The Twenty-Four Cosmic Principles


Brahman is the Supreme Reality of all things. It is the Super-conscious Being, which is all-pervading and all-manifest. It is the Transcendental and is God in the most unfathomable, ineffable sense. The only way to know Brahman is to be one with Brahman. Brahman is Pure Being and possess the quality or state of Satchitananda, Being-Consciousness-Bliss. This consciousness is further manifest as Purusha.

Purusha is the Ultimate Consciousness behind the cosmos. It is the Intelligent Design that is the Progenitor of Creation. It is the masculine principle of divinity, that is, the Creator. However, Purusha also carries within itself the feminine principle, which is the power of vision, movement and transformation called Shakti.

Purusha within us, which is our Higher Self, our Self-Realised pure consciousness, is called the Atman.

Purusha is further manifest as Ishvara, the Cosmic Lord, and Creator. Ishvara is a special type of Purusha which possesses Perfect Intelligence. Ishvara also has a feminine side – as Purusha has Shakti – called Ishvari. Ishvara-Ishvari is threefold:

  • Brahma | Sarasvati
  • Vishnu | Lakshmi
  • Shiva | Kali

The relationship between Ishvara and Purusha is intricate. Purusha possesses Ishvara as does Ishvara possess Purusha. A simple way to understand this is that, God possesses Supreme Consciousness (Purusha), while anything that is supremely conscious is God. In many cases, they are interchangeable. The same explanation is taken in regard to Shakti. In fact, Goddess and Shakti are seldom seperate ideas.

From Brahman to Purusha, leads us to the Twenty-Four Cosmic Principles below.


1. Prakriti

Prakriti is the unmanifest creation – nature in its subtlest form. It is molded by the will of God and is what provides the experience for Purusha. For either Purusha itself, or for the Atman, Prakriti contains the potential of all creative power. It is composed of the three Gunas or Primal Qualities called Sattva (Light), Rajas (Energy) and Tamas (Matter).

2. Mahat or Cosmic Intelligence

Mahat is the manifest Prakriti, it is Prakriti come into action – molded by the will of God (Purusha/Ishvara). Using the example of an artist, the Purusha/Ishvara is the Artist, whose mind is the blank slate of Prakriti. When and idea materialises in this consciousness, it then becomes Mahat.

In the individual soul (Atman), however, Mahat is called Buddhi or Individual Intelligence. The attunement of Buddhi to Mahat is the Path of Self-Realisation.

3. Ahamkara or Ego

Ahamkara or “I-frabrication” is the process whereby the ego or unique self is developed, divided from the Mahat. Prakriti, the basic energies inherent in matter and Mahat, the fundamental laws of the cosmic intelligence work through the three Gunas of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas to create the Five Elements, the Five Sense Organs and the Five Motor Organs. Attachment of the Ego, which resides in the Ego, is the main cause of the moving away from spirituality and Self-Realisation.

4. Manas or Outer Mind

The first motor organ and first sense organ (Manas is usually called the sixth, setting it after the previous five. However, It is the cause of the other five and indeed regulates them.), is the automatic projection of the Ego and is the principle of Sensation, Emotion and Imagination. From Ahamkara, Manas derives its power of Illumination (Sattva) and power of action (Rajas), which are expressed through the five sense organs and five motor organs respectively.

5 – 9. The Five Tanmatras – the Subtle Elements

The three Gunas are ideas, which are the causal energies of creation: balance, motion and resistance, called Sattva, Rajas and Tamas respectively. On a subtle level (when the ideas give rise to motion to become something), they are the five tanmatras – the roots of the five senses.

  • Shabda Tanmatra, called Ether – tanmatra of Sound
  • Sparsha Tanmatra, called Air – tanmatra of Touch
  • Rupa Tanmatra, called Fire – tanmatra of Sight
  • Rasa Tanmatra, called Water – tanmatra of Taste
  • Gandha Tanmatra, called Earth – tanmatra of Smell

The tanmatras are called subtle elements because they are the primal force behind the elements. Meaning, before the Elements themselves of Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth can manifest as we know them in the physical, the tanmatras of the same elements must give rise to them.

10 – 14. Pancha Jnanendriyani – the Five Sense Organs

The Five sense organs are the paths through which we experience the outer world. This is the manifestation of the latent potential which we all possess. These are also called the Pathways of Knowledge also possess subtle forms beyond the physical which give rise to Extrasensory Perception (ESP).

  • Ear, the organ of sound – Ether
  • Skin, the organ of touch – Air
  • Eyes, the organ of sight – Fire
  • Tongue, the organ of taste – Water
  • Nose, the organ of smell – Earth

15 – 19. Pancha Karmendriyani – the Five Motor Organs

The expressive counter parts to the receptive sense organs are the five motor organs. While the sense organs are more connected to the five tanmatras (subtle elements), the five motor organs relate more to the five gross elements (physical manifestations of the elements) upon which the operate/act. They also possess more subtle forms such as Telekinesis, which is action by a thought or at a distance.

  • Mouth, the organ of expression (sound) – Ether
  • Hand, the organ of grasping (touch) – Air
  • Feet, the organ of motion (sight) – fire
  • Urino-genital, the organ of emission (taste) – Water
  • Anus, organ of elimination (smell) – Earth

20 – 24. Pancha Mahabhutani – the Five Elements

In gross form, these are representative of the various phases of matter in the outer world: Solid, Liquid, Gas, Radiation and Ether. As their subtle natures, they are the five tanmatras.

  • Ether: the idea of space and vibration; connection, communication, self-expression
  • Air: the idea of subtle movement; direction, velocity, change, the basis for thought
  • Fire: the idea of light; perception and movement
  • Water: the idea of liquidity; fluidity in motion
  • Earth: the idea of solidity; resistance in action

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