Introductory Remarks on Initiation
Part 2 of 3 here…
Always there have been temples and mysteries and holy places where the true aspirant could find what he sought, and the needed instruction as to the way he should go. The prophet of old said:
“…a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it, for he shall be with them; the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”
– Isaiah, XXXV, 8, Marginal Reading.
It is a way that leads from that which lies without to that which dwells within. It reveals, step by step, the hidden life which every form and symbol veils and hides. It assigns to the aspirant certain tasks which lead to his understanding, and produces an inclusiveness and wisdom which meet his deeply sensed need. He passes from the stage of enquiry to what the Tibetans call “straight knowledge.” Upon that path vision and hope give place to realization. Initiation after initiation is undergone, each one leading the initiate nearer to the goal of complete unity. Those who in the past thus worked, agonized and attained, constitute a long chain, reaching out of the remotest past into the present, for the initiates are still with us and the door still stands wide open. Through the agency of this hierarchy of achievement, men are lifted, step by step, up the long ladder reaching from earth to heaven, to stand eventually before the Initiator and in that high moment to find that it is the Christ Himself Who thus greets them – the familiar Friend Who, having prepared them by example and precept, now receives them into the presence of God. Such has ever been the experience, the uniform experience down the ages, of all seekers. Revolting in the East from the wheel of rebirth, with its constantly reiterated suffering and pain, or revolting in the West from the apparent monstrous injustice of the one sorrowful life which the Christian allots himself, men have turned within to find the light and peace and release so ardently desired.
Christ gives us a definite picture of the entire process in His own life story, built around those major initiations which are our universal heritage and the glorious (and for many) the immediate opportunity. These are:
- The Birth at Bethlehem, to which Christ called Nicodemus, saying, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (St. John, III, 3.)
- The Baptism in Jordan. This is the baptism to which John the Baptist referred us, telling us that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire must be administered to us by Christ. (St. Matt., III, 11.)
- The Transfiguration. There perfection is for the first time demonstrated, and there the divine possibility of such perfection is proven to the disciples. The command goes forth to us, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (St. Matt., V, 48.)
- The Crucifixion. This is called the Great Renunciation, in the Orient, with its lesson of sacrifice and its call to the death of the lower nature. This was the lesson which St. Paul knew and the goal towards which he strove. “I die daily,” he said, for only in the practice of death daily undergone can the final Death be met and endured. (I Cor., XV, 31.)
- The Resurrection and Ascension, the final triumph which enables the initiate to sing and to know the meaning of the words: “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave where is thy victory?” (I Cor., XV, 55.)
Such are the five great dramatic events of the mysteries. Such are the initiations through which all men must some day pass. Humanity stands today upon the path of probation. The way of purification is being trodden by the masses, and we are in process of purging ourselves from evil and materialism. When this process is completed, many will find themselves ready to make preparation for the first of the initiations, and to undergo the new Birth. The disciples of the world are preparing for the second initiation, the Baptism, and for this must come a purification of the emotional desire nature and a dedication of the desire nature to the life of the soul. The initiates of the world are facing the Transfiguration initiation. Mind control and right orientation towards the soul, with a complete transmutation of the integrated personality, lies ahead of them.
There is much foolishness talked these days in connection with initiation, and the world is full of people who are claiming to be initiates. They fail to remember that no initiate makes any claim or speaks about himself. Those who claim to be initiates give denial to their claim in so doing. Disciples and initiates are taught to be inclusive in their thoughts and non-separative in their attitudes. They never set themselves apart from the rest of humanity by asserting their status and thus automatically placing themselves upon a pedestal. Nor are the requirements, as stated in many of the esoteric books, quite as simple as they are made out to be. To read some of them, one would think that as long as the aspirant has achieved a measure of tolerance, of kindness, devotion, sympathy, idealism, patience and perseverance he has fulfiled the major requirements. These are indeed primary essentials, but to these qualities must be added an intelligent understanding and a mental unfoldment which will lead to a sane and intelligent cooperation with the plans for humanity. It is the balance of head and heart that is required, and the intellect must find its complement and expression in and through love. This needs a most careful reproclaiming. Love and sentiment and devotion are often confused with each other. Pure love is an attribute of the soul and is all-inclusive, and it is in pure love that our relation to God and to each other consists. “For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind, and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind” – so runs the old hymn, and thus is expressed that love which is the attribute of Deity and also the hidden attribute of every son of God. Sentiment is emotional and unstable; devotion can be fanatical and cruel; but love blends and fuses, understands and interprets and synthesizes all form and all expressions, all causes and all races, into one flaming heart of love, knowing no separateness, no division and no disharmony. To bring about this divine expression in our daily life takes the utmost that is in us. To be an initiate takes every power of every aspect of one’s nature. It is no easy task. To face the inevitable tests with which one will assuredly be confronted as one treads the path Christ trod, takes courage of the rarer kind. To cooperate sanely and wisely with God’s Plan and to merge one’s will in the divine Will must call into activity not only the deepest love of one’s heart, but the keenest decisions of the mind.
