The Doctrine of Swabhava, Sanskrit language for, Self-Becoming, is one of the fundamental teachings of the Seven Jewels of Wisdom, the basic subjects studied in the Ancient Wisdom.

Swabhava,means the essential nature of each being, in Sanskrit “to become,” “to grow into something,” or “self-becoming.”

It implies that each being expresses its essential nature through bodies suitable for each stage of its spiritual evolution. The fundamental, immortal self sends rays into the material worlds and uses appropriate vehicles or bodies to express its inner nature, much as the sun sends out rays into the surrounding darkness of the solar system and nourishes the different planets of its kingdom.

The Seven Jewels of Wisdom

The Seven Jewels are:

Reincarnation-Re-embodiment – changing forms/the indestructibility of the human spirit.

Karma – the law of cause and effect.

The Doctrine of Hierarchies – Reality has many levels through which we progress.

The Doctrine of Swabhava – the essential nature of each organism.

The Doctrine of Evolution – perhaps more accurately described as the Doctrine of Emanation.

The Doctrine of the Two Paths – the path of immortality and the path of each one for himself.

Knowledge of the Self – also known as how the One becomes the Many.

The Seven Jewels all involve, and in fact build on each other. For example, Self-Becoming is the key to understanding the preceding three jewels, that is, Reincarnation, Karma, and Hierarchies.

The succeeding three jewels after Self-Becoming: Evolution, the Two Paths, and Knowledge of the Self, give the reason for all the struggles in Nature outlined in the first four jewels.

The Importance of Swabhava

In addition to explaining the other Jewels of Wisdom an understanding of Self-Becoming is the key to:

  • Self-Directed spiritual evolution. When we know that we are not just being blown about meaninglessly by the winds of fate we realize that Self-Becoming is possible. When we know about Karma and Reincarnation we can self-direct our evolution by avoiding getting ourselves and others involved in potentially harmful situations – of course, conditioned by our karma from the past.
  • Self-Becoming encourages us to centre our consciousness in the highest aspect of our inner nature as it exists at any particular time.
  • Holds the key to understanding teachings regarding the Seven Rays and our relationship to them.
  • The key to understanding what constitutes Enlightenment.
  • At an everyday level, the key to understanding why we feel an immediate attraction or repulsion to individuals or groups of people. This includes an understanding of what constitutes Soul Mates.

Swabhava: Just an Eastern Concept: Zoroastrianism

It is understandable to think that Swabhava is just an Eastern, especially Indian, concept, but it is reflected in many other religions.

Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Persia and possible foundation of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, three of the major religions of the modern world, is an example.

The Avesta, the main religious text of the Zoroastrians demonstrates a rigorous dualism between two swabhavas, the Good Mind and the Evil Mind. The ultimate Lord, Ahura-Mazda, implants the Good Mind within the human soul, but the fiendish deva, Angra-Mainyu, subverts its influence by stirring evil desires, the Evil Mind, within the human heart.

The individual has the choice to work through one swabhava or the other. If he/she chooses the swabhava of the Good Mind, his/her own soul becomes identified with the minor swabhavas of the six-fold Amesha-Spentas, the Persian form of the  solar/planetary gods.

Swabhava in Zoroastrianism: The Possible Source of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

The aspirant engages in “self-becoming” to assume the “self-nature” of these exalted beings, a reflection of the highest swabhavas mirrored in the human soul – symbolized by fire which burns continually in Zoroastrian fire temples (see picture opposite).

Each soul can evolve forth these godlike qualities because it is they, these solar and planetary gods, who poured us into existence.

The stars have in them the seeds of the earth and, even lower still, the seeds of the plants. Once poured forth, the human wave of life, beginning with Yima the first man, marches  through a series of races corresponding to the minor swabhavas of the respective Amesha-Spentas (the solar/planetary gods) until Zarathrustra’s son, Sraosha, assumes the mantle of the Incarnate Word in a future race, freeing mankind from bondage to the swabhava of Angra-Mainyu, or evil desire.

