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A unit of consciousness. The term has been used in several senses in theosophical literature.

The term was first used by Pythagoras to indicate a simple unity. It was later used by the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz in his Monadology in an effort to resolve the mind-body problem. He postulated, on the basis of his earlier development of the calculus (just prior to Newton’s doing so), that humans were not composed of minds and bodies, but were really partless monads; as such they had no interaction with any other monads or with the natural world, but were so constituted by God as to make it appear as if they interacted with an external world. In other words, he postulated a strictly deterministic, private world for human beings. His “solution” of the mind-body problem, however, never convinced other philosophers, let alone the literate public of his day.

Helena P. Blavatsky defines the monad in The Secret Doctrine as “that homogeneous spark which radiates in millions of rays from the primeval ‘Seven;’ . . . the emanating spark from the Uncreated Ray — a mystery” (SD I:571). It is therefore the basic unit of self in any being. In human beings, the monad is equivalent to Ātma-Buddhi. It is to be distinguished from the “monadic essence” which refers to the Ātma alone or Self. The monad as Ātma-Buddhi stresses the active or manifested aspect of the monadic essence. It now uses a vehicle (the Buddhi), as contrasted to pure Ātma, which cannot act or interact on the lower planes.

The Secret Doctrine further distinguishes between an angel-monad and a human-monad. The former is the same as the monadic essence, while the latter is Ātma-Buddhi. As to minerals, there is only one mineral-monad, while there are countless higher animal and human monads. A better way of stating it, according to an Adept, is that The Monad is manifesting through the mineral kingdom, while in the vegetable kingdom, it is “in its second degree of awakening sensation” (CW V:173).

In later theosophical writings, particularly by Annie Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater, the Monad is considered to be on a level of consciousness higher than Atma. They teach that beyond the atmic level, there are two more planes in the solar system: Adi, the highest, and Anupadaka. The Monad is in the Anupadaka plane. This view thus varies from the writings of H. P. Blavatsky which states that the Monad is Atma-Buddhi.


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