Glossary of Terms

ARCHETYPE: A pattern of creation. Archetypes are found at the abstract levels of the mental plane and are used by the Higher Self as it creates the personality, its destiny, and its behavior. They are also the source of creative inspiration.

ASHRAM: A place for learning the lessons of spiritual unfoldment. Esoterically, the word is used to refer to a group dedicated to common forms of spiritual service. These groups can exist on the invisible as well as visible planes of existence.

ASPIRANT: One who actively seeks to be more attuned to the Higher Self and better able to express its light, love, and strength in his or her daily circumstances.

ASSOCIATIVE MECHANISM: A principle of the mind, operating largely at subconscious and unconscious levels, which enables us to relate the contents of relevant memories, feelings, and speculations to our conscious focus of attention. A healthy associative mechanism is of great importance in maintaining the skills and capacities of memory and the ability to understand what we read and observe.

ASTRAL MATTER: The substance of the astral plane.

ASTRAL PLANE: The plane of the emotions and desires. The astral plane is an inner world made of matter that is more subtle than physical substance, yet interpenetrates all physical substance. It is teeming with life of its own.

AURA: The light which surrounds all life forms. An aura emanates from the surface and interior of the etheric, astral, and mental bodies.

BROTHERHOOD: The bond in consciousness that links all human beings together. Brotherhood is not an utopian fantasy, but an actual fact—a living presence of common purpose, shared experience, and loving potential. It is the divine ideal for all community and governmental activity, and ought therefore to be studied and honored by all leaders, all citizens.

CHAKRA: A Sanskrit word meaning “wheel,” a poetic allusion to the general shape of major and minor focal points of energy within the threefold human aura. In the West, chakras are often called “force centers.” There are seven major chakras and scores of lesser ones in each of the subtle bodies. The science of how energies circulate throughout these chakras—and their impact on human expression—is a complex one.

CONSCIOUSNESS: The capacity to know and be aware. It must be distinguished from sensation, which is the perception of objects, feelings, events, or ideas through the five physical senses or their emotional and mental counterparts. Consciousness is the ability of a unit of intelligence to reason on, reflect about, and draw conclusions regarding the nature of any other unit of intelligence or manifestation—and also itself. Esoterically, consciousness is the mechanism used by the Higher Self to perceive life and interact with it, whereas sensation is the mechanism used by the personality.

DESTINY: The combined plans and commitments made by the Higher Self of an individual or a group for its future. A destiny would include plans for creative fulfillment, achieving enlightenment, and the events of life. It is not imposed from without—it is formulated by the Higher Self itself.

DIMENSION: A measurement of size, space, movement, or consciousness. There can be dimensions of thought and feeling as well as physical dimensions.

DWELLER ON THE THRESHOLD: Those elements of the personality, usually unconscious, which an individual must face at “the threshold” of new expansions of consciousness or self-discovery. The challenge to the aspirant in facing the Dweller on the Threshold is to know which elements to preserve, which to redeem, and which to discard.

EARTHBOUND: The state in which consciousness is trapped in the materialistic forces of earth.

ENLIGHTENED: Focused in the light of the Higher Self. An enlightened mind is able to contact directly the Higher Self and use its light to perceive, comprehend, and apply archetypal wisdom. An enlightened personality is governed and directed by the Higher Self.

ESOTERIC: An adjective which refers to knowledge of the inner worlds and inner life.

ETHERIC MATTER: The substance of the etheric plane.

ETHERIC PLANE: The most subtle realm of the physical plane. It is composed of the finest grades of physical matter, exceeding even the “fineness” of gases. In physics, the term “plasma” would be used for this grade of matter.

EVIL: Anything which retards the evolution of human consciousness. Contrary to public opinion, evil is not measured by our likes and dislikes. Unpleasant experiences may help us evolve, and would therefore not be evil. By contrast, the indulgence of one person by another may be pleasant—but quite harmful.

EVOLUTION: The growth of any life form to its destined perfection. It is the response of consciousness to the divine impulse to grow.

FIFTH DIMENSION: A realm of existence in which there can be five different planes of movement from a single point, each of those planes being separated by ninety degrees or its abstract equivalent. All physical solids are part of this larger, fifth-dimensional context. The impact of the fifth dimension on third-dimensional solids can be seen as changes in shape of a whole species or class of those objects. In other words, if the growth registered in a single tree is fourth-dimensional in nature, the evolutionary growth of the species to which that tree belongs is fifth-dimensional. Archetypal ideas, from which whole species and classes of objects are produced, are part of the fifth dimension. The Higher Self also exists in the fifth dimension, as does heaven. Therefore, the true focus for Active Meditation is the fifth dimension.

