The Six Stages of Discipleship – Part III B

Part III A here

The individual etheric web galvanizes the automatic physical body into activity. The energies, controlling the physical body through the medium of the etheric web, are the four mentioned above. The conflict in the brain consciousness of the evolving human unit begins to assume importance when the man starts to recognize these controlling energies, their source and their effects.

It is immediately obvious that the work of the disciple is, therefore, almost entirely within the realm of energy and forces. The study of occultism is the study of forces and of their origin and effects. An Ashram is a place wherein this study enters the laboratory or experimental stage. The disciple is supposed to be in process of becoming aware of the forces and energies which condition him as an individual; these originate within himself and produce changes and specific effects in his life-expression upon the physical plane. When he knows himself to be the “Life and the lives” (as The Secret Doctrine puts it), a subtotal of forces and a controlling energy, then he can be a world disciple and work significantly in an Ashram.

It will be apparent to you, therefore, that when a disciple enters into an Ashram and works in closer relation with his Master than heretofore, he begins to collaborate as far as is in him with his fellow disciples; then you have (in terms of occultism) a repetition of the relation between the “Life” of the group (in this case, the Master) and “the lives” (in this case, the disciples), of the central energy and the responding forces. From the Master’s angle of the group problem, duality enters into the group expression. He, the central energy, must work through the forces. From the angle of the disciple, a force (which is himself) is brought into relation with other forces; it must, at the same time, become responsive to an energy, that of the Master. This response comes through the recognition of identity of purpose, of origin and of nature, but not identity in the field of expression. You can see, therefore, that an Ashram is, indeed, a very vortex of forces, set in motion by the many types of energy within the ring-pass-not of the Ashram itself. The basic principles of dualism make themselves felt as the energy of spirit makes its impact upon soul force and personality force. Forget not that a Master expresses monadic energy, whilst disciples in his group are seeking to express soul energy and are doing so, in some measure, through their love and service. To this soul energy, they add personality force which arises from their being, as yet, focussed in the personality life, even whilst aspiring to soul consciousness. Herein lies their usefulness from the Master’s point of view and herein lies their difficulty and – at times – their failure.

Disciples within the Master’s group or the Master’s Ashram have a potent effect upon each other, for everything in their nature is accentuated. The Master has to watch carefully to see that he does not unduly stimulate the disciples’ vehicles through the very fact of his relation to them.

The individual disciple has, therefore, to watch the effect of three groups of energies which all make an impact upon him:

  1. Those within his own nature (physical, emotional and mental) and those which come to him from his own soul.
  2. Those which make an impact upon him as they come to him from other members of the Ashram or group. This effect will be dependent upon his being detached where he himself is concerned and thus responsive to what comes from them. The occult law is that the more you love the more you can respond to and include the point of view, the nature and the force of your fellow-men. This is vitally true also of a group of disciples. What protects most disciples from too great a sensitivity is their pre-occupation with themselves and with their own development.
  3. Those transmuted forces which come to the disciple from the Master or are definitely transmitted to him by the Master.

The goal for all work done by disciples, either in group formation or in the Ashram, is the expression, within the group, of the causal creative process. This is summed up in the words which I have already quoted to you “the Life and the lives.” You have the analogous idea and its sequence of effects in the realization that the Master (spirit or Monad) reflects himself in or inspires the disciple (soul) and the latter is thus enabled to demonstrate soul activity upon the physical plane.

I would like to consider in greater detail the nature of a Master’s group, sometimes called an Ashram. It might be valuable if I endeavoured to define an Ashram to you and so leave you with a clear idea of the difference between a Master’s particular group, and the many outer groups which, though working under his inspiration and upon the Plan, are not definitely and technically his Ashram.

An Ashram is a subjective fusion of individuals and not of personalities, gathered together for service purposes. It is a blending of individual activity into one whole – a whole which is united on objective and vision but which may (and frequently does) have differing methods and techniques. The work of the Ashram is essentially the presentation to the work of those service purposes which are carried forward as seem best to the individual disciple, under the “impression of the Master” and with the cooperation of his group. A group of disciples is not pledged to do the same type of work in the same way and at the same time. They are pledged to work under the inspiration of their soul, as their souls may direct and dictate strengthened by contact with the Master and with each other. They are related to each other through identity of vision and of vibration, plus mutual respect and complete freedom – particularly the latter.

As you ponder on this, I would ask you to realize that an Ashram is not a group of people, working under the tutelage of some Master. This is an important point to remember. It is – as said earlier – a magnetic point of tension, a fusion of energies, directed towards a common center and involving two magnetic factors:

  1. A united urge towards group formation upon the mental plane. This is the higher correspondence to the herd instinct of the animal world and of the world of men, but is of a spiritual nature and quite differently motivated. The lower herd instinct is motivated largely by the instinct of self-preservation; the higher by the recognition of the immortal nature of the soul, and by the instinct to serve even with the sacrifice of oneself. The law of “death unto life” controls. When the magnetic pull of the group is adequately strong, then comes the death of the personality life. Until, therefore, the group of disciples in all its parts expresses this outgoing sacrificial urge, it is not an Ashram.
  2. The magnetic pull of the positive center at the very heart of the group; that means the magnetic pull of the Master. As you well know, theoretically at least, at the center of the Ashram stands ever the Master, or else an initiate or a world disciple. His task is to blend and fuse the energies, tendered and proffered by the group (under the urge to serve) and to indicate the field of service. The mode of this instinctual activity is called occult obedience and this is voluntarily rendered and untidily followed. When any group – working in this way under a Master – is moved by one spiritual impulse and functions through one firm organization (like electrons around the positive nucleus in an atom), the potency of the group will become immediately effective and not before.

