The Stanzas of Dzyan are the core of The Secret Doctrine, a foundational book in the Theosophical literature. In the present article we offer an overview of the account about the development of the cosmos presented in the first volume of Mme. Blavatsky’s book.
Stanza I — The Night of the Universe
The first stanza describes the state of eternal rest (pralaya), where everything is absorbed in the absolute “One All”. Since in this state there are no forms or differentiation, it cannot really be described, but only symbolized through the negation of all the basic principles that constitute cosmos and man.
Thus, the first sloka (verse) of this stanza starts with the metaphysical space being once again in a state of slumber, “once again” implying that there was a previous cycle of activity before the night of the universe came. Pralaya is said to last seven eons, but we should not think that time was passing. Time is relative, and it exists only in the manifested cosmos. At this point there is a state of timelessness called in the stanzas “Duration”.
In pralaya there was not even what we could call the “Universal Mind”, because the Celestial Beings (ah-hi) that manifest it were absorbed in the One All. The causes for conditioned existence had been exhausted at the end of the previous manifestation. There were no separate entities to suffer the sorrow that arises from the limitation of forms or to be liberated from it. The universe was in a state of absolute perfection (pariniṣpanna) where Spirit and Substance were once more One. This state is referred to as “darkness”, not due to an absence of light, but rather because our conditioned intellect is unable to conceive that which is non-differentiated. It is only when the two aspects of the Absolute, i.e., Spirit and Substance “separate” (or so it seems in the world of illusion) that the cosmos is born, and that the divine sparks start their evolutionary pilgrimage.
Why does the cosmos manifest at all? The answer is beyond the grasp of our minds. The stanza only states that the cosmos is the “son of necessity”. We can assume that manifestation and dissolution are two facets of the immutable Absolute reality, and that they depend on each other to exist.
But that will come later. At this point, everything rested in that which is, and yet is not, in that eternal non-being, which is the One Being. The only form of existence was an “unconscious all-presence” (paramārtha) stretching out boundlessly, full of life, with the cosmos latent in it.
Stanza II — The Idea of Differentiation
The second stanza corresponds to a transition between the state of absolute rest and the dawn of the cosmos. It is a state where nothing is yet. Although everything is still in a state of undifferentiated unity, there is the idea of differentiation. This state too cannot be described by means of assertive language.
A difference with the first stanza is that, while we find there frequent mention to the One, here the idea of dualities is repeated: light (manifested) and darkness (unmanifested), form and no-form, silence and sound, divine thought and divine bosom, etc. However, these dualities are still latent; they have not yet come into existence.
The Seven Celestial Beings that build the cosmos were still absorbed in the state of absolute perfection. The very “Father-Mother” of the gods (svābhāvat) “rested in the bliss of Non-Being”. There was only the non-conscious, self-existing Great Breath, which does not cease even during pralaya. The eternal and uncreated root-substance (mūlaprakṛti) was not ready to receive the “ray from the Ever-Darkness” and begin to differentiate. The pre-cosmic substance from which everything comes (svabhāva) was still in darkness (unmanifested). The cosmos was still concealed in the latent Germ.
Stanza III — The Awakening of Cosmos
The third stanza deals with the reawakening of the cosmos after the period of absolute rest. The sevenfold pralaya ends, and the Great Breath now assumes the character of the First (unmanifested) Logos. The latter can be thought of as a vibration inherent in every atom of the root-substance, which is the Eternal Egg containing “the Germ” of the cosmos. The vibration makes the root-substance swell and expand into the pre-cosmic substance. This does not refer to an expansion in space but rather to a change in condition, from one of rest and homogeneity to one of activity and differentiation.
The First Logos can be symbolized as a white point radiating within the dark womb of the Absolute, and dropping a single Ray of light that penetrates into the Virgin Egg (the differentiated pre-cosmic substance), thus fertilizing it. When the light of the Logos, triple in essence, “falls” into the potentially fourfold matter, the septenary is formed. This is the seed for the development of the cosmos, both on the subjective (consciousness) and objective (matter) dimensions.
Then, the process of manifestation on the highest plane begins. This is symbolized by the dropping of the World Egg within which the Second Logos is incubating. By virtue of the vibration, the pre-cosmic substance becomes the (still non-physical) primordial cosmic matter (the “curds”) which is radiant, fiery, full of life and motion.
