The Masters and the Path

C. W. Leadbeater



Part III (continued)


Chapter 9

The Second and Third Initiations



The First Three Fetters

The candidate who has passed the first Initiation has entered definitely upon the Path Proper—the Path that leads to Adeptship, to the portal leading out of the human kingdom into that of the Superman. Looking at this Path from below, one might wonder that the aspirant is not exhausted after his labours leading to the first Initiation, that he does not shrink back discouraged by the dizzy heights that he sees rising before him on the relentless ever-ascending Path. But he has drunk at the fount of life, and his strength is as the strength of ten because his heart is pure, and the glory of the ideal humanity, which he sees with ever-increasing clearness, has for him an attraction and inspiration with which no material stimulus or interest can ever compare.

The first stage of his journey ends in the second Initiation, to achieve which he must cast off three Samyojana or fetters, which are:

1.   Sakkayaditthi—the delusion of self.

2.   Vichikichchha—doubt or uncertainty.

3.   Silabbataparamasa—superstition.

The first of these is the “I am I” consciousness which, as connected with the personality, is nothing but an illusion, and must be thrown aside at the very first step of the real upward path. But to cast off this fetter completely means even more than this, for it involves the realization of the fact that the individuality also is in very truth one with the all, that he can therefore never have any interests opposed to those of his brethren, and that he is most truly progressing when he most assists the progress of others.

As to the second fetter, a word of caution is necessary. People who have been trained in European habits of thought are, unhappily, so familiar with the idea that a blind, unreasoning adhesion to certain dogmas may be claimed from a disciple of any religion, school or sect, that on hearing that in Occultism doubt is considered to be an obstacle to progress, they are likely to suppose that this Path also requires from its followers the same unquestioning faith as do many modern superstitions. No idea could be more entirely false.

It is true that doubt (or rather uncertainty) on some questions is a bar to spiritual progress, but the antidote to that doubt is not blind faith (which is itself considered a fetter, as will presently be seen), but the certainty of conviction founded on individual experiment or mathematical reasoning. While a child doubts the accuracy of the multiplication table, he can hardly acquire proficiency in the higher mathematics; but his doubts can be satisfactorily cleared up only by his attaining a comprehension, founded on reasoning or experiment, that the statements contained in the table are true. He believes that twice two are four, not merely because he has been told so, but because it has become to him a self-evident fact. And this is exactly the method, and the only method, of resolving doubt known to Occultism.

Vichikichchha has been defined as doubt of the doctrines of karma and reincarnation, and of the efficacy of the method of attaining the highest good by this Path of Holiness; but the knowledge of these things also brings with it a vivid realization that the world is God’s school for man, and that his plan is the evolution of the immortal life through the perishing forms, and is wonderful and beneficent in every part. As he casts off this second fetter, the Initiate arrives at absolute certainty, based either upon personal first-hand knowledge or upon reason, that the occult teaching upon these points is true.

The third fetter, superstition, has been described as including all kinds of unreasoning and mistaken belief, and all dependence upon outward rites and ceremonies to purify the heart. He sees that all the methods of help offered to us by the great religions—prayers, sacraments, pilgrimages, fastings, and the observation of manifold rites and ceremonies—are help and no more; that the wise man will adopt such of them as he finds useful to him, but will never trust to any of them alone as sufficient to attain salvation. He knows definitely that within himself deliverance must be sought, and that however valuable these aids may be in developing his will, his wisdom and his love, they can never take the place of that personal effort by which alone he can achieve. The man who has cast off this fetter realizes that there is no one form of religion which is a necessity for all men, but that through any and all alike, and even outside of them, the path to the highest may be found.

These three fetters are in a coherent series. The difference between individuality and personality being fully understood, it is then possible to some extent to appreciate the actual course of reincarnation, and so to dispel all doubt on that head. This done, the knowledge of the spiritual permanence of the true ego brings reliance on one’s own spiritual strength, and so dispels superstition.

Subdivisions of the Steps

Each stage of the Path Proper is divided into four steps. The first is its maggo or way, during which the student is striving to cast off the fetters. The second is its phala, literally fruit or result, when the man finds the result of his efforts showing themselves more and more. Thirdly comes its bhavagga or consummation, the period when, the result having culminated, he is able to fulfil satisfactorily the work belonging to the step on which he now firmly stands. The fourth is its gotrabhu, which means the time when he has arrived at a fit state to receive the next Initiation.

That the candidate may become gotrabhu, we see that complete and entire freedom from the fetters of his stage on the Path is absolutely essential. Before the man can proceed to the second Initiation, the Initiator chosen by the King demands evidence as to how the candidate has used the powers acquired by him at the first Initiation, and one of the most beautiful features of the ceremony is the part when those who have been helped by the candidate come forward to give their testimony. It is also requisite for this Initiation that the candidate shall have developed the power to function freely in his mental body, for although the ceremony of the first Initiation is held on the astral plane, that of the second takes place in the lower mental world.

It may seem difficult to reconcile that statement with the fact that the Initiations are described as occurring in a certain hall or garden; but really there is no discrepancy. If the Lord Maitreya acts as Initiator, the ceremony is usually performed either in his garden or in his great room. He himself is present in his physical body, and so in many cases is the Lord Vaivasvata Manu, who lives close by. All others present are usually in the astral vehicle in the case of the first Initiation, but in the mental body in the case of the second. The Great Ones present focus their consciousnesses with perfect ease at whatever level is required, but there is of course on the astral and the mental planes a perfect counterpart of everything on the physical, and so the accounts given are perfectly correct, and the positions taken up in relation to physical objects are just as there described.

