by Geoffrey Farthing

Part 2, Chapter V Akasha and the Astral Light

Original EditionDeity Cosmos and Man Centenary Edition



Akasha, "the subtle, supersensuous spiritual essence which pervades all space" The Theosophical Glossary, enters into every feature of the manifold universe. In the literature, it appears under many guises, and the terms used to define it will differ according to the particular aspect under consideration. Thus we find a variety of descriptive statements, each one referring to one of its many aspects or functions. For example:

[Akasha is] the primordial substance erroneously identified with Ether.

... it is to Ether what Spirit is to Matter, or Atma to Kama-rupa.

It is ... the Universal Space in which lies inherent the eternal Ideation of the Universe in its everchanging aspects on the planes of matter and objectivity.

[It is] the power which lies latent at the bottom of every magical performance [i.e. in religious ceremonial operations].

... in another aspect it is Kundalini - occult electricity; the alkahest of the alchemists in one sense, or the universal solvent.

[ It is the] anima mundi on the higher plane as the astral light is on the lower. The Theosophical Glossary

[It is] the ONE Element in its second stage, "Father-Mother" ... divine Astral Light, or the "Soul of the World". Secret Doctrine (I 140, I 163, I 196)


There is one great difference between the Astral Light and the Akasha which must be remembered. The latter is eternal, the former is periodic.

The Akasha is the eternal, divine consciousness which cannot differentiate, have qualities or act. The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky X, 361, Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, 75

Some of the other terms that occur in the above statements must now be studied, especially as Esoteric Science employs them in a way quite different from common usage. Take for example Space, which is ordinarily regarded as a three-dimensional void, whereas in Occultism Space is entirely non-dimensional. If the reader will use the selected statements given here as pointers to lead him into the text, he will find himself breathing a totally different atmosphere from that of modern science, and will increasingly appreciate the grandeur of the concepts of the occult doctrine.

Time and Space are forms of the One incognizable Deity.Secret Doctrine (II 382 fn, II 399 fn, III 380)

A Deity that manifests in Space and Time - these two being simply the forms of THAT which is the Absolute ALL - can be but a fractional part of the whole. Secret Doctrine (II 158, II 168, III 166)

In a footnote in the Proem, Mme Blavatsky quotes, and comments on, a passage from a then recent work in which the author refers to Space as "the Unknown First Cause":

This unknown something, thus recognized as, and identified with, the primary embodiment of Simple Unity, is invisible and impalpable - (abstract space, granted); and because invisible and impalpable, therefore incognizable. And this incognizability has led to the error of supposing it to be a simple void, a mere receptive capacity. Secret Doctrine (I 9 fn, I 38, I 75)


In a page significantly headed "The Pith and Marrow of Occultism", the fundamental Law of the esoteric system is given as "the One homogeneous SUBSTANCE-PRINCIPLE, the one radical cause", a phrase which is further explained:

It is called "Substance-Principle", for it becomes "substance" on the plane of the manifested Universe, an illusion, while it remains a "principle" in the beginningless and endless abstract, visible and invisible SPACE. It is the omnipresent Reality: impersonal, because it contains all and everything. It is impersonality is the fundamental conception of the System. It is latent in every atom in the Universe, and is the Universe itself. Secret Doctrine (I 273, I 294, I 316)

A later footnote comments on an aspect of early Greek thought which, in its conception of Chaos, echoes that of the archaic doctrine. In Hesiod, for example:

Chaos is infinite, boundless, endless and beginningless in duration, an abstraction at the same time as a visible present. SPACE filled with darkness, which is primordial matter, in its pre-cosmic state. For in its etymological sense, Chaos is Space, according to Aristotle, and Space is the ever Unseen and Unknowable Deity in our philosophy. Secret Doctrine (I 336 fn, I 359 fn, II 50)