Although we talk of the root-substance, the light of the Logos (Father), and the primordial cosmic matter (Mother) as if they were separate principles, they are just aspects of the One Being, called Oeaohoo in the stanzas. This is the stage of the Father-Mother, or spirit-matter, where these two basic aspects of the One are differentiated but not yet separated. However, the condition in which the polarities were synthesized in the one homogeneous element or principle was no more.
And then comes the radiant Son, the manifested Third Logos—Oeaohoo the younger, which is still androgynous. He (the male aspect of the now manifested Father-Mother) is the Universal Mind, the cosmic ideation containing the plan for the development of the cosmos. It is from him that, following the septenary pattern of manifestation, will come the Seven Primordial Celestial Beings, which in turn will emanate the Second Seven, the process of emanation going on until a host of divine builders is produced. It is him who, by directing the endless manifestation of forms and beings, vanishes from sight the always perfect aspect of Reality, and lifts the curtain so that the great drama (illusion) of evolution in the relative worlds begins.
The pre-cosmic substance (which was cold and radiant) became fiery and full of life when emerging on the first manifested plane. This then becomes more concrete though still formless (the water or moisture). The spiritual atoms of the cosmic matter are then connected by the Father-Mother (svabhāva) forming a web, which will become the universe. The Father-Mother then sends fohat (cosmic energy) to infuse energy in these atoms and spread them, ready to begin the formation of the lower manifested planes (this is explained in stanza V).
It was the touch of the Mother (material influence) that made the atoms of this web condensate (manifest) and scatter throughout space, producing the different elements. When, towards the end of the period of activity (manvantara) the web is touched by the Father (spiritual influence), it disassociates and expands into the infinite, becoming unmanifest. This basic principle is always at work on a minor scale. It is reflected in the universal alternation of expansion and contraction, of dissolution and consolidation that goes on constantly, on different levels, from the atom to the sun.
Stanza IV — The Septenary Hierarchies
The previous stanza described the differentiation of matter on the higher (noumenal) manifested planes. The present one focuses on the emanation of the Celestial Beings (dhyāni-chohans) whose intelligence adjust and control evolution, embodying in themselves what we call “the laws of nature”.
The Ray of the Logos, which radiated from the Ever-Darkness (the absolute light), reawakens all the slumbering Monads that were absorbed in the One. The first Monads to enter in activity are those of the “Primordial Gods”, the architects who embody the cosmic ideation of the manifested Logos. Then follow the builders of the cosmos, and last the monads journeying on the terrestrial planes through the different kingdoms of nature. All these beings emanate one from the other, the higher being reflected in the lower, and the lower being contained in the higher. This forms a cosmic chain of causation (nidāna) which keeps everything linked within the One. Thus, humanity is a materialized, though as yet imperfect, expression of the dhyānis, the human monads (the “sparks”) developing “within” one or other of the seven hierarchies of beings.
This stanza is said to hide some fundamental numbers and relationships according to which manifestation proceeds. In the symbolic description of the hierarchies of gods there are two important numerals that can be factored into the basic septenary system that underlies the manifested cosmos.
The first number—1065 (“the one from the egg, the six, and the five”) is said to be the value of the first-born gods, and relates to 21 (10+6+5) which equals 3 times 7. These primordial gods (dhyāni-buddhas) appear when the Logos is still Father-Mother, that is, before the separation between Spirit and Matter becomes complete.
The second number—31415 (“the twice seven, the sum total”) stands for the dhyāni-chohans of various Orders, who are circumscribed to the four lower (phenomenal) planes of the solar system. This number, resembling the Pi value (3.1415), represents the “Ring Pass-Not”, i.e., the boundaries beyond which no entity belonging to that system can go. These dhyānis emanate from the primordial ones through the Mother (the female aspect of the logos), after cosmic matter is already differentiated and are called “the Army of the Voice”. Under the influence of these hierarchies matter begins to be organized in different elements and planes, symbolized in the stanza by geometrical figures (echoing Plato’s statement “God always Geometrizes”).
The first hierarchy of dhyānis emanated from the manifested Logos is that of the Primordial Seven, which in turn emanate the Second Seven. These are called the “recorders of Karma” (lipikas), and are the intelligence that adjusts the play of causes and effects in the cosmos. The drama of evolution is thus guided by intelligences who are themselves an expression of the cosmic ideation or Universal Mind.
