Glossary of Spiritual Terms

Advaita Vedanta
Dominant sub-school of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy.
Affirmation
In personal development, an affirmation is a form of autosuggestion in which a statement of a desirable intention or condition of the world or the mind is deliberately meditated on and/or repeated in order to implant it in the mind.
Alpha and Omega
Appellation of God in the book of Revelation (verses 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13). Its meaning is found in the fact that Alpha and Omega are respectively the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. This would be similar to referring to someone in English as “the A to Z”.
Altered States of Consciousness
Any state which is significantly different from a normative waking beta wave state. The expression was coined by Charles Tart and describes induced changes in one’s mental state, almost always temporary. A synonymous phrase is “altered states of awareness”.
Altruism
Selfless concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and central to many religious traditions. In English, this idea was often described as the Golden rule of ethics. In Buddhism it is considered a fundamental property of human nature.
Angels
An angel is a supernatural being found in many religions. In scripture, they typically act as messengers, as held by the three prominent monotheistic faiths, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Animism
Refers to belief systems that, unlike Christianity, attribute personalized souls to animals, plants, and other material objects, governing, to some degree, their existence.
Archetype
The concept of psychological archetypes was advanced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, c. 1919, and generally adopted in the social sciences. In Jung’s psychological framework archetypes are innate, universal prototypes for ideas and may be used to interpret observations. A group of memories and interpretations associated with an archetype is a complex, e.g. a mother complex associated with the mother archetype.
Aromatherapy
Commonly associated with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), is the use of volatile liquid plant materials, known as essential oils (EOs), and other scented compounds from plants for the purpose of affecting a person’s mood or health.
Ascended Master
In various descendants and offshoots of theosophy, are held to be a group of spiritually-enlightened beings, who in past incarnations were ordinary humans, but who have undergone a process of spiritual transformation.
Asceticism
Describes a life characterized by abstinence from worldly pleasures (austerity). Those who practice ascetic lifestyles often perceive their practices as virtuous and pursue them to achieve greater spirituality.
Ashram
An Ashram in ancient India was a Hindu hermitage where sages lived in peace and tranquility amidst nature. Today, the term ashram is used to refer to an intentional community formed primarily for spiritual upliftment of its members, often headed by a religious leader or mystic.
Astral
Relating to a subtle body and plane of existence that coexist with and survive the death of the human physical body.
Astral body
The astral body refers to the concept of a subtle body which exists alongside the physical body, as a vehicle of the soul or consciousness. It is usually understood as being of an emotional nature and, as such, it is equated to the desire body or emotional body.
Astral plane
The astral plane, also called the astral world or desire world, is a plane of existence according to esoteric philosophies, some religious teachings and New Age thought.
Astral Projection
Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) achieved either awake or via lucid dreaming, deep meditation, or use of psychotropics. The consciousness or soul has transferred into an astral body which moves in the astral plane.
Astrological Age (Cycles of the ages)
An astrological age is a time period in astrology which is believed by some to cause major changes in the Earth’s inhabitants’ development. It roughly corresponds to the time taken for the vernal equinox to move through one of the twelve constellations of the zodiac.
Astrological Age of Aquarius
Thought to bring with it an era of universal brotherhood rooted in reason where it will be possible to solve social problems in a manner equitable to all and with greater opportunity for intellectual and spiritual improvement. It is generally described by astrologers that in the Age of Aquarius there will be a blending of religion and science to such a degree that a religious science and a scientific religion will be formed.
Aura
Energy field emanating from the surface of a person or object. This emanation is visualized as an outline of cascading color and may be held to represent soul vibrations, chakric emergence, or a reflection of surrounding energy fields.
Autosuggestion
Process by which an individual trains the subconscious mind to believe something, or systematically schematizes the person’s own mental associations, usually for a given purpose. This is accomplished through self-hypnosis methods or repetitive, constant self-affirmations.
Avatar
In Hindu philosophy, most commonly refers to the incarnation (bodily manifestation) of a higher being (deva), or the Supreme Being (God) onto planet Earth. The Sanskrit word avatara- literally means “descent” (avatarati) and usually implies a deliberate descent into lower realms of existence for special purposes.
Baha’i Faith
The Baha’i Faith is the religion founded by Baha’u’llah in 19th century Persia. According to Baha’i teachings, religious history is seen as an evolving educational process for mankind, through God’s messengers, which are termed Manifestations of God.
Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is a Sanskrit text from the Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata epic. Krishna, as the speaker of the Bhagavad Gita is referred to within as Bhagavan (the divine one), and the verses themselves are written in a poetic form that is traditionally chanted; The Bhagavad Gita is revered as sacred by the majority of Hindu traditions, and especially so by followers of Krishna.
Bhakti Yoga
Term within Hinduism which denotes the spiritual practice of fostering of loving devotion to God, called bhakti. Bhakti yoga is generally considered the easiest of the four general paths to liberation, or moksha (the others being Karma, Raja and Jnana Yoga), and especially so within the current age of Kali yuga (according to the Hindu cycle of time).
Biofeedback
Biofeedback is a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) which involves measuring a subject’s bodily processes such as blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, galvanic skin response (sweating), and muscle tension and conveying such information to him or her in real-time in order to raise his or her awareness and conscious control of the related physiological activities.
Bodhi
Bodhi is the Pali and Sanskrit word for (spiritual) “awakening”.
Bodhisattva
In Buddhist thought, a bodhisattva (Sanskrit) or bodhisatta (Pali) is a being who is dedicated to attaining Nirvana. Bodhisattva literally means “enlightenment (‘bodhi’) being (‘sattva’)” in Sanskrit; it also refers to the Buddha himself in his previous lives. In Mahayana philosophy, Bodhisattvas take an extra vow of not attaining Enlightenment (Nirvana) before all sentient beings have achieved complete Buddhahood.
