The Four Maharajahs, Lipika & Lords of Karma

1,400 year old Japanese Buddhist statues of the Four Guardian Kings (Maharajahs). Although this is obviously an anthropomorphisation, it is one of many surviving examples throughout the Buddhist world of the importance, recognition, and veneration, given historically to these great “BEINGS” who H. P. Blavatsky calls the “great Kings of the Dhyan-Chohans.”

The subject of the Four Maharajahs (literally “Great Kings” or “Great Rulers”) and the Lipika (literally “Scribes,” “Writers,” “Recorders”), which is found numerous times throughout “The Secret Doctrine” by H. P. Blavatsky, has resulted in two rather opposing views among students of Theosophy.

In “The Theosophical Society – Adyar,” the later version of “Theosophy” that developed some years after the time of HPB tends to greatly anthropomorphise and personalise them in a way that is not consonant with the Theosophy of HPB and her Adept-Teachers, the Masters of Wisdom. But on the other hand – and perhaps as a reaction against this – some in the United Lodge of Theosophists (established in 1909 “to spread broadcast the Teachings of Theosophy as recorded in the Writings of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge”) have tended to overlook the fact that “The Secret Doctrine” repeatedly refers to the Four Maharajahs as “BEINGS,” “Divine Beings,” “celestial beings” etc., and imply that they are merely absolutely impersonal “forces” and “energies.” If they were only forces and energies, HPB surely would have stated that and made it clear but she did not. Perhaps the correct understanding of this subject lies somewhere in the middle of these two perspectives. But we will leave it up to each person to form their own conclusions, through a careful and contemplative study of the following compilation. It is perhaps worth pointing out, however, that the original Theosophical teachings never use the now popular term “Lords of Karma” for either the Maharajahs or the Lipika, although the similar term “Karmic gods” is used for the former.

What certainly becomes apparent from the following is that although so many precious jewels of esoteric knowledge have been disclosed, it still remains unclear exactly what the relation and distinction is between the Maharajahs and Lipikas. In at least two quotes below, they are implied by HPB to be synonymous or at least almost so, while in others she indicates a particular distinction, such as that the Four Maharajahs are “the Agents of Karma on Earth, whereas the Lipika are concerned with Humanity’s hereafter.” But, if we stop to think about it, we have no legitimate need to know for definite about such matters, nor to know exactly how they do their work. As can be seen from the other articles listed under the heading “THE LAW OF KARMA” on our Articles page, none of this is at all essential to gaining a clear, practical, and transformative understanding of the Law of Karma, and that practical and transformative understanding is the most important type of understanding there is. We encourage a reading of such articles as A Right Understanding of Karma, Questions about Karma, Blavatsky on Karma, and Aphorisms on Karma.


Mahârâjahs, The Four (Sk.). The four great Karmic deities with the Northern Buddhists placed at the four cardinal points to watch mankind.” (H. P. Blavatsky, “The Theosophical Glossary” p. 201)

Tchatur Mahârâja (Sk.). The “four kings”, Devas, who guard the four quarters of the universe, and are connected with Karma.” (HPB, “The Theosophical Glossary” p. 324)

“FOHAT [i.e. Cosmic Electricity] TAKES FIVE STRIDES (having already taken the first three) . . . AND BUILDS A WINGED WHEEL AT EACH CORNER OF THE SQUARE FOR THE FOUR HOLY ONES . . . .. .AND THEIR ARMIES (hosts).” (Stanza V, shloka V, from the Book of Dzyan, on Cosmogenesis or cosmic evolution, quoted in “The Secret Doctrine”)

“Four winged wheels at each corner . . . . . for the four holy ones and their armies (hosts)” . . . . . These are the “four Maharajahs” or great Kings of the Dhyan-Chohans, the Devas who preside, each over one of the four cardinal points. They are the Regents or Angels who rule over the Cosmical Forces of North, South, East and West, Forces having each a distinct occult property. These BEINGS are also connected with Karma, as the latter needs physical and material agents to carry out her decrees, such as the four kinds of winds, for instance, professedly admitted by Science to have their respective evil and beneficent influences upon the health of Mankind and every living thing. There is occult philosophy in that Roman Catholic doctrine which traces the various public calamities, such as epidemics of disease, and wars, and so on, to the invisible “Messengers” from North and West. . . . Belief in the “Four Maharajahs” – the Regents of the Four cardinal points – was universal and is now that of Christians, who call them, after St. Augustine, “Angelic Virtues,” and “Spirits” when enumerated by themselves, and “Devils” when named by Pagans. . . . it is not the “Rector” or “Maharajah” who punishes or rewards . . . but man himself – his deeds or Karma, attracting individually and collectively (as in the case of whole nations sometimes), every kind of evil and calamity. We produce CAUSES, and these awaken the corresponding powers in the sidereal world; which powers are magnetically and irresistibly attracted to – and react upon – those who produced these causes; whether such persons are practically the evil-doers, or simply Thinkers who brood mischief. Thought is matter, we are taught by modern Science; and “every particle of the existing matter must be a register of all that has happened,” as in their “Principles of Science” Messrs.  Jevons and Babbage tell the profane.  . . .

