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The Original Archetypes

The first stage in the Chain of Manifestation is for the Supreme One Reality to become Many while still retaining the sense of Cosmic and Absolute Unity; a Multiplicity in Unity, so to speak.  Here we have the beginning of finite manistestation, of existence in a sense individualised or differentiated from (yet still identified with) the Supreme One Itself

Thus there come about the revealed or Manifest Godhead (as opposed to the Unmanifest Godhead of the Absolute); the Pleroma of the Gnostics; the Shuddha or "Pure" tattvas (evolutes) of Kashmir Shaivism; the Universal Man or Logos, and also (from a different orientation) the Universe of Lahut or Divinity, in Sufi teachings; Atzilut in the Kabbalistic tradition; or the Overmind in the teachings of Poet-Yogi Sri Aurobindo

H.P. Blavatsky refers to this as the Atmic region or Atala.

 "It emanates directly from ABSOLUTENESS and is the first something in the Universe.  Its correspondence is the Hierarchy of non-substantial [i.e. pure Spirit] primordial Beings....This Hierarchy contains the primordial plane, all that was, is, and will be, from the beginning to the end of the Mahamanvantara [Cosmic Cycle, Kalpa]; all is there....Here are the Hierarchies of the Dhyani Buddhas.  There state is that of Parasamadhi, of the Dharmakaya; a state where no progress is possible.  The entities there may be said to be crystallised in purity..."
["Notes on Some Oral Teachings", in The Secret Doctrine, Adyar Edition, vol V, p.539]

"No progress is possible" because these are, in Sri Aurobindo's phrase, "typal beings" [Letters on Yoga]; they represent transcendent Spiritual Archetypes.  Yet even here there can still be transformation, for nothing in the Cosmos is absolutely static

The distinction between the Divine Many or Archetypal Hierarchies and the Supreme One or Absolute Godhead is described by many different esoteric writers.  Plotinus distinguishes between the One and the Nous, the former totally unitary, the latter containing the multi-plicity of Platonic Archetypes or Idea-forms in a state of eternity and bliss.  The Gnostics speak of Aeons or Divine Powers that emanate from the ineffable transcendent Spirit or "Fore-Father", to make up the Pleroma, the "fullness" or "completeness" of the transcendent Spiritual Universe.  The 5th/6th Century Christian Neoplatonist Dionysius the Aeropagate distinguishes between the Revealed and the Unknown Godhead: the three Persons of the triune God and the ineffable "supra-essential"  Unity from which they emerge.  A similiar idea is to be had in the various sects of Tantric and Tibetan Buddhism, with its iconography of the five Tathagata Buddhas that emerge from the original Dharmakaya or "Truth Body" of the Buddha, or the original Vairocona or Adibuddha.  The Kabbalists likewise distinguish between the quality-less En Sof and the the ten Sefirot or Divine Attributes which emerge successively from it and constitute the World of Atzilut; the Revealed Godhead as opposed to the Ineffable Godhead.  And Sri Aurobindo speaks of the difference between the infinite, unitary Truth-consciousness or Supermind (the Creative Absolute), which is total unity, and the Overmind which "takes all Truth that comes down to it from the Supermind, but sets up each Truth as a seperate force and idea" [The Hour of God, p.84].  This Overmind includes the "Great Gods" which oversee the Cosmos; hence the many Godheads emerge from the one Supreme Godhead.  Such examples could obviously be multiplied indefinitely.

The Emergance of the Original Archetypes from the One

The ten sefirot of Kabbalah, the Tibetan Buddhist Five Tathagata Buddhas, and Sri Aurobindo's four great Personalities or Powers of the Divine Mother [Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, pp.26ff (Sri Aurobindo Ashram,  Pondicherry)] all constitutes the emergence of the original archetypes from the Creative Absolute. In Kabbalah

"in terms of their origin in the En Sof the Sefirot are not differentiated, but in...their activity in the finite  realm of creation they are."
[Gershom Scholem, Link to Amazon com Kabbalah, p.100 (Meridian Books)].

Similarily, one could say that the Tibetan Tathagata Buddhas in their mandalic form represent the "Overmental" or Atzilut plane of existence; while in the Supramental or Absolute plane they would exist as a single totality, represented perhaps by Vajrasattva, "the imamnent, all-pervading reality of adamantine  voidness", "the universal state of the all-comprising essentiality" [Anagarika Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism, pp.188, 198 (Rider & Co,  London)], who embodies the entire meaning of Vajrayana Buddhism and is therefore invoked at the  beginning of many Tibetan initiations [Lauf, Link to Amazon com Secret Doctrines of the Tibetan Books of the Dead, pp.103- 4].  Thus there is a consensus in the different esoteric teachings.  The terminology and details may change, but the basic principles always remain the same.

