This is the text of a lecture given by the author at a public meeting of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena) in Melbourne, Australia. The ideas expressed in all our public meetings are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the TS (Pasadena).



Many ages ago, the knowledge of advanced men and women acquired through their explorations of consciousness were summarised for us lesser mortals in various ways. One of these summaries was called the Seven Jewels of Wisdom. Once the Seven Jewels have been fully understood, you can act as a truly beneficent being as you have consciously aligned your own true nature with that of Universal Nature.


The Seven Jewels are an opportunity to understand reality, i.e. Everything and ourselves at fundamental levels. There are other ways to help our understanding of things unfold, the Seven Jewels are but one. Thus, they are a kind of perceptual atlas to help us find our way self-consciously through and to the centre of a highly complex and yet unutterably simple Universe.


All of this is the result of the experiences, thoughts and teachings of those brave souls who have ventured into the inner realms of consciousness and returned with their observations. We certainly know that these soul venturers date back to Egyptian times and beyond. Neo-Platonic philosopher, Iamblicus (250-330AD) refers to the Egyptians as having such a system as this…”concerning principles and… the supreme…cause of things”.


The Seven Jewels are practical and of benefit. Perhaps not immediately, but Theosophy is about influencing ethical perceptions and behaviour for the good – I cannot think of anything more deeply and expansively ‘practical.’ What are some of the ways that you can put them to use?:

  • We unlock some of the major mysteries of the Universe.

  • We better understand ourselves.

  • We better understand others.

  • We harmonise our thoughts with the Universe by being more ethical and responsible. As ethics are an understanding of connectedness of all life it would, for example, prevent abuse of our environment.

The Seven Jewels are listed below in order from the least to the most difficult to understand. They are not to be taken as read – rather you should examine them carefully, sceptically even, before you even begin to accept them as your true keys to understanding. 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 become the Many.


Let’s examine each beautiful Jewel in order and perhaps you will be encouraged to continue your own researches. This study will fill many lifetimes so don’t despair of the difficulties involved! We have many books in our Theosophical libraries and bookshops in Melbourne and around the world to assist you with this endeavour. All that we can do here is to encourage you to begin your own treasure hunt for these invaluable “Jewels” yourselves!





Reincarnation is the Anglicised word for ‘reinfleshment’, the coming again into a human body of an excarnate soul. The general idea applies to all ‘centres of consciousness’. From Plotinus (Neo-Platonic philosopher, Egyptian, 205-270AD) we have the analogy that the process of reincarnation is like actors on a stage being killed in their play, and then changing their costumes to take on another role. In Egypt, reincarnation was accepted as transformation, and the symbol of this was the Benu Bird, or what we now know as the Phoenix. Plotinus, implying that humanity has more life than just one, speaks of: “the misfortunes that may accompany life, the loss of property, for instance; the loser will see that there was a time when it was not his, that its possession is but a mock boon to the robbers, who will in turn lose it to others, and even that to retain property is a greater loss than to forfeit it.” [Psychic and Physical Treatises: 28]


Joseph Campbell, the great American mythologist who died in 1988, suggests that as well as reincarnation there is a deeper level of our being: “those who have identified themselves with the mortal body and its affections will necessarily find that all is painful, since everything for them must end,” even if subsequently re-embodied. “But for all those who have found the still-point of eternity around which all – including themselves, revolves, everything is acceptable as it is; indeed, can even be experienced as glorious and wonderful.” [Reincarnation: the Phoenix Fire Mystery: 22]


The list of famous people who supported the concept of reincarnation is enormous. Here are just a few: Tennyson, Marcus Aurelius, Gustav Mahler, Henry Moore, Plato, Paracelsus, Edgar Allen Poe, Hermann Melville, HG Wells, Tsong Ka Pa, George Santayana, Benjamin Franklin. Could all these great minds have been deluded? As Benjamin Franklin himself said: “when I see nothing annihilated and not a drop of water wasted, I cannot suspect the annihilation of souls, or believe that God will suffer the daily waste of millions of minds already made that exist, and put Himself to the continual trouble of making new ones. I look upon death to be as necessary to the constitution as sleep. We shall rise refreshed in the morning.”


