Theosophy and the Number Seven
A selection of articles relating to the esoteric
significance of the Number 7 in Theosophy
The Septenary Principle
H P Blavatsky
Since the exposition of the Arhat esoteric doctrine was begun, many whohad not acquainted themselves with the occult basis of Hindu philosophyhave imagined that the two were in conflict. Some of the more bigotedhave openly charged the Occultists of the Theosophical Society withpropagating rank Buddhistic heresy; and have even gone to the length ofaffirming that the whole Theosophic movement was but a masked Buddhistic
propaganda. We were taunted by ignorant Brahmins and learned Europeansthat our septenary divisions of Nature and everything in it, includingman, are arbitrary and not endorsed by the oldest religious systems ofthe East. It is now proposed to throw a cursory glance at the Vedas,the Upanishads, the Law-Books of Manu, and especially the Vedanta, andshow that they too support our position. Even in their crudeexotericism their affirmation of the sevenfold division is apparent.
Passage after passage may be cited in proof. And not only can themysterious number be found traced on every page of the oldest Aryan Sacred Scriptures, but in the oldest books of Zoroastrianism as well;in the rescued cylindrical tile records of old Babylonia and Chaldea, inthe "Book of the Dead" and the Ritualism of ancient Egypt, and even inthe Mosaic books--without mentioning the secret Jewish works, such as the Kabala.
The limited space at command forces us to allow a few brief quotationsto stand as landmarks and not even attempt long explanations. It is noexaggeration to say that upon each of the few hints now given in thecited Slokas a thick volume might be written.
From the well-known hymn To Time, in the Atharva-Veda (xix. 53):
"Time, like a brilliant steed with seven rays,
Full of fecundity, bears all things onward.
"Time, like a seven-wheeled, seven-naved car moves on,
His rolling wheels are all the worlds, his axle
--down to Manu, "the first and the seventh man," the Vedas, the
Upanishads, and all the later systems of philosophy teem with allusionsto this number. Who was Manu, the son of Swayambhuva? The secretdoctrine tells us that this Manu was no man, but the representation ofthe first human races evolved with the help of the Dhyan-Chohans (Devas)at the beginning of the first Round. But we are told in his Laws (BookI. 80) that there are fourteen Manus for every Kalpa or "interval from
creation to creation" (read interval from one minor "Pralaya" toanother) and that "in the present divine age there have been as yetseven Manus." Those who know that there are seven Rounds, of which wehave passed three, and are now in the fourth; and who are taught thatthere are seven dawns and seven twilights, or fourteen Manvantaras;that at the beginning of every Round and at the end, and on and betweenthe planets, there is "an awakening to illusive life," and "an awakeningto real life," and that, moreover, there are "root-Manus," and what wehave to clumsily translate as the "seed-Manus"--the seeds for the human
races of the forthcoming Round (a mystery divulged but to those who havepassed the 3rd degree in initiation); those who have learned all that,will be better prepared to understand the meaning of the following.
Weare told in the Sacred Hindu Scriptures that
"the first Manu producedsix other Manus (seven
primary Manus in all), and these produced intheir
turn each seven other Manus" (
as each planetary Round commences with the appearance of a "Root-Manu"(Dhyan-Chohan) and closes with a "Seed-Manu," so a root-and a seed-Manu appear respectively at the beginning and the termination of the humanperiod on any particular planet.
* The fact that Manu himself is made to declare that he was created byViraj and then produced the ten Prajapatis, who again produced sevenMenus, who in their turn gave birth to seven other Manus (Manu, I.33-36), relates to other still earlier mysteries, and is at the same time a blind with regard to the doctrine of the Septenary chain.
It will be easily seen from the foregoing statement that a Manu-antaric period means, as the term implies, the time between the appearance of two Manus or Dhyan-Chohans: and hence a minor Manu-antara is the duration of the seven races on any particular planet, and a major Manu-antara is the period of one human round along the planetary chain.
that, as it is said that each of the seven Manus creates 7 x 7 Manus, and that
there are 49 root-races on the seven planets during each Round, then every
root-race has its Manu. The present
seventh Manu is called "Vaivasvata," and
stands in the exoteric texts for that Manu who represents in
in the esoteric books we are told that Manu Vaivasvata, the progenitor of our fifth race--who saved it from the flood that nearly exterminated the fourth (Atlantean)--is not the seventh Manu, mentioned in the nomenclature of the Root, or primitive Manus, but one of the 49
"emanated from this 'root'--Manu."
