I have shown the gospel story as the presentation to humanity, in symbolic form, of the esoteric path of initiation. Many people today stand on, or at the threshold of, that path, yet very little is known about the actual requirements for these great expansions of consciousness which constitute initiation. It would seem appropriate, therefore, to touch on these requirements, remembering always that an article of this kind can do no more than cover, rather superficially, the basic essentials. Initiation is a complex, profoundly esoteric and mysterious subject, and those who wish to read more deeply about it are referred to the writings of the Master Djwhal Khul through Alice A. Bailey, in particular Initiation, Human and Solar.
It is important to remember that initiation is a process, not a ceremony (although it does involve ceremony), nor the successful passing of an examination. It is the result of a gradual expansion of consciousness. It is a growing awareness and demonstration of the spiritual realities which lie back of our outer physical plane expression -- our higher Self or soul, and that of which the soul itself is a reflection, the divine Monad or spark of God. It is a process whereby successive and graded stages of unification and at-one-ment take place between the man or woman in incarnation and these higher aspects of our threefold constitution.
There are a great many minor, but only five major, planetary initiations. Each one represents a definite stage of integration and at-one-ment reached by the initiate. The goal is achieved when, at the fifth initiation, the liberated Master stands in full at-one-ment with the Monad, His Father in Heaven. He has expanded His consciousness to include the spiritual planes and needs no further incarnational experience on this planet. For the Master there are higher at-one-ments -- with the planetary and systemic Logoi -- with which we need not concern ourselves.
Initiation indicates a point achieved, but does not bring about that achievement. Life itself is the field of development of the process; it is the experiences, the trials and failures of everyday life, and the gradual mastering of oneself that brings about the control over matter and the consciousness on all planes that characterizes the initiated Master.
An Ancient Science
Technically, initiation is an artificial, scientific process which speeds up the evolutionary process; historically it is very old. It is not obligatory -- individual men and women can take as long as they like to achieve perfection. But it provides the means whereby those who are ready and willing to make the effort to undergo the trials and tests and, above all, to make the sacrifices and renunciations which initiation demands, can speed the journey of evolution immeasurably, and thus serve more fully the Plan of the Logos.
The requirements for each initiation have necessarily changed as mankind has evolved; each new stage reached by humanity as a whole pushes upwards these requirements.
Today, from the Masters' point of view, the third is the first true (soul) initiation, the first and second being really preparatory, demonstrating the control of the vehicles -- physical and astral respectively -- of the personality. Through these purified and integrated bodies, the divine inner man, the soul, makes its presence felt, gripping the vehicles and shining through the personality. When that integration includes the controlled mental body, the third initiation can be experienced.
Synchronicity of vibration is the key to this process. The soul can only manifest itself to any great extent through vehicles of analogous vibration. It is for this reason that so much emphasis has been laid, in all teachings, on purity -- of physical body, of feelings, of mind and of motive. The process of purification rightly starts on the Probationary Path; by the time the Initiatory Path is being trodden, the habits of purity are expected to be already established and automatic.
The physical body is the first to undergo purification and, for those in preparation for the first initiation, a vegetarian diet becomes essential. Meat eating has a lowering effect on the vibration of the physical body of man and must be eliminated from the diet. It is interesting to note how many people today, especially the young, are turning to vegetarianism. There is no doubt that this relates to the fact that several millions now stand on the threshold of the first initiation; consciously or unconsciously, they are responding to the inner precepts of the soul.
Hallmarks of Each Initiation
Consciousness on a plane is a very different thing from control on that plane, and initiation is the result, not only of consciousness, but also of control. At the first initiation, the control of the soul (or Ego) over the physical body must be well advanced.
The desires of the body for eating, drinking, sex, sleep, rest, must no longer dominate. That is not to say that the aspirant must no longer eat, drink, sleep or have sex, but all of these should be in moderation, regulated, and under the control of the soul. This control is really over the physical elemental. All our bodies, material and spiritual, are made up of the bodies of tiny devic (angelic) lives or elementals, the so called lunar and solar pitris. The lunar pitris form the physical, astral and mental bodies of the lower man, while the solar pitris constitute the body of the soul, or causal body.
The first initiation is called the Birth Initiation. It is the result of the birth of the Christ consciousness in the cave of the heart, and aspirants who have undergone this experience will have oriented themselves towards the spiritual life -- which does not necessarily mean the religious life. A general rightness of conduct and thinking and an attitude of goodwill will be demonstrated.
The character will still have many faults (the ideal is seldom attained), but a new and more comprehensive and inclusive attitude to all beings will be shown, and the desire to serve will be strong. As a result of the control of the physical elemental, a greater creativeness will manifest itself. This is due to the shift of the energy flow from the lower chakras to the throat center. It is not by accident, therefore, that the culture of any civilization is created by the initiates.
The second initiation demonstrates emotional control, control of the astral elemental, just as the first demonstrated control of the physical elemental. This initiation is said to be the most difficult. The initiate, enmeshed in the fogs of desire, of the astral mists, has to clarify his responses to reality and free himself from emotional bondage. So powerful is the astral nature of man that this is an enormously difficult task and can take many lives to achieve. The soul, through the agency of the mind, has to control the emotional body and make it limpid and clear for its true purpose: a fitting vehicle for the buddhic or intuitional level of consciousness.
The fifth principle of mind, working through the mental body, acts as the director and organizer of astral reaction, and thus as the dispeller of glamour. The Master Djwhal Khul has written:
"The second initiation is a profoundly difficult one to take. For those upon the first or second rays of aspect it is probably the most difficult of them all."
