with it while the Indians gather what falls off.


p. 72

F45ob. Psellus ed. P. Maas [L]
(2) Men dwell on the mountain who have the head of a dog but the rest of their body is human. They shout to the other Indians and communicate with them, but instead of talking they bark like dogs. They eat the fruit from these trees and the raw meat from wild animals which they hunt. They also keep many sheep and their teeth are larger than a dog’s. They wear black garments made of hide and they drink milk from their sheep. All of them have tails, men and women alike, below the haunches just like a dog.

F45pa. Plin. [Pliny] H 7.23
In many mountains there is a race of men with the head of a dog and clothed in animal skins. Instead of a voice they issue howls. They are armed for the hunt with talons and feast on birds. According to Ctesias, they numbered more than 120,000 at the time of his writing.

F45pb. Tzetz. [Tzetzes] Chil. 7.713
Ctesias claims that there are amber-producing trees and dog-headed peoples in India. He maintains that they are very just and live by hunting.


pp. 73-4

F45q. Aelian A 4.52
I have heard that there are wild asses in India no smaller than horses which have a white body, a head which is almost crimson, and dark blue eyes. They have a horn on their brow one and a half cubits in length. The lower portion of the horn is white, the upper part is vermilion, and the middle is very dark. I hear that the Indians drink from these multicoloured horns, but not all the Indians, only the most powerful, and they pour gold around them at intervals as if they were adorning the beautiful arm of a statue with bracelets. They say that the one who drinks from this horn will never experience terminal illnesses. No longer would he suffer seizures or the so-called holy sickness nor could he be killed with poison. If he drank the poison first, he would vomit it up and return to health. . . .


p. 79

F51a. Plin. H 7.23: (F45pa; F45t)
The same author (sc. Ctesias) writes that the race of men who are called the Monocoli have one leg but show amazing agility by jumping. These same men are also called the Sciapodes because when it is hot, they lay on the ground on their back and shade themselves with their feet. They inhabit a region not far from the Troglodytes. Turning again to the west from these people are those who lack necks and have eyes on their shoulders. (24) There are also satyrs in the mountains of the eastern part of India in the region of the so-called Catarcludi. Satyrs are extremely swift animals running sometimes on all fours and sometimes upright in imitation of a human. Because of their speed, they are never captured unless old or sick.


p. 80

F51b. Tzetz. Chil. 7.621-41 (Kiesling 629-49)
There is a book by Scylax of Caryanda written about India which claims that there are men called the Sciapodes and the Otoliknoi. Of these the Sciapodes have very broad feet and at midday they drop to the ground, stretch their feet out above them, and give themselves shade. The Otoliknoi have huge ears which they use to cover themselves like an umbrella. This Scylax also writes numerous tales about the Monophthalmoi, the Henotiktontes, and countless other strange marvels. He speaks of them as if they were true and none of them fabricated. Since I have not seen any of it, I consider these tales to be lies. That they have some elements of truth is attested by the fact that many others claim to have seen such marvels and ones even more incredible in their lifetime. This list includes Ctesias, Iambulos, Isigonos, Rheginos, Alexander, Sotion, Agathosthenes, Antigonos, Edoxos, Hippostratos, and countless others, including Protagoras himself and even Ptolemy, Akestorides and other writers of prose some of whom I am personally familiar with and others I am not.


pp. 90-91

F75. Prima interpolatio cod. Monac. Gr. 287 (Photius) [L] The tales of Ctesias of Cnidus on the marvels of the world: The Seres and the inhabitants of upper India are said to have an exceedingly large physique as some of them are found to be thirteen cubits tall, and they live for more than 200 years. On one portion of the Gaïtros River there are savage men with skin which most closely resembles a hippopotamus since it cannot be pierced by arrows. In India too they say that at the innermost region on an island in the sea there live men, who have very large tails, like those depicted on a satyr.

F76. Altera interpolatio cod. Monac. Gr. [Codex Monacensis Graecus] 287 (Photius) [L] In Ethiopia there is a creature called the krokottas, commonly known as the dog-wolf. It has amazing power and they say it mimics a human voice and calls men out by name during the night so that they approach the human voice. They attack in throngs and devour their prey. The animal has the strength of a lion, the swiftness of a horse, and the power of a bull, but it yields to iron . . ..


pp. 123

men who have the head of a dog: Cf. F45ob, F45p a-g; There are several earlier references to Cynocephaloi in Greek literature, however Ctesias gives the first detailed description of them. Hesiod (Fr. 40A, 44) refers to ‘Half-dogs’ but the reference is too vague to determine any relation to the Cynocephaloi, although the first-century BCE grammarian Simmias of Rhodes certainly equated the two (Fr. 1.9-13).


p. 156

those who lack necks and have eyes on their shoulders: Cf. Hdt. 4.191 who places this tribe in Libya. Elsewhere (5.8.46) Pliny describes the Blemmyes who are an African tribe of men who have no heads but eyes and a mouth on their chest.

Category: Anthropogenesis, Book of Dzyan | No comments yet


Water-Men, Terrible and Bad, continued

By David Reigle on March 13, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Although our history books do not tell us of any such beings as water-men, a history book from long ago does. This is the lost history book by the Babylonian priest Berossos (Berossus, Berosos, Berosus), which was quoted by later Greek writers. Berossos lived circa 300 B.C.E., and as a Babylonian priest he was heir to a long tradition of Babylonian knowledge. Berossos lived just after the conquest of Babylonia by Alexander the Great, so he learned the Greek language and wrote in Greek. Part of his history book was quoted or recounted by the Greek writer Alexander Polyhistor, who introduces it as follows:

“Berossus, in the first book of his history of Babylonia, informs us that he lived in the age of Alexander the son of Philip. And he mentions that there were written accounts, preserved at Babylon with the greatest care, comprehending a period of above fifteen myriads [150,000] of years: and that these writings contained histories of the heaven and of the sea; of the birth of mankind; and of the kings, and of the memorable actions which they had achieved.”

(Isaac Preston Cory, Ancient Fragments of the Phoenician, Chaldaean, Egyptian, Tyrian, Carthaginian, Indian, Persian, and Other Writers, 2nd edition, London: 1832, p. 21; also in new and enlarged edition, revised by E. Richmond Hodges, London: 1876, p. 56)

Alexander Polyhistor then recounts from the history book by Berossos the beginnings of Babylonia. Babylonia was originally a lawless country. There appeared from the sea a being named Oannes, who had the body of a fish. He taught the people all the arts and sciences. He gave them laws, writing, mathematics, building, agriculture, etc. Oannes thus brought civilization to the country. As part of the knowledge that Oannes brought, he wrote an account of the generation of humanity. The purport of what Oannes wrote is given by Berossos via Alexander Polyhistor as follows:

“There was a time in which there existed nothing but darkness and an abyss of waters, wherein resided most hideous beings, which were produced of a twofold principle. There appeared men, some of whom were furnished with two wings, others with four, and with two faces. They had one body but two heads: the one that of a man, the other of a woman: and likewise in their several organs both male and female. Other human figures were to be seen with the legs and horns of goats: some had horses’ feet: while others united the hind quarters of a horse with the body of a man, resembling in shape the hippocentaurs. Bulls likewise were bred there with the heads of men; and dogs with fourfold bodies, terminated in their extremities with the tails of fishes: horses also with the heads of dogs: men too and other animals, with the heads and bodies of horses and the tails of fishes. In short, there were creatures in which were combined the limbs of every species of animals. In addition to these, fishes, reptiles, serpents, with other monstrous animals, which assumed each other’s shape and countenance. Of all which were preserved delineations in the temple of Belus at Babylon.”

(Cory, Ancient Fragments, 1832, pp. 23-24; rev. ed., 1876, pp. 58-59)

The accuracy of the account given by Berossos as truly representing Babylonian tradition was confirmed by more ancient cuneiform tablets or inscriptions. One of these is a tablet discovered at Cutha (or Kutha). It was described by George Smith and A. H. Sayce in the book, The Chaldean Account of Genesis, as follows:

“This is a very obscure inscription, the first column, however, forms part of a relation similar to that of Berosus in his history of the Creation; the beings who were killed by the light, and those with men’s heads and bird’s bodies, and bird’s heads and men’s bodies, agree with the composite monsters of Berosus, while the goddess of chaos, Tiamtu, who is over them, is the same as the Thalatth of the Greek writer. It may be remarked that the doctrine of the Greek philosopher, Anaximander, that man has developed out of creatures of various shape, and once like the fish was an inhabitant of the water, is but a reminiscence of the old Babylonian legend.”

(The Chaldean Account of Genesis, by George Smith, new edition, revised by A. H. Sayce, London: 1880, p. 97; corresponding to the 1876 edition, pp. 106-107, but with the addition of the last sentence)

These are the sources that Blavatsky was referring to when commenting on Book of Dzyan, stanza 2, verses 5 and 6 (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, pp. 52-56). She took for granted that the reader had this information when making some of her comments. Since then, newer translations of this material have been published, the latest of which is: Berossos and Manetho: Native Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, Introduced and Translated by Gerald P. Verbrugghe and John M. Wickersham, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.

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Water-Men, Terrible and Bad

By David Reigle on March 7, 2016 at 2:53 am

Book of Dzyan (Anthropogenesis), stanza 2, verses 5-6:

“5. The Wheel whirled for thirty crores (of years, or 300,000,000). It constructed rūpas (forms): soft stones that hardened (minerals); hard plants that softened (vegetation). Visible from invisible, insects and small lives (sarīspa, śvāpada). She (the Earth) shook them off her back whenever they overran the mother. . . . After thirty crores of years, she turned round. She lay on her back; on her side. . . . She would call no sons of Heaven, she would ask no sons of Wisdom. She created from her own bosom. She evolved water-men, terrible and bad.

6. The Water-men, terrible and bad, she herself created. From the remains of others (from the mineral, vegetable and animal remains) from the first, second, and third (Rounds) she formed them. . . . .”

The idea of water-men, whether terrible and bad or not, is strange. Our history books do not tell us of any such beings. There is in India an old collection of old stories, the Kathā-sarit-sāgara, “Ocean of the Streams of Story,” that speaks of water-men (jala-mānuṣa, jala-pūruṣa). This extensive collection has only been translated into English once, by C. H. Tawney, published in two large volumes, 1880 and 1884. It was revised by N. M. Penzer and published in ten volumes, 1924-1928. In book 12, chapter 4 (chapter 71 of the whole book), we find a brief episode involving three water-men, who are indeed terrible and bad. Here is the story as translated by Tawney:

“Then, as Mṛigānkadatta was journeying to Ujjayinī, with Śrutadhi and Vimalabuddhi, to find Śaśānkavatī, he reached the Narmadā which lay in his path. The fickle stream, when she beheld him, shook her waves like twining arms, and gleamed white with laughing foam, as if she were dancing and smiling because he had so fortunately been reunited with his ministers. And when he had gone down into the bed of the river to bathe, it happened that a king of the Śavaras, named Māyāvaṭu, came there for the same purpose. When he had bathed, three water-genii* rose up at the same time and seized the Bhilla, whose retinue fled in terror. When Mṛigānkadatta saw that, he went into the water with his sword drawn, and killed those water-genii, and delivered that king of the Bhillas. When the king of the Bhillas was delivered from the danger of those monsters, he came up out of the water and fell at the feet of the prince, and said to him, — ‘Who are you, that Providence has brought here to save my life on the present occasion? . . .’

* Literally, ‘water-men.’ Perhaps they were of the same race as Grendel the terrible nicor. See also Veckenstedt’s Wendische Märchen, p. 185 and ff., Grimm’s Irische Märchen, p. cv, Kuhn’s Westfälische Märchen, Vol. II, p. 35, Waldau’s Böhmische Märchen, p. 187 and ff., and the 6th, 20th and 58th Jātakas. See also Grohmann’s account of the ‘Wassermann,’ Sagen aus Böhmen, p. 148.”

(C. H. Tawney, Ocean of the Streams of Story, vol. 2, p. 154; N. M. Penzer, The Ocean of Story, vol. 6, p. 36; Sanskrit: Kathāsaritsāgara, edited by Pandit Durgaprasad and Kasinath Pandurang Parab, fourth edition, revised by Wasudev Laxman Sastri Pansikar, Bombay,1930, p. 367)

In another story, we read of a water-man who is not terrible and bad, but was condemned to be born as a water-man because he broke his commitment in undertaking the vow of an upoṣaṇa fast. It is in book 10, chapter 7 (chapter 63 of the whole book). Here is part of his story as translated by Tawney:

“‘Noble sir, if it is not a secret, tell me now, who you are, and why, though you possess such luxury, you dwell in the water.’ When the man who lived in the water heard this, he said, ‘Hear! I will tell you.’ And he began to tell his history in the following words.

“There is a region in the south of the Himālaya, called Kāśmīra; which Providence seems to have created in order to prevent mortals from hankering after Heaven; where Śiva and Vishṇu, as self-existent deities, inhabit a hundred shrines, forgetting their happy homes in Kailāsa and Śvetadvīpa; which is laved by the waters of the Vitastā, and full of heroes and sages, and proof against treacherous crimes and enemies, though powerful. There I was born in my former life, as an ordinary villager of the Brāhman caste, with two wives, and my name was Bhavaśarman. There I once struck up a friendship with some Buddhist mendicants, and undertook the vow, called the fast Uposhaṇa, prescribed in their scriptures. And when this vow was almost completed, one of my wives wickedly came and slept in my bed. And in the fourth watch of the night, bewildered with sleep, I broke my vow. But as it fell only a little short of completion, I have been born as a water-genius, and these two wives of mine have been born as my present wives here. That wicked woman was born as that unfaithful wife, the second as this faithful one. So great was the power of my vow, though it was rendered imperfect, that I remember my former birth, and enjoy such luxuries every night. If I had not rendered my vow imperfect, I should never have been born as what I am.”

(C. H. Tawney, Ocean of the Streams of Story, vol. 2, pp. 81-82; N. M. Penzer, The Ocean of Story, vol. 5, pp. 123-124; Sanskrit: Kathāsaritsāgara, edited by Pandit Durgaprasad and Kasinath Pandurang Parab, fourth edition, revised by Wasudev Laxman Sastri Pansikar, Bombay,1930, p. 331)

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Bright Space Son of Dark Space

By David Reigle on March 6, 2016 at 2:51 am

Book of Dzyan, stanza 3, verse 7:

“7. Behold, oh Lanoo! The radiant child of the two, the unparalleled refulgent glory: Bright Space Son of Dark Space, which emerges from the depths of the great dark waters.”

I am always trying to find the Sanskrit terms that might lie behind the English terms used by Blavatsky in her translation of stanzas from the “Book of Dzyan.” When the Sanskrit terms can be identified, we can then search for them in extant Sanskrit texts and see how they are used there. This will often allow us to learn more about the sometimes obscure ideas found in the Book of Dzyan.

“Bright space son of dark space,” is an unusual phrase. While looking up the word rajas in A Practical Vedic Dictionary by Suryakanta a few years ago, I saw that he referred to “dark space,” kṛṣṇa rajas, and he contrasted this with rocanā dyauḥ, which means the shining or bright (rocanā) sky or heavens or space (dyau). Further investigation, utilizing A Ṛgvedic Word Concordance by Alexander Lubotsky, showed that the phrase kṛṣṇa rajas occurs only four times in the Ṛg-veda, and three of these are in a single hymn.1 This hymn, Ṛg-veda 1.35, is addressed to Savitar, who is the divinity associated with the sun. The famous Gāyatrī mantra, Ṛg-veda 3.62.10, invokes Savitar. Ṛg-veda 1.35 seems to describe the sun in its course through day and night, where kṛṣṇa rajas describes the night sky. About rajas, R. N. Dandekar in his article, “Universe in Vedic Thought,” writes, “The word rajas in the Ṛgveda usually denotes: when used in singular, the midregion; and when used in plural, the worlds or regions in general.”2

The ancient Ṛg-veda is a very obscure text, being written in poetic verses, and its meanings are far from certain. For long ages Indian tradition has regarded this text as being the most sacred of all, suggesting that it may have more than surface meanings. In another part of the ancient world, Plato has Socrates saying that the ancients “concealed their meaning from the multitude by their poetry” (Theaetetus, Loeb Classical Library, p. 143).3 Whether or not there is any other meaning in Ṛg-veda 1.35 than a description of the sun in its course through day and night, it will be worthwhile to look at how the phrase kṛṣṇa rajas, “dark space” or “black realm,” is used in this hymn. In verses 2 and 9 it is found in the singular, where the general meaning “midregion” or “mid-space” for rajas would be applicable as referring to the night sky. In verse 4 it is found in the plural, rajāṃsi, which is glossed in the Nirukta, an ancient text explaining Vedic words (at 4.19), as lokāḥ, “worlds.” Worlds or realms beyond our own, being invisible to us, are often thought of as being somewhere up in the sky, which perhaps explains why rajas is often translated as “sky, atmosphere, mid-space,” etc., even when it may refer to the (invisible) worlds postulated in Indian cosmology. These rajāṃsi are also referred to in a secret commentary quoted in The Secret Doctrine.4

Because the meanings of the Ṛg-veda words and verses are often uncertain, I cite this hymn below in the original Sanskrit and then from all six available complete English translations of the Ṛg-veda. As may be seen, there are significant differences between the translations. In verse 2, the first verse in which the phrase kṛṣṇa rajas occurs, four of the translations say that Savitar arouses or establishes or inspires the immortal and the mortal, while two say that Savitar lays to rest or brings to rest the immortal and the mortal. The Sanskrit word is niveśayan, a present participle. Yet the same basic word as it occurs in verse 1, the noun niveśanīṃ, is translated there by all six in the sense of brings to rest. The parallel passages in Ṛg-veda 4.53.3, 4.53.6, 6.71.2, and 7.45.1, contrasting niveśayan or niveśana, “bringing to rest,” with prasuvan or prasava, “bringing to life, arousing,” show that brings to rest is the correct meaning of niveśayan.5 Then, for the phrase, ā kṛṣṇena rajasā vartamāno, “coming through the dark realm,” the same verse as it appears in the Black Yajur-veda Taittirīya-saṃhitā has the noteworthy variant satyena in place of kṛṣṇena, “coming through the realm of truth.”

