The Masters and the Path

C. W. Leadbeater



Part II (continued)

Chapter 6

Other Presentations



The Masters and the Brotherhood

All this while, the Adept, besides using his pupil as an apprentice, has been preparing him for presentation to the Great White Brotherhood for Initiation. The whole object of the existence of that Brotherhood is to promote the work of evolution, and the Master knows that when the pupil is ready for the stupendous honour of being received as a member of it, he will be of very much more use in the world than before. Therefore it is his wish to raise his pupil to that level as soon as possible. In the Oriental books on the subject, written thousands of years ago, are to be found many accounts of this preparatory period of instruction; and when reference has been made to it in the earlier Theosophical literature it has been called the Probationary Path—the term referring not to being put upon probation by any individual Adept, but to a course of general training preparatory to Initiation. I myself used the term in Invisible Helpers, but have lately avoided it on account of the confusion caused by the employment of the same word in two distinct senses.

The method really adopted is readily comprehensible, and is in fact much like that of some of our older Universities. If a student wishes to take a degree at one of those, he must first pass the entrance examination of the University and then be admitted to one of the Colleges. The Head of that College is technically responsible for his progress, and may be regarded as his tutor-in-chief. The man will have to work to a large extent by himself, but the Head of his College is expected to see that he is properly prepared before he is presented to take his Degree. The Head does not give the Degree; it is conferred by that abstraction called the University—usually at the hands of its Vice-Chancellor. It is the University, not the Head of the College, that arranges the examination and confers the various Degrees; the work of the Head of the College is to see that the candidate is duly prepared, and generally to be to some extent responsible for him. In the process of such preparation he may, as a private gentleman, enter into whatever social or other relations with his pupil he may think proper; but all that is not the business of the University.

Just in the same way the Great White Brotherhood has nothing to do with the relations between a Master and his pupil; that is a matter solely for the private consideration of the Master himself. The Initiation is given by an appointed Member of the Brotherhood in the name of the One Initiator; that is the only way in which an Initiation can he obtained. Whenever an Adept considers that one of his pupils is fit for the first Initiation, he gives notice of that fact and presents him for it; the Brotherhood asks only whether the man is ready for Initiation, and not what is the relationship between him and any Adept. It is not their affair whether he is at the stage of probation, acceptance or sonship. At the same time it is true that a candidate for Initiation must be proposed and seconded by two of the higher members of the Brotherhood—that is to say, by two who have reached the level of Adeptship; and it is certain that no Master would propose a man for the tests of Initiation unless he had with regard to him the certainty of his fitness which could only come from very close identification with his consciousness.

The Probationary Path is thus a stage leading up to the Path Proper, which begins at the first Initiation. In the Oriental books both these Paths are described quite impersonally, as though no private Masters existed. The questions are first raised: “How is a man living in the ordinary world brought to this Probationary Path, and how does he come to know that such a thing exists?”

Four Ways to the Path

In the books we are told that there are four ways, any one of which may bring a man to the commencement of the Path of development. First, by being in the presence of, and getting to know, those who are already interested along that line. Some of us, for example, may have been monks or nuns in the Middle Ages. We may have come into contact in that life with an abbot or abbess who had deep experience of the inner world—a person like St. Theresa. We may, looking up to that leader, have earnestly wished that such experience should come to us; and our wish for that may have been quite unselfish. It may be that we did not think of the importance that would come to us or of the satisfaction of achievement, but simply of the joy of helping others, as we saw the abbot able to help others through his deeper discernment. Such a feeling in that life would certainly bring us in the next incarnation into touch with teaching on the subject.

It happens that, in lands which have the European culture, almost the only way in which we can get the inner teaching put clearly before us is by coming into The Theosophical Society, or by reading Theosophical works. There have been mystical or spiritualistic works which have given some information, which have gone a long way, but there are none, so far as I know, which state the case so clearly, so scientifically, as the Theosophical literature has done. I know of no other book which contains such a wealth of information as The Secret Doctrine.

There are, of course, the sacred books of the Hindus and of other nations, and there is a great deal on this subject in those, but it is not put in a way which makes it easy for us, with our training, to assimilate it or to appreciate it. When, having read Theosophical books, we take up some of those beautiful translations of Oriental works, we can see our Theosophy in them. In the Christian Bible (though that is in many places not well translated from our point of view) we shall find a great deal of Theosophy; but before we can find it we must know the system. When we have studied Theosophy we see at once how many texts supports it, and cannot rationally be explained without it; we see how Church ceremonies, before apparently meaningless, leap into life under the illumination of the teaching, and become vivid and full of interest. Yet I never heard of anyone who was able to deduce the Theosophical system from either the texts or the ceremonies.

So one way of approaching the Path is by being with those who are already treading it. Another way is by reading or hearing about it. All this teaching came to me in 1882 through Mr. Sinnett’s book The Occult World; and immediately after that I read his second book Esoteric Buddhism. I knew at once instinctively that what was written was true, and I accepted it; and to hear and to read about it at once fired me with the desire and the determined intention to know more, to learn all I could on the subject, to pursue it all over the world if necessary until I found it. Shortly after that I gave up my position in the Church of England and went out to India because it seemed that more could be done there.

Those are two ways in which people are led to the Path—by reading and hearing of it, and by being in close association with those who are already treading it. The third way which is mentioned in Oriental books is by intellectual development; by sheer force of hard thinking a man may come to grasp some of these principles, though I think that method is rare. Again, they tell us of a fourth way—that by the long practice of virtue men may come to the beginning of the Path—that a man may so develop the soul by steadily practising the right so far as he knows it that eventually more and more of the light will open before him.

