The Theosophical teachings on the divisions of Man and Nature rest upon a certain view of the numerology of manifestation, based upon an algebraical formula which is explained by T. Subba Row as follows:

There are three primary causes which bring the human being into existence. I shall call them, for the purpose of discussion, by the following names:

(1) Parabrahman, the Universal Spirit.

(2) Sakti, the crown of the astral light, combining in itself all the powers of Nature.

(3) Prakriti, which in its original or primary shape is represented by Akasa. (Really every form of matter is finally reducible to Akasa.)

. . . Brahman is the Kshetram or basis, Akasa or Prakriti, the germ or seed, and Sakti, the power evolved by their union or contact. . . .

Now, according to the adepts of ancient Aryavarta, seven principles are evolved out of these three primary entities. Algebra teaches us that the number of combinations of things, taken one at a time, two at a time, three at a time, and so forth = 2n – 1.

Applying this formula to the present case, the number of entities evolved from different combinations of these three primary causes amounts to 23 – 1 = 8 – 1 = 7.

As a general rule, whenever seven entities are mentioned in the ancient occult science of India, in any connection whatsoever, you must suppose that those seven entities came into existence from three primary entities; and that these three entities, again, are evolved out of a single entity or MONAD. To take a familiar example, the seven coloured rays in the solar ray are evolved out of three primary coloured rays; and the three primary colours coexist with the four secondary colours in the solar rays. Similarly, the three primary entities which brought man into existence co-exist in him with the four secondary entities which arose from different combinations of the three primary entities.

— T. Subba Row, “The Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets on the Sevenfold Principles in Man,” Theosophist, January, 1882 (Re-printed in Five Years of Theosophy as “Brahmanism on the Sevenfold Principle in Man,” p. 153.

If we arrange the Three Primaries as the corners of a triangle, we can count out the resulting sevenfold division, thus:

  1. top corner,
  2. bottom-right corner,
  3. bottom-left corner,
  4. the side connecting the top to the bottom-right,
  5. the side connecting the bottom-right to the bottom-left,
  6. the side connecting the top to the bottom-left,
  7. the completed triangle or the plane surface.

The above explanation can be demonstrated visually thus:

In the above explanations there is actually a tenfold division, which we may illustrate thus:

0 (zero) The ALL.
1-2-3 The Three Primaries.
4-10 The Seven Combinations.

A simple way to explain the above is that whenever we find some aspect of Nature represented with a sevenfold division, those seven are encompassed in a more general or more abstract threefold division; that threefold division is itself a kind of “three-in-one,” as a triangle is “triple” yet is one; and that One is a kind of representation of the ALL. Another way to phrase this is that there is the ALL, then the One (which is “triple” or has “three aspects”), then the Seven.

Nature is always represented in sets of seven: seven cosmic principles, seven principles in man, seven planes of consciousness, seven globes of a planetary chain, and so on. This is then reflected in the teachings on the Path, with seven states, seven “gates,” seven initiations, and so on.

When the above formula is applied to the Three Primaries, the result is a Sevenfold division that can be viewed in terms of “three higher” and “four lower,” i.e. the three corners of the triangle are “abstract” or “formless” (represented by dimensionless points), while the three sides and the plane are “manifested” or “with form,” represented as geometrical figures (lines and plane).

This shows the approach used extensively by theosophists, which is represented symbolically as a triangle above a square.

We see this kind of approach taken in terms of the Planes of Consciousness, of which three are “arupa” (formless) and four “rupa” (form). We see the same general approach when dealing with the Principles of Man, where we have three higher “immortal” principles and four lower perishable principles.

A further division may then be shown, where within the four lower there is, again, a sevenfold division. This is illustrated most clearly when dealing with the globes of a planetary chain: the seven globes exist on the four lower planes, as shown in the following diagram:

By correspondence the above can then be applied to any sevenfold division. Further and further divisions can be then noted, i.e. within any “lower four” there are seven, which seven can be divided into a higher three and lower four, which lower four is again divisible into seven, and so on, ad infinitum.

Occult numerology proceeds along these lines, but includes a myriad of approaches and combinations. In theosophical literature one will find threefold approaches, along with fourfold, fivefold, sixfold, sevenfold, ninefold, tenfold, twelvefold, etc. The divisions, formulas and symbolism involved therein encompasses a vast, almost endless body of teachings. All such divisions are but different means of viewing and understanding the whole. This is seen perhaps most clearly when dealing with the various ways of understanding the constituent parts of Man, where some systems prefer a threefold approach, others a fourfold, others five or sixfold; theosophy utilizes a sevenfold; it is possible to view Man as tenfold or twelvefold, or even 49fold. These are not contradictory, but are either less or more detailed approaches to the same constitution.

Some of the more important of the divisions of Man and Nature are outlined in the following sections:

Hierarchies of Beings

The Planetary Chain

The Constitution of Man

States of Consciousness