There are also differences of translation in verse 4, the second verse in which the phrase kṛṣṇa rajas occurs (here in the plural: kṛṣṇā rajāṃsi), and uncertainty of meaning. We have a double accusative in the fourth metrical foot, kṛṣṇā rajāṃsi, “dark realms,” and taviṣīṃ, “strength, power, might.” Since the present participle dadhānaḥ is from the verb-root dhā (“put or place, bear or hold or support”), which does not take a double accusative (two objects), we know that some other grammatical case was intended for one of these but could not be written because of fitting the meter. The various translations take this phrase variously, usually supplying a different grammatical case for kṛṣṇā rajāṃsi, and taking taviṣīṃ as the actual accusative and object of the participle dadhānaḥ. None of the six translations takes kṛṣṇā rajāṃsi as the actual accusative and object of the participle dadhānaḥ, and supplies the instrumental case to taviṣī, as does the commentator Veṅkaṭa-mādhava: “Savitar . . . supporting the dark realms with [his] power.” This understanding agrees with the parallel passage in Ṛg-veda 1.166.4, where rajas is in the accusative case and taviṣī is in the instrumental case: rajāṃsi taviṣībhir (both plural).6

In verse 9, the third verse in which the phrase kṛṣṇa rajas occurs, the meaning is also uncertain. The phrase in which it occurs, abhi kṛṣṇena rajasā dyām ṛṇoti, is again taken differently in the different translations. Is it that Savitar “overspreads the sky with gloom, alternating radiance” (Wilson), or “spreads the bright sky through the darksome region” (Griffith), or “overspreads the sky, extending from the dark interspace to the celestial region” (Sarasvati and Vidyalankar), or “From the dark lower worlds, he attains the supreme station” (Kashyap), or “He inspires Soorya to cover the black, dark sky” (Gautam), or “he reaches to heaven through the black realm” (Jamison and Brereton), or something else? In relation to the verb ṛṇoti, “goes,” is the separated verbal prefix abhi here to be understood in its meaning “over, all around,” thus giving the sense of “overspreads, pervades”? So the commentator Sāyaṇa understands it, sarvato vyāpnoti, “pervades all around,” followed by Wilson, Griffith, Sarasvati/Vidyalankar, and Gautam. Or with “goes” is it to be understood in its meaning “to,” thus giving the sense of “reaches, attains”? So Kashyap and Jamison/Brereton understand it. Also, is there some reason why the phrase kṛṣṇena rajasā, which is declined in the instrumental case, “through the dark realm,” should be taken in some other sense? Half of the translations do this: Sarasvati/Vidyalankar and Kashyap take it as “from the dark realm,” while Gautam appears to take it as if in the accusative case.


Complete English Translations of the Ṛg-veda

The first ever English translation of the Ṛg-veda was made by Horace Hayman Wilson and published in six volumes starting in 1850. It closely follows the Sanskrit commentary thereon by Sāyaṇa, who lived in the fourteenth century C.E. Although Sāyaṇa lived long after the time of the Vedas, his commentaries on the Vedas became the standard ones because earlier commentaries were lost.

The next English translation of the Ṛg-veda was made by Ralph T. H. Griffith and published in four volumes starting in 1889. By then, Western scholars had largely rejected Sāyaṇa’s commentary as being an untrustworthy guide to what the much older Ṛg-veda words and verses actually meant, and had attempted to interpret the Ṛg-veda by internal word studies, comparative linguistics, etc. Griffith utilized this Western scholarship on the Ṛg-veda as well as Sāyaṇa’s commentary in his translation into metrical English. Note that, just as the Vedic Rishis sometimes had to sacrifice correct grammar and clear meaning in order to fit the meter, so Griffith sometimes had to adapt his wording in order to have the number of English syllables required for his metrical translation.

An English translation of the Ṛg-veda by Satya Prakash Sarasvati and Satyakam Vidyalankar was published in India, 1977-1987, 13 volumes in 12 (vols. 5 and 6 are bound in one). It follows the Arya Samaj understanding of the Vedas, in which the various Vedic gods, Agni, Indra, Varuṇa, etc., are merely various names for the one God. Thus it substitutes simply “God” for the various Vedic gods. Other than this and a relatively small number of other things, this translation to a large extent copies Wilson’s translation, sometimes adopting his wording and sometimes re-phrasing it.

An English translation of the Ṛg-veda by R. L. Kashyap was published in India, 2004-2009, 10 volumes in 12 (vol. 1 is in 3 parts). It incorporates the psychological interpretation put forth by Sri Aurobindo and used by T. V. Kapali Sastry in his unfinished Ṛg-veda commentary. Kashyap provides a descriptive English title to this hymn, “Savitṛ Establishes the Worlds,” indicating that he understands it differently than as a description of the sun in its course through day and night.

An English translation of the Ṛg-veda by a team of six scholars in Nepal led by Prasanna Chandra Gautam was published in Nepal in 2012, and then in India in 2014, in four volumes. It is titled, Modern English Translation of the Rig Veda Samhitaa, since it tries to use contemporary language. It is the first translation to accompany the Sanskrit text and English translation with word by word meanings, thus showing how each word was taken in this translation.

Not until 2014 was another English translation of the Ṛg-veda produced by Western scholarship. In the meantime, Western scholarship relied on the 1951 German translation of the Ṛg-veda by Karl Geldner. The 2014 English translation by Stephanie Jamison and Joel Brereton, in three volumes, is now the standard translation of the Ṛg-veda.

Below is Ṛg-veda 1.35 in the original Sanskrit, followed by, in sequence, the English translations of H. H. Wilson (1850), of Ralph T. H. Griffith (1889), of Satya Prakash Sarasvati and Satyakam Vidyalankar (1977), of R. L. Kashyap (2009), of Prasanna Chandra Gautam (2012), and of Stephanie Jamison and Joel Brereton (2014). The phrase kṛṣṇa rajas, translated as “dark space” by Suryakanta in his Vedic dictionary, occurs in verses 2, 4, and 9. As may be seen, Wilson translates this phrase as “darkened firmament,” “darkness,” and “gloom,” Griffith as “dusky firmament,” and “darksome region,” Sarasvati/Vidyalankar as “obscure regions,” “darkness from the regions,” and “dark interspace,” Kashyap as “dark path,” “inertia of the worlds,” and “dark lower worlds,” Gautam as “dark heavens,” and “black, dark,” and Jamison/Brereton as “black realm.”


Ṛg-veda 1.35, to Savitar

hvayāmy agnim prathamaṃ svastaye hvayāmi mitrā-varuṇāv ihâvase |
hvayāmi rātrīṃ jagato niveśanīṃ hvayāmi devaṃ savitāram ūtaye || 1 ||

1. I invoke Agni first, for protection: I invoke, for protection, Mitra and Varuṇa: I invoke Night, who brings rest to the world: I invoke the divine Savitṛi, for my preservation. [Wilson]

1. Agni I first invoke for our prosperity; I call on Mitra, Varuṇa, to aid us here. I call on Night who gives rest to all moving life; I call on Savitar the God to lend us help. [Griffith]

1. I invoke the foremost adorable God for well-being; I invoke Nature’s other bounties such as the pair of lightning and clouds for protection. I invoke the night which brings rest to the world and I invoke the sun for prosperity. [Sarasvati and Vidyalankar]

1. First I invoke Agni for our happy state. I invoke Mitra and Varuṇa to guard the yajña. I invoke the night, the support of the mobile world. I invoke Savitṛ for our increase. [Kashyap]

1. I call Agni first for our welfare. I call Mitra and Varuna for protection. I call the goddess Raatri, the giver of rest to the world. I call god Sabitaa for protection. [Gautam]

1. I invoke Agni first, for well-being; I invoke Mitra and Varuṇa here, for help. I invoke Night, who brings to rest the moving; I invoke god Savitar, for aid. [Jamison and Brereton]

ā kṛṣṇena rajasā vartamāno niveśayann amṛtaṃ martyaṃ ca |
hiraṇyayena savitā rathenâ devo yāti bhuvanāni paśyan || 2 ||

2. Revolving through the darkened firmament, arousing mortal and immortal, the divine Savitṛi travels in his golden chariot, beholding the (several) worlds. [Wilson]

2. Throughout the dusky firmament advancing, laying to rest the immortal and the mortal, Borne in his golden chariot he cometh, Savitar, God who looks on every creature. [Griffith]

2. The refulgent sun, springing through the obscure regions, arousing mortal and immortal, beholding the several worlds, comes as if mounted on a golden chariot. [Sarasvati and Vidyalankar]

2. Moving along the dark path, duly establishing the immortal and the mortal, God Savitṛ comes in his golden car, beholding the worlds. [Kashyap]

2. The god Sabitaa comes continually on his golden chariot from the dark heavens, looking at all the regions, inspiring the mortals and the immortals (to righteousness). [Gautam]

2. Turning hither through the black realm, bringing to rest the immortal and the mortal, with his golden chariot Savitar the god drives here, gazing upon the creatures. [Jamison and Brereton]

yāti devaḥ pravatā yāty udvatā yāti śubhrābhyāṃ yajato haribhyām |
ā devo yāti savitā parāvato ‘pa viśvā duritā bādhamānaḥ || 3 ||

3. The divine Savitṛi travels by an upward and by a downward path: a deserving adoration, he journeys with two white horses: he comes hither, from a distance, removing all sins. [Wilson]

3. The God moves by the upward path, the downward; with two bright Bays, adorable, he journeys. Savitar comes, the God from the far distance, and chases from us all distress and sorrow. [Griffith]

3. The self-effulgent sun travels by an upward and by a downward path, deserving adoration. It journeys on two white horses (northern and southern solstices); it comes hither from a distance removing all darkness. [Sarasvati and Vidyalankar]

3. The God Savitṛ moves by the downward path, and the upward. Master of yajña, he comes with his two white horses. The god Savitṛ comes from the realm of beyond, destroying all evils. [Kashyap]

3. The venerated god Sabitaa comes from far by two white horses, destroying the entire misery. He goes through the slope. He goes through the incline. [Gautam]

3. The god drives on a downward slope; he drives on an upward one; he drives with two resplendent fallow bays, he who is worthy of the sacrifice. God Savitar drives hither from afar, thrusting away all obstacles. [Jamison and Brereton]

abhīvṛtaṃ kṛśanair viśva-rūpaṃ hiraṇya-śamyaṃ yajato bṛhantam |
âsthād rathaṃ savitā citra-bhānuḥ kṛṣṇā rajāṃsi taviṣīṃ dadhānaḥ || 4 ||

4. The many-rayed adorable Savitṛi, having power (to disperse) darkness from the world, has mounted his nigh-standing chariot, decorated with many kinds of golden ornaments, and furnished with golden yokes. [Wilson]

4. His chariot decked with pearl, of various colours, lofty, with golden pole, the God hath mounted, The many-rayed One, Savitar the holy, bound, bearing power and might, for darksome regions. [Griffith]

4. The many-rayed effulgent sun, having power to dispel darkness from the regions, comes mounted on a lofty, high-standing, well-decorated golden chariot, and furnished with golden yokes. [Sarasvati and Vidyalankar]

4. Savitṛ, the master of yajña, rich in lustres mounts the vast car. The golden car with universal form, with golden yoke is nearby. He bears the might to disperse the inertia of the worlds. [Kashyap]

4. The venerated Sabitaa with unique glow, with all his might aiming at the dark heavens, ascended the gold plated big chariot of many forms with golden yoke. [Gautam]

4. (It is) covered over with pearls, having every beauty, with golden yoke-pins, lofty—his chariot has bright-beamed Savitar mounted, (he) worthy of the sacrifice, having assumed his own power throughout the black realms. [Jamison and Brereton]

vi janāñ chyāvāḥ śiti-pādo akhyan rathaṃ hiraṇya-praugaṃ vahantaḥ |
śaśvad viśaḥ savitur daivyasyôpasthe viśvā bhuvanāni tasthuḥ || 5 ||

5. His white-footed coursers, harnessed to his car with a golden yoke, have manifested light to mankind. Men and all the regions are ever in the presence of the divine Savitṛi. [Wilson]

5. Drawing the gold-yoked car his Bays, white-footed, have manifested light to all the peoples. Held in the lap of Savitar, divine One, all men, all beings have their place for ever. [Griffith]

5. White beams, swift like the white-footed coursers, harnessed to the car with a golden yoke, have brought light to mankind. Men and all regions are ever in the close presence of this effulgent sun. [Sarasvati and Vidyalankar]

5. The tawny steeds with white feet reveal the light, to the peoples who stand continuously near the divine Savitṛ; the persons in all other worlds (continue to be in the darkness). The steeds draw the car with the golden yoke. [Kashyap]

5. The entire regions and men live in the lap of Sabitaa of the heavens. The white footed horses, pulling the chariot with the golden joint of yoke for harnessing, always illuminate the men. [Gautam]

5. The dusky (horses) with white feet have looked out across the peoples, while drawing his chariot with its golden forepole. The clans, all the creatures ever abide in the lap of divine Savitar. [Jamison and Brereton]

tisro dyāvaḥ savitur dvā upasthāṃ ekā yamasya bhuvane virāṣāṭ |
āṇiṃ na rathyam amṛtâdhi tasthur iha bravītu ya u tac ciketat || 6 ||

6. Three are the spheres: two are in the proximity of Savitṛi, one leads men to the dwelling of Yama. The immortal (luminaries) depend upon Savitṛi; as a car, upon the pin of the axle. Let him who knows (the greatness of Savitṛi) declare it. [Wilson]

6. Three heavens there are; two Savitar’s, adjacent: in Yama’s world is one, the home of heroes, As on a linch-pin, firm, rest things immortal: he who hath known it let him here declare it. [Griffith]

6. Three are the luminaries—two (terrestrial and celestial) are in the proximity of the effulgent sun, and the third one somewhere beyond the space for the liberated souls. These first two luminaries depend on the sun as a chariot upon the pin of its axle. Let him who knows (this truth) declare it (to others). [Sarasvati and Vidyalankar]

6. Of the three worlds of light, two are in the proximity of Savitṛ. The third is the dwelling of the all-ruling Sūrya. The immortal Gods stay resorting to Savitṛ, as the car on the linchpin. Let him who knows declare the secrets of Savitṛ. [Kashyap]

6. There are three heavens; two are near the sun; one is in the region of Yama. Let him, who understands that the immortal constellations surround the chariot of Sabitaa like the pin of the axle, declare this here. [Gautam]

6. There are three heavens: two are the laps of Savitar, one is the hero-vanquishing one in the world of Yama. Like a chariot (wheel) on the axle-pin, the (creatures) have taken their place on his immortal (foundations?).—Whoever will perceive this, let him declare it here. [Jamison and Brereton]

vi suparṇo antarikṣāṇy akhyad gabhīra-vepā asuraḥ sunīthaḥ |
kvêdānīṃ sūryaḥ kaś ciketa katamāṃ dyāṃ raśmir asyâ tatāna || 7 ||

7. Suparṇa, (the solar ray), deep-quivering, life-bestowing, well-directed, has illuminated the three regions. Where, now, is Sūrya? Who knows to what sphere his rays have extended? [Wilson]