Account of a Second Initiation

Following the plan of earlier chapters, I once more give an account of the ceremony:

Notice was received that a great gathering of Adepts was to take place at the house of the Lord Maitreya on the night of the full moon of the month of Chaitra, and that advantage would be taken of the occurrence of this august assemblage to admit certain candidates to the Sakridagamin Initiation, as soon after as should be found convenient. The Master Morya desired the guardians of the young people to attend him not later than ten o’clock.

That evening many friends from India were hovering round, and when the candidates and their guardians went to the house of the Master Kuthumi, these followed discreetly and waited about respectfully in the near distance. Soon after they had reached the house, the Master Morya entered. The two Masters left almost immediately for the house of the Lord Maitreya, the disciples following and remaining in the garden while the masters entered the house.

This garden is on a southern slope of the Himalayas, overlooking a vast expanse of the plains of India, which stretch away to the far horizon. It is sheltered, lying in a hollow, and protected by a pinewood at the back which curves round on the right. Beyond this wood, and a little eastwards, is the very ancient stone house, with pillared and wide veranda, wherein dwells the Manu of our Race, the great Lord Vaivasvata. The garden of the Lord Maitreya was flooded with the silver light of tile full moon, which fell on the great clumps of rhodo­dendrons and on the spring flowers in bloom, and shone dazzlingly on the white marble seat round the huge tree, the favourite resting-place of the Lord Maitreya, where he now took his place on issuing from the house. The Masters grouped themselves in a semicircle on the grass terrace just below his seat, taking their places on his right and left.

On the terrace a step lower stood the two candidates, between the two Masters who presented them—the Master Kuthumi and the Master Djwal Kul. Behind them stood the appointed guardians of the younger candidate in the lower world. The Manu sat a little behind on the right hand of the Bodhisattva, and there shone out above them the glorious figure of the Lord Gautama Buddha, who in his last earthly life had accepted from these two candidates “the Vow which can never be broken,” and now gave his all-powerful benediction to them in the step which they were about to take. Near him was the Mahachohan, the Head of the five Rays, and between them and a little above them flashed out later in answer to the solemn invocation of the Bodhisattva the Blazing Star of the One Initiator, the mighty King of the Occult Hierarchy, the Lord of the World. Such was the exquisite setting of the ceremony of Initiation.

The Master Kuthumi and the Master Djwal Kul led the two candidates a step forward, and the Bodhisattva asked:

“Who are these that you now bring before me?”

The Master Kuthumi answered:

“These are two brothers who, having cast off the fetters of separateness, doubt and superstition, and having reaped the harvest and shown the result of their labour, now desire to enter on the Path of the Sakridagamin. I present them as Gotrabhu. “

The Lord Maitreya asked:

“Will you continue to guide these Brothers along the Path they seek to enter?”

The Master replied:

“I will do so.”

The Lord said:

“Our rule requires that two of the higher Brethren shall vouch for every candidate who presents himself for the second Path. Does any other Brother support their prayer?”

The Master Djwal Kul answered:

“I do.”

The Lord said, addressing the guardians:

“You, as two Brothers living in the outer world, have taken charge of the younger of these candidates. You have had experience in your accepted duty of guardianship; are you willing, as the body is still of tender age, to persevere in that guardianship and to help him as he treads the second Path?”

They answered:

“We are willing and glad so to do.”

The Lord asked:

“Is your love for him still so strong that the work will be pleasant and easy?”

They answered:

“Our love for him is even deeper than it was when we began our happy task; he is easy to guide and eager to learn.”

The Lord said to the younger candidate:

“And is your heart also full of love to these two Brothers, and will you continue gladly to submit yourself to their guidance, not permitting aught to come between your heart and theirs?”

He answered:

“I will gladly do so, for I love them both dearly, and am grateful to them for their care.”

The Lord said to the two candidates:

“You desire then to enter on the Path of the Sakridagamin?”

They answered:

“We do thus desire, if we are fit to enter on it.”

The Bodhisattva said:

“Forasmuch as it is the immemorial custom of this Brotherhood, when candidates are presented for each successive Initiation, to ask how they have used the powers previously conferred upon them; and forasmuch as a power is only a power when it is used for the helping of others; I ask therefore who will testify to services done by these candidates since last they stood before us, and were admitted into the Brotherhood; what definite work of teaching have they done? Whom have they helped?”

As the solemn words clove the surrounding air, seeming as if they rang around the world as a summons, a great crowd of witnesses surged up from the four quarters, and hung silent, gazing with loving grateful eyes on the candidates standing in the centre. The Master Kuthumi spoke:

“These are they from many nations and from many lands who from these, my two pupils, have received light, strength and comfort. From the lips of my elder son my message has gone forth to many thousands, and he has laboured unceasingly to bring the light to those who are in darkness; they are here to bear witness. He has also written a book and many articles which remain as evidence of his loving labour for others. My younger son”—the Master smiled tenderly—“is yet young in body for public work, but he has written a little book which gives to others the teaching I gave to him, and tens of thousands love him as their guide to us: they also are here, ready to bear witness”.

