Our Make-up (Who and What we are)

A Quick Overview

Most of us think that we, the human being, are a physical body with a soul of some sort. We think that the real person is the physical body. This is like mistaking a house for the person who lives in it. Theosophy teaches us that the real person is really the ‘monad’ or inner unity, a fragment of Divinity, a spark of The Divine Flame, which lives in many ‘houses.’

Our physical body is our interface or crossing point with the environment around us. In fact we have as many interfaces or bodies as we have environments. We have the dense physical environment and we have environments of vital energy, feelings, thoughts, and intuitions. And so we have many houses in which we live – often referred to as ‘sheaths.’

In the physical world alone, we are surrounded by colours most of us cannot see, sounds we cannot hear, odours we cannot smell, and sensations we cannot feel just as we are surrounded by radio waves, X-rays, gamma rays, microwaves and other electromagnetic phenomena that we cannot perceive with our normal physical senses.

It is all a bit of a confusing jumble. From time immemorial Divine Wisdom or Theosophy has helped us understand our nature as human beings and our relationship to things ‘seen and unseen’ and our relationship to and place in the universe and beyond. And it has provided a blueprint for our progress, a path to ‘the heights’ and to self-realisation.

From the Ancient Wisdom teachings we know that our solar system includes seven interpenetrating planes of matter or fields of energy. Three of these planes or levels we know of. They are directly involved in our personal development. These are:

  • the physical
  • the emotional
  • the mental

The physical plane has two main subdivisions – the dense physical and a subtler physical level generally referred to as ‘etheric.’

The mental plane also has two main subdivisions, generally referred to as the ‘lower’ and ‘higher,’ mental planes. The lower mental plane or level is generally referred to simply as the mental level and the higher mental level as the ‘causal’ level or plane.

These various grades of matter furnish the ‘stuff’ or matter of our several bodies. The study of these planes or levels and our various bodies and their interaction with each other and with our environment – local, global and cosmic – is an essential beginning to studying Theosophy, the Divine or Ancient Wisdom. Theosophy makes sense of the two age old maxims – “Man first know thyself” and “As above so below.”


We humans are composed of several layers of consciousness and several bodies or vehicles. The different layers of consciousness are also referred to as ‘principles’ to differentiate from the ‘bodies’ through which the principles express themselves.

These different vehicles or mediums we possess manifest or take ‘form’ on different so called ‘planes’ such as the physical plane, the astral plane and the mental plane. These planes will be explained as we proceed.

Our Real Self is a Spark of The Divine Fire. Our spirit or ‘spark of the Divine’ is enclosed within numerous sheaths or husks. These sheaths prevent the full expression of the real You – Spirit. As we advance and gain Divine Wisdom knowledge, our consciousness passes from the lower plane to the higher planes. Thus, we become more and more aware of our higher nature.

Our spirit contains within it all capabilities and possibilities. As we progress new powers and new qualities come into the light. In other words we strip off the outer sheaths (or ‘bodies’) one by one to finally reveal pure spirit – The Real You - to whom

Everything is Possible

We are composed of seven layers of consciousness or principles. In other words we are a sevenfold creature.

Think of yourself as a Spirit, the Real Self, confined for the present within these sheaths, which are the ‘lower principles.’

We can manifest upon all seven planes or layers of consciousness.

The goal is to become so highly developed that we throw aside the lower principles and arrive at the highest plane or principle


We possess the potential for the seven principles. The first five planes or principles have been reached by many, the sixth by a very few, the seventh by only the very rarest individual spirit.

Now, in the 21st century, there are increasing numbers of people working to free themselves from the restrictions and limitations of the physical three dimensional self and knowingly function and exist in their four dimensional astral self. Having achieved that, they then set their sights on ‘ascending’ another level or plane or dimension, to work and exist in their mental body. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about this process, particularly about the true nature of ‘ascension.’ However, this is not a subject for discussion here.

So, what is all this business of ‘Principles’ and different ‘Bodies’ about? It all seems rather confusing!

Indeed it is confusing. The Seven Principles, although using similar terminology to the Seven

Planes, are not the same. The Principles are individual ‘qualities’ whereas the Planes are ‘states of Being’ or if you like levels of consciousness. These planes are often represented as ‘places.’ However, while this gives a good mental picture it is a little misleading.

The expression or names of the Seven Principles and Planes vary according to the language and understanding of the teaching school concerned. It also needs to be said that the division into seven planes is purely arbitrary. There are no dividing lines as such. One plane dissolves into the next. It is a continuum of steadily more and more refined energy or vibration frequency, as we will see in a later study.


Worthwhile websites to browse with reference to this Study:

These sites may bewilder you with the knowledge they offer, and this is not the time to study them in depth, but they are worth a visit to get a flavour of ‘the constitution of man as known to theosophists and occultists generally.

  1. “The Most Basic Theosophy website in the Universe,” run by Theosophy Cardiff: www.theosophycardiff.me.uk This site is a great and entertaining introduction to theosophy. Note particularly the section on the Constitution of Man under the section heading ‘Basic Principles of Theosophy.’
  2. The Theosophical constitution of man (and woman) ...
  3. The Sevenfold Constitution of a Human Being by HP Blavatsky