Another term that occurs frequently in the literature of the esoteric tradition is Anima Mundi, the Soul of the World, or Alaya. Although the particular meaning of any term may vary according to its context, the following statements will show clearly the fundamental concepts which each of the three alternative expressions seeks to convey in regard to the same reality. For example, terms such as "Maha-Atma, Brahman, the Spirit of Life", are used as "identical with the Universal Soul, or Anima-Mundi, the Astral Light of the Theurgists and Kabalists being its last and lowest division." Secret Doctrine (I 461, I 499, II 182) Elsewhere, in a quotation taken from Isis Unveiled, both Light and Life are described as


... electricity - the life-principle, the anima mundi, pervading the universe, the electric vivifier of all things. Light is the great Protean magician, and under the Divine Will of the architect, or rather the architects, the "Builders" (called One collectively), its multifarious, omnipotent waves gave birth to every form as well as to every living being. From its swelling, electric bosom, spring matter and spirit. Within its beams lie the beginnings of all physical and chemical action, and of all cosmic and spiritual phenomena; it vitalizes and disorganizes; it gives life and produces death, and from its primordial point gradually emerged into existence the myriads of worlds, visible and invisible celestial bodies. Secret Doctrine (I 579, I 633, II 303)

A further commentary on the meaning of anima mundi occurs in Volume II of The Secret Doctrine, in a chapter on "The Fall of the Cross into Matter" where it is stated:

With the Esotericists, from the remotest times, the Universal Soul or anima mundi, the material reflection of the Immaterial Ideal, was the Source of Life of all beings and of the life-principle of the three kingdoms; and it was Septenary with the Hermetic philosophers, as with all ancients. For it is represented as a sevenfold cross, whose branches are respectively light, heat, electricity, terrestrial magnetism, astral radiation, motion, and Intelligence, or what some call selfconsciousness. Secret Doctrine (II 562, II 593, IV 132)

A note in the Glossary to Part II of The Voice of the Silence concerning a verse (221) relating to the innermost nature of man as one with the Universal Soul, Alaya, and in explanation of the statement, "the MASTER-SOUL is Alaya, the Universal Soul", says:

The "MASTER-SOUL" is Alaya, the Universal Soul or Atman, each man having a ray of it in him and being supposed to be able to identify himself with and to merge himself into it. The Voice of the Silence, Frag.3, V 221, note 8


Like everything in the Cosmos, the Anima Mundi is seven-fold. "it is in a sense", says the Theosophical Glossary, "the 'seven-skinned mother' of the stanzas in The Secret Doctrine, the essence of seven planes of sentience, consciousness and differentiation, moral and physical. In its highest aspect it is Nirvana, in its lowest Astral Light". This astral light is further described in a footnote:

The astral light stands in the same relation to Akasha and Anima Mundi as Satan stands to the Deity. They are one and the same thing seen from two aspects: the spiritual and the psychic - the super-ethereal or connecting link between matter and pure spirit, and the physical. Secret Doctrine (I 197 fn, I 219, I 247)

In the Commentary on Stanza III, Mme Blavatsky had referred to the prototype of the lotus, as of everything else, being present in the Astral Light:

... the Lotus plant exists not only as a miniature embryo in its seed (a physical characteristic), but its prototype is present in an ideal form in the Astral Light from "Dawn" to "Night" during the Manvantaric period, like everything else, as a matter of fact, in this objective Universe; from man down to mite, from giant trees down to the tiniest blades of grass. Secret Doctrine (I 63, I 92, I 131)

Questioned by her students about the meaning of this statement, she explained further the meaning of the terms, adding:

The Astral Light is that which mirrors the three higher planes of consciousness, and is above the lower, or terrestrial plane; therefore it does not extend beyond the fourth plane, where, one may say, the Akasha begins. The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky X, 360, Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, 74

Elaborating the theme still further, she suggested a comparison between the Akasha and the Astral Light with the help of a simple illustration:


We may compare the Akasha and the Astral Light, with regard to these prototypes, to the germ in the acorn. The latter, besides containing in itself the astral form of the future oak, conceals the germ from which grows a tree containing millions of forms. These forms are contained in the acorn potentially, yet the development of each particular acorn depends upon extraneous circumstances, physical forces, etc. The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky X, 361, Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, 76

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