Observing the Modern Theosophical
Effort, In Its Threefold and Sevenfold Nature
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
Front cover of “The Fire and
Light of Theosophical Literature”
The following text reproduces Chapter Twenty One
of the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical
Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline, The
, 255 pp., 2013. Portugal
“We say and maintain that SOUND, for one
thing, is a tremendous Occult power; that it is a
stupendous force, of which the electricity generated by a
million of Niagaras could never counteract the smallest
potentiality when directed with occult knowledge.”
“If it is true (…) that everything in Nature is
septenate, then words and ideas are septenate...”
The power of Mantra is intimately connected with the process of Emanation. “In the beginning was the Word”, says John, I,
1, in the New Testament. And
indeed, one can also say that “in the beginning” of the modern theosophical
movement “it was the Mantra”, the occult
sound of Wisdom; and the sound was expressed in three levels, or rates of
The newly-born theosophical movement had a Spirit, a Soul and a Body. H.P. Blavatsky and the other two main founders - W.Q. Judge and H.S. Olcott - were but outer instruments who helped others in making the sacred sound start amidst the rather noisy bulk of human karma. It was the keynote for a new cycle that was beginning to vibrate.
These three initial layers or notes loosely expressed themselves and their complex impersonal interplay in the three recognized Sections of the movement.
In the Rules and Bye-Laws established in
in 17 December 1879, one reads: India
“XI. The [Theosophical] Society consists of three sections. The highest or First Section is composed exclusively of proficients or initiates in Esoteric Science and Philosophy, who take a deep interest in the Society’s affairs and instruct the President-Founder how best to regulate them. (.....) The Second Section embraces such Theosophists as have proved by their fidelity, zeal, and courage, and their devotion to the Society, that they have become able to regard all men as equally their brothers, irrespective of caste, colour, race, or creed; and who are ready to defend the life or honour of a brother Theosophist even at the risk of their own lives.”
The Third Section was probationary. All new fellows were on probation, “until their purpose to remain in the Society has become fixed, their usefulness shown, and their ability to conquer evil habits and unwarrantable prejudices demonstrated.” 
Such a triadic view of the movement as a whole corresponds to the threefold microcosmic classification of the individual levels of consciousness. The Movement has, 1) a Spirit, which provides the vision and the teaching; 2) a Soul, a central linking element; and, 3) a Body, an outer vehicle for its manifestation in the world. These three levels also relate to the three gunas or qualities of the manifested world. The First Section or Spirit gives the movement the Satwa guna, or rhythm and harmony. The Second Section, its Soul/Mind, gives it Rajas, id est, movement, passion, aspiration; it makes things happen. The Third Section, the Body, is the material aspect of the movement, and it corresponds to Tamas guna, which is stability and, in its negative aspect, routine and decay.
In the absence of the Spirit there is no Satwic rhythm and harmony. As a result, the Rajasic guna is poorly managed. Soon the Soul of the movement gets confused by ignorance and personal ambitions. Such a wrong kind of Rajas first provokes division and fragmentation. Later on it “calms down” only to lead the movement into a long term Tamas of paralysis and decay. The road to it is provided by an attachment to comfort and routine. It certainly is not too difficult, nowadays, to see Rajasic division and Tamasic paralysis, in many a sector of the movement.
In the long run, if one is allowed to use the metaphor presented in the classic work “The Dream of Ravan” , we have the following view of the three sections or levels in the movement, and some of their analogical correspondences:
* The Third Section is the Body. Its quality is Tamas, and it corresponds to the Coal.
* The Second Section is the Soul/Mind. Its quality is Rajas; it corresponds to the Fire.
* The First Section is the Spirit. Its quality is Satwa, and it corresponds to the Light.
As long as one obtains a correct combination of the three factors above, there is enough fire and light in the movement. Time and experience show how best to keep the coal dry, and how to use the wind of thought so that Fire purifies Soul and Spirit enlightens Life.
Such a triadic view of the movement is not the only way to look at it. After the first years of her public mission, HPB started teaching about the seven principles of consciousness. She gradually unveiled the septenary character of all things in the universe.
The Sun light and its energy have seven aspects. Sound and music have seven main notes in their scale, and these correspond to the seven sacred planets, related to the Pythagorean Music of the Spheres. The Earth chain has seven globes. Our humanity evolves through seven races, and every human being combines in himself seven different levels of reality, through his seven principles. Humans are septenary inhabitants of a septenary planet, which travels along the space of a septenary solar system. And the solar system moves around the center of a Septenary Galaxy whose size is one hundred thousand light years, according to present-day science.
There is a harmonious correspondence between the triadic and the septenary views of man. Atma and Buddhi, the two highest of the seven principles, are the equivalent in the triadic classification to Spirit. Manas and
Kama, the two intermediary
principles, correspond to the Soul. And Linga
Sharira, Prana and Sthula Sharira, the three outer
principles, correspond to the Body.
Therefore the movement is Three, and it is Seven. But it is also One, because, as William Judge wrote, “it is to be found in all times and in all nations”. Its inner constitution is not subject to outer bureaucratic divisions. It is a unique combination of several levels of reality, consciousness, karma and universal good will, and it does not obey to the limits of human institutions.