7. He, strong of wing, hath lightened up the regions, deep-quivering Asura, the gentle Leader. Where now is Sūrya, where is one to tell us to what celestial sphere his ray hath wandered? [Griffith]

7. The solar ray illuminates the three regions (celestial, interspace and terrestrial), is deep-quivering, life-bestowing and is well-directed. Where now is the sun, the source of these radiations? Who knows to what sphere his rays have extended? [Sarasvati and Vidyalankar]

7. The happy-winged ray (of Sun) lights up the higher region. (Rays are) profound of sight, powerful, and lead to the felicities of light. Where is now Sūrya? Who knows? What heavenly regions are pervaded by this ray? [Kashyap]

7. Soorya, the giver of life, vibrant, the guide showing the best way, with fine rays illuminated the heavens. Where is he now? To which region have his rays spread? Who knows thus? [Gautam]

7. The eagle has surveyed the midspaces—the lord possessing profound inspiration, who gives good guidance. Where now is the sun? Who perceives it? To which one of the heavens does his rein extend? [Jamison and Brereton]

aṣṭau vy akhyat kakubhaḥ pṛthivyās trī dhanva yojanā sapta sindhūn |
hiraṇyâkṣaḥ savitā deva âgād dadhad ratnā dāśuṣe vāryāṇi || 8 ||

8. He has lighted up the eight points of the horizon, the three regions of living beings, the seven rivers. May the golden-eyed Savitṛi come hither, bestowing upon the offerer of the oblation desirable riches. [Wilson]

8. The earth’s eight points his brightness hath illumined, three desert regions and the Seven Rivers. God Savitar the gold-eyed hath come hither, giving choice treasures unto him who worships. [Griffith]

8. He (the sun) has lighted up the eight points of the horizon (east, north, west, south, and the four at corners), the three regions of the living beings, the seven galaxies. May the golden-eyed sun come hither. May he bestow worthy riches on the Nature’s lover. [Sarasvati and Vidyalankar]

8. He lighted up the eight quarters; illumined the three terrestrial desert regions, and the seven streams. Thus arrived, God Savitṛ with the golden sight, gives special ecstasies to the giver. [Kashyap]

8. The god Sabitaa illuminates the three heavens connecting all eight quarters and also the seven oceans. The golden-eyed comes bearing superior wealth for the generous giver. [Gautam]

8. The eight humps of the earth he has surveyed, the three wastelands three wagon-treks (wide), the seven rivers. Golden-eyed god Savitar has come hither, establishing desirable treasures for the pious man. [Jamison and Brereton]

hiraṇya-pāṇiḥ savitā vicarṣaṇir ubhe dyāvā-pṛthivī antar īyate |
apâmīvāṃ bādhate veti sūryam abhi kṛṣṇena rajasā dyām ṛṇoti || 9 ||

9. The golden-handed, all-beholding Savitṛi travels between the two regions of heaven and earth, dispels diseases, approaches the sun, and overspreads the sky with gloom, alternating radiance. [Wilson]

9. The golden-handed Savitar, far-seeing, goes on his way between the earth and heaven, Drives away sickness, bids the Sun approach us, and spreads the bright sky through the darksome region. [Griffith]

9. The gold-handed, all-beholding luminary travels between the two regions of heaven and earth, dispels diseases, and this, verily, is known as the sun, and it finally overspreads the sky, extending from the dark interspace to the celestial region. [Sarasvati and Vidyalankar]

9. Golden-handed, all-beholding, God Savitṛ, moves between the Earth and Heaven. He dispels distress and attains the supreme Sun. From the dark lower worlds, he attains the supreme station. [Kashyap]

9. The golden handed, all-seeing Sabitaa goes to the middle of heaven and earth. He dispels disease. He inspires Soorya to cover the black, dark sky. [Gautam]

9. Golden-palmed Savitar, whose boundaries are distant, shuttles between both, both heaven and earth. He thrusts away affliction; he pursues the sun; he reaches to heaven through the black realm. [Jamison and Brereton]

hiraṇya-hasto asuraḥ sunīthaḥ sumṛḷīkaḥ svavāṃ yātv arvāṅ |
apasedhan rakṣaso yātu-dhānān asthād devaḥ pratidoṣaṃ gṛṇānaḥ || 10 ||

10. May the golden-handed, life-bestowing, well-guiding, exhilarating, and affluent Savitṛi be present (at the sacrifice); for the deity, if worshipped in the evening, is at hand, driving away Rākshasas and Yātudhānas. [Wilson]

10. May he, gold-handed Asura, kind Leader, come hither to us with his help and favour. Driving off Rākṣasas and Yātudhānas, the God is present, praised in hymns at evening. [Griffith]

10. May the golden-handed, life-bestowing, well-guiding, exhilarating, and affluent sun be present with us at the place of worship. The solar radiations drive away worms and germs, particularly in the evening, if duly utilized. [Sarasvati and Vidyalankar]

10. May the golden-handed and mighty person, well-guiding and rich, come in front, making us happy. Repelling the demonic Yātudhāna-s, the God is present (in the house) accepting the lauds every night. [Kashyap]

10. May the golden handed, giver of life, the guide, pleasant, rich, god come before us. He is prayed every night. That god remains driving away the hurtful demons. [Gautam]

10. The golden-handed lord of good guidance, of good grace, of good help—let him drive in our direction. Repelling demons and sorcerers, the god has taken his place facing evening, while being hymned. [Jamison and Brereton]

ye te panthāḥ savitaḥ pūrvyāso ‘reṇavaḥ sukṛtā antarikṣe |
tebhir no adya pathibhiḥ sugebhī rakṣā ca no adhi ca brūhi deva || 11 ||

11. Thy paths, Savitṛi, are prepared of old, are free from dust, and well-placed in the firmament. (Coming) by those paths, easy to be traversed, preserve us to-day. Deity, speak to us. [Wilson]

11. O Savitar, thine ancient dustless pathways are well established in the air’s mid-region: O God, come by those paths so fair to travel, preserve thou us from harm this day, and bless us. [Griffith]

11. O sun, your paths are set from olden days; they are free from dust, and well-determined in space. May you travel along these paths, unobstructed and preserve us day-to-day. O effulgent, may you bless us. [Sarasvati and Vidyalankar]

11. O Savitṛ, (come) now to us by the ancient paths, (which are) in the midworld, perfected and dustless, well-laid and easy to traverse. O God, guard us and speak to us. [Kashyap]

11. O Sabitaa! Your ancient dust free ways in the sky have been made well. Come for us today through these ways which are easy to travel. O god! Save us and give blessing to us, too. [Gautam]

11. Your age-old paths, Savitar, dustless, well-made in the midspace, along these easily passable paths (come) to us today. Both guard us and speak on our behalf, o god. [Jamison and Brereton]


There is another Ṛg-veda verse that has both words kṛṣṇa and rajas, but separated. This is verse 1 of hymn 6.9 addressed to Agni. Here rajas is twofold (rajasī, in the dual), the dark half of a day and the bright half of a day.

ahaś ca kṛṣṇam ahar arjunaṃ ca vi vartete rajasī vedyābhiḥ |
vaiśvānaro jāyamāno na rājâvâtiraj jyotiṣâgnis tamāṃsi || 6.9.1 || (to Agni)

6.9.1. One half of day is dark, and bright the other: both atmospheres [rajas] move on by sage devices. Agni Vaiśvānara, when born as Sovran, hath with his lustre overcome the darkness. [Griffith]

The usage of the phrase kṛṣṇa rajas as apparently the night sky in hymn 1.35, verses 2 and 9 (in the singular), agrees with the usage of rajas as the dark half of a day. Ṛg-veda 6.9.1 also applies the word rajas to the bright half of a day. As is well known, the days and nights of Brahmā spoken of in Indian tradition refer to the manifestation and dissolution of the cosmos. The phrase “bright space son of dark space” from Book of Dzyan 3.7 refers to the manifestation of the cosmos from its period of dissolution, its night. Neither Ṛg-veda 1.35 nor Ṛg-veda 6.9 are cosmogonic hymns, which we have very few of in the Ṛg-veda. When speaking of cosmogony, the phrase kṛṣṇa rajas could easily be used in an ancient such text, alluding to the night of the cosmos. I think that kṛṣṇa rajas is very likely the Sanskrit phrase behind “dark space” in Blavatsky’s translation of Book of Dzyan 3.7.



1. The other occurrence of the phrase kṛṣṇa rajas in the Ṛg-veda is in hymn 8.43, addressed to Agni, verse 6. Here the two commentators Sāyaṇa and Veṅkaṭa-mādhava gloss the plural rajāṃsi as pāṃsavaḥ, “dust.” In accordance with this, five of the six available English translations take rajas here in its meaning “dust” rather than “space, firmament, region, world, the heavens, realm.” Thus, for example, Griffith translates: “the dust is black beneath his feet.” Only the Jamison/Brereton translation remains consistent with the meaning given for kṛṣṇa rajas in hymn 1.35, “black realm”:

kṛṣṇā rajāṃsi patsutaḥ prayāṇe jātavedasaḥ |
agnir yad rodhati kṣami || 8.43.6 || (to Agni)

8.43.6. Black are the realms at the feet of Jātavedas on his advance, when Agni grows on the earth. [Jamison and Brereton]


2. Universe in Vedic Thought,” in India Maior, 1972, p. 100, fn. 4.


3. This reference was provided by my friend Eric Fallick.


4. The word rajas is specifically used in an excerpt from the secret “Commentaries” given in The Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, pp. 621-622 (the reference to Atharva-veda 10.105 should be Ṛg-veda 10.105.7). There it refers to the three worlds, as it sometimes does in the Vedas. See, for example, Ṛg-veda 4.53.5 and 5.69.1:

trir antarikṣaṃ savitā mahitvanā trī rajāṃsi paribhus trīṇi rocanā |
tisro divaḥ pṛthivīs tisra invati tribhir vratair abhi no rakṣati tmanā || 4.53.5 || (to Savitar)

4.53.5. Savitar thrice surrounding with his mightiness mid-air, three regions, and the triple sphere of light, Sets the three heavens in motion and the threefold earth, and willingly protects us with his triple law. [Griffith]

4.53.5. Savitar (encompasses) the midspace three times in his greatness; he encompasses the three dusky realms and the three realms of light. He speeds the three heavens and the three earths. With his three commandments he guards us by himself. [Jamison and Brereton]

trī rocanā varuṇa trīṃr uta dyūn trīṇi mitra dhārayatho rajāṃsi |
vāvṛdhānāv amatiṃ kṣatriyasyânu vrataṃ rakṣamāṇāv ajuryam || 5.69.1 || (to Mitra-Varuṇa)

5.69.1. Three spheres of light, O Varuṇa, three heavens, three firmaments ye comprehend, O Mitra: Waxed strong, ye keep the splendour of dominion, guarding the Ordinance that lasts for ever. [Griffith]

5.69.1. The three realms of light and the three heavens, the three airy spaces do you two uphold, o Varuṇa and Mitra, strengthening the emblem of your lordship, protecting your unaging commandment. [Jamison and Brereton]

Elsewhere in The Secret Doctrine, in a footnote (vol. 2, p. 385), Blavatsky refers to the six worlds, using the word rajas in the plural, rajāṃsi. This is as in Ṛg-veda 1.164.6:

acikitvāñ cikituṣaś cid atra kavīn pṛcchāmi vidmane na vidvān |
vi yas tastambha ṣaḷ imā rajāṃsy ajasya rūpe kim api svid ekam || 1.164.6 || (to the Viśvedevas)

1.164.6. I ask, unknowing, those who know, the Sages, as one all-ignorant for the sake of knowledge: Who is that Mysterious One, in the form of the Unborn, who has established these Six Regions. [translated by Vasudeva S. Agrawala, Vision in Long Darkness, 1963]

1.164.6 Unperceptive, I ask also the perceptive poets about this in order to know, since I am unknowing: What also is the One in the form of the Unborn [=the Sun] that has propped apart these six realms (of heaven and earth)? [Jamison and Brereton]


5. Savitar niveśayan prasuvan:

āprā rajāṃsi divyāni pārthivā ślokaṃ devaḥ kṛṇute svāya dharmaṇe |
pra bāhū asrāk savitā savīmani niveśayan prasuvann aktubhir jagat || 4.53.3 || (to Savitar)

4.53.3. He hath filled full the regions of the heaven and earth: the God for his own strengthening waketh up the hymn. Savitar hath stretched out his arms to cherish life, producing with his rays and lulling all that moves. [Griffith]

4.53.3. He has filled the heavenly and earthly realms. The god makes his signal-call to support his own. Savitar has stretched forth his two arms, at his impulsion causing the moving world to settle down and impelling it forth through the nights. [Jamison and Brereton]

Savitar prasavītā niveśano:

bṛhatsumnaḥ prasavītā niveśano jagata sthātur ubhayasya yo vaśī |
sa no devaḥ savitā śarma yacchatv asme kṣayāya trivarūtham aṃhasaḥ || 4.53.6 ||

4.53.6. Most gracious God, who brings to life and lulls to rest, he who controls the world, what moves not and what moves, May he vouchsafe us shelter,—Savitar the God,—for tranquil life, with triple bar against distress. [Griffith]

4.53.6. Possessing lofty benevolence, the one who impels forth and causes to settle down, who exerts his will over both the moving world and the stationary, let him, god Savitar, hold out to us shelter providing threefold protection against distress for us and for our dwelling place. [Jamison and Brereton]

Savitar niveśane prasave ca:

devasya vayaṃ savituḥ savīmani śreṣṭhe syāma vasunaś ca dāvane |
yo viśvasya dvipado yaś catuṣpado niveśane prasave câsi bhūmanaḥ || 6.71.2 || (to Savitar)

6.71.2. May we enjoy the noblest vivifying force of Savitar the God, that he may give us wealth: For thou art mighty to produce and lull to rest the world of life that moves on two feet and on four. [Griffith]

6.71.2. May we be (there) at the best impulsion of the god Savitar and for his giving of goods—you [=Savitar] who are (busy) at bringing to rest and at impelling forth the whole two-footed and four-footed creation. [Jamison and Brereton]

Savitar niveśayañ ca prasuvañ ca:

ā devo yātu savitā suratno ‘ntarikṣaprā vahamāno aśvaiḥ |
haste dadhāno naryā purūṇi niveśayañ ca prasuvañ ca bhūma || 7.45.1 || (to Savitar)

7.45.1. May the God Savitar, rich in goodly treasures, filling the region, borne by steeds, come hither, In his hand holding much that makes men happy, lulling to slumber and arousing creatures. [Griffith]

7.45.1. Let god Savitar drive here, possessed of good treasure, filling the midspace, journeying with his horses, holding many things meant for men in his hand, bring the world to rest and impelling it forth. [Jamison and Brereton]


6. The Maruts ā avyata, “traverse” (Wilson, Kashyap), or “have stirred up” (Griffith), or “move through” (Sarasvati/Vidyalankar), or “cover well” (Gautam), or “enveloped” (Jamison/Brereton) the rajāṃsi, “regions, realms, worlds,” by or with their taviṣībhir, “strength, power, might”:

yasmā ūmāso amṛtā arāsata rāyas poṣaṃ ca haviṣā dadāśuṣe |
ukṣanty asmai maruto hitā iva purū rajāṃsi payasā mayobhuvaḥ || 1.166.3 ||
ā ye rajāṃsi taviṣībhir avyata pra va evāsaḥ svayatāso adhrajan |
bhayante viśvā bhuvanāni harmyā citro vo yāmaḥ prayatāsv ṛṣṭiṣu || 1.166.4 || (to the Maruts)

1.166.3. To whomsoever, bringer of oblations, they immortal guardians, have given plenteous wealth, For him, like loving friends, the Maruts bringing bliss bedew the regions round with milk abundantly.

1.166.4. Ye who with mighty powers have stirred the regions up, your coursers have sped forth directed by themselves. All creatures of the earth, all dwellings are afraid, for brilliant is your coming with your spears advanced. [Griffith]

1.166.3. To whom the immortal helpers have given riches and prosperity—to the man who does pious service with oblation—for him the Maruts, like (steeds) spurred on, sprinkle the many realms with milk—they are joy itself.

1.166.4. Of you who with your powers enveloped the realms—your spontaneous dashes swooped forth. All creatures and habitations take fright. Brilliant is your course when your spears have been extended. [Jamison and Brereton]

Category: Book of Dzyan | 1 comment


BOOK of KIU-TE or BOOK of DZYAN – References and Quotes in H.P.B. Writings

By Jacques Mahnich on March 2, 2016 at 8:42 pm

The Source of the core teachings (Secret Doctrine & The Voice of Silence) transmitted by H.P.B. are said to emanate from an « Archaic Manuscript »1 . Many references to the Book of Dzyan, or the Book of Kiu-te are made throughout H.P.B. writings. A compilation of all H.P.B.quotes to these books is proposed here.

