tattvas (tattwas) Astral forms or qualities of the five Elements of Eastern yoga and Alchemy: earth, air, fire, water, and spirit (Quintessence). Tattvas are used in magical work and as meditation tools for developing Clairvoyance and Astral Projection.

The tattvic system was developed in Indian yoga around 700 B.C.E. The term tattva means “thatness,” and is formed from two words: tat (“that”) and tvam (“thou”). A general way of describing them is that they are qualities of prana, the vital life force that flows through the macrocosm and microcosm. In yoga, the tattvas correspond to the five lower chakra centers.

Each tattva has a shape, and each tattva can be incorporated as a subelement within all the other tattvas. Thus, there are 25 permutations altogether.

The five tattvas are

• Prithvi (earth), symbolized by a yellow square, representing solidity and physical manifestation

• Apas (water), symbolized by a silver crescent moon, representing all liquid activity on the planet

• Tejas (fire), symbolized by a red equilateral triangle, representing heat, expansion, and creation

• Vayu (air), symbolized by a blue circle, representing a mediation between fire and water

• Akasha (spirit), symbolized by a black or indigo EGG, representing the womb from which all things spring

Each subelement has its own shape, colors, and qualities as well. For example, the Vayu of Prithvi—air as a subelement of earth—is represented by a blue circle inside a yellow square. Earth alone is dense, but earth/air has movement and volatility.

The tattvas were introduced to Western esotericism primarily through the Theosophical Society. The Theosophists added two tattvas, Adi and Anupadaka, so that there would be seven, to correspond with the seven primary chakras. Possibly the first mention of the tattvas in Western literature appears in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s esoteric novel, Zanoni (1842). The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn adopted the tattvas from Theosophy but eliminated the two that had been added.

In Western magic, the tattvas are ethers related to the five senses. They are carried out on the prana that streams forth from the Sun as solar wind becomes captured by the Earth’s magnetic field. The waves of energy circulate around the Earth in waves that ebb and flow. Beginning at sunrise, the flow begins with Akasha and progresses to Vayu, Tejas, Apas, and Prithvi. Everything is vitalized by the continuing transits of tattvas, including the Earth’s electromagnetic field and all ley lines. The tattvas are the basis of all forms and of the Prima Materia.

In magical work, attention is focused on the symbol of a tattva. Meditations upon them encourage visions that enable the magician to have a deep understanding of the true essences of the elements. Through active imagination and VISUALIZATION, the magician enters the actual element to experience its true, living form, which can take the shapes of beings. The tattvas serve as doorways through which the magician can enter the Elemental realms. The magician must use magical nameS, questions, and perhaps the assistance of a spirit guide to discern the true forms from masquerading astral forms.


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  • King, Francis, and Stephen Skinner. Techniques of High Magic: A Manual of Self-Initiation. Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books, 1976.
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  • Wilson, Graeme. “An Introduction to the Tattvas.” Available online. URL: https://www.magicalpath.net/articles/tattva. htm. Downloaded February 1, 2006

The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.