AUM!
THE most sacred mystic syllable of the Vedas is Aum. It is the first
letter of the Sanskrit alphabet, and by some it is thought to be the
sound made by a new born child when the breath is first drawn into
the lungs. The daily prayers of the Hindu Brahmin are begun and
ended with it, and the ancient sacred books say that with that syllable
the gods themselves address the most Holy One.

In the Chandogya Upanishad 1 its praises are sung in these words:
Let a man meditate on the syllable OM, called the udgitha,2 ...it is the
best of all essences, the highest, deserving the highest place, the
eighth.
It is then commanded to meditate on this syllable as the breath, of
two kinds, in the body - the vital breath and the mere breath in the
mouth or lungs, for by this meditation come knowledge and proper
performance of sacrifice. In verse 10 is found:
Now, therefore, it would seem to follow that both he who knows the
true meaning of OM, and he who does not, perform the same
sacrifice. But this is not so, for knowledge and ignorance are
different. The sacrifice which a man performs with knowledge, faith,
and the Upanishad is more powerful.
Outwardly the same sacrifice is performed by both, but that
performed by him who has knowledge and has meditated on the
secret meaning of OM partakes of the qualities inhering in OM, which
need just that knowledge and faith as the medium through which they
may become visible and active. If a jeweler and a mere ploughman
sell a precious stone, the knowledge of the former bears better fruit
than the ignorance of the latter.

Shankaracharya in his Sharir Bhashya dwells largely on OM, and in
the Vayu Purana a whole chapter is devoted to it. Now as Vayu is air,
we can see in what direction the minds of those who were concerned
with that purana were tending. They were analyzing sound, which will
lead to discoveries of interest regarding the human spiritual and
physical constitution. In sound is tone, and tone is one of the most
important and deep reaching of all natural things. By tone, the natural
man and the child express the feelings, just as animals in their tones
make known their nature. The tone of the voice of the tiger is quite
different from that of the dove, as different as their natures are from
each other, and if the sights, sounds, and objects in the natural world
mean anything, or point the way to any laws underlying these
differences, then there is nothing puerile in considering the meaning of
tone.

The Padma Purana says:
"The syllable OM is the leader of all prayers; let it therefore be
employed in the beginning of all prayers," and Manu in his laws
ordains: "A Brahmin, at the beginning and end of a lesson on the
Vedas, must always pronounce the syllable OM, for unless OM
precede, his learning will slip away from him, and unless it follows,
nothing will be long retained."
The celebrated Hindoo Raja, Ramohun Roy, in a treatise on this letter
says:
"OM, when considered as one letter, uttered by the help of one
articulation, is the symbol of the supreme Spirit. 'One letter (OM) is
the emblem of the Most High, Manu II, 83.' But when considered as a
triliteral word consisting of (a),(u), (m), it implies the three Vedas, the
three states of human nature, there three divisions of the universe,
and the three deities - Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, agents in the
creation, preservation, and destruction of this world; or, properly
speaking, the three principal attributes of the Supreme Being
personified in those three deities. In this sense it implies, in fact, the
universe controlled by the Supreme Spirit."

Now we may consider that there is pervading the whole universe a
single homogeneous resonance, sound, or tone which acts, so to
speak, as the awakener or vivifying power, stirring all the molecules
into action. This is what is represented in all languages by the vowel
a, which takes precedence of all others. This is the word, the
verbum, the Logos of St. John of the Christians, who says: "In the
beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word
was God."3 This is creation, for without this resonance or motion
among the quiescent particles, there would be no visible universe.
That is to say, upon sound, or, as the Aryans called it, Nada Brahma
(divine resonance), depends the evolution of the visible from the
invisible.

But this sound a, being produced, at once alters itself into au, so that
the second sound u is that one made by the first in continuing its
existence. The vowel u, which in itself is a compound one, therefore
represents preservation. And the idea of preservation is contained
also in creation, or evolution, for there could not be anything to
preserve, unless it had first come into existence.

If these two sounds, so compounded into one, were to proceed
indefinitely, there would be of course no destruction of them. But it is
not possible to continue the utterance further than the breath, and
whether the lips are compressed or the tongue pressed against the
roof of the mouth, or the organs behind that used, there will be in the
finishing of the utterance the closure or m sound, which among the
Aryans had the meaning of stoppage. In this last letter there is found
the destruction of the whole word or letter. To reproduce it a slight
experiment will show that by no possibility can it be begun with m, but
that au invariably commences even the utterance of m itself. Without
fear of successful contradiction, it can be asserted that all speech
begins with au, and the ending, or destruction of speech, is in m.
The word "tone" is derived from the Latin and Greek words meaning
sound and tone. In the Greek the word "tonos" means a "stretching"
or "straining." As to the character of the sound, the word "tone" is
used to express all varieties, such as high, low, grave, acute, sweet,
and harsh sounds. In music it gives the peculiar quality of the sound
produced, and also distinguishes one instrument from another; as rich
tone. reedy tone, and so on. In medicine, it designates the state of
the body, but is there used more in the signification of strength, and
refers to strength or tension. It is not difficult to connect the use of
the word in medicine with the divine resonance of which we spoke,
because we may consider tension to be the vibration, or quantity of
vibration, by which sound is apprehended by the ear; and if the whole
system gradually goes down so that its tone is lowered without
stoppage, the result will at last be dissolution for that collection of
molecules. In painting, the tone also shows the general drift of the
picture, just as it indicates the same thing in morals and manners. We
say, "a low tone of morals, an elevated tone of sentiment, a courtly
tone of manners," so that tone has a signification which is applied
universally to either good or bad, high or low. And the only letter
which we can use to express it, or symbolize it, is the a sound, in its
various changes, long, short, and medium. And just as the tone of
manners, of morals, of painting, of music, means the real character
of each, in the same way the tones of the various creatures, including
man himself, mean or express the real character; and all together
joined in the deep murmur of nature go to swell the Nada Brahma, or
Divine resonance, which at last is heard as the music of the spheres.

