Most of the numerous aspirants and disciples today walking the face of the Earth and represented by men and women from every race, nation and country, functioning in every religion and in every phase of social and political life, have already attained their First Initiation. Those on the other hand who have in addition attained reasonable control over their emotional bodies, and may therefore be regarded as initiates of the second degree, occur in far smaller numbers, whilst only a very small percentage of disciples have reached the stage of the Third Initiation.
After aspirants have entered the Path of Return and demonstrate the inner Christ-consciousness, they start working, usually unconsciously, to rid their personalities of that reprehensive quality, common to all at that stage --selfish desire. This reprehensible characteristic which is still present to some extent in every individual disciple, may find expression in many different forms and intensities, and embraces many defects of which the dark forces avail themselves to lead man to evil. The product of this life of desire is in turn expressed in the astral body, and it is now the task of each individual soul to gain mastery over these many aspects of the desire life, and thus eventually to still the turbulent waters of the emotions.
Another prelude to the Second Initiation, and a direct result of the submerging of the emotions, is that the initiate is largely set free from glamour -- those glamours which up till this stage have proved such a handicap to progress and have caused so much unnecessary suffering. The most efficient agent for this purpose is the energy of the mind, which must consistently be directed towards the turbulent waters and mists of the astral body. Through the light of the soul the mind may be illuminated, thus serving to dissipate astral glamours.
During the last stages of the First Initiation period, the disciple often undergoes the most acute emotional distresses of his whole existence. This may perhaps be seen as the last desperate efforts of the astral body to retain its hold, and is demonstrated by inner turmoil and uncertainty, self-discrimination, deep subjective discontent, and an intense longing to be freed from those emotional limitations.
As a reward for perseverance through all these tests and trials, these stormy astral experiences will finally be weathered and will land the disciple in the relatively calm world of realities, free from disturbing emotions, and only now learning the meaning of real spiritual love for all of creation.
The Second Initiation must therefore be regarded as an important milestone on the Path, and once this hurdle has been cleared, progress, although remaining difficult and painstaking, and demanding all the initiate has to offer, should, relatively speaking, take much less time.
With the control of the astral elemental, the emotional body should become pure and limpid, with the lower nature losing its influence. A fresh impulse of aspiration and an urge to serve, love and demonstrate goodwill to all will be felt, and this expression must unavoidably result in rapid unfoldment. This is why this initiation and the Third may quite often occur in the same life.
Mastery over the emotional forces indicates the release of the soul from its astral prison. From now on the soul will be able to use the astral body by molding desire and emotion to conform to spiritual purpose. With the breaking of the hold of the astral body, the intuition, that higher counterpart of aspiration, can begin to play an active role in the disciple's future decisions and conduct of life.
Because of the many facets through which desire may be manifested, and which must be brought under control, several lives will as a rule intervene between the First and Second Initiations -- a long period of struggle and strain to overcome the desires and emotions of the astral body. Once the Second Initiation is attained, however, the progress towards the Third should be relatively rapid, with the Fourth following possibly in the same life, or otherwise in the succeeding.
With the subduing of the desire and emotional life which led to the Second Initiation, with the welling up of the spirit of altruism, and the urge to sacrifice, to give, and to share, the opportunity to serve will be revealed to the candidate. He will be accorded a vision of that part of the world's need and of the Plan to which he can contribute his small share, with the capacities at his disposal and in the circumstances under which he is functioning. If this opportunity is recognized and faithfully reacted to, this work may provide that mental control which has still been lacking in the disciple's make-up to prepare him for the Third Initiation.
Mental control means that the capacity has been acquired to manipulate thought-matter, which includes the laws of creative thought building. For the Third Initiation the disciple must also have a profound theoretic and practical knowledge of the nature of the material worlds, and of the laws governing his own lower nature.
The intervening period between the Second and Third Initiations is usually characterized by intense suffering, brought about by factors of glamour and illusion which have not yet been completely eliminated and which involve the disciple in situations which for the time being leave him bewildered. Meanwhile the frustrated candidate, under the right guidance and with spiritual determination, strains forward persistently but still largely feeling his way in the dark; he has the advantage to dispose over a logical and understanding mind, but as yet only intermittently obtaining spiritual inspiration. Unrelenting efforts and growing powers of the mind, however, lead him to success, bringing the emotions ever more effectively under control.
At first the soul only makes its presence felt periodically, but this influence will progressively be increased by focusing the light of the soul on the disciple's path. This may frequently add to the complications of the man's life, but will eventually provide the control needed to effect the liberation of the soul. It is this liberation which opens the portals to the Third Initiation.
To the Hierarchy, the first two initiations recognized by esotericists in describing the spiritual development of man are merely preliminary or preparatory stages. What man knows as the Third Initiation, they regard as the First Major Initiation, because it is at this stage that the disciple really becomes 'transfigured' and consciously enters the spiritual kingdom. It marks the stage when the soul gains control over the mental vehicle which, together with the physical and emotional bodies, constitute the 'personality'. It means that for the first time the soul is then in full control of the personality, and that personality and soul become united and fused into a single unit -- the soul-infused being. For man this is the consummation of his life, and for the soul it means liberation.
To the soul this liberation means that henceforth it will no longer respond to the lower vibrations of the three worlds, which in the past were transmitted to it by the personality. The soul comes to the recognition that in future it will merely serve as a link, a vibrating invocative and evocative center between the Hierarchy and Humanity -- until with the Fourth Initiation it ultimately becomes absorbed into the Spiritual Triad.
With transfiguration the entire soul-infused personality is flooded with light, which now for the first time reaches him directly from the Monad, who can now pour its divine energies into this newly prepared channel. The transfiguration of the personality liberates it from the alluring attractions of the three lower worlds, and it becomes exclusively an agent of the soul. The initiate now irrevocably enters the Kingdom of God, and thus serves the Hierarchy as another point of anchorage on Earth, providing another channel for transmitting the divine energies into the three worlds of human endeavor.
The physical vehicle is changed to a totally different consistency and quality, and all its aspects now exclusively serve the purposes of the soul; it is no longer even subject to the laws of health which apply to the lower bodies of the average human being. What used to be the 'personality' now becomes merely a practical instrument to serve the purposes of the soul, with no personal desires, ambition, and powers of thought. It is only a physical sheath vitalized by the soul, but still perfectly adapted to the circumstances and the role it has to play for rendering the service activities amongst men as planned by the soul.
When reaching this stage, the disciple's consciousness is also completely liberated and can function freely either in or out of form, according to the requirements of the Plan. The initiate can now at will pass in full consciousness to higher worlds, leaving the lower worlds far behind. The spiritual and material have been merged and are at-one, opening the way to a still higher union with the Monad, which will lead to complete emancipation from the three worlds. The 'way of escape' now becomes the 'way of daily living', and all pain is steadily transcended, with the result that neither pleasure nor pain retains any hold over the disciple.
Esoterically speaking the 'Transfiguration' also indicates the final 'parting of the ways' between the black and white magicians. For his selfish and ambitious purposes the 'brother of darkness' can largely simulate the requirements of physical and emotional control needed for the first two initiations, but his evil intent cannot tolerate and survive the truly spiritual atmosphere which will be engendered at the time of the transfiguration by the loving Will of God, emanating from the Monad. The 'black brother' therefore will never be able to penetrate the precincts of the Third Initiation.