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THE most sacred mystic syllable of the Vedas is Aum. It is the first
letter of the Sanskrit alphabet, and by some it is thought to be the
sound made by a new born child when the breath is first drawn into
the lungs. The daily prayers of the Hindu Brahmin are begun and
ended with it, and the ancient sacred books say that with that
syllable the gods themselves address the most Holy One.
In the Chandogya Upanishad 1 its praises are sung in these words:
Let a man meditate on the syllable OM, called the udgitha,2 ...it is
the best of all essences, the highest, deserving the highest place, the
It is then commanded to meditate on this syllable as the breath, of
two kinds, in the body - the vital breath and the mere breath in the
mouth or lungs, for by this meditation come knowledge and proper
performance of sacrifice. In verse 10 is found:
Now, therefore, it would seem to follow that both he who knows
the true meaning of OM, and he who does not, perform the same
sacrifice. But this is not so, for knowledge and ignorance are
different. The sacrifice which a man performs with knowledge,
faith, and the Upanishad is more powerful.
Outwardly the same sacrifice is performed by both, but that
performed by him who has knowledge and has meditated on the
secret meaning of OM partakes of the qualities inhering in OM,
which need just that knowledge and faith as the medium through
which they may become visible and active. If a jeweler and a mere
ploughman sell a precious stone, the knowledge of the former
bears better fruit than the ignorance of the latter.
Shankaracharya in his Sharir Bhashya dwells largely on OM, and
in the Vayu Purana a whole chapter is devoted to it. Now as Vayu
is air, we can see in what direction the minds of those who were
concerned with that purana were tending. They were analyzing
sound, which will lead to discoveries of interest regarding the
human spiritual and physical constitution. In sound is tone, and tone
is one of the most important and deep reaching of all natural things.
By tone, the natural man and the child express the feelings, just as
animals in their tones make known their nature. The tone of the
voice of the tiger is quite different from that of the dove, as
different as their natures are from each other, and if the sights,
sounds, and objects in the natural world mean anything, or point the
way to any laws underlying these differences, then there is nothing
puerile in considering the meaning of tone.
The Padma Purana says:
"The syllable OM is the leader of all prayers; let it therefore be
employed in the beginning of all prayers," and Manu in his laws
ordains: "A Brahmin, at the beginning and end of a lesson on the
Vedas, must always pronounce the syllable OM, for unless OM
precede, his learning will slip away from him, and unless it
follows, nothing will be long retained."
The celebrated Hindoo Raja, Ramohun Roy, in a treatise on this
letter says:
"OM, when considered as one letter, uttered by the help of one
articulation, is the symbol of the supreme Spirit. 'One letter (OM)
is the emblem of the Most High, Manu II, 83.' But when considered
as a triliteral word consisting of (a),(u),(m), it implies the three
Vedas, the three states of human nature, there three divisions of the
universe, and the three deities - Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, agents
in the creation, preservation, and destruction of this world; or,
properly speaking, the three principal attributes of the Supreme
Being personified in those three deities. In this sense it implies, in
fact, the universe controlled by the Supreme Spirit."
Now we may consider that there is pervading the whole universe a
single homogeneous resonance, sound, or tone which acts, so to
speak, as the awakener or vivifying power, stirring all the
molecules into action. This is what is represented in all languages
by the vowel a, which takes precedence of all others. This is the
word, the verbum, the Logos of St. John of the Christians, who
says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God,
and the word was God."3 This is creation, for without this
resonance or motion among the quiescent particles, there would be
no visible universe. That is to say, upon sound, or, as the Aryans
called it, Nada Brahma (divine resonance), depends the evolution
of the visible from the invisible.
But this sound a, being produced, at once alters itself into au, so
that the second sound u is that one made by the first in continuing
its existence. The vowel u, which in itself is a compound one,
therefore represents preservation. And the idea of preservation is
contained also in creation, or evolution, for there could not be
anything to preserve, unless it had first come into existence.
If these two sounds, so compounded into one, were to proceed
indefinitely, there would be of course no destruction of them. But it
is not possible to continue the utterance further than the breath, and
whether the lips are compressed or the tongue pressed against the
roof of the mouth, or the organs behind that used, there will be in
the finishing of the utterance the closure or m sound, which among
the Aryans had the meaning of stoppage. In this last letter there is
found the destruction of the whole word or letter. To reproduce it a
slight experiment will show that by no possibility can it be begun
with m, but that au invariably commences even the utterance of m
itself. Without fear of successful contradiction, it can be asserted
that all speech begins with au, and the ending, or destruction of
speech, is in m.
The word "tone" is derived from the Latin and Greek words
meaning sound and tone. In the Greek the word "tonos" means a
"stretching" or "straining." As to the character of the sound, the
word "tone" is used to express all varieties, such as high, low,
grave, acute, sweet, and harsh sounds. In music it gives the
peculiar quality of the sound produced, and also distinguishes one
instrument from another; as rich tone. reedy tone, and so on. In
medicine, it designates the state of the body, but is there used more
in the signification of strength, and refers to strength or tension. It
is not difficult to connect the use of the word in medicine with the
divine resonance of which we spoke, because we may consider
tension to be the vibration, or quantity of vibration, by which sound
is apprehended by the ear; and if the whole system gradually goes
down so that its tone is lowered without stoppage, the result will at