The Buddhist Classification

Forty years ago, when the Qualifications for the Path were first put before me from the Esoteric Buddhist point of view, they were given as follows: the first of them, Discrimination, called by the Hindus Viveka, was described as Manodvaravajjana, which means the opening of the doors of the mind, or perhaps escaping by the door of the mind. That is a very interesting way of putting it, since Discrimination arises from the fact that our minds have been opened in such a way that we can understand what is real and what unreal, what is desirable and what undesirable, and can distinguish between the pairs of opposites.

The second qualification, Desirelessness, known as Vairagya among the Hindus, was taught to me as Parikamma, meaning preparation for action, the idea being that we must prepare ourselves for action in the occult world by learning to do right purely for right’s sake. This involves the attainment of a condition of higher indifference in which one certainly no longer cares for the results of action; and so it comes to mean the same thing as Desirelessness, though it is put from a different point of view.

The Six Points of Good Conduct, called Shatsampatti in the Hindu scheme, were given as Upacharo, which means attention to conduct. For the convenience of the student who would like to compare the Six Points with those given in At the Feet of The Master, I will reprint here what I said about them in Invisible Helpers.

These are called in Pali:

(a)    Samo (quietude)—that purity and calmness of thought which comes from perfect control of the mind—a qualification exceedingly difficult of attainment, and yet most necessary, for unless the mind moves only in obedience to the guidance of the will, it cannot be a perfect instrument for the Master’s work in the future. This qualification is a very comprehensive one, and includes within itself both the self-control and the calmness necessary for astral work.

(b)   Damo (subjugation)—a similar mastery over, and therefore purity in, one’s actions and words—a quality which again follows necessarily from its predecessor.

(c)    Uparati (cessation)—explained as a cessation from bigotry or from belief in the necessity of any act or ceremony prescribed by a particular religion—so leading the aspirant to independence of thought and to a wide and generous tolerance.

(d)   Titikkha (endurance or forbearance)—by which is meant the readiness to bear with cheerfulness whatever one’s karma may bring upon one, and to part with anything and everything worldly whenever it may be necessary. It also includes the idea of complete absence of resentment for wrong, the man knowing those who do him wrong are but instruments of his own karma.

(e)    Samadhana (intentness)—one-pointedness, involving the incapability of being turned aside from one’s path by temptation.

(f)    Saddha (faith)—confidence in one’s Master and oneself: confidence, that is, that the Master is a competent teacher, and that, however diffident the pupil may feel as to his own powers, he has yet within him that divine spark which, when fanned into a flame, will one day enable him to achieve even as his Master has done.

The fourth qualification in the Hindu classification is called Mumukshutva, usually translated as an ardent longing for liberation from the wheel of births and deaths, while among the Buddhists the name given to it is Anuloma, which means direct order or succession, signifying that its attainment follows as a natural consequence from the other three.

Hindu Yoga

The series of qualifications described above is at once seen to be quite in accord with those given in At the Feet of the Master, which in turn have exactly the same framework as those mentioned in the books ascribed in India to Shankaracharya and his followers, for the use of candidates aiming at yoga. The term yoga, which has long been used in India, means union, and as that is generally considered to imply union with the Divine, it is in fact unity. But the expression refers in all the different schools of yoga in India not only to the distant goal of union, but also to the methods of training prescribed as leading to that goal; therefore some say that the meaning of yoga is meditation, which plays a large part in most of the systems.

It must not to be assumed, however, that meditation is the only or even the principal means to yoga, for there have been and still are many different schools, each having its own special methods. Professor Ernest Wood has described the seven principal schools of yoga in Raja Yoga: The Occult Training of the Hindus, and has shown how they belong each to one of the seven Rays, so that they must be regarded as complementary, and not as rival methods of practice. Each great Teacher expounded a method suited to one type of ego—a fact so well known among the Hindus that they are always liberal and tolerant in their thought, and consider it perfectly right for each man to follow the method which suits his temperament.

This book explains that in each school there are certain characteristics similar to those which prevail in the teaching of our Masters; there is always a preliminary training—accompanied by the requirement of high moral attainments—before the candidate can enter the Path Proper, and on reaching that Path he is always advised to seek a master or guru. In the school of Patanjali, for example, which is the first to be treated, as it is the oldest of which we have any written record, there are ten commandments, the first five of which are negative (prohibiting injury to others, untruth, theft, incontinence and greed) and the second five positive (enjoining cleanliness, contentment, effort, study and devotion).

In the preliminary course of training there are three requirements—tapas or effort, svadhyaya or study of one’s own nature with the aid of the Scriptures, and Ishvara-pranidhana or devotion to God at all times; these the author compares respectively with our three qualifications of shatsampatti or good conduct, which involves the use of the will in a number of efforts, viveka or discrimination, which implies understand­ing of the true and the false, inside and outside oneself, and vairagya or desirelessness, since personal emotions can best be transcended by devotion. After developing these preliminary requirements the candidate on the path uses his will to master and employ every part of his nature in a series of steps, physical, etheric, astral, mental and beyond; and because of this the school is described as of the first Ray, on which the use of the will predominates.