And many voices cried: “We bear witness,” and the very air seemed vocal, so multitudinous were the testimonies. And the smile of the Bodhisattva grew sweet beyond expression as he, the Saviour of the world, listened to the answer he had evoked.

The first guardian then spoke: “I bear witness to the elder of these candidates, that in time of sore trouble and bitter strife he stood in perfect loyalty to both my Brother and myself, apparently opposed, in unshaken strength and sweetness, serene and true. I bear witness also to his unwearied and unselfish work for others, using all his powers in service. To the younger, my beloved ward, I bear witness that he is ever seeking to help those whom he meets, and shows rare skill in helping, while he sheds around him a radiant love and purity that make his mere presence a benediction. All know the value of his priceless little book.”

The second guardian also spoke in the candidates’ favour as follows:

“I also add my testimony in the case of both these dear candidates. I bear witness that the elder has rendered to me personally much loyal, affectionate and self-sacrificing help and support, and that I have heard from many others of the inspiration and light that he has brought into their lives. On behalf of the younger candidate I bear witness that I have myself seen the evidence of the wonderful love and devotion which he has inspired in the members of his Order both at Adyar and Benares, and of the change which has been produced in them. I have also received many letters in which the writers state that they owe a new conception of life to the book which he wrote.”

The Master Kuthumi called from the multitudes some who had learned the truth from each candidate, who looked to him and followed him as guide. Many came forward to acknowledge the help given, each speaking what he felt in his heart; and many said that At the Feet of the Master had given them a new view of life. Some who had been much helped, but could not be brought on this occasion because they were awake and engaged in their ordinary avocations, were represented by living images made by the Master; and though these could say and do nothing, it is probable that some touch of the wonderful influences of the hour may have been conveyed through them to their originals. The crowd then withdrew, while the ceremony proceeded.

The Bodhisattva then addressed the candidates, approving of the work they had done, and expressing the hope that the new powers now to be conferred upon them would be used as well as those had been which they already possessed. He continued:

“You have cast off for ever the three fetters which bind your brethren on earth, and your own freedom must be used to lessen the weight of these fetters on them. You have learned with utter certainty that the idea of the separated self is a delusion; you must now impress that certainty on your lower vehicles, so that in them there shall never be any action or thought for the separated self, but that all shall be done for the One Self, working through all. Will you endeavour to do this, and not cease your efforts until you have succeeded?”

The candidates answered: “I will.”

The Lord Maitreya said:

“You have cast off the fetter of doubt, and you know surely that evolution is a fact, and that the method of evolution is the constant dipping down into matter under the law of readjustment. You must use the powers now to be conferred upon you for the dispelling of doubt in others regarding these vital facts, so that they may share in the knowledge you have gained—gained surely not for yourselves alone. Will you then use your powers for the enlightening of others?”

The candidates answered:

“I will so use them.”

The Lord Maitreya continued:

“You have transcended all superstition; you know that a man may find the light in any religion; you know that rites and ceremonies have no intrinsic value, and that all which is done by them can be done without them by knowledge and by will. Above all, you are free from the superstition of the wrath of the Power behind evolution, and you know that all that exists is within the Universal Love, and that it is the gospel of Universal Love which you must spread among men. Will you seek to lift the darkness by spreading this gospel?”

The candidates answered:

“ I will.”

Then the Lord Maitreya added:

“Never forget that there is no darkness save that which is made by ignorance and delusion. It was well said: ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights, in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.’ In him is no darkness at all, but men turn their backs on his Light, and then walk in their own shadows, crying out that it is dark.”

The candidates were then put through some tests as to work on the mental plane. They had to examine people in the heaven-world, such as would be placed under their care in the future, and the Lord asked them what they would do to help each case, having in view the limitations under which their charges would be labouring. One case was that of a mediaeval monk, very full of devotion, but with exceedingly limited ideas concerning God, the Saints and the Church, and the Lord questioned them as to what they would do to help his growth.

All that passes during the second Initiation is done on the mental plane, and all are working in their mental bodies, not in the ordinary mayavi-rupa which they would use on the astral plane.

After this testing was over, and the candidates had successfully answered the questions addressed to them, they were led up to the Lord Maitreya and knelt before him. He rose; and, turning towards Shamballa, he cried aloud:

“Do I this, O Lord of Light and Life and Glory, in Thy Name and for Thee?”

Then over him flashed out the Blazing Star, giving the consent of the One Initiator, and the august figure of the Lord Gautama Buddha shone out with more blinding brilliance, while he raised his right hand in blessing. The Mahachohan also rose to add his benediction, as the Bodhisattva laid his hands in turn on each bowed head, and all bent low in reverent homage before the Mighty Ones; and there was silence.

In that stillness the Key of Knowledge was given, the Bodhisattva pouring out from his own mental and causal bodies rays of power which, falling on the mental and causal bodies of the newly initiated, stimulated into sudden and splendid growth the germs of similar powers therein existing. As though a bud, stimulated by the sun-rays, should suddenly burst into all the glory of the opened flower, so did their mental and causal bodies suddenly unfold the powers latent within them, expanding into radiant beauty. Through them, thus expanded, intuition could freely play, the great new power thus set free to work. And the Lord Maitreya said:

“Take now this new power which I give you, and trust yourselves to it fearlessly. Bring your lower vehicles into such order and responsiveness that it may pass freely through them to your physical brain, and guide your conduct unerringly. So shall it shine upon the way which lies before you, and prepare you to enter upon the third Path.”