Meditation on tone, as expressed in this Sanskrit word OM, will lead
us to a knowledge of the secret Doctrine. We find expressed in the
merely mortal music the seven divisions of the divine essence, for as
the microcosm is the little copy of the macrocosm, even the halting
measures of man contain the little copy of the whole, in the seven
tones of the octave. From what we are led to the seven colors, and
so forward and upward to the Divine radiance which is the Aum. For
the Divine Resonance, spoken of above, is not the Divine Light itself.
The Resonance is only the outbreathing of the first sound of the entire
Aum. This goes on during what the Hindoos call a Day of Brahma,
which, according to them, last a thousand ages.4 It manifests itself
not only as the power which stirs up and animates the particles of
Universe, but also in the evolution and dissolution of man, of the
animal and mineral kingdoms, and of solar systems. Among the
Aryans it was represented in the planetary system by Mercury, who
has always been said to govern the intellectual faculties and to be the
universal stimulator. Some old writers have said that it is shown
through Mercury, amongst mankind, by the universal talking of
women.

And wherever this Divine Resonance is closed or stopped by death or
other change, the Aum has been uttered there. These utterances of
Aum are only the numerous microcosmic enunciations of the Word,
which is uttered or completely ended, to use the Hermetic or mystical
style of language, only when the great Brahm stops the outbreathing,
closes the vocalization, by the m sound, and thus causes the
universal dissolution. This universal dissolution is known in the
Sanskrit and in the secret Doctrine as the Maha Pralaya, Maha being
"the great," and Pralaya "dissolution." And so, after thus arguing, the
ancient Rishees of India said: "Nothing is begun or ended; everything
is changed, and that which we call death is only a transformation." In
thus speaking they wished to be understood as referring to the
manifested universe, the so-called death of a sentient creature being
only a transformation of energy, or a change of the mode and place
of manifestation of the Divine Resonance. Thus early in the history of
the race the doctrine of conservation of energy was known and
applied.

The Divine Resonance, or the au sound, is the universal energy,
which is conserved during each Day of Brahma, and at the coming on
of the great Night is absorbed again into the whole. Continually
appearing and disappearing it transforms itself again and again,
covered from time to time by a veil of matter called its visible
manifestation, and never lost, but always changing itself from one
form to another. And herein can be seen the use and beauty of the
Sanskrit. Nada Brahma is Divine Resonance; that is, after saying
Nada, if we stopped with Brahm, logically we must infer that the m
sound at the end of Brahm signified the Pralaya, thus confuting the
position that the Divine Resonance existed, for if it had stopped it
could not be resounding. So they added an a at the end of the
Brahm, making it possible to understand that as Brahma the sound
was still manifesting itself. But time would not suffice to go into this
subject as it deserves, and these remarks are only intended as a
feeble attempt to point out the real meaning and purpose of Aum.

For the above reasons, and out of the great respect we entertain for
the wisdom of the Aryans, was the symbol adopted and placed upon
the cover of this magazine and at the head of the text.

With us OM has signification. It represents the constant undercurrent
of meditation, which ought to be carried on by every man, even while
engaged in the necessary duties of this life. There is for every
conditioned being a target at which the aim is constantly directed.
Even the very animal kingdom we do not except, for it, below us,
awaits its evolution into a higher state; it unconsciously perhaps, but
nevertheless actually, aims at the same target.
"Having taken the bow, the great weapon, let him place on it the
arrow, sharpened by devotion. Then, having drawn it with a thought
directed to that which is, hit the mark, O friend, - the Indestructible.
OM is the bow, the Self is the arrow, Brahman is called its aim. It is
to be hit by a man who is not thoughtless; and then as the arrow
becomes one with the target, he will become one with Brahman.
Know him alone as the Self, and leave off other words. He is the
bridge of the Immortal. Meditate on the Self as OM. Hail to you that
you may cross beyond the sea of darkness."5
AUM!
Hadji-Erinn
Path, April, 1886

http://www.blavatsky.net/theosophy/judge/articles/aum.htm

Om or Aum (Sk.). A mystic syllable, the most solemn of all words in
India. It is “an invocation, a benediction, an affirmation and a
promise”; and it is so sacred, as to be indeed the word at low breath
of occult, primitive masonry. No one must be near when the syllable
is pronounced for a purpose. This word is usually placed at the
beginning of sacred Scriptures, and is prefixed to prayers. It is a
compound of three letters a,u,m, which, in the popular belief, are
typical of the three Vedas, also of three gods-A (Agni) Y (Varuna)
and M (Maruts) or Fire, Water and Air. In esoteric philosophy these
are the three sacred fires, or the “triple fire” in the Universe and Man,
besides many other things. Occultly, this “triple fire” represents the
highest Tetraktys also, as it is typified by the Agni named Abhimânim
and his transformation into his three sons, Pâvana, Pavamâna and
Suchi, “who drinks up water”, i.e., destroys material desires. This
monosyllable is called Udgîtta, and is sacred with both Brahmins and
Buddhists.

H.P. Blavatsky in her Theosophical Glossary, p. 239, 240
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