I would at this point indicate to you that the so-called inner Ashram is to the outer group what the soul and its vision is to the individual disciple, working in his personality vehicles. It is the place of interior resort. Disciples can, therefore, grasp their growth towards fusion as an Ashram (in process of physical exteriorization) by the development of their spiritual recognition of the inner group potency and their facility to contact the Master – both as individuals or in group formation.

One of the things which a Master has to do is to teach his disciples to study and register truthfully their usual point of daily focus. This constitutes the true introspective training, and when followed sanely and wisely leads to the realization of the true, persistent, inner level of consciousness; it fosters also a recognition of the need to overcome limitation (frequently not the limitations usually registered) and the necessity for breaking the barriers imposed by the personality. This whole process might be summed up in the following words: The purpose of the Ashram and the training which it gives is to enable the disciple to live truly on every plane which he has succeeded in opening up to his consciousness. It is important to remember that no one is integrated into an Ashram until he has pierced beyond the confines of the purely personal levels of awareness; until he is sensitive to the ray and quality of the Master of the Ashram, and until he is normally soul conscious. The achievement of this involves great responsibility, and it is the shouldering of this responsibility which brings about the first indications of what I might call “ashramic consciousness” – a consciousness devoid of self-interest and always pre-occupied with the essentials of spiritual living.

The primary pre-occupation of chelas at the beginning of their technical training is of a very varied nature and the Ashram life is usually merely an interesting background for daily experience and not the factor of importance which it should be, and not the main interest in the foreground of the consciousness. The necessities of daily living, the many and diverse family contacts, the resentments against life and its impacts, a dislike of criticism and of being misunderstood, the many problems of character, the pressures of psychic unfoldment and the pettiness of circumstance frequently loom so large that awareness of the Ashram and its life is only an occasional inspiration instead of a fixed habit of life. The ability to make comparisons to the detriment of others (particularly of one’s own fellow disciples or of one’s own circumstances), the fear to let go and throw all one is and has into the life of the Ashram, foreboding, as to the future and a host of mental thoughtform’s, plus undue attention to the cyclic life of the physical body, present the Master with an appalling picture of the liabilities with which he is confronted. The factor of the attitude of the Master is one which disciples are very apt to forget because they are so basically interested in themselves and in their reactions and problems.

It might here be noted that disciples in an Ashram are primarily occupied with world affairs. As a group they are pledged to world work; as individuals, they are learning so to work. Would-be disciples need to distinguish between the effect (magnetic and dynamic) of the group and the conscious effort which the group may make, under united desire and the direction of the Master, to reach the minds of those directing world affairs and world happenings. The outer happenings are, to a certain point, predictable; they are the precipitated effects of hidden causes which lie deep in the subconscious’s of humanity. These can be noted and (up to a certain point) offset or stimulated by the group potency. This is one of the major tasks of the Hierarchy. The Masters work in the light and in the realm of causes. Disciples are as yet necessarily involved in the world of effects and, therefore, of illusion. To work dominantly with the focal points of spiritual energy upon the outer plane immediately involves certain factors:

  1. A deep unerring love which “sees” in the light’. Love is truly the revealer.
  2. The power to withdraw completely, as individuals and as a group, from the world of physical reactions, emotional biases, and to work purely on mental levels. There the disciple is focussed in his lower mind, but consciously oriented towards the soul and is becoming increasingly sensitive to the intuition and towards the vision and the Plan, as well as towards the group soul and to the Master – all in this order of response.
  3. Next follows the power, as a group, to formulate the desired thought-effect in such a manner that it will reach the mind or the soul of those you seek to contact, to project the thoughtform, built in such a way that it will be of the type and quality needed to evoke response, and so meet the need of those the disciple is seeking to help and strengthen. The projected thoughtform will embody the light and love, as well as the idea of the group in conformity with group vision.

For how many is this kind of work possible? Not many, as yet. Disciples are usually more pre-occupied with their desire to help than with the scientific techniques of helping. They need to take the desire for granted and then forget about it. I would ask all disciples at this time to make it their major effort to see the vision clear; to recognize, and know for what they are, those who are in high position, guiding humanity and whose responsibility it is to lead humanity out of slavery into freedom. Aid them with love because they are where they are through their individual destiny and the guidance of their souls. Life must be seen truly and faced as it is – not realistically from the world standpoint but realistically from the standpoint of the soul, whose vision is long and inclusive and who sees life as it is.