Thus, there are cosmic swabhavas, racial swabhavas, and individual swabhavas all functioning within the broader dualism of the Good Mind and the Evil Mind.

Two Meanings of Swabhava

Swabhava has two general meanings:

1/ Self-Begetting, Self-Generation, Self-Becoming: the general idea being that there is no merely mechanical or soulless activity in Nature in bringing us into being, for we brought ourselves forth, in, and through, and by nature, of which we are a part of the conscious forces, and therefore our own children.

2/ Each and every entity that exists is the result of what he/she actually is spiritually in his own higher nature: he/she brings for that which he/she actually is in himself/herself interiorly, nothing else.

Swabhava, in short, may be called the essential individuality of any individual spiritual unit or Monad, expressing its own characteristics, qualities, and type, by self-urged evolution.

Three Elements of Swabhava: Swabhavat: Source

Three Elements of Swabhava:

1/ Svabhavat: The Source of our individual nature where spirit and matter are fundamentally One, not Dual as they are during manifestation. It is the equivalent of the Bible’s ‘Cosmic Waters’.

Svabhavat never descends from its own state or condition, but is the cosmic reservoir of being and beings, therefore of consciousness, of intellectual light, of life.

It sends Rays from itself into manifestation which become our highest individuality or:

2/ Swabhava: the process of Self-Becoming or self-knowing in the manifest world. Each entity is the result of what it is in its own higher nature. Its Swabhava can only bring forth that which itself is, its essential characteristic, its own inner nature by self-urged evolution built up over many ages even in former universes.

By these efforts though, our individuality is constantly changing and evolving thus Swabhava is never static and we gradually find our way to the highest expression of ourselves at any point in time and grow through that to new possibilities.

3/Svarupas: In order to grow the Higher Self uses appropriate bodies or vehicles of consciousness for the particular stage of unfoldment it is at, eg. plant, animal, human, angelic, and beyond…These are its Svarupas, or literally: Self Forms or Bodies. These vary infinitely over the journey of spiritual evolution in any universe of experience.

The Seven Rays

Swabhava offers the key to understanding the Seven Rays often spoken of by esoteric writers, especially the influential esotericist, Alice A. Bailey (1880-1949) who first coined the term ‘New Age’.

The Seven Rays are equal to the seven primordial forces in nature. They combine to bring everything into existence. The Rays are present in everything in the Universe, but in different proportions. A balance of all of the Rays is necessary for personal well-being. Peace in the World is achieved when there is balance in all of the Rays among the Nations on Earth. Too much or too little of one Ray in anything cause disharmony as each Ray is the carrier of certain characteristics. 

As the white light of the Sun divides itself into seven primary colours, so too does the Light of God express itself in seven qualities. In Alice Bailey’s version of the Ancient Wisdom, these divisions of divine light are referred to as “The Seven Rays”, and, according to her esoteric literature, every human soul is founded upon one of them.

Through the millennia, the characteristics of the Seven Rays in the Temples of the Ancients have been found (through trial, study and error) generally to be:

 RED   – Ray 1 – The Ray of Freedom- (Divine Will and Purpose) , Atma (Self), (Hero & Ruler);

BLUE   – Ray 2 – The Ray of Compassion- (Love and Wisdom), Buddhi ((Intuition), (Sage & Teacher);

 – Ray 3 – The Ray of Wisdom- (Intelligence and Activity); Manas (Deep Mind), (Philosopher & Philanthropist);

GREEN   – Ray 4 – The Ray of Harmony- (to Conflict), Kama Rupa (Animal Spirit), (Artist, Statesman & Jurist);

ORANGE Ray 5 – The Ray of Knowledge- (and Science);  Prana (Life Force), (Scientist & Engineers);

 VIOLET   – Ray 6 – The Ray of Passion- (Idealism and Devotion) ; Linga Saria (Astral Body), (Devotee & Prophet);

INDIGO  – Ray 7 – The Ray of Order- (and Magic); Sthula Sharia (Physical Body),  Architect, Builder & Ritualist.

