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Literally, “shining ones.” A general term for a wide class of ethereal or spiritual beings, some of whom are less developed than humanity in the evolutionary ladder, and others which are more advanced. These higher devas include Dhyani-Chohans or those who have surpassed the human stage in previous planetary periods or chains. The word “angel” has been used as an equivalent to “deva,” but “deva” covers a wider class of beings than “angel.” It is related to the Persian word daeva, except that the latter took on an opposite connotation, that of evil beings. It is also related to the Latin word deus or God, stemming from divos, pertaining to God, hence the word “divinity.”

In Hindu mythology, as a general term of deities, the devas are divided into 33 classes, from which originate the other celestial beings numbering to 33 crores, or 330,000,000 gods. As a term representing goodness, the devas are a class of beings (suras) that warred with the ASURAS, or the demons. The term “Asura,” however, represented the supreme spirit in the oldest part of the Rg Veda. In the later parts the term represents the demons. In Zoroastrianism, this original meaning was retained as Ahura Mazda, the supreme deity who opposes the daevas or demons, from the latter of which we have the term “devil.”

In theosophical literature, the term “deva” is used with varying connotations. In the works of Helena P. BLAVATSKY, it covers all the ethereal beings from primitive levels to the divine levels such as the DHYANI-CHOHANS. “There are high Devas and lower ones, higher Elementals and those far below man and even animals. But all these have been or will be men, and the former will again be reborn on higher planets and in other manvantaras” (CW XII:203). She states that there are seven classes of devas.

The Mahatma Letters specifically cites two general categories of devas: the rupa devas or those with forms, and the arupa devas, or the subjective, formless ones. They are both Dhyani-Chohans, which means that they have passed through the human stage.

Post-Blavatsky theosophical literature on devas gave special emphasis on the non-physical beings that are observable to clairvoyant sight. This includes the nature spirits, fairies, elementals, healing devas, mountain devas, etc. Descriptions of their appearances, activities and characteristics are found in such books as The Hidden Side of Things by Charles W. LEADBEATERKingdom of the Gods by Geoffrey Hodson, and The Real World of Fairies by Dora Kunz.

Articles on specific classes of devas may be found in the following articles: ADITYAS; ANGELS; ARCHANGELS; ASURAS; DHYANI-CHOHANS; ELEMENTALS; FAIRIES; HIERARCHY.


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