Sloka 5 in this stanza recapitulates the chain of causation that produces the manifested cosmos and refers to the seven fighters and “the rejected one” or “the eight left out”. Although this can be interpreted on several levels (as everything else in the stanzas) Mme. Blavatsky explains it in terms of the formation of the solar system on the physical plane from a nebula of cosmic matter, a stage that will actually take place later in stanza VI.
Stanza V — Fohat: The Child of the Septenary Hierarchies
The previous two stanzas dealt with the matter and consciousness aspects of the fundamental triad (i.e., the manifestation of cosmic matter, and the emanation of the celestial beings embodying the cosmic ideation, respectively). This stanza focuses on the third aspect—that of the cosmic energy or fohat and its creative activity.
Fohat is manifested through the Primordial Seven. Their wisdom (dzyu) guides this occult, electric, vital power as a rider guides his steed. It is in this way that the laws of cosmic evolution are set in motion in accordance to the plan present in the Universal Mind.
Fohat “passes like lightning through the fiery clouds” in a rotatory motion, electrifying the diffused cosmic matter on the higher plane. By “magnetically” following the fohatic currents of affinity and attraction, the spiritual atoms (sparks) are brought together and aggregated in combinations of ever increasing complexity. Thus are developed the seven cosmic planes above and the seven terrestrial below.
The “Fiery Whirlwind” then creates vortexes or “centers of force” which are the foundations for the material (mineral) formation of the worlds (wheels) on which the drama of evolution will take place. This action will be repeated on the six lower planes.
Next, fohat connects the highest ever unconditioned plane with the first manifested (spiritual) one. An “army” of divine beings is appointed to form the worlds on the different planes by directing the work of fohat, and under the watch of the lipikas. Then the “Four holy ones”, servants of the lipikas, are appointed to their places, where they will regulate the development of the lower worlds.
The lipikas circumscribe the system in the “circle” (or aura) called the “Ring Pass-Not”. This is a barrier between the manifested and the unmanifested, the phenomenon and the noumenon. No Celestial Beings except the “Recorders” (lipikas) have ever crossed its forbidden line. No evolving entity can pass this boundary until the evolutionary cycle finishes and everything returns to the source (known as the “Day Be-With-Us”).
Stanza VI — Our World, Its Growth and Development
The sixth stanza deals mainly with the formation of the visible universe, and more particularly of our Earth, focusing on the “mechanics” of the process, the matter—aspect, of it. Therefore, the stanza begins by mentioning the female aspect of the Logos (“Guan—yin”) the goddess of the active forces in Mother—Nature. By her power, fohat collects the undifferentiated matter producing seven “centers of force” (called “laya centers”) which become the foundations for the seven worlds of the planetary chain.
Before moving forward we can introduce here what was explained in the sloka 5 of the previous stanza. Fohat separates the central condensation that is to become the sun from that which will become the seven sacred planets, the latter “fighting” to establish themselves in their assigned orbits. Our sun, along with other “son—suns”, is a reflection of the one Central Spiritual Sun, and the seven sacred planets, of the Primordial Seven, who are their “spirit”.
Coming back to this stanza, once the seven laya centers are formed, fohat begins to differentiate the seven elements. They are not manifested fully and all at once, but are gradually consolidated one by one as the cycles of evolution go on. While the elements develop, the seven worlds or globes (the “small wheels”) are formed as a continuation of the previous planetary chain, reappearing now transformed and perfected. Here again, the globes are gradually formed and consolidated with each evolutionary cycle.
How is a world formed? Fohat collects the cosmic matter around a center and compresses it, then he infuses it with life and makes of it a ball of fire. He sets it in motion around its axis, and around the sun. He then cools it down and generates moisture, so that the forms of life can develop.
Then the cyclic evolutionary journey around the planetary chain begins. The Monads “descend” from the higher globes, passing through the intermediate ones until they reach the Earth. Then, they ascend back to the more spiritual worlds, only to immerse again (after a period of rest) into denser matter for a new evolutionary Round. Life appears and disappears cyclically on each globe. The evolutionary development is fueled by the contrast between opposites—the “wars” between the forces that build and those that destroy so that better forms can be re-built and consciousness develop its latent powers.
Sloka 5 of this stanza is a “side track” from the main story, mentioning a fact related to the early stages of human evolution in the present Round and Globe. We will leave this for the next stanza.