Brahman
Brahman is the concept of the supreme spirit found in Hinduism. Brahman is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyond in this universe. The nature of Brahman is described as transpersonal, personal and impersonal by different philosophical schools.
Buddha
In Buddhism, a buddha is any being who has become fully awakened (enlightened), and has experienced Nirvana. Buddhists do not consider Siddhartha Gautama to have been the only Buddha.
Buddhism
Buddhism is a dharmic, non-theistic religion and a philosophy. Buddhism is also known as Buddha Dharma or Dhamma, which means the “teachings of the Awakened One” in Sanskrit and Pali, languages of ancient Buddhist texts. Buddhism was founded around the fifth century BCE by Siddhartha Gautama, hereafter referred to as “the Buddha”.
Bushido
Meaning “Way of the Warrior”, is a Japanese code of conduct and a way of life, loosely analogous to the European concept of chivalry. According to the Japanese dictionary Shogakukan Kokugo Daijiten, “Bushido is defined as a unique philosophy (ronri) that spread through the warrior class from the Muromachi (chusei) period.”
Causal body
The Causal body – originally Karana-Sarira – is a Yogic and Vedantic concept that was adopted and modified by Theosophy and Neo-Theosophy. It generally refers to the highest or innermost subtle body that veils the true soul.
Chakra
Nexus of biophysical energy residing in the human body, aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. In various traditions chakras are associated with multiple physiological functions, an aspect of consciousness, a classical element, and other distinguishing characteristics.
Channeling
Process of receiving messages or inspiration from invisible beings or spirits.
Chi (Ch’i, Qi, Ki)
Fundamental concept of traditional Chinese culture, Qi is believed to be part of every living thing that exists, as a kind of “life force” or “spiritual energy.” It is frequently translated as “energy flow,” or literally as “air” or “breath.”
Christ
The word is often misunderstood to be the surname of Jesus due to the numerous mentions of Jesus Christ in the Christian Bible. The word is in fact a title, hence its common reciprocal use Christ Jesus, meaning The Anointed One, Jesus. Followers of Jesus became known as Christians because they believed that Jesus was the Christ, or Messiah, prophesied about in the Tanakh (which Christians term the Old Testament).
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New Testament. Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God and the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.
Chromotherapy
Chromotherapy, sometimes called colour therapy or colourology, is an alternative medicine method. It is claimed that a therapist trained in chromotherapy can use colour and light to balance energy wherever our bodies are lacking, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental.
Clairaudience
Ability to hear things not audible within normal hearing ranges. It includes the audible perceptions of ghosts, spirits and those who are in the astral realm.
Clairsentience
A clairsentient person is able to perceive energy fields (through physical sensations), including a person’s aura and vibrations (such as voice and how words are strung together). This may also explain the ability to “sense” the presence of non-corporeal entities, such as ghosts.
Clairvoyance
Extra-sensory perception whereas a person perceives distant objects, persons, or events, including perceiving an image hidden behind opaque objects and the detection of types of energy not normally perceptible to humans. Typically, such perception is reported in visual terms, but may also include auditory impressions (sometimes called clairaudience) or kinesthetic impressions.
Cognition
Refer to the mental functions, mental processes and states of intelligent entities (humans, human organizations, highly autonomous robots), with a particular focus toward the study of such mental processes as comprehension, inferencing, decision-making, planning and learning.
Consciousness
Consciousness is a quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one’s environment. It is a subject of much research in philosophy of mind, psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science.
Contemplation
In a religious sense it is a type of prayer or meditation. Within Western Christianity it is related to mysticism, and portrayed by the works of authors such as Teresa of Avila, Margery Kempe, Augustine Baker and Thomas Merton. In Eastern Christianity contemplation is to force all of the faculties of ones consciousness on God or things divine.
Cosmic consciousness
Cosmic consciousness is the concept that the universe is a living superorganism with which animals, including humans, interconnect, and forming a collective consciousness which spans the cosmos.
Cult
In religion and sociology, a cult is a term designating a cohesive group of people (generally, but not exclusively a relatively small and recently founded religious movement) devoted to beliefs or practices that the surrounding culture or society considers to be outside the mainstream.
Demon
In religion, folklore, and mythology a demon (or daemon) is a supernatural being that has generally been described as a malevolent spirit, and in Christian terms it generally understood as an angel not following God.
Demonology
Demonology is the systematic study of demons or beliefs about demons. Insofar as it involves exegesis, demonology is an orthodox branch of theology.
Devil
The Devil is a title given to the supernatural entity, who, in Christianity, Islam, and other religions, is a powerful, evil entity and the tempter of humankind. The Devil commands a force of lesser evil spirits, commonly known as demons.
Dharma
Dharma is the underlying order in nature and human life and behaviour considered to be in accord with that order. Ethically, it means ‘right way of living’ or ‘proper conduct,’ especially in a religious sense. With respect to spirituality, dharma might be considered the Way of the Higher Truths. Dharma is a central concept in religions and philosophies originating in India. These religions and philosophies are called Dharmic religions. The principal ones are Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization, thought to be authoritative and not to be disputed or doubted.
Druid
In Celtic polytheism the word druid denotes the priestly class in ancient Celtic societies, which existed through much of Western Europe north of the Alps and in the British Isles until they were supplanted by Roman government and, later, Christianity.
