THEOSOPHY, Vol. 81, No. 12, October, 1993
(Pages 367-372; Size: 14K)



[Part 11 of a 16-part series]

The English word "energy" has its origin in the Greek word for activity, energia. Like Proteus in Greek mythology, energy takes on many forms that can quickly change to other forms. In physics, energy and matter (mass) are related in the well-known formula of Albert Einstein, where the square of the speed of light is the mysterious factor relating the two.

Energy, a word used often in the Secret Doctrine and other theosophical literature, generally relates to creative forces, such as Manas and Fohat. Just as the source of physical energy is our visible sun, so the source of inner energy is the "spiritual sun," a symbol for higher forces in man and the cosmos. Here are a few relevant quotations on the subject from The Secret Doctrine:

... when the so-called "Creation," or formation of a planet, is accomplished by that force which is designated by the Occultists LIFE and by Science "energy," then the process takes place from within outwardly, every atom being said to contain in itself creative energy of the divine breath (I, 11-12 fn).

Stanza IV. shows the differentiation of the "Germ" of the Universe into the septenary hierarchy of conscious Divine Powers, who are the active manifestations of the One Supreme Energy. They are the framers, shapers, and ultimately the creators of all the manifested Universe, in the only sense in which the name "Creator" is intelligible; they inform and guide it; they are the intelligent Beings who adjust and control evolution, embodying in themselves those manifestations of the ONE LAW, which we know as "The Laws of Nature." (S.D. I, 21-22.)

Fohat, running along the seven principles of AKASA, acts upon manifested substance or the One Element, ... and by differentiating it into various centres of Energy, sets in motion the law of Cosmic Evolution, which, in obedience to the Ideation of the Universal Mind, brings into existence all the various states of being in the manifested Solar System (S.D. I, 110).

Fohat, then, is the personified electric vital power, the transcendental binding Unity of all Cosmic Energies, on the unseen as on the manifested planes. ... In his secondary aspect, Fohat is the Solar Energy, the electric vital fluid, and the preserving fourth principle, the animal Soul of Nature, so to say, or -- Electricity (S.D. I, 111-112).

The Many Kinds of Energy

Latent or stored energy is known as potential energy; in an active phase, energy is called kinetic. Although all earth energy is ultimately "solar," it is conveniently divided into several categories, based on how it currently appears; for example, besides potential and kinetic energy there is:

CHEMICAL ENERGY -- stored in chemicals for future use, as in food; sometimes in batteries for electricity.

ELECTRICAL ENERGY -- widely used in the modern world in numerous ways (power, communication); a mysterious form.

HEAT ENERGY -- a by-product of other forms of energy, from friction and burning fuels; widely present.

ATOMIC ENERGY -- derived from forces within the atom; includes thermonuclear energy.

SOLAR ENERGY -- utilized directly from the sun.

The chemical energy of food is stored in our bodies and constantly used. Plants manufacture food from raw materials, much as humans manufacture complex products from simple elements. Water, carbon dioxide, minerals, and sunlight are the basic materials utilized by plants, which have the remarkable ability to convert them into simple and complex sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, vitamins, and other essentials needed by higher kingdoms. Food makes possible the symbiotically balanced world of plants, animals, and people.

The Magic of Electricity

Electrical energy in its crudest form is generated, distributed, and used to supply power for lighting, heating, running appliances and industrial equipment, and in many other ways. It also exists in subtler, organic form in plants and animals. Electromagnetic fields are present in all the cells and organs of animal and human bodies. The fields are primarily in the astral, which, according to Theosophy, is the real physical, the astral serving as its model.

Although we use electricity extensively, very few understand what it really is. Even scientists grasp only its manifestations; like Karma, its essence is elusive. Even for those who accept the existence of the unseen metaphysical world, electricity is difficult to pin down. It is possibly the highest, most spiritual and least material form of familiar energy.

Electricity is most often used in the forms of direct and alternating currents. Direct current (DC) flows from storage batteries, for example, those used in automobiles and portable appliances. Alternating current (AC), the more common form, is generated and distributed as power for using machinery, lighting, radio, television sets, etc. Cyclic alternation follows a universal pattern represented mathematically as a sine function, the wavy symbol of vibration, or more abstractly as motion in a circle.

Everything in the universe moves in a complex spiral pattern -- a nearly circular motion combines with a motion representing the changes brought on by time and space. The ideal spiral looks like a coiled spring, but because of the interacting effects of many independent spirals in space, including the many galactic systems, the overall pattern is not so simple. Karma, similarly, works in interactive cycles, generated, mitigated and delayed by human actions which, in time, produce the "appropriate" changes and balances.