However, there are many more items that can be attributed to the Seven Rays. The Seven Rays effect all levels of human and material existence, including the various aspects of one’s personality (lower-self) as well as one’s soul (higher-self).

More information on The Seven Rays is available at:

Every spiritual unit or ‘Monad’, including human beings, has its own essential characteristic, or, Swabhava, which is constantly evolving due to its experiences in the manifest world.

This is a slow evolution and, to us at least, proceeds seemingly without change for ages as our individuality at the highest level (ie. our Swabhava) is derived from the planetary, solar, and even the galactic Swabhava (individuality) as its Source.

As these entities (Planets, Stars, and the Galaxy) last a lot longer than we humans do, changes take place over a much longer time and thus our Swabhava rooted in them seemingly stays the same – when, in fact, it is changing by micro-degrees every second.

Every spiritual monad during the time of manifestation expresses itself on the lower (material) planes by Rays of itself. Every monad thus irradiates Rays of energy from  itself in a continuous  stream of various types – Divine, Spiritual, Intellectual, Psychic, etc..

These Rays penetrate the matter below them,  and in this way produce the various phenomena in the beings in which they work. If these beings are highly evolved, and ready, they can manifest the more spiritual qualities at once, hence the higher Rays manifest in some people as sages, spiritual teachers, etc…

If the ‘vehicles’ (including human beings)are low in the evolutionary scale they can express only some of these monadic powers from the solar, planetary, or galactic forces, – then there is only a slight manifestation of what we recognize as the finest qualities of human beings.

Parent Stars

Of the multitude of rays that the  spiritual monad is continuously sending out (like sunlight from the Sun) there is always one which is the highest, as noted in Alice Bailey’s scheme of the Seven Rays. In humans there is always such a ray which is his/her core around which are built the various vehicles of his/her inner constitution – Spiritual, Mental, Astral, and Physical – and so on for all the life-atoms forming the various bodies of humans which have their Swabhava derived from us.

Every human is ‘born under’ one of the Rays emanating from the hierarch (the most progressed spiritual being associated with the planet – the ‘Silent Watcher’) of a planet, solar system, or galaxy. Every human is the child of his own such spiritual Ray or Parent Star which can be related to any one of the billions of stars in our galaxy, or our own Sun.

The Spiritual Ray is his highest and first spiritual originant and not necessarily the astrological sun or star from our birthchart.

It is something to think about that the destiny of that Parent Star or Stars (because each star can have many such rays related to different aspects of our constitution – (spiritual, compassionate, psychic, astral, etc)) are intimately related by Swabhavic  and Fohatic (the ‘electrical’life-energy of the manifest universe) magnetism, and, that this will last as long as the galaxy endures.

Soul Mates

The similarity that we feel with other people is related to whether we belong to the same planetary Ray. We feel an instant identity with such a person and repulsion sometimes  to others on different planetary or solar rays.

All human beings are the sons of Father-Sun, but, just as the human race is divided into families, so certain portions of mankind belong to respective spiritual energies or forces – Rays – which, in their aggregate make the Spiritual-Sun. There are  7, 10 or 12 principal such Rays , depending upon how you configure them, and we can therefore divide mankind into 7, 10 , or 12 principle families.

Between two individual human beings who belong to the same Ray of the Sun, the same particular Solar Force, there is a quick and instant sympathy, a feeling as if they have always known each other.

Genuine, real love between two people is based on this fact of Nature.

Spiritual Voyagers: What Lies in the Future?

If we are all spiritual voyagers on a Cosmic Pilgrimage to greater understanding and Individuation – how can we all end up working together and become as One?

The kingdoms of life higher than the normal human (ie. Masters, Angels, Devas, Gods, etc) are more faithful to the sweeping essential nature or ‘Swabhava’ of their respective Spiritual Hierarchs (Silent Watchers) than we are in the general run of the human kingdom.