Dualism
Dualism is the view that two fundamental concepts exist, which often oppose each other, such as good and evil, light and dark, or male and female. The word’s origin is the Latin dualis, meaning “two” (as an adjective).
Eckankar
Eckankar, Path of the Light and Sound of God is a teaching founded by Paul Twitchell in 1965. The teaching emphasizes the value of personal spiritual and physical experiences as the most natural way back to God and does not advocate reliance on external authority, books or dogmatic beliefs.
Ego
In spirituality, and especially nondual, mystical and eastern meditative traditions, the human being is often conceived as being in the illusion of individual existence, and separateness from other aspects of creation. This “sense of doership” or sense of individual existence is that part which believes it is the human being, and believes it must fight for itself in the world, is ultimately unaware and unconscious of its own true nature.
Empath
Possesses the ability to sense the emotions of other sentient life forms.
Energy
Energy in spirituality refers to a widespread belief in an inter- or intra-personal forces. Believers assume spiritual energy to be of a different type than those known to science, and therapies involved are often classed as alternative medicine.
Enlightenment
In religious use, enlightenment is most closely associated with South and East Asian religious experience, being used to translate words such as (in Buddhism) Bodhi or satori, or (in Hinduism) moksha.
Entity
An entity is something that has a distinct, separate existence.
ESP (Extra Sensory Perception)
Perception that involves awareness of information about something (such as a person or event) not gained through the senses and not deducible from previous experience. Classic forms of ESP include telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition.
Esoteric (Esotericism)
The term Esotericism refers to the doctrines or practices of esoteric knowledge, or otherwise the quality or state of being described as esoteric, or obscure. Esoteric knowledge is that which is specialised or advanced in nature, available only to a narrow circle of “enlightened”, “initiated”, or highly educated people. In contrast, exoteric knowledge is knowledge that is well-known or public.
Etheric plane
In Theosophy, the etheric plane is related to the Prana principle and is understood as the vital, life-sustaining force of living beings and the vital energy in all natural processes of the universe.
Etheric body
The etheric body, or vital body is one of the subtle bodies in esoteric philosophies, in some religious teachings and in New Age thought. It is understood as a sort of life force body or aura that constitutes the “blueprint” of the physical body, and which sustains the physical body.
Ethics
Ethics, a major branch of philosophy, is the study of values and customs of a person or group. It covers the analysis and employment of concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, and responsibility.
Evil
In religion and ethics, evil refers to the morally or ethically objectionable behaviour or thought; behavior or thought which is hateful, cruel, excessively sexual, or violent, devoid of conscience.
Evolution (Spiritual)
Spiritual evolution is the philosophical, theological, esoteric or spiritual idea that nature and human beings and/or human culture evolve along a predetermined cosmological pattern or ascent, or in accordance with certain pre-determined potentials. The term higher evolution is used in Theosophy and in Buddhism to indicate the development of consciousness in human beings, as distinct from, although continuous with, the ‘lower’ or biological evolution within the animal kingdom up to the human level.
Existentialism
Existentialism is a philosophical movement which claims that individual human beings have full responsibility for creating the meanings of their own lives.
Feng Shui
Feng shui (fengshui) is the ancient Chinese practice of placement and arrangement of space to achieve harmony with the environment. The literal translation is “wind-water”. Feng shui involves the use of geographical, psychological, philosophical, mathematical, aesthetic and astrological concepts in relation to space and energy flow.
Flotation Tank (Isolation Tank)
An isolation tank is a lightless, soundproof tank in which subjects float in salty water at skin temperature. They were first used by John C. Lilly in 1954 in order to test the effects of sensory deprivation. Such tanks are now also used for meditation, relaxation, and in alternative medicine.
Four Noble Truths
The Four Noble Truths are one of the most fundamental Buddhist teachings. They are among the truths Gautama Buddha realized during his experience of enlightenment. The Four Noble Truths are a formulation of his understanding of the nature of “suffering”, the fundamental cause of all suffering, the escape from suffering, and what effort a person can go to so that they themselves can “attain happiness.”
Freemasonry
Freemasonry is a fraternal organization with millions of members. It exists in various forms worldwide, with shared moral and metaphysical ideals and in most of its branches requires a constitutional declaration of belief in a Supreme Being.
Gaia
The Gaia hypothesis is an ecological hypothesis that proposes that living and nonliving parts of the earth are viewed as a complex interacting system that can be thought of as a single organism. Named after the Greek earth goddess.
Gestalt Therapy
Gestalt Therapy is a psychotherapy that focuses on experience in the now, the therapist-client relationship, and personal responsibility. It was co-founded by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s-1950s.
Ghost
A ghost is a non-corporeal manifestation of the spirit or soul of a dead person which has remained on Earth after death.
Gnosticism
Gnosticism (from Greek gnosis, knowledge) is a term created by modern scholars to describe a diverse, syncretistic religious movement, especially in the first centuries C.E. Gnostics believed in gnosis, the knowledge of God enabled by secret teachings.
God
The name God refers to the deity held by monotheists to be the supreme reality. God is generally regarded as the sole creator of the universe. Theologians have ascribed certain attributes to God, including omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, perfect goodness, divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence.
Guardian Spirit (Guardian Angel)
A guardian angel is a spirit who protects and guides a particular person.
Guru
A Guru is a teacher in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, as well as in many new religious movements. Based on a long traditional line of philosophical understanding as to the importance of knowledge, the guru is seen in these religions as a sacred conduit, or a way to self-realization.
Hatha Yoga
Is a particular system of Yoga introduced by Yogi Swatmarama, a sage of 15th century India, and compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. In this treatise Swatmarama introduces Hatha Yoga as ‘a stairway to the heights of Raja Yoga’, hence a preparatory stage of physical purification that renders the body fit for the practise of higher meditation. Hatha Yoga is what most people in the West associate with the word “Yoga”.
