The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards. As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth; and man—the microcosm and miniature copy of the macrocosm—is the living witness to this Universal Law and to the mode of its action.
. . .
Analogy is thus the surest guide to the comprehension of the Occult teachings. . . . Everything in the Universe follows analogy. “As above, so below”; Man is the microcosm of the Universe. That which takes place on the spiritual plane repeats itself on the Cosmic plane. Concretion follows the lines of abstraction; corresponding to the highest must be the lowest; the material to the spiritual.—H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine

In the study of Theosophy, Analogy and Correspondence are indispensable tools, and their importance cannot be overstated. Very little, if any, real progress in Occult study is possible without understanding their meaning and use.

Analogy and Correspondence are expressive of a method of reasoning between particulars. They are used to draw comparisons, parallels and to otherwise express the nature of the relation between two particulars. Analogy and Correspondence are thus a fundamental tool in the reasoning stages between universals and particulars, whether one is moving in a deductive (“top-down”) or inductive (“bottom-up”) direction. The ability to examine the particulars of various stages or states or planes of manifestation, and to transition in reasoning from one to the other, depends heavily on the use of Analogy and Correspondence.

In Theosophy and Occultism the “Law of Correspondence and Analogy” is based upon the premise that the small mirrors the large, that the parts reflect the whole (as in a hologram), and that patterns established in major processes are mirrored in their sub-processes. This is summarized in the occult axioms “as above, so below” and “as within, so without.” This law thus sets the basis upon which the use of Analogy and Correspondence rests. In Occultism these are considered to be a valid means of conditional knowledge. This is well explained in ancient Indian philosophies, using the term Upamāṇa, which is one of the Pramāṇas (means of knowledge).

When using Analogy and Correspondence, there are three primary elements in use: a) the “subject” of the comparison, b) the “object” of the comparison, and c) the “attribute(s)” that are being compared. The flexibility of this method of reasoning allows for multiple “subjects” and “objects” to be compared simultaneously. We may also simply say “subject and subject b,” since a strict distinction between subject and object is not always necessary. The basic mode of this method is to say: “a is like b in relation to c.” For example: “a man’s arms are analogous to a bird’s wings in that they are both dual upper body appendages,” where the man’s arms are a, the bird’s wings are b, and the attribute c is their shared nature as dual upper body appendages. Multiple “subjects” can be used together, for instance we could use a man’s arms, a bird’s wings, and a fish’s fins in the same statement. Multiple attributes may also be simultaneously indicated, as for instance, we could draw multiple analogies between humans, birds and fish at the same time.

It is very important to understand that when one says that “a is analogous to b,” or that “a corresponds to b,” one is not saying that a is the same as b, but only that a is like b in regards to one or more identified attributes. In short: analogy and correspondence are means of comparing, not means of equating.

One may make very general or simplified analogy statements wherein one does not provide the attributes but leaves it to the listener to fill in those attributes themselves. A basic example of this would be to say: “a cow is analogous to a horse” or simply “a cow is like a horse.” One must then explore the attributes of cows and horses to learn the specifics of such an analogy. We can thus understand that when marking two things as analogous one is not saying that they are analogous in every way, but only in regards to some specific attributes. When stated generally, the student must discover which attributes are analogous and which are not. This method is common in theosophical or occult writings, where the student must make their own effort to “fill in the blanks,” such an effort being a call to both their reasoning and intuitive faculties. An example of this would be a statement such as “the spinal column is analogous to the antahkaranic path,” where the student is left to explore each and make specific comparisons themselves.

The word “analogy” is originally Greek and used in ancient Greek philosophy with regard to proportionality or equality of ratio between that which is being compared. This meaning is employed by Euclid, Plato and other famous Greek philosophers and mathematicians. However, both Plato and Aristotle expand this use into more general applications, as do later philosophers, where analogy does not always need to be specifically in regard to proportionality or equality of ratio, but more simply in regard to what we might call abstract or observable similarities. Our example given above (arms, wings, fins) is an example of this wider use of Analogy by Aristotle. Such a wider use of Analogy is more available in fields such as Ethics, Psychology, etc., where strict proportionality is not necessarily apparent, but abstract similarities are. Thus we see a distinction in the use of Analogy between two modes of application: abstract similarity vs. proportionality. In modern theosophical writings one may notice a common use of this distinction between the words analogy and correspondence respectively, where analogy is most often used for a simple comparison of attributes where strict proportionality is not required, and correspondence is most often used for comparison where proportionality is required.

