“Space and Time are one. Space and Time are nameless, for they are the incognizable THAT, which can be sensed only through its seven rays – which are the Seven Creations, the Seven Worlds, the Seven Laws,” etc., etc., etc. . . .”
– A verse from the Esoteric Volumes, translated and quoted by H.P. Blavatsky in “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 612
The subject of the Seven Planes of Existence as taught in Theosophy has been of considerable interest to many people over the years. It is naturally apparent to most thinkers that this dense physical plane must surely be only one of numerous levels or layers or dimensions of reality.
It was H.P. Blavatsky, founder of the modern Theosophical Movement, who first brought to the attention of people in the West that there are in fact Seven Planes of Being and that they bear a correspondence and relation to the Seven Principles of the human constitution.
In other words, the sevenfold nature of man is the reflection of the sevenfold nature of the Universe. “As above, so below; on Earth as it is in Heaven.” Man is the microcosm of the great macrocosm and the seven different “principles” or components of his being are literally derived from the Universal Seven Principles.
As has already been mentioned and demonstrated at some length in other articles on this site, there are two completely different and irreconcilable systems of teaching in existence which both call themselves “Theosophy.”
One is the original and genuine Theosophy as taught by H.P. Blavatsky, William Quan Judge, and the Masters of the Wisdom themselves. The other is sometimes known as neo-Theosophy or pseudo-Theosophy. This originated with C.W. Leadbeater, was unquestioningly accepted and promulgated by Annie Besant, and then later presented and promoted in the many books written by Alice Bailey. It would of course not have served the purposes of these individuals to point out in writing that what they were teaching was entirely different and contradictory to what HPB had taught but nevertheless it is so.
There are many important differences between Theosophy and its cheap imitation, including major terms and concepts being used in entirely different and sometimes completely opposite ways.
The reason we have felt it necessary to mention this here is because we are well aware that the only information and teaching regarding the Seven Planes that most people interested in Theosophy have ever heard or known of is the Leadbeater version, which is in turn based upon his own version of the constitution of man, in which new “principles” are added and the meaning and definition of almost all the others altered beyond recognition…and all of this derived from his own self-proclaimed clairvoyant revelations and discoveries, on the grounds of which the teachings of Theosophy were entirely rewritten within the Adyar Theosophical Society.
So now that the reader knows all that, it should come as little surprise to see that the genuine Theosophical teaching on this subject is very different.
Let us look at the diagram below, which is reproduced from page 200 of the first volume of “The Secret Doctrine” by H.P. Blavatsky. That first volume is titled “Cosmogenesis” and deals with the origins, birth, and evolution of the Universe, the Cosmos, the Solar System, and our planet.
On p. 168 of that first volume, we read that “Even the teaching about the Septenary constitution of the sidereal bodies and of the macrocosm – from which the septenary division of the microcosm, or Man – has until now been amongst the most esoteric. In olden times it used to be divulged only at the Initiation and along with the most sacred figures of the cycles.”
So this is obviously not something to be treated casually or flippantly, least of all is it something to be rewritten and altered by ourselves according to our own whims and fancies. This information was “amongst the most esoteric” of all esoteric information until the publication of “The Secret Doctrine” which, as the Master K.H. and the Master M. have stated under their own signatures, is the “triple production” of themselves with the one they called their “Direct Agent” and “Brother,” H.P. Blavatsky.
In light of this, it is not overly surprising that not too many details have been divulged. What has been given out, however, is enough – or even more than enough – for us to be getting on with in our studies and meditations.
HPB writes that “These seven planes correspond to the seven states of consciousness in man. It remains with him to attune the three higher states in himself to the three higher planes in Kosmos. But before he can attempt to attune, he must awaken the three “seats” to life and activity. And how many are capable of bringing themselves to even a superficial comprehension of Atma-Vidya (Spirit-Knowledge), or what is called by the Sufis, Rohanee!” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 199)
That ought to perhaps be especially considered by those many deluded individuals, particularly prevalent in the New Age Movement, who claim to be able to “travel” throughout all the Seven Planes with perfect ease and on a frequent basis, if not whenever they want. Even the Masters do not purport to be able to do such a thing! The desecration of these sacred truths has been immense.