FOURTH DIMENSION: A realm of existence in which there can be four different planes of movement from a single point, each of these planes being separated by ninety degrees. All physical solids are part of this larger, fourth-dimensional realm. The movement of a fourth- dimensional solid through the physical plane would be recognized as a change in the apparent three-dimensional shape of that object, such as in the growth of a tree. We act in fourth-dimensional ways every day by associating relevant memories to current experience.

GLAMOUR: Before the word acquired its modern, popular meaning, it meant “an enchantment” or “magic spell.” In esoteric writings, the word still preserves this basic meaning, and is used in a technical sense to refer to the illusions and distortions of reality generated by the emotions, either of an individual or of mass consciousness. Fears and worries, for example, would be negative glamours, because they cast a spell on the thinking apparatus of those who are afraid or worried, potentially distorting their conclusions. Strong wishes and fantasies would also be glamours, although more pleasant by nature. Dispelling glamour is one of the great challenges the spiritual aspirant must face and one of the most difficult.

GOD: The Creator of all that exists, visible and invisible and the life principle and creative intelligence underlying all life forms and phenomena. In spiritual practices, it is common to think of God in two ways: as God Transcendent, referring to the universal presence of all divine forces, and as God Immanent, referring to the indwelling divine elements in a particular life form.

GROUP MIND: The combined ideas, attitudes, illusions, and thoughts of any group of humans relative to the purpose or common interest which brings them together as a group. Every individual in a group contributes to the group mind, and the group mind influences every member’s own ideas, attitudes, illusions, and thoughts. This influence is subtle and often difficult to discern, but nonetheless can be quite powerful and capable of intruding on our independent thought. Group minds represent the simple, common denominator of ideas, values, and attitudes of the group, thus excluding the more noble and brilliant aspects of the group.

GURU: A Hindu term for “teacher.”

HEAVEN: The state of consciousness of the higher self. Heaven is not a place for those who have died. It is a center of consciousness for incarnate and discarnate humans alike—a state of mind. Heaven is the home of the archetypal patterns and spiritual ideals of life.

HYPNOSIS: A psychological technique for communicating more directly (and sometimes more forcefully) with the subconscious of an individual. It is an artificial technique which does not make contact with the Higher Self.

I CHING: The Chinese Book of Changes, a complex system of philosophy which can be used to interpret the movement of archetypal forces in life. It is also used popularly as a method of divination.

The I Ching is based on sixty-four hexagrams which are selected by the random fall of coins or sticks. Its purpose is to indicate the significance of events and forces, rather than predict the future.

ILLUSION: A distorted or limited perception of reality. The term “glamour” is usually used to refer to the distortions and limitations of the astral plane, whereas the term “illusion” is used to describe the distortions and limitations of the mental plane. As the mind learns to dispel illusion, it becomes a better vehicle for the wisdom of the Higher Self.

INNER PLANES: A term used to refer to any one of several inner worlds of levels of existence, all of which interpenetrate the dense physical plane. Each physical human being exists on these inner planes as well as on the physical level.

KUNDALINI: A Sanskrit term for the subtle energies of matter which flow up the spine in the etheric, astral, and mental bodies, connecting various force centers or chakras. As the quality of consciousness changes, corresponding changes occur in the quality and intensity of these energy flows.

LIGHT: Esoterically, there are many octaves of light, of which visible light is the densest. In its higher octaves, light is consciousness itself.

MANTIC DEVICE: A set of symbols, either deliberately or fortuitously assembled, that can be used for the divination of destiny, duty, and purpose.

A mantic device can be a highly organized system such as numerology, astrology, palmistry, the Tarot, or the I Ching; or it can be a more spontaneous arrangement of symbols, such as the fall of coins or body language.

MANTRA: A word or phrase that is silently repeated for the purpose of calming our thoughts and feelings, or some other effect. As we concentrate on this mental sound, it produces a harmonious response in our subtle bodies. Mantras come in many lengths and languages and are designed to help in entering the meditative state. Using a mantra as a substitute for the entire meditative process is an abuse of its purpose.

MASS CONSCIOUSNESS: Literally, the mind and emotions of the human race as a single whole. To some degree, the thinking and feeling of every human being contributes to mass consciousness and—to a much larger degree—is powerfully influenced and conditioned by mass consciousness. It represents the lowest common denominator of in human culture, usually excluding the more noble elements of it.

MASTER: A term used by esoteric students to refer to an individual who has reached complete enlightenment and perfection as a human.

MATERIALISM: The belief or attitude that the physical plane is the only plane of existence, or at least the most powerful and important.

Materialism denies the central importance of spirit, the existence of universal intelligence, and the invisible realms of life.

It is the basis of black magic and leads the person who believes in it to become “earthbound”—a state in which all values, decisions, and acts are formulated in selfish and temporal terms.

MATTER: The substance of life. There is mental and astral matter as well as physical matter.