He ended with the great benediction, and the Star and the august Figures near it vanished, all again bending low in reverence, and the great ceremony was over.

The assembled Masters then left their places, and each spoke a few kind words to the newly initiated, and blessed them. The Master Kuthumi also addressed a kindly word to the crowd who had borne witness—who had withdrawn to some distance, as said above, but were now permitted again to approach to bid farewell to their leaders, who, in the light of the new knowledge just attained, gave some advice to these followers, and dismissed them with a blessing.

Mental Development

The second Initiation rapidly continues the development of the mental body, and at or near this point the pupil learns to use the mayavi-rupa, which is sometimes translated as the body of illusion. This is a temporary astral body made by one who is able to function in his mental body. When a man travels in the astral plane, he usually does so in the astral body; and if it were necessary for him to show himself on the physical plane while he was functioning in his astral body, he would have to materialize a physical body round it. This is sometimes done, though not frequently, because it involves a great expenditure of force. Similarly, if he were working in his mental body and desired to manifest himself on the astral plane, he would need to materialize a temporary astral body, which is the mayavi-rupa. When he had finished his work, he would withdraw to the mental plane once more, and the temporary body would vanish, its materials returning to the general circulation of astral matter whence they had been drawn by the pupil’s will.

Up to the time of the first Initiation the man works at night in his astral body; but as soon as it is perfectly under control and he is able to use it fully, work in the mental body is begun. When that body in turn is completely organized, it is a far more flexible vehicle than the astral body, and much that is impossible on the astral plane can be accomplished therein. With the power to form the mayavi-rupa, the man is able to pass instantly from the mental plane to the astral and back, and to use at all times the greater power and keener sense of the mental plane, and it is only necessary to form the astral materialization when he wants to become visible to people in the astral world. It is necessary that the Master shall first show his pupil how to make the mayavi-rupa, after which, although it is not at first an easy matter, he can do it for himself.

A very great expansion and development of the mental body takes place in connection with this second Initiation, but it is usually some years before the effects of this can show themselves in the physical brain. As they begin to do so they unquestionably put a great strain upon that brain, as it cannot be instantaneously tuned to the necessary pitch.

The Danger-Point

The period after the taking of the second Initiation is in many ways the most dangerous on the Path, although at any point until the fifth Initiation is passed there is the possibility of falling back, or of spending many incarnations wandering about. But it is at this stage especially that, if there is any weakness in a candidate’s character, it will show itself. It should be impossible for a man who has raised himself to this height to fall back; but unfortunately experience has shown us that even this does sometimes happen. In nearly all cases the danger comes through pride; if there is the least tinge of pride in the man’s nature, he is in serious risk of a fall. What we talk about down here as intellect is the merest reflection of the real thing; yet some of us are proud of that, proud of our intellect and insight. So when a man gets even a remote glimpse of what his intellect is going to be in the future there is serious danger, and if he once starts on that line he will have a terribly hard time getting back again. Nothing but unceasing and increasing vigilance can enable him to pass through this stage successfully, and it must be his constant endeavour to kill out every trace of pride, selfishness and prejudice.

When we know these things from behind, we find sudden and curious illumination thrown upon various texts of the Bible. This danger-point in the life of the Initiate is indicated in the Gospel story by the temptation in the wilderness which followed the Baptism of Christ by John. The forty days in the wilderness symbolize the period during which the expansion of the mental body given in the second Initiation is being worked down into the physical brain, though for the ordinary candidate not forty days but forty years might well be required for its accomplishment. In the life of Jesus it was the period when his brain was being adapted to the incoming Christ. Then the devil, who in the symbolism represents the lower nature, comes to tempt the Initiate, first to use his powers for the satisfaction of his own needs: “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Then he is tempted to cast himself down from a pinnacle of the temple, thus performing a miracle which would astound the populace. And lastly he is shown all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, and the devil says: “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me”—he is tempted to use his powers to gratify his own ambition. Each of these temptations represents a different form of pride.

Just as the first great Initiation corresponds to a new birth, so may the second Initiation be justly compared to the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of Fire; for it is the power of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity that is outpoured at that moment, descending in what may but inadequately be described as a flood of fire, a flaming tide of living light. The man at this stage is spoken of among the Buddhists as a Sakadagamin, the man who returns but once, which means that he who has reached that level should need but one more incarnation before attaining Arhatship, the fourth Initiation, after which there is no compulsory physical rebirth. The Hindu name for this second step is the Kutichaka, the man who builds a hut, he who has reached a place of peace.

