Theosophy and the Number Seven
A selection of articles relating to the esoteric
significance of the Number 7 in Theosophy
The Septenary Nature of Man
An extract from The Key To Theosophy
H P Blavatsky
Q. Is it what we call Spirit and Soul, and the man of flesh?
A. It is not. That is the old Platonic division. Plato was an Initiate, and
therefore could not go into forbidden details; but he who is acquainted with the
archaic doctrine finds the seven in Plato's various combinations of Soul and
Spirit. He regarded man as constituted of two parts-one eternal, formed of the
same essence as the Absoluteness, the other mortal and corruptible, deriving its
constituent parts from theminor "created" Gods. Man is composed, he shows, of
(1) A mortal body,
(2) An immortal principle,
(3) A "separate mortal kind of Soul." It is that which we respectively call the physical man, the Spiritual Soul or Spirit, and the animal Soul (the Nous and psuche).
This is the division adopted by Paul, another Initiate, who maintains that there is a psychical body which is sown in the corruptible (astral soul or body), and a spiritual body that is raised in incorruptible substance. Even James corroborates the same by saying that the "wisdom" (of our lower soul) descendeth not from the above, but is terrestrial ("psychical," "demoniacal," see the Greek text) while the other is heavenly wisdom. Now so plain is it that Plato and even Pythagoras, while speaking but of three principles, give them seven separate functions, in their various combinations, that if we contrast our teachings this will become quite plain. Let us take a cursory view of these seven aspects by drawing two tables.
Theosophical Division of the Lower Quaternary
Sanskrit Term Exoteric Meaning Explanation
1.Rupa, or Sthula-sarira Physical body Is the vehicle of all the
other principles during life.
1.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- sarira Astral Body The Double,the phantom body.
(d) Kamarupa The seat of animal desires and passions This is the center of the
animal man, where lies the line of demarcation which separates the mortal man
from the immortal entity.
Theosophical Division of the Upper Imperishable Triad
Sanskrit Term Exoteric Meaning Explanation
(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 Kamarupa, the seat of the animal
passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the SpiritualEgo. In the later 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
(f) Buddhi The Spiritual Soul The vehicle of pure universal spirit.
(g) Atma Spirit One with the Absolute, as its radiation.
In Mr. Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism d, e, and f, are respectively called the
Animal, the Human, and the Spiritual Souls, which answers as well. Though the
principles in Esoteric Buddhism are numbered, this is, strictly speaking,
useless. The dual Monad alone ( Atma-Buddhi) is susceptible of being thought of as the two highest numbers (the sixth and seventh). As to all others, since that
principle only which is predominant in man has to be considered as the first and
foremost, no numeration is possible as a general rule. In some men it is the
higher Intelligence (Manas or the fifth) which dominates the rest; in others the
Animal Soul (Kamarupa) that reigns supreme, exhibiting the most bestial
Now what does Plato teach? He speaks of the interiorman as constituted of two
parts-one immutable and always the same, formed of the same substance as Deity, and the other mortal and corruptible. These "two parts" are found in our upper Triad, and the lower Quaternary (see table above, ). He explains that when the Soul, psuche, "allies herself to the Nous (divine spirit or substance *)), she
does everything aright and felicitously;" but the case is otherwise when she
attaches herself to Anoia, (folly, or the irrational animal Soul). Here, then,
we have Manas(or the Soul in general) in its two aspects: when attaching itself
to Anoia (our Kamarupa, or the "Animal Soul" in Esoteric Buddhism) it runs
towards entire annihilation, as far as the personal Ego is concerned; when
allying itself to the Nous ( Atma-Buddhi) it merges into the immortal,
imperishable Ego, and then its spiritual consciousness of the personal thatwas,
Buddhi is meant then and notAtma; philosophically speaking this (Atma) cannot be called 'substance'. We count Atma as a human 'principle' in order to not create yet more confusion. In reality it is not a 'human' but the universal absolute
principle of which buddhi, the soul-spirit, is the vehicle. [reversely
translated note from Dutch translation - editor]
Theosophical Society, Cardiff Lodge,