The Sacred Word – AUM – This is the Pranava.

From Yogapedia:

Pranava means “cosmic sound” in Sanskrit. It is the name for the mantra, Om (or Aum). It is an important symbol in yoga, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Meditating on pranava leads to liberation because it brings about unity with Brahman, the Absolute Truth.

Pranava yoga is a technique for meditation which is considered by many to be one of the classical forms of meditation. It is described in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, as well as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. To perform Pranava yoga is to focus the mind on the mantra, Om, and to contemplate its sacred nature, repeating the mantra with each breath. It is also sometimes called Om meditation.


From The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Book 1 – The Problem of Union

Alice Bailey & Djwhal Khul

27. The Word of Ishvara is AUM (or OM). This is the Pranava.
(See Book I Sutra 1.)

Students should remember that there are three basic Words or sounds in manifestation. This is the case as far as the human kingdom is concerned. They are:

  • The Word, or note of Nature. This is the Word or the sound of all forms existing in physical plane substance, and as is usually known, it is sounded on the fundamental note “FA.” It is a note with which the white occultist has nothing to do, for his work is concerned not with the increase of tangibility but with the demonstration of the subjective or the intangible. This is the Word of the third aspect, the Brahma or Holy Ghost aspect.
  • The Sacred Word. This is the Word of Glory, the AUM. This is the Pranava, the sound of conscious Life itself as It is breathed forth into all forms. It is the Word of the second aspect, and just as the Word of Nature when rightly emanated provides the forms which are intended to reveal the soul or second aspect, so the Pranava, when rightly expressed, demonstrates the Father or Spirit through the medium of the soul. It is the Word of the incarnated sons of God. In such a short commentary as this, it is not possible to write a treatise on this secret of secrets, and this great mystery of the ages. All that can be done is to collate certain facts about the AUM, and leave the student to extend the concept and grasp the significance of the brief statements made according to the state of his intuition.
  • The Lost Word. The idea of this Lost Word has been preserved for us in Masonry. It is the Word of the first aspect, the spirit aspect, and only the initiate of the third degree can truly begin the search for this word for only the freed soul can find it. This word concerns the highest initiations and it is profitless for us further to consider it.

The following statements about the Sacred Word can therefore be made and should be studied with care:

  1. The AUM is the Word of glory, and is the Christ in us, the hope of glory.
  2. The Word when rightly apprehended causes the second, or Christ aspect of divinity to shine forth resplendently.
  3. It is the sound which brings into manifestation the incarnated soul (macrocosmic or microcosmic), the ego, the Christ, and causes the “radiant Augoeides” to be seen on earth.
  4. It is the Word which is the releaser of consciousness and when correctly understood and used, releases the soul from the limitations of form in the three worlds.
  5. The AUM is the synthesizer of the three aspects and therefore is primarily the Word of the human kingdom in which the three lines of divine life meet – spirit, soul and body.
  6. It is also the Word of the fifth, the Aryan race, in a special sense. The work of that race is to reveal in a newer and fuller way the nature of the inner Identity, of the soul within the form, the son of mind, the solar angel, the fifth principle.
  7. The significance of the Word only becomes apparent after the “light within” is realized. By its use the “spark” becomes a radiant light, the light becomes a flame, and the flame eventually becomes a sun. By its use the “sun of righteousness arises” in the life of every man.
  8. Each of the three letters has relation to the three aspects, and each can be applied to any of the known triplicities.
  9. The Master, the God within, is indeed the Word, the AUM, and of this Master (found at the heart of all beings) it is true that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (thus duality) and the Word was God.” Through its use man arrives at a realization of:
    • His own essential divinity,
    • The purpose of the form-taking process,
    • The constitution and nature of those forms,
    • The reality of consciousness, or the relation of the divine self or spirit to the form, its polar opposite.

This relation, in its evolutionary working out, we call consciousness and the essential characteristic of this consciousness is love.

  1. The Guru or Master who leads a pupil up to the door of initiation and who watches over him in all the initial and subsequent tests and processes likewise represents the Word, and through the scientific use of this great sound He produces a certain stimulation and vitalization in the centers of the disciple, thus rendering certain developments possible.