At this stage no additional fetters are cast off, but it is usually a period of considerable psychic and intellectual advancement. If what are commonly called psychic faculties have not been previously acquired, it is the tradition that they should be developed at this stage, as without them it would seem practically impossible to assimilate the knowledge which must now be given, or to do the higher work for humanity in which the Initiate is now privileged to assist. He must have the astral consciousness at his command during his physical waking life, and during sleep the heaven-world will be open before him—for the consciousness of a man when away from his physical body is always one stage higher than it is while he is still burdened with the house of flesh. Dr. Besant, however, in her Initiation, the Perfecting of Man, supplies us with an alternative interpretation of this; she says that before a man can come to the third Initiation he must learn to bring the spirit of intuition (buddhi) down to his physical consciousness, so that it may abide in him and guide him. Then she adds:

This process is usually called “the development of psychic faculties,” and it is so, in the true meaning of the word “psychic”. But it does not mean the development of clairvoyance and clairaudience, which depend on a different process.[1]

The Third Initiation

When the candidate has passed through the four sub-stages of the second Initiation, and has once more become Gotrabhu, he is ready for the third Initiation, to become the Anagamin, which means literally “he who does not return,” for it is expected of him that he will attain the next Initiation in the same incarnation. The Hindu name for this stage is the Hamsa, which means a swan, but the word is also considered to be a form of the sentence So-ham, “That am I”. There is a tradition, too, that the swan is able to separate milk from water, and the sage is similarly able to realize the true value for living beings of the phenomena of life.

This Initiation is typified in the Christian symbolism by the Transfiguration of the Christ. He went up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before his disciples: “ His face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light,” “exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them”. This description suggests the Augoeides, the glorified man, and it is no inaccurate picture of what happens at this Initiation, for just as the second Initiation is principally concerned with the quickening of the lower mental body, so at this stage the causal body is especially developed. The ego is brought more closely into touch with the Monad, and is thus transfigured in very truth. Even the personality is affected by that wondrous outpouring. The higher and the lower self became one at the first Initiation, and that unity is never lost, but the development of the higher self that now takes place can never be mirrored in the lower worlds of form, although the two are one to the greatest possible extent.

The Gospel story tells also that at the Transfiguration there appeared Moses and Elijah, the chief figures of the old dispensation; one the greatest of the Jewish prophets, the other representing the Jewish law. Thus the two dispensations or methods of approach to truth, that of the following of the law and that of the inspiration of prophecy, are represented as with him who was about to establish a new dispensation, that of the Gospel; and all these symbols have meanings referring to the actual facts of the third Initiation.

Another symbol relating to the same step appears in the Gospel story of the presentation of the Christ to his Father in the Temple. In the traditional account this is somewhat out of place, for the Christ is then presented as a little child. At this stage of the man’s progress he has to be brought before the Spiritual King of the World, the mighty Head of the Occult Hierarchy, who, at this third step, either confers the Initiation himself, or deputes one of his pupils, the three Lords of the Flame who came with him from Venus, to do so; and in the latter event the man is presented to the King soon after the Initiation has taken place. Thus the Christ is brought into the presence of his Father; the buddhi in the Initiate is raised until it becomes one with its origin on the nirvanic plane, and a very wonderful union between the first and the second principles in man is then effected.

The Fourth and Fifth Fetters

The Anagamin enjoys, while moving through the round of his daily work, all the splendid possibilities given by the full possession of the faculties of the higher mental plane, and when he leaves his physical vehicle at night he enters once more into the wonderfully widened consciousness that belongs to the buddhic plane. While in this stage he has to throw off any lingering remains of what are called the fourth and fifth fetters, kamaraga and patigha, attachment to the enjoyment of sensation, typified by earthly love, and all possibility of anger or hatred. The aspirant must free himself from the possibility of being enslaved in any way by external things. It is not by any means that he will not feel the attraction of what is pleasant or beautiful or clean, nor the repulsion for the opposites of these things. He will still take them into account in the course of his work; but he will not let them be a deciding element in duty, and will override them entirely on those emergent occasions when it is necessary for his work.

Here we must guard against a possible misconception—one with which we frequently meet. The purest and noblest human love never dies away—is never in any way diminished by occult training; on the contrary, it is increased and widened until it embraces all with the same degree of fervour which at first was lavished on one or two only. But the student does in time rise above all considerations connected with the mere personality of those around him, and so is free from all the injustice and partiality which ordinary love so often brings in its train.

Nor should it for a moment be supposed that in gaining this wide affection for all, he loses the especial love for his closer friends. The unusually perfect link between Ananda and the Lord Buddha, as between St. John and the Christ, is on record to prove that, on the contrary, this is enormously intensified; and the tie between a Master and his pupils is stronger far than any earthly bond. For the affection which flourishes upon the Path of Holiness is an affection between egos, not merely between personalities; therefore it is strong and permanent, without fear of diminution or fluctuation, for it is that “perfect love which casteth out fear”.



Chapter 10

The Higher Initiations

The Arhat

During the stages following the first, second and third Initiations the candidate is gradually developing the buddhic consciousness; but at the fourth Initiation he enters the nirvanic plane, and from then onward he is engaged in climbing steadily through that, or rather through that division of it, consisting of its five lower sub-planes, on which the human ego has being. This initiation is in one way a midway point, as it is usually said that seven lives are occupied on the average at normal times between the first and the fourth Initiations, and seven lives also between the fourth and fifth; but these figures are capable of very great reduction or increase, as I have said before, and the actual period of time employed is in most cases not very great, since usually the lives are taken in immediate succession, without interludes in the heaven-world.

The candidate who has passed the fourth Initiation is spoken of in Buddhist terminology as the Arhat, which means the worthy, the capable, the venerable or perfect, and in the Eastern books very many beautiful things are said about him, for they know at what a high level of evolution he stands. The Hindus call him the Paramahamsa, the one above or beyond the Hamsa.