Initiation might be regarded as a great experiment. There was perhaps a time, when this process of unfoldment was instituted, that it became possible to enact upon earth certain inner processes known at that time only to the few. Then that which was within could be put into symbolic form for the teaching of the “little ones,” and could later be undergone openly and expressed for us upon earth by the Son of God, the Christ. Initiation is a living process, and through that process all who duly discipline themselves and voluntarily acquiesce may pass, scrutinized and aided by that band of initiates and knowers who are the guides of the race, and who are known to us under many names in different parts of the world and in different ages. They are called in the West, Christ and His Church, the Elder Brothers of Humanity. Initiation is therefore a reality and not a beautiful and rather easily attained vision, as so many occult and esoteric books seem to claim. Initiation is not a process which a man undergoes when he joins certain organizations, and which can be understood only by joining such groups. It has nothing to do with societies, esoteric schools and organizations. All that they can do is to teach the aspirant certain well known and basic “rules of the road,” and then leave him to understand or not, as his earnestness and development permit, and to pass on through the portal as his equipment and destiny allow. The Teachers of the race, and the Christ, Who is the “Master of all the Masters and the Teacher alike of angels and of men,” are not more interested in these organizations than They are in any movement in the world today which carries illumination and truth to men. The initiates of the world are to be found in every nation, in every church, and in every group where men of good will are to be found working, and where world service is rendered. The modern so-called esoteric groups are not the custodians of the teaching of initiation, nor is it their prerogative to prepare man for this unfoldment. The best of them can only prepare men for that stage in the evolutionary process which is called “discipleship.” The reason why this is sadly the case, and why initiation seems so far away from the membership of most of the groups who claim an insight into the initiation processes, is that they have not laid the needed emphasis upon that mental illumination which perforce lights the way to the Gate leading to the “Secret Place of the Most High.” They have laid the emphasis upon personality devotion to the Masters of the Wisdom, and to their own organization leaders; they have stressed adherence to authoritative teaching and rules of life, and have not primarily emphasized adherence to the still small voice of the soul. The way to the place of initiation and to the Center where Christ may be found is the way of the soul, the lonely way of self-unfoldment, of self-effacement and of self-discipline. It is the way of mental illumination and intuitive perception.
Initiation is the revelation of love, of the second great aspect of divinity, expressing itself in wisdom. This expression is found in its fullness in the life of Christ. He revealed to us the nature of essential love, and then told us to love. He demonstrated to us what divinity is, and then told us to live divinely. In the New Testament this unfolding life of living divine love is held before us in three ways, each progressive in its definition of experience, and each giving us the sequence of the revelation of Christ in the human heart. There is first of all the phrase “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col., I, 27.) This is the stage which precedes and immediately follows the new birth, the Birth at Bethlehem. It is the stage towards which the masses of men are slowly but steadily working, and it is the immediate goal for many of the aspirants in the world today. Secondly, there is the stage which is called that of a full-grown man in Christ, indicating an increased experience of the divine life and a deeper unfoldment of the Christ consciousness in the human being. Towards this the disciples of the world are now oriented. Then there is the stage of achievement, referred to by St. Paul in the following terms, “Till we all come, in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph., IV, 13.)
Initiation is therefore a graded and realized series of expansions of consciousness, a steadily increasing awareness of divinity and of all its implications. Many so-called initiates today believe themselves to have reached this status because some occult leader or some psychic seer has told them that it is so; yet within themselves they know nothing of the process whereby they can pass (as Masonry teaches) through that mysterious door, between the two great pillars, in their search for light; they have no conscious knowledge of that self-initiated program which has to be followed in full waking consciousness, being realized simultaneously by the indwelling divine soul and the mind and brain of the man in physical life. These expansions of consciousness progressively reveal to man the quality of his higher and his lower nature; it is this realization which marks St. Paul as one of the first initiates to attain that status under the Christian dispensation. Read what he says about this revelation of his duality:
“I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
“For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
“But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
“Oh, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans, VII, 18-25.)
Only through the revelation of the Christ within each human being can this at-one-ment be made. Only through the new birth, the baptism of spirit and of fire, and the transfiguration of the nature can deliverance be found, can unity with God be achieved. Only through the sacrifice of humanity, which is the essence of the crucifixion, can the resurrection be undergone.