More about the Sacred Word is not advisable to add here. Enough has been given to indicate to the aspirant its purpose and potency. There will have to be communicated in other ways and at other times further information as the student – through study and self initiated effort – arrives at just conclusions. It might be added, that this great Word, when meditated upon, gives the clue to the true esoteric meaning of the words in the Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky:

“Life we look upon as the One Form of Existence, manifesting in what we call Matter; or what, incorrectly separating them, we name Spirit, Soul and Matter in man. Matter is the vehicle for the manifestation of Soul on this plane of existence, and Soul is the vehicle on a higher plane for the manifestation of Spirit, and these three are a Trinity synthesized by Life, which pervades them all.”

28. Through the sounding of the Word and through reflection upon its meaning, the Way is found.

This is a very general paraphrase but conveys nevertheless the correct significance of the terms used in the Sanskrit. Only Vivekananda, among the many translators, gives this interpretation, putting it as follows:

“The repetition of the OM and meditating upon its meaning (is the Way).”

The other translators omit the final three words, though the inference is clear.

The expression “the sounding of the Word” must not be too literally interpreted; the esoteric “sounding forth” is based upon a study of the Law of Vibration, and the gradual tuning of the lower vibrations of the sheaths or vestures of consciousness so that they synchronize with the note or sound of the conscious indweller. Speaking correctly, the Word is to be sounded by the soul or the ego on its own plane, and the vibration will subsequently affect the various bodies or vehicles which house that soul. The process is therefore a mental one and can only really be done by those who – through meditation and discipline, coupled with service – have made a conscious at-one-ment with the soul. Aspirants to this condition have to utilize the potent factors of the imagination, visualization and perseverance in meditation to reach this initial stage. It should be noted that this stage has to be reached, even if only in a relatively small degree, before the aspirant can become an accepted disciple.

The process of sounding the Word is dual, as is emphasized here.

There is, first of all, the act of the ego, solar angel, higher self or soul, as he sounds out the Word from his own place, on the abstract levels of the mental plane. He directs that sound, via the sutratma and the vestures of consciousness to the physical brain of the man in incarnation, the shadow or reflection. This “sounding forth” has to be constantly repeated. The Sutratma is that magnetic link, spoken of in the Christian Bible as the “silver cord,” that thread of living light which connects the Monad, the Spirit in man, with the physical brain.

Secondly, there is the earnest reflection of the man in his physical brain upon that sound as he recognizes it. The two poles of being are hinted at here: the soul and the man in incarnation, and between these two is found the thread, along which the Pranava (or word) vibrates. Students of the esoteric science have to recognize the technique of the processes outlined. In the case of the sounding forth of the Word we have the following factors:

  1. The soul who sends, or breathes it forth,
  2. The sutratma or thread along which the sound vibrates, is carried or transmitted,
  3. The vestures of consciousness, mental, emotional and etheric which vibrate in response to the vibration or breath and are stimulated thereby,
  4. The brain which can be trained to recognize that sound and vibrate in unison with the breath,
  5. The subsequent act of the man in meditation. He hears the sound (called sometimes the “still small Voice,” or the “Voice of the Silence”), he recognizes it for what it is and in deep reflection he assimilates the results of his soul’s activity.

Later when the aspirant has passed on into the mysteries and has learnt how to unify the soul and the lower man so that they function as a coordinated unit on earth, the man learns to sound the Word on the physical plane with the object of awakening the forces which are latent within him and thereby arouse the centers. Thus he participates increasingly in the creative, magical and psychical work of manifestation, with the object ever in view of benefiting his fellow men and thus furthering the plans of the planetary hierarchy.

Om, AUM and Amen

We come now to the consideration of a subject which always proves exceedingly difficult to students: The nature of the Word, the AUM, and its later developments, the OM and the Sound. Much confusion exists as to its significance or the necessity for its use. The phase of its recognition through which we are now passing is a purely exoteric one of accustoming the general public to the fact of its existence. This has been brought about in three ways:

  1. Through the constant use in all the Christian Churches of the word “Amen,” which is a western corruption of the AUM. The AUM is here the lowest aspect of the originating Sound.
  2. Through the emphasis laid in Masonry upon the Lost Word, thus subtly drawing the attention of humanity to the OM; the Sound of the second aspect, the Soul.
  3. Through the growing emphasis laid by the many occult groups throughout the world upon the use of the OM, its frequent use by these groups in public, and by those intent upon meditation.

