originally published Jan/Feb 1977 Vol.18 No. 1
In his account of the writing of Isis Unveiled [the first major work of H.P. Blavatsky, first published 1877], Colonel Olcott answers the question: 'Whence did Madame Blavatsky obtain her information?' with the words: 'From the Astral Light ...' As the nature of this Astral Light is as difficult to grasp as it is important to our understanding of occult science, we are grateful to Mr. Geoffrey Farthing for making available to students some of the findings collected in the course of his own search for information. The study of the Astral Light is inseparable from that of Akasa, hence the conjunction of the two in his article. [Ed. The Theosophical Journal 1977; Ianthe Hoskins.]
(see Note (below) re. Akasa/Akasha)
1. In the Theosophical Glossary Akasa is described as 'the subtle, supersensuous spiritual essence which pervades all space ... : it is to Ether what Spirit is to matter. It is ... the Universal Space in which lies inherent the eternal Ideation of the Universe'. Kundalini is an aspect of it. The entire passage should be studied. There are also references to Akasa under other headings, e.g. Chaos, Ether.
In the various descriptive and explanatory passages to which attention is drawn, there is inevitably much repetition. Nevertheless each passage will be found to supplement the information given in other places and will serve to further our understanding.
2. The Theosophical Glossary which has a long entry under Astral Light, speaks of it as 'the in visible region that surrounds our globe, as it does every other, and corresponding as the second Principle of Kosmos (the third being Life, of which it is the vehicle) to the Linga Sarira or the Astral Double in man. A subtle Essence visible only to a clairvoyant eye, and the lowest but one (viz. the earth), of the Seven Akasic or Kosmic Principles'. See also The Secret Doctrine Vol. III p.500 (Vol. V p.477) where it is explained how, because the Astral Light reverses what is reflected in it, sensitives - whether clairvoyant or clairaudient - can be confused and hallucinated. The whole passage is explanatory of Akasa and the Astral Light.
3. In the Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge (p.75) the question is asked: ‘And what is the Akasa proper?' It is answered: 'The Akasa is the eternal divine consciousness which cannot differentiate, have qualities, or act; action belongs to that which is reflected or mirrored from it. The unconditioned and infinite can have no relation with the finite and conditioned. The Astral Light is the Middle Heaven of the Gnostics ... ' Similarly, in answer to the question: 'What, in reality, is the Astral Light?' we find (p.53):
'As the Esoteric Philosophy teaches us, the Astral Light is simply the dregs of Akasa or the Universal Ideation in its metaphysical sense. Though invisible, it is yet, so to speak, the phosphorescent radiation of the latter, and is the medium between it and man's thought-faculties. It is these which pollute the Astral Light, and make it what it is - the storehouse of all human and especially psychic iniquities. In its primordial genesis, the astral light as a radiation is quite pure, though the lower it descends approaching our terrestrial sphere, the more it differentiates, and becomes as a result impure in its very constitution. But man helps considerably in this pollution, and gives it back its essence far worse than when he received it'.
Note: The Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge are included in Volume X of the Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky where the above passages will be found on pages 361 and 251 respectively.
4. One of the most informative passages on the Astral Light is to be found in lsis Unveiled, Vol. I p.177 et seq. Recognizing in Isaac Newton's divine sensorium the Astral Light of occult philosophy, H.P. Blavatsky cites the following passage from his Fundamental Principles of Natural Philosophy:
‘Here the question is of a very subtile spirit which penetrates through all, even the hardest bodies, and which is concealed in their substance. Through the strength and activity of this spirit, bodies attract each other, and adhere together when brought into contact. Through it, electrical bodies operate at the remotest distance, as well as near at hand, attracting and repelling; through this spirit the light also flows, and is refracted and reflected, and warms bodies. All senses are excited by this spirit, and through it the animals move their limbs. But these things cannot be explained in a few words, and we have not yet sufficient experience to determine fully the laws by which this universal spirit operates'.
To this she adds: 'It is on the indestructible tablets of the astral light that is stamped the impression of every thought we think, and every act we perform; and that future events - effects of long-forgotten causes - are already delineated as a vivid picture for the eye of the seer and prophet to follow'. In the succeeding pages, the Astral Light is stated to be the real seat of memory (see also Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge page 53, or Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky Vol. X p.251) and to provide the explanation of the déjà vu experience as also of psychometry.
5. The introductory section of Isis Unveiled, entitled 'Before the Veil', includes a valuable Glossary of the terms H.P. Blavatsky uses in the text. Astral Light and Akasa are both explained here at some length.
6. For the study of Akasa and the tattvas, see The Secret Doctrine Vol.III pps.498-9 (Vol. V p474 et seq); also The Secret Doctrine Vol. I p372 (Vol. I p399, Vol. II p88)
see also Chapter 5 Deity Cosmos and Man for further information, by Geoffrey Farthing, on this subject link
The Secret Doctrine References to the three editions in general use are given in the order of publication, viz: 1888 (Original), 1893-7 (Third), Adyar 6-Vol.
Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge.
Collected Writings of H. P. Blavatsky.
Note: In transliterating from Sanskrit into the Roman alphabet, the existence of a third s-sound, intermediate between the pure s (as in Isis) and the sh (as in ship), creates a difficulty. To avoid the use of diacritical marks, some writers choose to adopt sh as the simplest equivalent (e.g. akasha, kleshas, shariray, while scholarly practice prefers the form s' (hence: akasa, klesas, sharira) to indicate the intermediate s. A consistent system of transliteration had not been adopted at the time when H.P.Blavatsky was writing. In Akasa, the first two vowels are long, as in ark and harsh; the word bears no euphonic resemblance to 'a cashew nut'! [Ed. The Theosophical Journal 1977; Ianthe Hoskins.] back to text