In considering this whole subject of discipleship there are certain things of which I would like to remind you. If you will reflect upon them you will find they may change somewhat your idea of what constitutes discipleship but they will also enrich your general concept anent this subject.
The first point which I would like to bring out is that accepted disciples are in training for initiation. If, when they approach the Path of Discipleship they fail to grasp this fact and to give the fullest cooperation, they postpone the time of that initiation. Their grasp of the fact will be demonstrated in the intensity of their proffered service. Planned service is one of the modes of the training. Disciples in the early stages of their work are apt to be primarily interested in themselves and in their own reactions and attitudes to the Master. The fact that they are working in a Master’s group seems to them the fact of paramount importance.
The second thing which I would like to point out is that there is a great difference between a Master’s group and his Ashram. This is seldom realized. Many people can be found in a Master’s group but the personnel of his Ashram is picked out of that of the group. In a group, the Master is in touch with and aware of the aspiring disciple and he has had a definite contact with him, but this has involved a personality as well as a soul relation. But in an Ashram only that is to be found within the sphere of influence of an Ashram which is of the soul. Nothing of the personality is allowed to enter in – personality reactions, disabilities, limitations, personality thoughts and all that is material and connected with the lower nature, never reaches the Ashram at all. In the early stages, therefore, of a disciple’s work, it is possible that there is little or nothing that the disciple will be able to contribute of any kind for a long time. Only those positively sensed intuitions and those definite soul impressions and impulses which the disciple may succeed in evoking (through meditation and growing purity of intention) can contribute anything to the life of the Ashram. There is consequently a law which protects the Ashram from your limitations. I have been using the word “Ashram” quite definitely in my effort to lead you to discriminate between a group and an Ashram. An Ashram is basically formed of those who through their knowledge, devotion and service have worked their way out of a group into an inner center where the Master’s energy, wisdom and effort is more easily available. In order to work their way from the group into the Ashram, disciples will need most carefully to discriminate between their high grade personality inclinations, their responses to truth and ideals and their true soul reactions, spiritual wisdom and intuitive perception.
The third point which I would like to bring out is that disciples when they form part of an Ashram are subjecting themselves to a greatly increased pressure and are in a position to participate in much wider distribution of energy than heretofore. Today, as the Coming One nears the earth and draws closer to humanity, and as the inflow of spiritual energy from Shamballa into the hierarchical Center becomes greater, there is a great keying up of human receptivity and a greatly augmented stimulation is taking place with varying effects. This involves an intensified aspiration and spiritual determination. It also signifies an opportunity of an unprecedented nature.
You have been told that when the Buddha came and worked on earth, many aspirants entered the ranks of accepted disciples and many disciples took one or other of the major initiations. There was, therefore, a definite shift of the personnel of the Hierarchy and a great expansion towards Shamballa and, at the same time, towards humanity. When the Christ made his appearance on earth, there was a similar and still greater climaxing effort which culminated in the inclusion of disciples in the Masters’ inner Ashrams. Hitherto, these Ashrams had been kept for those who had taken the first initiation. Before the time of Christ only those who had taken the first initiation and were initiate formed the Ashram. Owing, however, to the growing sensitivity of humanity, it was then decided that disciples could be admitted into the Ashrams and so be mentally and astrally en rapport with the inner group and begin to form part of the Master’s sphere of directed influence.
This is the opportunity which is held out today before the aspirants and probationary disciples. This effort might be termed an externalization of the Ashram. You have been told that it is the intention of the Hierarchy to restore the Mysteries on earth. This is the first step towards that objective. If this embryonic externalization succeeds in functioning and if those participating in this new effort manage to work with unity, love and understanding, and if this proves so strong as to withstand all disintegrating forces, then it may be possible later to increase the membership, power and size of any Ashram. This lies entirely in the hands of the group. Every new person who is put in touch with the Ashram becomes a definite responsibility. The work of integration and of absorption lies with the Ashram and not with the individual. This is not easily apparent until disciples are accepted and integral parts of the Ashram. Such disciples constitute a definite problem.
The question now arises: How does a Master form and organize his Ashram or inner group of which the personnel is provided from the outer group of aspirants? It must surely be apparent to you that a Master, in forming his Ashram, proceeds as automatically as does the Creator. He meditates; he visualizes; he speaks and that which he seeks to create and to materialize (in line with the hierarchical Plan) begins to take form. By the power of his focussed and directed thought, he attracts to him those whose type of mind synchronizes with his, because of ray, karmic relationships, point in evolution and love for humanity. In the words focus and direction lie the key to any technique or method of contributing to what I might here call the reservoir of thought which is an Ashram. It is a sustained focus, plus a dynamic direction which makes this reservoir of thought contributory to world service and creatively effective. The important thing for an accepted disciple to grasp is what the Master is seeking to accomplish through the medium of his group. This entails, finally, the enquiry, in the mind of the disciple, as to whether he thinks, focuses and works along lines similar to that of the Master. How close is the disciple to the Master’s thoughts? The Master is prevented by occult law from using any pressure or power in the effort to swing the minds of those whom he is influencing into unison with his. He may not impose his will upon the disciple; his desires, aspirations and wishes must not be the enforced directing agency in the lives of those with whom he is in touch. He may impress their minds with what he feels is needed in periods of world crisis. He can express to them what he feels should be done. But it remains for the disciple to decide and prove. Disciples are in a Master’s group because of similarity of ideas, even though they sense and express those ideas far less clearly than he does and see the vision as through a glass darkly. But their innate convictions are basically the same and their task is to discover the points of contact, the analogous idealism for the group effort and then to submerge their entire individual lives and activities in the recognized effort. Behind this effort stands the Master – an initiating and distributing center of power.