Heaven
Heaven is a plane of existence in religions and spiritual philosophies, typically described as the holiest possible place, accessible by people according to various standards of divinity (goodness, piety, etc.) Christians generally hold that it is the afterlife destination of those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.
Hell
Hell, according to many religious beliefs, is an afterlife of suffering where the wicked or unrighteous dead are punished. Hells are almost always depicted as underground. Christianity and Islam traditionally depict hell as fiery, Hells from other traditions, however, are sometimes cold and gloomy. Alternatively, Hell would not be a place or locality but a state of being, where one is seperated of God – thought to be held back by unrepented sin and/or corruption of spirit.
Herbalism
Herbalism, also known as medicinal Botany (a neologism by Dr. K. Seshagirirao, University of Hyderabad, India), medical herbalism, herbal medicine, herbology, botanical medicine and phytotherapy, is a traditional medicinal or folk medicine practice based on the use of plants and plant extracts.
Heresy
Heresy is a “theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained in opposition, or held to be contrary, to the Roman Catholic or Orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church, or, by extension, to that of any church, creed, or religious system, considered as orthodox.
Higher consciousness (Christ consciousness, super consciousness, Buddhic consciousness, God-consciousness)
Expressions used in various traditions of spiritual science and psychology to denote the consciousness of a human being who has reached a higher level of evolutionary development and who has come to know reality as it is.
Higher Self
Higher Self is a term associated with multiple belief systems and is sometimes associated with the eternal, conscious, and intelligent being. The term has been popularized by those involved in new age and new religious movements (Neopaganism).
Hinduism
Hinduism is a religion that originated on the Indian subcontinent. With its origins in the Vedic civilization and, to a minor degree, in the Indus Valley Civilization it has no known founder, being itself a conglomerate of diverse beliefs and traditions. Hinduism contains a vast body of scriptures. Divided as revealed and remembered and developed over millennia, these scriptures expound on a broad of range of theology, philosophy and mythology, providing spiritual insights and guidance on the practice of dharma (religious living). Among such texts, Hindus consider the Vedas and the Upanishads as being among the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity.
Holism (Holistic)
Holism is the idea that all the properties of a given system cannot be determined or explained by the sum of its component parts alone. Instead, the system as a whole determines in an important way how the parts behave.
Holiness
The state of being holy or sacred, that is, set apart for the worship or service of God or gods. It is most usually ascribed to people, but can be and often is ascribed to objects, times, or places. The word holy is related to the word whole.
Homeopathy
Homeopathy is a system of alternative medicine that aims to treat “like with like.” Homeopathic formulas are based on the theory that even when a remedy is diluted with water to the point where no starting material remains, the water will retain a “memory” of what it was once in contact with.
Horoscope
In astrology, a horoscope is a chart or diagram representing the positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets, the astrological aspects, and sensitive angles at the time of an event, such as the moment of a person’s birth.
Hypnagogia (Hypnogogic)
Hypnagogia are the experiences a person can go through in the hypnagogic (or hypnogogic) state, the period of falling asleep. Hypnagogic sensations collectively describe the vivid dream-like auditory, visual, or tactile sensations that can be experienced in a hypnagogic or hypnopompic state.
Hypnosis
Psychological condition of altered state of consciousness in which some people may be induced to show various differences in behaviour and thinking, like heightened suggestibility and receptivity to direction.
Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy is therapy that is undertaken with a subject in hypnosis. A person who is hypnotized displays certain unusual characteristics and propensities, compared with a non-hypnotized subject, most notably hyper-suggestibility, which some authorities have considered a sine qua non of hypnosis.
I Ching
The I Ching is the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. A symbol system designed to identify order in what seem like chance events, it describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy that is at the heart of Chinese cultural beliefs. The philosophy centers on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change.
Incarnation
Incarnation, which literally means enfleshment, refers to the conception, and live birth of a sentient creature (generally human being) who is the material manifestation of an entity or force whose original nature is immaterial.
Incorporeal
Incorporeal, from Latin, means without the nature of a body or substance. The idea of the incorporeal refers to the notion that there is an incorporeal realm or place, that is distinct from the corporeal or material world.
Infinity
The word infinity comes from the Latin infinitas or “unboundedness.” It refers to several distinct concepts which arise in philosophy, mathematics, and theology.
Initiation
Initiation is a rite of passage ceremony marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community. It can also signify a transformation in which the initiate is reborn into a new role.
Interconnectedness
Interconnectedness is part of the terminology of a worldview which sees a oneness in all things. A similar term, interdependence, is sometimes used instead, although there are slightly different connotations. Both terms tend to refer to the idea that all things are of a single underlying substance and reality, and that there is no true separation deeper than appearances.
Intuition
Intuition is an immediate form of knowledge in which the knower is directly acquainted with the object of knowledge. Intuition differs from all forms of mediated knowledge, which generally involve conceptualizing the object of knowledge by means of rational/analytical thought processes.
Intuitive
A person sensitive to the feelings of other life forms, as well as signals of nature.
Involution
In integral thought, involution is the process by which the Divine manifests the cosmos. The process by which the creation rises to higher states and states of consciousness is the evolution.
Islam
Islam is a monotheistic religion originating with the teachings of Muhammad, a 7th century Arab religious and political figure. The word Islam means “submission”, or the total surrender of one’s self to God, and the word Muslim means “one who submits (to God)”. Muslims believe that God revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad, God’s final prophet, and regard the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the words and deeds of Muhammad) as the fundamental sources of Islam.
