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Saptantattva is a word I coined through my very rudimentary knowledge of Sanskrit. Saptan means “Seven,” whilst Tattva literally means “That-ness,” a quality of mundane reality, or as is more familiarly known in Western esotericism, “Element.”
“Saptantattva” may thus be very colloquially translated (assuming Sanskrit scholars will indulge me on this point) as “The Seven Elements.”
Now I appreciate a great many followers of Western Esotericism may have been labouring under the assumption all their lives that there are only Five Elements – Earth, Air, Water, Fire and Spirit. However, the idea of “Seven Elements” was first mooted by H P Blavatsky in the Secret Doctrine, and also mentioned by a number of other Theosophical writers. More importantly (at least from my point of view): the Golden Dawn was founded to provide a westernised answer to Theosophy. The founders of the GD admired Theosophy greatly, but they were concerned that they wanted to fit its teachings into a Qabalistic framework. Hence, as a result of some personal research I have been doing, I believe that it was always the intention of the founders of the GD to create Qabalistic versions of the more advanced and recondite teachings of Theosophy to provide material for the Higher Grades. This included the Saptantattva.
I do not however have any evidence that this came to fruition. It appears to me that Westcott was heavily involved in formulating the proposed higher teachings – but when he left the Golden Dawn and had his falling out with Mathers, he ceased to make any new contributions to order teachings from that point on. I am convinced that the order was thus robbed of an immense talent when he departed. I say that Westcott was working on these teachings because I have seen a notebook in which he was making notes on a Seven element system.
The main evidence for a system of Seven Elements to be used by members of the higher grades of the GD comes not from Westcott but from Mathers. In a piece given to the AO regarding the magic formulae of the 1=10 grade – a paper apparently given out to Theorici Adepti Minores – he has the following to say: in the context of mentioning the Seven-Branched Candlestick –
Why then, was the number seven? Because all the Heat and Light cometh from the Sun upon the Earth, as it were, the product or essence of the Solar prana, the which, as thou shouldest well know by this time, O Aspirant to our Mysteries who hast attained unto the Grade of ThAM, is divided into Seven Tattvas of our Eastern Brethren (of which five are known to the Lower Grades of the Order)…1
To my mind this is pretty conclusive evidence that Mathers certainly intended to teach the Seven Element theory to higher grade adepts. However, although he certainly propounded secret teachings in relation to the Seven-Branched Candlestick itself, if he wrote of the Seven Elements themselves, then that is a paper which I have not seen, if indeed it existed.
I have therefore taken the liberty of attempting to reconstruct the principles of the Seven Elements – if only for my own benefit.
Why Seven elements at all? As opposed to, say, the more conventional Five? The theosophical sources I have seen are quite clear – it was so that there would be one element for each Chakra. This seems to be a teaching peculiar to theosophy – it does not seem to be supported in conventional yogic theory. The Seven Elements may be thought of as the five which are generally known, plus two more which are successively higher than Spirit. They are as follows:
The Seven Elements
Symbol: A pale blue egg or oval.
Chakra: Sahasrara (the crown-chakra or thousand petalled lotus).
Element: See below.
Suggested Divine Name: … (Silence).
The literal meaning of the Sanskrit “Adi” is “first” – i.e. it is the first cause or causeless cause. Despite the fact that in the Qabalah the crown of the head is associated with Kether, which is the first manifest, the idea of first cause is more properly associated with the Ain Soph itself.
How is it possible to regard the Ain Soph etc as an “element?” The answer lies in the fact that in magical terms, the Tattvas are not just elements – but planes of existence, of which the elements are their outward manifestation in the world of form.
Westcott noted that the first three Elements were equivalent to the Christian Trinity. “Adi” itself he noted as “God the Father.”
If the association of Adi with the Ain Soph or causeless first cause is given, then there can hardly be any Divine Name capable of referring to what is the infinite and ineffable. Hence the only thing which can come close to doing it justice is complete Silence.
Symbol: A yellow crescent with a blazing sun in the midst.
Chakra: Ajna (brow / “third-eye”)
Element: See below.
Suggested Divine Name: Yeheshuah (YHShVH)
From the great unmanifest in Adi we come to the first manifest, termed “Anupadaka.” This is the plane of existence of the “Gods” – or “Dhyani-Buddhas” in Theosophical terms. In Christian / Gnostic terms we might call it “Christ-consciousness.” Indeed, in Westcott’s note, next to Anupadaka he writes “Father + Son.” For this reason I have taken the liberty of suggesting using “Yeheshuah” as the Divine Name associated in the Qabalah with Anupadaka (incidentally linking it in neatly with Martinist teachings on YHShVH at the same time).
Symbol: A black egg or ovoid.
Chakra: Vishuddi (Throat)
Divine Names: Eheieh, Agla.
Here we move into more familiar territory. “Akasha” or Spirit is the seed from which all the other elements unfold or grow. One could even see that Akasha contains the subsequent elements, in much the same way that an acorn “contains” the Oak which will eventually grow therefrom. It appears that Westcott equated the element of Spirit with the actual “Holy Spirit” of the Christian trinity (or as he wrote: “Father, Son + Holy Spirit.”) Thus Adi, Anupadaka and Akasha together represent Divine Thought, Word, and Action.
The Divine Names for Akasha are taken from the Pentagram ritual of the Golden Dawn.
Symbol: A blue circle.
Chakra: Anahata (Heart)
Divine names: YHVH (Pentagram ritual); Shaddai El Chai (Philosophus knowledge lecture).
Symbol: A red triangle.
Chakra: Manipuraka (Solar plexus)
Divine names: Elohim (Pentagram ritual); YHVH Tzebaoth (Philosophus knowledge lecture).
Symbol: Silver crescent.
Chakra: Svadisthana (Sacral centre / genitals).
Divine Names: El (Pentagram ritual); Elohim Tzebaoth (Philosophus knowledge lecture).
Symbol: Yellow square.
Chakra: Muladhara (base / perineum).
Divine Name: Adonai.
- “The Complete Explanation of the 1=10 Grade of Zelator,” – printed in Zalewski, p187.
Zalewski, P, 2006, Inner Order Teachings of the Golden Dawn, Thoth Publications, Leicester.