by Geoffrey Farthing

Part 2, Chapter V1 Elements and Elementals

Original EditionDeity Cosmos and Man Centenary Edition



The Elements come into being as a result of the process of differentiation that accompanies manifestation. From the One, the Many: from homogeneity, diversity:

Primordial matter, then, before it emerges from the plane of the never-manifesting, and awakens to the thrill of action under the impulse of Fohat See Chapter 1 and the Glossary - GAF, is but "a cool Radiance, colourless, formless, tasteless, and devoid of every quality and aspect". From this originating matter are produced the seven primal "Centres of Forces", or atoms, that develop later into the great Cosmic "Elements", now divided into the seventy or so sub-elements known to science. Secret Doctrine (I 82, I 110, I 147)

This was written, of course, before 1888. Science today recognizes many more such sub-elements.)

We now have to consider another aspect of differentiation relating closely to the Elements - the Tattvas. A useful explanation of the term is given by Geoffrey Barborka in The Divine Plan:

Tattva is a Sanskrit word which is generally rendered "reality", although the literal meaning of the word is "that-ness", since it is derived from the pronominal particle tat with the suffix tva. It may also be rendered "element", in the sense of the underlying reality behind the outward appearance or physical manifestation. The Divine Plan, 174

Further help is given to the reader in a description of the idea associated with the word Tattva:


Tattva conveys the idea that there is a "force-side" or "spirit-side" to the elements ... It is the force, or "spirit-side" of an element that enables it to "change", that is, develop or unfold, as the cyclic periods progress, since each era requires a different aspect - because of the various planes - in which the Element-Principle must manifest in order to accomplish its evolutionary advancement or unfoldment. The Divine Plan, 173

Like everything else in Nature, the Tattvas are seven in number, although some Indian systems give only five (for reasons which are explained in the relevant passage). In instructions to her circle of students in London, Mme Blavatsky pointed out that in Nature

... we find seven Forces, or Seven Centres of Force, and everything seems to respond to that number, as for instance, the septenary scale in music, or Sounds, and the septenary spectrum in Colours. Secret Doctrine Addendum(497,474,610,395)

There follows here a list of the seven Tattvas, each with its distinguishing name according to its characteristic nature or function; Adi (the primordial universal Force), Anupadaka (the first differentiation on the plane of being), Akasha (the Creative Force of the Third Logos), Vayu (the aerial plane where substance is gaseous), Taijasa (the plane of our atmosphere, from tejas, luminous), Apas (watery or liquid substance or force) and Prithivi (the terrestrial spirit or force).

All these correspond to our principles, and to the seven senses and forces in man. According to the Tattva or Force generated or induced in us, so will our bodies act. Secret Doctrine Addendum(498,475,612,396)

The correspondences between the Esoteric Principles, Tattvas or Forces, and the Human Body, States of Matter and Colour are set out in the comprehensive table below which should be studied at this point in conjunction with the text.


Diagram III - Table of Some Correspondences
This table is based upon a selection of important correspondences, primarily from the table in Secret Doctrine Addendum (452,432,532,360)

upper triad, Arupa (formless)

lower quaternary, Rupa (with form)




Alaya or Akasha






Auric Egg


Higher Manas (Ego)

Lower Manas (Kama Manas)

Kama (Kama rupa forms after death)

Linga Sharira

Living Body, Animal Life (Prana)


Akasha or Aether

Divine Flame







Synthetic (Embracing All)

Spiritual Understanding







Egg-Blue; Akasha - White, all colours






Orange (Prana)








Sun (Prana)








Re (Prana)

We are familiar with the idea of evolution in the visible kingdoms of Nature around us. Occultism recognizes the universality of the evolutionary principle which brings into existence and develops the Elements one after the other in the sequence of the Rounds (a Round being defined by one of the Mahatmas as "the passage of a monad from globe A to globe Z ... through the encasement in all and each of the four kingdoms" The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett (80,79). The


teaching is elaborated in the Commentary on the much-quoted Stanza VII, which is in effect a summary of the total process:

... every new Round develops one of the compound Elements ... If Nature is the "Ever-becoming" on the manifested plane, then those Elements are to be regarded in the same light: they have to evolve, progress, and increase to the Manvantaric end. Secret Doctrine (I 250, I 271, I 295)

There follows an account of what is accomplished in material evolution through the successive Rounds.

