Spirit and Matter

Quotations from theosophical literature

H.P. Blavatsky
Mahatma KH
G. de Purucker

H.P. Blavatsky

The first of the three fundamental propositions: ‘An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude. ... It is of course devoid of attributes and is essentially without any relation to manifested, finite Being. It is “Be-ness” rather than Being (in Sanskrit, Sat), and is beyond all thought or speculation.’ (SD 1:14) ‘It is the ONE LIFE, eternal, invisible, yet Omnipresent, without beginning or end, yet periodical in its regular manifestations, between which periods reigns the dark mystery of non-Being; unconscious, yet absolute Consciousness; unrealisable, yet the one self-existing reality ... Its one absolute attribute, which is ITSELF, eternal, ceaseless Motion, is called in esoteric parlance the “Great Breath,” which is the perpetual motion of the universe, in the sense of limitless, ever-present SPACE.’ (SD 1:2) ‘[It] is the One homogenous divine SUBSTANCE-PRINCIPLE, ... for it becomes “substance” on the plane of the manifested Universe, an illusion, while it remains a “principle” in the beginningless and endless abstract, visible and invisible SPACE. It is the omnipresent Reality: impersonal, because it contains all and everything. ... It is latent in every atom in the Universe, and is the Universe itself.’ (SD 1:273)

Book of Dzyan, stanza 3.10: ‘Father-Mother spin a web whose upper end is fastened to Spirit (Purusha), the light of the one Darkness, and the lower one to Matter (Prakriti) its (the Spirit’s) shadowy end; and this web is the Universe spun out of the two substances made in one, which is Svabhavat [kosmic spirit-substance].’ (SD 1:83) ‘The Web is the ever-existent primordial substance – pure spirit to our conception – the material from which the objective universe or universes are evolved.’ (BCW 10:386)

‘Spirit (or consciousness) and matter are ... to be regarded, not as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute (Parabrahm), which constitute the basis of conditioned being whether subjective or objective.’ (SD 1:15)

‘Matter is eternal. It is the upadhi (the physical basis) for the One infinite Universal Mind to build thereon its ideations.’ (SD 1:280) ‘There can be no manifestation of consciousness, semi-consciousness, or even “unconscious purposiveness,” except through the vehicle of matter ... [B]oth these aspects of the ABSOLUTE ... are mutually inter-dependent.’ (SD 1:328-9)

‘[T]here is neither spirit nor matter, in reality, but only numberless aspects of the one ever-hidden IS (or Sat). The homogeneous primordial Element is simple and single only on the terrestrial plane of consciousness and sensation, since matter, after all, is nothing else than the sequence of our own states of consciousness, and spirit an idea of psychic intuition. Even on the next higher plane, that single element which is defined on our earth by current science, as the ultimate undecomposable constituent of some kind of matter, would be pronounced in the world of a higher spiritual perception as something very complex indeed.’ (SD 1:542)

‘[The occultist] maintains that spirit and matter are two FACETS of the unknowable UNITY, their apparently contrasted aspects depending, (a) on the various degrees of differentiation of the latter, and (b) on the grades of consciousness attained by man himself.’ (SD 1:543)

‘The phenomenal contrast of mind and matter is not only at the root of our present constitution but an essential of our terrestrial consciousness. Duality is illusion in the ultimate analysis; but within the limits of a universe-cycle or great manvantara it holds true. The two bases of manifested being – the logos (spirit) and mulaprakriti (matter, or rather its noumenon), are unified in their absolute reality, but in the manvantaric maya, under space and time conditions, they are contrasted though mutually interdependent aspects of the ONE CAUSE.’ (BCW 9:16)

‘Christian theology, having rejected the doctrine of emanations and replaced them with direct, conscious creations of angels and the rest out of nothing, now finds itself hopelessly stranded between supernaturalism, or miracle, and materialism. An extra-cosmic god is fatal to philosophy, an intra-cosmic Deity – i.e. spirit and matter inseparable from each other – is a philosophical necessity.’ (SD 2:41)