It will be noticed on the diagram that the upper three planes are described as “the three higher Planes of the Septenary Kosmos,” “the Divine and Formless World of Spirit.”
In the Theosophical teachings, “Kosmos” almost always refers to the Universe whilst “Cosmos” is generally referring to our solar system alone. There on p. 200, HPB goes on to say that the lower four planes, on which manifestation is depicted, are “the four lower planes of Cosmic Consciousness.”
One of the fundamental teachings of Theosophy is that all manifestation is of a septenary nature. Everything follows the sevenfold pattern. Every group, division, or representation of seven is always comprised of a higher three and a lower four. In the case of human beings in physical incarnation, our Seven Principles are divisible into the Spiritual Triad (also called the Upper Imperishable Triad) of Atma – Buddhi – Manas and the Lower Quaternary of Kama – Prana – Linga Sharira – Sthula Sharira.
Also, each of those Seven Principles is itself sevenfold, being comprised of seven sub-principles. This is equally true for the Seven Planes and for all else. 7 x 7 = 49 and the Forty-Nine Fires, as they are called in the Vishnu Purana and other Eastern scriptures, is one of the deepest subjects of “The Secret Doctrine.”
It is further explained in “The Secret Doctrine” that “These are the four lower planes of Cosmic Consciousness, the three higher planes being inaccessible to human intellect as developed at present,” and that “The three upper are the three higher planes of consciousness, revealed and explained in both schools [i.e. the Eastern Esoteric and the Kabbalistic] only to the Initiates, the lower ones represent the four lower planes – the lowest being our plane, or the visible Universe.”
Continuing this theme, HPB says in “The Secret Doctrine Dialogues”:
“The three planes and the four are just in one Cosmos as the seven principles are in you; but it is simply this: if we cannot understand or realize that we have these three principles in us, such as the higher intelligences, or Manas, and Buddhi, the spiritual soul, and Atma, the soul that is the synthesis – if we cannot realize this, how can you pretend to go and conceive that which is perfectly inconceivable for human intellect, the three higher intelligences? That is why I only give the four, because they represent the planes on which our planetary chain is, but I can’t go beyond, because it would be perfectly incomprehensible; and moreover my knowledge of the English language would not tell me, nor any language, for I could not explain it.” (p. 379-380)
“Ours is the lowest plane; then comes the more ethereal, and more ethereal, and still more ethereal, until no human conception can conceive of the three planes. And therefore we leave them alone, because it is perfectly ridiculous with our finite intellects to try to understand and unriddle the infinite. It is quite enough to take what the seers can see.” (p. 432-433)
“When you come there to a certain passage where I speak of the seven principles and the moon and all that, I show there are only four planes, that the three which are above do not belong to our terrestrial chain or to the chain of any planet. You do not know anything about it. You can’t speculate. . . . We speak only of the four planes that we can conceive.” (p. 148)
But what we can conceive and understand – theoretically and inferentially, at least – is that the three higher are the Arupa or Formless Planes, the Unmanifested, and that the four lower are the Rupa or Planes of Form, the manifested.
It is said in “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 152 that the three higher planes “belong to the Archetypal Universe.” The four lower planes are labelled in the above diagram with the names by which they are referred to in the teachings of the Kabbalah, namely the Archetypal Plane, the Intellectual-Creative Plane, the Substantial-Formative Plane, and our objectively visible and tangible Physical-Material Plane. Kabbalists also call these Atziloth, Briah, Yetzirah, and Asiah, respectively.