The second school of yoga is that of Shri Krishna, particularly expounded in the great poem the Bhagavad-Gita, which has been translated with such accuracy and beauty by Dr. Besant, and also in a freer rendering by Sir Edwin Arnold under the title of The Song Celestial. This teaches above all else the doctrine of love. The disciple Arjuna, to whom the Guru spoke, was a great lover of mankind; according to the scripture this great soldier sank down upon the floor of his chariot before the battle of Kurukshetra began, full of sorrow because he loved his enemies and could not bear to injure them. The teacher Shri Krishna then explained to him, amid much philosophical teaching, that the greatest thing in life is service, that God himself is the greatest server—for he keeps the wheel of life revolving, not because any benefit can possibly accrue to him in consequence, but for the sake of the world—and that men should follow his example and work for the welfare of mankind. Many Great Ones, he said, had reached perfection by following this path of life, by doing their duty without personal desire. To love without ceasing is the way of the second Ray; in the Gita it is shown how this love should be directed to men and other beings in karma yoga (the yoga by action or work) and to God in bhakti yoga (the yoga by devotion).

Once more three preliminary teachings are given. To reach the love-wisdom a candidate must practise devotion or reverence, inquiry or investigation, and service—the first involving right emotion, the second right thought and understanding, and the third right use of the will in practical life—which again are compared to our first three qualifications. It is particularly interesting to notice that the Teacher says that when the candidate has prepared himself in this triple way, “The Wise Ones, who know the essence of things, will teach you the Wisdom”—in other words, the aspirant will find the Masters.

The third school, that of Shankaracharya, as already mentioned, presents the qualifications in the order in which we have them, placing viveka or discrimination first. It is intended for those people whose temperament leads them to want to understand what they are about—not only what service they ought to perform, but in what way their contribution fits into the scheme of things and the development of mankind. It must be noted that the Master Kuthumi, in presenting these qualifications, has interpreted them all newly in the light of love.

The fourth school is that of hatha yoga. Rightly understood, this involves a severe physical purification and training, intended to bring the body into a perfect state of health, orderly functioning and refinement, so as to enable the ego using it to attain as much as is possible for him in the present incarnation. To this end there are many practices, including breathing exercises, intended to act upon the nervous system and the etheric double as well as upon those parts of the dense body usually trained in courses of physical culture. Unfortunately very much of what appears in the popular literature on this subject reflects only a superstitious distortion of the real teaching, and describes various repellent forms of subjugation and mortification of the body which were common also in Europe a few centuries ago; but in all the Sanskrit books dealing with hatha yoga it is clearly stated that the object of the physical practices is to bring the body into the highest state of health and efficiency.

The fifth school, denominated laya yoga, aims at awakening the higher faculties of man through a knowledge of kundalini, the “serpent power” which in most people lies latent at the base of the spine, and of the seven chakras or force-centres through which the awakened power is guided. Of these centres and this force I have already written to some extent in The Inner Life and The Hidden Side of Things. I have now gathered this material together, made some additions to it, and published a monograph on the subject with large coloured illustrations of the seven chakras and of the courses of the various pranas or streams of vitality.[1] The methods of this and the previous school are not, however, recommended to Western students, or indeed to anyone who is not specially directed by a competent teacher to practise them. They are suitable only for those who have the Oriental physical heredity, and can live as simply and peacefully as do some Orientals; for others they are not only unlikely to be successful, but are distinctly dangerous to health, and even to life. I have known many sad cases of disease and madness to result from attempts on these lines, especially in America.

The sixth school is that of bhakti or devotion. This is also taught to a large extent in the Bhagavad-Gita; indeed, we find it in every religion among those true devotees who put their trust entirely in the Divine—who do not pray for personal favours, but are quite convinced that God is perfect master of his world, that he knows what he is doing, and that therefore all is well; they are therefore more than content, they are thrilled with ecstasy, if they can but have the opportunity and the privilege to serve and obey him in any way.


Lastly we have the seventh school, which in India is called mantra yoga. It may be well to expound its principle here at somewhat greater length than the others, for the Ray of which it is one of the principal expressions is just now becoming dominant in the world, and is playing a large and increasing part among us in both East and West. Two great examples of its method are to be seen in the work of the Liberal Catholic Church and Co-Masonry, in which our Masters are keenly interested; indeed, they are employing them with great benefit to mankind, and for the rapid advancement on the Path of those who take active part in these movements.

The word mantra is Sanskrit, and is practically equivalent to our word charm or spell. The majority of mantras used in India for good purposes are verses from the Vedas, pronounced with intention according to the traditional methods, which are the outcome of practical occult knowledge. There are also many mantras employed by men who follow the Tantras, and those are just as often used for evil as for good; so we find afloat in India a great number of them, both desirable and undesirable. If we are to classify them from our Western point of view, I should say that there are five main types of these mantras:

1.   Those that work simply by faith.

2.   Those that work by association.

3.   Those that work by agreement or covenant.

4.   Those that work by their meaning.

5.   Those that work by their sound, without reference to meaning.

The Effect of Faith

The first class produce their effort simply because of the strong conviction of the operator that the result must follow, and because of the faith of the person upon whom they are operating. If both men are quite sure that something will happen—say the cure of a wound or a disease—then that thing does happen; and in some cases the faith of only one of the parties seems to be sufficient. In England, and indeed among the peasants in all countries, quite a number of such charms are being used in country places. People have little forms of words, generally semi-religious in character, which have been handed down to them by their forefathers, and these are supposed to produce definite results. They often seem the merest nonsense; the wording is frequently not even coherent. They are probably corruptions of certain forms of words, either in English or in some cases Latin or French. They do not work by sound, for they have none of the sonority indispensable to the true mantra; but when recited over patients under certain conditions they are at times unquestionably effective. In such cases it must be faith in the ancient formula which produces the result.