For clearer comprehension we here give the names of the 14 Manus in their respective order and relation to each Round:--
1st 1st (Root) Manu on Planet A.-Swayambhuva
Round. 1st (Seed) Manu on Planet G.-Swarochi
2nd 2nd (R.) M. on Planet A.-Uttama
Round 2nd (S.) M. " " G.-Thamasa
3rd 3rd (R.) M. " " A.-Raivata
Round 3rd (S.) M. " " G.-Chackchuska
4th 4th (R.) M. " " A.-Vaivasvata (our progenitor)
Round 4th (S.) M. " " G.-Savarni
5th 5th (R.) M. " " A.-Daksha Savarni
Round 5th (S.) M. " " G.-Brahma Savarni
6th 6th (R.) M. on Planet A.-Dharma Savarni
Round 6th (S.) M. " " G.-Rudra Savarni
7th 7th (R.) M. " " A.-Rouchya
Round 7th (S.) M. " " G.-Bhoutya
Vaivasvata thus, though seventh in the order given, is the primitive Root-Manu of our fourth Human Wave (the reader must always remember that Manu is not a man but collective humanity), while our Vaivasvata was but one of the seven Minor Manus who are made to preside over the seven races of this our planet. Each of these has to become the witness of one of the periodical and ever-recurring cataclysms (by fire and water
in turn) that close the cycle of every root-race. And it is this
Vaivasvata--the Hindu ideal embodiment called respectively Xisusthrus, Deukalion, Noah, and by other names--who is the allegorical man who rescued our race when nearly the whole population of one hemisphere perished by water, while the other hemisphere was awakening from its temporary obscuration.
The number seven stands prominently conspicuous in even a cursory comparison of the 11th Tablet of the Izdhubar Legends of the Chaldean account of the Deluge and the so-called Mosaic books. In both the number seven plays a most prominent part. The clean beasts are taken by sevens, the fowls by sevens also; in seven days, it is promised Noah, to rain upon the earth; thus he stays "yet other seven days," and again seven days; while in the Chaldean. account of the Deluge, on the seventh day the rain abated. On the seventh day the dove is sent out; by sevens, Xisusthrus takes "jugs of wine" for the altar, &c. Why such
coincidence? And yet we are told by, and bound to believe in, the European Orientalists, when passing judgment alike upon the Babylonian and Aryan chronology they call them "extravagant and fanciful!"
Nevertheless, while they give us no explanation of, nor have they ever noticed, as far as we know, the strange identity in the totals of the Semitic, Chaldean, and Aryan Hindu chronology, the students of Occult Philosophy find the following fact extremely suggestive. While the period of the reign of the 10 Babylonian antediluvian kings is given as 432,000 years,* the duration of the postdiluvian Kali-yug is also given as 432,000, while the four ages or the divine Maha-yug, yield in their totality 4,320,000 years. Why should they, if fanciful and "extravagant," give the identical figures, when neither the Aryans nor the Babylonians have surely borrowed anything from each other! We invite the attention of our occultists to the three figures given--4
standing for the perfect square, 3 for the triad (the seven universal and the seven individual principles), and 2 the symbol of our illusionary world, a figure ignored and rejected by Pythagoras.
* See "
It is in the Upanishads and the Vedanta though, that we have to look for the best corroborations of the occult teachings. In the mystical doctrine the Rahasya, or the Upanishads--"the only Veda of all thoughtful Hindus in the present day," as Monier Williams is made to confess, every word, as its very name implies,* has a secret meaning underlying it. This meaning can be fully realized only by him who has a full knowledge of Prana, the ONE LIFE, "the nave to which are attached the seven spokes of the Universal Wheel." (Hymn to Prana, Atharva-Veda,
Orientalists agree that all the systems in
(a) an exterior or gross body (sthula-sarira);
(b) aninner or shadowy body (sukshma), or linga-sarira (the vehicle), the two cemented with—
(c), life (jiv or Karana sarira, "causal body").**
Thesethe occult system or esotericism divides into seven,
farther adding to these--
1,substance (dravya) refers to body or sthula-sarira;
2, quality orproperty (guna) to the life principle, jiv; 3, action or act (karman)to the Linga, sarira;
4, Community or commingling of properties(Samanya) to Kamarupa;
5, personality or conscious individuality (Visesha) to Manas;
6, co-inherence or perpetual intimate relation(Samuvuya) to Buddhi, the inseparable vehicle of Atman;
7,non-existence or non-being in the sense of, and as separate from,objectivity or substance (abhava)--to the highest monad or Atman.
* Upa-ni-shad means, according to Brahminical authority, "to conquerignorance by revealing the secret spiritual knowledge." According toMonier Williams, the title is derived from the root sad with theprepositions upa and ni, and implies "something mystical that underliesor is beneath the surface."
** This Karana-sarira is often mistaken by the uninitiated for
Linga-sarira, and since it is described as the inner rudimentary orlatent embryo of the body, confounded with it. But the Occultistsregard it as the life (body) or Jiv, which disappears at death; iswithdrawn--leaving the 1st and 3rd principles to disintegrate and return to their elements.
Thus, whether we view the ONE as the Vedic Purusha or Brahman (neuter) the "all-expanding essence;" or as the universal spirit, the "light of lights" (jyotisham jyotih) the TOTAL independent of all relation, of the Upanishads; or as the Paramatman of the Vedanta; or again as Kanada's Adrishta, "the unseen Force," or divine atom; or as Prakriti, the
"eternally existing essence," of Kapila--we find in all these impersonal universal Principles the latent capability of evolving out of themselves "six rays" (the evolver being the seventh). The third aphorism of the Sankhya-Karika, which says of Prakriti that it is the "root and substance of all things," and no production, but itself a producer of "seven things, which produced by it, become also producers," has a purely occult meaning.