last be dissolution for that collection of molecules. In painting, the
tone also shows the general drift of the picture, just as it indicates
the same thing in morals and manners. We say, "a low tone of
morals, an elevated tone of sentiment, a courtly tone of manners,"
so that tone has a signification which is applied universally to
either good or bad, high or low. And the only letter which we can
use to express it, or symbolize it, is the a sound, in its various
changes, long, short, and medium. And just as the tone of manners,
of morals, of painting, of music, means the real character of each,
in the same way the tones of the various creatures, including man
himself, mean or express the real character; and all together joined
in the deep murmur of nature go to swell the Nada Brahma, or
Divine resonance, which at last is heard as the music of the
Meditation on tone, as expressed in this Sanskrit word OM, will
lead us to a knowledge of the secret Doctrine. We find expressed
in the merely mortal music the seven divisions of the divine
essence, for as the microcosm is the little copy of the macrocosm,
even the halting measures of man contain the little copy of the
whole, in the seven tones of the octave. From what we are led to
the seven colors, and so forward and upward to the Divine
radiance which is the Aum. For the Divine Resonance, spoken of
above, is not the Divine Light itself. The Resonance is only the
outbreathing of the first sound of the entire Aum. This goes on
during what the Hindoos call a Day of Brahma, which, according
to them, last a thousand ages.4 It manifests itself not only as the
power which stirs up and animates the particles of Universe, but
also in the evolution and dissolution of man, of the animal and
mineral kingdoms, and of solar systems. Among the Aryans it was
represented in the planetary system by Mercury, who has always
been said to govern the intellectual faculties and to be the universal
stimulator. Some old writers have said that it is shown through
Mercury, amongst mankind, by the universal talking of women.
And wherever this Divine Resonance is closed or stopped by
death or other change, the Aum has been uttered there. These
utterances of Aum are only the numerous microcosmic enunciations
of the Word, which is uttered or completely ended, to use the
Hermetic or mystical style of language, only when the great Brahm
stops the outbreathing, closes the vocalization, by the m sound, and
thus causes the universal dissolution. This universal dissolution is
known in the Sanskrit and in the secret Doctrine as the Maha
Pralaya, Maha being "the great," and Pralaya "dissolution." And
so, after thus arguing, the ancient Rishees of India said: "Nothing is
begun or ended; everything is changed, and that which we call
death is only a transformation." In thus speaking they wished to be
understood as referring to the manifested universe, the so-called
death of a sentient creature being only a transformation of energy,
or a change of the mode and place of manifestation of the Divine
Resonance. Thus early in the history of the race the doctrine of
conservation of energy was known and applied. The Divine
Resonance, or the au sound, is the universal energy, which is
conserved during each Day of Brahma, and at the coming on of the
great Night is absorbed again into the whole. Continually
appearing and disappearing it transforms itself again and again,
covered from time to time by a veil of matter called its visible
manifestation, and never lost, but always changing itself from one
form to another. And herein can be seen the use and beauty of the
Sanskrit. Nada Brahma is Divine Resonance; that is, after saying
Nada, if we stopped with Brahm, logically we must infer that the m
sound at the end of Brahm signified the Pralaya, thus confuting the
position that the Divine Resonance existed, for if it had stopped it
could not be resounding. So they added an a at the end of the
Brahm, making it possible to understand that as Brahma the sound
was still manifesting itself. But time would not suffice to go into
this subject as it deserves, and these remarks are only intended as a
feeble attempt to point out the real meaning and purpose of Aum.
For the above reasons, and out of the great respect we entertain for
the wisdom of the Aryans, was the symbol adopted and placed
upon the cover of this magazine and at the head of the text.
With us OM has signification. It represents the constant
undercurrent of meditation, which ought to be carried on by every
man, even while engaged in the necessary duties of this life. There
is for every conditioned being a target at which the aim is
constantly directed. Even the very animal kingdom we do not
except, for it, below us, awaits its evolution into a higher state; it
unconsciously perhaps, but nevertheless actually, aims at the same
"Having taken the bow, the great weapon, let him place on it the
arrow, sharpened by devotion. Then, having drawn it with a
thought directed to that which is, hit the mark, O friend, - the
Indestructible. OM is the bow, the Self is the arrow, Brahman is
called its aim. It is to be hit by a man who is not thoughtless; and
then as the arrow becomes one with the target, he will become one
with Brahman. Know him alone as the Self, and leave off other
words. He is the bridge of the Immortal. Meditate on the Self as
OM. Hail to you that you may cross beyond the sea of darkness."5
Path, April, 1886


Om or Aum (Sk.). A mystic syllable, the most solemn of all words
in India. It is “an invocation, a benediction, an affirmation and a
promise”; and it is so sacred, as to be indeed the word at low
breath of occult, primitive masonry. No one must be near when the
syllable is pronounced for a purpose. This word is usually placed
at the beginning of sacred Scriptures, and is prefixed to prayers. It
is a compound of three letters a,u,m, which, in the popular belief,
are typical of the three Vedas, also of three gods-A (Agni) Y
(Varuna) and M (Maruts) or Fire, Water and Air. In esoteric
philosophy these are the three sacred fires, or the “triple fire” in
the Universe and Man, besides many other things. Occultly, this
“triple fire” represents the highest Tetraktys also, as it is typified
by the Agni named Abhimânim and his transformation into his three
sons, Pâvana, Pavamâna and Suchi, “who drinks up water”, i.e.,
destroys material desires. This monosyllable is called Udgîtta, and
is sacred with both Brahmins and Buddhists.

H.P. Blavatsky in her Theosophical Glossary, p. 239, 240

Eliza Carroll MS
Intuitive Spiritual Counselor