Every Ashram or inner group is essentially a reservoir of thought and that reservoir has for its spring or source, the ideas, dreams, vision and aspiration of the Master. This is impulsed by his monadic potency, influenced by the One who is his Master and developed and fed by his experience, unfolded as his wisdom grew and his capacity to further the hierarchical Plan had been dedicated, used and increased. Then it becomes a clear pool of thought, augmented and fed from the spring of many lives, from the pure vision and consecrated dreams of many disciples.
To this reservoir of pure thought, every pledged disciple is asked to make his contribution and, if he can do so, it will enable the Ashram to meet the need and help every aspirant to pass off the Probationary Path on to the Path of Accepted Discipleship. Every center or focus of power has a definite sphere of influence and a true, active Ashram is a positive force within the center which we call humanity.
The disciple now naturally and rightly questions how thought power and spiritual instinct are related, how they can work constructively and how their interdependence demonstrates. I wonder how I can make the idea clear to you? Let me first call your attention to the fact that it is instinct which leads a disciple to respond to a Master’s call or note, to his vibration and to his group. Instinct, in its early stages, is the name given to the response of the material mechanism to its environing material world – the three worlds of human evolution. Later, upon the evolutionary ladder, the mind appears as an interpreting agency and the nature of the mechanism and of the environment is slowly understood. The relationships become clarified. Spiritual instinct is the capacity of the soul to register contact with the Hierarchy of which the soul is inherently a part, just as in the body a man’s mechanical, instinctual responses, reactions and reflexes are an integral part of the material mechanism. In the case of the spiritual instincts, it is the intuition which interprets and illumines the mind. The power of thought as employed in the work of the Ashram is dependent upon the power of the disciple to focus and raise the conscious mind, to contact the soul and evoke the intuition. When that has been successfully done, then comes the unison of the three factors: mental illumination, soul impulse and intuitive perception. This triple combination will produce that type of thought which will be effective in activity, productive of the Plan, conducive to selflessness and motivated by love.
According to the ability of the group, as a whole, to function under the impetus of the spiritual instinct will be the success of the Master to carry out his plans through the medium of the group. Under divine law, he may not work alone; he cannot work alone. He can inspire, teach, ask for cooperation and give guidance as to the needed work. Beyond that, no Master may go. In this world cycle, the work of the Hierarchy is conditioned by the disciples, and they can well understand, therefore, why the last fetter cast off by a Master is irritation! No initiate can form a true Ashram until all capacity to misunderstand, to express irritation and to criticize has vanished. The power of thought of a Master, if misused, could be a potent destructive force. He must be able to trust himself before his Ashram can run on right lines and with safety
In this work of assembling the necessary thought power for constructive work, the etheric web is definitely involved. It leads then to a re-organization of the web. Academic explanations do not help the student to understand this. When the mind (the instrument of thought) is the vehicle of soul life, soul light and soul love, and the etheric web is responsive to the inflow of energy from the mind, then the reorganization of the individual etheric web takes place. The individual etheric body is only a part, an aspect, of the etheric web of humanity; the steady re-organization of the many parts leads to a transformation of the whole, when enough time has elapsed.
The medium through which this takes place is the Mind. The mind creates or formulates those thoughtform’s (or embodied energies) which express, upon the mental plane, the measure of the disciple’s understanding of the Plan, and his ability to convey the embodied mental energy to the etheric body – unimpeded by the emotional nature or by any lower upsurging desire.
The etheric body is a web of light energy, impulsed or motivated by the type or the quality of the energies to which it responds, from the angle of evolutionary development. It might be stated that:
- Unevolved or savage man responds simply to prana or physical energy, vitalizing the appetites of the lower nature, developing the instincts and thus laying the foundation of a physical vehicle as the outer garment of the soul. At this stage, intellect is embryonic; the physical appetites and the five senses are dominating factors. All this is due to the activity of prana as it pours through the etheric or vital body.
- Average man is impulsed by desire which is an energy, emanating from world desire and which – developing or organizing the astral body – generates desire-energy. It pours into the vital body and galvanizes physical man into those activities which will lead to the satisfaction of desire. This is a parallel process to the work of prana, impelling the animal instinctive nature into activity. These necessarily parallel and produce conflict – the first clash (within the man) of the pair of opposites. Gradually, the pranic energy becomes automatic in its activity; the shift of the consciousness is into the astral or desire body and the functioning of the instinctual nature drops below the threshold of the consciousness. Man then focuses his life in the astral vehicle and his etheric body becomes animated by the potent inflow of desire-energy.
- The developed man, with an integrated personality, gradually brings the etheric body under the control of mental energy and his physical plane activity is not then so much implemented by instinct or desire as by thought energy, dedicated to and expressing the nature of the man’s plan. This plan indicates increasingly his intelligent desire – selfish in the early stages, complex and dualistic in the intermediate stages but slowly responding to the world plan and to the divine intent for humanity.
- Finally, when the power of the Triangles (the spiritual name given in The Secret Doctrine to the soul) is being imposed upon the personality, then their energy supersedes the other energies and the personality – focussed now in the mind and responsive to soul impression – expresses upon the physical plane, through the medium of the physical brain and the body, the intent, potency and nature of the all-inclusive soul.
Continued. Part III B here…