Our Earth relates to the physical Body of man, or to his three lowest principles, in the septenary classification. The Moon has a special link to his Soul, or his intermediary principles. And the Sun relates to his Spirit, his Nous, his highest principles, his Monad.
In “Isis Unveiled”, there is a long quotation by Plutarch on this topic. The ancient sage had this to say on the triad made of Nous (understanding), Soul (feeling) and Body (physical vehicle): “Of these three parts conjoined and compacted together, the earth has given the body, the moon the soul, and the sun the understanding to the generation of man.” 
Besides these three astronomical elements, one must also take into consideration that the “sacred planets”, from the point of view of the Earth and Man, are seven.
Each of these three and seven lines of evolution has its own rhythm, although they are all intimately interconnected. In “The Secret Doctrine”, one reads that the Sun, the Moon and the Earth are all septenary, just as human beings are:
“The last word of the mystery is divulged only to the adepts, but it may be stated that our satellite is only the gross body of its invisible principles. Seeing then that there are 7 Earths, so there are 7 Moons, the last one alone being visible; the same for the Sun, whose visible body is called a Maya, a reflection, just as man’s body is. ‘The real Sun and the real Moon are as invisible as the real man’, says an occult maxim.” 
The Mysteries have seven keys (see “The Secret Doctrine”, volume I, p. 325). Eastern Occultism has seven modes of interpretation for sacred scriptures (“The Secret Doctrine”, volume I, p. 374). The theosophical movement must therefore have seven levels as well. But can we have a distinct glimpse of its sevenfold nature?
H.P. Blavatsky did not say much about this issue. In November 1890 she made one brief commentary on the seven principles of the movement, during a meeting with students of her Inner Group in
According to the records of the meeting - which give it in a few words - HPB
said, first, that the Theosophical Society was but the lower Quaternary of the
movement. As we know, a lower quaternary includes: London
1) The physical existence (sthula sharira);
2) The “physical” vitality (prana);
3) The “astral double” (linga sharira), and
4) The animal/personal feelings (
HPB added further that the
was the Lower Manas, and the Inner Group of the School was the Manas
of the movement. Esoteric School
Of course, such a statement was an informal metaphor made en passant and containing hints about the occult topography of the movement. It was not to the Theosophical Society per se, or to the
and its Inner
Group as physical realities, that HPB
was referring. She referred to levels of
consciousness, not to outer shells, nor to formal or bureaucratic groups of
Indeed, soon after HPB left the scene the original Theosophical Society ceased to exist, due to a perhaps unconscious treason led by Annie Besant and others. HPB’s
and its “inner
group” also disappeared as living
realities, although they subsisted as empty shells. London Esoteric
This cannot change the central fact that the septenary classification of principles does apply to the theosophical movement, a point which can be better understood if one looks at the movement as a living process and not as a dead letter bureaucracy. Wherever and whenever the movement is really alive, it must be both triadic and septenary. The essence of HPB’s septenary classification of principles is valid today as it was in 1890; and so is the essence of the threefold classification. If one puts in more general words the same information given by HPB in the 1890 meeting, so that it can more clearly apply to the living movement in any time and place, one will say:
* The outer theosophical movement, that is, the variously organized sangha or community which gathers students of the authentic esoteric philosophy, corresponds to the lower quaternary of a more complex, septenary, living process.
* The esoteric level or “school” of such a movement is that environment or atmosphere on which students can promote and share a long-standing process of self-training whose aim is lay discipleship or inner learning; and this corresponds to the lower Manas, or the lower aspect of the fifth principle in the movement.
* One level in the action of the most experienced, dedicated and insightful of such students will correspond in its collective focus to Manas proper, the higher fifth principle which is basically free from kamic bondage.
* Buddhi, the sixth principle of the movement, did not have to be mentioned by HPB. It corresponds to the action and influence of the Mahatmas and Initiates, as they connect to the Movement and to Humanity through buddhic Compassion and Solidarity.
* Atma, the seventh principle, corresponds to the Adeptic consciousness in itself, beyond any specific actions or tasks.
In a more specific approach, one may go back to the triadic view of the movement in order to obtain some of the best evidences available, regarding the sixth (buddhic) and seventh (atmic) principles of the theosophical effort.
The First Section, formally contemplated in the bye-laws of the original Society, corresponds to the “Monadic” (Atma-Buddhic) level of the movement. As we saw, for some time after 1875 Adepts and Initiates were officially considered part of the organized movement, in its triadic structure. This is not so any longer: yet they must be still connected to the movement, and the nature of their connection is well clarified by the study of the septenary vision of the movement. One significant fact is that Atma and Buddhi are not within the organism they inspire, as can be seen in the volume “The Mahatma Letters”.
In August 1882, one of the Mahatmas wrote a revealing letter to A. P. Sinnett and A. O. Hume. In a previous statement, the Master had told them that “there is within man no abiding principle”. Sinnett had then asked: “How about the sixth and seventh principles?”