Thus the First Round, we are taught, developed but one Element, and a nature and humanity in what may be called one aspect of Nature - called by some, very unscientifically, though it may be so de facto, "One-dimensional Space". The Second Round brought forth and developed two Elements - Fire and Air, and its humanity, adapted to this condition of Nature, if we can give the name Humanity to beings living under conditions unknown to men, was - to use again a familiar phrase in a strictly figurative sense (the only way in which it can be used correctly) - "a two-dimensioned species". Secret Doctrine (I 250, I 271, I 295)

There follows a commentary on the idea of "dimensional Space", and in particular on the use of the expression "the fourth dimension of Space". Furthermore, it is noted that, as the characteristics of matter are closely related to the human senses,

... by the time that it [matter] fully develops the next characteristic - let us call it for the moment PERMEABILITY - this will correspond to the next sense of man - let us call it "NORMAL CLAIRVOYANCE." Secret Doctrine (I 251, I 272, I 296)

The story of the evolution of Matter through the Rounds is now taken up again:


The centres of consciousness (destined to develop into humanity as we know it) of the third Round arrived at a perception of the third Element Water. Those of the fourth Round have added earth as a state of matter to their stock as well as the three other elements in their present transformation. Secret Doctrine (I 252, I 273, I 297)

The significance of the last few words in the above extract must not be overlooked. They refer to the fact that, as evolution is universal and continuous, and Nature "ever-becoming", "none of the so-called elements were, in the three preceding Rounds, as they are now." Secret Doctrine (I 253, I 273, I 297)

This important aspect of the teaching is further developed in the pages that follow, where we find this paragraph:

The elements, whether simple or compound, could not have remained the same since the commencement of the evolution of our chain. Everything in the Universe progresses steadily in the Great Cycle, while incessantly going up and down in the smaller cycles. Nature is never stationary during manvantara, as it is ever becoming, not simply being; and mineral, vegetable, and human life are always adapting their organisms to the then reigning Elements, and therefore those Elements were then fitted for them as they are now for the life of present humanity. It will only be in the next or fifth Round that the fifth Element, Ether - the gross body of Akasha, if it can be called even that - will, by becoming a familiar fact of Nature to all men, as air is familiar to us now, cease to be as at present hypothetical, and also an "agent" for so many things. And only during that Round will those higher senses, the growth and development of which Akasha subserves, be susceptible of a complete expansion. As already indicated, a partial familiarity with the characteristic of matter - permeability - which should be developed concurrently with the sixth sense, may be expected to develop at the proper period in this Round. But with the next element added to our resources in the next Round, permeability will become so manifest a characteristic of matter, that the densest


forms of this will seem to man's perceptions as obstructive to him as thick fog, and no more. Secret Doctrine (I 257, I 277, I 301)

It may require some considerable effort on the part of the reader to abandon the usual picture evoked by a particular word and to recognize that the reality which that word is used to represent in the occult doctrine must be totally different from his conception of it. Let us take the Element Fire as an example.

Fire, in the ancient philosophy of all times and countries, including our own, has been regarded as a triple principle. As water comprises a visible fluid with invisible gases lurking within, and, behind all the spiritual principle of nature, which gives them their dynamic energy, so, in fire, they recognized: 1st. Visible flame; 2nd. Invisible, or astral fire - invisible when inert, but when active producing heat, light, chemical force, and electricity, the molecular powers; 3rd. Spirit. They applied the same rule to each of the elements; and everything evolved from their combinations and correlations, man included, was held by them to be triune. Fire, in the opinion of the Rosicrucians, who were but the successors of the theurgists, was the source, not only of the material atoms, but also of the forces which energize them. When a visible flame is extinguished it has disappeared, not only from the sight but also from the conception of the materialist, forever. But the Hermetic philosopher follows it through the "partition-world of the knowable, across and out on the other side into the unknowable", as he traces the disembodied human spirit, "vital spark of heavenly flame", into the Aethereum, beyond the grave. Isis Unveiled, I 423 This passage should be noted particularly as it indicates that Elements have, like everything else, internal principles whence come their characteristic qualities.