Many similar charms found in Oriental countries appear to act through faith. I can give one example from my personal knowledge which I suspect to be of that nature. Once when I was in the interior of Ceylon I was bitten rather badly in the hand by a dog. The wound was bleeding considerably. A casual passer-by, an agricultural labourer by the look of him, rushed up, snatched a leaf off the nearest shrub, pressed it on the wound and muttered some words which I could not understand; and the wound immediately stopped bleeding. This charm, therefore, undoubtedly worked, and certainly not through any faith of mine, for I had no idea of what the man was going to do. As is always the case in the East, the man would not take any money for the exercise of his powers. So far as I was able to hear the words, I should say that they were incoherent, or if coherent were at any rate neither Sinhalese, which would have been the man’s own language, nor Sanskrit. I have been told that there are similar charms against snakebite in Ceylon, and they also appear to work—again by faith, I imagine; everyone concerned is sure that something is going to happen, and so it does happen.

There is a variant of this type in which success is achieved by the strength of will of the operator. As he speaks his word or makes his sign he is utterly determined that a given result shall follow, and accordingly it does follow. I have seen Prince Harisinghji Rupsinghji, of Kathiawar, cure instantaneously a man suffering from the sting of a scorpion. The man was already pallid and half-fainting from fright, writhing and groaning in acute pain, and scarcely able to drag himself along with the assistance of two friends; the Prince made over the wound the sign of the five-pointed star, spoke sharply one Sanskrit word, and in a moment the victim, who had sunk to the ground, staggered to his feet, declaring himself well and entirely free from pain, and then proceeded to prostrate himself before the Prince in gratitude.

Association of Thought

There are mantras which work by association. Certain forms of words bring with them definite ideas, and quite change the current of our thoughts and feelings. An example of this is the National Anthem. The tune is simple and strong, but hardly of high rank as a melody; the words, regarded merely as poetry, have in themselves no especial merit. If it were to us but one song among many other songs, it would probably attract but little attention. But our association with it is that of loyalty to the King, and through him to the Spiritual King whose Representative he is; and so powerful is this association that as soon as we hear that strain we straighten ourselves up instinctively and pour out our loyalty and goodwill towards the Ruler of the land. And this evokes a definite response, for, according to the law, force so outpoured unselfishly must call down a corresponding descent of power from on high. This response comes through certain types of Angels connected with the work of the first Ray, and the attention of these is attracted whenever the National Anthem is sung, and they pour out their blessing upon and through the people whose loyalty has been thereby stimulated.

Another example, though far less powerful, of a similar type of mantra is “The Voice that breathed o’er Eden”; we cannot hear that hymn without thinking strongly of a wedding, and all the festive feeling of goodwill usually connected with such a function. Various Christmas hymns and carols also invoke in our minds a very definite stream of thought. The war-cries which played so prominent a part in the battles of mediaeval times were mantras of this type. There are a number of such forms which instantly call up corresponding ideas, and they produce results because of their associations, and not because of anything inherent in themselves.

Angelic Cooperation

There are certain mantras which work by agreement or by covenant. Most religions appear to have some examples of this type. The great Muhammadan call from the minaret partakes of this character, although it has also something about it of the type which we have last considered. It is a declaration of faith: “There is no God but God” (or, as some have translated it, “There is nothing but God,” which is an eternal truth) “and Muhammad is the Prophet of God.” It is interesting to see the effect produced upon the people by these words. It is far more than the mere thought of their meaning, for it calls up in those who hear it a fiery faith, a fanatical outburst of devotion, which is quite beautiful in its way, and very characteristic of Muhammadanism. This might be a mere instance of association, but for the fact that Angels of a certain type are evoked by the call, and it is their action which causes much of the enthusiasm which is exhibited.

It is perhaps in the Christian religion that we find the best examples of this third type of mantra, as those who know anything of the Services of the Church will realize. The greatest of them all is Hoc est Corpus Meum, “This is My Body”; for the Christ himself has made a covenant with his Church that whenever that call is uttered, whenever those words are pronounced in any language by one of his duly ordained Priests, he will respond thereto. But this power is given under conditions, given only to those who are prepared by another mantra of the same type to receive it—a mantra also prescribed by Christ himself—the words “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”

The power which with these words he gave to his disciples just before he left them has been handed down with the same words in an unbroken chain for nigh two thousand years, and constitutes what is called the Apostolic Succession. Whenever a Priest who has been duly ordained in that Succession pronounces with intention those other words “This is My Body,” a certain wonderful change is thereby brought about in the bread over which he speaks them, so that though its outward appearance remains the same its higher principles or counterparts are superseded by the very life of the Christ himself, so that it becomes just as truly his vehicle as was the body which he wore in Palestine.

There is no doubt of the working of this mantra “This is My Body,” for its action can he seen to-day by those who have eyes to see. Lord Tennyson tells us in The Idylls of the King that Galahad, describing the celebration of the Eucharist, said:

I saw the fiery face as of a child

That smote itself into the bread.

And just so any clairvoyant who watches the offering of that same Holy Sacrifice to-day may see the counterpart of the bread flash out into a line of living light when the same sacred mantra is spoken. All the branches of the Christian Church—the Roman Catholic, the Greek orthodox, the Anglican and the Liberal Catholic Churches—that celebrate the Holy Eucharist at all in the form which was laid down by the Christ, use those Words of Institution as part of their Liturgy, and in all of them that wonderful result is produced. All these branches of the Church, too, invoke the Angelic Hosts to assist in the Service, and that is done not only by a particular form of words, but also (when the Service is sung) by a particular form of music, by an arrangement of sounds which has persisted with but slight variation from an early period in the history of the Church. The Angels of a special type take those words as a call, and at once attend to play their part in the Service which is to be held.

