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The Septenary Principles of Man: Zurvanite Zoroastrian and Theosophical Classification

R. C. Zaehner, Zurvan. A Zoroastrian Dilemma, Oxford, 1955, pp. 323, 334) demonstrates, that the Zurvanite Zoroastrian (a now extinct school of thought) classification (referring to levels of being or existence) is near identical to the Tāraka Rāja Yoga classification. However, as the Theosophical [esoteric] classification show, that the septenary division of man is explained in the Zurvan school and Avestan texts.

The Terrestrial Plane Principles in Zurvanite Zoroastrianism

Using terms for the English with equivalents in Zurvanism:

7. Para-Ego (vāyu-vāta, or space equivalent to dhatu in Tibetan Buddhism and Theosophy)

6.  Inner-Ego (fravahr)

5.  Ego-Manas (ruvān, or manoh in its spiritual sense)

4.  Passional-Lower Manas (ruvān, or manoh in its ordinary sense)

3.  Vital-Passional, or Psychic (jānvāyuor Sk. prāṇa) and Desire nature // The psychic principle, or the vayu or prana is universal and dual (higher constructive and lower destructive aspects of the universal substance or spirit)

2.  Astral-Double, or Shadow (advēnak)

1.  Objective Terrestrial (tan)

The Zurvanite Zoroastrianism classification is similar to the five-fold division as in Tāraka Rāja Yoga, which is a broad division, and contains in them sub-divisions. The classification given also is quite Buddhist, in reference to vāyu-vāta and dhatu. It thus, as shown above still corresponds to the septenary classification.

It has been pointed out, that “Blavatsky was among the first in modern times to point out to the sacredness of the number seven. This notion was at first rejected by people in different fields, who criticized her for this.”

H.P.B. and her colleague’s insightful abilities is sufficient to help us, as she explained it well in relation to Zoroastrianism in The Septenary Principle in Esotericism (1883, 574-75):

“Since the present exposition of the Arhat esoteric doctrine was begun, many who had not acquainted themselves with the occult basis of Hindu philosophy have imagined that the two were in conflict. Some of the more bigoted have openly charged the Occultists of the Theosophical Society of propagating rank Buddhistic heresy; and have even gone to the length of affirming that the whole Theosophic movement was but a masked Buddhistic propaganda. We were taunted by ignorant Brahmins and learned Europeans that our septenary divisions of nature and everything in it, including man, is arbitrary and not endorsed by the oldest religious systems of the East.

Fortunately, we have not been obliged to wait long for our perfect vindication. In the following number our Brother Mr. T. Subba Row, B.A., B.L., confessedly a learned occultist and ripe scholar, will lay before the public through these columns extracts from original texts which unanswerably prove that all the root-ideas embodied in the Fragments series were entertained by Vyasa, the great initiated adept and Rishi. The truths of the Arhat secret doctrine are thus substantiated by an authority whose orthodoxy no Hindu of whatsoever sect will dare deny. The passages were but recently stumbled upon by Mr. Subba Row in the course of reading upon another subject; thus affording us one more of those striking coincidences which by some happy chance have of late been so frequent. Meanwhile, it is proposed to throw a cursory glance at the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Laws of Manu, and especially the Vedanta, and thus show that they too prove the claim. Even in their crude exotericism their affirmation of the sevenfold division is glaring. Passage after passage hints at it. And not only can the mysterious number be found and traced on every page of the oldest Aryan Sacred Scriptures, but in the oldest books of Zoroastrianism as well; in the rescued cylindrical tile records of old Babylonia and Chaldea, in the Book of the Dead and the Ritualism of ancient Egypt and even in the Mosaic books—without mentioning the Secret Jewish works, such as the Kabala.” (Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. IV, 574)

It is further demonstrated in the passage of the Zurvan school, that the classifications or “bodies” (Sk. kosas) are of one principle (de, creator); and are represented collectively by (a) Time, (b) Space, and (c) Wisdom. It is taught, that man is fashioned in accordance to those classifications, and these principles combined form the human constitution.

“I maintain then, that when once we pass from the plane of pure subjective reasoning on esoteric matters to that of practical demonstration in Occultism, wherein each principle and attribute has to be analysed and defined in its application to the phenomena of daily and especially of post-mortem life, the sevenfold classification is the right one. (…) As in the Macrocosm, so in the Microcosm: analogies hold good throughout nature. Thus the universe, our solar system, our earth down to man, are to be regarded as all equally possessing a septenary constitution–four super-terrestrial and superhuman, so to say;–three objective and astral. In dealing with the special case of man, only, there are two standpoints from which the question may be considered. Man in incarnation is certainly made up of seven principles, if we so term the seven states of his material, astral, and spiritual framework, which are all on different planes.” (Blavatsky, Classification of Principles, Theosophist, April, 1887)

The doctrine of the septenary division of man has everything to do with the dawn of the rational mind in the metaphysics of Theosophy and Zurvanism; and regarding the existence and proofs of a diviner and super-terrestrial nature of man. Man is the thinking-man, or Manas; and enslavement to the lower principles binds the thinking-man from understanding the true relation of matter to the world and body. Ahuramazda is the synthesis of the Amesha Spentas, hence an Amesha Spenta itself. Ahuramazda is the Wise Lord and the Amesha Spentas (or Manasaputras). The Manasaputras, or Amesha Spentas is in us, means the same thing as the Dawn-star that rises in us, or the divine fire Prometheus stole from heaven, the light of mind. This is Manoh (mind), or Manas, from which the word “Man” comes.

“The fire or knowledge burns up all action on the plane of illusion. Therefore, those who have acquired it and are emancipated, are called ‘Fires.’


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