Theosophy on The Pleiades

“These Pleiades are the most occult constellations that exist. . . . They are very occult, because they are connected with all the Rishis, too; they have an interchange of thought with the Rishis.” (H. P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine Dialogues” p. 319-320)

“Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?” (Job 38:31)

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It would be no exaggeration to say that the New Age Movement has gone mad with an abundance of fantastical and often absurd science-fiction type claims about the Pleiades. Their esoteric significance was first brought to public attention in modern times by H. P. Blavatsky and mainly in the two volumes of her major work “The Secret Doctrine.”

Since then, many more things have been said and written on this subject by a myriad of writers, including Alice Bailey, whose work we do not and cannot support, for reasons clearly explained here and in more detail here.

The aim of the present article is simply to show exactly what the original teachings of Theosophy have to say about the Pleiades.

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It might firstly be useful to explain that there is a constellation called Ursa Major, also known as “The Great Bear,” “The Big Dipper,” and “The Plough.” In India it is referred to as the “Saptarishi,” which means “Seven Rishis,” the Sanskrit term “Rishi” meaning a Sage or Saint. It consists of seven bright stars.

These Saptarishi have a connection, both in Hindu mythology and in esotericism, with the Pleiades. The Pleiades, also known as the “Seven Sisters,” is a star cluster located in the constellation of Taurus and although having several thousand stars there are said to be six of particular brightness and a seventh which is hidden or not visible to physical sight.

In “The Secret Doctrine,” H. P. Blavatsky and her Adept Teachers explain:

“As to the mysterious constellation of the Seven Rishis in the great Bear, if Egypt made them sacred to “the oldest genitrix, Typhon” – India has connected all these symbols ages ago with time or Yuga revolutions, and the Saptarishis are intimately connected with our present age – the Dark Kali Yug.”

She goes on to say that in the Bhagavata Purana scripture, also called the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the “great Circle of Time” is represented as a tortoise and “across its loins the Seven Rishis.”

“. . . it is they, the Seven Rishis, who mark the time and the duration of events in our septenary life cycle. They are as mysterious as their supposed wives, the Pleiades, of whom only one – she who hides – has proven virtuous. The Pleiades (Krittika) are the nurses of Karttikeya, the God of War (Mars of the Western Pagans), who is called the Commander of the celestial armies – or rather of the Siddhas (translated Yogis in heaven, and holy sages on the earth) – “Siddha-sena,” which would make Karttikeya identical with Michael, the “leader of the celestial hosts” and, like himself, a virgin Kumara. Verily he is the “Guha,” the mysterious one, as much so as are the Saptarshis and the Krittika (seven Rishis and the Pleiades), for the interpretation of all these combined, reveal to the adept the greatest mysteries of occult nature.” (Vol. 2, p. 549)

A couple of pages further on, p. 551, we find:

“. . . the Pleiades are the central group of the system of sidereal symbology. They are situated in the neck of the constellation of Taurus, regarded . . . in the Kabala and Eastern Esotericism, as the sidereal septenate born from the first manifested side of the upper triangle, the concealed △. This manifested side is Taurus, the Symbol of ONE (the figure 1), . . . The Pleiades (Alcyone, especially), are thus considered, even in astronomy, as the central point around which our Universe of fixed stars revolves, the focus from which, and into which the divine breath, MOTION, works incessantly during the Manvantara.”

More is revealed about the Pleiades elsewhere in “The Secret Doctrine,” such as:

“Astraea is Virgo, the constellation of the Zodiac. Astronomically it has a very plain significance, and one which gives the Key to the occult meaning. But it is inseparable from Leo, the sign that precedes it, and from the Pleiades and their sisters, the Hyades, of which Aldebaran is the brilliant leader. All of these are connected with the periodical renovations of the earth, with regard to its continents – even Ganymedes, who in astronomy is Aquarius.” (Vol. 2, p. 785)

“The Pleiades, as all know, are the seven stars beyond the Bull, which appear at the beginning of spring. They have a very occult meaning in the Hindu esoteric philosophy, and are connected with sound and other mystic principles in Nature.” (Vol. 1, p. 648)

“Again, number seven is closely connected with the occult significance of the Pleiades, those seven daughters of Atlas, “the six present, the seventh hidden.” In India they are connected with their nursling, the war god, Karttikeya. It is the Pleiades (in Sanskrit, Krittika) who gave the god their name, for Karttikeya is the planet Mars, astronomically.” (Vol. 2, p. 618-619)

William Q. Judge, closest and most trusted colleague of HPB, once wrote, shortly after she had passed away:

“Speaking to those who know and believe that HPB was all the time in communication with the Masters in their retreats somewhere on the globe, I can say that a serious series of consultations was held among them as to what should go into The Secret Doctrine, and that it was plainly said that the book was to be done in such a manner as to compel the earnest student to dig out many profound truths which in a modern book would be announced specifically, and included in the regular course. It was also said, from the same source, that this age, being a transition one in all respects, that full revelations were not for this generation. But enough was to be given out in the manner described, and plainly, to make it substantially a revelation. All students, then, who are in earnest will do well not to pass carelessly over the pages of any part of the book.” (from “About The Secret Doctrine,” p. 90-91 of Countess Wachtmeister’s book “Reminiscences of H. P. Blavatsky and The Secret Doctrine”)

What then might we carefully and attentively “dig out” from these various statements? Let us see…

* The Saptarishi (The Great Bear) is associated with Cycles of Time and especially connected with the Kali Yuga, the Dark Age presently underway on our Earth. They are symbolised as lying “across the loins” of the Circle of Time, thus suggesting a possible connection with sexual or generative action.