What do we learn from it ?

  • The book of Kiu-te is spelled with many different ways : Khiu-ti, Khiu-te, Khiu-tee, Kiu-ti, Kiu-te, Khinti
  • Quotes are sometimes very accurate regarding content and chapter numbering. Examples : “From Book IV of Kiu-ti, chapter on “the Laws of Upasana”, we learn that the qualifications expected in a Chela were : 1) Perfect physical health, 2) Absolute mental and physical purity, . . .” This looks like a Buddhism Vinaya text (Book of the Discipline).
  • Many quotes are extracted from the Commentaries. This is also a very common practice in Tibetan Buddhism Tradition to always provide with commentaries to all the core texts (sutra or tantra). In fact, “the Book of Dzyan – from the Sanskrit word “Dhyana” (mystic meditation) – is the first volume of the Commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te, and a Glossary of the public works of the same name” (BCW XIV, page 422).
  • There are direct reference to book and chapter numbering, like :” To force oneself upon the current of immortality, or rather to secure for oneself an endless series of rebirths as conscious individualities – says the “Book of Khiu-te” volume xxxi” ; and Master K.H. added : “Chapter III” (H.P.B. Letters to A.P.Sinnett, page 372).

So, we have at least references to Book IV and volume xxxi, chapter III. Researches have not yet corroborate these informations with existing known books of the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition. But many more are surfacing in the Western world, including esoteric ones, previously unreachable. Latest example is “The Profound Inner Principles” by Rangjung Dorje, the Third Karmapa, with Jamgön Kongtrul Commentary. (2014). This text is giving extensive teachings on Inner Principles, with many references to key tantras like the Kalachakra, the Guyasamaja or the Hevajratantra.

Let’s keep digging ang digging,…

1S.D. 1888 Edition – page 1

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On Translation of Scriptures

By Sati Shankar on August 30, 2015 at 11:07 am

Recently at the 16th World Sanskrit Conference, 28th June -2nd July 2015,Bangkok I gained some exposure to current practices in translation of Scriptures, and I feel that the words, from Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, compiled below, on the translations of Indian Scriptures, written more than six decades ago still stand correct. This compilation is aimed to be a reminder.

Existing translations of Vedic texts, however etymologically “accurate” are too often unintelligible or unconvincing, sometimes admittedly unintelligible to the translator himself. Neither the Sacred Books of the East nor for example such translations of the Upanishads as those by R.E.Hume or those of Mitra, Roer, and Cowell, recently reprinted, even approach the standards set by such works as Thomas Taylor’s version of the Enneads of Plotinus, or Friedlander’s of Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed.”

“Translators of the Vedas do not seem to have possessed any previous knowledge of metaphysics, but rather to have gained their first and only notion of ontology from Sanskrit sources.”

“As remarked by Jung,(Psychological Types, p.263,) with reference to the study of Upanis.ads under existing conditions, “ any true perception of the quite extraordinary depth of those ideas and their amazing psychological accuracy is still but remote possibility.”

It is very evident that for an understanding of the Veda, a knowledge of Sanskrit, however profound, is insufficient. Indians themselves do not rely upon their knowledge of Sanskrit here, but insist upon the absolute necessity of study at the feet of a guru.

“That is not possible in the same sense to students in the West. Yet they also possess a tradition founded in the first principles.

What right have Sanskritists to confine their labors to the solution of linguistic problems; is it fear that precludes their wrestling with the ideology of the texts they undertake? Our scholarship is too little humane…”(over to foot note 3, p 77)

“On the one hand, the professional scholar, who has direct access to the sources, function in isolation; on the other, the amateur propagandist of Indian thought disseminates mistaken notions. Between the two, no provision is made for the educated man of good will.”

In any case, no great extension of our present measure of understanding can be expected from philological research alone, however valuable such methods of research may have been in the past, and what is true for Sumero-Babylonian religion is no less true for the Vedas, viz., that “further progress in the interpretation of the difficult cycle of… liturgies cannot be made until the cult is more profoundly interpreted from the point of view of the history of religion.” [(4) Langdom, S. Tammuz and Ishtar, Oxford, 1914, p.v]

Coomaraswamy Ananda K. A New Approach to the Vedas: An Essay in Translation and Exegesis. ISBN 81-215-0630-1 (1994) originally published by Luzac Co. London. [Introduction, p. vii]



Category: Book of Dzyan | Tags: , , , , | No comments yet


The Book of Dzyan: The Current State of the Evidence

By David Reigle on March 16, 2014 at 1:57 am

An article titled, “The Book of Dzyan, The Current State of the Evidence,” was published in Brahmavidyā: The Adyar Library Bulletin, Supplement, 2013, pp. 87-120.* Because of its direct relevance to the purpose of this blog, it is posted here, and may be accessed by clicking on the title. The Brahmavidyā Supplement is a special issue “Commemorating the 125th year of publication of The Secret Doctrine by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky,” which includes the following articles:

1. Why Study The Secret Doctrine? by Radha Burnier.
2. Cosmogony in the Stanzas of Dzyan, by Pablo Sender.
3. Reading the Book of Knowledge, by Doss McDavid.
4. The Secret Doctrine in the 21st Century, by Shirley J. Nicholson.
5. Keys to The Secret Doctrine, by Chris Bartzokas.
6. The Book of Dzyan: The Current State of the Evidence, by David Reigle.
7. The Essence of The Secret Doctrine, by Harvey Tordoff.
8. The Secret Doctrine: To Be Read Wholly, by John Algeo.
9. Beyond the Sevenfold Schemes, by Dara Eklund.
10. Annie Besant and The Secret Doctrine, by Pedro Oliveira.
11. Interpreting The Secret Doctrine, by Joy Mills.

Brahmavidyā: The Adyar Library Bulletin was started in 1937. Since the mid-1950s it has been solely an Indological journal, not a Theosophical journal. This Supplement is the first of its kind.

* A pre-publication version of my article, without the inevitable typos incident to publication, is also available here: “The Book of Dzyan, The Current State of the Evidence, pre-pub.

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The Orthography of Dgyu or Dzyu

By Ingmar de Boer on March 5, 2014 at 11:31 pm

1. Why would we want to know the orthography of dgyu?

On the one hand the term fohat is the most enigmatic of the technical terms used in The Secret Doctrine (SD), and on the other, it is crucial to the esoteric philosophy presented in the work. There are only a few locations in the SD where fohat is unambiguously connected to other concepts, one of which is in SD I, 31 (stanza V, śloka 2):


This is a strong statement, most probably referring to the moment when the universe is evolving from the state of pralaya, where fohat is connected to “THE DZYU”, as it is spelled in the SD. Defining this concept DZYU, or dgyu as it is spelled in another location, would take us very close to exactly defining and understanding the mysterious concept of fohat and its workings.

2. How does HPB describe dgyu?

The only location in the SD where dgyu is described, is SD I, 108, where HPB comments on stanza V, śloka 2:

Dzyu is the one real (magical) knowledge, or Occult Wisdom; which, dealing with eternal truths and primal causes, becomes almost omnipotence when applied in the right direction. Its antithesis is Dzyu-mi, that which deals with illusions and false appearances only, as in our exoteric modern sciences. In this case, Dzyu is the expression of the collective Wisdom of the Dhyani-Buddhas.

The term dgyu is not found in the TG. In the Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary published by the Theosophical University Press, Dzyu is identified as a Senzar word, referring to SD I, 108, but there is no clue to be found in HPB’s writings to indicate that it would be indeed Senzar.

3. Cosmological Notes

Prior to 1885 the term fohat was not used in theosophical literature. The oldest document in which it was used are the “Cosmological Notes”, containing written instructions from Mahātma M. to A.O. Hume, handed down to us by A.P. Sinnett, and published both in ETM and BL. In the Cosmological Notes (BL p. 376) we find a similar affirmation as in SD I, stanza V, śloka 2:

Dgyu becomes Fohat when in its activity – active agent of will – electricity – no other name.

All technical terms in the Notes seem to be Sanskrit or Tibetan, so we might assume that Dgyu is also a Tibetan, as it has a structure looking like a Tibetan syllable.

An interesting detail in the manuscript of the Cosmological Notes is the fact that the first time they are mentioned, the terms dgyu and dgyu mi both carry an umlaut (Dgyü). In ML 35 (written by KH), dgyu is spelled as dgiü, also with umlaut.

BL Mss - Appendix II

4. The Syllable Dgyu: the Rime

The IPA /y/ sound in standard Tibetan is only realised when a syllable ends in -ud or -us. This would narrow down considerably the possibilities for the orthography of dgyu.

Some of the umlauts in the text seem to have been added later, perhaps at the same time the annotations were interscribed, including the underlined title “Appendix II” on top of page 2. The annotations do not seem to be in the same handwriting as the original notes. Compare for example, the capital A of the word Appendix with the capital A’s in the manuscript text. In The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett (BL) the Notes appear as Appendix II. It is therefore entirely possible that the annotations and also the umlauts are the handwriting of the transcriber/compiler of the book, A.T. Barker. This would be consistent with the spelling in the ML edited by Barker. The umlauts on Dgyü and Dgyü Mi however, are not reproduced in BL. In Jinarajadasa’s edition (ETM) of the Notes, the umlauts are absent as well.

5. The Syllable Dgyu: the Onset

In Jinarajadasa’s edition, a remark of Sinnett is added, telling that M. himself “wrote out” the table of correspondences between Man and Universe. This means that Sinnet has copied the table from the handwriting of M., instead of interpreting the words from hearing. Interestingly, in the table, Linga Sharira is called Ling Sharir in line 3, we also have Bhut, Purush, Brahm, dropping the final a’s, as in the Sanskrit pronounciation typical of speakers of modern Hindi. Apparently M’s concern was that the words were written as they were pronounced, as opposed to how they were written in the original language. The rendering of the Tibetan terms is therefore presumably also a phonetic transcription for an English target audience.

In that case, the d in dgyu could not have been a silent letter. Also, English has two sounds associated with the letter g (besides /ŋ/ in “thing”), the plosive /g/ and the affricate /dʒ/. The dg-combination does not exist with a plosive /g/-sound in English, so our dgy-combination would probably be the affricate /dʒ/, the g-sound in “gin”, or something close to it. This is consistent with HPB’s spelling DZYU, for example in SD I, 108. The /dʒ/, and phonemes very close to it, are listed in the following table.

Possible phonemes for the onset, and their Tibetan Wylie transliteration, in approximate order of distance from /dʒ/:

1. palato-alveolar /dʒ/ = pya, bya, …
2. alveolo-palatal /dʑ/ or /ndʑ/ = mja, ‘ja
3. alveolo-palatal /ɽ/ = ra
4. retroflex /dʐ/ or /ndʐ/ = ‘dra, ‘gra, …
5. palatal /nj/ = ‘gya
6. palatal /c/ with deep tone = brgya, bsgya, dgya, bgya, rgya, sgya, …
7. palatal /ch/ with deep tone = gya

6. Dictionaries

Combining the ideas on onset and rime, we could try finding some matching candidates for dgyu, using a lexicon. In the following table all combinations are summed up, with the entries found in common dictionaries marked bold.




pya, bya, …

pyud, byud, …

pyus, byus, …


mja, ‘ja

mjud, ‘jud

mjus, ‘jus






‘dra, ‘gra, …

‘drud, ‘grud, …

‘drus, ‘grus, …






brgya, bsgya, dgya, bgya, rgya, sgya, …

brgyud, bsgyud, dgyud, bgyud, rgyud, sgyud, …

brgyus, bsgyus, dgyus, bgyus, rgyus, sgyus, …





Elements we may look for in the translation are “real (magical) knowledge, dealing with eternal truths and primal causes” (SD I, 108), and the negation dgyu mi, or min or med, “illusion and false appearances only” (SD I, 108).

One of the most valued translators of Tibetan to English is Jeffrey Hopkins, who prepared a Tibetan-Sanskrit-English Dictionary, which was also published in digital form by the Dharma Drum Buddhist College in Taipei in 2011.

a. Under rus we find there:

(translation-san) asthi
(translation-san) {C} gotra
(translation-san) {C} jāti
(translation-san) {MSA} keng rus = saṃkalikā
(translation-eng) {Hopkins} bone; lineage; family
(translation-eng) {C} lineage; birth; species; kind; different varieties

b. Under ‘grus we find:

(translation-eng) {Hopkins} zeal; enthusiasm; diligence

c. Under brgyud pa we find:

(translation-san) {LCh,MSA} para

(translation-san) {LCh} pāramparya
(translation-san) {MSA} pāra

(translation-eng) {Hopkins} indirect; lineaged

d. Under rgyud we find:

(translation-san) {L,MSA,MV} sa

(translation-san) {MSA} sa

(translation-san) tantra
(translation-san) prabandha
(translation-san) {C} jāti
(translation-san) {C} va

(translation-san) {MSA} anvaya
(translation-eng) {Hopkins} continuum; mental continuum; life continuum; tantra
(translation-eng) {C} birth; species; kind; different varieties; lineage;{GD:515} indirect (as opposed to direct, dngos)
(comments) Comment: See rgyun.

e. Under rgyus we find:

(translation-san) {C} nidāna
(translation-san) {C} etan-nidānā
(translation-san) {C} kim nidānam
(translation-san) {C} tan-nidānam
(translation-eng) {Hopkins} familiar;
(translation-eng) {Hopkins} familiar; familiar with
(translation-eng) {C} linked with; foundation; for the sake of; Origins; because; wherefrom; and for what reason?; that link; as a result of
The items marked {C} are based on Edward Conze’s 1973 Materials for a Dictionary of the Prajñāpāramitā Literature. The item Hopkins added himself is the translation “familiar”.

Under rgyus med we find:

(translation-eng) {Hopkins} having no knowledge; having no familiarity
(translation-eng) {C} so as to get acquainted with

In the older dictionary of Jäschke (1881) the lemma rgyus first refers to rgyu, and secondly gives “notice, intelligence, knowledge”. Rgyus is the instrumental case of rgyu: cause, or because.

Under rgyu we find:

(translation-san) {LCh,L,MSA,MV} hetu
(translation-san) {C,MV} hetutva
(translation-san) {LCh,MSA,MV,C} kāra

(translation-san) {C,MSA,MV} upani

(translation-san) {C} (=hetu-bhāva)
(translation-san) {MSA} anvaya
(translation-san) {MSA,MV} nimitta
(translation-san) {MSA} nimittatva
(translation-san) {C} nidāna
(translation-san) {C} etan-nidānā
(translation-san) {C} ki

(translation-san) {C} tato nidānam
(translation-san) {C} tan-nidānam
(translation-san) {C} pracāra
(translation-san) {C} pravartate (=pravartayati)
(translation-san) {MSA} smig rgyu = marīci
(translation-eng) {Hopkins} cause; (as verb): wander; move; go; (following a verb, indicates): to be done
(translation-eng) {C} comparison; reason; for the sake of; linked with; foundation; Origins; because; wherefrom and for what reason?; on the strength of that; as a result of; that link; observation; performance; proceeds; takes place; move forward; spread;causality
(definition-bod) mtshan nyid 1 skyed byed/ 2 phan ‘dogs byed/
(definition-eng) Def.: (1) producer; (2) benefitter
(division-bod) sgras brjod rigs kyi sgo nas dbye ba/ 1 byed rgyu 2 lhan cig byung ba’i rgyu 3 skal mnyam gyi rgyu 4 mtshungs ldan gyi rgyu 5 kun ‘gro’i rgyu 6 rnam smin gyi rgyu
(division-eng) Terminological Div.: (1) creative cause; (2) co-arisen cause; (3) cause of equal/similar lot; (4) associational cause; (5) omnipresent cause; (6) fruitional cause
(comments) Comment: rgyu is used to make a verbal object noun as in bsgrub rgyu which means the same as bsgrub bya (that which is to be accomplished/achieved/practiced) or, in spoken Tibetan, bsgrub ya.

Literature used in preparing the diagram Joachim Grzega, Bezeichnungswandel: Wie Warum, Wozu?, Winter, Heidelberg, 2004 2. Andreas Blank, Prinzipien des Lexikalischen Bedeutungswandels am Beispiel der romanischen Sprachen, Max Niemeyer, Tübingen, 1997 3. Tibetan and related dictionaries: Conze (1973), Das (1902), Jäschke (1881), Hopkins (2011), Mahavyutpatti (nos. 7625, 7199), Matisoff (STEDT, online), Rangjung Yeshe (online), Starostin (Starling, online), etc.

