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The Seven Principles of Man

Based on the teachings of Wiliam Walker Atkinson alias YOGI RAMACHARAKA given out in 1903 which are in turn based on the Wisdom of the Ancients. There is also included some added information from other traditions to give a well rounded presentation of the topics presented here.


A person is not only a body and a soul, but is a spirit possessing a soul. This soul has several vehicles of different degrees of density to express through. The physical body is the lowest form of expression. These different vehicles manifest upon different “planes,” such as the “physical plane,” the “astral plane,” and so forth.

The real self is pure Spirit, a spark of the Divine Fire. This Spirit is encased within numerous sheaths, which prevent its full expression. As human beings advance in development, their consciousness passes from the lower planes to the higher, and they become increasingly aware of their higher nature. The Spirit contains all potentialities within it and as we progress into the light we unfold new powers and qualities.

The Yogi philosophy teaches that a human being is a sevenfold creature composed of seven principles. The Spirit is the real self and the lower principles are confining sheaths. A highly developed person may manifest upon seven planes but the majority of humanity at this time can manifest upon the lower planes only. However, every person, no matter how undeveloped, possesses the seven principles in potential.

The first five planes have been attained by many, the sixth by some, the seventh by even less so far. Humanity is a “work in progress”. This is the “Great Work” of the Alchemists which may be the topic of another set of study materials.


The seven principles of man, as they are known to the Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism, are stated below. English terms have been substituted for Sanskrit words:

1st - Physical Body - The flesh and blood vehicle that allows us to fully engage in physical life.

2nd - Astral Body - The emotional vehicle that allows us to feel emotion and experience life in dreams.

3rd - Prana, or Vital Force - Universal Energy that powers everything.

4th - Instinctive Mind - The Subconscious aspect of our being ensuring that life processes function.

5th - Intellect - The Self-conscious aspect of our being that reasons, analyses and makes decisions.

6th - Spiritual Mind - The Super-conscious aspect of our being that inspires us to be the best we can be.

7th - Spirit - Our true Self, our soul's Soul.

The three lower principles (Physical, Astral and Prana) are the most material and the atoms of which they are composed are indestructible. They go on forever in countless forms and aspects. These principles, so far as the Soul is concerned, are things merely to be used in connection with a particular earth life, just as a person uses clothing, heat, electricity and so forth. They form no part of a person’s higher nature.

The four higher principles (Instinctive Mind, intellect, Spiritual Mind and Spirit) make up the thinking part of a human being, the intelligent part so to speak. Even the lowest of the four, the instinctive mind, goes to form the higher part of the person.

If you have not considered this subject before you may not be used to thinking of a person’s mind functioning on more than one plane. The conscious, reasoning work of the mind is but a small fraction of the mind’s activity. Our minds function on three planes of effort, each plane shading imperceptibly into the planes on either side of it.

You may think of the matter either as one mind functioning along three lines, or as three minds shading into each other; both views have more or less of the truth in them. 

We can also consider that there are Four Worlds in which we have our existence. These are the Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual Worlds.The Seven Principles are active within those Four Worlds in varying degrees. Once we are familiar with the Seven Principles we can discuss them in relation to the Four Worlds. Even at this point you would be aware of these four aspects of yourself. Looking at the Seven Principles their names would suggest something to you. It is good to think about these things before you proceed on to each of the Seven Principles in the list above.

Physical World - Physical Plane

Emotional World - Astral Plane

Mental World - Mental Plane

Spiritual World - Spiritual Plane