Christian Symbology

In Christian symbology the fourth Initiation is indicated by the suffering in the garden of Gethsemane, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of the Christ; though since there are certain preliminary stages it may be more completely symbolized by the various events that are said to have taken place during Holy Week. The first event in the series was that the Christ raised Lazarus from the dead; and this is always commemorated on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, though according to the Gospel narrative it took place a week or two earlier. On the Sunday there was the triumphal entry into Jerusalem; on Monday and Tuesday the delivery of a number of addresses in the Temple; on Wednesday the betrayal by Judas Iscariot; on Thursday the Founding of the Holy Eucharist; on the night between Thursday and Friday the trials before Pilate and Herod; and on Good Friday the Crucifixion. Holy Saturday was spent in preaching to the spirits in prison, and at midnight on Saturday, or rather at the first moment on Sunday morning, Christ rose from the dead, triumphant for evermore.

All these details of the Christ-drama have a relation to what really happens in connection with the fourth Initiation. The Christ did something unusual and wonderful in the raising of Lazarus on the Saturday, and it was very largely as a result of that that he enjoyed his one earthly triumph soon after, for all the people came together when they heard of the raising of the dead man. They waited for him, and when he came out from the house to go on the way to Jerusalem they received him with an ovation and a great display of feeling, and treated him as in the East they still treat anyone whom they think to be holy; so he was escorted by the people with great enthusiasm into Jerusalem, and having won that little earthly recognition, he naturally took the opportunity of teaching them, and gave the addresses in the Temple, to which great crowds came to see and hear him. This is symbolical of what really takes place. The Initiate attracts some attention, and gains a certain amount of popularity and recognition. Then there is always the traitor to turn upon him and distort what he has said and done, so that it appears to be evil; as Ruysbroek puts it:

Sometimes these unhappy ones are deprived of the good things of earth, of their friends and relations, and are deserted by all creatures; their holiness is mistrusted and despised, men put a bad construction on all the works of their life, and they are rejected and disdained by all those who surround them; and sometimes they are afflicted with divers diseases.

Then follows a shower of obloquy and abuse, and his rejection by the world. After that comes the scene in the garden of Gethsemane when the Christ feels himself utterly forsaken; and then he is held up to derision and crucified. Finally there is the cry from the cross: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

Madame Blavatsky held a theory, which she expounded in The Secret Doctrine, which I am not able personally to verify, that the real meaning of those words was: “My God, how Thou dost glorify me!” I do not know which of the two renderings is the more accurate, but there is great truth in both of them. It is one of the features of the fourth Initiation that the man shall be left entirely alone. First he has to stand alone on the physical plane; all his friends turn against him through some misunderstanding; it all comes right afterwards but for the time the man is left with the feeling that all the world is against him.

Perhaps that is not so great a trial, but there is another and inner side to it; for he has also to experience for a moment the condition called Avichi, which means “the waveless,” that which is without vibration. The state of Avichi is not, as has been popularly supposed, some kind of hell, but it is a condition in which the man stands absolutely alone in space, and feels cut off from all life, even from that of the Logos; and it is without doubt the most ghastly experience that it is possible for any human being to have. It is said to last only for a moment, but to those who have felt its supreme horror it seemed an eternity, for at that level time and space do not exist. That appalling trial has, I think, two object—first, that the candidate may be able fully to sympathize with those to whom Avichi comes as a result of their actions; and secondly, that he may learn to stand absolutely apart from everything external, triumphant in his utter certainty that he is one with the Logos and that this overwhelming consternation, caused by the sensation of isolation from him, is nothing but an illusion and a temptation. Some have collapsed before this terrible test, and have had to go back and begin over again their climb towards the higher Initiation; but for the man who can stand firm through its awful nightmare it is indeed a wonderful experience, however formidable, so that while to the trial itself the interpretation “Why hast Thou forsaken me?” might be applicable, “How Thou dost glorify me” would well express the feeling of the man who comes forth from it victorious.

This Initiation differs from all the others in that it has this strange double aspect of suffering and victory. Each of the earlier Initiations was symbolized in the Christian system by one definite fact, the Birth, the Baptism, the Transfiguration; but in order to represent this fourth Initiation a series of events has been found necessary. The Crucifixion and all the varied sufferings of which it was the culmination were employed to typify one side of this Initiation, while the Resurrection with its triumph over death represents the other side. Always at this stage there is suffering, physical, astral and mental; always there is the condemnation by the world, and the apparent failure; always there is the splendid triumph upon higher planes—which, however, remains unknown to the outer world. The peculiar type of suffering which invariably accompanies this Initiation clears off any arrears of karma which may still stand in the Initiate’s way; and the patience and joyousness with which he endures them have great value in the strengthening of his character, and help to determine the extent of his usefulness in the work which lies before him.

The Crucifixion and Resurrection which symbolize the actual Initiation are thus described in an ancient Egyptian formula:

Then shall the candidate be bound upon the wooden cross, he shall die, he shall be buried, and shall descend into the underworld; after the third day he shall be brought back from the dead..

Only after three clear days and nights and part of a fourth had passed was the still entranced candidate of those ancient days raised from the sarcophagus in which he had lain, and borne into the outer air at the eastern side of the pyramid or temple, so that the first rays of the rising sun might fall upon his face and awaken him from his long sleep.