Literature used in preparing the diagram
1. Joachim Grzega, Bezeichnungswandel: Wie Warum, Wozu?, Winter, Heidelberg, 2004
2. Andreas Blank, Prinzipien des Lexikalischen Bedeutungswandels am Beispiel der romanischen Sprachen, Max Niemeyer, Tübingen, 1997
3. Tibetan and related dictionaries: Conze (1973), Das (1902), Jäschke (1881), Hopkins (2011), Mahavyutpatti (nos. 7625, 7199), Matisoff (STEDT, online), Rangjung Yeshe (online), Starostin (Starling, online), etc.

7. Orthography

Of the matching Tibetan terms, rgyus might be a realistic candidate for dgyu, fitting HPB’s description in the sense that we find the two elements of “knowledge” and “primal causes” from the description in SD I, 108 associated with the term rgyu, which is, in its turn, closely related to rgyus. The spelling dgyü, with an umlaut, following A.T. Barker, would then be justified.

In an earlier post entitled “Kāraṇa, the Causeless Cause” we have argued that dgyu being the (manifested) “propelling force” which “sets in motion the law of Cosmic Evolution”, is kāraṇa, the “force” resulting in cosmic motion, or the principle of abstract motion. (cp. SD I, 109-110) In Hopkins’ dictionary we find nidāna under rgyus, a term which is used by HPB as a synonym for kāraṇa, and the term kāraṇa itself under rgyu.

Category: Book of Dzyan, Causeless Cause, Cosmological Notes Manuscript, Fohat, Great Breath, Karana, Mahatma Letters, Motion, Nidana | No comments yet


On the Name “Book of Dzyan”

By David Reigle on September 21, 2013 at 11:43 pm

The evidence shows that: (1) “Book of Dzyan” is not the actual or proper name of the book in question; (2) of the two meanings given by Blavatsky, “dzyan” would be “wisdom/knowledge” rather than “meditation”; (3) therefore the “Book of Dzyan” is a generic name signifying only “Book of Wisdom” or “Book of Knowledge.”

1. That “Book of Dzyan” is not the actual or proper name can be seen from this quotation from The Secret Doctrine (vol. 1, p. xxii): “The Book of Dzyan (or ‘Dzan’) is utterly unknown to our Philologists, or at any rate was never heard of by them under its present name.”

2. Blavatsky gives two meanings for the word “dzyan.” The most well-known one is “meditation,” the meaning of the similar-looking Sanskrit word dhyāna. It is found in “The Secret Books of ‘Lam-rim’ and Dzyan” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 3, 1897, p. 405; Adyar edition, vol. 5, p. 389; Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 422):

“The Book of Dzyan—from the Sanskrit word “Dhyâna” (mystic meditation)— . . .”

The other meaning given for “dzyan” is “wisdom,” or “knowledge,” the meaning of the similar-sounding Sanskrit word jñāna. It is found in these places:

(a) Footnote to Book of Dzyan* in her French article, “Notes su «L’Ésotérisme du Dogme Chrétien» de M. l’Abbé Roca”; English translation, “Notes on Abbé Roca’s ‘Esotericism of Christian Dogma’” (Collected Writings, vol. 8, p. 361 fn.; p. 380 fn.):

“*Mot tibétain, du mot sanscrit djnyana: sagesse occulte, connaissance.”

“*A Tibetan word, the Sanskrit Jñâna, occult wisdom, knowledge.”

(b) In “‘Reincarnations’ of Buddha” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 3, 1897, p. 386; Adyar edition, vol. 5, p. 373; Collected Writings, vol. 14, p. 400):

“. . . on the ‘Path of Dzyan’ (knowledge, wisdom).”

(c) In The Theosophical Glossary, under “Dzyn or Dzyan (Tib.). Written also Dzen.” (p. 107):

“A corruption of the Sanskrit Dhyan and Jnâna (or gnyâna phonetically)—Wisdom, divine knowledge.”

The last quotation, although defining dzyan as “wisdom” or “divine knowledge,” gives as equivalents both the Sanskrit words, dhyāna (meaning “meditation”) and jñāna. In another place, she combines their two meanings when giving the meaning of “dzyan” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 434):

“Says the Book of Dzyan (Knowledge through meditation)— . . .”

However, the word “dzyan” cannot be the Tibetan equivalent of both the Sanskrit dhyāna and jñāna. It must be one or the other. Fortunately, as noted in my 1983 book, The Books of Kiu-te (pp. 46-47), we do not have to guess about this. Since dhyāna is translated into Tibetan as bsam gtan, and jñāna is translated into Tibetan as ye śes, “dzyan” is not a translation; it is a transliteration. Which one is made clear by the fact that when transliterating Sanskrit words into Tibetan, the Tibetan translators always transliterated the Sanskrit letter “j” as the Tibetan letter “dz”, even though Tibetan has a letter “j” of its own. Thus, Sanskrit jñāna is transliterated into Tibetan as dzñāna.

Then, as is well known, the word jñāna is often pronounced gyana in India. Thus, for example, we find a book on Jñāna Yoga titled Gyana Yoga. The palatal “ñ”, a “nya” sound, disappears after the initial “j”, leaving a “y” sound. So phonetically, we now have dzyāna. Lastly, in North Indian pronunciation, a final short “a” is very frequently dropped. Thus, for example, the name Shiva Kumara is pronounced Shiv Kumar. So our dzyāna becomes dzyān. This is a reasonably good phonetic rendering of the Sanskrit word jñāna as transliterated into Tibetan letters, dznyāna, and then pronounced.

The meaning, too, can only be one or the other. As we saw, “wisdom” or knowledge” is given for “dzyan” by Blavatsky on three occasions. This is the meaning of jñāna. On one occasion she gives “meditation,” the meaning of dhyāna. In addition, she gives a combined definition, “Knowledge through meditation.” While jñāna no doubt most often arises through meditation, this is not part of its meaning. So where did Blavatsky get the meaning “meditation” for “dzyan”? Apparently from Rev. Joseph Edkins. In The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky writes (vol. 1, p. xx and footnote):

“Indeed, the secret portions of the ‘Danor Jan-na’* (‘Dhyan’) of Gautama’s metaphysics—grand as they appear to one unacquainted with the tenets of the Wisdom Religion of antiquity—are but a very small portion of the whole.”

“*Dan, now become in modern Chinese and Tibetan phonetics chan, is the general term for the esoteric schools, and their literature. In the old books, the word Janna is defined as ‘to reform one’s self by meditation and knowledge,’ a second inner birth. Hence Dzan, Djan phonetically, the ‘Book of Dzyan.’”

Compare Rev. Joseph Edkins, Chinese Buddhism, 1880 (p. 129, fn.):

“The word Ch’an (in old Chinese, jan and dan), originally signifying ‘resign,’ had not the meaning to ‘contemplate’ (now its commonest sense), before the Buddhists adopted it to represent the Sanscrit term Dhyana. The word in Chinese books is spelt in full jan-na, and is explained, ‘to reform one’s self by contemplation or quiet thought.’”

Rev. Edkins further writes about what he called the esoteric schools, and their founder Bodhidharma (pp. 155-156):

“He became the chief founder of the esoteric schools, which were divided into five principal branches. The common word for the esoteric schools is dan, the Sanscrit Dhyana, now called in the modern sound given to the character, ch’an.”

The Chinese word ch’an does indeed render the Sanskrit word dhyāna, “meditation,” and this became the name of the school that made meditation primary, the Ch’an school, which in turn became the Zen school in Japan. Rev. Edkins, writing with the scanty information available before 1880, for some reason called this school and its subdivisions the esoteric schools. This is apparently how Blavatsky associated the name dan with the esoteric schools, and equated it with “dzyan.” But as we have seen, the other information given by Blavatsky shows that “dzyan” is from jñāna, not dhyāna.

3. “Book of Dzyan,” then, is a generic name signifying only “Book of Wisdom” or “Book of Knowledge.”

Category: Book of Dzyan | No comments yet


On the Book of Dzyan

By David Reigle on September 18, 2013 at 4:23 pm

“Book of Dzyan” is the name given to a hitherto unknown book that is said to contain the secret wisdom of the world. It is supposed to have been written in Senzar, a lost sacred language that preceded Sanskrit. Stanzas on the genesis of the cosmos and the origin of humanity were allegedly translated from it to form the basis of H. P. Blavatsky’s 1888 book, The Secret Doctrine. Our only source of information about the “Book of Dzyan” is what Blavatsky wrote. The information she gives sometimes disagrees, so that it appears to describe two different books. In fact, she does speak of “Books of Dzyan” in the plural (e.g., SD, vol. 2, p. 46). It will be worthwhile to try to sort out this information.

The Secret Doctrine opens with a description of what is presumably the “Book of Dzyan” (volume 1, page 1):

“An Archaic Manuscript—a collection of palm leaves made impermeable to water, fire, and air, by some specific unknown process—is before the writer’s eye. On the first page is an immaculate white disk within a dull black ground. On the following page, the same disk, but with a central point. The first, the student knows to represent Kosmos in Eternity, before the re-awakening of still slumbering Energy, the emanation of the Word in later systems. The point in the hitherto immaculate Disk, Space and Eternity in Pralaya, denotes the dawn of differentiation. It is the Point in the Mundane Egg (see Part II., ‘The Mundane Egg’), the germ within the latter which will become the Universe, the ALL, the boundless, periodical Kosmos, this germ being latent and active, periodically and by turns. The one circle is divine Unity, from which all proceeds, whither all returns. Its circumference—a forcibly limited symbol, in view of the limitation of the human mind—indicates the abstract, ever incognisable PRESENCE, and its plane, the Universal Soul, although the two are one. Only the face of the Disk being white and the ground all around black, shows clearly that its plane is the only knowledge, dim and hazy though it still is, that is attainable by man. It is on this plane that the Manvantaric manifestations begin; for it is in this SOUL that slumbers, during the Pralaya, the Divine Thought, wherein lies concealed the plan of every future Cosmogony and Theogony.”

Blavatsky goes on to describe further symbols, the disk with a diameter, and then with the diameter crossed by a vertical line, etc. (pp. 4-5):

“The first illustration being a plain disc [figure], the second one in the Archaic symbol shows [figure], a disc with a point in it—the first differentiation in the periodical manifestations of the ever-eternal nature, sexless and infinite ‘Aditi in THAT’ (Rig Veda), the point in the disc, or potential Space within abstract Space. In its third stage the point is transformed into a diameter, thus [figure]. It now symbolises a divine immaculate Mother-Nature within the all-embracing absolute Infinitude. When the diameter line is crossed by a vertical one [figure], it becomes the mundane cross. Humanity has reached its third root-race; it is the sign for the origin of human life to begin. When the circumference disappears and leaves only the [figure] it is a sign that the fall of man into matter is accomplished, and the FOURTH race begins. . . .”

Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled, published eleven years earlier (1877), likewise opens with a description of what is presumably the “Book of Dzyan” (volume 1, page 1):

“There exists somewhere in this wide world an old Book—so very old that our modern antiquarians might ponder over its pages an indefinite time, and still not quite agree as to the nature of the fabric upon which it is written. It is the only original copy now in existence. The most ancient Hebrew document on occult learning—the Siphrah Dzeniouta—was compiled from it, and that at a time when the former was already considered in the light of a literary relic. One of its illustrations represents the Divine Essence emanating from Adam* like a luminous arc proceeding to form a circle; and then, having attained the highest point of its circumference, the ineffable Glory bends back again, and returns to earth, bringing a higher type of humanity in its vortex. As it approaches nearer and nearer to our planet, the Emanation becomes more and more shadowy, until upon touching the ground it is as black as night.”

*Corrected in Mahatma letter #9 to Adam emanating from the Divine Essence.

This paragraph from Isis Unveiled is quoted in the “Introductory” to The Secret Doctrine (vol. 1, p. xlii), introducing it with “Volume I. of ‘Isis’ begins with a reference to ‘an old book’—‘So very old that . . . .” The Secret Doctrine then continues (p. xliii):

“The ‘very old Book’ is the original work from which the many volumes of Kiu-ti were compiled. Not only this latter and the Siphrah Dzeniouta but even the Sepher Jezirah, the work attributed by the Hebrew Kabalists to their Patriarch Abraham (!), the book of Shu-king, China’s primitive Bible, the sacred volumes of the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes, the Puranas in India, and the Chaldean Book of Numbers and the Pentateuch itself, are all derived from that one small parent volume. Tradition says, that it was taken down in Senzar, the secret sacerdotal tongue, from the words of the Divine Beings, who dictated it to the sons of Light, in Central Asia, at the very beginning of the 5th (our) race; for there was a time when its language (the Sen-zar) was known to the Initiates of every nation, when the forefathers of the Toltec understood it as easily as the inhabitants of the lost Atlantis, who inherited it, in their turn, from the sages of the 3rd Race, the Manushis, who learnt it direct from the Devas of the 2nd and 1st Races.”

The book that Blavatsky has so vividly described is clearly a book of pictorial symbols. She confirms this when describing the language that it is apparently written in (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 2, p. 574):

“We have now to speak of the Mystery language, that of the prehistoric races. It is not a phonetic, but a purely pictorial and symbolical tongue. It is known at present in its fulness to the very few, having become with the masses for more than 5,000 years an absolutely dead language.”

We would naturally assume that this book of pictorial symbols is the “Book of Dzyan” from which she said she translated the stanzas that form the basis of The Secret Doctrine. But is it? Apparently not. We notice that nowhere in these descriptions has she called this picture book the “Book of Dzyan.” Elsewhere she provides the information that allows us to distinguish the two. This information is given in “The Secret Books of ‘Lam-rim’ and Dzyan,” a chapter that was originally intended by her to precede the stanzas in The Secret Doctrine, but upon the advice of the Keightleys was moved to volume 3 of that book. Volume 3 was not published until 1897, six years after her death, where this chapter is found on pp. 405-406. This chapter is now also found in her Collected Writings, vol. 14, pp. 422-424. It begins:

“The Book of Dzyan . . . is the first volume of the Commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te, and a Glossary of the public works of the same name. Thirty-five volumes of Kiu-te for exoteric purposes and the use of the laymen may be found in the possession of the Tibetan Gelugpa Lamas, in the library of any monastery; and also fourteen books of Commentaries and Annotations on the same by the initiated Teachers. Strictly speaking, those thirty-five books ought to be termed ‘The Popularised Version’ of the Secret Doctrine, full of myths, blinds, and errors; the fourteen volumes of Commentaries, on the other hand—with their translations, annotations, and an ample glossary of Occult terms, worked out from one small archaic folio, the Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World—contain a digest of all the Occult Sciences.”

As may be seen, the book of pictorial symbols that she described would be what is here called “the Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World.” This “one small archaic folio” is the “one small parent volume” (SD 1.xliii), the “Archaic Manuscript” (SD 1.1), the “old Book” (IU 1.1), the “very old Book . . . the original work from which the many volumes of Kiu-ti were compiled” (SD 1.xliii), here further described as “the seven secret folios of Kiu-te.” The Book of Dzyan that she translated stanzas from is the first of fourteen volumes of commentaries on this book of pictorial symbols, not the symbol book itself. This is, I think, clear. Yet her prominent descriptions of the book of pictorial symbols have made such an impression that most readers today regard this symbol book as the Book of Dzyan that she translated stanzas from. Since this is so widely accepted, it will be worthwhile to pursue this further, and to cite the evidence at some length.

In addition to her statement differentiating the two books, there is much evidence indicating that the Book of Dzyan from which she translated stanzas is a commentary written in phonetic language rather than in pictorial symbols. In brief, this evidence is: (1) Blavatsky refers several times to the words of the Book of Dzyan, phonetic words and names; (2) she says that she has tried to give a verbatim or word for word translation; and (3) she refers several times to verses and to specific numbers of verses in the original Book of Dzyan that she has omitted. These, of course, would be phonetic verses, consisting of phonetic words, not pictorial symbols. This evidence may be found in The Secret Doctrine itself, and was fully confirmed in The Secret Doctrine Commentaries: The Unpublished 1889 Instructions, first published in 2010. Before citing this evidence, we must take note of Blavatsky’s statements showing Senzar as a phonetic language, and not just a language of pictorial symbols.

