Introductory Note: The following is adapted from a paper written
for a grade within a magical Order that I was once involved in. I
have left some of the references to using Golden Dawn techniques
of Banishing Rituals and God Names in, generally in parentheses or
brackets, although I no longer believe that the paranoia and
sterility of ‘Western Tradition’ magic is necessary or desirable.
Any work within one’s sub-conscious is real and potentially
dangerous. It is possible to spark off deeply repressed memories
and traumas, which at the extreme can lead to a serious life
crisis. Tattva work is no different, and many tales abound warning
against becoming obsessed with one particular Tattva (element),
which may lead to a state of imbalance. I highly recommend that
anyone wanting to explore the Tattvas at very least be familiar
with the concepts of ‘active imagination’, ‘visualisation’, or ‘pathworking’.
It is a good idea to record details of all sessions in a journal
or diary, for later reference.
Tattvas are a way of directly "experiencing" the 5 alchemical
elements, so are therefore the logical progression of the previous
elemental grade where the elements were first discussed and
symbolic ways of working with them described. The student is now
taught a method of directly learning the "theoretical" structure
of the elemental worlds.
A Brief History of the Tattvas
There are six main schools of thought on Tattvic philosophy. The
original Tattva system was developed by the Indian Kapila as part
of his Sankhya philosophy. This was about 700BCE, but the roots of
Tattvic philosophy go back to at least 2000BCE. Kapila's Sankhya
philosophy system divides the universe into five basic Tattvic
shapes, which when countercharged become 25 Tattvas.
The word Tattva is comprised of two words, "Tat" (meaning "that")
and "Tvam" (meaning "thou"). Tattva basicially means "thatness",
that is, the real being of anything. It is generally translated as
meaning “quality”. Further, "Tat" represents the Godhead and "Tvam"
the individual, giving a meaning (which fits in well with Hermetic
Philosophy) of "That (which is the Universe) art thou." This is
similar to the Hermetic axiom of "As above, so below", and is
directly related to the concepts of the Macrocosm ("Tat", Godhead)
and Microcosm ("Tvam", individual).
The Hatha Yoga School of Tattvic Philosophy links the energy found
in breathing (Prana) with the cycle of the five Tattvas. The
eighth chapter of the "Shivagama" is "The Science of Breath and
the Philosophy of the Tattvas." It is written within this work
that "The Universe came out of the Tattvas; it goes on by the
instrumentality of the Tattvas; it disappears into the Tattvas; by
the Tattvas is known the nature of the Universe."
The Tattvas are the five modifications of the Great Breath, Prana,
which is described as the life principle of the Universe
(macrocosm) and man (microcosm). Prana consists of an ocean of the
The Buddhist texts of Indian Tantra describe 7 energy centres
(chakras) in connection with the five Tattvas. This finds its
ultimate refinement in the Tibetan Buddhist fivefold chakra
system, which is part of their fivefold division of esoteric
symbolism for categorising the Universe. The Tattvas correspond to
the five lower chakras in the Indian scheme of energy centres, and
to all five psychic centres of the Tibetan chakra scheme.
H.P. Blavatsky's Theosophical Society, based in Adyar, India,
derived the bulk of their knowledge on Tattvas from Rama Prasad,
who taught the Tattvic philosophy of the Hatha Yoga School. The
Theosophists combined these teachings with those of the Esoteric
Tibetan Buddhist tradition. On top of this they conjectured two
more Tattvas, to make a total of seven, which allowed them to
directly match the Tattvas to there sevenfold system, in
particular to the seven Chakras.
The Tattvas they added were Adi, which is egg shaped, and
Anupadaka, which is a crescent moon containing a radiant white
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn incorporated the
Theosophical Tattva system, however discarding the sixth and
seventh conjectured Tattvas, The Golden Dawn utilised Kapila's
Sankhya Tattva system of 25 countercharges. This was the only
Eastern concept that the Golden Dawn introduced into their system.
It was perhaps influenced by the mention of Tattvas in
Bulwer-Lytton's novel Zanoni, which was very likely the first
mention of Tattvas in Western literature. In Zanoni the poisoning
of the main character was neutralised by the magical visualisation
of the Apas Tattva.
The Golden Dawn system parallels the five Tattvas to the Western
Doctrine of the 5 elements, the four primary elements and
The Tattvic Philosophy in Western Tradition
The Tattvas are the astral form of the Elements, upon which the
Physical elements are based. The process of how the Tattvic
elements become manifest is a complex process, which will be
described briefly below.