Sri Aurobindo explains that whereas in the Overmind and triple world of Mind, Life, and Matter these Divine powers appear as independent beings,

"they return in the Supermind into the One and stand there united in a single harmonious action as multiple personalities of the One Person, the Divine Purushottama."
[Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, p.64]

The Noetic (Divine) Worlds

Between the Absolute Reality, which is eternally perfect, and the Dualistic Cosmos or Temporal Manifestation, which is imperfect (but evolving to perfection), is an intermediate hypostasis, or series of hypostases, that the Neoplatonists call the Nous or Noetic Cosmos. (I use the term "Noetic" in both cases to refer to the fact that these are both hypostases of Divine Mind - Sri Aurobindo uses the terms Supermind and Overmind, the latter being a delegate so to speak of the former)

In other wisdom traditions this reality is given different names, but the meaning is similar, although not always the same (because there is sometimes overlap with the Manifest Absolute). In Kabbalah and Modern Hermeticism it is the Divine world of Atzilut or Nearness to the Supreme. In Sufism it might be called Jabarut. In the system of Sri Aurobindo it is called the Overmind. In Sant Mat the term Paar-Brahm (Super-Causal) is used. In Mahayna Buddhism reference might be made to the Sambhogakaya. And so on.

The following represents one possible overview of this segment of Reality, which represents the "lowest" emanation of the perfection of the Absolute, in which perfect knowledge, will, etc is retained. I have borrowed here from Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, Tantra, Sufism, Kabbalah, and the teachings of Max and Alma Theon. The terms themselves are adapted from Proclus (late Neoplatonism). Each of these worlds are characterised by Archetypal forces.

Divine Consciousness-Being - In forming and becoming Creation, the Manifest Absolute first takes the form of the Divine Consciousness-Being, which is so close to the Absolute Itself it can barely be distinguished. In Kabbalah this would seem to be Keter (the highest sefirot) of Atzilut or, in some (althogh not all) Lurianic interpretations, of Adam Kadmon.  In Tantric and Kashmir Shaivite terminology this might be equated with Sadashiva or Sadakhya (Eternal Shiva) in which the Shiva or Consciousness-pole predominating. In the system of Sri Aurobindo it is called the Supramental Overmind. According to Theon, the first world is beyond human attainment at present (hence his term for it Occultisms - hidden), but as none of the other teachings say this it would seem like he is here referring rather to the Aurobindoan Supermind (Manifest or Truth Consciousness Absolute) which represnets the future state of planetary evolution.

Divine Love-Empathy - Divine Consciousnes-Being takes the form of Divine Love-Empathy, lower "octave" of the stage or mode of The Godhead Absolute. In Late Neoplatonism, Life follows Being in the sequence of supernal hypostases. By associaton, life and love (or empathy) might seem to go go together. This stage or world might be equated with the Tantric/Kashmir Shaivite term Ishwara (God or Lord), in which Shakti predominates. Tentatively, the Sufi universe or Divine Presence (hadrat) of Jabarut (Sovereignty, Omnipotence), might be associated here and in the associated sub-levels. This is the realm of Divine Power, which is said to represent the level of Unity (wahdat), and is "an intermediate realm between the All-Encompassing and His commands". Theon refers to this hypostasis as Pathetisms, an embodiment of great power and universal love and empathy (his term Pathotism is very difficult to translate)

Divine Knowledge - This is the manifestation of Divine Love-Empathy, and tends more towards creation. In Tantric/Kashmir Shaivism it is the lowest of the purely cosmic grades. It is there called Sadvidya (True Knowledge), in which Shakti and Shiva are balanced and Creation is about to occur. In in Kabbalah this might be said to correspond to the sefirah Binah (Knowledge), the lowest of the three supernals (so the three supernals in Kabbalah can be compared to the three cosmic shanta tattwas in Kashmir Shaivism/Trika)