The acceptance of facts is one of the first duties of a disciple; In the task of aiding humanity, as a part of the Master’s group or Ashram, the fact that there are men and women placed in positions of power to carry out the divine plan is one of the first to be faced. This must be done uncritically, avoiding constant recognition of their limitations, with an understanding of their problem, with realization of the call of their souls to yours and the pouring upon them of a constant stream of “loving understanding.” They are more advanced disciples than you are – little as this may be realized. They are – consciously or unconsciously – under the “impression” of the Masters; there is little that the average disciple can do for them in molding their thought or in shaping their decisions. I refer of course to the leaders of the Forces of Light upon the outer physical plane. But disciples and aspirants can surround them with a guarding wall of light and love; they can refrain from handicapping them with thoughts of criticism which can swell the tide of criticism which the worldly minded pour out upon them. As to attempting to reach and influence the leaders of the forces of materialism, I would ask you to refrain. It can more easily be done because the personality of the disciple will provide an open door of approach. But they are far stronger than the average disciple and the task would, therefore, be one of extreme danger.

In the Aquarian Age (which is now so near, relatively speaking), there will be an externalization of the inner Ashram upon the outer plane. Disciples, initiates and world disciples will meet for the first time in human history as disciples, recognizing each other and recognizing the Master of their group. The inner Ashram is a focus of souls, free and unlimited; the outer Ashram – under the future Aquarian experiment – will be composed of a focus of personalities and souls. Limitation will, therefore, exist; responsibility will require conscious recognition and there will be a necessary slowing down of both action and perception in the outer space-time world.

The true Ashram (of which the coming outer Ashrams will be but reflections) is not for lower concrete mind discussion. It is a focal point of receptivity; it embraces the effort to establish mutual contact through an united recognition of the vision, of the esoteric basis of life and the laws governing action. It is not a place, however, for long and silent meditation processes, for it is a point of tension where, together, the Ageless Wisdom in its more esoteric aspects is discussed, where the nature of soul relationship is recognized and where the fusion of auras and the inter-blending of the “Triangles” goes forward consciously. An Ashram is the state of mind of a spiritual group. It is a point of united thought; it is a center for the clarification of the vision and not of physical plane methods of work. As disciples learn to integrate themselves into a Master’s Ashram, they discover that the first thing they have to do is to establish a basic harmony between themselves and their fellow disciples and to reinforce the contact between their own souls, the ashramic group and the Master. Then they learn to comprehend – through discussion and experiment – the nature of the energies which are seeking world expression, and the nature of the forces which must be reduced to powerlessness, if these new incoming energies are to prove effective in bringing about the desired changes under the Plan.

They learn also that there is no weakness and no strength in themselves, as individuals, which may not be submitted to the group “gaze”; thus they arrive at the stripping away of all the “veils” which prevent the clear light of the soul from shining forth. The goal of all work done in the Ashram of any of the Masters is Truth – on all levels and at all times. As disciples learn thus to work from the point or center of light, understanding and truth into which they are being steadily integrated, their exoteric usefulness and effective service will be greatly increased; they will – as a group – know what has to be done and find eventually that it is done.

The major task of the Master in the early stages of training his disciple is to bring to an end the period of the disciple’s intense pre-occupation with himself, with his service, with his reaction to the Master or the promise of future contact with the Master, with his own ideas anent discipleship and his personal interpretations of truth. The Master takes a group of people with fixed ideas (which they are entirely sure are correct, being the best and highest they have been able to grasp to date) and with the conviction that they have reached a point where they have registered certain spiritual values and concepts, where they have evolved their own formulations of truth and where they are eagerly demanding the next step. The first thing, therefore, which he has to do is (using a strong and perhaps a strange phrase) to blast them wide open, give them a deep sense of insecurity as to the formulas and symbols of the lower concrete mind and so prepare them for the reception of newer and higher approaches to truth. This is frequently brought about by forcing them to question all the conclusions of the past.

We have all – disciples and initiates of all degrees – to enter the secret place of initiation with a sense of blindness (or loss of direction) and with a feeling of complete destitution. The disciple needs to bear in mind that he has to become “a moving point and hence a line”; he ascends towards the Hierarchy and assumes the correct spiritual attitude but, at the same time, he descends into what he erroneously regards as the depth of human difficulty and iniquity (if necessary), preserving always his spiritual integrity but learning three important lessons:

  1. The recognition that he shares all human tendencies, good and bad, and hence is able to serve.
  2. The discovery that the thing which he most despises and fears is the thing which exists most strongly in him, but which is as yet unrecognized. He discovers also that he has to explore and know these despised and feared areas of consciousness so that they become eventually an asset, instead of something to be avoided. He learns to fear nothing; he is all things; he is a human being but he is also a mystic, an occultist, a psychic and a disciple. And – because of all these acquired states of consciousness – he becomes eventually a Master. He has “mastered” all stages and states of awareness.
  3. The uselessness of past attitudes and dogmatic ways of looking at life and people (based usually on tradition and circumstance) when they separate him from his fellow-men.

When he has really learnt these three things, he is initiate.

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