It is also food for thought that you may meet all of your friends and enemies in the next incarnation! Finally, reincarnation necessarily provided for a spirit/consciousness/soul that cannot be destroyed – an idea common to all religions and many philosophies.


If reincarnation is the correct understanding of a phase of the after-death process, then it has a great purpose. It is also consistent with the idea of cause and effect. A general belief in reincarnation would encourage some people towards ethical behaviour if they saw that they would be the people they deserved to be in the next life. It runs counter to the concept of a convenient escape through vicarious atonement.





Also known as Karman, but not ‘Kama’ which means ‘Desire’. The origin of the word is a Sanskrit term which means; ‘to do’ or ‘to make’. For example, if we throw a stone into the ocean, the ripples will fan out infinitely and eventually be transformed into new forms of energy. Similarly any thought or act has its effect on the environment for good or ill and fans out to affect others over a long period of time. Therefore, you cannot separate your actions from the rest of the universe and hope that you are immune from the results of your actions, thoughts, etc. This is the real basis for all the laws of ethics that society and the church imposes on us.


There is family karma, national karma, and personal karma. It is not so much a system of punishment or reward, rather more an impersonal law with the results created by us and balanced by us in the final analysis.


Karma has been taught throughout the ages by all the great religions. One explanation comes from Zen Buddhism as discussed by Professor Suzuki who explains: “Human suffering is due to our being bound up in Karma. All of us as soon as we are born carry a heavy burden of past Karma. Human beings along of all creatures on our globe can design and calculate and are conscious of themselves and of their doings…from thinking consciously, we develop the faculty of seeing, designing and planning beforehand, which demonstrates that we are free…Not only are we so wrapped up in our Karma, but we know the fact that we are so wrapped up…this very fact of our being aware of the karma-bondage is the spiritual privilege of Humanity. From this privilege, implying freedom, means our ability to transcend Karma…We must make full use of it, and accepting the Karma-bondage as far as it extends, resolutely face all forms of suffering and thereby qualify ourselves for transcending them” [quoted from the Essence of Buddhism]


All cultures have a reward and punishment system in varying forms – from the burning Hell of fundamentalist Christianity, to the more enlightened and non-judgemental idea of personal responsibility of Buddhism and Theosophy. Not only is there no separateness in the universe but, in fact, no part of reality is immune from the influences around it. Reality is interblended on all levels. This interweaving of all levels of nature leads on to the third jewel: The Doctrine of Hierarchies.




The Doctrine of Hierarchies suggests that there are limitless levels of being above and below us in the grand march of evolution. At each level are consciousnesses directing and guiding the almost countless lives living on the various planes of the Universe. Dr. G. de Purucker writes: “The universe is embodied consciousness,…and these exist in a practically infinite gradation of varying degrees of perfection – a real ladder of life, or stair of life, stretching endlessly in either direction, for our imagination can conceive no limits except a hierarchical one; and such a hierarchical limitation is but spatial and not actual, qualitative and formal. The ladder of life is marked at certain intervals by landing places, so to say, which are what we theosophists call the different “planes of being” – the different spheres of consciousness, to put the thought in another manner.” [Occult Glossary, p.84]


From the perspective of the inner self we have the comment that: “its realms of consciousness are but the beginning of other realms still more divine, reaching ever deeper and deeper into the womb of Infinitude, because the ladder of life extends endlessly.” At each point in space there are a multitude of entities occupying it, in a vast range above and below what you and I are.


In everyday life we see this idea of hierarchy at work in our government, work organisations, schools, military, church, clubs, etc… where we have a President, Secretary, Council/Board Members and ordinary members of the organisation all cooperating to get the work of their collective endeavour achieved. But, the main idea is that existence extends infinitely each way – “above” and “below” us.


This Doctrine of Hierarchies is also known as the Doctrine of Interpenetrating Beings or Existences. As the ancient Greek Stoics said, “Everything exists in everything else”. If we agree that Reincarnation and Karma are not just ideas but actual realities, and that consciousness progresses, then it is necessary for there to be a range of levels through which entities can pass and vehicles/bodies to experience each of these levels. This idea is common in popular entertainment, e.g. in the recent popular film series, “Lord of the Rings”, many different types of beings at different levels of moral and ethical development inhabit the “Middle Earth” of J.R. Tolkein’s classic story. The spiritual essence of each individual is learning and gathering experience in all these different bodies and in all these different worlds. It progresses from one level to another as it learns all the lessons that level has to offer and moves on up to the next level of experience in an eternal learning experience. We are Pilgrims on an eternal Pilgrimage of Discovery through the Hierarchies of Being.