Jainism
Jainism is a dharmic religion and philosophy originating in Ancient India. The Jains follow the teachings of Tirthankaras. The 24th Tirthankara Lord Mahavira lived in ca. 6th century BC.
Jnana Yoga
Jnana yoga is one of the four basic paths in yoga (jnana, bhakti, raja and karma.), according to Yoga and Vedanta philosophies. Jnana in Sanskrit means “knowledge” and is often interpreted to mean “knowledge of the true self”.
Judaism
Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people, based on principles and ethics embodied in the Bible (Tanakh) and the Talmud. According to Jewish tradition, the history of Judaism begins with the Covenant between God and Abraham (ca. 2000 BCE), the patriarch and progenitor of the Jewish people. Judaism is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and among the oldest religious traditions still in practice today.
Kabbalah
Kabbalah literally means “receiving”, and is sometimes transliterated as Cabala, Kabbala, Qabalah, or other permutations. According to its adherents, intimate understanding and mastery of the Kabbalah brings man spiritually closer to God and as a result man can be empowered with higher insight into the inner-workings of God’s creation effectively enabling prophecy and even control over nature.
Karma
Karma is the concept of “action” or “deed” in Dharmic religions understood as denoting the entire cycle of cause and effect described in Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist philosophies. Karma is believed to be a sum of all that an individual has done, is currently doing and will do. The effects of all deeds actively create past, present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one’s own life, and the pain and joy it brings to others.
Karma Yoga
Karma yoga or the “discipline of action” is based on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Sanskrit scripture of Hinduism. One of the four pillars of yoga, Karma yoga focuses on the adherence to duty (dharma) while remaining detached from the reward. It states that one can attain Moksha (salvation) or love of God (bhakti) by performing their duties in an unselfish manner for the pleasure of the Supreme.
Kundalini
Kundalini according to various teachings is believed to be a type of “corporeal energy”. Kundalini is envisioned as a serpent coiled at the base of the spine. According to Hindu tradition, through specific meditative exercises, Kundalini rises from the root chakra up through the spinal channel, called sushumna, and it is believed to activate each chakra it goes through.
Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga is a system of meditative techniques and movements within the yogic tradition that focuses on psycho-spiritual growth and the body’s potential for maturation.
Law of Attraction
The Law of Attraction is commonly associated with New Age and New Thought theories. It states people experience the corresponding manifestations of their predominant thoughts, feelings, words, and actions and that people therefore have direct control over reality and their lives through thought alone.
Magic
Magic and sorcery are the influencing of events, objects, people and physical phenomena by mystical, paranormal or supernatural means. The terms can also refer to the practices employed by a person to wield this influence, and to beliefs that explain various events and phenomena in such terms.
Mandala
Mandala is a term used to refer to various objects. It is of Hindu origin, but is also used in other Dharmic religions, such as Buddhism. In the Tibetan branch of Vajrayana Buddhism, they have been developed into sandpainting. In practice, mandala has become a generic term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically, a microcosm of the universe from the human perspective. A mandala, especially its center, can be used during meditation as an object for focusing attention.
Manifesting
Manifesting is a term often used in New Thought and New Age circles to refer to the belief that one can by force of will, desire, and focused energy, make something come true on the physical level.
Mantra
Religious or mystical syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words or vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee.
Maya (illusion)
Maya, in Hinduism, is a term describing the phenomenal world of separate objects and people, which creates for some the illusion that it is the only reality. For the mystics this manifestation is real, but it is a fleeting reality; it is a mistake, although a natural one, to believe that maya represents a fundamental reality.
Medium
A person who posess the ability to communicate with spirits of deceased people (and sometimes pets). Some mediums claim to be able to channel the spirit, by allowing the deceased to speak or write messages using the medium’s body.
Meditation
Meditation describes a state of concentrated attention on some object of thought or awareness. It usually involves turning the attention inward to the mind itself. Meditation is often recognized as a component of Eastern religions.
Meridian (Chinese medicine)
The concept of meridians or acu-tracts arises from the techniques and doctrines of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including acupuncture, acupressure, and qigong. According to these practices, the body’s vital energy, “qi”, circulates through the body along specific interconnected channels called meridians.
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the ultimate nature of reality, being, and the world. More recently, the term “metaphysics” has also been used more loosely to refer to “subjects that are beyond the physical world”.
Mind
Mind refers to the collective aspects of intellect and consciousness which are manifest in some combination of thought, perception, emotion, will and imagination. In popular usage mind is frequently synonymous with thought: It is that private conversation with ourselves that we carry on “inside our heads.”
Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a technique in which a person becomes intentionally aware of his or her thoughts and actions in the present moment, non-judgmentally.
Mysticism
Mysticism is the pursuit of achieving communion or identity with, or conscious awareness of, ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, or insight; and the belief that such experience is one’s destiny, purpose, or an important source of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
Nadi (yoga)
Nadis (Sanskrit: channel or vein) are the channels through which, in traditional Indian medicine and spiritual science, the energies of the subtle body are said to flow. They connect at special points of intensity called chakras. Nadis correspond to the meridians of traditional Chinese medicine.
Near-death experience
A near-death experience (NDE) is an experience reported by a person who nearly died, or who experienced clinical death and then revived. The experience has become more common in recent times, especially since the development of cardiac resuscitation techniques. Popular interest in near-death experiences was sparked by Raymond Moody Jr’s 1975 book Life after Life and the founding of the International Association for Near-death Studies (IANDS) in 1978.