What are the "producers" evoluted from this universal root-principle, Mula-prakriti or undifferentiated primeval cosmic matter, which evolves out of itself consciousness and mind, and is generally called "Prakriti" and amulam mulam, "the rootless root," and Aryakta, the "unevolved evolver," &c.? This primordial tattwa or "eternally existing 'that,'" the unknown essence, is said to produce as a first producer, 1, Buddhi--
"intellect"--whether we apply the latter to the 6th macrocosmic or microcosmic principle. This first produced produces in its turn (or is the source of) Ahankara, "self-consciousness" and manas "mind." The reader will please always remember that the Mahat or great source of these two internal faculties, "Buddhi" per se, can have neither self-consciousness nor mind; viz., the 6th principle in man can preserve an essence of personal self-consciousness or "personal individuality" only by absorbing within itself its own waters, which have run through that
finite faculty; for Ahankara, that is the perception of "I," or the
sense of one's personal individuality, justly represented by the term "Ego-ism," belongs to the second, or rather the third, production out of the seven, viz., to the 5th principle, or Manas.
It is the latter whichdraws "as the web issues from the spider" along the thread of Prakriti, the "root principle," the four following subtle elementary principles or particles--Tanmatras, out of which "third class," the Mahabhutas or the gross elementary principles, or rather sarira and rupas, are evolved--
"Prakriti"--the Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas (purity, passionate activity, and ignorance or darkness)--spun into a triple-stranded cord or "rope,"pass through the seven, or rather six, human principles.
It depends on the 5th--Manas or Ahankara, the "I"--to thin the guna,"rope," into one thread--the sattwa; and thus by becoming one with the"unevolved evolver," win immortality or eternal conscious existence.
Otherwise it will be again resolved into its Mahabhautic essence; so long as the triple-stranded rope is left unstranded, the spirit (the divine monad) is bound by the presence of the gunas in the principles "like an animal" (purusha pasu). The spirit, atman or jivatman (the 7th and 6th principles), whether of the macro-or microcosm, though bound by these gunas during the objective manifestation of universe or man, is yet nirguna--i.e., entirely free from them. Out of the three producers or evolvers, Prakriti, Buddhi and Ahankara, it is but the latter that can be caught (when man is concerned) and destroyed when personal. The
"divine monad" is aguna (devoid of qualities), while Prakriti, once that from passive Mula-prakriti it has become avyakta (an active evolver) is gunavat--endowed with qualities. With the latter, Purusha or Atman can have nought to do (of course being unable to perceive it in its gunuvatic state); with the former--or Mula-prakriti or undifferentiated cosmic essence--it has, since it is one with it and identical.
The Atma Bodha, or "knowledge of soul," a tract written by the great Sankaracharya, speaks distinctly of the seven principles in man (see 14th verse). They are called therein the five sheaths (panchakosa) in which is enclosed the divine monad--the Atman, and Buddhi, the 7th and 6th principles, or the individuated soul when made distinct (through avidya, maya and the gunas) from the supreme soul--Parabrahm. The 1st sheath, called Ananda-maya--the "illusion of supreme bliss"--is the
manas or fifth principle of the occultists, when united with Buddhi; the 2nd sheath is Vjnana-maya-kosa, the case or "envelope of self-delusion," the manas when self-deluded into the belief of the personal "I," or ego, with its vehicle. The 3rd, the Mano-maya sheath, composed of "illusionary mind" associated with the organs of action and will, is the Kamarupa and Linga-sarira combined, producing an illusive
"I" or Mayavi-rupa. The 4th sheath is called Prana-maya, "illusionary life," our second life principle or jiv, wherein resides life, the "breathing" sheath. The 5th kosa is called Anna-maya, or the sheath supported by food--our gross material body. All these sheaths produce other smaller sheaths, or six attributes or qualities each, the seventh being always the root sheath; and the Atman or spirit passing through all these subtle ethereal bodies like a thread, is called the "thread-soul" or sutratman.
We may conclude with the above demonstration. Verily the Esoteric doctrine may well be called in its turn the "thread-doctrine," since, like Sutratman or Pranatman, it passes through and strings together all the ancient philosophical religious systems, and, what is more, reconciles and explains them. For though seeming so unlike externally, they have but one foundation, and of that the extent, depth, breadth and
nature are known to those who have become, like the "Wise Men of the East," adepts in Occult Science.
Try these links for
more info about Theosophy
and there’s always a cup of tea afterwards
The Theosophy Website that welcomes
Independent Theosophy Blog
One liners and quick explanations
About aspects of Theosophy
Try these if you are looking for a
local Theosophy Group or Centre
The coastline is almost 750
miles long. The population of
as at the 2001 census is 2,946,200.