‘Swabhava’ in the Indian Sanskrit language “to become”, “to grow into something” or “self-becoming”. It is the key to understanding the preceding three jewels, that is, Reincarnation, Karma, and Hierarchies. It is the teaching that each being has its essential nature “Swabhavat” and that each being expresses this essential nature through garments, vehicles or bodies, which are suitable for it at each stage of its long journey of spiritual evolution. The fundamental and immortal Self, sends rays of itself into the material worlds, and uses appropriate vehicles to express its inner nature a bit like the Sun sending out its rays into the surrounding darkness of the Solar System and nourishing the different planets of its kingdom.


A theosophical writer defines this complex subject as follows: “Swabhava has two general philosophical meanings: First: self-begetting, self-becoming, the general idea that there is no merely mechanical or soulless activity of 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 are our own children. Second: each and every entity that exists is the result of what he actually is spiritually in his own higher nature: he brings forth, that which is in himself interiorly, nothing else…What makes a rose bring forth always a rose and not thistles, or daisies or pansies?…It is because of its ‘Swabhava’, the essential nature in and of the seed… ‘Swabhava’ in short, may be called the essential Individuality of any monad, expressing its own characteristics, qualities, and types, by self-urged evolution.” [G. de Purucker, Occult Glossary, page 166].


From our discussions of the first four ‘Jewels’, we have a basic understanding of Karma, Reincarnation, Hierarchies, and now Swabhava. It seems clear that the Seven Jewels all involve, and in fact build on each other. But what is the point of all these complex ideas and why all this struggle in Nature? The next of the seven Jewels, The Doctrine of Evolution, begins to answer these questions.






This doctrine suggests that there is an unending development for every aspect of the universe and every aspect of our nature. In theosophy it is used in the sense that everything is unrealised potential, and the realisation of the highest aspect of ourselves comes from within. The inner learning is not a process of adding but removing barriers to the knowledge already held within. As Chinese Taoist philosopher, Lao Tsu, took great joy in pointing out: “The more one knows, the more one has to get rid of”. As theosophist G. de Purucker says: “Brick is not added to brick, or experience merely topped by another experience, or that variation is super added to other variations. We learn, we grow from within into a greater being, greater understanding. An eternal process of education – the word education meaning “to bring out, to see.”


To cultivate the essential characteristics of the individual or our ‘Swabhava’, is to realise them in manifestation. Nature, or the world, is our “field of action”, on and in which these inherent qualities function, upon which they act and from which they receive corresponding reaction. This action and reaction invariably becomes the stimulus or spur to further manifestations of energy on the part of the evolving entity”.


Theosophists are really emanationists, rather than evolutionists, in that they believe our inner nature uses outer vehicles to learn with and not the other way around. The entity grows in understanding by gradually evolving self-consciousness and manifesting in greater degree the potentialities within. This process occurs over a vast period of time with the eternal spiritual part of us learning and growing in self-consciousness by using different bodies at different times which are suitable to our stage of spiritual development. At one time in the vast past we manifested as minerals, then in the vegetable kingdom, then in the animal kingdom, now as men, and in the future as what we would consider to be gods.



Though it seems that talk of Buddhahood is far away across the mountains of spiritual achievement, this ‘Jewel’ refers to the quality of our daily spiritual efforts and therefore is very relevant to our lives now. Simply put it means this – do we pursue our spiritual efforts for our own advancement chiefly? In which case, we follow the ‘Pratyeka Path’. Or is our principal goal service to others without a strong concern about how far we are advancing ourselves along the Path of spiritual attainment – the ‘Path of Compassion’. Theosophy advocates that we follow the Path of Compassion rather than the many ‘occult’ schools which concentrate on individual achievement and escaping from the plight suffered by other people in this suffering world of ours. The choice is ours every moment in our daily life and not just in the direction we give to our spiritual studies.


So, what about a practical example of the difference between the two Paths? I would say that absorbing oneself in spiritual study centred on your own development and specifically designed to escape from the human condition, would be following the Pratyeka Path. Individuals on the Path of Compassion would not primarily be concerned with themselves, but rather would be doing whatever is necessary and at hand to help other people, the spiritual development and insights just come along naturally and in the fullness of time.


