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The subtle essence of an element as well as the subtle power which gives rise to the ability to sense that element. A Sanskrit term meaning, literally, “measure of that” but with the metaphysical implication of elementary or rudimentary matter. In Indian philosophy (esp. Sankhya) a distinction is made between the sense organ and the sense power which functions through that organ. Those sense powers are termed indriyas, literally “functions of Indra” or divine powers. These are said to correlate with the five elements: smell with earth, taste with water, sight with fire, touch with air, and hearing with akasa.

In The Secret Doctrine, Helena P. Blavatsky, commenting on passages from the Visnu Purana, states that creation proceeds in a seven-fold manner, the first of which is Divine Mind (in Sankhya philosophy, mahat or buddhi) and the second of which is that of “the rudimentary principles (Tanmatras), thence termed the elemental creation . . . the first breath of the differentiation of the pre-Cosmic Elements or matter” (SD I:452). Later in that work she notes, “The Tanmatras are literally the type or rudiment of an element devoid of qualities; but esoterically, they are the primeval noumenoi of that which becomes in the progress of evolution a Cosmic element in the sense given to the term in antiquity, not in that of physics” (SD I:572 fn). In other words, they are the matrices which give rise to increasing density of matter on all planes, not just the physical, since all seven planes of manifestation have seven sub-planes which have their own analogues to solidity, liquidity, gaseousness, etc. Annie Besant, in A Study in Consciousness (Theosophical Publishing House, 1904; reprint 1938, 1954, etc.), states that the tanmatra (“the measure of That — ‘That’ being the Divine Spirit”) fixes “the limit within which the ensouling life — the Life of the Logos in the atom — shall vibrate” (loc. cit., 1954 ed., p. 16). Then, on the basis of this limit, the shape and size of the atom are determined. The forces which determines the axes of the atom, which in turn determines its shape, are called Tattvas (pp. 16-17).


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