‘The monism of Theosophy is truly philosophical. We conceive of the universe as one in essence and origin. And though we speak of spirit and matter as its two poles, yet we state emphatically that they can only be considered as distinct from the standpoint of human, mayavic (i.e., illusionary) consciousness. We therefore conceive of spirit and matter as one in essence and not as separate and distinct antitheses.’ (BCW 11:336)

‘Spirit is matter on the seventh plane; matter is spirit – on the lowest point of its cyclic activity; and both – are MAYA.’ (SD 1:633)

‘Esoteric philosophy, teaching an objective idealism – though it regards the objective universe and all in it as maya, temporary illusion – draws a practical distinction between collective illusion, mahamaya, from the purely metaphysical stand-point, and the objective relations in it between various conscious egos so long as this illusion lasts.’ (SD 1:631)

‘[T]he occultists recognize but One Element which they divide into seven parts, which include the five exoteric elements and the two esoteric ones of the ancients. As to that Element, they call it, indifferently, matter or spirit, claiming that as matter is infinite and indestructible and spirit likewise, and as there cannot exist in the infinite universe two omnipresent eternal elements, any more than two indestructibles or infinites can exist – hence matter and spirit must be one. “All is spirit and all is matter,” they say: Purusha Prakriti are inseparable and the one cannot exist without the other. ... Matter, then, is but a state of spirit, and vice-versa.’ (BCW 5:52)

‘[T]he Eastern occultists hold that there is but one element in the universe – infinite, uncreated and indestructible – MATTER; which element manifests itself in seven states – four of which are known to modern science ... Spirit is the highest state of that matter, they say, since that which is neither matter nor any of its attributes is – NOTHING.’ (BCW 4:602)

‘In one sense every Buddhist as well as every occultist and even most of the educated Spiritualists, are, strictly speaking, materialists [a distinction being drawn between ‘physico-materialism’ and ‘spirito- or metaphysico-materialism’]. ... If [spirit] is something – it must be material, otherwise it is but a pure abstraction, a no-thing. Nothing which is capable of producing an effect on any portion of the physical – objective or subjective – kosmos can be otherwise than material. Mind ... could produce no effect were it not material; and believers in a personal God, have themselves either to admit that the deity in doing its work has to use material force to produce a physical effect, or – to advocate miracles, which is an absurdity.’ (BCW 4:307fn)

Damodar K. Mavalankar:‘... Esoteric Buddhism is not a system of materialism. It is, as Mr. Sinnett calls it, “transcendental materialism,” which is non-materialism, just as absolute consciousness is non-consciousness, and absolute personality ... is non-personality.’ (Damodar 437)

‘It is on the doctrine of the illusive nature of matter, and the infinite divisibility of the atom, that the whole science of occultism is built. It opens limitless horizons to substance informed by the divine breath of its soul in every possible state of tenuity, states still undreamt of by the most spiritually disposed chemists and physicists.’ (SD 1:520)

‘Force or energy is a quality; but every quality must belong to a something, or a somebody.’ (SD 1:509) ‘[Forces] are only the effects of causes generated by powers, substantial, yet supersenuous, and beyond any kind of matter with which they (the scientists) have hitherto become acquainted.’ (SD 1:520)

‘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 [planes of being and matter] and so on to infinity, analogy always holding good.’ (BCW 10:373, 369)

‘[The worlds within our world are] as objective and material to their respective inhabitants as ours is to us. ... [Their inhabitants] may be, for all we know, or feel, passing through and around us as if through empty space, their very habitations and countries being interblended with ours, though not disturbing our vision, because we have not yet the faculties necessary for discerning them. Yet by their spiritual sight the adepts, and even some seers and sensitives, are always able to discern, whether in a greater or smaller degree, the presence and close proximity to us of beings pertaining to other spheres of life. Those of the (spiritually) higher worlds, communicate only with those terrestrial mortals who ascend to them, through individual efforts, on to the higher plane they are occupying.’ (SD 1:605)