To render more comprehensible to those who may be unfamiliar with Theosophy what is meant by the seven circles in the diagram, labelled Globe A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, we will quote briefly from two other articles on this site:
“[It is a] fundamental Theosophical teaching that each known planet – such as Earth, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, etc. – is in fact a sevenfold system consisting of seven globes, only one of which is on the physical material level in each case. That is to say, each physical globe has six non-physical globes existing in close and inseparable connection alongside it for purposes of ongoing evolution.” (The Men from Other Planets)
“Our planet Earth is part of a chain of seven globes, referred to as the “Earth Chain.” This planet we are on thus has six companion globes which are not seen by us, due to the fact that they are on three different planes to ours. … The plane that our globe is on and the three higher planes on which the six other globes are situated are together called the “Four Lower Planes of Cosmic Consciousness.” The Cosmos in its totality consists of Seven Planes, these four lower and also three higher…a lower quaternary and a higher triad, just as with the Seven Principles of the human constitution, where there are four lower and mortal Principles and an immortal trinity of higher spiritual Principles.” (Chains, Globes, Rounds and Root Races)
It is important to bear in mind that although we use the terms “higher” and “lower” when referring to the various planes, this does not mean that the six planes which are “above” the physical are literally up above our heads or that all the planes are stacked one on top of the other like seven shelves of a bookcase. When using diagrams and illustrations, things unfortunately have to be presented and shown in this way but this is not how it actually is.
“These seven planes correspond to the seven states of consciousness in man.” The distinction is one of consciousness rather than actual location.
To quote HPB from p. 88-90 of “The Key to Theosophy”:
“But the other six “earths” or globes, are not on the same plane of objectivity as our earth is; therefore we cannot see them. . . . those six globes being outside our physical means of perception, or plane of being. It is not only that their material density, weight, or fabric are entirely different from those of our earth and the other known planets; but they are (to us) on an entirely different layer of space, so to speak; a layer not to be perceived or felt by our physical senses. And when I say “layer,” please do not allow your fancy to suggest to you layers like strata or beds laid one over the other, for this would only lead to another absurd misconception. What I mean by “layer” is that plane of infinite space which by its nature cannot fall under our ordinary waking perceptions, whether mental or physical; but which exists in nature outside of our normal mentality or consciousness, outside of our three dimensional space, and outside of our division of time. Each of the seven fundamental planes (or layers) in space – of course as a whole, as the pure space of Locke’s definition, not as our finite space – has its own objectivity and subjectivity, its own space and time, its own consciousness and set of senses. But all this will be hardly comprehensible to one trained in the modern ways of thought. . . . Our philosophy teaches us that, as there are seven fundamental forces in nature, and seven planes of being, so there are seven states of consciousness in which man can live, think, remember and have his being. . . . Believing in seven planes of Kosmic being and states of Consciousness, with regard to the Universe or the Macrocosm, we stop at the fourth plane, finding it impossible to go with any degree of certainty beyond. But with respect to the Microcosm, or man, we speculate freely on his seven states and principles.”
We see there a repetition and emphasis of what has been shown to be a very important and key point: “Believing in seven planes of Kosmic being and states of Consciousness, with regard to the Universe or the Macrocosm, we stop at the fourth plane, finding it impossible to go with any degree of certainty beyond.”
“But,” it is added, “with respect to the Microcosm, or man, we speculate freely on his seven states and principles.”
This raises the question of what exactly is the nature of the correspondence between the Seven Planes of the Macrocosm and the Seven Principles of the Microcosm. Do those Seven Principles exist in neat and ordered fashion, from the highest to the lowest, one after the other, one on each of the Seven Planes? We might understandably imagine it to be this way but it seems that this is not actually the case. Although the law of correspondences is an inherent fact in Nature, it does not always work in the exact way that we think it should.
We should here specify once more that hardly anything at all has been written or explained about such matters as these by H.P. Blavatsky or her closest co-worker and fellow Teacher William Q. Judge. For one thing, if we are humbly honest with ourselves, we must admit that it really isn’t necessary nor particularly useful or beneficial for us to have such information at this present stage of development and that it is usually little more than intellectual curiosity which leads us to graspingly seek out such details. For another, there are undoubtedly still many things which must remain secret and unsaid.
“. . . the present volumes . . . though giving out many fundamental tenets from the SECRET DOCTRINE of the East, raise but a small corner of the dark veil. For no one, not even the greatest living adept, would be permitted to, or could – even if he would – give out promiscuously, to a mocking, unbelieving world, that which has been so effectually concealed from it for long aeons and ages.”
