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Principle (from the Latin principium, meaning "beginning, foundation") is a technical term used in Theosophy, which refers to "a fundamental essence, particularly one producing a given quality."[1] In this view, there are seven principles constituting both the universe and human beings:

Principles. The Elements or original essences, the basic differentiations upon and of which all things are built up. We use the term to denote the seven individual and fundamental aspects of the One Universal Reality in Kosmos and in man. Hence also the seven aspects in the manifestation in the human being—divine, spiritual, psychic, astral, physiological and simply physical.[2]

Seven principles in human beings

The first publication describing the seven principles in human being was in "Fragments of Occult Truth". The information came as a result of his correspondence with some of the Mahatmas, part of which was published in the book The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett. Below is his description:

1. The Physical body, composed wholly of matter in its grossest and most tangible form.

2. The Vital principle --- (or Jiv-atma) ---, a form of force, indestructible and when disconnected with one set of atoms, becoming attracted immediately by others.

3. The Astral body (Linga Sharira) composed of highly etherialized matter; in its habitual passive state, the perfect but very shadowy duplicate of the body; its activity, consolidation and form depending entirely on the kama rupa.

4. The Astral shape (kama rupa) or body of desire, a principle defining the configuration of--

5. The animal or physical intelligence or consciousness or Ego, analogous to, though proportionally higher in degree than, the reason, instinct, memory, imagination, &c., existing in the higher animals.

6. The Higher or Spiritual intelligence or consciousness, or spiritual Ego, in which mainly resides the sense of consciousness in the perfect man, though the lower dimmer animal consciousness co-exists in No. 5.

7. The Spirit --- an emanation from the ABSOLUTE; uncreated; eternal; a state rather than a being.[3]

Mr. Hume added that the first two principles constitute "The Body", the three middle principles form "The Animal Soul or Perispirit", and the last two principles constitute "The Spiritual Soul or Spirit". In this classification, the fifth principle is regarded as the "animal or physical intelligence", which later on will be regarded as only the lower aspect of the fifth pinciple or manas.

In 1883 A. P. Sinnett, the main correspondent of the Mahatma Letters published the seven principles, renaming some of them, and adding the Sanskrit names:

1. The Body . . . . . . . Rupa.

2. Vitality . . . . . . . . . Prana, or Jiva.

3. Astral Body. . . . . . Linga Sharira.

4. Animal Soul. . . . . . Kama Rupa.

5. Human Soul. . . . . . Manas.

6. Spiritual Soul. . . . . Buddhi.

7. Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . Atma.[4]

In 1889, the seven principles were explained by Mme. Blavatsky as follows:


(a) Rupa, or Sthula-Sarira -- Physical body -- Is the vehicle of all the other "principles" during life.

(b) Prana -- Life, or Vital principle -- Necessary only to a, c, d, and the functions of the lower Manas, which embrace all those limited to the (physical) brain.

(c) Linga Sharira -- Astral body -- The Double, the phantom body.

(d) Kama rupa -- The seat of animal desires and passions -- This is the centre of the animal man, where lies the line of demarcation which separates the mortal man from the immortal entity.


(e) Manas — a dual principle in its functions -- Mind, Intelligence: which is the higher human mind, whose light, or radiation links the MONAD, for the lifetime, to the mortal man -- The future state and the Karmic destiny of man depend on whether Manas gravitates more downward to Kama rupa, the seat of the animal passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the Spiritual Ego. In the latter case, the higher consciousness of the individual Spiritual aspirations of mind (Manas), assimilating Buddhi, are absorbed by it and form the Ego, which goes into Devachanic bliss.

(f) Buddhi -- The Spiritual Soul -- The vehicle of pure universal spirit.

(g) Atma -- Spirit -- One with the Absolute, as its radiation.[5]

Individuality and personality

The division of the principles into the lower quaternary and the upper or higher triad gives rise to an important classification, that of individuality and personality:

Esoteric philosophy teaches the existence of two Egos in man, the mortal or personal, and the Higher, the Divine and the Impersonal, calling the former "personality" and the latter "Individuality".[6]

The teachings of Occultism divide man into three aspects -- the divine, the thinking or rational, and the irrational or animal man. For metaphysical purposes also he is considered under a septenary division, or, as it is agreed to express it in theosophy, he is composed of seven "principles," three of which constitute the Higher Triad, and the remaining four the lower Quaternary. It is in the latter that dwells the Personality which embraces all the characteristics, including memory and consciousness, of each physical life in turn. The Individuality is the Higher Ego (Manas) of the Triad considered as a Unity. In other words the Individuality is our imperishable Ego which reincarnates and clothes itself in a new Personality at every new birth.[7]

Personality. In Occultism--which divides man into seven principles, considering him under the three aspects of the divine, the thinking or the rational, and the animal man--the lower quaternary or the purely astrophysical being; while by Individuality is meant the Higher Triad, considered as a Unity. Thus the Personality embraces all the characteristics and memories of one physical life, while the Individuality is the imperishable Ego which re-incarnates and clothes itself in one personality after another.[8]

Thus, Individuality refers to the three higher principles (ātman, buddhi and manas) or, more specifically, to the fifth principle, the higher manas or reincarnating Ego, while the Personality refers to the four lower principles, namely the physical body (sthūla-śarīra), liṅga śarīra, prāṇa and kāma.