Mahatma KH

‘[W]e recognise but one element in nature (whether spiritual or physical) outside which there can be no nature since it is nature itself ... [C]onsequently spirit and matter are one, being but a differentiation of states not essences ...’ (ML 63)

‘[T]here is but one element and it is impossible to comprehend our system before a correct conception of it is firmly fixed in one’s mind. ... This element then is the – to speak metaphysically – one substratum or permanent cause of all manifestations in the phenomenal universe. ... [The five elements of the ancients] are but the differentiated aspects of the one. ... The one element not only fills space and is space, but interpenetrates every atom of cosmic matter.’ (ML 90-1, 97)

‘[I]t is one of the elementary and fundamental doctrines of occultism that [spirit and matter] are one, and are distinct but in their respective manifestations, and only in the limited perceptions of the world of senses. ... In the book of Kiu-te, spirit is called the ultimate sublimation of matter, and matter the crystallization of spirit. ... Motion is eternal because spirit is eternal. But no modes of motion can ever be conceived unless they be in connection with matter.’ (ML 141-2)

‘In other words we believe in MATTER alone, in matter as visible nature and matter in its invisibility as the invisible omnipresent omnipotent Proteus with its unceasing motion which is its life, and which nature draws from herself since she is the great whole outside of which nothing can exist. ... The existence of matter then is a fact; the existence of motion is another fact, their self existence and eternity or indestructibility is a third fact. And the idea of pure spirit as a being or an existence – give it whatever name you will – is a chimera, a gigantic absurdity.’ (ML 56)

‘Force and Matter, Spirit and Matter, and Deity and Nature, though they may be viewed as opposite poles in their respective manifestations, yet are in essence and in truth but one ... [Spirit and matter] are in short the two poles of the one eternal element, and are synonymous and convertible terms. ... Therefore, whether it is called Force or Matter, it will ever remain the omnipresent Proteus of the Universe, the one element – LIFE – Spirit or Force at its negative, Matter at its positive pole; the former the MATERIO-SPIRITUAL, the latter, the MATERIO-PHYSICAL Universe – Nature, Svabhavat or INDESTRUCTIBLE MATTER.’ (BCW 4:225-6)

‘[Pure spirit] is a nonentity, a pure abstraction, an absolute blank to our senses – even to the most spiritual. It becomes something only in union with matter – hence it is always something since matter is infinite and indestructible and non-existent without spirit which, in matter is life. Separated from matter it becomes the absolute negation of life and being, whereas matter is inseparable from it. ... Spirit, life and matter, are not natural principles existing independently of each other, but the effects of combinations produced by eternal motion in space ...’ (ML l58-9)

‘To regard God as an intelligent spirit, and accept at the same time his absolute immateriality is to conceive of a nonentity, a blank void.’ (ML 138) ‘[T]he idea ... either of a finite or infinite nothing is a contradiction in terms’ (ML 54). ‘Intelligence as found in our dhyan chohans [planetary spirits], is a faculty that can appertain but to organized or animated being – however imponderable or rather invisible the materials of their organizations.’ (ML 55)

‘[W]hile we assign to all the phenomena that proceed from the infinite and limitless space, duration and motion, material, natural, sensible and known (to us at least) causes, the theists assign them spiritual, super-natural and unintelligible and unknown causes. ... [W]ho but a theologian nursed on mystery and the most absurd supernaturalism can imagine a self-existent being of necessity infinite and omnipresent outside the manifested boundless universe. ... We deny the absurd proposition that there can be, even in a boundless and eternal universe – two infinite eternal and omnipresent existences.’ (ML 52-5)

‘[T]houghts are things – have tenacity, coherence, and life, [and] are real entities ...’ (ML 49) ‘[I]s there ... either a sensation, an abstract idea, a tendency of mind, or a mental power, that one could call an absolutely non-molecular phenomenon? Can even a sensation or the most abstractive thoughts which is something, come out of nothing, or be nothing?’ (ML 112)