However, with the advent of the Christ, acting as the dispeller of glamour on a world scale, the way forward for the large number of aspirants now approaching this experience will be facilitated, and many, having long ago taken the first initiation, will pass through the portals for a second time during this life.
The second initiation behind him, the initiate has to learn control of his mental vehicle. Just as the fogs of glamour on the astral plane have had to be dissipated, so now the illusions of the mental plane must be dissolved in the light flooding in more and more brightly from the soul.
The third initiation, the Transfiguration, demonstrates the completely integrated personality, soul infused and responding now to the energy of the Monad. Love, wisdom and dynamic will, the attributes of the soul, now shine clearly through the personality, and a creative life of world service and effectiveness ensues.
These first three major planetary initiations must always be taken in incarnation, on the physical plane. In this way the initiate's consciousness is demonstrated through both mind and brain.
- To conclude this brief and necessarily incomplete account of the requirements for each initiation, I quote again from the writings of the Master Djwhal Khul:
- "When a man takes the fourth initiation, he functions in the fourth plane vehicle, the buddhic, and has escaped permanently from the personality ring-pass-not. This great act of renunciation marks the moment when the disciple has nothing in him which relates him to the three worlds (physical, astral and mental) of human evolution. His contacts with those worlds in the future will be purely voluntary, and for the purpose of service." (Rays and Initiations, p.696.)
- "The life of the man who takes the fourth initiation, or the Crucifixion, is usually one of great sacrifice and suffering. It is the life of the man who makes the Great Renunciation, and even exoterically it is seen to be strenuous, hard and painful. He has laid all, even his perfected personality, upon the altar of sacrifice, and stands bereft of all. All is renounced, friends, money, reputation, character, standing in the world, family, and even life itself." (Initiation, Human and Solar, pp. 88-9.)
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH BENJAMIN CREME
Q. If I had a mystical experience, how could I know if it was the first initiation or not?
A. If you had a mystical experience you could be pretty sure that it was not the first initiation! As the inner man, centers ablaze with fire from the rod of initiation, returns to the physical body, the first reaction is almost always one of physical disequilibrium. Frequently, a sense of impending death despite every indication of good health -- is the strongest sensation. These purely physical reactions may be followed, sooner or later, by vague memories of mystical events or ceremonies, but this is not always the case.
Q. Does a living initiate know of his initiation and his ray pattern?
A. Not necessarily. There are always many initiates, up to and including the third initiation, who know nothing of such matters and who have no interest in esoteric teachings. Indeed, in their particular fields, they may well serve better in this life without such an interest. (I am thinking, for example, of political or industrial 'men of action' who need an outward focus, for whom the introspection which goes with meditation would be a hindrance.) There are many, besides, who have taken the first or even the second initiation in a previous life but have no recollection of the fact -- even if familiar with the teachings. Likewise, since esoteric psychology is in its infancy, so to speak, there are relatively very few who know their ray structure. This, of course, will change as the interest in such matters broadens.
Q. How can we account for the apparent disparity between the vast number of people in incarnation effectively accomplishing complex mental work (actuaries, mathematicians, etc.) and the relatively smaller estimated number of those above the level of first degree initiate?
A. The answer lies in the fact that the vast amount of intelligent mental activity demonstrated by millions today is still the activity of the lower mind. The truly creative mental work of inspired mathematicians, scientists, and so on, is always achieved by initiates of some degree. That which cannot be taught is the result of intuition, higher mind, and the outcome of soul unfoldment and influence. Another factor is this: consciousness on a plane (and therefore the ability to use the energies of that plane) is a very different thing from control of that plane. The initiate has to demonstrate control on each plane -- physical, astral and mental -- as he or she proceeds to perfection.
Q. Do people who have taken the first or second initiation in a previous life find that they possess, without effort, the abilities achieved in the previous life (i.e. the control of the physical body, the control of the emotional body in the case of the second degree initiate)?
A. The degree of control (which may well not be complete despite having taken initiation) achieved in any life is carried over into the next. The vibrational rate of each body is determined by the vibrational rate of the permanent atoms (physical, astral and mental) around which the matter of the new bodies is formed. Each initiation is taken once only and stabilizes that vibratory rate.
Q. What can one do consciously to speed the process of mental polarization other than, or in addition to, Transmission Meditation?
A. Mental polarization is the result of a gradual shift in consciousness from the astral/emotional to the mental plane, and covers the period between the first and second initiations. The astral vehicle is the most powerfully developed body which humanity has; it has taken millions of years to perfect it, and most people are dominated by its action (or rather by the astral elementals of which it is fashioned). The Master Djwhal Khul has written that the greatest service you can give to the world is to control the astral vehicle. This is done from the mental plane and takes several or many lives to accomplish.
The astral planes (there are seven in all) are the planes of illusion or glamour. When the fogs of glamour are dispersed by the light of the mental plane, a gradual shift in polarization takes place. Many people confuse the emotional and mental processes. They imagine they are thinking, when in fact they are clothing their emotional reactions in astral thought-forms which they mistake for thoughts. Anything, therefore, which focuses the mind, which brings it into action in every situation or reaction, speeds the process of polarization. Meditation, of whatever kind (except that state of negative reverie which is so often mistaken for meditation), is a prime mover in this direction; a diligent determination to look as impersonally and honestly as possible at all one's reactions, in every situation, especially the most disturbing; an understanding of one's ray structure -- and therefore of one's glamours; a dedication of one's life to serving humanity, leading to greater decentralization. All of these help to shift the consciousness onto the higher plane, thus bringing the light of the soul into each life situation.