Tattvas (or Tattwas) are aspects of material reality and sensory experience recognized by various Indian philosophies and spiritual traditions, notably Hinduism and Tantra. Related concepts are also found within Jainism and Buddhism.
The tattvas are most commonly associated with the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy. Samkhya dates back more than 2000 years and provides the theoretical foundation of classical Yoga.
Although interpretations and classifications of the tattvas varies between schools and traditions, 25 tattvas are generally accepted. These derive from the doctrine of the five elements of the material world and the corresponding five dominant human senses. In Tantric traditions, the tattvas are also associated with specific chakras or centers of psychic energy.
The tattvas of Samkhya philosophy have direct parallels in the doctrine of basic elements recognized by ancient Greek philosophers. Originally there were four such "Classical Elements" - Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Aristotle added a fifth - Aether or Quintessence (equivalent to Akasha or Space).
In the Hellenistic, medieval and Renaissance periods, understanding of the classical elements was developed by Neoplatonists, Hermetic thinkers, and alchemists. One important idea linked the elements to faculties of the human soul or personality.
In this way, Air became associated with intellect, Fire with will or vitality, Water with emotions, Earth with the physical body, and Aether with spirit.
The 19th Century saw a revival of interest in Hermetic and occult knowledge. Asian philosophies were also introduced to the West by scholars, Theosophists, and Indian teachers. In this melting pot of ideas, the tattvas and chakras became incorporated and reinterpreted within Western Magick.
One consequence of this assimilation was a novel use of tattvic symbols and colors to represent the five elements.
Tattvic Elements in the Western Magical Tradition
The 25 tattvas comprise the five elements, together with the 20 ways in which two elements can combine, resulting in a more sophisticated analysis of human experience.
The 20 combinations are represented by placing one symbol (indicating a potentiality) inside a second symbol (indicating its principal manifestation).
The 25 Tattvas
The 25 tattvas formed part of the curriculum of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a magical society established in the late 19th Century. The Golden Dawn introduced the technique of Tattva Vision using "flashing colors".
Flashing colors are based on the visual after-image effect. If you stare long enough at a colored shape and then transfer your gaze to a white surface, the image will persist in your vision, but now in its complementary color. For example, a yellow square will be seen as blue.
In Tattva Vision, the flashing color effect is enhanced by surrounding the outer symbol with its complementary color. Traditionally, these images were painted onto card by each practitioner but, with modern printing techniques, it is now possible to produce high-quality commercial decks.
The ability to form mental images and see with the "mind's eye" is the basis of many psychic capacities and experiences, including clairvoyance, remote viewing, scrying, astral projection, vision quests, dreamwork, spell casting, chakra stimulation, and psychic healing.
Learning visualization techniques is therefore foundational to many systems of psychic and spiritual development. In the East, visualization exercises are central to Raja and Kundalini Yoga, Tantra, and Vajrayana Buddhism. In the West, training in visualization features in the "Spiritual Exercises" of the Jesuits, Kabbalah, and the Western magical traditions, including Wicca.
Visualization exercises also have many secular applications. Mnemonic techniques and the "Art of Memory" date back thousands of years and, in recent times, the importance of "mental practice" has become increasingly recognized in the training of musicians, athletes and surgeons, as well as in physiotherapy and recovery from strokes.
Within psychoanalytic circles, the role of visualization as a means of exploring and integrating the unconscious was pioneered in Roberto Assagioli's psychosynthesis, and C.G. Jung's analytical psychology. Jung discovered and developed a meditation technique he called "active imagination" which involved consciously entering the world of the unconscious, allowing imagery and fantasies to arise spontaneously, and becoming actively involved in the unfolding drama. Active imagination therefore has close parallels with shamanic and astral journeying, guided fantasy, and lucid dream experience.
The benefits of training the mind's eye using visualization and working with the imagination are clear. Although not the only (or necessarily the best) approach to use, working with the tattvas can play an important role in this training.
If you wish to explore visualization training using the tattvas, you can buy a complete set of TATTVA VISION FLASHING COLOR CARDS - direct from the manufacturer.
Our exclusive cards also include key words and elemental principles as aids to meditation, and for use in divination.
The 32-card deck includes:
- 25 Flashing Color Tattva Cards with element labels and divinatory key words (5 single element and 20 double element).
- 7 information and instruction cards for divination, visualization training, magical pathworking, and other uses.
To facilitate flashing color visualization, the cards are printed on LARGE (3.5 x 5.75 inch) high-quality 100% PLASTIC CARD STOCK and are presented in an all-white tuck box.
Note: Each card is more than twice the area of a standard poker-size playing card.
This deck has everything you need to practice Tattva visualization and Tattva divination.
AVALON, Arthur (Sir John Woodroffe). The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga. Dover Publications. [Originally published in 1918, this scholarly work is largely responsible for popularizing the chakra system and Tantric Yoga in the West.]
BRENNAN, J. H. Astral Doorways. Samuel Weiser. [Originally published in 1971, this groundbreaking book presents several techniques for exploring the astral realms.]
BUTLER, W. E. The Magician: His Training and Work. The Aquarian Press. [Originally published in 1959, this book provides an excellent overview of magical work as practiced within a Western esoteric tradition.]
MUMFORD, Dr John. Magical Tattwas: A Complete System for Self-Development. Llewellyn Publications. [Originally published in 1997 with 25 flashing color Tattwa Cards, this out-of-print and hard to find book is a comprehensive guide to the theory and practice of the tattwas within the Golden Dawn tradition, including chapters on divination, scrying, chakra stimulation, and pathworking.]
PRASAD, Rama. Nature's Finer Forces: The Science of Breath and the Philosophy of the Tattvas. Kessinger Legacy Reprints. [Originally published in 1890, this early Theosophical work was influential in spreading knowledge of the tattvas to the West.]
REGARDIE, Israel. The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites, and Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order. Llewellyn Publications. [Originally published in 1937, this book is a comprehensive collection of original Golden Dawn rituals and teachings.]