“. . . the outline of a few fundamental truths from the Secret Doctrine of the Archaic ages is now permitted to see the light, after long millenniums of the most profound silence and secrecy. I say “a few truths,” advisedly, because that which must remain unsaid could not be contained in a hundred such volumes, nor could it be imparted to the present generation of Sadducees. But, even the little that is now given is better than complete silence upon those vital truths.” (H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Introductory, p. xvii, xxii)
Hence it is the case that very often when the planes are spoken of in Theosophical literature, they are referred to in a much more general sense and usually just as three; the spiritual, the psychic or astral, and the physical.
There is no denial that there are in fact Seven Planes but it is sometimes easier for the comprehension and practical application of the student to think of them in this manner, which correlates with such practical aspects of the Esoteric Science as the Three Halls (the Hall of Ignorance, the Hall of Learning, and the Hall of Wisdom) and the three primary states of consciousness which we all pass through every day, namely waking (Jagrat), dreaming (Svapna), and deep or dreamless sleep (Sushupti), referred to in “The Voice of the Silence” and elsewhere.
To return to the more abstruse question, however, we find this important clue in HPB’s commentary on the Pistis Sophia:
“When the key of the seven planes and principles has been understood, it will be easy to place the seven on the lower four planes of a higher septenary, as in the diagram in the S.D., and then we shall see how the type of the three highest arupa planes is reflected in the seven planes of the lower four.”
So the lower four planes have their own seven planes. The above diagram shows Globes A and G, B and F, C and E, as situated on exactly the same “line” and “level” as one another. But another diagram, to be seen on p. 153 of Volume One, displays it slightly differently, with Globes G, F, and E, or 7, 6, and 5, as on a somewhat higher level than A, B, and C or 1, 2, and 3, although still sharing the same respective planes. Along with the lowest globe (Globe D or 4, which is ours) we thus see seven distinct divisions within the four planes, or “the seven planes of the lower four.”
And it is said that the type or prototype or paradigm of “the three highest arupa planes” is reflected “in the seven planes of the lower four.” This is how it may be said that seven human principles “exist” all on four planes, rather than one on each of the “higher septenary.” As there is more to the principles of the human constitution than meets the eye, we do not want to run the risk of descending into speculation and so will leave it at this for now.
“In using the terms “planes of non-being” [i.e. the Arupa planes, the “three higher Planes of the Septenary Kosmos”] it is necessary to remember that these planes are only to us spheres of non-being, but those of being and matter to higher intelligences than ourselves. . . . That which in the Secret Doctrine is referred to as the unmanifested planes, are unmanifested or planes of non-being only from the point of view of the finite intellect; to higher intelligences they would be manifested planes and so on to infinity, analogy always holding good.” (H.P. Blavatsky, “Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge” p. 107, 111)
In her p. 200 diagram HPB had to number the three higher planes separately from the four lower planes, in order to point out the distinction between the two. When it comes to taking all the seven together, however, they should ideally be numbered from 7 down to 1, just as the highest Principle is always spoken of as the 7th Principle and the lowest as the 1st.
It is further taught that there is a Laya Point or Laya Centre between each of the planes (“The Secret Doctrine Dialogues” p. 430) and that “Doctrines such as the planetary chain, or the seven races, at once give a clue to the seven-fold nature of man, for each principle is correlated to a plane, a planet, and a race; and the human principles are, on every plane, correlated to seven-fold occult forces – those of the higher planes being of tremendous power. So that any septenary division at once gives a clue to tremendous occult powers, the abuse of which would cause incalculable evil to humanity.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, Introductory, p. xxxv)
Let us count ourselves fortunate to have received such insights as we have and keep in mind these words:
“That the authors of ancient wisdom have spoken from at least two whole planes of conscious experience beyond that of our every-day “sense-perception” is to us inconceivable, and yet such is the fact; and why should the modern advocate of evolution be shocked and staggered by such a disclosure?” (William Q. Judge, “Synthesis of Occult Science” William Q. Judge Theosophical Articles Vol. 1, p. 26; WQJ Pamphlet #5 “Occult Philosophy”)
All of these planes of which we speak can of course be traced back in their sequential origins to the ONE Ultimate Reality. At the end of the day, everything except THAT is Maya…illusion.
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