For eons of time and during the course of innumerable incarnations, the soul has over and over returned to human existence, to gain every possible experience which life in the physical world could offer, till at long last the stage arrives when it decides to enter the Path of Return, leading back to the House of the Father.
This decision by the soul is marked by the man turning his back on exclusively human activities, and taking the first hesitant steps towards the super-human or spiritual kingdom, which is esoterically known as the First Initiation. It is the entering of the fifth phase of evolution, the first four being the mineral, vegetable, animal and human phases, and now the spiritual is being entered.
The First Initiation is the stage when the soul is gaining a considerable degree of control over the physical vehicle, and when various forms of excess, such as gluttony, drink and licentiousness, are no longer allowed full sway and are brought under conscious and willing control, and are being disciplined by the dictates of the soul. This means that the bridge between the lower and higher minds is being firmly established and that obedience by the flesh is increasingly becoming automatic.
Many phases of progress will be encountered during this early stage on the Path of Initiation, and it stands to reason that in the beginning the young initiate is bound to succumb periodically to earlier appetites and temptations. That is why the Path of the First Initiation is so long and tedious -- it is always a difficult struggle, and remains characterized by many relapses and disappointments, is full of suffering, and usually stretches over several lives. What matters is that the man has arrived at the stage where his shortcomings are self-recognized, and when willingness is shown to fight and overcome these failings and imperfections.
On the other hand, because the disciple has become aware of the requirements of the straight Path, any lapses or deviations from this Path will be more severely judged and penalized than was the case when he still erred in ignorance -- knowledge bringing responsibility.
No hard and fast rules can be laid down for the development of individuals who have found the Path, because each man will follow his own pattern according to the Rays which influence his life and determine his character in the circumstances prepared by destiny. The main interest of aspirants, however, becomes centered on self-discipline and on limiting lapses in the control of the physical nature, thus step by step gaining ascendancy over the sensual body. This mastery over the astral body is essential, because the Second Initiation cannot follow until the emotions are well under control. During the First Initiation the main objective is therefore the subjection of all forms of desire, but as man has been feeding and indulging these selfish desires during his many lives over the past millennia, it is understandable that these inclinations are not going to be lightly suppressed and overcome, and that this process will only be laboriously accomplished, probably covering several incarnations.
Taking these first tentative steps on the Path of Return is sometimes symbolically described as the "Birth of the Indwelling Christ," and entails achieving certain minimum standards of right living, thinking and conduct. The germ of this Inner Christ, the Soul, has ever been present but was lying dormant, and is only now beginning to manifest its presence.
Large numbers of aspirants throughout the world have already taken the First Initiation, either in the present or in some previous life. The Christ-consciousness becomes apparent by aliveness to spiritual issues, intensity of aspiration, inclination to self-sacrifice, and a loving nature. These men and women are therefore sincerely moving forward upon the Way, although several lives may still be needed before noticeable progress will be registered.
It stands to reason that no Master will accept a candidate as disciple till he clearly shows that the Christ spirit has been born in him. That such a man will still have many failings is only normal and expected, otherwise he would already be occupying a higher position on the ladder of initiation. The Master therefore is not concerned about occasional failings -- what he is looking for is whether the right motives and intentions exist, and whether these are supported by conscientious effort.
Most of those who are demonstrating the presence of the Christ-spirit are not even aware of the existence of esoteric teachings, and some may even be ignorant about the Christ teachings. These are therefore not the criteria which determine entrance to the Path of Spirit. It is the content of the heart that counts, the consequent life discipline, and the conscious motivation with which man is striving towards his spiritual objective, no matter by what name this goal may be identified.
During the First Initiation the aspirant must gain control over his emotional life and the only means to effect this is by developing a more pronounced mental approach, thus enabling the mind to supersede the emotions.
The fact that hundreds of thousands of men and women from all over the world, and from all nations and races and all walks of life, have already taken, or are preparing for the First Initiation, is evidenced by worldwide spiritual reorientation, by the interest exhibited everywhere in human welfare, the perseverance shown in search of Light, and by the longing and desire amongst average people for true peace, based on goodwill and right human relations. Even the unsettled condition of the world's youth must be seen as mainly caused by spiritual awakening and a search for more Light. The same holds good for the revolt which is everywhere displayed against crystallized, dogmatized and even materialistic forms of religion. People are searching for a religion that is vital, adaptive to the evolving consciousness, and deeply spiritual, instead of stale phrases, hackneyed words, ritual and ceremony that has largely become empty and meaningless.
Very few aspirants who have attained their First Initiation are consciously aware of this, or realize that esoterically they may be regarded as disciples of the Masters. That they have reached this stage is evidenced by their life activities, their ideals, motives and objectives, and their attitude of goodwill and loving understanding towards their fellow men. Most of these individuals would, however, be surprised if they were told that they have already attained the First Initiation.
The individual who has completed this first step -- even though unknowingly -- will experience great changes in his general outlook on life, and his attitude towards both himself and his fellow men will be radically altered. There will be a growing awareness of the duality of existence -- his life hitherto has been centered in the personality, and characterized by a selfish striving for material objectives, but this will now increasingly be opposed by the spiritual urges of the soul.
The Tibetan points out that the Seventh Ray is now in process of superseding the Sixth Ray as one of the principal Rays of Energy that will command world conditions during the Aquarian Age. One of the outstanding qualities of this Seventh Ray is that it operates as a synthesizing agent between spirit and matter. As far as humanity is concerned, this characteristic will be reflected by the strong influence it exerts in relating soul and personality, thus leading to the emergence of the 'new man' in ever growing numbers. DK states that whereas today First Initiates exist in their thousands, they will be present in their millions towards the early part of the coming century; nothing will be able to arrest this activity, which will form part of the transformation of humanity and the establishing of a new world order, with its radical change in approach to human relationships, leading eventually to a better world and peace on Earth.