“In the Egyptian temples, according to Clemens Alexandrinus, an immense curtain separated the tabernacle from the place for the congregation. The Jews had the same. In both, the curtain was drawn over five pillars (the Pentacle) symbolising our five senses and five Root-races esoterically, while the four colours of the curtain represented the four cardinal points and the four terrestrial elements. The whole was an allegorical symbol. It is through the four high Rulers over the four points and Elements that our five senses may become cognisant of the hidden truths of Nature; . . .

“If the student would know more of them, he has but to compare the Vision of Ezekiel (chap. i.) with what is known of Chinese Buddhism (even in its exoteric teachings); and examine the outward shape of these “Great Kings.” In the opinion of the Rev. Joseph Edkins, they are “the Devas who preside each over one of the four continents into which the Hindus divide the world.” Each leads an army of spiritual beings to protect mankind and Buddhism. With the exception of favouritism towards Buddhism, the four celestial beings are precisely this. They are the protectors of mankind and also the Agents of Karma on Earth, whereas the Lipika are concerned with Humanity’s hereafter. At the same time they are the four living creatures “who have the likeness of a man” of Ezekiel’s visions, called by the translators of the Bible, “Cherubim,” “Seraphim,” etc.; and by the Occultists, “the winged Globes,” the “Fiery Wheels,” and in the Hindu Pantheon by a number of different names. . . . Ezekiel plainly describes the four Cosmic Angels: “I looked, and behold, a whirlwind, a cloud and fire infolding it . . . also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures . . . they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces and four wings . . . the face of a man, and the face of a lion, the face of an ox, and the face of an eagle . . . ” (“Man” was here substituted for “Dragon.” Compare the “Ophite Spirits.”) . . . “Now as I beheld the living creatures behold one wheel upon the Earth with his four faces . . . as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel . . . for the support of the living creature was in the wheel . . . their appearance was like coals of fire . . .” etc. (Ezekiel, ch. i.)” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 122-127)

“‘Let every lord of the Dazzling Face (an adept of the White Magic) cause the Viwân [i.e. flying vehicle] of every lord of the Dark Face to come into his hands (or possession), lest any (of the Sorcerers) should by its means escape from the waters, avoid the rod of the Four, (Karmic deities) and save his wicked’ (followers, or people). . . .

The hour has struck, the black night is ready, etc., etc.

Let their destiny be accomplished. We are the servants of the great Four.’  

‡ The four Karmic gods, called the Four Maharajahs in the Stanzas.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 427, excerpt from HPB’s translation of a secret manuscript which she says on p. 423 “is said to have been copied from stone tablets which belonged to a Buddha of the earliest day of the Fifth Race, who had witnessed the Deluge and the submersion of the chief continents of the Atlantean race.”)

“As already stated, that which Mr. G. Massey calls the four genii of the four cardinal points; and the Chinese, the Black Warrior, White Tiger, Vermilion Bird, and Azure Dragon, is called in the Secret Books, – the “Four Hidden Dragons of Wisdom” and the “Celestial Nâgas.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 408-409)


Lipikas (Sk.). The celestial recorders, the “Scribes”, those who record every word and deed, said or done by man while on this earth. As Occultism teaches, they are the agents of KARMA – the retributive Law.” (HPB, “The Theosophical Glossary” p. 190)

“. . . “the Lipika and the four Maharajas,” the agents of Karma.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 294)

“. . . THEN THE SECOND SEVEN, WHO ARE THE LIPIKA, PRODUCED BY THE THREE (Word, Voice, and Spirit). . . .” (Stanza IV, shloka VI, from the Book of Dzyan, on Cosmogenesis or cosmic evolution, quoted in “The Secret Doctrine”)

“Mystically, these Divine Beings are connected with Karma, the Law of Retribution, for they are the Recorders or Annalists who impress on the (to us) invisible tablets of the Astral Light, “the great picture-gallery of eternity” – a faithful record of every act, and even thought, of man, of all that was, is, or ever will be, in the phenomenal Universe. As said in “Isis,” this divine and unseen canvas is the BOOK OF LIFE. As it is the Lipika who project into objectivity from the passive Universal Mind the ideal plan of the universe, upon which the “Builders” reconstruct the Kosmos after every Pralaya, it is they who stand parallel to the Seven Angels of the Presence, whom the Christians recognise in the Seven “Planetary Spirits” or the “Spirits of the Stars;” for thus it is they who are the direct amanuenses of the Eternal Ideation – or, as called by Plato, the “Divine Thought.” . . .