There is an old proverb, “No cross, no crown,” which may be taken to mean that without man’s descent into matter, his binding on the cross of matter, it would have been impossible for him to gain the resurrection and receive the crown of glory; but by the limitation and through the sorrow and trouble he has gained the victory. It is impossible for us to describe that resurrection; all words that we can employ seem to sully its splendour, and any attempt at description seems almost blasphemy, but this much may be said, that a complete triumph has been obtained over all sorrows, troubles and difficulties, temptations and trials, and it is his for ever because he has conquered by knowledge and inner strength. We may recall how the Lord Buddha proclaimed his freedom:

     Many a house of life

Hath held me—seeking ever him who wrought

These prisons of the senses, sorrow-fraught;

     Sore was my ceaseless strife!

     But now,

Thou builder of this tabernacle—thou!

I know thee! Never shalt thou build again

     These walls of pain,

Nor raise the roof-tree of deceits, nor lay

     Fresh rafters on the clay;

Broken thy house is, and the ridge-pole split!

     Delusion fashioned it!

     Safe pass I thence—deliverance to obtain.


For the Arhat henceforth the consciousness of the buddhic plane is his while still in the physical body, and when he leaves that body in sleep or trance, he passes at once into the unutterable glory of the nirvanic plane. At his Initiation he must have at least one glimpse of that nirvanic consciousness, just as at the first Initiation there must be a momentary experience of the buddhic, and now his daily effort will be to reach further and further up into the nirvanic plane. It is a task of prodigious difficulty, but gradually he will find himself able to work upwards into that ineffable splendour.

The entry into it is utterly bewildering, and it brings as its first sensation an intense vividness of life, surprising even to him who is familiar with the buddhic plane. The surprise has been his before, though in a lesser measure, whenever he mounted for the first time from one plane to another. Even when we rise first in full and clear consciousness from the physical plane to the astral, we find the new life to be so much wider than any that we have hitherto known that we exclaim: “I thought I knew what life was, but I have never known before!” When we pass into the mental plane, we find the same feeling redoubled; the astral was wonderful, but it was nothing to the mental world. When we pass into the higher mental plane, again we have the same experience. At every step the same surprise comes over again, and no thought beforehand can prepare one for it, because it is always far more stupendous than anything that we can imagine, and life on all those higher planes is an intensity of bliss for which no words exist.

European Orientalists have translated Nirvana as annihilation, because the word means “blown out,” as the light of a candle is extinguished by a breath. Nothing could be a more complete antithesis to the truth, except in the sense that it is certainly the annihilation of all that down here we know as man, because there he is no longer man, but God in man, a God among other Gods, though less than they.

Try to imagine the whole universe filled with and consisting of an immense torrent of living light, the whole moving onward, without relativity, a resistless onward sweep of a vast sea of light, light with a purpose (if that is comprehensible) tremendously concentrated, but absolutely without strain or effort—words fail. At first we feel nothing but the bliss of it, and see nothing but the intensity of the light; but gradually we begin to realize that even in this dazzling brightness there are brighter spots (nuclei, as it were) through which the light obtains a new quality that enables it to become perceptible on lower planes, whose inhabitants without this aid would be altogether beneath the possibility of sensing its effulgence. Then by degrees we begin to comprehend that these subsidiary suns are the Great Ones, the Planetary Spirits, great Angels, karmic Deities, Dhyan Chohans, Buddhas, Christs and Masters, and many others who are to us not even names, and to see that through them the light and the life are flowing down to the lower planes.

Little by little, as we become more accustomed to this marvelous reality, we begin to perceive that we are one with them, though far below the summit of their splendour, that we are part of the One that dwells somehow in them all, and also in every point of space between, and that we ourselves are also a focus, and through us at our much lower level the light and life are flowing to those who are still further away (not from it, for all are part of it and there is nothing else anywhere) but from the realization of it, the comprehension and experience of it.

Madame Blavatsky often spoke of that consciousness as having its centre everywhere and its circumference nowhere, a profoundly suggestive sentence, attributed variously to Pascal, Cardinal de Cusa and the Zohar, but belonging by right to the Books of Hermes. Far indeed from annihilation is such consciousness; the Initiate reaching it has not in the least lost the sense that he is himself; his memory is perfectly continuous; he is the same man, yet all this as well, and now indeed he can say “I am I” knowing what “I” really means.

Wonderfully well was this expressed by Sir Edwin Arnold in The Light of Asia:

... Seeking nothing, he gains all;

     Foregoing self, the Universe grows “I”;

If any teach Nirvana is to cease,

     Say unto such they lie.

If any teach Nirvana is to live,

     Say unto such they err; not knowing this,

Nor what light shines beyond their broken lamps,

     Nor lifeless, timeless bliss.

Not lifeless in the sense of being dead, for he is the very exemplification and expression of the most vivid life imaginable; lifeless because he is far beyond both death and life alike, quit of the samsara for ever. Hell had been defined as time without God, and heaven as God without time; surely this latter description is still more applicable to Nirvana.