Neopaganism
Neopaganism or Neo-Paganism is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of new religious movements, particularly those influenced by ancient and pre-Abrahamic Pagan religions. Many Neopagans practice a spirituality that is entirely modern in origin, while others attempt to reconstruct or revive culturally historic Pagan and indigenous belief systems.
Neuro-linguistic programming
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a personal development system developed in the early 1970s by Richard Bandler and linguist John Grinder, in association with Gregory Bateson. NLP’s core idea is that an individual’s thoughts, gestures and words interact to create one’s perception of the world. By changing one’s outlook, a person can improve his attitudes and actions.
New Age
New Age is the term commonly used to designate the broad movement of late 20th century and contemporary Western culture, characterised by an eclectic and individual approach to spiritual exploration. Self-spirituality, New spirituality, and Mind-body-spirit are other names sometimes used for the movement.
Nirvana
Sanskrit word that means extinguishing of the passions. It is a mode of being that is free from mind-contaminants such as lust, anger or craving; a state of pure consciousness and bliss unobstructed by psychological conditioning (sankhara). All passions and emotions are transformed and pacified such that one is no longer subject to human suffering. The Buddha in the Dhammapada says of Nirvana that it is “the highest happiness”. This is not the sense-based happiness of everyday life but rather an enduring, transcendental happiness integral to the calmness attained through enlightenment.
Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path is, in the teachings of the Buddha, declared to be the way that leads to the end of dukkha, or suffering. Essentially a practical guide of bringing about ethical and meditative discipline, the Noble Eightfold Path forms the fourth part of the Four Noble Truths, which have informed and driven much of the Buddhist tradition.
Occult
The word has many uses in the English language, popularly meaning ‘knowledge of the paranormal’. For most practicing occultists it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual “reality” that extends beyond pure reason and the physical sciences.
Out-of-body experience
An out-of-body experience (OBE or sometimes OOBE) is an experience that typically involves a sensation of floating outside of one’s body and, in some cases, seeing one’s physical body from a place outside one’s body.
Paganism
Paganism is a term which, from a Western perspective, has come to connote a broad set of spiritual or cultic practices or beliefs of any folk religion, and of historical and contemporary polytheism religions in particular.
Paradigm
Since the late 1960s, the word paradigm has referred to a thought pattern in any scientific discipline or other epistemological context.
Paranormal
Paranormal is an umbrella term used to describe a wide variety of reported anomalous phenomena. According to the Journal of Parapsychology, the term paranormal describes “any phenomenon that in one or more respects exceeds the limits of what is deemed physically possible according to current scientific assumptions.”
Parapsychology
Parapsychology is the study of seeming mental awareness of or influence upon external objects, without any physical or energetic means of causation which scientists currently understand.
Past life regression (therapy)
Past life regression is a technique used by some hypnotherapists to try to get clients to remember their past lives. Implicit in this procedure is the spiritual belief that souls exist and come back many times, living in different times and places, experiencing different genders, races, social classes and so forth in an attempt to learn.
Prana
Prana is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘breath’ and refers to a vital, life-sustaining force of living beings and vital energy in natural processes of the universe.
Prayer
Prayer is an active effort to communicate with a deity or spirit either to offer praise, to make a request, seek guidance, confess sins, or simply to express one’s thoughts and emotions.
Predestination
Predestination is a religious concept which involves the relationship between the beginning of things and its destiny. Predestination concerns God’s decision to determine ahead of time what the destiny of groups and/or individuals will be and also includes all of Creation.
Premonition
Premonition refers to a situation when future events are foreknown or forecast. Premonitions are usually treated as a result of paranormal or supernatural feat. However, it is possible that the human mind is capable of forecasting an accurate view of the future.
Prophecy
Prophecy in a broad sense, is the prediction of future events or the speaking of divine words (divine Revelation) through chosen human messengers (prophets).
Psychic
Person who possess extra-sensory abilities, including: clairvoyance, psychometry and precognition, who can sometimes communicate with spirits, ghosts or entities.
Quantum mechanics
Fundamental branch of physics with wide applications in experimental physics and theoretical physics that replaces classical mechanics and classical electromagnetism at the atomic and subatomic levels.
Raja Yoga
One of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, outlined by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. Raja yoga is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind using meditation (dhyana) to further one’s acquaintance with reality and finally achieve liberation.
Reality
The term reality, in its widest sense, includes everything that is, whether it is observable, comprehensible, or apparently self-contradictory by science, philosophy, or any other system of analysis. Reality in this sense may include both being and nothingness, whereas existence is often restricted to being (compare with nature).
Rebirthing-Breathwork
Branch of alternative medicine which postulates that specialized breathing techniques may have therapeutic benefits.
Reflexology
It is the practice of stimulating nerves on the feet, hands and ears, in order to encourage a beneficial effect on some other parts of the body, or to try to improve general health.
Reiki
Mikao Usui developed Reiki in early 20th century Japan, where he said he received the ability of ‘healing without energy depletion’ after three weeks of fasting and meditating on Mount Kurama. Practitioners use a technique similar to the laying on of hands as well as gestures in the air, which they say will channel healing energy (ki).
Reincarnation
Reincarnation, literally “to be made flesh again”, is a doctrine or mystical belief that some essential part of a living being survives death to be reborn in a new body. According to such beliefs, a new personality is developed during each life in the physical world, but some part of the being remains constantly present throughout these successive lives as well.
Religion
A religion is a set of beliefs and practices generally held by a community, involving adherence to codified beliefs and rituals and study of ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and mystic experience.
Ritual
A ritual is actually the words of a “rite”, which are said as a part of a ceremony which is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value, which is prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community.