“The forty “Assessors” who stand in the region of Amenti as the accusers of the Soul before Osiris, belong to the same class of deities as the Lipika, and might stand paralleled, were not the Egyptian gods so little understood in their esoteric meaning. The Hindu Chitra-Gupta who reads out the account of every Soul’s life from his register, called Agra-Sandhani; the “Assessors” who read theirs from the heart of the defunct, which becomes an open book before (whether) Yama, Minos, Osiris, or Karma – are all so many copies of, and variants from the Lipika, and their Astral Records. Nevertheless, the Lipi-ka are not deities connected with Death, but with Life Eternal.

“Connected as the Lipika are with the destiny of every man and the birth of every child, whose life is already traced in the Astral Light – not fatalistically, but only because the future, like the PAST, is ever alive in the PRESENT – they may also be said to exercise an influence on the Science of Horoscopy. We must admit the truth of the latter whether we will or not.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 103-105)

“There are three chief groups of Builders and as many of the Planetary Spirits and the Lipika, each group being again divided into Seven sub-groups. It is impossible, even in such a large work as this, to enter into a minute examination of even the three principal groups, as it would demand an extra volume. . . . The Lipika (a description of whom is given in the Commentary on Stanza IV. No. 6) are the Spirits of the Universe, whereas the Builders are only our own planetary deities. The former belong to the most occult portion of Cosmogenesis, which cannot be given here. Whether the Adepts (even the highest) know this angelic order in the completeness of its triple degrees, or only the lower one connected with the records of our world, is something which the writer is unprepared to say, and she would incline rather to the latter supposition. Of its highest grade one thing only is taught: the Lipika are connected with Karma – being its direct Recorders.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 127-128)

“THE LIPIKA AS COMPARED WITH THE BUILDERS are the great Spirits of the universe as a whole, the builders being of a special nature. The Lipika, like the others, are divided into three groups, but it is asserted that only the lowest of these three groups has to do with this system of ours and that the other two cannot be known, and also that those two are so high that it is doubtful if even the highest of the Adepts know about them. It may therefore be supposed that for the Adepts the Lipika of the higher degree are as great a mystery as the Mahatmas are for us, and that this ascending scale of greatness ever gives to the soul something still higher, no matter how far it may progress, to which to look and aspire. Vol. 1, see whole of page 128.

“But as each of the three groups is divided into seven others (p. 127), it may be the 21st sub-group which has to do with this globe; and it is said that as to the highest of the groups it is directly connected with our karma. Vol. 1, p. 128, last line. Now as Karma rules the entire universe, it must follow, in order to make and keep harmony, that the “highest grade of Lipika” referred to on page 128 is not the highest of the last series of 21 sub-groups, but the highest of the whole three groups.

“NOTE WELL. Whenever an “entity” is spoken of among the various “hosts” it is to be known as composed of many entities, just as man himself is similarly constituted, his total consciousness being that of the whole mass of beings who go to make up his intricate life.” (William Q. Judge, “Hidden Hints in The Secret Doctrine”)

Q. The Lipika are mentioned in the Secret Doctrine as Lords of Karma, as recorders of Karma. It would seem as if they were outside beings.

“A. No, the Lipika are not personal beings, although that idea has been given currency by many “theosophical” students who have entirely misapprehended the statements in the Secret Doctrine. That such beings practically “manipulate” Karma is foreign to the whole teaching.

“There are as component parts of every human being, principles, which are drawn from the seven great hierarchies of being. Action, whenever taken, is taken with, through, and felt by one or the other or all of these principles, and there is registration of the general and individual effect produced – all that is good and all that is bad – among those hierarchies to which the principles belong. The action finds its own place and focus of reaction. Each hierarchy has its own individuality as a mass; individuality is not characteristic of the units. Hence, the Lipika may be regarded as the recording points of the general and individual effects of Karma; though this statement requires as a mode of explanation, geometry, which is an expression in form of the reaction of all the forces in nature.” (Robert Crosbie, “Answers To Questions on The Ocean of Theosophy” p. 149 – while there is surely a lot of truth in this statement, it does not seem to be the whole truth about the Lipika, if one compares it with the “Secret Doctrine” quotes above.)