The Effect of Repetition

We come now to a class of mantras which act by virtue of the meaning of the words repeated. A man recites a certain form of words with firm confidence over and over again, so that their meaning beats very strongly upon his brain and upon his mental body; and if he is trying, for instance, to do a certain piece of occult work, such a repetition will greatly strengthen his will. Such mantras can be used in many different ways. As far as the man is concerned, they produce one of two effects; either they strengthen his will to do that which he is trying to do, or they impress upon him the absolute conviction that it will be done. Mantras of this type appear in the daily meditations prescribed for the Hindus, and in most occult schools; the repetition of certain sentences at fixed points during the day tends to impress the ideas contained in the sentences strongly upon the mind. “More radiant than the Sun, purer than the Snow, subtler than the Ether, is the Self, the Spirit within my heart. I am that Self; that Self am I,” is a good example of this type of mantra, and it is of course just as effective when thought as when spoken aloud.


Under this heading should come the various types of blessings such as are given in the Church, in Freemasonry, and by the pupils of our Masters. Blessings may be arranged in two sections—those which a man gives from himself, and those which are given through him as an official by a higher power. The first kind of blessing is merely an expression of an earnest good wish. A typical instance of this is the blessing sometimes given by a father to his son, either on the death-bed of the former, or when the latter is about to start on some long and possibly dangerous journey. The blessing of the dying Isaac to his Sons Esau and Jacob is a good illustration, though in that particular case complications were introduced by the scandalous duplicity of Jacob. Readers of the Scripture account of this incident will remember that Isaac was fully persuaded of the effectiveness of his blessing, and when he discovered the deceit which had been practised upon him, he was unable to reverse the wish which he had expressed.

The question then arises, does a blessing of this nature bring any result, and if so how is that result produced? The only reply that can be given is that this will depend upon the earnestness of the good wish and the amount of spiritual force put into it. The blessing makes a thought-form which attaches itself to the person who is blessed; the size, strength and persistence of that thought-form depend upon the will-power of the person giving the benediction. If the words were uttered as a matter of form, without much feeling or intention behind them, the effect would be slight and transient; on the other hand, if they came from a full heart and were uttered with definite determination, their effect would be deep and lasting.

The second type of blessing is that which is uttered by an official appointed for the purpose, through whom power flows from some higher source. A good example of this is the benediction with which most Church services conclude. This may not be given by anyone whose ecclesiastical rank is lower than that of Priest; and to this extent the blessing may be said to partake of the character of mantras of the third class, since the power of giving a definite blessing is one of those conferred upon the Priest at his ordination. In this case he is simply a channel for the power from on high, and if it should unfortunately happen that he speaks it merely as a matter of course and as part of his ritual, that would make no difference to the spiritual power outpoured.

The blessing flows equally over all, but the amount of the influences which any individual can obtain from it depends upon his receptivity. If he is full of love and devotion, he may be very greatly helped and uplifted; if he is carelessly thinking of some other matter, he will gain only the benefit of the impact of a higher vibration. It will be noted that when a Bishop is present at a service he always pronounces the benediction. The reason for that is that at his Consecration his higher principles are opened up much beyond those of the Priest; therefore power at those higher levels can be poured through him. The same general principle holds in Freemasonry also, for it is only either an Installed Master or an ordained Chaplain who pronounces the words of blessing in the course of the closing of the Lodge.

We have already seen that one who has been accepted as a pupil of a Master has thereby become a channel for his influence; and while that influence is always flowing through the pupil, he can certainly direct its force for the moment upon any person, as he wishes. In the same way, one who is an Initiate can give the blessing of the Brotherhood, which is in truth that of the King who is its Head.

The Power of Sound

We may now consider the type of mantra which works only by its sound. The vibration which the sound sets in motion impinges upon the various bodies of man, and tends to bring them into harmony with it. A sound in the first place is an undulation in the air, and every musical sound has a number of overtones which it sets in motion as well. Four or five or more overtones are detected and recognized in music, but the oscillations extend a great deal further than the ear can follow. Corresponding waves are set up in higher and finer matter altogether, and therefore the chanting of a note or a series of notes produces effects upon the higher vehicles. There are sounds (I suppose we must still call them sounds) overtones which are too fine to affect the air; nevertheless they set etheric matter in motion, and that etheric matter communicates its oscillations to the man who recites the mantra and also to other people around him, and if he is directing his will towards any particular person, to that person the vibration will assuredly go. Thus the mantras which work by sound may produce decidedly material results on the physical plane, though there are other and finer waves sent forth at the same time which may affect the higher vehicles.

Such a mantra usually consists of several ordered sounds, very resonant and sonorous in character. Sometimes a single syllable only is used, as in the Sacred Word Om; but there are several ways of saying that, and they produce quite different results according to the notes upon which its syllables are chanted, and the way in which they are pronounced. For some purposes we emphasize and prolong the open sound; we combine the A U into O, strengthen that and carry it on for perhaps half the time of recitation, and then change to the M sound. But for other purposes the O should be quite short, and the humming inside the head and in the centres, which is a very powerful sound, should be prolonged. The results of these two methods differ greatly. When the O is prolonged we are affecting one another and the surrounding world, but with the long M almost the entire effect produced acts upon ourselves. Sometimes the three letters A U M are sounded separately. Again, it may be taken on many different notes in succession, in a sort of arpeggio. I have heard that according to the Indian books there are supposed to be about one hundred and seventy ways of pronouncing the Word, each with its different effect, and it is thought to be the most powerful of all mantras.

