The life of the probationer and disciple prepares the individual for the Path of Initiation. It marks that phase in the man's unfoldment when he deliberately and consciously begins to co-operate with the evolutionary forces, and works at the reconstruction and strengthening of his character. He becomes aware of certain of his shortcomings and systematically tries to rectify what is lacking, to cultivate better qualities and bring the co-ordinated personality under control of the soul.
In past times the training of disciples usually took place under direct instruction of a senior disciple or 'Guru'. This training was largely of a mystical nature. With changing world conditions and particularly with the rapidly increasing intelligence of the masses, especially in the Western races, the disciple is today obtaining a much better mental grasp of the underlying principles of life and, with available literature, is in the position to make considerable esoteric progress by self-study.
Improved mental equipment has, however, also resulted in raising the standards of discipleship, and the Masters are now demanding correspondingly higher qualities from their pupils than was previously the case.
Students who have become interested in the field of esotericism will find that somehow -- and often apparently unaccountably, or 'by chance' -- just the right book will be put into their hands. This manipulation of conditions is usually the work of invisible helpers from the 'other side' senior disciples on etheric levels who are appointed by the Master to help younger disciples who are struggling under physical handicaps. In this respect it should, however, be remembered that the soul is, and always will remain, man's mainstay and principal guide with regard to all decisions and attitudes concerning the spiritual aspects of being or the quality of life. But there are also many other aspects affecting the disciple's environmental conditions and circumstances, over which the soul has no direct control, and where this 'invisible helper' can prove of inestimable assistance. This guide so often unknowingly contributes to smooth over all kinds of external difficulties, and in many instances he is the unseen factor behind the screen who is responsible for those happenings which are often lightly passed over as our 'lucky fate'. People who believe in their good fortune are as a rule those who co-operate with their helpers in a positive way, whilst the 'unlucky' ones usually have a negative approach and consequently make matters difficult for both their guides and themselves.
But to revert to the subject of esoteric studies. The dedicated student will find that by some means or other he can always acquire the literature needed for his particular stage of development. He may, furthermore, rest assured that if his genuine spiritual needs should happen to exceed the scope of the literature at his disposal, then the Master will supervene and somehow his requirements will be met. No disciple, under whatever circumstances his 'destiny' may have placed him, remains unobserved, and when through self effort his inner light begins to attract attention, his Master will provide the facilities by which he will be guided along the Path of Initiation.
Although the occasional student will be found who for some reason is working alone, there is something which mutually attracts esoteric students, and there will be the inclination for students to join some esoteric school or to link up with a local group who may prove to be compatible and where the individual feels that he 'belongs'.
It should always be remembered that the Master is not in the first instance interested in the personal development of the disciple, but that he sees his pupil as a potential channel through which the hierarchical energies may be transmitted to humanity. As the disciple progresses, this should also increasingly become his personal attitude towards spiritual evolution and initiation -- not so much how to promote his personal advantage, but rather how to improve himself to become a more efficient server.