Theosophical Encyclopedia



TE 2 Baptism

The application of water to a person by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling, as a religious rite, symbolical of purification or regeneration, and betokening initiation into the church.

The most important baptism in Christian church history is undoubtedly John the Baptist’s baptism of Jesus. On this Helena P. BLAVATSKY quotes from the N.T.:

“I baptize you with water, but . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire,” says John of Jesus (Matt. iii, 2); meaning this esoterically. The real significance of this statement is very profound. It means that he, John, a non-initiated ascetic, can impart to his disciples no greater wisdom than the mysteries connected with the plane of matter (water being a symbol of it). His gnosis was that of exoteric and ritualistic dogma, of dead-letter orthodoxy; while the wisdom which Jesus, an Initiate of the higher mysteries, would reveal to them, was of a higher character, for it was the “Fire” Wisdom of the true gnosis or the real spiritual enlightenment. (SD II:566)

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Spiritual Awareness

TE Spiritual Awareness 2 

This is a concept the importance of which is difficult to overestimate as far as practitioners of spiritual path techniques are concerned. Because most persons think that they know the meaning of the word “awareness,” they may misunderstand the use of the word in the special context. To be aware, according to the dictionary, is to be watchful, on one’s guard, informed, cognizant, and conscious. It is in the sense of being “watchful” that it is used in spiritual practice, but watchful in a special way.

From our earliest years each of us undergoes a process of conditioning, or in modern parlance, programming. This is an essential part of our development, since we could not survive in any sort of society without conforming to the expectations of that society. Thus, without giving it thought, we respond in an appropriate fashion to everything that is happening around us. Not only do we respond automatically to happenings, but we tend to think, to a large extent, automatically. In the extreme, an individual who responds automatically in action, thought and emotion to all situations (highly unlikely), is not open to meaningful change nor receptive to possible input from “higher” sources. A number of references to the “automated” individual occur, such as: “Men who are living here, are in a dream; and when they die then shall they be awake” Hadis (A) — The Sayings of the Prophet Mohammad; “He who seems now awake is in deep dream; his wakefulness is false and worse than sleep” (Sūfī saying); “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh . . . lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping” St. Mark, ch. 13, v. 35.

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TE Om 2 lotus-aum-sabina-espinet

A sacred syllable in the Hindu religion where it is called the pranava. It is considered to be a powerful mantra said to invoke divine energy, peace, and harmony. The word is usually uttered at the commencement of all Hindu hymns and prayers. It is also repeated at the end of prayers in the form “Om, santi, santi, santi” where santi means “peace.”

Since Sanskrit writing is syllabic, rather than alphabetic, the syllable “om” is identified as aksara, i.e., indivisible, or ekaksara, “one syllable.” The letter o in Sanskrit is actually a combination of a + u, hence the syllable is sometimes written (and pronounced) “aum” even though this would be incorrect Sanskrit. The proper pronunciation would be like “home” but without the “h” sound. Saying it is called omkara or “making an om.”

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TE Fohat 2

The primordial force or vitality in the cosmos. It is that which links spirit and matter in the first stages of differentiation. In the manifested stages of the universe, fohat is the force that causes the differentiation from the one to the many, while at the same time, it is the power that unites and combines the various units and atoms of the cosmos. The derivation of the word “fohat” has been the subject of considerable differences of opinion among theosophical writers. There is some agreement however for the suggestion that the word is of Turanian origin, more specifically Mongolian, from a verbal root fo. (G. Purucker, Studies in Occult Philosophy, 1945, p. 584). According to Purucker, fo or more properly foh is used in that language as the name of Buddha.

Fohat can be described as “cosmic vitality” or the prana of the universe. It has been considered as the universal energy which includes all the forces of nature. It is the energizing force of the universe. Force is often seen as blind energy, but Fohat is not by any means blind, but a directed and intelligent power, or in other words, power imbued with purpose.

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TE Creationism 2

The doctrine that the universe was created out of nothing by an extra-cosmic deity. In Christianity, the concept includes the creation of the human soul at the moment of birth.

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Chinese Buddhism


TE Chinese Buddhism 2

Tradition dates the entry of Buddhism into China to the reign of the Han Emperor Ming (58-75 CE). According to the legend, as a result of a dream, the Emperor sent to India and received the Forty-two-Chapter Scripture, thus introducing Buddhism into China. In fact, the Indian faith had arrived much earlier with merchants and missionaries, but it had remained, for all intents and purposes, a religion for foreigners until the Han dynasty collapsed in 222 CE and China underwent a period of disunification and political weakness until it was unified by the T’ang (Tang in Pinyin) dynasty in 618 CE. During this period, the Chinese lost confidence in the Confucian tradition which had been the basis of government political philosophy and the means to attain a position in the bureaucracy. They turned instead to Taoism and Buddhism for religious support. The latter, especially, was attractive because it identified life as dukkha (Sk. duhkha), usually translated “sorrow” or “insecurity,” something with which the average peasant was intimately aware during the period of political turmoil. Also, Central Asian invaders of north China during this period brought popular forms of Buddhism with them. Buddhist missionaries assisted the process by bringing texts with them on the routes which had opened between Indian and China during the period of Han expansion.

The earliest texts were “translated” into Chinese by a process of attempting to imitate in that language the sounds of the Pali or Sanskrit terms — which made them largely unintelligible. Later, Chinese translations were done by such notables as Kumarajiva (334-413). Since Chinese and Sanskrit are very different both in grammar and vocabulary, the early translators adopted a technique called ko-i (or ko-yi), “matching the meaning,” in order to make the sutras intelligible. That is, they adopted Confucian and Taoist terminology to express Buddhist concepts. In the process, Buddhism took on a very Chinese coloration.

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TE 10 Crucifixion

A form of punishment in which a person’s hands are nailed to the extremities of the horizontal part of a cross, while the feet are nailed to the lower part of the vertical part. Some authorities suggest that the nails were inserted through the wrists. The cross, from the time of remote antiquity, has been regarded as a sacred symbol, but the ancient Romans and a few other cultures used the cross to inflict cruel and unnatural torture. Flavius Josephus reported its use by the Romans in his chronicles of the Jewish wars.

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