This Hindu sacred word corresponds to the Egyptian amen. From that word also was made the aion of the Greeks and the aivum in Latin. The word aeon is one derivative of it. It has been said that Om is the word which represents the name of the Logos, the Ineffable Name, in our fifth root race, and that the word used in a similar way in the fourth root race was Tau. Swami T. Subba Row once told us that these substituted words, which are given in each root race, are all syllables of a great word which will be complete in the seventh root race.

The special effect of this word when properly sounded at the beginning of meditation or in a meeting is always like a call to attention. It arranges the particles of the subtle bodies in much the same way as an electric current acts upon the atoms in a bar of iron. Before the passing of such a current, the ultimate atoms in the metal lie pointing in various directions, but when the bar is magnetized by the electric current, they all turn over and lean in one direction. Just so, at the sound of the sacred word every particle in us responds, and we are then in the best condition to benefit by the meditation or study which is to follow. At the same time it acts as a call to other beings—human and non-human—who at once gather round, some with understanding of the meaning and power of the word, and others brought by the strangely attractive sound.

This matter of sound is one that penetrates very deeply. “By the Word of the Lord were the Heavens made” in the first place. The Logos or Word is the first Emanation from the Infinite, and that quite certainly is far more than a mere figure of speech. It represents a fact, although that Emanation takes place at a level where there could not be anything such as we mean by sound, for there would be no air to convey it. Yet that which corresponds to and acts like sound is the power which is employed to create the Universe.

I do not know that we can hope to have any understanding on this plane, in this world down here, of what is meant by that Creative Word. “He spake, and it was done.” God said: “Let there be Light, and there was Light.” This was the first Expression of the Deity; the Eternal Thought concealed in darkness comes forth as the Creative Word. Perhaps because of this great Truth, words sung or spoken down here invoke higher power—power out of all proportion to the level to which they themselves belong. I am sure that there is another side of this whole question of sound which our minds cannot reach at present; we can only faintly adumbrate it. But at least we can see that the power of sound is a very great and wonderful thing.

All mantras that depend upon the power of sound are valuable only in the language in which they have been arranged. If we translate such an one into another language, we shall have another and quite different group of sounds. Broadly speaking, the good mantra which is intended to harmonize the body and to produce beneficent results consists largely of long open vowels. We find this in our own Sacred Word, and the same is true of the Amen of the Egyptians, which has been handed down into the Christian Church. It is, by the way, best sounded on two notes. The Church has its traditional way of taking it on two notes a semitone apart—usually F sharp and G.

Mantras which are used for evil purposes contain nearly always short vowels and consonants of a tearing and disruptive character, such as hrim, kshrang or phut. These uncouth exclamations are delivered with a furious energy and spitefulness which certainly makes them terribly powerful for evil. Sometimes all the vowels in turn are inserted into these cacophonous combinations of consonants, and their utterances conclude with some peculiarly explosive curses which it seems impossible to express in any ordinary system of letters. In Oriental countries, where they know something about these things, I fear that the mantra is often used for evil purposes. That is so also among the negroes. l have come across a good deal of that in connection with Voodoo and Obeah ceremonies, of which I saw something both in the West Indies and South America, and I know that there is much hatred put into such spells and incantations.

Our connection with mantras will be only with those of a beneficent and kindly nature, and not with the maleficent. But good and ill alike have the same method of working; they are all intended to produce vibrations in the subtle bodies, either of the reciter or of those at whom he aims the mantra. Sometimes they are intended to impose entirely new rates of oscillation. It strikes Western minds oddly that people should be recommended to recite a mantra three thousand times. Our first feeling is: How can we find time? We say that time is money; the Oriental says that time is naught; it is a difference in the point of view. The Oriental methods and ideas are often unsuited to our Western lives; but none the less they have their value for those for whom they are intended. Some have felt that the study and meditation prescribed for the members of our Esoteric School are a heavy burden for those who are unaccustomed to such exercises; but no Oriental would ever think so.

The Brahmana practically spends his life in religious recitations, for every act that he performs all through the day is always accompanied by some text or pious thought. It is a life lived absolutely in religion, or rather it is supposed to be such. In many cases to-day it is an outer form only, a sort of shell; but men still recite the words, even though they may not put the old life and energy into them. They have plenty of time; they can well afford to repeat a phrase a hundred and eight times a day; and the object of their doing so is perfectly clear.

The Christ is said to have warned his disciples not to use vain repetitions when they prayed, as did the heathen; and from that text the deduction has been made that all repetitions are useless. They assuredly would be so in an invocation addressed to the Deity, for they would imply that he had not heard the first request! They would be (or should be) unnecessary for disciples—for men who have already made some progress along the path of development; to formulate an intention clearly and to express it once strongly should surely be sufficient for them. But the ordinary man of the world has by no means reached that stage; it often needs a long course of steady hammering to impress a new vibration upon him, and so for him repetition are far from useless, for they are deliberately intended to produce definite results. The constant impinging of these sounds (and of the various undulations which they set up) upon the different vehicles does tend steadily to bring those vehicles into harmony with a particular set of ideas.