Contrasting her statement quoted above that the Mystery language “is not a phonetic, but a purely pictorial and symbolical tongue,” she tells us in her Notes on the Esoteric Papers that Senzar has an alphabet consisting of letters, obviously phonetic letters: “The Senzar and Sanskrit alphabets, and other Occult tongues, besides other potencies, have a number, colour, and distinct syllable for every letter, . . .” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 3, p. 530; Adyar edition, vol. 5, p. 505). In describing the development of language, she tells us that what is “now the mystery tongue of the Initiates” is “the inflectional speech,” which was the first language of the fifth root-race (SD 2.200). It was preceded by the monosyllabic speech that arose at the close of the third root-race, and the agglutinative languages that developed in the fourth root-race (2.198-199). The inflectional speech is, of course, phonetic language, language that had developed past the monosyllable stage, and past the stage of agglutinating or putting monosyllables together to form words, to the stage wherein the words themselves undergo change in order to give grammatical information. This is usually done by the addition of inflectional endings, namely, verb conjugations and noun declensions. Thus Senzar is not only a language of pictorial symbols but also a developed phonetic language. We may now proceed to the quotations.


1. References to words and names in the Book of Dzyan:

SD 1.22-23: “. . . the archaic phraseology of the original, with its puzzling style and words.” (in full: “The Stanzas which form the thesis of every section are given throughout in their modern translated version, as it would be worse than useless to make the subject still more difficult by introducing the archaic phraseology of the original, with its puzzling style and words.”)

SD 1.23: “. . . using the Sanskrit and Tibetan proper names whenever those cannot be avoided, in preference to giving the originals. The more so as the said terms are all accepted synonyms, . . .” (followed by: “Thus, were one to translate into English, using only the substantives and technical terms as employed in one of the Tibetan and Senzar versions, Verse I would read as follows: — ‘Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not; Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna), &c., &c.,’ which would sound like pure Abracadabra.”)

SD 1.23: “The untranslateable terms alone, incomprehensible unless explained in their meanings, are left, but all such terms are rendered in their Sanskrit form.” (followed by: “Needless to remind the reader that these are, in almost every case, the late developments of the later language, and pertain to the Fifth Root-Race. Sanskrit, as now known, was not spoken by the Atlanteans, and most of the philosophical terms used in the systems of the India of the post-Mahabharatan period are not found in the Vedas, nor are they to be met with in the original Stanzas, but only their equivalents.”)

SD 1.32 fn.: “Verse 1 of Stanza VI. is of a far later date than the other Stanzas, though still very ancient. The old text of this verse, having names entirely unknown to the Orientalists would give no clue to the student.”

SD 1.237 fn.: “Useless to repeat again that the terms given here are Sanskrit translations; for the original terms, unknown and unheard of in Europe, would only puzzle the reader more, and serve no useful purpose.”

SD 1.471: “Of course the name given in the archaic volume of the Stanzas is quite different, . . .”

SD 1.478: “A great number of names referring to chemical substances and other compounds, which have now ceased to combine together, and are therefore unknown to the later offshoots of our Fifth Race, occupy a considerable space. As they are simply untranslateable, and would remain in every case inexplicable, they are omitted, along with those which cannot be made public.”

SD 2.34 fn.: “The term Pitris is used by us in these Slokas to facilitate their comprehension, but it is not so used in the original Stanzas, where they have distinct appellations of their own, besides being called ‘Fathers’ and ‘Progenitors.’”

SD 2.401 fn.: “For the Stanzas call this locality by a term translated in the commentary as a place of no latitude (niraksha) the abode of the gods.”


2. Statements by Blavatsky that she is translating verbatim or word for word:

SD 2.1: “As far as possible a verbatim translation is given; . . .” (in full: “The Stanzas, with the Commentaries thereon, in this Book, the second, are drawn from the same Archaic Records as the Stanzas on Cosmogony in Book I. As far as possible a verbatim translation is given; but some of the Stanzas were too obscure to be understood without explanation. Hence, as was done in Book I., while they are first given in full as they stand, when taken verse by verse with their Commentaries an attempt is made to make them clearer, by words added in brackets, in anticipation of the fuller explanation of the Commentary.”)

SD 2.15 fn.: “Not every verse is translated verbatim. A periphrasis is sometimes used for the sake of clearness and intelligibility, where a literal translation would be quite unintelligible.”

SD Comm. pp. 30-31: “I cannot go and invent things; I am obliged to translate just as the stanzas give it in the book.”

SD Comm. p. 31: “How can I put that it was not? I am obliged to translate as it is, and then to give all the commentaries. I didn’t invent them. If I were inventing it, I might put it otherwise.”

SD Comm. p. 33: “I cannot put things out of my own head; I just translate as it is.”

SD Comm. p. 141: “I limit myself to that in the commentaries. Not in the stanzas, because I have rendered them just as they are.”

SD Comm. p. 203: “These are the words, I do not know how to translate better— . . .” (the 2013 online edition has “no” for “know,” p. 195; the 2010 edition omits this word)

SD Comm. p. 233: “I tried to translate as well as I could, you know, as close to the original as possible.”

SD Comm. p. 278: “It is translated word for word, this, and it is all certainly figurative, and metaphorical, and so on, therefore you must not take in the literal sense everything; because you must allow something for the Eastern way of expressing it.”

SD Comm. p. 279: “I try to translate word for word.”

SD Comm. p. 301: “You must make some allowance for the Eastern mode of expression. I tell you I have been translating word for word.”

SD Comm. p. 325: “. . . (why it should be weight, I do not know; I simply translate you what is said in the occult books), . . .”


3. References to verses and to specific numbers of verses omitted:

SD 1.152: “Among the eleven Stanzas omitted . . . .”

SD 1.478: “A gap of 43 verses or Slokas has to be left between the 7th (already given) and the 51st, which is the subject of Book II., though the latter are made to run from 1 et seq. for easier reading and reference.”

SD 2.15 fn.: “Only forty-nine Slokas out of several hundred are here given.”

SD 2.46: “Thus the only reference to it is contained in one verse of the volume of the Book of Dzyan before us, where it says: . . .”

SD Comm. pp. 33-34: “There are many, many verses that come between, that I have left out altogether.”

SD Comm. p. 38: “I have just taken two or three just to show the general idea, and then skipped over whole stanzas and came to the point. I have said there are some 60 stanzas passed over.”

SD Comm. p. 114: “There are breaks of forty stanzas, and there are stanzas that I would not be permitted to give.”

SD Comm. p. 141: “. . . after that, where I come and say that so many stanzas are left out, then it begins with the solar system.” (apparently referring to SD 1.151-152: “With these verses—the 4th Sloka of Stanza VI.—ends that portion of the Stanzas which relates to the Universal Cosmogony after the last Mahapralaya or Universal destruction, . . . All the Stanzas and verses which follow in this Book I. refer only to the evolution of, and on, our Earth. . . . Among the eleven Stanzas omitted . . . .”)

SD Comm. p. 342: “But you forget I have been skipping an innumerable number of times not only lines, but whole stanzas.”

Category: Book of Dzyan | No comments yet


Oeaohoo and Its Parallels from the Nag Hammadi Library

By David Reigle on August 1, 2013 at 4:59 am

The term Oeaohoo is found in Book of Dzyan, stanza 3, verses 5 and 7, and stanza 4, verse 4. Despite the wide prevalence of Sanskrit texts on mantras found in India, such a term has so far not been found in any of these texts. Similar vowel terms have, however, been found in Gnostic texts from the Nag Hammadi library, discovered in 1945.

About the term Oeahoo, we read in The Secret Doctrine:

“Let it be understood that the terms Brahma and Parabrahman are not used here because they belong to our Esoteric nomenclature, but simply because they are more familiar to the students in the West. Both are the perfect equivalents of our one, three, and seven vowelled terms, which stand for the One All, and the One “All in all.”” (S.D. vol. 1, p. 20)

“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.” (S.D. vol. 1, p. 68)

Attached are the three relevant Nag Hammadi texts in the two or three published translations (Nag Hammadi, vowel text 1, 1977, Nag Hammadi, vowel text 1, 1987, Nag Hammadi, vowel text 1, 2007, Nag Hammadi, vowel text 2, 1977, Nag Hammadi, vowel text 2, 2007, Nag Hammadi, vowel text 3, 1977, Nag Hammadi, vowel text 3, 2007). These are:

1. The Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit (earlier titled: The Gospel of the Egyptians).

2. The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth.

3. Marsanes.

The references are:

The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 1977, pp. 197, 204, 294, 296, 421, 422.

The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, 2007, pp. 255, 267, 415, 417-418, 642, 643.

The Gnostic Scriptures, 1987, pp. 107, 118.

Category: Book of Dzyan | No comments yet


K.H. and the Kadampas

By Jacques Mahnich on June 2, 2013 at 11:03 pm

The Book of Dzyan is linked to the books of Kiu-te or the Tibetan Buddhist tantras.

Specific authors and texts have been identified for the similarity of their teachings with the Secret Doctrine fundamental propositions. The Maitreya/Asanga’s works and the Jonangpa’s tradition are among them. The glimpse of the Wisdom Tradition was brought or transmitted by the Adepts in contact with the TS founders. Based on the HPB’s testimony and various letters from the Mahatmas, they were followers of Tibetan Buddhism practices, living or staying in Tibetan monastery for their practices like silent retreats. They may have been linked with one Tibetan Buddhist lineage more specifically (or maybe not). Identifying this may bring some more tracks to locate the original Book of Dzyan (or maybe not…).

In a book, first published in 1941, « The K.H. Letters to C.W. Leadbeater », C. Jinarajadasa commented at the end of the first letter :

« With this invocation to the Highest in C.W. Leadbeater to remember, and to be guided by that memory – to decide for the best – » , the letter ends with the initial « K.H. » of the name Koot Hoomi, which is not the Master’s personal name, but the title of his office as a high dignitary of the Koothoompa1 sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

(1) But pronounced Kethoomba, the Master informs Mohini Chatterje in Letter 59, The Letters from the Master of Wisdom, Second Series

This Letter 59 says : « However, the written name is Kuthoompa (disciples of Kut-hoomi), and its spelling is Kethoomba. »

Looking at the various sects and lineages in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, the closest to the Kuthoompa or Kethoomba seems to be the Kadampa (Kadam Tradition).

This specific lineage is in fact at the root, the foundation of most of the current existing lineages, and more specifically to the Gelugpa who are the « continuation » of the Kadampa.

Looking more in detail inside the history of this movement, this tradition was brought and installed in Tibet by the Bengali master Atisha Dipamkara (982-1054) and his principal disciple Dromtön Gyalwai Jungné (1005-1064). The flourishing of Avalokiteshvara and Tara in Tibet seems to be linked to this phase of their history. More specifically, quoting Thupten Jinpa – The Book of Kadam

Although Avalokiteshvara was propipiated in Tibet before the tenth century, and although the designation of the seventh-century Tibetan emperor, Songtsen Gampo, as an embodiement of Avalokiteshvara most probably predates Atisha’s arrival in Tibet, the available textual evidence points strongly toward the eleventh and the twelfth centuries as the period during which the full myth of Avalokiteshvara’s special destiny with Tibet was established.”

The Kadam school (bka’ gdams) was identified soon after Master Atisha’ death , especially after the creation of the Radreng Monastery in 1056, not far from Lhasa. Atisha organized the entire corpus of the Buddhists teachings in his Lamp for the Path to Enlightment. He was the first to propose the teachings under the form a gradual approach to the Buddhist path (lamrin), based on two divisions : the lamrim proper, and the tenrim (stages of the doctrine). Tsongkhapa’s texts will follow the same format. Atisha wrote extensively on Buddhist Vajrayana practice, including Guhyasamaja, Cakra samvara, Avalokiteshvara and Tara.

Known as Atisha and Dromtönpa’s “secret teachings” (gsang chos), is the Book of Kadam, which some excerpts were translated and published (© 2008 Institute of Tibetan Classics).

Kadampa’s lineage went on up to the end of the sixteen century where it looks like if it disappears. In fact it cease to be a distinct school , partly due to the “new Kadam School” created by Tsongkhapa, but mainly because all other Tibetan Buddhism Sects had integrated the Kadam teachings in their core teachings. There was no more need for a distinct school. Even the Nyingma School often refers  to the “Kadam Masters”.

So, the Kadam school being no more an active lineage in the 19th century, it does not help us much to know that Master K.H was a high dignitary of the “Koothoompa” sect, if it ever was the Kadampa sect who was referred to. Maybe it is only Jinarajadasa’s own comment.

However, looking at The Book of Kadam and other Atisha‘s works may be worth the “détour”.


Category: Book of Dzyan, Five Books of Maitreya, Jonangpa, Mahatma Letters, Tibetan Buddhism Traditions | 1 comment


Avalokiteśvara, Kuan-yin, and Kuan-shih-yin

By David Reigle on May 30, 2013 at 9:21 pm

In the translation of Book of Dzyan, stanza 6, verse 1, Kuan-yin is distinguished from Kuan-shih-yin: “By the power of the Mother of Mercy and Knowledge — Kwan-Yin — the “triple” of Kwan-shai-Yin, residing in Kwan-yin-Tien, Fohat, the Breath of their Progeny, the Son of the Sons, having called forth, from the lower abyss, the illusive form of Sien-Tchang and the Seven Elements:*” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, p. 32). Note that the spellings Kwan-Yin and Kwan-shai-Yin were adopted by Blavatsky from Samuel Beal’s 1871 Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, before the Wade-Giles system of transcription for Chinese became standard, in which the spellings are Kuan-yin and Kuan-shih-yin (today the pinyin system has become standard, in which the spellings are Guanyin and Guanshiyin, although the Wade-Giles system is still used in many books and for many words). Then in a chapter titled, “On Kwan-Shi-Yin and Kwan-Yin” (The Secret Doctrine, vol. 1, pp. 470-473), Blavatsky further distinguished Kuan-yin from Kuan-shih-yin, concluding: “To close, Kwan-Shi-Yin and Kwan-Yin are the two aspects (male and female) of the same principle in Kosmos, Nature and Man, of divine wisdom and intelligence.”

As is well known, Kuan-yin and Kuan-shih-yin are Chinese translations of the name Avalokiteśvara, taken as Avalokita-svara. On Avalokiteśvara versus Avalokita-svara, this is another question for another time. The Chinese word kuan translates the Sanskrit word avalokita, “seen,” and the Chinese word yin translates the Sanskrit word svara, “sound.” The Chinese word shih in the longer name, Kuan-shih-yin, means “world.” Thus, Kuan-yin means “Perceiver of sounds,” and Kuan-shih-yin means “Perceiver of the sounds of the world.” The reason for the addition of the word shih to the name of this bodhisattva is obvious, to make clear what sounds are perceived; namely, the cries of the world. The names Kuan-yin and Kuan-shih-yin, then, refer to the same bodhisattva, being no different than Helena Blavatsky and Helena P. Blavatsky. These have been used interchangeably from the earliest translations of the Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Chinese, starting near the end of the second century C.E., right up to the present in China.

No one doubts that the male bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara transformed into a female deity in China. This occurred around the beginning of the second millennium C.E., as can be traced in his/her representations in art or iconography and in written texts. No one knows why or how this happened. About four theories for this have been proposed, and are described in what is now the standard work on this subject, Chün-fang Yü’s 2001 Kuan-yin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokiteśvara. However, it is not the case that the name Kuan-shih-yin was and is used for the male deity, while the name Kuan-yin was and is used for the female deity. They are both names of the same deity, whether first as a male, or later as a female. As stated in Chün-fang Yü’s opening sentence of her Introduction, “Kuan-yin (Perceiver of Sounds), or Kuan-shih-yin (Perceiver of the World’s Sounds) is the Chinese name for Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who has been worshiped throughout the Buddhist world.” Then in her chapter on Scriptural Sources (p. 36), “Kuan-yin and Kuan-shih-yin, therefore, were names used interchangeably in the earliest translations.” The fact that the male and female forms or aspects of the deity are to be distinguished is not in question. There is, however, a significant error in the terms used by Blavatsky to make this distinction. Her use of the name Kuan-shih-yin for the male and Kuan-yin for the female is erroneous.

Category: Avalokiteshvara, Book of Dzyan, Kwan-Yin | 1 comment


The Orthography of Sien-Tchan

By Ingmar de Boer on May 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm

In the “Chinese section” of the Book of Dzyan (see SD I, 136-139), in stanza 6, ślokas 1 and 2 we find the term SIEN-TCHAN, in śloka 2 spelled TSIEN-TCHAN, and on page 32 alternatively spelled as SIEN-TCHANG. According to HPB the term refers to “our universe”.

Locations and spellings in the SD:

I, 136 SIEN-TCHAN (our Universe)
I, 137 Sien-Tchan
I, 139 Sien-Tchan (the “Universe”)

In SD III, 393, cf. CW XIV, 408 we have the spelling Sien-chan, as David and Nancy Reigle noticed in Blavatsky’s Secret Books, in p. 64n1. In this same article, entitled An Unpublished Discourse of Buddha, in a note on the same page, Sien-Chan seems to be identified with Nam-Kha, which is Tibetan for sky, heaven:

* The Universe of Brahmâ (Sien-Chan; Nam-Kha) is Universal Illusion, or our phenomenal world.