From the Sun, a 'solar wind' constantly streams forth. It is a
partially electro-magnetic nitrous gas, which is very subtle and
non-physical in nature. This is the Prana (Life Matter) of the
Eastern Mysteries. The Earth's magnetic field captures this
incorporeal nitre as the wind streams past our planet. This
unmanifest substance circulates around the planet in a series of
fivefold waves, each of which comprises five sub-waves. These
waves are constantly rising and falling. It becomes more and more
physical as it passes through our atmosphere. A salt is formed as
this nitre passes through water vapour. This is "a most subtle
virgin earth," the Prima Materia of the alchemists.
The Tattva flows start at sunrise and flow from Spirit, to Air, to
Fire, to Water, to Earth. Each sub-Tattva takes four minutes and
48 seconds to transit a given spot, meaning it takes a total of 24
minutes for each main Tattva. Thus it takes a total of two hours
for a primary flow of all five Tattvas to transit. The Earth's
electromagnetic field and ley lines are vitalised by these
(Note: There are different schools of thought as to the timing of
the Tattva flows. This is just one school of thought and was used
by the Golden Dawn system.)
All five Tattvas are considered to be "ethers." The atoms of the
ether bring the atoms of the atmosphere into the necessary state
of vibration for us to perceive it. Each of the Tattvic ethers is
related to one of the five senses. Rama Prasad gives the example
that Light is the manifestation of the Tejas Tattva (the
luminiferous ether) within the atmosphere, that is, matter is
brought into the correct visual vibration for us to perceive it.
In "Nature's Finer Forces" Tattvas are defined as the following: a
mode of motion; the central impulse, which keeps matter in a
certain vibratory state; a distinct form of vibration. Also,
"every form and every motion is a manifestation of these Tattvas
singly or in conjunction."
The first statement reflects what hermetic science states of the
nature of the alchemical processes, that is, “to raise the
vibrations of matter" and thus bring it into the condition of
harmony, Quintessence. Modern Physics concurs with this ancient
knowledge that all matter is energy at various vibratory rates.
The second statement, that all matter and motion is a
manifestation of the Tattvas is a direct parallel with the Western
Doctrine of Elements, which also asserts that all matter is
comprised of varying proportions of the subtle elements.
The other direct parallel between the Eastern and Western systems
is that Tattvic philosophy asserts that Akasha is the "most
important" Tattva. Akasha is what Western Tradition calls Spirit,
or Quintessence, and like the four base elements all deriving from
Spirit, "it is out of Akasha that every form comes, and it is in
Akasha that every form lives."
The Western Tradition's Doctrine of Elements is exemplified by the
Enochian system of magick. Compared with the Tattvas, the Enochian
system has been more intellectualised. This seems only natural in
that (in psychological terms) the Western tradition is one of
"thinking" and the Eastern tradition is one of "feeling."
Modern Enochian magickians have proposed a direct correlation
between the Elements and the Forces of modern science. This is
perhaps very relevant to the Tattvas, in that as "ethers" they are
subtle and intangible, something that gives form to matter.
Akasha/Spirit is correlated to the hypothesised "Superforce" of
the Grand Unified Field theory of Relativity. Air and Fire are in
juxtaposition in Enochian, compared to the Vayu and Tejas of
Tattvic Philosophy, but are equated to the weak and strong nuclear
forces of physics. Water/Apas is linked to electromagnetism and
Earth/Prithivi is linked to Gravity.
Each of the Tattvas has a corresponding symbol and colour, which
can be considered an atomic form of the element when it is viewed
clairvoyantly. These symbols differ from the Western Tradition
symbols and colour attributions, and also vary slightly between
the various Tattvic philosophies. Each of the Tattvas and their
attributes will be described separately below.
The Akasha Tattva is associated with the Spirit of Western
Tradition and is the sonoriferous ether (sound). It is represented
by some as a black or indigo Vesica Piscis, which is almond
shaped. It represents the womb of the Universal Mother. In other
versions, such as the Golden Dawn tradition, Akasha is symbolised
by an oval or egg shape. Akasha is "every colour" or "clear."
Black can also be seen as the absorption of all other colours, and
its "flashing" (complimentary) colour is luminous.
The quote given before, that Akasha is the most important Tatva,
in that all forms come from and live in it, is of particular
importance. The Akasha Tattva, when used as a "doorway" for
scrying can allow one to scan for information within what
Theosophists have termed the Akashic Record. The Akashic record
contains, as the quote states, all forms. It could be compared
with the "collective unconscious" of Jungian psychology. It
contains all memories of human experience, but beyond it contains
all future "history" in seed form.
Vayu is the tangiferous ether (touch). It is associated with the
element of Air in Western Tradition. It is represented by a
Tejas is the luminiferous ether (sight/light/colour). It is
associated with the element of Fire in Western Tradition. It is
represented by a red equilateral triangle. The Fire of Tejas is
considered to be Agni, which is the Vedic sacrificial fire and the
interior fire of Kundalini Yoga.