G. de Purucker

‘If theosophy has one natural enemy against which it has fought and will always fight it is the materialistic view of life, the view that nothing exists except dead unconscious matter, and that the phenomena of life and thought and consciousness spring from it. This is not merely unnatural and therefore impossible; it is absurd as a hypothesis.’ (FEP 65-6)

‘The esoteric philosophy may be said to teach an objective idealism: that the universe and all its manifestations and works are “real” for those involved in it; but are maya when contrasted with the utter and unlimited Reality from which the universe originally sprang forth as a cosmic monad, and into which, aeons hence, it will again return.’ (FSO 104)

Everything ultimately and fundamentally is consciousness, or to speak more accurately, is numberless multitudes of consciousness or life-consciousness-centers, called monads. Spirit and substance, or equivalently consciousness and vehicle, are fundamentally one. Theosophy, therefore, may be called an objective idealism, idealistic in principle, but not denying the relative objective reality of the so-called physical and other manifested worlds, which form what men popularly call matter or substance. ... [Entities and things may be called] the transitory and passing self-expressions of the monadic essence existing in such or other phases of the monad’s eternal pilgrimage.’ (HPBM 190, 116)

‘The theosophical philosophy divides the universe into two general functional portions – one the consciousness side, the abode or dwelling place, and at the same time the aggregate, of all the self-conscious, thinking entities that the boundless universe contains; and the other, the material side of nature, which is their schoolhouse, their home, and their playground too. This so-called material side is a practically infinite aggregate of monads or consciousness-centers passing through that particular phase of their evolutionary journey.’ (OG 182)

‘When theosophists speak of spirit and substance, of which matter and energy or force are the physicalized expressions, we must remember that all these terms are abstractions, generalized expressions for certain entities manifesting aggregatively. Spirit, for instance, is not essentially different from matter, and is only relatively so different, or evolutionally so different: the difference not lying in the roots of these two where they become one in the underlying consciousness-reality, but in their characters they are two evolutional forms of manifestation of that underlying reality.’ (OG 167)

‘In all its forms and protean manifestations, consciousness is spirit-matter – force and matter, or spirit and substance, are one – hence consciousness is the finest and loftiest form of energy, is the root of all things, and is coextensive with kosmic space. [The universe is] a quasi-infinite aggregate of imbodied consciousnesses.’ (OG 31)

‘What men call matter or substance is the existent but illusory aggregate of veils surrounding the fundamental essence of the universe which is consciousness-life-substance. From another point of view, matter or substance is in one sense the most evolved form of expression of manifested spirit in any particular hierarchy. This is but another way of saying that matter is but inherent energies or powers or faculties of kosmical beings, unfolded, rolled out, and self-expressed. It is the nether and lowest pole of what the original and originating spirit is; for spirit is the primal or original pole of the evolutionary activity which brought forth through its own inherent energies the appearance or manifestation in the kosmic spaces of the vast aggregate of hierarchies. Between the originant or spirit and the resultant or matter, there is all the vast range of hierarchical stages or steps, thus forming the ladder of life or the ladder of being of any one such hierarchy.
     ‘... The whole process of evolution is the raising of units of essential matter, life-atoms, into becoming at one with their spiritual and inmost essence. As the kosmic aeons slowly drop one after the other into the ocean of the past, matter pari passu is resolved back into the brilliant realms of spirit from which it originally came forth. All the sheaths of consciousness, all the blinding veils around it, arise from the matter side or dark side or night side of nature, which is matter – the nether pole of spirit.’ (OG 102-3)