For instance, in regards to correspondence, or comparison of proportionality, we could say that “the notes of the musical scale correspond to the same notes in a higher or lower octave,” or “the notes of the musical scale correspond to the colors of the visible spectrum,” and in doing so we are indicating not just a simple analogy, but a detailed relation of the proportionality or internal ratios of the two, or we might say their value attributes, i.e. both are sevenfold with a comparable hierarchical arrangement, so that the parts of both scales correspond each in turn, each color to each note in parallel sequence. A classic theosophical example of this is when we say that “the seven human principles correspond to the seven globes of a planetary chain.” In making such a statement, we are not specifying only general analogy, but rather are comparing each of their value attributes or mutual internal ratios. An example of this, with a useful illustration, is given by H. P. Blavatsky on page 153 in Vol. 1 of The Secret Doctrine.

The above methods can also be used in regards to processes in Nature, a very common example being the statement that the process involved in a Round is mirrored in the process involved in a Root-Race, a Sub-Race, etc. In these we see the same general pattern of “descending” and “ascending” arcs (thus these are analogous in that particular attribute), and we see the same pattern of internal ratios involved in each (i.e. each passes through seven distinct stages, from 1 or A at the top of the arc, down to 4 or D at the bottom, then rising up to 7 or G at the top—a corresponding or proportional similarity). Such a pattern repeats itself all through Nature, allowing us to make analogies and correspondences between numerous such processes. Thus, for example, we can make correspondences between the processes of reincarnation and the processes involved in waking and sleeping, as well as analogies between the various states or conditions of each process.

All such efforts to use Analogy and Correspondence allow one to reason conditionally between planes or states or worlds in which one does not yet have direct experience. This allows one to develop a conceptual map that may reach from the lowest to the highest ranges of Nature available to the mind, and to see universal or archetypal truths mirrored within oneself. This is a key process in occult study and underlies much of modern theosophical literature.


On “Analogy and Correspondence” from the writings of H. P. Blavatsky

On the Law of Analogy and Correspondence:

From Gods to men, from Worlds to atoms, from a star to a rush-light, from the Sun to the vital heat of the meanest organic being—the world of Form and Existence is an immense chain, whose links are all connected. The law of Analogy is the first key to the world-problem, and these links have to be studied co-ordinately in their occult relations to each other. (SD 1:604)

Everything in Nature has to be judged by analogy. (SD 1:116)

The Law of Analogy in the plan of structure between the trans-Solar systems and the intra-Solar planets, does not necessarily bear upon the finite conditions to which every visible body is subject, in this our plane of being. In Occult Science this law is the first and most important key to Cosmic physics; but it has to be studied in its minutest details and, “to be turned seven times,” before one comes to understand it. Occult philosophy is the only science that can teach it. (SD 1:150-51)

. . . the first law in nature is uniformity in diversity, and the second—analogy. “As above, so below.” (SD 2:699)

Everything in the Universe follows analogy. “As above, so below”; Man is the microcosm of the Universe. That which takes place on the spiritual plane repeats itself on the Cosmic plane. Concretion follows the lines of abstraction; corresponding to the highest must be the lowest; the material to the spiritual. (SD 1:177)

Analogy is the guiding law in Nature, the only true Ariadne’s thread that can lead us, through the inextricable paths of her domain, toward her primal and final mysteries. (SD 2:153)

. . . the ancients . . . reasoning by analogy, made of man, who is a compound of intellect and matter, the microcosm of the macrocosm, or great universe. (Isis 1:341)

Evolution proceeds on the laws of analogy in Kosmos as in the formation of the smallest globe. (SD 2:66)

“Follow the law of analogy”—the Masters teach. (SD 2:254)

The Stanzas [of the book of Dzyan] give an abstract formula which can be applied, mutatis mutandis, to all evolution: to that of our tiny earth, to that of the chain of planets of which that earth forms one, to the solar Universe to which that chain belongs, and so on, in an ascending scale, till the mind reels and is exhausted in the effort. (SD 1:21)

. . . history shows it [Theosophy] revived by Ammonius Saccas, the founder of the Neo-Platonic School. He and his disciples called themselves “Philalethians”—lovers of the truth; while others termed them the “Analogists,” on account of their method of interpreting all sacred legends, symbolical myths and mysteries, by a rule of analogy or correspondence, so that events which had occurred in the external world were regarded as expressing operations and experiences of the human soul. (from the article “What is Theosophy?”)

No comprehensive idea of Nature can be obtained except by applying the Law of Harmony and analogy in the spiritual as well as in the physical world. “As above, so below,” is the old Hermetic axiom. (from the article “Kabalistic Views of ‘Spirits’”)

Analogy is the law, and is the surest guide in occult sciences, as it ought to be in the natural philosophy made public. (from the article “Fragments”)

. . . the field of analogy is boundless, and Universal Laws are immutable and identical in their outward and inward applications. (from the article “Cross and Fire”)

The foremost and most important factor for the discovery and clear understanding of some given secret of nature is – analogy. (from the article “The Bugbears of Science”)


Examples of Analogy and Correspondence used by HPB:
Comparing Man’s principle to Globes (SD 1:153):
HUMAN PRINCIPLES. PLANETARY DIVISION.

