Initiations of the Threshold
We now come to the first two initiations of the sevenfold sequence of spiritual evolution within our planetary scheme. These are essentially the same as those of the Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft in Freemasonry. However, before progressing with them, let us remember the sequence of seven states of consciousness (within the all-embracing eighth state that comprises the first and lowest kosmic plane of being), as defined in modern theosophical terminology.
7. Divine consciousness
6. Semi-divine consciousness
5. Full spiritual consciousness
4. Spiritual soul consciousness
3. Mental consciousness
2. Astral (desire) consciousness
1. Physical sensory consciousness
Of these seven the sensory physical state is regarded as having already been brought under conscious control, as far as the Path is concerned, during the first two preliminary stages of Probation and Accepted Discipleship. Therefore the remaining six include a duality between the Higher Mind and the Lower Mind, these being respectively dealt with at the second and third initiations. In each case, as already suggested, the individual has to bring about (under increasingly testing conditions) a practical and not just theoretical display of control over the natural elemental forces that constitute the instinctive nature of each plane of being.
In a peculiar way, however, the individual generates the very conditions that he or she has to overcome--hence the difficulties. The reason for this is that Nature always instinctively strives to achieve balance. Hence, when we strive after something higher, Nature will find its opposite and bring it to bear in order to counteract the threatened imbalance. The subtler the higher aspiration, the subtler is the downward dragging elemental response. The only way that a human individual can counteract this situation is by allowing his or her consciousness to be brought to a face-to-face crisis of these opposites in which both of them are transcended. It is for this reason that the path of initiation is often referred to as the Path of Progressive Renunciation--the Way of Tears and Sadness. Yet this is unavoidable because the whole process of psychospiritual evolution necessarily involves much internal (often violent) conflict, with progressive destruction, purification, and rebuilding or reorganization, in order to better align the lower nature with the higher. All of this takes a long time to achieve properly, resulting in the correct disciplining of elemental matter of the various sub-planes, then of successive readjustment, realignment, and repolarization of each “body” as a whole. Any attempt to rush the process unduly, outside natural Law, can only result in problems that will have to be undone before further real progress is possible. That is why we are told that haste is not an accepted mode of activity within the spiritual world.
THE SEVEN RAY INFLUENCES
The essential difference between the higher and lower initiations is that the crisis in the first (lower) three is unconsciously self-engineered by the individual’s own way of life. In the higher four, the intelligence--having realized the true nature and practical value of the principle of crisis--brings it about consciously through a self-willed focus. As we are very helpfully told:
A crisis is brought about by a certain habit of mind. . . . It is the establishing of a certain objective rhythm which produces a crisis; it is the emergence of a particular subjective rhythm which enables a man to surmount the crisis and to capitalize on the opportunity.
When this is consciously recognized and adapted to prevailing circumstances much later on the Path--by the initiate facing the fourth degree (the initiation influenced by the Fourth Ray)--the sense of crisis is then felt in a manner directly affecting the life of the objective personality by those in close contact, but not in quite the same manner by the individual. His or her trial is of a much subtler and wholly subjective nature. It is perhaps worthwhile reminding ourselves, before we proceed further, of the teaching concerning the Seven Rays, as enunciated by the Adept Hierarchy. These higher influences condition the individual’s forward progress until he or she becomes a sixth degree initiate, or Chohan. These Rays are correspondingly described as follows:
1. The Ray of Will or Power
2. The Ray of Love-Wisdom
3. The Ray of Active or Adaptive Intelligence
4. The Ray of Harmony-through-Conflict
5. The Ray of Concrete Science
6. The Ray of Devotion
7. The Ray of Ceremonial Organization or Ritual Magic
These same Ray influences are described as the projections of seven archetypal kosmic influences emanated downward into the field of our planetary life by our particular Logos. However, in trying to understand them (and it is essential to do so), it is important to remember the earlier description of how the lower three are the materialized reflection of the higher three, and the fourth acts as a bridge between these two highly potent triads. One further and again most important issue related to the Rays is that each--by virtue of the manner adapted by human usage--has a higher and a lower (or a positive and a negative) aspect to it. The individual must learn to recognize both and gradually become free of the tendency toward the latter through psychological honesty and applied self-control.
THE DIFFICULTIES OF SELF-CONTROL
The individual initiate has ultimately to achieve his or her progressive subjective conquests while in the physical body, because the final initiation must involve all seven influences being spiritually synthesized back into a coherent unity. We, it must be remembered, are actually not physical beings at all. We are spiritual intelligences actually existing within the fourth of the seven solar-cum-terrestrial states, from which a portion of our nature (a lesser “spark,” or jiva) is emanated into the triple lower planetary world, taking anchorage within our human heart. It is that same “spark” that must bring about the control of the lesser elemental nature; but it can only do so once it re-achieves a degree of contact with its emanating Source.