‘Svabhavat is a state or condition of cosmic consciousness-substance, where spirit and matter, which are fundamentally one, no longer are dual as in manifestation, but one: that which is neither manifested matter nor manifested spirit alone, but both are the primeval unity – spiritual âkâsha – where matter merges into spirit and both now being really one, are called “Father-Mother,” spirit-substance. Svabhavat never descends from its own state or condition, or from its own plane, but is the cosmic reservoir of being, as well as of beings, therefore of consciousness, of intellectual light, of life; it is the ultimate source of what science, in our day, so quaintly calls the energies of nature universal. The northern Buddhists call svabhavat by a more mystical term, Adi-buddhi, “primeval buddhi”; Brahmanical scriptures call it akasha; and the Hebrew Old Testament refers to it as the cosmic “waters.” ’ (OG 171)

‘[Each monad] in its essence is a spark of that central cosmic intelligence or fire, the central consciousness-life-substance. We have not as yet, unfortunately, evolved forth in our vocabulary one single term that will include all these elements of the teaching, so that we have to use such an awkward term as this in order to give some adumbration of the idea: consciousness-life-substance. This is not consciousness apart from life, nor apart from substance; but a viewing of all three as in essence one ... – three in one and one in three; not three different gods or divine essences, but “one godhead,” one unitary cosmic essence, one eternal reality manifesting through the three masks: consciousness, life, substance. This really is the proper meaning of the Christian trinity: not “three persons in one God” as they say, but three masks or aspects or vehicles, as the human mind understands the thought, ... of the one eternal, boundless, frontierless REALITY. This is the divine root of man: of me, of you, of everything, of every god, of every sun, of every planet, of every beast, of every plant, of every atom. The root of all is THAT.’ (SOP 83)

‘Consciousness or mind is both the root and focus of force or energy, the very soul of force or energy, and being such, it is substantial, although not “matter” as we understand “matter.” Our grossest physical matter is but the concretion of sleeping or dormant consciousness-centers or monads ... [When] they awake to individual activity, these “sleeping” monads ... begin their respective individual evolutionary journeys upwards again towards that freedom of spirit, or pure consciousness-force, from which in the beginnings of things they originally “fell” ... into matter, which is thus their own collective concretion.’ (ET 440)

‘[C]onsciousness or mind-stuff, or thought, is so fine and subtil, so tenuous and ethereal, that philosophy and religion from time immemorial have looked upon it or them, as being, cosmically speaking, the essence of everything, permeating everything, washing through everything, or underlying and inhering in everything; and this usage is fully justified because it is, abstractly, perfectly true; but let us likewise note just here that if cosmic mind or consciousness is thus all-permeant, and the essence of everything, it must be more minute, more infinitesimal, than the most compact, dense, concreted entity that it is possible to figurate in the imagination ... Or, to phrase the same striking paradox in other words, cosmic consciousness is cosmic force, and force and matter are fundamentally identic; and this force is “denser” and more “compact” than the densest matter is and yet is incomparably more “tenuous” and more ethereal – and this precisely because it is both.’ (ET 425-6fn)

‘Force is ... subtle matter, flowing matter. ... [Electricity] is material ... Otherwise, indeed, how could it work in, through, and upon substance or matter, if it was entirely different from matter and had in itself nothing of a substantial nature? ... Only that which is material in some degree can work upon and affect other material things ...’ (MiE 159-60, 163)

‘If we are really to understand nature herself, and not merely man’s imaginings about her, we should therefore once and for all stop thinking in the mental terms and framework of extra-material “ghosts” and “souls” which are essentially and absolutely different from the essence of matter. We should replace these meaningless imaginings with actualities and realities based on nature herself.’ (ET 726)

‘We either have to admit the existence of [the] ether or ethers, i.e., of this extremely tenuous and ethereal substance which fills all space, whether interstellar or interplanetary or inter-atomic and intra-atomic, or accept actio in distans – action at a distance, without intervening intermediary or medium of transmission; and such actio in distans is obviously by all known scientific standards an impossibility. Reason, common sense, logic ... demand the existence of such universal pervading medium ... [The ether] is only the lowest dregs or lees of [the] spiritual-substantial cosmic essence, which in its hierarchically highest parts the esoteric wisdom calls akasha, or sometimes, from another angle of vision and with an even more abstract significance, mulaprakriti – root-nature.
     ‘The cosmic essence, septenary or denary in hierarchical structure, is not only a medium of transmission or connecting cosmic fluid between body and body, but actually is the prima materia itself, out of the lowest or most concreted parts of which the entire physical material universe is constructed.’ (ET 901-2fn)