Stanza VII — The Parents of Man on Earth
The last stanza in this volume explains the development of sentient life on Earth, beginning with the graduated emanation of the different Orders of dhyānis in relation to the formation and evolution of the human kingdom. First is the emanation of five Orders which are connected to the unmanifested planes (they have at present completed their work in this system). Then, there is the emanation of the seven Orders of the manifested worlds, divided into three higher and four lower. These dhyānis are the intelligence behind our evolutionary journey. But they are not only that. They are the source of each of our Principles, and are therefore regarded as our “progenitors”. However, they should not be seen as entities separate from us. We are indissolubly linked to them, participating of their substance and consciousness, as if we were cells of their bodies.
Everything comes from the One Life, which first expresses in multiple rays (the dhyānis). Through them come the “life-rays”, the human Monads in the world of unity. These, descending into the worlds of differentiation, become double and then three—tongued flames (ātma–buddhi–manas), which will manifest on the physical plane by burning in four wicks (the lower quaternary or personality).
Each Monad is like a beam from the one moon which, reflecting on the “waters” of matter, produce twinkling sparks (the passing personalities). The threefold flame is the spiritual heart of the septenary human being, animating the four-fold personalities through the cycle of reincarnations. While these forms are perishable, the life-ray is eternal, and constitutes the permanent element as a thread on which are strung many different beads.
But when the average human Monad starts its evolutionary pilgrimage at the beginning of the planetary chain, it does not incarnate right away as a human being. That which will later become the reincarnating Ego (the spark united to the flame or dual Monad by a thread of fohat) journeys around the seven worlds of the planetary chain assimilating the matter of the new system and acquiring experience in septenary cycles through the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, until everything is ready to form the thinking human being. How is man formed? The triple Monads come from the One through the Primordial Seven. The sixth and seventh Orders form his animal nature. Lastly, the fifth one is needed to come and endow him with a mind, thus “completing” the human being.
And here is where the “side track” mentioned in sloka 5 of the previous stanza fits in. The time to complete the human entity comes during the fourth evolutionary cycle around the sevenfold planetary chain. When the aid of the fifth Order of dhyānis was needed, a group of them refused to abandon their high plane to help with awakening the mind of humanity. They alleged that the forms were still too primitive. However, this rebellion went against the karmic law and they were forced to incarnate later in forms that had been defiled as a consequence of their refusal to help. This is dealt with in detail in the second volume of the Secret Doctrine.
As it is said in the last sloka of this stanza, those dhyānis that did cooperate endowed humanity with mind, and civilization began to develop. Some of them actually incarnated among men as great leaders, instructors, and priests to teach the infant humanity the arts and sciences, as well as the fundamental spiritual truths.
As the now complete human being goes through the cycle of reincarnations, the connection (thread) between the Monad (Silent Watcher) and its “shadow” (the personality) becomes stronger and brighter. The latter is the Monad’s reflection and vehicle of expression on the lower planes during the evolutionary pilgrimage until the Day “Be-With-Us”, when the two will be united, the Monad will merge with its flame (the dhyāni-chohan), and everything will become One, once again, merged in absolute bliss (parinirvāṇa). “… And thus closes the first Book of the Secret Doctrine.”
 This is not referring to the Absolute Abstract Space (which, being immutable, cannot be said to be slumbering or to be awake), but to what we can call the pre-cosmic space.
 This paradoxical language is used several times in these slokas to prevent the student from falling into the mistake of thinking of the One All in terms of one or the other of the dual opposites we know in the conditioned realm..
 Here again, consciousness and unconsciousness are only possible when there are differentiated beings. The present state is beyond both.
 This may be compared to a sleeping person who begins to transition to the waking state. Before any external motion can be detected, there is a motion in his consciousness.
 The correct spelling of the Sanskrit term is svabhāva.
 At this point there is neither time nor space in their relative manifestation.
 Resembling the meaning of the Greek word logos, which means “word”.
 In human beings this corresponds to the formation of the Monad ātma-buddhi.
 The Earth is part of a “chain” of seven planets around which evolution takes place. Our planet is the fourth and densest of them all, and the only physical one.
 At present, being on the fourth evolutionary Round, there are only four elements (earth, water, air, and fire) fully developed. The fifth one (ether) is now in process of manifestation, and will be fully manifested only in the next Round.