In SD I, 23 we have another spelling, in the “night of Sun-chan”, which seems to refer to the night of Brahmâ (SD I, 41), the night of the universe, which is pralaya, see also the post and comments here.

In the Würzburg pre-version of the SD we find still another spelling, “sien-tchen (one universe)”. (e.g. SD Adyar Ed 1993 vol. III, p. 518)

In The Early Teachings of the Masters ed. by Jinarajadasa we also find the spelling Sien-chan, representing the Tibetan word sems can, as the “animated universe”. In the version of this text in Cosmological Notes we find the spelling Sem chan. Sems can is “animated”, or “animated beings”, “sentient beings”, literally meaning something like “having a mind”. It corresponds to the Sanskrit term sattva.

Summing up: we have here already eight different spellings of Sien-Tchan, and most of these look like Chinese words. However, the only spelling which seems to shed some light on this, having a corresponding meaning, is a Tibetan word.

In the Boris de Zirkoff edition of the SD, the spelling of Sien-Tchan is interpreted as Hsien-chan, adding a ninth spelling to our collection. De Zirkoff interpreted this term as Chinese, and converted it to the Wade-Giles standard, apparently without explicit justification. Still, his idea on this might be right, while the connection with Tibetan sems can is wrong.

De Zirkoff’s spelling hsien chan corresponds to pīnyīn spelling xian zhan. Modern dictionaries do not seem to include any words with this combination of syllables, or in fact any other clues, which does not give us any reason to abandon the Tibetan interpretation as “sems can”, however unlikely this interpretation may seem at first sight.

Category: Book of Dzyan, Brahma, Cosmogenesis, Sien-Tchan | No comments yet


The Orthography of Kwan-Yin-Tien

By Ingmar de Boer on at 3:41 pm

In SD I, 136 (stanza 6, śloka 1), the Boris de Zirkoff edition has Kuan-yin-T’ien for Kwan-Yin-Tien in the original 1888 edition. HPB in her days did not use a standardized spelling for Chinese words, and in the Boris de Zirkoff edition the terms are converted to the Wade-Giles transliteration standard. For example the syllable kwan is spelled kuan according to Wade-Giles. This representation is still ambiguous because the tone information is missing, and furthermore the corresponding character is not uniquely determined. A digit might be placed after the syllable to specify the tone, but a better representation would be to specify the exact the character, to enable the reader to verify the terms using a dictionary.

It is easy to verify the spelling of Kwan Yin, as it is such a widespread term. HPB in SD I, 137 defines Kwan-Yin-Tien as “the melodious heaven of Sound”, the abode of Kwan Yin, and we can derive that the syllable tien signifies “heaven”. De Zirkoff’s rendering t’ien for heaven can be found in a modern dictionary as the character 天, and as a Wade-Giles spelling it seems to be correct.

The modern transliteration standard used in the People’s Republic of China is pīnyīn, which in 1979 has become an ISO standard. The pīnyīn representation would be guān yīn tiān, in modern characters 觀音天.

Category: Avalokiteshvara, Book of Dzyan, Cosmogenesis, Kwan-Yin | No comments yet


“The One Form of Existence”: prabhavāpyaya in the Original Purāṇa-saṃhitā

By David Reigle on January 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm

“Book of Dzyan,” stanza 1, verse 8, is given by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine (vol. 1, p. 46) as:

“8. Alone, the one form of existence stretched boundless, infinite, causeless, in dreamless sleep; and life pulsated unconscious in universal space, throughout that All-Presence which is sensed by the ‘Opened Eye’ of the Dangma.”

In her commentary on this verse, Blavatsky says (p. 46): “The Secret Doctrine carries this idea into the region of metaphysics and postulates a ‘One Form of Existence’ as the basis and source of all things. But perhaps the phrase, the ‘One Form of Existence,’ is not altogether correct. The Sanskrit word is Prabhavapyaya, ‘the place, or rather plane, whence emerges the origination, and into which is the resolution of all things,’ says a commentator.”

This appears to be one of the very rare instances where we are given an original term, prabhavāpyaya, behind a translation, “the one form of existence,” from the Book of Dzyan. From what she told us earlier (p. 23), “Extracts are given from the Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit translations of the original Senzar Commentaries and Glosses on the Book of Dzyan,” this would be a term from the Sanskrit translation. It is also possible, however, that Blavatsky is here merely giving another, later Sanskrit equivalent of the Senzar term, as might be found in the later Sanskrit texts that are now available. The commentator referred to is Śrīdhara-svāmi. She quoted this Sanskrit term and its explanation from editor Fitzedward Hall’s footnote to H. H. Wilson’s translation of The Vishnu Purana (vol. 1, 1864, p. 21). I had at first favored the latter of these two possibilities, because I wondered why the Viṣṇu-purāṇa term would be found in the Sanskrit translation of the Book of Dzyan or its commentaries. The purāṇas as now extant are known to have been continually revised. But once we know that there was an original Purāṇa-saṃhitā, and that this word prabhavāpyaya was found in it, the former of the two possibilities becomes quite plausible. Moreover, prabhavāpyaya is a somewhat archaic Sanskrit word.

The word prabhavāpyaya is found in the fourth verse of the cosmogony account derived from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā, as may be seen in the September 1 (2012) posting: Creation Stories: The Cosmogony Account from the Purāṇas, Part 2. “In the Beginning” as Derived from the Original Purāṇa-saṃhitā. This verse is:

anādy-antam ajaṃ sūkṣmaṃ tri-guṇaṃ prabhavāpyayam |

asāmpratam avijñeyaṃ brahmāgre samavarttata || 4.20 ||

4.20. In the beginning there was brahman, without beginning or end, unborn, subtle, having the three qualities (guṇa), the origin and cessation [of the cosmos], timeless, and unknowable.

The term prabhavāpyaya, here translated as “the origin and cessation [of the cosmos],” is a compound of two words: prabhava and apyaya. The first of these, prabhava, is common enough, and means “source” or “origin.” The second of these, apyaya, is quite uncommon and rather archaic. This word was so unfamiliar that in about half of the purāṇa sources it was changed over the centuries to the much more familiar avyaya, commonly understood as “imperishable.” In fact, the recently published critical edition of the Viṣṇu-purāṇa (see posting dated May 5, 2012) adopted prabhavāvyaya rather than prabhavāpyaya (1.2.21), based on 16 of 27 manuscripts. Yet, prabhavāpyaya is found in the famous Māṇḍūkya-upaniṣad (verse 6). What makes apyaya hard to recognize is the archaic prefix “api” rather than the standard prefix “abhi” (the change of final “i” to “y” before a vowel is normal). This is easily confused with the common Sanskrit indeclinable word, “api.” Once this is recognized as a prefix, a rare and little used prefix, the rest of the word’s derivation is simple. The “aya” can now be seen to come from the verb-root “i,” meaning “go.” The idea is “go into,” “enter into,” disappear or be absorbed. So it may be translated as “cessation” or “dissolution.”

The commentator Śrīdhara-svāmi explains apyaya by giving its verbal form, apiyanti, and glosses this as līyante, “dissolves.” He then says that it is the laya-sthāna, the “place of dissolution.” It is about this word “place” (sthāna) that Blavatsky says, “the place, or rather plane.” So she in turn glosses “place” as “plane,” attempting to give the idea behind prabhavāpyaya more accurately. How does one describe that which the cosmos originates from and then dissolves back into? The “one form of existence” is apparently Blavatsky’s attempt to render or paraphrase the meaning of the Senzar term, which she then tries to clarify by giving its Sanskrit translation, prabhavāpyaya. The evidence from the original Purāṇa-saṃhitā gives us reason to believe that prabhavāpyaya is in fact an early Sanskrit translation of the Senzar term. Moreover, it is perhaps even a direct descendant of the phonetic Senzar term, more a transformation than a translation of this term.

Category: Book of Dzyan, Creation Stories | No comments yet


Is the Book of Dzyan Based on the Chinese Yu-Fu-King?

By David Reigle on December 29, 2012 at 6:03 am

Prof. Giovanni Hoffman wrote in 1909 that the origin of the Book of Dzyan is the Chinese Taoist book entitled Yu-Fu-King, or The Book of Secret Correspondences (The Theosophist, vol. 31, Oct. 1909, pp. 64-65, attached as Book of Dzyan Giovanni Hoffman). There is a typographical error in the first syllable of this title. As given by James Legge in vol. 40 of the Sacred Books of the East, The Texts of Taoism, Part II, 1891, this title is Yin Fu King, or Classic of the Harmony of the Seen and the Unseen. In the Wade-Giles system of Chinese transcription, this title is Yin-fu Ching. In the currently used pinyin system it is Yinfujing, and the fuller title is Huangdi Yinfujing.

A couple of months ago a new HPB biography came out, Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality, by Gary Lachman. It mentions this idea on p. 257, where we read: “The sinologist Giovanni Hoffmann believed that the ‘Stanzas of Dzyan’ originate in the Book of the Secret Correspondences (Yu-Fu-King) of the fourth-century Taoist Ly-Tzyn.” This is referenced in a note to Wouter J. Hanegraaff’s 1996 book, New Age Religion and Western Culture, p. 453. Turning to that book, we there read:

“Karl R. H. Frick has called attention to an article by the sinologist Giovanni Hoffmann, who points to the teaching of a Taoist of the fourth century named Ly-tzyn, or Dzyan in Tibetan. His book, Yu-Fu-King or “The Book of Secret Correspondences”, was published in Florence in 1878. It seems probable that Blavatsky knew this book but incorrectly interpreted its contents as Vedic. If these suggestions are correct, Isis Unveiled was inspired by a kabbalistic source transmitted to Blavatsky in the context of Knorr von Rosenroth’s Christian kabbalah; and The Secret Doctrine by a Taoist treatise interpreted as Vedic.”

Dr. Hanegraaff is a leading scholar of western esoteric traditions, so he approached his subject from this perspective. He is not a Vedic scholar or a scholar of Chinese. I, too, am not a scholar of Chinese, but I had been studying Sanskrit for several years when I read the 1909 article from The Theosophist in the mid-1980s. That was sufficient for me to discount Prof. Hoffman’s statement made therein about Blavatsky and the Book of Dzyan that: “She has therefore the merit of having re-arranged the shapeless mass of the aphorisms of Dzyan or Tsian; but the doctrine exposed in these applies entirely to the Lao-ze School, and in no wise to the vedic, as she wished it to be believed.” So I filed the article away. Now that some attention has been called to it, I have gotten it out and scanned it and posted it here. Incidentally, the book published in Florence in 1878 is not the Yu-Fu-King or Yin Fu King as such, but rather is Il Buddha, Confucio e Lao-tse: notizie e studii intorno alle religioni dell’Asia Orientale, by Carlo Puini.

There are several English translations of the Yu-Fu-King or Yin Fu King or Yinfujing available today, and sufficient information on these is given in the Wikipedia entry, Huangdi Yinfujing. The 1891 translation by James Legge is now in the public domain and is available online. Since this is a very short text, I have here pasted in the entire translation. Readers can judge for themselves whether they think the Book of Dzyan is based on this Chinese Taoist text. I hardly need to call the attention of readers of this blog to the many Sanskrit parallels to the Book of Dzyan that have been here discussed. I would, however, like to add a word of appreciation to both Gary Lachman and Dr. Wouter Hanegraaff for their helpful and non-hostile approach to the work of Blavatsky.


Yin Fû King, or ‘Classic of the Harmony of the Seen and the Unseen.’

Ch. 1. 1. If one observes the Way of Heaven 1, and maintains Its doings (as his own) 2, all that he has to do is accomplished.

p. 258

2. To Heaven there belong the five (mutual) foes 1, and he who sees them (and understands their operation) apprehends how they produce prosperity. The same five foes are in the mind of man, and when he can set them in action after the manner of Heaven, all space and time are at his disposal, and all things receive their transformations from his person 2.

p. 259

3. The nature of Heaven belongs (also) to Man; the mind of Man is a spring (of power). When the Way of Heaven is established, the (Course of) Man is thereby determined. 1

4. When Heaven puts forth its power of putting to death, the stars and constellations lie hidden in darkness. When Earth puts forth its power of putting to death, dragons and serpents appear on the dry ground. When Man puts forth his power of putting to death, Heaven and Earth resume their (proper course). When Heaven and Man exert their powers in concert, all transformations have their commencements determined. 4_1

5. The nature (of man) is here clever and there stupid; and the one of these qualities may lie hidden in the other. The abuse of the nine apertures is (chiefly) in the three most important, which may be now in movement and now at rest. When fire arises in wood, the evil, having once begun, is sure to go on to the destruction of the wood. When

p. 260

calamity arises in a state, if thereafter movement ensue, it is sure to go to ruin.

When one conducts the work of culture and refining wisely we call him a Sage. 5_1

2. 1. For Heaven now to give life and now to take it away is the method of the Tâo. Heaven and Earth are the despoilers of all things; all things are the despoilers of Man; and Man is the despoiler of all things. When the three despoilers act as they ought to do, as the three Powers, they are at rest. Hence it is said, ‘During the time of nourishment, all the members are properly regulated; when the springs of motion come into play, all transformations quietly take place.’ 1_1

2. Men know the mysteriousness of the Spirit’s (action), but they do not know how what is not Spiritual comes to be so. The sun and moon have their definite times, and their exact measures as

p. 261

large and small. The service of the sages hereupon arises, and the spiritual intelligence becomes apparent. 2_1

3. The spring by which the despoilers are moved is invisible and unknown to all under the sky. When the superior man has got it, he strengthens his body by it; when the small man has got it, he makes light of his life. 3_1

3. 1. The blind hear well, and the deaf see well. To derive all that is advantageous from one source is ten times better than the employment of a host; to do this thrice in a day and night is a myriad times better. 1_1

2. The mind is quickened (to activity) by (external) things, and dies through (excessive pursuit of) them. The spring (of the mind’s activity) is in the eyes.

Heaven has no (special feeling of) kindness, but so it is that the greatest kindness comes from It.

p. 262

The crash of thunder and the blustering wind both come without design. 2_1

3. Perfect enjoyment is the overflowing satisfaction of the nature. Perfect stillness is the entire disinterestedness of it. When Heaven seems to be most wrapt up in Itself, Its operation is universal in its character. 3_1

4. It is by its breath that we control whatever creature we grasp. Life is the root of death, and death is the root of life. Kindness springs from injury, and injury springs from kindness. He who sinks himself in water or enters amidst fire brings destruction on himself. 4_1

p. 263

5. The stupid man by studying the phenomena and laws of heaven and earth becomes sage; I by studying their times and productions become intelligent. He in his stupidity is perplexed about sageness; I in my freedom from stupidity am the same. He considers his sageness as being an extraordinary attainment; I do not consider mine so. 5_1

6. The method of spontaneity proceeds in stillness, and so it was that heaven, earth, and all things were produced. The method of heaven and earth proceeds gently and gradually, and thus it is that the Yin and Yang overcome (each other by turns). The one takes the place of the other, and so change and transformation proceed accordingly. 6_1

7. Therefore the sages, knowing that the method of spontaneity cannot be resisted, take action accordingly and regulate it (for the purpose of culture). The way of perfect stillness cannot be subjected to numerical calculations; but it would seem that there

p. 264

is a wonderful machinery, by which all the heavenly bodies are produced, the eight diagrams, and the sexagenary cycle; spirit-like springs of power, and hidden ghostlinesses; the arts of the Yin and Yang in the victories of the one over the other:–all these come brightly forward into visibility. 7_1

Category: Book of Dzyan | 1 comment


Book of Dzyan, Stanza I, Michael Lewis translation/interpretation

By David Reigle on November 4, 2012 at 4:31 am


“…in the night of Sun-chan.”


– Michael Lewis and Ken Small



Blavatskys’ final version of  Stanza one and also her  Tibetan phonetic source is indented from the original in the Secret Doctrine Proem, p. 23.  The earlier version from Blavatsky’s 1886 manuscript is given after the later one under sub a.
(Michael Lewis translation / interpretation and comments follow in bold italics and plain type. I have made the arrangement and editing. K.S.)



1a.  THE Eternal Mother (space) wrapped in her ever invisible robes (cosmic prenebular matter had slumbered for seven Eternities,


Tho-ag in zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo


The Potential of Spatiality as the Fundamental Cause [or Causal Ground]  slept for seven cycles


Tho-ok = the ‘boundless all’ equivalent to Parmenides apeiron = boundless


Tho = above and ok = below (see example of this usage in the Throma sadhana). Tibetan often makes use of two extremes to create a definition, in this case ‘above/below’ giving the meaning of ‘spatiality’.