‘Energy or force and matter are fundamentally one. What is force to us is substance on a higher plane; what is matter on our plane is force or energy on a plane inferior to ours. Deduction: could we trace the reach of the energies flowing forth from the sun and extending to the outermost bounds of its kingdom, and could we do this by rising to a higher plane, we would see the “empty space” of our solar system as one vast substantial body. And could we glimpse this apparently substantial energy through a telescope, from some distant planet circling round some distant star, we would see it as an “irresolvable nebula.” This would be simply the flood of energy, of life, of vitality, of substance, pouring forth from the heart of the sun, and returning to it in regular cyclic intervals through the circulations of the cosmos – the pathways which all entities follow in passing from planet to planet, and from planet to sun, and from sun on their returning journey to planet: a circulation truly of the lifeblood or life essence of the solar system.’ (FSO 304)

‘Space ... is at once consciousness throughout and substance throughout. It is, indeed, consciousness-mind-substance. For all space is alive, quivering with incessant activity; indeed, every part of infinite space can truly be looked upon as a consciousness center or monad, whether these monads be actively engaged in manvantaric operations and experience, or whether crystallized in passivity awaiting the coming of the magic touch from the spirit within. ...
    ‘[T]here is in both concrete and abstract space not a needle’s point which lacks life, substance, being and consciousness. ... [W]ithin our physical space there is a space more ethereal, with its worlds, its suns and planets, its comets and nebulae; celestial globes with their mountains and lakes, their forests and fields and their inhabitants. Within this second space, there is a still finer, a more ethereal and a more spiritual space, the cause of the two former, each inner space being a mother or producer of the outer space; and thus we carry these spaces within space onwards and upwards and inwards indefinitely.’ (FSO 75-7)

‘As the human host, or any other host indeed, passes on in its evolutionary course into what are now the invisible worlds, any one such invisible world which the human host then enters will be for the time being its “physical” cross-section of the universe. ... What we call a physical world is merely that world in which we happen to be sojourning at the time and cognize through the sense-apparatus of the vehicles in which we then are. ... When we pass out of this present physical sphere, it will become invisible to us; and the world into which we shall pass will be the visible world.’ (HBPM 130)
     ‘The old Hermetic axiom [‘as above, so below’] is a very true one ... All these invisible worlds have each one its own congeries of what we may call the physical characteristics of that world: mountains, lakes, oceans, winds; therefore an atmosphere, stars, and what-not. All these are, relatively speaking, as solid and substantial to the inhabitants of any such sphere as our own are to us. It would be incomprehensible if throughout the boundless ranges of the universe, invisible and visible, things were utterly different, from what they are here, or that the working energies and conscious entities should be utterly contrary to and different here from what they are in other, and to us, invisible worlds and spheres and planes.’ (HPBM 108)

BCW H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, TPH, 1950-91
ET The Esoteric Tradition, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1940
Damodar     Damodar and the Pioneers of the Theosophical Movement, Sven Eek, TPH, 1965
FEP Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1979
FSO Fountain-Source of Occultism, G. de Purucker, TUP, 1974
HPBM    H.P. Blavatsky: The Mystery, G. de Purucker, PLP, 1974
MiE Man in Evolution, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1977
ML The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, A. Trevor Barker (comp.), TUP, 2nd rev. ed., 2021
OG Occult Glossary, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1996
SD The Secret Doctrine, H.P. Blavatsky, TUP, 1977 (1888)
SOP Studies in Occult Philosophy, G. de Purucker, TUP, 1945

compiled by David Pratt. November 1997.

The mahatmas on spirit, matter, God