The Master commented:
“To this I answer, neither Atma nor Buddhi ever were within man, - a little metaphysical axiom that you can study with advantage in Plutarch and Anaxagoras. The latter made his - nous autocrates - the spirit self-potent, the nous that alone recognized noumena, while the former taught on the authority of Plato and Pythagoras that the semomnius or this nous always remained without the body; that it floated and overshadowed so to say the extreme part of the man’s head, it is only the vulgar who think it is within them. (.....) The permanent never merges with the impermanent although the two are one.” 
The same statement is made, and with more explanations, in “Isis Unveiled”.
By using the law of analogy and applying this idea to the movement as a whole, one sees that the higher principles of the modern theosophical movement - that is, the adeptic and initiatic consciousness - overshadow its intermediary principles, which correspond to the subtle atmosphere created by the efforts of serious aspirants to the esoteric wisdom. It may also have some influence on the movement’s Quaternary, that is, on its organized, visible action and work.
This, however, can never be taken for granted. It will depend on the quality of the individual work done by theosophists, and whether they have “a clean life, an open mind, a pure heart”, a courageous endurance of personal injustice, and a constant eye to the ideal of human progression and perfection.
Whenever the necessary conditions exist, the Sacred Presence will implicitly overshadow in a more intense way both the “soul” and the “body” of the movement. As “The Secret Doctrine” puts it:
“The ever unknowable and incognizable Karana alone, the Causeless Cause of all causes, should have its shrine and altar on the holy and ever untrodden ground of our heart - invisible, intangible, unmentioned, save through ‘the still small voice’ of our spiritual consciousness. Those who worship before it, ought to do so in the silence and the sanctified solitude of their Souls: making their spirit the sole mediator between them and the Universal Spirit, their good actions the only priests, and their sinful intentions the only visible and objective sacrificial victims to the Presence.” 
Seen as a living organism, the theosophical movement is like that Ashwattha tree which grows with its roots above, its branches below.
As to its leaves, they are not only the Vedas, as the Gita states. They include every wisdom tradition, and all philosophy, religion and science, if only one looks at them from the right point of view. HPB writes about a previous and wiser humanity:
“It was the living tree of divine wisdom; and may therefore be likened to the Mundane Tree of the Norse Legend, which cannot wither and die until the last battle of life shall be fought, while its roots are gnawed all the time by the dragon, Nidhogg; for even so, the first and holy Son of Kriyasakti had his body gnawed by the tooth of time, but the roots of his inner being remained for ever undecaying and strong, because they grew and expanded in heaven, not on earth.” 
The true roots of the theosophical movement’s tree are also in heaven, or rather in Atma-Buddhi, its sixth and seventh principles. At the right time in every cycle, the Branches and Leaves of such a tree-movement will once more get visibly strong: there is no need to ask about that. Yet perhaps the work for the movement is more meritorious during the hard, silent times, than during the easy and noisy ones. 
 “The Secret Doctrine”, H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Company,
, 1982, vol. I,
p. 555. Los Angeles
 “The Friendly Philosopher”, Robert Crosbie, Theosophy Co.,
, 1945, p. 41. Los Angeles, USA
 “Principles, Rules and Bye-Laws as revised in General Council at
Bombay, December 17, 1879”, see “The Theosophist”, ,
volume I, April 1880, pp. 179-180. Adyar, India
 “The Dream of Ravan”, Theosophy Company,
248 pp., see p. 54. Mumbai, India
 HPB wrote a great deal about the significance of number seven and the septenary character of life. See for instance her articles “The Number Seven” (“The Theosophist”, June 1880 edition), “The Number Seven and our Society” (“Theosophist”, September 1880), and virtually every Chapter in “The Secret Doctrine”, especially Chapter XXV in volume II, “The Mysteries of the Hebdomad”. The reader will also find many revealing passages in “Isis Unveiled”, including volume II, pp. 417-419.
 In the article “The Theosophical Movement”, “Path”, August 1895. See “Theosophical Articles”, W.Q. Judge, Theosophy Company, volume II, p. 124.
 “Isis Unveiled”, H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co.,
, 1982, volume II, pp. 283-284. Los Angeles
 “The Secret Doctrine”, H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co.,
, 1982, volume I, p. 179. Los Angeles
 “The Inner Group Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky”, Point Loma Publications, 1985, p. 27. The exact words in the minutes of the meeting say: “H.P.B. said that the Inner Group was the Manas of the T.S. The E.S. was the Lower Manas; the T.S. the Quaternary.”
 In Greek letters in the original.
 “The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett”, TUP,
, Letter CXXVII, p. 455. See Letter Pasadena 72 in the Chronological
edition, . Philippines
 “Isis Unveiled”, H.P. Blavatsky, volume II, pp. 283-285.
 “The Secret Doctrine”, Helena P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Company,
volume I, p. 280. Los Angeles
 See the opening paragraph in the fifteenth Chapter, “Bhagavad Gita”, The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles/Mumbai, 1986.
 “The Secret Doctrine”, HPB, volume I, p. 211.
 An initial version of the above Chapter was published as an article in FOHAT magazine,
, Fall 2008, volume XII,
Number 3, pp. 57-60. Canada
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