MEDIUMSHIP: The phenomenon of a nonphysical intelligence, usually a discarnate human, assuming some degree of control of a physical body in order to communicate something useful and meaningful.

Mediumship is usually used for the transmission of information and inspired guidance, but can also be used to transmit varieties of healing energies.

MENTAL MATTER: The substance of the mental plane.

MENTAL PLANE: The dimension of intellectual thought. One of the inner planes of existence, it also interpenetrates the dense physical plane. It teems with active life of its own, in addition to providing the substance for the human mind.

METAPHYSICS: The philosophical and intellectual inquiry into the spiritual nature of all things.

MYSTIC: One who loves, reveres, and finds the presence and influence of the divine in all of Creation.

OCCULT: The hidden secrets of nature. The study of the occult deals not just with the esoteric aspects of humans, but also the entire universe. It includes the study of the function, operation, purpose, origin, and destiny of nature and humanity. The word literally means “that which is hidden.”

PLANE: An octave in consciousness. All planes of consciousness interpenetrate the same space; they differ from one another in the quality of their substance. The three planes in which the human personality exists are the physical, astral, and mental planes.

PSYCHIC: A person who is able to perceive events and information without the use of the physical senses. The word is also used to refer to any event associated with the phenomena of parapsychology.

SABIAN SYMBOLS: A series of 360 symbols derived by Marc Edmund Jones and a psychic in 1925. The symbols represent the key meaning of specific degrees of the zodiac and are used by some astrologers in interpreting horoscopes.

SAMADHI: An exalted state of consciousness, reached during meditation or contemplation, in which the consciousness of the meditator becomes absorbed in God and contacts divine wisdom, love, and unity.

SANSKRIT: An ancient language, now dead, in which many of the Hindu scriptures are written.

SELF: A psychological term used to describe the center of the totality of the unconscious and conscious aspects of the human being. The self acts to unite and integrate the diverse elements of the individual.

SENSATION: The reaction we register in our mind, emotions, or physical body in response to stimuli. Memories and ideas are mental sensations. Feelings and sentiments are emotional sensations. Sensations should never be confused with consciousness, which is our ability to be aware of the meaning, purpose, design, and creative uses of the forces, elements, and entities of our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical environments.

SIN: The act of engaging in evil or condoning it in others or society.

SOUL: The individualized principle of consciousness and creativity within the human being. It is the soul that evolves and acts. It is the soul that creates the potential of the personality, vivifies it, and guides it through certain life experiences designed to increase competence in living. The soul is a pure expression of love, wisdom, and courage. Its destiny is not damaged by changes or tumults in the life of the personality.

SPIRIT: The highest immortal, divine essence within the human being.

SUBCONSCIOUS: The part of the personality that is not being consciously used at any given moment.

The subconscious is always active and greatly influences our conscious moods, thoughts, acts, and attitudes. It is psychically in tune with other portions of the inner planes—even if we are not consciously psychic at all.

SYMBOL: An image, thought, feeling, or event which contains a deeper significance than what is obvious from the outer form. It points to inner dimensions of reality, force, and meaning. To discern these inner dimensions, however, the symbol must be interpreted. The study of symbolism is useful only if it leads to a discovery of the reality the symbol veils.

TAROT: A set of 78 cards, each card featuring a symbolic portrayal of an esoteric quality of force. The esoteric purpose of the Tarot is to provide an allegorical key to the structure of life. By studying and using the Tarot, one can gain knowledge of the hidden aspects of life. It is interconnected with aspects of the Kabbalah, astrology, and alchemy.

TELEPATHIC: Pertaining to direct mind-to-mind communication, with or without associated physical contact and communication.

TRANSCENDENCE: The state of having risen above the mundane levels of consciousness and self-expression. Many people falsely assume that the mere retreat into a state of psychological quietness is enough to achieve transcendence, but that is only a withdrawal from sensation.

Transcendence involves the movement of our level of awareness and perception toward spiritual consciousness. It may or may not involve significant withdrawal from outer sensation.

UNCONSCIOUS: The part of the mind not ordinarily accessible to the conscious mind. It is filled in part with repressed memories, desires, fears, and feelings. But there are other parts to the unconscious as well: the seeds of noble qualities, creative impulses, and memories of earlier lives.

WILL: The force of our impulse to act and its expression. The spiritual will is the power and focused direction of our spiritual life and force.

YOGA: A Hindu system of personal or spiritual development. There are many kinds of yoga—the yoga of the physical body (hatha yoga), the yoga of action (karma yoga), the yoga of devotion (bhakti yoga), the yoga of wisdom (jnana yoga), and the yoga of the mind (raja yoga) are some of the better known. The word “yoga” means “union.”

ZEN: A form of mysticism practiced in Japan. Although the principles of Zen are gaining some popularity in the United States, its passive nature tends to interfere with the development of the mind, rather than encourage it.

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