Rosicrucian
The Rosicrucian Order is a legendary esoteric order with its roots in the western mystery tradition. This hermetic order is viewed among earlier and many modern Rosicrucianists as a “College of Invisibles” from the inner worlds, composed of great Adepts, aiming to give assistance in humanity’s spiritual development.
Sacred (Holiness)
Holiness, or sanctity, is the state of being holy or sacred, that is, set apart for the worship or service of God or gods. It is most usually ascribed to people, but can be and often is ascribed to objects, times, or places. The word holy is related to the word whole.
Samadhi
Samadhi is a Hindu and Buddhist term that describes a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object, and in which the mind becomes still (one-pointed or concentrated) though the person remains conscious.
Satan
Satan, from the Hebrew word for “adversary”, is a term that originates from the Abrahamic faiths, being traditionally applied to an angel. Religious belief systems other than Judaism relate this term to a demon, a rebellious fallen angel, devil, minor god and idolatry, or as an allegory for evil
Satori
Satori is a Japanese Buddhist term for enlightenment. The word literally means “to understand”. Satori refers to “deep” or lasting enlightenment.
Self
The Self is a complex and core subject in many forms of spirituality. Two types of self are commonly considered – the self that is the ego, also called the learned, superficial self of mind and body, an egoic creation, and the self which is sometimes called the “True Self”, the “I” (or “I AM”), the “Atman”, the “Observing Self”, or the “Witness”.
Self-realization
In yoga, self-realization is knowledge of the atman, one’s true self. The term “self-realization” is a translation of Atman Jnana, Sanskrit for knowledge of the true self. Jnana referes to knowledge gained from personal experience, as opposed to book knowledge.
Seminar
A seminar is, generally, a form of academic instruction, either at a university or offered by a commercial or professional organization. It has the function of bringing together small groups for recurring meetings, focusing each time on some particular subject, in which everyone present is requested to actively participate.
Shamanism
Shamanism refers to a range of traditional beliefs and practices concerned with communication with the spirit world.
Shinto
Shinto is the native religion of Japan and was once its state religion. It involves the worship of kami, spirits. Some kami are local and can be regarded as the spiritual being/spirit or genius of a particular place, but other ones represent major natural objects and processes.
Sin
Sin is a term used mainly in a religious context to describe an act that violates a moral rule, or the state of having committed such a violation.
Spacetime
In physics, spacetime is any mathematical model that combines space and time into a single construct called the space-time continuum. Spacetime is usually interpreted with space being three-dimensional and time playing the role of the fourth dimension. According to Euclidean space perception, our universe has three dimensions of space, and one dimension of time.
Soul
The soul, according to many religious and philosophical traditions, is the self-aware essence unique to a particular living being. In these traditions the soul is thought to incorporate the inner essence of each living being, and to be the true basis for sapience.
Spirit Guides
Term used by mediums and spirituals to describe an entity that remains a disincarnate spirit in order to act as a spiritual counsellor or protector to a living incarnated human being.
Spiritism
Spiritism is a philosophical doctrine akin to Spiritualism, established in France in the mid 19th Century, which has become a sort of religious movement. Like Spiritualists, Spiritists believe in the survival of the souls after death and the importance of eventual communications received from them. Spiritism derives most of its principles from works by the French educator Hippolyte L�on Denizard Rivail written under the pseudonym Allan Kardec.
Spiritualism
Spiritualism is a religious movement that began in the United States and was prominent in the 1840s-1920s, especially in English-speaking countries. The movement’s distinguishing feature is the belief that the spirits of the dead can be contacted by mediums. These spirits are believed to lie on a higher plane of existence than humans, and are therefore capable of providing guidance in both worldly and spiritual matters.
Spirituality
Spirituality, in a narrow sense, concerns itself with matters of the spirit. The spiritual, involving (as it may) perceived eternal verities regarding humankind’s ultimate nature, often contrasts with the temporal, with the material, or with the worldly. Spirituality often focuses on personal experience. Many spiritual traditions share a common spiritual theme: the “path”, “work”, practice, or tradition of perceiving and internalizing one’s “true” nature and relationship to the rest of existence (God, creation (the universe), or life), and of becoming free of the lesser egoic self (or ego) in favor of being more fully one’s “true” “Self”.
Spiritual healing
Use of spiritual means in treating disease. Spiritual healing can also refer to the self-empowerment or self-actualization process or steps within those processes that often occurs with individuals seeking enlightenment or meaning in their lives.
Subconscious
In the strict psychological sense, the adjective is defined as “operating or existing outside of consciousness”. The term also appears in Sigmund Freud’s very early work, to denote the unconscious mind but was soon eliminated due its ambiguity.
Subliminal message
A subliminal message is a signal or message embedded in another object, designed to pass below the normal limits of perception. These messages are indiscernible to the conscious mind, but are alleged to be perceptible to the subconscious or deeper mind.
Sufism
Sufism is a mystic tradition within Islam and encompasses a diverse range of beliefs and practices dedicated to divine love and the cultivation of the heart. “Sufism” has been defined as a type of knowledge by the great Sufi masters.
Supernatural
The supernatural refers to forces and phenomena which are not observed in nature, and therefore beyond verifiable measurement.
Swami
Swami is primarily a Hindu honorific title, loosely akin to “master” or “teacher”. It is derived from Sanskrit and means “owner of oneself”, that is, a complete master over instinctive and lower urges. It is a title added to one’s name to emphasize learning and mastery of a specific field of knowledge, most often religious or spiritual.
Sweat lodge
The sweat lodge is a ceremonial sauna used by North American First Nations or Native American peoples.
Synchronicity
Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally inexplicable to the person or persons experiencing them.