This tuning-up of vibrations is analogous to the work done by an Indian Guru upon his pupils, which has already been mentioned in Chapter IV. All the time the waves radiating from his astral body are playing upon their astral bodies, the waves from his mental and causal bodies are playing upon theirs; and the result is that, because his vibrations are by the hypothesis stronger than those of his pupils, he gradually brings them into closer and closer harmony with himself, if they are in any way capable of being so tuned. The constant recitation of a mantra is intended to tune up the particular part of the mental and astral bodies at which it is aimed, and there is no doubt at all that it can and does produced powerful results.

The same methods are prescribed in Christian lands. One may often see a Roman Catholic reciting his “Aves” and “Paternosters” many times over. Generally he just mutters them, and so they are of little use to him, except for the thoughts that they may suggest to him. In India mantras are always chanted, and the chanted mantra does produce an effect. That is one reason why the older languages are better in this respect than modern tongues. Modern languages are generally spoken quickly and abruptly, and only the Italian, Spanish and Greek peasants seem to speak in the old way in long, musical cadences. In the Liberal Catholic Church, however, we especially recommended that its service shall always be in the language of the country, because we find that far more devotion is aroused in the people if they understand clearly what is being said and can join intelligently in the ceremonies. But there can be no question that the Latin is more sonorous. Many mantras of this nature have no special meaning; are little more than a mere collection of vowels. In the Pistis Sophia, the well-known Gnostic treatise, there are a number of such meaningless mantras, marked in a way that must have indicated chanting.

Such rolling sonorous sounds as we find in the Indian mantras impose their rates of vibrations gradually on the various bodies, and so can be used to economize force. Anything whatever that we do by a mantra we could do by our will without the mantra; but the mantra is like a piece of labour-saving machinery. It sets up the required vibrations, doing part of the work for us and making it easier in consequence; we may therefore regard it as a means for economizing force.

Another point with regard to mantras which is stressed in the Indian books is that students are forbidden to use them in the presence of coarse or evil-minded people, because the power of a mantra will often intensity evil as well as good. If there were a person present who could not answer to the vibrations in their higher form, he might well received a lower octave, which would be quite likely to strengthen the evil in him. We should never use a mantra where there are people who are likely to be injured by it.

Madame Blavatsky told us, I remember, that a mantra might be recited not for oneself at all, but with a special view to someone whom it was thought it might help. In this way we might recite the Sacred Word or the Gayatri, or any of those beautiful Buddhist mantras which flow so sweetly, thinking strongly of a special person and projecting towards him the force of the mantra. But she advised us to use these things with care. Again, she gave a caution that no one should attempt to use a mantra which is too high for him. None such will be given to us by our teachers; but I would say this, as a caution to neophytes, that if the reciting even of the Sacred Word in any particular way should produce headache or a feeling of nausea or faintness, it should be stopped at once. We should go on working at the development of our characters, and try it again in a few months. In using the Word, we are invoking great forces, and if we are not yet quite up to their level they may not be harmonious, and the result may be not invariably good.

In addition to the effect of the vibration of the chanted sound, many of these mantras resemble our third type in having powers associated with them. For example, certain Angels are connected with the Gayatri and the Tisarana, though they belong to very different types.

The Gayatri is perhaps the greatest and most beautiful of all the ancient mantras. It has been chanted all over India from time immemorial, and the Deva kingdom has learnt to understand it and respond to it in a very striking manner—a manner which is in itself most significant, as showing that, in an antiquity so remote that the very memory of it has been forgotten, the altruistic use of such mantras was fully comprehended and practiced. It begins always with the sacred word Om, and with the enumeration of the planes upon which its action is desired—the three worlds in which man lives, the physical, the astral and the mental; and as each plane is mentioned, the Devas belonging to that plane flock round the singer with joyous enthusiasm to do the work which by the recitation of the mantra he is about to give them. Students will remember that in India Shiva is sometimes called Nilakantha, the Blue-Throated, and that there is a legend connected with that title. It is interesting to note that some of the Angels who respond when the Gayatri is chanted bear that characteristic of the blue throat, and are clearly first-ray in type.

This wonderful mantra is an invocation to the Sun—of course really to the Solar Logos, who stands behind that grandest of all symbols; and the great shaft of light which immediately pours down upon and into the reciter comes as though from the physical Sun, in whatever direction that Sun may happen to be. This shaft of light is white tinged with gold, and shot with that electric blue which is so often seen in connection with any manifestation of the power of the first Ray; but when it has filled the very soul of the reciter it promptly shoots from him again in seven great rays or cones having the colours of the spectrum. It is as though the singer acts as a prism; yet the colour-rays which dart forth are of a shape the reverse of what we usually find in such cases. Commonly when we send out rays of spiritual force they spring forth from a point in the body—the heart, the brain, or some other centre; and as they shoot out they steadily broaden fanwise, as do those shining from a lighthouse. But these rays start from a basis wider than the man himself—a basis which is the circumference of his aura; and instead of widening out they decrease to a point, just as do the rays of a conventional star except that they are of course cones of light instead of mere triangles.

Another remarkable feature is that these seven rays do not radiate in a circle in all directions, but only in a semi-circle in the direction which the reciter is facing. Furthermore these rays have a curious appearance of solidifying as they grow narrower, until they end in a point of blinding light. And a still more curious phenomenon is that these points act as though they were living; if a man happens to come in the way of one of them, that point curves with incredible rapidity and touches his heart and his brain, causing them to glow momentarily in response. Each ray appears to be able to produce this result on an indefinite number of people in succession; in testing it on a closely-packed crowd we found that the rays apparently divide the crowd between them, each acting on the section that happened to be in front of it, and not interfering with any other section.