Mme Blavatsky returns time and again to the distinction that must be drawn between the everyday concepts associated with familiar terms and their connotation in Occultism. Both volumes of The Secret Doctrine include a section in which the views enunciated by contemporary scientists - characterized by an anxiety "to drive spirit out of their


conceptions" - are contrasted with the occult doctrine. Thus, in a chapter "On the Elements and Atoms from the standpoint of Science and that of Occultism", we read:

When the Occultist speaks of "Elements", and of human Beings who lived during those geological ages, the duration of which it is found as impossible to determine, according to the opinion of one of the best English geologists, as the nature of matter, it is because he knows what he is talking about. When he says "Man" and Elements, he neither means "man" in his present physiological and anthropological form, nor the elemental atoms, those hypothetical conceptions, the entitative abstractions of matter in its highly attenuated state, as existing at present in scientific minds; nor, again, the compound Elements of antiquity. In Occultism the word Element means "rudiment" in every case. When we say "Elementary Man", we mean either the proemial, incipient sketch of man, in its unfinished and undeveloped condition, hence in that form which now lies latent in physical man during his lifetime, and takes shape only occasionally and under certain conditions; or that form which for a time survives the material body, and which is better known as an "Elementary". With regard to "Element", when the term is used metaphysically, it means, in distinction to the mortal, the incipient divine man; and, in its physical usage, inchoate matter in its first undifferentiated condition, or in the laya state For the meaning of laya, see the Glossary - GAF, which is the eternal and the normal condition of substance, differentiating only periodically, and being during that differentiation in an abnormal state - in other words, a transitory illusion of the senses. Secret Doctrine (I 566, I 619, I 290)

The reader is constantly reminded of the fundamental teaching of Occultism, namely, the fact of the ONE LIFE, with its inescapable corollary, that all things are but differentiations of the One, by whatever name that One is recognized. This is the science underlying the affirmation that runs through the sacred literature of India, "THAT art thou", the recognition that man in his essential nature is identical with the One Life.


As to the "elemental atoms", so called, the Occultists refer to them by that name with a meaning analogous to that which is given by the Hindu to Brahma when he calls him ANU, the "Atom". Every elemental atom, in search of which more than one chemist has followed the path indicated by the Alchemists, is, in their firm belief (when not knowledge), a SOUL; not necessarily a disembodied soul, but a jiva, as the Hindus call it, a centre of POTENTIAL VITALITY, with latent intelligence in it, and in the case of compound Souls, an intelligent active EXISTENCE, from the highest to the lowest order, a form composed of more or less differentiations. It requires a metaphysician - and an Eastern metaphysician - to understand our meaning. All those atom-Souls are differentiations from the ONE, and in the same relation to it as the divine Soul - the Buddhi - to its informing and inseparable Spirit, or Atman. Secret Doctrine (I 566, I 619, I 290)

Returning now to the Elementals, we must remind ourselves that the Cosmos in its totality is intelligent, but that, in order to bring about specific effects at each level of being, it requires qualified agents. These are the Elementals: they are concerned in every phenomenon of the manifested Cosmos, for they are the operative powers. Without Elementals in their numerous kinds, everything in Nature would be dead - or rather, would not exist. Matter would be unresponsive, insentient, inactive. Some of them, for example, are involved in the motions of the winds, earthquakes and floods, in the incidence of droughts and in the responses of flora and fauna to seasonal changes, as in those changes themselves. Others are concerned in the dynamics of our thinking and feeling and in the regulation of our bodily functions. Nothing that is could exist without them. Yet, though they are the operative agents of the Law, they are not in themselves the Law. Moreover, they are subject to higher intelligences, the Dhyani-Chohanic hosts in their ascending grades, culminating in the Lords of Karma who are recognized in occult literature under such terms as Rectors, Regents, Archangels and the Four Maharajahs.

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