Of course, as regards the human principles, the diagram does not place them quite in order, yet it shows the correspondence and analogy to which attention is now drawn. (SD 1:153-54)

As shown in the double diagram of the human “principles” and the ascending Globes of the world-chains, there is an eternal concatenation of causes and effects, and a perfect analogy which runs through, and links together, all the lines of evolution. (SD 1:171)


Comparing the process of birth and death of a Planetary Chain to that of Man:

. . . in the Seventh Round on the Lunar chain, when Class 7, the last, quits Globe A, that Globe, instead of falling asleep, as it had done in previous Rounds, begins to die (to go into its planetary pralaya); and in dying it transfers successively, as just said, its “principles,” or life-elements and energy, etc., one after the other to a new “laya-centre,” which commences the formation of Globe A of the Earth Chain. A similar process takes place for each of the Globes of the “lunar chain” one after the other, each forming a fresh Globe of the “earth-chain.” Our Moon was the fourth Globe of the series, and was on the same plane of perception as our Earth. But Globe A of the lunar chain is not fully “dead” till the first Monads of the first class have passed from Globe G or Z, the last of the “lunar chain,” into the Nirvana which awaits them between the two chains; and similarly for all the other Globes as stated, each giving birth to the corresponding globe of the “earth-chain.” . . .

It thus becomes apparent how perfect is the analogy between the processes of Nature in the Kosmos and in the individual man. The latter lives through his life-cycle, and dies. His “higher principles,” corresponding in the development of a planetary chain to the cycling Monads, pass into Devachan, which corresponds to the “Nirvana” and states of rest intervening between two chains. The Man’s lower “principles” are disintegrated in time and are used by Nature again for the formation of new human principles, and the same process takes place in the disintegration and formation of Worlds. Analogy is thus the surest guide to the comprehension of the Occult teachings. (SD 1:171-73)


Comparing the Human Principles to the Principles of Physical Nature (SD 2:593):

Human Principles.

Principles of Physical Nature.

VII.

Atma.

VI.

Buddhi.

V.

Manas.

IV.

Kama-rupa, the principle of animal desire, which burns fiercely during life in matter, resulting in satiety; it is insep­arable from animal existence.

}

HYDROGEN

{

The lightest of all gases; it burns in oxygen giving off the most intense heat of any substance in combustion, and forming Water, the most stable of compounds; Hydrogen enters largely into all organic compounds.

III.

Linga-Sarira; the inert vehicle or form on which the body is moulded; the vehicle of Life. It is dissipated NITROGEN very shortly after the disinte­gration of the body.

}

NITROGEN

{

An inert gas; the vehicle with which Oxygen is mixed to adapt the latter for animal respiration; it also enters largely into all organic substances.

II.

Prana, Life, the active power producing all vital pheno­mena.

}

OXYGEN

{

The supporter of combustion; the life-giving gas; the active chemical agent in all organic life.

I.

The gross Matter of the body, the substance formed and moulded over the Linga-sarira (Chhaya) by the action of Prana.

}

CARBON.

{

The fuel par excellence; the basis of all organic substances; the (chemical element which forms the largest variety of compounds.


Comparing the Human Principles with the Cosmic Principles (see SD 2:596):

Human Aspects, or Principles.

Cosmic Aspects, or Principles.

1. Universal Spirit (Atma)

1. The Unmanifested Logos

2. Spiritual Soul (Buddhi)

2. Universal (latent) Ideation

3. Human Soul, Mind (Manas)

3. Universal (or Cosmic) active Intelligence

4. Animal Soul (Kama-Rupa)

4. Cosmic (Chaotic) Energy

5. Astral Body (Linga Sarira)

5. Astral Ideation, reflecting terrestrial things.

6. Life Essence (Prana)

6. Life Essence or Energy

7. Body (Sthula Sarira)

7. The Earth.


Comparing the process of gestation of a fetus to Rounds:

On strict analogy, the cycle of Seven Rounds in their work of the gradual formation of man through every kingdom of Nature, are repeated on a microscopical scale in the first seven months of gestation of a future human being. Let the student think over and work out this analogy. As the seven months’ old unborn baby, though quite ready, yet needs two months more in which to acquire strength and consolidate; so man, having perfected his evolution during seven Rounds, remains two periods more in the womb of mother-Nature before he is born, or rather reborn a Dhyani, still more perfect than he was before he launched forth as a Monad on the newly built chain of worlds. Let the student ponder over this mystery . . . (SD 2:257)


On the birth of celestial bodies:

The birth of the celestial bodies in Space is compared to a crowd or multitude of “pilgrims” at the festival of the “Fires.” Seven ascetics appear on the threshold of the temple with seven lighted sticks of incense. At the light of these the first row of pilgrims light their incense sticks. After which every ascetic begins whirling his stick around his head in space, and furnishes the rest with fire. Thus with the heavenly bodies. A laya-centre is lighted and awakened into life by the fires of another “pilgrim,” after which the new “centre” rushes into space and becomes a comet. It is only after losing its velocity, and hence its fiery tail, that the “Fiery Dragon” settles down into quiet and steady life as a regular respectable citizen of the sidereal family. (SD 1:203)

We must remember, moreover, that the law of Analogy holds good for the worlds, as it does for man; and that as “The ONE (Deity) becomes Two (Deva or Angel) and Two becomes Three (or man),” etc., etc., so we are taught that the Curds (world-stuff) become wanderers, (Comets), these become stars, and the stars (the centres of vortices) our sun and planets—to put it briefly. (SD 1:206)


On chemical elements, Spirit and Matter:

It is said in a work on Geology that it is the dream of Science that “all the recognized chemical elements will one day be found but modifications of a single material element.” Occult philosophy has taught this since the existence of human speech and languages, adding only, on the principle of the immutable law of analogy—”as it is above, so it is below”—that other axiom, that there is neither Spirit nor matter, in reality, but only numberless aspects of the One ever-hidden IS (or Sat). (SD 1:542)


The use of Analogy in Nature:

Now, the writer humbly confesses complete ignorance of modern chemistry and its mysteries. But she is pretty well acquainted with the Occult doctrine with regard to correspondences of types and antitypes in nature, and perfect analogy as a fundamental law in Occultism. Hence she ventures a remark which will strike every Occultist, however it may be derided by orthodox Science. This method of illustrating the periodic law in the behaviour of elements, whether or not still a hypothesis in chemistry, is a lawin Occult Sciences. Every well-read Occultist knows that the seventh and fourth members—whether in a septenary chain of worlds, the septenary hierarchy of angels, or in the constitution of man, animal, plant, or mineral atom—that the seventh and fourth members, we say, in the geometrically and mathematically uniform workings of the immutable laws of Nature, always play a distinct and specific part in the septenary system. From the stars twinkling high in heaven, to the sparks flying asunder from the rude fire built by the savage in his forest; from the hierarchies and the essential constitution of the Dhyan Chohans—organized for diviner apprehensions and a loftier range of perception than the greatest Western psychologist ever dreamed of, down to Nature’s classification of species among the humblest insects; finally from worlds to atoms, everything in the universe, from great to small, proceeds in its spiritual and physical evolution, cyclically and septennially, showing its seventh and fourth number (the latter the turning point) behaving in the same way as shown in that periodic law of atoms. Nature never proceeds per saltum. (SD 1:585)


Other uses:

It is in strict analogy with ITS attributes in both the spiritual and material worlds, that the evolution of the Dhyan Chohanic Essences takes place; the characteristics of the latter being reflected, in their turn, in Man, collectively, and in each of his principles; every one of which contains in itself, in the same progressive order, a portion of their various fires and elements. (SD 2:108)

Consider the first stages of the development of a germ-cell. Its nucleus grows, changes, and forms a double cone or spindle, thus,  within the cell. This spindle approaches the surface of the cell, and one half of it is extruded in the form of what are called the “polar cells.” These polar cells now die, and the embryo develops from the growth and segmentation of the remaining part of the nucleus which is nourished by the substance of the cell. Then why could not beings have lived thus, and been created in this way—at the very beginning of human and mammalian evolution?

This may, perhaps, serve as an analogy to give some idea of the process by which the Second Race was formed from the First. (SD 2:117)

. . . there is a perfect analogy between the “great Round” (Mahakalpa), each of the seven Rounds, and each of the seven great Races in every one of the Rounds… (SD 2:615)

The “Earth that floats” on the Universal Ocean (of Space), which Brahmâ divides in the Purânas into seven zones, is Prithivi, the world divided into seven principles; a cosmic division looking metaphysical enough, but, in reality, physical in its occult effects. Many Kalpas later, our Earth is mentioned, and, in its turn, is divided into seven zones on that same law of analogy that guided ancient philosophers. After which one finds on it seven continents, seven isles, seven oceans, seven seas and rivers, seven mountains, and seven climates, etc., etc., etc. (SD 2:616)

All analogy would seem to indicate that the force which operates in the presence of a medium upon external objects comes from a source back of the medium himself. We may rather compare it with the hydrogen which overcomes the inertia of the balloon. The gas, under the control of an intelligence, is accumulated in the receiver in sufficient volume to overcome the attraction of its combined mass. On the same principle this force moves articles of furniture, and performs other manifestations… (Isis 1:197)


Selected Writings on Analogy and Correspondence