As to the question of the language of the mantra, it seems to be of minor importance. The repetition of the words in English, having a clear intention behind them, produced the full effects. The recitation of the same thing in Sanskrit with the same intention brought about an identical result, but in addition built round the radiating shafts a sound-form resembling a wonderfully intricate kind of carved wooden frame-work; it provided us with something which might be imaged as a seven-fold gun through which the rays were shooting out. This sound-form extended only for a short distance, and did not seem to make any difference at all to the power or size of the rays.

A Sanskrit scholar tells me that, while the ordinary word for the sun is Surya, this especial title Savitri is used always to imply the Sun (that is to say the Solar Logos) as inspirer or encourager. It seems to have a signification closely allied to the word Paraclete, which is often, but very unsatisfactorily, translated as the Comforter.[2] My friend also emphasizes the fact that this is not a prayer to the Logos to give us wisdom or devotion, but the expression of an earnest aspiration and resolve that his influence shall so act upon us as to call out and to strengthen that which already exists within us.

When the Buddhist Tisarana is chanted the Angels that come are those especially associated with the Yellow Robe, and they bring with them a wonderful peace and joyousness, for although they are so peaceful they are amongst the most joyous in the world.

When we speak of Angels as “appearing” we must remember all the dimensions of space. They have not to “come” in the sense of starting from somewhere far away—from a far-distant heaven, for example. I do not know whether I shall make the matter hopelessly puzzling if I put it that the great forces representing the Logos manifest in those particular forms in answer to the Invocation. They are always there, always ready, but they turn themselves outward in response to the call.

That is the whole history of that sort of prayer and its answer. We have only to think strongly of an idea, and that which ensouls it or represents it will manifest itself to us. Any strong thought of devotion brings an instant response; the Universe would be dead if it did not. It is in the natural law that the response must come; the appeal and the reply are like the obverse and the reverse of a coin; the answer is only the other side of the request, just as we say of karma that the effect is the other side of the cause. There is a wonderful unity in Nature, but people enfold themselves so thickly in their personalities that they do not know anything about it. It is only a question of opening ourselves up. One can quite easily see that when we are able to yield ourselves to nature, we can practically command nature, because by the attitude we take we can call forth its forces, and everything works with us. This is clearly explained in Light on the Path. We must recognize the forces of nature, and open ourselves up to them; and because these powers are flowing with us, everything that before was difficult becomes so much easier.

There is yet another section of the whole subject of mantras as to which I myself have very little information. There is the power not only of sound but of words as such, as numbers, and even of letters. We do not trouble about these things in modern days, but in the Sanskrit and also in the Hebrew alphabet every letter has its assigned value, not only of number, but also of power and colour. I have known clairvoyants who see ordinary Roman letters as printed in our books as each of a different colour, A being always red, let us say, B always blue, C yellow, D green, and so on. I have never had any such experience myself; I suppose my mind does not work in that way. Similarly there are psychics who always see the days of the week as of different colours. That is not my experience; I am not sensitive in that way either, nor do I understand what is meant. That may perhaps be connected with astrological influences; I do not know. This aspect of things is also connected with mantras, and there is a school of mantrists who give to each letter a numerical value, quite independent of its position in the alphabet; and they will tell you that if they add up the values which they assign to the letters of a given word or sentence, and so arrive at a certain total, and if the same total can be made by adding the letters of another word or group of words, the same mantric effect will be produced by the two sentences. But about that I know nothing.

The mantra is usually a short, strong formula, and when for any purpose we want to produce a decided effect, that is the kind of form that our adjuration must take. If we wish to affect people profoundly and rapidly when speaking to them, we must use sentences which are short and strong, not long and rambling; they must follow the line of the military command or of the mantra; and there must be a definite climax. Suppose we wish to help a person who is frightened. We may formulate within ourselves such words as: “I am strong, strong, strong; I am part of God, and God is strength, so I am full of that strength”; and the repetition of the idea will bring the divine strength within us to the surface, and we shall be able to inspire others with our courage. In this as in all other lines, knowledge is power; if we wish to work to the best advantage we must understand, and if we wish to understand we must study. The wise man knows how to live in peace and happiness, because his life is in harmony with God’s life. Comprehending all, he sympathizes with all; he has cast selfishness behind him for ever, and he lives but to help and to bless.

The Requirements Never Change

In considering the different systems described above it must not be imagined that their methods are mutually exclusive. Each plan contains something of nearly all the others; they are defined by that which dominates in each case. Nor should it be supposed that any of them are strictly necessary. What is required is that which lies beneath all of them—the development of character, purification of life and devotion to service so strongly emphasized in At the Feet of the Master.

From this comparison of the different systems it will be seen that the qualifications which the aspirant must develop preparatory to the first great Initiation are fundamentally the same, however much they may appear to differ at first glance. Certainly for twenty-five centuries, and probably for a long time before that, this quite systematic procedure has been followed with regard to the evolution of those special persons who persist in struggling ahead; and although at certain times (and the present is one of them) circumstances are more favourable for Initiation than at others, the requirements remain the same, and we must be careful not to fall into the erroneous thought that the qualifications have been in any way reduced. We thus find that these different lines all bring us to the same point of Initiation.

[1] See the author’s book The Chakras.

[2] See The Hidden Side of Christian Festivals, p. 202