Mr. A. Keightley: Then the Lipika are on the same plane as Mahat [i.e. the Universal Mind, the manifested Mind or Intelligence Principle of the Universe].

Mme. Blavatsky: They are the sons of Mahat, as they call them. Certainly, they are immediately under the absolute plane of divine ideation, but even that is a very risky thing to say, because immediately it suggests to you that it is like a staircase, and there are stories in the house, one below and the other above. But it is not so at all; it would be a very erroneous conception. It is everywhere and nowhere, just as when we were speaking about the circle and the point and circumference and all that, because it is not a thing above or below, and the right or the left; it is as I have been explaining many times, something which is – well, it may be in one place and yet they are the seven planes, they are states, and being states other than ours, of course they are invisible and perfectly incomprehensible to us, and each state does not know the people of the other state.

The President: But still, it would not be right to describe them as being on the same plane as Mahat.

Mme. Blavatsky: Certainly not.

The President: Mahat is the synthesis of the plane above the Lipika.

Mme. Blavatsky: Certainly, and the Lipika are in the middle of the plane on the four quarters, that is to say, the higher ether or the higher Astral Light and the lower Akasha. Akasha certainly goes beyond the seventh.

The President: Can you tell us exactly how they would correspond with the archetypal worlds of the Kabalists? Is it between that and the next?

Mme. Blavatsky: The Kabalists have only four worlds and we have seven, because they leave out entirely the three upper ones and begin counting simply the archetypal world, which is the highest Astral Light, just the four, there it is; but the others are left in silence, and they are not spoken about.

The President: The Lipika really are on the plane which is above the archetypal world.

Mme. Blavatsky: Together they are on that plane, because their world begins where our globe A begins. And if you take The Secret Doctrine, you find there the division of the four planes; you see four planes; it begins there just above our sphere. . . .

Mr. B. Keightley: That places, so to speak, the Lipika in relation to the kabalistic conception and to the evolution perfectly. They are on the highest plane corresponding to the highest plane of our chain of globes.

Mme. Blavatsky: What is the use of talking a language no one would understand and cannot even conceive of?” (“The Secret Doctrine Dialogues” p. 327-329)


By the above heading, we are not intending to suggest that in addition to the Maharajahs and Lipika there is a third group called the Lipika-Maharajahs, since there does not appear to be any basis for that. But we have chosen this title as the following passages show that the Four Maharajahs and the Lipika are so closely connected as to sometimes be spoken of synonymously, as if they are one and the same “thing.”

Mr. A. Keightley: . . . Have the four Maharajahs and the four elements a special terrestrial application, as well as a kosmic one?

Mme. Blavatsky: Except in karma, nothing at all. The four Maharajahs produce karmic effects, certainly, because there the Lipika Maharajah is a title they have, simply.”

“At the four corners of the world, these Lipikas are posted just to put down on the superior Astral Light the record of all our actions, deeds, words and everything.”

“The Lipika are a division of the four degrees taken from the septenates that emanated from Mahat. . . . They are workers on their own plane. If you ask me what relation the Lipika have with humanity, with men, then I have just told you what it was: they are the recorders.” (“The Secret Doctrine Dialogues” p. 367, 326, 327)

“The Lipi-ka, from the word lipi, “writing,” means literally the “Scribes.” [Footnote: “These are the four “Immortals” which are mentioned in Atharva Veda as the “Watchers” or Guardians of the four quarters of the sky (see ch. lxxvi., 1-4, et seq.).”] (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 103-104)

“The Lipika proceed from Mahat and are called in the Kabala the four Recording Angels; in India, the four Maharajahs, those who record every thought and deed of man; they are called by St. John in the Revelation, the Book of Life. They are directly connected with Karma and what the Christians call the Day of Judgment; in the East it was called the Day after Mahamanvantara, or the “Day-Be-With-Us.” Then everything becomes one, all individualities are merged into one, yet each knowing itself, a mysterious teaching indeed. But then, that which to us now is non-consciousness or the unconscious, will then be absolute consciousness.

Q. What relation have the Lipika to Mahat?

A. They are a division, four taken from one of the Septenates that emanates from Mahat. Mahat corresponds with the Fire of Simon Magus, the secret and the manifested Divine Ideation, made to witness to itself in this objective Universe through the intelligent forms we see around us, in what is called creation. Like all other emanations, they are “Wheels within Wheels.” The Lipika are on the plane corresponding to the highest plane of our chain of globes.” (HPB, “Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge” p. 148-149)


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“Every action, good or bad, is a prolific parent, saith the Wisdom of the Ages.”
(H. P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 141)

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