Apas is the gustiferous ether (taste). It is associated with the
element of Water in Western Tradition. It is represented in the
Tibetan version as a purple half circle. The Golden Dawn depicted
Apas as a white or silver crescent, with the two points up.
Prithivi is the odoriferous ether (smell). It is associated with
the element of Earth in Western Tradition. It is represented by a
The sub-Tattvas are represented by placing a smaller Tattvic
symbol within the larger main Tattvic symbol. This gives a total
of 25 Tattvas: Spirit of Spirit, Air of Spirit, Fire of Spirit,
Water of Spirit, Earth of Spirit; Air of Air, Fire of Air, Water
of Air, Earth of Air, Spirit of Air; Fire of Fire, Water of Fire,
Earth of Fire, Spirit of Fire, Air of Fire; Water of Water, Earth
of Water, Spirit of Water, Air of Water, Fire of Water; & Earth of
Earth, Spirit of Earth, Air of Earth, Fire of Earth, Water of
Clairvoyance and the Tattvas
Within the Western Tradition, the Tattvas are primarily used to
help develop the faculty of astral clairvoyance.
The symbol of the Tattvas is placed upon cards. Sub-Tattvas are
placed within the larger Tattva image. The process of scrying is
started by sitting comfortably and gazing fixedly at the Tattvic
symbol until it is thoroughly assimilated. The edges of the
Tattvic symbol will appear luminous after several minutes, as the
flashing (or complimentary) colour appears on the retina. This
complimentary colour is considered to be the astral counterpart of
the actual colour. While meditating on the chosen Tattva, one
should also "feel" the attributes of the associated element,
letting the entire consciousness be filled with the appropriate
sensations. For example with the Vayu Tattva, one could imagine a
breeze blowing around and through them, concentrating on how this
airy breeze feels, smells, tastes and sounds.
Once the Tattva has been completely assimilated the card can be
set aside and the eyes closed. The Tattvas symbol should appear in
its flashing colour. This symbol serves as a doorway through which
one travels. When entering through the symbol one should feel
themselves pass through a ‘veil’ or membrane. Once on the other
side, one should take a moment to adjust to their new
surroundings, taking note of what the new surroundings consist of.
A guide can be summoned to accompany you on your exploration of
the surroundings, who can explain aspects of the environment to
you, and take you to important entities who live within the realm
(According to ‘safety’ and ‘protocol’ various esoteric groups
insist on the following: when first met, a guide should be tested
with elemental signs, and the highest magickal names associated
with the element. If the guide responds correctly to the signs,
then it can be followed in good faith.) It is important to show
all due courtesy to a guide, and thank it for its time and
co-operation and bid it farewell. It is also of benefit to ask its
permission to summon it again when you next return to this Tattva.
This initial entry point is also where one departs from, stepping
backwards through the portal. Once back on the other side, one
should visualise the portal closing.
This process is intended to allow one to enter into the actual
element (Tattva flow), initially via "active imagination" and
eventually by spontaneous clairvoyance. By scrying the astral
current we are attempting to see beyond the material manifestation
of an element by transmuting the physical Element into its astral
state. The intent is to learn about the vital principle, which the
element represents. Within the astral this vital principle becomes
perceptible to us as living beings of approximately human form.
Everything within this astral environment is of a form and
appearance that is highly symbolic of the meanings and intentions
of what it represents. On the physical plane humans have obscured
this process of dressing in a ways not symbolic of their true
natures. Most animals however still retain a degree of symbolism,
such as bright colours often representing the dangerous nature of
the animal (especially in the case of tropical fish, tree frogs,
On the astral, Elementals may masquerade for a while in deceptive
form, buts its true form is always constant with its Element and
character. (More from the ‘traditions’: To try and 'force' them
into assuming their true form one can test them by using God
Names, Grade/Elemental signs, Invoking/Banishing forms of the
Elemental pentagrams). Deep scanning of an entity's core ideals
and feelings allows one to compare how it "feels" with how it
"appears," and if the feelings don't match with its outward
appearance then deception can be detected.
[More from the ‘traditions’: Every opportunity to question
entities encountered should be taken, being sure to respect and
appreciate them as sentient beings. All due courtesy should be
shown to them in accordance with their rank, deference and
humility being shown to the Superior Orders, the Archangels,
Angels and Rulers. Those of lower rank than oneself should be
treated as equals, while those of the lowest ranks should be
treated with the respect one would show to a servant, without
Elementals such as fairies, gnomes, salamanders, etc., must be
treated with caution as they are often prone to mischievous
although are generally free from malice.]
Through the use of the Tattvas great insight can be gained into
the structure of the astral, and the mechanics which remain
concealed from physical reality. No opportunity should be
overlooked to learn and explore the environments, and wise and
knowledgeable entities should be sought who may be able to impart
knowledge of and insights into magickal and alchemical processes
With courtesy of