Esoteric classification

Mme. Blavatsky wrote:

Speaking metaphysically and philosophically, on strict esoteric lines, man as a complete unit is composed of Four basic Principles and Three Aspects produced by them on this earth. In the semi-esoteric teachings, these Four and Three have been called Seven Principles, to facilitate the comprehension of the masses.[9]

Below, a summary of her explanation:

Eternal Principles Transitory Aspects
1. Âtman, or Jiva 1. Prâna, the Breath of Life
2. Auric Envelope 2. Linga-Sarira
3. Buddhi
4. Manas (the Higher Ego).
3. Lower Manas
Colored representation of the seven principles by H. P. Blavatsky

Mme. Blavatsky designed a colored representation of the seven principles in human beings. According to her, "the colored part of the Plate is profoundly esoteric".[10] The key to the interpretation of the colors is as follows:[11]

Chhâyâ, Shadow or Double Violet
Higher Manas, Spiritual Intelligence Indigo
Auric Envelope Blue
Lower Manas, or Animal Soul Green
Buddhi, or Spiritual Soul Yellow
Prâna, or Life-Principle Orange
Kâma-Rûpa, the seat of Animal Life Red

Mme. Blavatsky explains some aspects of the diagram as follows:

You find here Paramâtman, the Spiritual Sun, outside of the human Auric Egg, as also outside the Macrocosmic or Brahmâ’s Egg. Why? Because . . . it is not a principle, but the cause of every principle . . . The Plate shows, moreover, Buddhi, the yellow semi-disc, serving as a vehicle to that Paramâtmic shadow, to be universal, and so also is the human Âtman, the Sun or white sphere above Buddhi. Within the blue Auric Egg we find the orange macrocosmic pentacle of LIFE, Prâna, containing within itself the (red) pentagram which represents man. Have you noticed that while the universal pentacle has its point soaring upwards (the sign of White Magic), in the human red pentacle it is the lower points which are upward, forming the “Horns of Satan,” as the Christian Kabalists call it? This is the symbol of matter, that of personal man, and the recognized pentacle of the black magician. For the red pentacle does not stand only for Kâma, the fifth principle exoterically, but is made also to represent physical man, the animal of flesh with its desires and passions. . . That the upper (indigo blue) Manas is connected with the lower (green) Manas by a thin line which binds the two together. This is the Antaskarana, that path or bridge of communication which serves as a link between the personal being whose physical brain is under the sway of the lower (animal) mind, and the reincarnating Individuality, the spiritual Ego, Manas-Manu, the “Divine Man.” . . . Look at the Plate; see the divine Ego tending with its point upwards towards Buddhi, and the human Ego gravitating downwards, immersed in matter and connected with its higher, subjective half only by that Antaskarana.[12]

Comparison between the principles in human beings and cosmos

Mme. Blavatsky explained that the seven principles in human beings are a reflection of those in the cosmos. She compared the two as follows:[13]

Seven Principles.gif

1. The Unmanifested Logos is frequently called the First Logos.

2. The Universal Ideation, still latent, is referred to as the Second, or semi-manifested, Logos.

3. The active Cosmic Intelligence is Mahat, the Universal Mind, also regarded as the Third, or manifested, Logos.

4. The undifferentiated Cosmic Energy is frequently called Fohat, and is the source of all kinds of energies in the Cosmos.

5. The Astral Ideation is a subtle counterpart of things on the terrestrial plane, reciprocally affecting each other.

6. The Life Essence or Energy refers to the Universal Life or Jiva.

7. The Earth is the Globe on which the humanity is evolving at present.

See also

Online Resources






  1. Principle at Wiktionary
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Theosophical Glossary (Los Angeles, CA: Theosophy Company, 1973), 262-263.
  3. See Fragments of Occult Truth No. 1 at Blavatsky Study Center or this PDF.
  4. Alfred Percy Sinnett, Esoteric Buddhism (San Diego, CA: Wizards Bookshelf, 1987), 24.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy, (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 92.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 111.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy, Glossary (Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1972), 359.
  8. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 252.
  9. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 607.
  10. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 547.
  11. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 562.
  12. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 623-624.
  13. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine vol. II (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1979), 596.