Zhi gyu = uncaused cause or fundamental cause ( Zhi-ma would negate this)




2a. (identical rendering)


Zodmanas zhiba.


Patiently the One Mind peacefully  abided


Zhipa = patient     Manas = mind in Sanskrit   Yeh Zhi =  primordial ground or original foundation = Dharmakaya. This would be ‘aja-sakti, the unborn, a Dzogchen term which Blavatsky references in her article on ‘Tibetan Teachings’ give ref.)


            All Nyug bosom.


All was in [the bosom of] the Ultimate Natural State.


Nyug is the same as Nyuk. The nyuk that David Reigle is referring to is spelled snug and means quite correctly duration. However gnyug(ma) which is usually short for gnyug ma’i sems means the genuine innate, interrupted ongoing, perpetual, original natural state or nature or the authentic original untouched nature which is virtually synonymous with Dzogchen. It is said to be ‘ma sam gur pay nur lay day’ = inconceivable and ineffable and cannot be an object of intellective consciousness. As Joseph Campbell says “no tongue can soil it with a name.” The secondary meaning is of continuously residing or indigenous = Sanskrit nija. ‘Nyuk me sems’ is a synonym for rigpa, the uncontrived untouched natural complete awareness spontaneously present. The original, indigenous ‘resident’ of the universe, the mandala of Samantabhadra. The ‘ma’ in gnyugma’ = the motherly underlying empty essence and refers directly to the prajna paramita – the motherly wisdom of the Buddhas.  Blavatsky conveys this by her use of the word ‘bosom’ as a poetic metaphor to convey the correct feeling tone for this meaning.




3a. Time was not, for there were no Dhyan Chohans to contain (hence to manifest) it.


Konch-hog not;


There was no separate existence of Deity;


Konchok – when the Moravian missionaries translated the Christian Bible into Tibetan they used the word ‘Konchog’ when translating ‘God’. It could be translated as ‘supreme superiors’.


Regarding ‘AH-HI’, the expression ‘Ah-hay’ = ‘hadewa’ which means the awe surprised wondering awareness, uncontained. It is also similar to ‘ATI’


            Thyan-Kam not;


Everything was non-dual and was absorbed in the primordial state;


[alternative] Nor was there meditative absorption with formal substratum

[alternative] The one elemnt was absorbed in the primordial state.


Tian Kham = Dhyan = meditative absorption and Kham = formal substratum

or Thyan-Kam = element.


Lha-Chohan not;


There were no gods or exalted ones;


Lha = gods and Chohan = exalted ones



4a.  (identical  rendering)


Tenbrel Chugnyi not;


There was no twelvefold chain of interdependent arising




5a.  (Identical rendering with only without the ending phrase “and his pilgrimage thereon.” is not in this earlier version.)


Dharmakaya ceased;


Dharmakaya ceased


Cho lon yang me = Dharmakaya also was not


“A very profound  view.  I don’t believe this is discussed or elucidated anywhere as a philosophical concept in Buddhist philosophy. Perhaps in Dzogchen, but I do not know of any reference at this time either translated  or in Tibetan.” (M.L.)


Tgenchang not become;


Anything having specific characteristics had not yet become.


Tgenchang  could be rgyen chang = ornament holder. The ‘T’ is not a correct prefix.


            Barnang and Ssa in Ngovonyidj


The blazing forth of experience and its ground in shear essentiality was what was.


Barnang = blazing appearance. Nang = the same meaning as Pleroma in Greek = ‘lighting up’  and implying objects of cognition.




6a.  The seven sublime Truths, and the Seven Srutis—had ceased to be, and the Universe, the Son of Necessity, was plunged in Paranishpanna (absolute perfecton, Paranivwana, which is Jong-grub)—to be outbreathed by that which is, and yet is not. Naught was,


Alone Tho-og Yinsin in night of Sun-chan


The potential of spatiality alone held existence in the night of Sun-chan


 [or alternative  rendering]


The matrix from which would arise the primal deities alone held existence


Sun – chun – according to Chandra Das quoting de Koros, Sun-chun means ancestral spirit or tutelary deities and chan means possessed of.  It would be useful to look for this term in a Zhang-Zhung dictionary.


and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna)


and everything was already accomplished there.

Category: Book of Dzyan | 4 comments


The Book of Dzyan – A short presentation by David Pratt

By admin on April 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm


A short presentation of the context of the Book of Dzyan, as described by H.P.Blavatsky and other theosophists has been put together by David Pratt, and, thanks to his agreement, it is reprinted here as a brief introduction to the subject. More on Theosophy Exploration can be found on David Pratt’s web site .


The Book of Dzyan

H.P. Blavatsky begins the first chapter of Isis Unveiled (1:1) with the following words:

There exists somewhere in this wide world an old Book – so very old that our modern antiquarians might ponder over its pages an indefinite time, and still not quite agree as to the nature of the fabric upon which it is written. It is the only original copy now in existence. The most ancient Hebrew document on occult learning – the Siphra Dzeniouta – was compiled from it, and that at a time when the former was already considered in the light of a literary relic.

She goes on to describe one of the illustrations in the book, which shows Adam emanating from the Divine Essence.(1)

    In The Secret Doctrine (1:xliii), Blavatsky writes:

The ‘very old Book’ is the original work from which the many volumes of Kiu-ti were compiled. Not only this latter and the Siphrah Dzeniouta but even the Sepher Jezirah, the work attributed by the Hebrew Kabalists to their Patriarch Abraham (!), the book of Shu-king, China’s primitive Bible, the sacred volumes of the Egyptian Thoth-Hermes, the Purânas in India, and the Chaldean Book of Numbers and the Pentateuch itself, are all derived from that one small parent volume. Tradition says, that it was taken down in Senzar, the secret sacerdotal tongue, from the words of the Divine Beings, who dictated it to the sons of Light, in Central Asia, at the very beginning of the 5th (our) race . . .

    In an article entitled ‘The Secret Books of “Lam-Rim” and Dzyan’, which was not published during her lifetime, Blavatsky says that the Book of Dzyan, on which The Secret Doctrine is based, is one of the volumes of Kiu-te:

    The Book of Dzyan – from the Sanskrit word ‘Dhyâna’ (mystic meditation) – is the first volume of the Commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te, and a Glossary of the public works of the same name. Thirty-five volumes of Kiu-te for exoteric purposes and the use of the laymen may be found in the possession of the Tibetan Gelugpa Lamas, in the library of any monastery; and also fourteen books of Commentaries and Annotations on the same by the initiated Teachers.
Strictly speaking, those thirty-five books ought to be termed ‘The Popularised Version’ of the Secret Doctrine, full of myths, blinds, and errors; the fourteen volumes of 
Commentaries, on the other hand – with their translations, annotations, and an ample glossary of Occult terms, worked out from one small archaic folio, the Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World – contain a digest of all the Occult Sciences. These, it appears, are kept secret and apart, in the charge of the Teshu-Lama, of Shigatse. The Books of Kiu-te are comparatively modern, having been edited within the last millennium, whereas, the earliest volumes of theCommentaries are of untold antiquity . . .(2)

    G. de Purucker makes the following comments on the Book of Dzyan:

    The Book of Dzyan, as a physical roll or book or manuscript, . . . is, as H.P.B. says, not very old, probably about a thousand years, and is part of a well-known, more or less common Tibetan series of works, well-known even exoterically, called Kiu-ti . . . The substance, however, of the Book of Dzyan, which is simply the Tibetan or Mongolian way of pronouncing the Sanskrit Dhyâna, is very ancient, even highly archaic, goes right back into Atlantean times, and even beyond as regards the doctrine taught. . . .
The Book of Dzyan is written in Tibetan, at least part of it or most of it, is interspersed with a lot of exoteric stuff, but the real occult part of the Book of Dzyan is one of the first of the Kiu-ti volumes and deals mainly with cosmogony, and later on to a less extent, I believe, with anthropogony or the beginnings of mankind.

    Blavatsky states that the Stanzas of Dzyan as presented in The Secret Doctrine are a modern translation that blends together texts and glosses to make them more comprehensible. She speaks of Tibetan and Senzar versions of the stanzas, and says that extracts are given from the Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit translations of the original Senzar commentaries and glosses.(4) She also explains that Senzar, the mystery language of the prehistoric ages, is ‘the language now called SYMBOLISM’.(5) An example is the series of glyphs from ‘an archaic manuscript’ which are described in the first few pages of the Proem (SD 1:1-5), and represent the dawn of a new manvantara.

    In the Introductory to The Secret Doctrine (1:xxii), Blavatsky writes:

One of the greatest, and, withal, the most serious objection to the correctness and reliability of the whole work will be the preliminary STANZAS: ‘How can the statements contained in them be verified?’ . . . The Book of Dzyan (or ‘Dzan’) is utterly unknown to our Philologists, or at any rate was never heard of by them under its present name.

Despite all the information provided by Blavatsky, the actual identity of the public books of Kiu-te remained a mystery for over 80 years after her death. The existence of such books was called into question, and they were often dismissed as figments of her imagination. However, in 1975 H.J. Spierenburg (6) identified the Books of Kiu-te as the Tibetan Buddhist Tantras – the correct transliteration of the Tibetan title is rGyud-sde, but ‘Kiu-te’ is a good approximation of the pronunciation. In 1981, another theosophical scholar, David Reigle, independently came to the same conclusion regarding the identity of the Books of Kiu-te.(7) He writes:

As [Blavatsky] said, they are indeed found in the library of any Tibetan Gelugpa monastery, as also in those of the other sects (Kargyudpa, Nyingmapa, and Sakyapa), and they are indeed highly occult works, being regarded by the entire Tibetan Buddhist tradition as embodying the Buddha’s secret teachings. . . . [O]nly the spelling of the term foiled previous attempts to identify them.(8)

    The spelling ‘Kiu-te’ (or Khiu-te) is taken from the writings of the Capuchin monk Horace della Penna. Blavatsky quotes his extremely negative views on the Books of Kiu-te in her article ‘The Secret Books of “Lam-Rim” and Dzyan’, and they are refuted by the ‘Chohan-Lama’, ‘the Chief of the Archive-registrars of the secret Libraries of the Dalai and Ta-shü-hlumpo Lamas-Rimboche’, in an article entitled ‘Tibetan Teachings’, written at Blavatsky’s request but not published until after her death.(9)

    The Tibetan Buddhist Sacred Canon is divided into two parts: the Kanjur, containing the Buddha’s Word, and the Tanjur, containing commentaries. Reigle believes that the Book of Dzyan may be the Mûla (Root) Kâlachakra Tantra – which is missing. Rather than being ‘lost’, it was probably withdrawn from the outer world, just as various other esoteric works have been either withdrawn or abridged.(10) Given Blavatsky’s remark that the Book of Dzyan is ‘the first volume of the Commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te’, it is significant that the Laghu (Abridged) Kâlachakra Tantra, which is still available, is always placed first among the Books of Kiu-te in editions of the Kanjur. The Kâlachakra Tantra is the only Buddhist Tantra whose subject matter resembles the cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis of The Secret Doctrine. According to Reigle, ‘Dzyan’ is a Tibetan phonetic rendering of the Sanskrit jñâna (wisdom), the result of dhyâna (meditation), and ‘Jñâna’ is the title of the fifth and last section of theKâlachakra Tantra. However, none of the stanzas that Blavatsky quotes from the Book of Dzyan has so far been located in the abridged Kâlachakra Tantra or in verses from the root Kâlachakra Tantra quoted in other Buddhist writings.

    Blavatsky states that the Kâlachakra is the first and most important work in the Gyut (rGyud) division of the Kanjur, the division of mystic knowledge.(11) The Kâlachakra Tantra is considered to be the pinnacle of the Buddha’s esoteric doctrine, and is the only Tantra said to have come directly from Shambhala – which in theosophical literature is regarded as the headquarters of the Brotherhood of Adepts. Furthermore, the Panchen (or Tashi) Lama is the special protector of Kâlachakra, and his monastery, Tashi-lhunpo, near Shigatse, has been the major centre for Kâlachakra studies in Tibet. Blavatsky states that the secret volumes of Kiu-te are in the charge of the Tashi Lama, with whom her adept teachers were closely associated. In a letter to Franz Hartmann in 1886, she writes:

There is beyond the Himalayas a nucleus of Adepts, of various nationalities; and the Teschu Lama knows them, and they act together, and some of them are with him and yet remain unknown in their true character even to the average lamas . . . My Master and K.H. and several others I know personally are there, coming and going . . .(12)

    In the preface to The Voice of the Silence, Blavatsky states that the work is a translation of extracts from The Book of the Golden Precepts, which is part of the same series as the Book of Dzyan. In The Voice it is asked: ‘Wouldst thou become a Yogi of “Time’s Circle”?’ (p. 29) – ‘time’s circle’ or ‘wheel of time’ is the literal translation of kâlachakra. The Voice goes on to say that to become such a yogi, one must not retreat into selfish seclusion, but follow the path of compassionate service to mankind:

    Sow kindly acts and thou shalt reap their fruition. Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin. . . .
Shalt thou abstain from action? Not so shall gain thy soul her freedom. To reach Nirvâna one must reach Self-Knowledge, and Self-Knowledge is of loving deeds the child. (p. 31)

    In 1927 Alice Leighton Cleather and Basil Crump issued a reprint of The Voice of the Silence under the auspices of the Chinese Buddhist Research Society in Peking. In their editorial foreword they state that they undertook the work at the request of the (ninth) Panchen Lama, ‘as the only true exposition in English of the Heart Doctrine of the Mahayâna and its noble ideal of self-sacrifice for humanity’. The Panchen Lama contributed a brief message on the path of liberation. David Reigle says that the time of the ninth Panchen Lama (1883-1937) seemed to mark a new period of growth for the Kâlachakra teachings. During his extensive travels he established new Kâlachakra Colleges in monasteries in Tibet and Mongolia.

While living in Peking, China, he presented the editors of The Voice of the Silence with a small Kâlachakra treatise, and a few years later, in 1932, he there gave the Kâlachakra Initiation to an immense gathering. These large public Initiations are meant to qualify candidates to begin the study and practice of the Kâlachakra Tantra, or, according to the present Dalai Lama, at least to establish a karmic relationship with the Kâlachakra teachings.(13)

The Dalai Lama gave the Kâlachakra initiation in Madison, Wisconsin, in July 1981, the first time it had been given in the West.

    Reigle hopes that a Sanskrit or Tibetan manuscript of the Book of Dzyan will be made available in the not-too-distant future, as this would have a major impact on the academic world and undermine its scepticism towards theosophy.(14) We can be confident that The Book of Dzyan will be released as soon as the time is ripe, for the mahâtmas ‘know best what knowledge is best for mankind at a particular stage of its evolution’.(15)


  1. See The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, TUP, 2nd ed., 1975, p. 45; H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, TUP, 1977 (1888), 1:xlii.
  2. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, TPH, 1950-91, 14:422.
  3. G. de Purucker, Studies in Occult Philosophy, TUP, 1973, pp. 452-4.
  4. The Secret Doctrine, 1:22-3.
  5. Ibid., 1:309. See also: Studies in Occult Philosophy, pp. 442-3; John Algeo, Senzar: The mystery of the mystery language, Theosophical History Centre, 1988.
  6. H.J. Spierenburg, The Buddhism of H.P. Blavatsky, PLP, 1991, pp. 135-50.
  7. David ReigleThe Books of Kiu-te or The Tibetan Buddhist Tantras: a preliminary analysis, Wizards Bookshelf, 1983; David Reigle & Nancy Reigle, Blavatsky’s Secret Books: twenty years’ research, Wizards Bookshelf, 1999. See also Robert Hütwohl, ‘The Practical Vision of Sri Kâlacakra’, The High Country Theosophist, April 1997, pp. 9-19, Dec. 1997, p. 13.
  8. Reigle, The Books of Kiu-te, p. 1.
  9. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 6:94-112. See also Jean Overton Fuller, Blavatsky and Her Teachers, East-West Publications, 1988, pp. 111-2.
  10. See The Secret Doctrine, 1:xxiii-xxxv, 68, 269-72.
  11. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 14:402; The Secret Doctrine, 1:52fn.
  12. Charles J. Ryan, H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement, TUP, 2nd ed., 1975, p. 85. See also: Blavatsky Collected Writings, 14:425; Theosophical Glossary (1892), Theos. Co., 1973, p. 305.
  13. Reigle, The Books of Kiu-te, p. 37.
  14. The High Country Theosophist, Feb. 1995, pp. 29-32, Dec. 1995, pp. 246-9.
  15. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 6:265.

by David Pratt. November 1998.


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