Using Electricity to Communicate

Low-frequency electricity, from DC to the 50 or 60 AC power used in homes, flows almost entirely in metallic wires. High-frequency electricity, such as radio and television waves, propagates chiefly by radiation. Radio, television, and computers use electrical impulses in coded form to represent sounds, pictures, and other kinds of information. The codes are something like the genetic codes in organic DNA and RNA, stored in bodily cells as memories in compact codes of information.

The human eye also is constructed to receive and use energy impulses in the form of light. Approximately two million picture elements, in full color and three dimensions, received on the retinas of our eyes, are sent simultaneously to the brain, which translates them into whole pictures. Sound is received in a simpler manner by receptors in the ear, which are sensitive to vibrations of approximately 20 to 20,000 times per second. The brain has been trained through evolution to interpret, or decode, both kinds of sensory vibrations as pictures and sounds.

Television and video tape images are simplified human creations of nature's way of seeing. Pictures are dissected and sent piecemeal many times a second. The transmitted images are reconstructed in the television receiver from much less data than is seen by the eyes.

Theosophically speaking, Nature codes all physical, emotional and mental tendencies and stores the efficient codes in the skandhas. The skandhas eventually manifest as Karma in an "appropriate" way. This may sound too simplistic to convey the complexity of the highly intelligent but mysterious law of Karma.

Heat Energy and Global Warming

Heat energy is conveyed in three ways: by conduction, convection, and radiation -- or in combinations of the three. The feeling of warmth from the sun results from a conversion of some radiant solar energy to heat; radiant energy flows from warm bodies to cooler ones. Convection depends on fluid currents (air, water, etc.) for distribution. Conduction is direct heat transmission through a conducting medium.

Heat buildup on the earth may lead to global warming. As energy is converted into heat, some heat radiates to space, preserving a temperature range tolerable to plants and animals in their normal habitat. Any significant variation from the limits of that range will upset the balance and lead to extinction of many species. If we generate more heat than in the past and inhibit the escape of some heat to space, a gradual global warming will occur, causing polar ice to melt and oceans to inundate lowlying land areas.

Global warming is accelerated by increasing amounts of "greenhouse" gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons, which reduce heat radiation to space. Global warming may be reduced by producing less heat; we can burn less fuel, use less energy in our homes and in industry, use more energy-efficient transportation, control population, and cut food waste. Some heat can even be used to generate electricity.

Primitive organic ocean life has been reducing global warming for millions of years by removing carbon dioxide from the air and converting it and water into minerals like limestone. Large deposits of such minerals are found under oceans (the Great Barrier Reef near Australia) and on land (in southwestern China). Nature paves the way for higher life forms, but we must assist in preserving the balances nature, guided by intelligence, has established.

Energy Efficiency

Our available energy sources have not been used effectively. Although the sun is our chief energy source, we seldom use it directly except for light and some heat. We prefer the convenience of using solar energy that is naturally stored in such forms as wood, fossil fuels (coal, oil), and animal products. Most of these sources, which took years to form, are rapidly diminishing and will not meet current needs for long.

Atomic energy is also a limited resource replete with hazards. So, the only reasonable sources left are the so-called "free" or unlimited ones -- solar, wind, tides, ocean currents, etc. Free does not imply that the energy costs nothing; it takes money to harness and distribute all energy, but it can eventually be harnessed efficiently. The next article explores the future of new energy sources.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


Light is the first begotten, and the first emanation of the Supreme, and Light is Life, says the evangelist. Both are electricity -- the life-principle, the anima mundi, pervading the universe, the electric vivifier of all things. Light is the great Protean magician, and under the Divine Will of the architect, its multifarious, omnipotent waves gave birth to every form as well as to every living being. From its swelling, electric bosom, springs matter and spirit. Within its beams lie the beginnings of all physical and chemical action, and of all cosmic and spiritual phenomena; it vitalizes and disorganizes; it gives life and produces death, and from its primordial point gradually emerged into existence the myriads of worlds, visible and invisible celestial bodies. It was at the ray of this First mother, one in three, that God, according to Plato, "lighted a fire, which we now call the sun," and, which is not the cause of either light or heat, but merely the focus, or, as we might say, the lens, by which the rays of the primordial light become materialized, are concentrated upon our solar system, and produce all the correlations of forces. 

--Isis Unveiled

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