Synergy
Synergy refers to the phenomenon in which two or more discrete influences or agents acting together create an effect greater than that predicted by knowing only the separate effects of the individual agents.
Synesthesia
Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which two or more bodily senses are coupled.
Tai chi chuan
Tai chi chuan is an internal Chinese martial art often practiced with the aim of promoting health and longevity. Tai chi chuan is considered a soft style martial art – an art applied with internal power – to distinguish its theory and application from that of the hard martial art styles.
Tantra
Tantra, tantricism or tantrism is any of several esoteric traditions rooted in the religions of India. Rather than a single coherent system, Tantra is an accumulation of practices and ideas which has among its characteristics the use of ritual, energy work, in some sects transgressional acts, the use of the mundane to access the supramundane and the identification of the microcosm with the macrocosm.
Tao Te Ching
The Tao Te Ching, roughly translatable as The Book of the Way and its Virtue, is a Chinese classic text. According to tradition, it was written around 600 BCE by the Taoist sage Laozi (or Lao Tzu, “Old Master”), a record-keeper at the Zhou Dynasty court.
Taoism
Taoism (Daoism) is the English name referring to a variety of related Chinese philosophical and religious traditions and concepts. These traditions influenced East Asia for over two thousand years and some have spread internationally. Taoist propriety and ethics emphasize the Three Jewels of the Tao; namely, love, moderation, and humility. Taoist thought focuses on wu wei (“non-action”), spontaneity, humanism, and emptiness. The Tao Te Ching is widely considered to be the most influential Taoist text.
Telepathy
Communication of information from one mind to another by means other than the known perceptual senses.
Thanatology
Thanatology is the academic, and often scientific, study of death among human beings. It investigates the circumstances surrounding a person’s death, the grief experienced by the deceased’s loved ones, and larger social attitudes towards death such as ritual and memorialization.
Theology
Theology finds its scholars pursuing the understanding of and providing reasoned discourse of religion, spirituality and God or the gods.
Theophysics
Theophysics is a merger between theology and physics. A branch of theology with the aim of proving the existence of a higher supreme of all (God) using physics arguments. The main area of interest for theophysicists is the Big Bang.
Theosophy
Theosophy designates several bodies of ideas in history, but the word was revived in the nineteenth century by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky to designate her religious philosophy which holds that all religions are attempts by humanity to approach the absolute, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the truth.
Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol)
The Bardo Thodol is a funerary text that describes the experiences of the consciousness after death during the interval known as bardo between death and rebirth. The Bardo Thodol is recited by lamas over a dying or recently deceased person, or sometimes over an effigy of the deceased.
Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of religious Buddhist doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet. It is a Mahayana Buddhist tradition, meaning that the goal of all practice is to achieve full enlightenment (or Buddhahood) in order to remove all limitation on one’s ability to help all other living beings to attain this state.
Totem
A totem is any entity which watches over or assists a group of people, such as a family, clan or tribe. Totems support larger groups than the individual person. In kinship and descent, if the apical ancestor of a clan is nonhuman, it is called a totem. Normally this belief is accompanied by a totemic myth.
Trance
An altered state of consciousness is any state which is significantly different from a normative waking beta wave state. A synonymous phrase is “altered states of awareness”.
Transpersonal psychology
School of psychology that studies the transpersonal, the transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human mind. Issues considered in transpersonal psychology include spiritual self-development, peak experiences, mystical experiences and other metaphysical experiences of living.
Upanishad
The Upanishads are part of the Vedas and form the Hindu scriptures which primarily discuss philosophy, meditation, and the nature of God; they form the core spiritual thought of Vedantic Hinduism.
Urantia Book
The Urantia Book is a spiritual and philosophical book that discusses God, science, religion, history, philosophy, and destiny. The exact circumstances of the origin of The Urantia Book are unknown. There is not a human author associated with the book.
Vedas
The Vedas are a large corpus of texts originating in Ancient India. They are the oldest scriptural texts of Hinduism.
Vedanta
Vedanta is a school of philosophy within Hinduism dealing with the nature of reality.
Wicca
Wicca is a religion found in various countries throughout the world. It was first popularised in 1954 by a retired British civil servant named Gerald Gardner after the British Witchcraft Act was repealed. He claimed that the religion, of which he was an initiate, was a modern survival of an old witchcraft religion, which had existed in secret for hundreds of years, originating in the pre-Christian Paganism of Europe.
Witchcraft
Witchcraft is the use of certain kinds of alleged supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft. While the term “witchcraft” can have positive or negative connotations depending on cultural context, most contemporary people who self-identify as witches see it as beneficent and morally positive. The term witch is typically feminine, masculine equivalents include wizard, sorcerer, warlock and magician.
Yin and yang
The dual concepts of yin and yan originate in ancient Chinese philosophy and metaphysics, which describe two primal opposing but complementary principles or cosmic forces said to be found in all non-static objects and processes in the universe. The concept is the cornerstone for Taoism and traditional Chinese medicine.
Yoga
Yoga is a family of ancient spiritual practices originating in India. Hindu texts discussing different aspects of yoga include the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and many others. Major branches of Yoga include: Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Raja Yoga.
Yogi
A yogi or yogin is a term for one who practices yoga. These designations are mostly reserved for advanced practitioners.
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism notable for its emphasis on practice and experiential wisdom -particularly as realized in the form of meditation known as zazen- in the attainment of awakening. As such, it de-emphasizes both theoretical knowledge and the study of religious texts in favor of direct individual experience of one’s own true nature. From China, Zen subsequently spread southwards to Vietnam and eastwards to Korea and Japan.