A Journal of Inner Work and Therapeutic Arts
Immanence and Identity in Plural Personality

Studies Index...

Frames of reference...

31 December 2012

I recently came upon yogi, theosophist and Sanskrit scholar Ernest Wood's essay, The Seven Rays, published by The Theosophical Society in America, 1925.  Wood's writing reflects the times. Many of his analogies are outdated or politically askew by contemporary standards, but he clearly knows his material and his efforts to explain the schema to a Western audience remain engaging. His introduction to and description of each ray goes to the assertion that, with the evolution of the human soul, every person can identify one of these Seven Rays as a predominant principle within him- or herself, experiencing it as a guide or star to follow, "an ideal, attracting them with irresistible fascination, so that they cannot but make their way towards it as their motive in life". In addition to this predominant principle, every individual also has all of the other six principles as well. The picture becomes increasingly complicated, but let's try to keep it simple.

In a man of character, who is not a servant to his body or the personal emotions connected with that body, or the fixed ideas that it has acquired, but has really some active will or love or thought in himself, the ray can be distinguished with comparative ease, and there are certain questions that he may put to himself which will help him to discover his own ray; but these I must reserve until the specific rays have been described.

In the common life of men, the rays are exhibited in the following general types:

  1. The man of will, seeking freedom through mastery of self and environment: the ruler.
  2. The man of love, seeking unity through sympathy: the philanthropist.
  3. The man of thought, seeking comprehension through the study of life: the philosopher.
  4. The man of imagination, seeking harmony in a three-fold way: the magician, actor and symbolical artist or poet.
  5. The man of thought, seeking truth in the world: the scientist.
  6. The man of love, seeking God as goodness in the world: the devotee.
  7. The man of will, seeking the beauty that is God in the world: the artist and craftsman.

Not a lot to grab hold of there, but Wood follows this list with lengthy descriptions of each ray, challenging the reader to identify his or her predominant personal principle:

In the above diagram the Seven Rays are shown as numbers. The upward-pointing triangle is chit (consciousness), and the downward-pointing triangle is sat (existence, being). "The whole is a symbol of the expression, through two related trinities, of seven equal principles, which may be called the seven principles of God." This is a representation of the great Trinity — Brahma-Shiva-Vishnu: 1-2-3 . 4 . 5-6-7, with all rays of Shiva, but with Shiva represented as ānanda (happiness, harmony), #4, at center.

The question is not how you stand as compared with any other person, but what principle is the leader of the forces within your own soul. [...]

Above all, what do you want deep down inside yourself? Put aside all your desires, and ask yourself what it is that you really want, and do not accept any superficial answer, but ask yourself why you give that answer and what is the deeper need that remains behind. If you have liking or disliking, a passing and superficial fancy or repugnance, for any of the rays, it will distort your vision of the truth. You must be absolutely willing to accept anything from the intuition, and never question it while hoping that its answer may be this or that. [...]

When you have chosen your guiding star, the following will be the lamps to light your feet through the tangled undergrowth of life, and the powers that will speed you on your way:


The issue is sometimes further complicated by the presence in the character of a strong second principle. Of course, every ray has its seven sub-divisions, and each of those its seven again, but those we are not considering, because within a principle the characteristics of that principle are dominant over all these shades, just as all shades of yellow are yellow, and all shades of green are green. But it may be that the second strongest principle in one's constitution has a voice of its own, clear and strong, and under some circumstances of life almost as prominent to the term sub-ray [...]

And that's about where I elected to take what I'd found and leave the rest for another time... The ray of greatest resonance for me is clearly number 4.  Wood's write-up for the Fourth Ray was especially interesting, relevant in surprising detail.

So, getting into the Seven Rays schema has provided a new frame of reference enabling a shift in perspective with respect to self-concept as transiting Uranus conjuncts my Midheaven and mean North Node. Another frame of reference has presented in the context of Vedic astrology (about which I know little, at the moment), and in terms of the sidereal chart — the Hindu/Lahiri geocentric (sidereal). Calculated at Joni Patry's, the Vedic chart is shown at lower left. The Lahiri sidereal, erected at Astrodienst, is shown at lower right.

In the Lahiri sidereal, note that most planets and positions have dropped back a sign. Apprehending this shift will require some significant interpretive work. An Aries Mercury and Moon... Hm. And an Aquarian Jupiter? Chiron in Scorpio... that's not so difficult... But Saturn and Mars in Leo? Neptune in Virgo?