The soundest approach is that of the Masonic tradition, because it deals primarily with the world of meaning and with a phase of the esoteric teaching. The use of the Amen in the ritual of the Christian Church will eventually be discouraged, because it is basically a materialistic affirmation, being usually regarded by the average churchgoer as setting the seal of divine approval upon his demand to the Almighty for protection, or for the supply of his physical necessities; all this is, therefore, related to the life of desire, of aspiration, of dualism and of request. It involves the attitude of giver and recipient.

The AUM and the Amen are both of them an expression in sound of the principle of active intelligent substance in the divine manifestation, the third aspect, and have served human need in that phase of material and form development. I refer here also to the development of mind or of the mental form. The personality as a whole, when perfected and brought under control of the soul, is the “Word made flesh.”

The mass of aspirants and of disciples are today learning the meaning of the OM, which is not the Word made flesh, but the Word released from form, and expressing itself as soul-spirit and not as body-soul-spirit. It might, therefore, be said that:

  1. The AUM (note that I separate each aspect of this triple sound) brings the soul-spirit aspect down on to the physical plane and anchors it there by the force of its outgoing vibration. Using a symbol to make my meaning clear, it is like “a strong wind that pins a man against a wall and makes free effort difficult.” It vivifies form; it intensifies the hold of matter upon the soul; it builds around the soul a confining prison – a prison of the senses. It is the “sound of enchantment,” the sound that is the source of glamor and of maya; it is the great beguiling and deceptive energy, the note of the involutionary arc. In it are hid the secret of evil or matter, the uses of form, first as a prison, then as a training ground and as a field of experience, and finally as the expression for the manifestation of a Son of God.
  2. The OM rightly sounded, releases the soul from the realm of glamor and of enchantment. It is the sound of liberation, the great note of resurrection and of the raising of humanity to the Secret Place of the Most High when all other Words and sounds have failed. It is not a triple sound as is the AUM, but a dual sound, significant of the relation of spirit and soul, and of life and consciousness. This lost Word, symbolic of the loss in the three worlds (typified by the degrees of the Blue Lodges in Masonry) must be recovered and is in process of discovery today. The mystics have sought after it; the Masons have preserved the tradition of its existence; the disciples and initiates of the world must demonstrate its possession.
  3. The Sound is the sole expression of the Ineffable Name, the secret appellation of the One in Whom we live and move and have our being, and Who is known to the Great White Lodge through this name. Remember always that name and form are synonymous terms in the occult teaching, and these two words hold the secret of manifestation. The goal of the initiate is identification with all forms of the divine life, so that he can know himself to be an integral part of that Whole and can tune in on all states of divine awareness, knowing for himself (and not just theoretically) that they are also his own states of awareness. He can then penetrate into the divine arcana of knowledge, share in the divine omnipresence and – at will – express the divine omniscience and prepare himself to manifest in full consciousness the divine omnipotence.

I am using words which are futile to convey the underlying meaning of the Word. Understanding can only be arrived at when a man lives the Word, hearing its soundless Sound and breathing it forth in a vital life-giving breath to others.

The masses are hearing the sound of the AUM and, in their higher brackets, are finding that AUM the expression of something from which they seek release. The aspirants and disciples of the World are hearing the OM and in their personal lives the AUM and the OM are in conflict. This may represent a new idea to you, but it conveys an idea of an eternal fact. It may help you to gain an understanding of this phase if I point out for you that for this first group the OM can be portrayed in the following symbol as expressing the material M nature whereas the second group can be portrayed by the symbol m expressive of the soul enveloped in matter. You will see, therefore, how the teaching leads man progressively onward and how the occult science brings man in touch with great mental reversals and divine paradoxes. For aeons the Word of the soul and the Sound of spiritual reality are lost. Today, the Word of the soul is being found again, and with that finding the little self is lost in the glory and the radiance of the divine Self.