What is true of the individual will be true ultimately of the entire human family. The plan for humanity concerns man’s conscious unfoldment. As mankind grows in wisdom and knowledge, and as the civilizations come and go, each bringing its needed lesson and its high point of attainment, men as a group approach the gate which leadeth unto life. All modern discovery, all psychological studies and knowledge, all group activity and all scientific achievement, as well as all real occult knowledge, are spiritual in nature, and these are aids to that expansion of consciousness which will make of mankind the Great Initiate. Just as soon as human beings can grasp in a large synthesis the necessity of entering more definitely into the world of true meaning and of value, we shall see the mysteries becoming universally recognized. The new values will be seen and the new techniques and methods of living will be evolved as a result of this perception. There are signs that this is already happening, that the destruction going on around us and the tearing down of the ancient institutions – political, religious and social – are only preparatory to this undertaking. We are on our way to “that which is within,” and many voices are today proclaiming this.
We are on that path of transition (can we call it the Path of Discipleship?) which will lead us into a new dimension, into the interior world of true fact and right energy. It is a world in which only the spiritual body can function and only the eye of spirit can see. It cannot be perceived by those whose inner perception is unawakened and whose intuition sleeps. When the spiritual body begins to be organized and to grow, and when the eye of wisdom slowly opens and trains itself to see truly, then there will come the indications that the Christ, latent in each son of God, is beginning to control and to lead man into the world of spiritual being, true meaning and essential values. This world is the kingdom of God, the world of souls, and – when manifested – is that expression of divine life which we can call the fifth kingdom in nature. But it cannot yet be generally perceived. It is through the process of initiation that this world stands revealed.
Before initiation can be given, the significance of the above ideas must be grasped, and certain great developments are necessarily presupposed. These requirements can be seen working out in the life of every disciple at this time, and, for those who have eyes to see, they can be seen actively bringing changes in the race.
Aspiration is a basic requirement, both in the individual and in the race. Today humanity aspires to great heights, and this aspiration is responsible for the great national movements seen in so many countries. At the same time, individual disciples are striving anew towards illumination, incited thereto by their longing to meet world need. Spiritual selfishness, which has been such a characteristic of aspirants in the past, has to be transcended and transmuted into love of man and a sharing in the “fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.” (Phil., III, 10.) Self must be lost to sight in service. Service is rapidly becoming the keynote of the time, and one of the incentives in racial endeavor. The meeting of disaster and the undergoing of painful experiences is ever the lot of the individual disciple. It is becoming obvious that the world disciple, humanity itself, is now deemed worthy of such a testing. This universality of difficulty, in every department of human life and excluding no group, indicates that mankind as a whole is being prepared for initiation. There is purpose underlying what is happening today. The birth pangs of the Christ within the race have begun, and the Christ will be born in the “House of Bread” (which is the meaning of the word “Bethlehem”). The implications of our present world pain and suffering are too obvious to need further explanation. There is purpose underlying all world affairs at this time, and there is reward at the end of the way. Some day, sooner perhaps than many may think, the portals of initiation will open wide to the suffering world disciple (as they have ever opened in the past to individuals), and humanity will enter into a new Kingdom and stand before that mysterious Presence Whose light and wisdom shone forth before the world through the Person of Christ, and Whose voice was heard at each of the five crises through which Christ passed. Then will mankind enter into the world of causes and of knowing. We shall dwell in the inner world of reality, and the outer appearance of physical living will be known to be only symbolic of inner conditions and happenings. Then we shall begin to work and live as those who are initiate in the mysteries, and our lives will be regulated from the realm of reality where Christ and His Disciples of all time (the Church invisible) guide and control human affairs.
The goal which They have in view and the end towards which They are working has been summed up for us in a commentary upon an ancient Tibetan scripture. The words are as follows:
“All beauty, all goodness, all that makes for the eradication of sorrow and ignorance upon earth must be devoted to the one Great Consummation. Then when the Lords of Compassion shall have spiritually civilized the Earth and made of it a Heaven, there will be revealed to the Pilgrims the Endless Path, which reaches to the heart of the universe. Man, then no longer man, will transcend Nature, and impersonally, yet consciously, in at-one-ment with all the Enlightened Ones, help to fulfil the Law of the Higher Evolution, of which Nirvana is but the beginning.”
– Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, p. 12.
Such is our goal. Such our glorious objective. How can we progress towards this consummation? What is the first step that we must take? In the words of an unknown poet:
“When thou canst see
Beneath the outer seeming
The causes which to all effects give birth,
When thou canst feel, in warmth of sunlight streaming
The Love of God, encircling all the earth,
Then know thyself initiate in the Mysteries
The wise men ever deemed of greatest worth.”