* Although Hinduism implies a connection between the seven stars of the “Great Bear” and seven great Rishis or enlightened beings who periodically appear on our planet to help and teach mankind, Theosophy does not affirm or imply that such a connection is genuinely the case. HPB does say that the so-called “Saptarishi” is “mysterious” but says no more.

* In our article Beware of the Star Rishis, we showed how HPB once warned: “Those who fall off from our living human Mahatmas to fall into the Saptarishi – the Star Rishis, are no Theosophists.” (“She Being Dead Yet Speaketh” article) And how Mr Judge elaborated: “The Saptarishis as meant by H.P.B. are in a very advanced class of elementals, able sometimes to communicate with man, and by their apparent knowledge to make him suppose them to be high spiritual beings . . . by communicating with them one is deflected from the normal line of human development.” (“William Q. Judge Theosophical Articles” Vol. 2, p. 488-489) Whether the “Saptarishi” spoken of here by HPB and WQJ are genuinely connected with the so-called “Saptarishi” constellation is not made clear but either way it is apparent that Theosophy does not equate the latter with anything of a purely spiritual and beneficent nature.

* Of the “Seven Sisters” of the Pleiades, “only one – she who hides – has proven virtuous.” In ancient Greek mythology the names of these sisters were Alcyone, Maia, Electra, Taygete, Asterope, Celaeno, and Merope. The unseen or invisible one is variously said in legend to be either Electra or Merope. However, Alcyone (the brightest star in the Pleiades) is spoken of on p. 785 of the second volume as being of tremendous occult importance and significance.

* The constellation of Taurus is described as being “the first manifested side of the upper triangle, the concealed △” – the “concealed upper triangle” referring presumably to the Logos. This shows the tremendous occult importance of Taurus.

* And from Taurus are born the Pleiades. The Pleiades, especially Alcyone, are the “central point” that our manifested Universe revolves around. Early in “The Secret Doctrine” (Vol. 1, p. 43) it is said that “The appearance and disappearance of the Universe are pictured as an outbreathing and inbreathing of “the Great Breath,” which is eternal, and which, being Motion, is one of the three aspects of the Absolute – Abstract Space and Duration being the other two. When the “Great Breath” is projected, it is called the Divine Breath, and is regarded as the breathing of the Unknowable Deity – the One Existence – which breathes out a thought, as it were, which becomes the Kosmos. So also is it when the Divine Breath is inspired again the Universe disappears into the bosom of “the Great Mother,” who then sleeps “wrapped in her invisible robes.” The Pleiades, especially Alcyone, are “the focus” through which this “Divine Breath” works during the period of Universal manifestation.

* The Pleiades are “connected with sound and other mystic principles in Nature” including “the periodical renovations of the earth, with regard to its continents,” thus with the various successive Root Races.

* Mars is in one sense the child of the Pleiades and exerts a mysterious influence upon Sages and Adepts. Generally speaking, in Esoteric Science, the names of the seven sacred planets do not refer primarily to the physical planetary body that can be seen in the sky but to the particular one of the Seven Hierarchies of Dhyan Chohans (celestial beings) that is especially associated with that planet. Hence why HPB speaks of Mars here as “a virgin Kumara.”

* The “combination” of the Pleiades, the Saptarishi/Great Bear, and Mars, when correctly and fully understood, will “reveal to the adept the greatest mysteries of occult nature.”

Notice that it says “reveal to the adept,” not “reveal to the student of Theosophy,” not “reveal to the inquisitive person interested in esotericism,” nor even “reveal to those who become disciples or chelas of the Adepts.”

It is the Adept alone who is entitled and fitted to receive the full and unveiled Truth regarding these and many other matters. To some it will seem that only an extremely minute amount of information has been divulged about such subjects in the pages of “The Secret Doctrine” but “all True Theosophists” (the only people to whom HPB dedicated the book) feel sincerely grateful for what has been granted from “the Secret Archaic Doctrine” itself, knowing that, as said in the Introductory, “it will take centuries before much more is given from it.” (Vol. 1, p. xxxviii)

Many systems may call themselves “Esoteric Astrology” but according to the great Adepts and Masters who gave Theosophy to the world, Esoteric Astrology “remains to this day . . . a secret science in the East,” (“The Theosophical Glossary” p. 38, Entry for “Astrology”) for They say that “Astrology is built wholly upon this mystic and intimate connection between the heavenly bodies and mankind; and it is one of the great secrets of Initiation and Occult mysteries,” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 500).

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You may also like to read Who Wrote “The Secret Doctrine”? and A Beginner’s Guide To Studying “The Secret Doctrine.”


Click to read Theosophy on The Pleiades, Theosophy on The Milky Way, and Theosophy on Sirius.