These advanced humans and higher kingdoms (ie. Masters, Angels, Devas, Gods, etc) are becoming more fully self-conscious divine or spiritual egos – Co-Creators with Nature – and thus their subservience to their Spiritual Hierarch is a glad and willing one.

Compare this with beings below the human which are blindly and unconsciously submissive to their respective kingdom Hierarchs/Gods because they have not sufficient ‘Egoity’ to become intellectual rebels against Nature as men so often are.

Thus the Spiritual Unit or Monad evolves – starting with unselfconsciousness – then assertive self-consciousness as a Man – then transformation of rebellious self-consciousness so evident amongst humans now, into divine and Buddha-like self-forgetful subservience to, and co-operative endeavour with, the divine will of the ‘Silent Watcher’ of our human Hierarchy.

How can we measure up to this challenge in our daily lives here and now? There is an old Christian saying: “Not My Will But Thine be Done” – not the will of the ordinary, selfish mentality that we mostly live within, but rather, the will of the Inner Divinity, which guides and leads, urges and impels us to live better constantly – that is the way forward!

The Application of Swabhava to Daily Life: Centring Our Consciousness

How to apply all this complexity of the doctrine of Swabhava to everyday life here and now?

Where we chose to centre our consciousness determines how high we stand on the ladder of life. Thus  a person who is basically of a Desire or Kama nature, can chose to live in the Atman or spiritual part of the Desire nature. This would place him higher than a person of Manas/Intellectual nature, but who choses to live in the Desire or Kama part of his/her mental apparatus (Manas).

The thing to do is to strive to live in the highest plane of our nature where all is colourless glory. As soon as we descend into prismatic colours of the manifest world we are subject to the illusions (Maya) and consequent ignorance of the Dualistic world where we see Spirit and Matter as separate and behave as such, ie. where most people are today living in the Kama Manas – the Desire Mind, or, ‘I, me,me,mine’.

No matter what Ray he may belong what places a man on the spiritual ladder of life is where his consciousness is focussed.

If it is focused upwards, rising to the Atman, into the colourless sphere where all colours are merged, then he contains Divinity. Therefore, no matter what our station in life or Ray we belong to, focus our attention upwards to the highest Swabhava possible.

We see here the tremendous importance of the doctrine of Swabhava. A man can live in any portion of the entire range of his seven-fold being if he so wills.

Swabhava and Enlightenment

Man is an intricate web of many swabhavas related to the various planes of reality or cosmic ‘tattwas’ [The tattvas represent the consciousness-, force-, or spirit-side of being, in contrast to the dhatus or bhutas which as elements represent the vehicular or matter-side of being. Hence the tattvas are called theprinciples of nature, and the dhatus or bhutas the elements of nature.] of the solar universe through which we progress over the life of the planet, solar system, and galaxy. Some of these swabhavas of the different parts of our inner constitution may be at different levels of advancement at the same time!

Our future destiny is to become self-conscious on all the planes of our constitution which are in us, because we are microcosms of the encompassing macrocosm. When we reach such a condition of complete awakening we shall be fully self-conscious gods and, in fact, Silent Watchers, or cosmic hierarchs – on a higher or lower plane of the environing universe – according to our destiny.

This is a really wondrous teaching for it shows us the manner in which our whole constitution is enwebbed with the fabric of the universe.

To express this thought in a more poetic way:

A human being is somewhat like a sounding board, strung with seven chords like Apollo’s lyre, across which sweep the winds of eternity, the combined notes of these chords produce within him a cosmic symphony – each one of us being a living mystic lyre in sympathy with the Music of the Spheres.


Don Shepherd: ‘Swabhava’: Questions and Answers

Don Shepherd: The Doctrine of Swabhava

Stefan Carey and Andrew Rooke: The Seven Jewels of Wisdom. Sunrise magazine. August/September 2004 –

G de Purucker (ed): ‘Swabhava’: Encyclopedic Theosophic Glossary –

Alice A. Bailey: The Seven Rays of Life: A Compilation. Lucis Publish Co. 2003.