The Pratyeka Path has been described as one of “pure intellectualism and selfishness, eventual spiritual suffocation and obscuration”. If this is the case, then maybe we have never had an easier decision to make! I recall the story of the tortoise and the hare, one of Aesop’s fables. The implication being that in our haste for spiritual knowledge for the exaltation of ourself, the real goal is lost. Yes, eventually the Pratyeka Buddha will find the bliss of Nirvana that he/she has directed their power to achieving for so long. There they will reside for long ages whilst the bulk of Humanity catches up to their stage of spiritual development, but then goes beyond them in terms of spiritual awareness at the end of the active life of the planet. When we emerge for a new planetary Round of life experience, the Pratyeka Buddhas will also awake and be propelled into life experience again – but far in the rear of The Buddhas of Compassion who chose to stay with the bulk of struggling Humanity from which we cannot be separated forever. As we have been told by spiritual teachers repeatedly throughout the Ages, we cannot escape the Brotherhood of Man – like it or not, we are all part of one entity and we are bound to them even at the high level of Buddhahood!




As someone once said, there are three Selves in every person – The Self you think you are, the Person others think you are, and the Person you really are!


With the Seventh and final Jewel, the notion of Selfhood as you normally understand it takes on a new dimension. This means you have to expand your definition of Self, perhaps by ‘letting-go’ more than ‘holding on’. This is the great Cosmic paradox as well as a favourite Taoist idea. On commenting on the limitations of Self the Buddha Gautama said: “Veil upon veil shall lift, but still veil upon veil will be found behind.”


I suspect this is because “behind each desire stands another desire, ad infinitum.” This is the reason for the never-ending ‘made to measure’ series of veils! We are experts in the West at desire – look at television advertisements, suggestive means of attachment to more and more – hardly the answer to our own spiritual emancipation!


Eventually the Self, self-consciously encompasses all reality. But we are already infinite. We’re just not aware of it at this moment in our evolution! ‘Blocking ourselves off’ from the Universe or ‘the Force’ is something we are very good at in the modern world. This is why compassion, ethics and brotherhood (or ‘people-hood”) are seen as fundamentals in Theosophy, because of the underlying premise that there are no unrelated beings in the Universe. Therefore to hurt others is to hurt ourselves eventually by the Law of Karma. So to act or think harmoniously from universal principles is to be a stronger, more self-conscious part of the Universe as it is in reality.


The Doctrine of Self also implies ‘how the One became the Many’ – a most abstruse and difficult concept for us finite beings to grasp. As someone once said: “This is the most difficult problem the human mind has ever tried to solve!” But one of our Theosophical teachers, G. de Purucker, tries here: “The Higher Self of each one of us is an ever-living Banyan tree, the source of a multitude of human souls which have been sent forth as branches, which themselves take root in the material world; and these human souls in their turn grow through ages of long evolution to become spiritual Banyans, each of them sending out new roots, new branches, but all derivative of the parent tree”.


In conclusion, the Seven Jewels of Wisdom are an attempt to define for the serious questioner the elements of Reality to allow us to self-consciously and harmoniously comprehend the entire universe and its operation. Perhaps an analogy is useful to conclude our series: When we swim we are most aware of what is above the water – for us this is reality – but beneath the water is another reality supporting us – an ocean of ‘other-being’. We can swim on without any awareness until the time when we feel the curiosity to look what lies beneath the surface. Until we make that decision, we are only half awake as to who, what we really are above and below the surface of appearances!


The Seven Jewels of Wisdom are:


  1. Reincarnation-Re-embodiment-changing forms in distinction from the indestructibility of the human spirit.

  2. Karma – the Law of cause and effect.

  3. The Doctrine of Hierarchies – Reality has many levels through which we progress as evolving entities.

  4. The Doctrine of Swabhava – the essential nature of each essence.

  5. The Doctrine of Evolution – which is actually like a Doctrine of Emanation.

  6. The Doctrine of the Two Paths – The Path of Compassion and the Pratyeka Path, or the Path of each one for himself.

  7. Knowledge of the Self – also known as ‘how the one became the many’.


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