Essence-Archetypes - Formative - Maya-shakti - This important level is the abode of the Spiritual archetypes behind the gross and subtle cosmic realities. In Neoplatonism this would be the Nous or Divine Mind where are found the archetypes. In Kashmir Shaivism it is the lowest sublevel of Sadvidya, where are found the Eight Vidyeshwaras (Lords of Knowledge), as well as of Mahamaya (the highest level of maya). In Kabbalah some or all of the lower seven sefirot of the universe of Atzilut might go here; these are the creators of the subsequent worlds. In the teachings of Max and Alma Theon the third world or Etherisms where are found the source of the spiritual qualities of the "material" world (= Cosmos). Sri Aurobindo's Overmind-Proper would go here. In short, this is the region where the original Unity is divided into many autonomous realities (but also when ascending the many are unified as the one)

Essence-Archetypes - Maya-tattwa - This is a transitional level between the Noetic gnosis and cosmic enlightenment above, and finite delimited separative existence below. In Kashmir Shaivism this is the level of maya and the five kanchukas. Sri Aurobindo refers to the two lower Overmind levels - Intuitive Overmind and Mental Overmind, which although not really the same are still transitional stages, and hence the subpalnes where the original Overmind gnosis and underlying unity is lost. In the teachings of Max and Alma Theon this is the "fourth veiling" which contains the attribute sor principles that formed created existence

Gross and Subtle Kosmos and planes - from the Essence-Archetypes is derived the gross and subtle cosmos or cosmoses, the Creation, the infinite worlds and emanated planes of Spiritual, Psychic and Physical existence and evolution, samsara, in Indian thought prakriti or maya, in Kabbalah the three worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, in Theon's terminology the seven or eight states of Materialisms, in Theosophy the seven planes and in Anthroposophy the seven rounds or cycles, the gradation of spirit to matter and vice versa, the sphere of evolution and duality, which are the worlds in which we find ourselves.

In the emanationist paradigm, each preceeding world constitutes the Godhead or Ground of Being in relation to the next hypostasis down, which is its expression, focus, and manifestion. So the Absolute (or more specifically The Logos or Dynamic Absolute, what Sri Aurobindo terms Supermind) is the Source and Ground of Being of Divine Consciousness-Being. But even though the Divine Consciousness-Being is limited relative to the Manifest Absolute, it is still infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and all the other attributes of Godhead relative to the universe below it. And so on with each of the stages, each of which represents a progressively more self-involved or self-focused mode of Supreme Godhead or Absolute Deity (The Dynamic Absolute).

The following represents a very tentative and perhaps arbitrary (but what the heck) mapping of the stages of noetioc manifestation, from those adjacent to the Transcendent to those adjacent to the world of duality.

Very Provisional Table of Noetic Planes of Existence
Hypostasis of Noetic Divinity Iamblichus and Proclus
(tentative - pending closer research)
Kashmir Shaivism
(interpretations vary)
(interpretations vary)
(interpretations vary)
(tentative - pending closer research)
(maybe - but these are poorly described)
Sri Aurobindo
(scanty description of two lower sublevels)
The Henads Shiva-Shakti (Shantatita kala) Lahut
Divinity - Unity
Adam Kadmon (Luria) (or En Sof) Occultisms
Inaccessible to man in his present state
5th Kosmic Plane
4th Kosmic Plane
3rd Kosmic Plane
2nd Kosmic Plane


Noetic - Being Sadashiva
Shiva predominating
Lordship - Unity
Atzilut - sefirot:



7 states
1st Kosmic Plane - includes 7 planes:
7th Prakritic - (unmanifest)
6th Prakritic - Alayic-Prakritic
Supramental Overmind

Noetic-Noeric - Life Ishwara
Shakti predominating
Hokmah 5th Prakritic Plane
- Mahatic (Divine Mind)

Shiva and Shakti balanced - ready to create


Noeric - Mind (Nous) Lower Sadvidya
Eight Vidyeshwaras


7 states
4th Prakritic Plane
- Fohatic (creative force)
Overmind Proper
Overmind Logos
Overmind Maya

Pure-Impure Tattwas - vijnanakalas and mayatattwa Malakut (pure spirits) 4th Veiling - 7 Attributes 3rd Prakritic - - Jaivic (Soul)
2nd Prakritic -- Prakritic Astral
Intuitive Overmind
Mental Overmind
The Kosmos Psychic, and Sense World Impure Tattwas:
Imaginal World
Material world
Beriah (with 10 sef.)
Yetzirah (with 10 sef.)
Asiyah (with 10 sef.)
7 or 8 states
1st Prakritic Plane
Objective or Terrestrial
Psychic Mental

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
some material here (on original archetypes etc) first uploaded 27 May and 19 June 1998, this page last modified 3 January 2010