This discovery is consummated at the time of the third initiation. The initiate and the Master, along with those of higher rank who are approaching identification with Shamballa, are steadily and ever more clearly hearing the Sound emanating from the Central Spiritual Sun and penetrating all forms of divine life upon our planet – via our Planetary Logos Who hears it with clarity and with understanding – the Sound of the lowest syllable of the Ineffable Name of the One in Whom all the Planetary Logoi live and move and have Their Being, for They are centers in the Life which is expressing itself through the medium of a solar system.

You can see how little use there is in my enlarging further upon this. Its sole usefulness is to give an expanding impulse to the consciousness of the disciple and to stir his imagination (the seed of the intuition), so that even whilst occupied in expressing the M and then the m, he will be reaching out after the Sound.

Earlier I pointed out that the sound of the AUM, the sound of the OM and the Sound itself are all related to vibration and to its differing and varied effects. The secret of the Law of Vibration is progressively revealed as people learn to sound forth the Word in its three aspects. Students would also do well to ponder on the distinction between the breath and the Sound, between the process of breathing and of creating directed vibratory activity. The one is related to Time and the other to Space and they are distinct from each other; and (as the Old Commentary puts it) “the Sound, the final and yet initiating Sound, concerns that which is neither Time nor Space; it lies outside the manifested All, the Source of all that is and yet is naught.” (No thing. A.A.B.)

There are, therefore, great points of tension from which the Sacred Word, in its major aspects, goes forth. Let me list them for you:

  1. The creative point of tension – a tension achieved by a planetary Logos when He responds to the Sound of the Ineffable Name and breathes it forth in His turn in three great Sounds which make one Sound on His Own plane of expression, thus creating the manifested world, the impulse towards the unfoldment of consciousness, and the influence of life itself. This is the Sound.
  2. Seven points of tension on the downward or involutionary arc; these produce the seven planets, the seven states of consciousness, and the expression of the seven ray impulses. This constitutes the sevenfold AUM of which the Ageless Wisdom takes note. It is related to the effect of spirit or life upon substance, thus originating form and creating the prison of the divine life.
  3. The AUM itself or the Word made flesh; this creates finally a point of tension in the fourth kingdom in nature, at which point the evolutionary cycle becomes possible and the first dim note of the OM can be faintly heard. In the individual man this point is reached when the personality is an integrated and functioning whole and the soul is beginning to control it. It is an accumulative tension arrived at through many lives. This process is expressed in the Masters’ Archives as follows:

You must remember that these symbols are an attempt on my part to translate ancient signatures in modern occidental type. The only one which is the same in all languages is, esoterically, the AUM.

4.Then comes a point of tension from which the man eventually achieves liberation from the three worlds and stands as a free soul; he is then a point within the circle – the point indicating the point of tension from which he now works, and the circle the sphere of his self-initiated activity.

I need not carry the story further; from tension to tension the initiate passes just as do all human beings, aspirants, disciples and the lower grades of initiates; from one expansion of consciousness to another they go until the third initiation is undergone and points of tension (qualified by intention and purpose) supersede all previous efforts and the will aspect begins to control.

Here, briefly, is a fresh slant upon the familiar theme of the Word – a theme preserved in some form by all the world religions but a theme which, like all else, has been so materialized that it is the task of the Hierarchy to restore the knowledge of its meaning, of its threefold application and its involutionary and evolutionary significances. Students would do well to remember that its sounding forth vocally upon the physical plane means little. The important factors are to sound it silently, inaudibly and within the head; then, having done so, to hear it reverberate there and to recognize that this self-initiated Sound – breathed forth from a point of tension – is a part of the original Sound as it takes form as a Word. When a man perfectly expresses the AUM, he can then sound the OM with effectiveness from progressive points of tension, until the third initiation. Then the effect of the OM is such that the personality as a separate identity disappears, the soul emerges in all its glory, and the first faint sound of the originating Sound breaks upon the ear of the transfigured initiate. This is the Voice referred to in the Biblical account of the Transfiguration. This Voice says, “This is my beloved Son.” The initiate registers the fact that he has been accepted by Shamballa and has made his first contact with the Planetary Logos, the Hierophant, the Initiator at the third initiation, just as the Christ, the Master of all the Masters, is the Initiator and the Hierophant at the first two initiations.


Excerpted from:

The Rays and the Initiations – Part One – Fourteen Rules For Group Initiation

By Alice Bailey & Djwhal Khul