Any description of Nirvana which we may attempt must sound strange. No words that we can use can give even the least idea of such an experience as that, for all with which our minds are acquainted has long ago disappeared before that level is attained. There is, of course, even at that level, a sheath of some sort for the Spirit, impossible to describe, for in one sense it seems as though it were an atom, and yet in another it seems to be the whole plane. The man feels as if he were everywhere, but could focus anywhere within himself, and wherever for a moment the outpouring of force diminishes, that is for him a body.

The ineffable splendour of Nirvana necessarily surpasses all physical comprehension, and consequently even the most poetical attempts to depict it are foredoomed to failure. Nevertheless each man who writes of it approaches it from a different angle, and each may contribute some point which the others have missed. I have already tried to give my own impressions; let me now quote for you those of my lifelong friend and brother Bishop, George Sydney Arundale, who in his book Nirvana has made a very remarkable and most valiant effort to convey that which cannot be conveyed. We all fail, of course; yet I cannot but feel that he comes nearer to the achievement of success than I have done. He writes:

My first remembrance is of seeing the Master K.H. looking as I had never seen him before. Radiant he is always, supremely radiant, but now he was more than radiant, and I cannot find a word down here to describe him in the glory in which I perceived him with the first flash of Nirvanic consciousness. Majestic and radiant are poor words—“blinding” perhaps expresses it better, for just for a moment I was overwhelmed. I almost wanted to veil my face from sight of him, and yet I could not keep my eyes from him, so unfathomably splendid did he appear—only less glorious than the King, as I afterwards realized, though at the time no greater glory could I conceive.

I summon up my courage. I feel as if he were saying to me: “Welcome to a new kingdom which you must learn to conquer.” In his power my consciousness unfolds, and I step as it were across a threshold into Nirvana. Words and phrases, however beautiful, however majestic, almost desecrate as they strive to describe conditions there. Even the faint touch of first experience of this lofty level dwarfs into insignificance all other experiences of all other planes, save only the entry into the Presence of the One Initiator. I remember my first glimpse of the Buddhic plane on the occasion of admission to the ranks of the Great White Brotherhood; I recall to this day my marvelling at the vision of the Master in his Buddhic vehicle, and well do I remember, in the days that followed, the wondrous sense of unity with all things, with the trees and flowers, feeling with them all, growing with them and in them, suffering and rejoicing in and with them. I remember, too, the casting off of the friend of ages—the causal body; and I remember a vivid rending contrast between the moment before and the moment after the glimpse into the new kingdom.

But today the Master seems to me as One whom I have never known before, robed in the glories of a Kingdom I am entering as a little child. The new consciousness enfolds me, and in a moment my world is full of new, strange, glorious values. All is different, supremely different, though the same. A new Divinity is open to my eyes, and unfolds to my gaze a new meaning, a new purpose. It is the Buddhic unity transcended, glorified—a more marvellous unity; in some wonderful way it is merged in a state vaster and more tremendous. There is something even more true than unity, something more real. It seems impossible, and yet it is so.

What is the nature of that of which even Buddhic glory is but a limitation? I must use words, and words seem a terrible anti-climax. I can only say it is the Glory of a Light Transcendent, a world of Light which is the image of God’s own Eternity. I am face to face with an unspotted mirror of his Power and with an image of his Goodness. And the mirror, the image, is an endless ocean of Light, of which I become (though in one sense I already have been) a part, by an apotheosis of at-one-ments on plane after plane below. Brotherhood in the outer world; unity in the Buddhic world; light transcendent in Nirvana.

This Light Transcendent is nearer to the Real even than the Buddhic Unity which hitherto had seemed the most stupendous fact in all the world. Light the beginning; Light the path; Light the future; God said: “Let there be Light,” and there was and is Light indescribable. Beautiful as is the light in the world, it is but the faint and feeble image of the Light Triumphant—the adjective somehow seems appropriate—of these regions of the Real. It is the Sun-Light of the Sun ere it descends into the forms in which we know it. It is Light purified of form. It is Light which is the Life of form. It is an ever-present “intimation of immortality,” a future within the Now, and yet Eternal. It is an—I do not say “the”—apotheosis and essence of the light we know. All the glory of the most wonderful dawn (and one feels nothing can be more wonderful than a perfect Eastern dawn) is brought to glorious fruition and splendid perfection in the noonday which is Nirvana.

God is Light; Light is God; Man is Light; all is Light—a new meaning to the ancient Egyptian exhortations: “Look for the Light! Follow the Light ! Perceive and learn to be at one with the Light of God in all things.” I look upon the world. I see the world in terms of Light. God-Light in manifestation in man-light, in rock-light, in tree-light, in creature-light. All is light—a blinding glory at the centre, translated into colour as it radiates towards its circumference. The blinding glory everywhere—the God-Light—the blazing seed of futurity in each individual thing in every kingdom. And the light-seed breaks up its whiteness (the word seems wrong, but “lightningness” is awkward) into colours of the spectrum.

In each kingdom of Nature, seven great pathways of colour, potential in each pathway in the beginning, unfolding into glorious fruition at the close. I see the diamond, the ruby, the emerald, the sapphire—kings of the mineral kingdom—superb in the perfection of their colours. Yet at the bottom these glories exist, imprisoned, slowly being released through the evolutionary process, until they stand free and splendid as the kingdom’s jewels. In every kingdom it is the same. The free once more imprisoned that a mightier and more splendid freedom still may be achieved.

Bathed in the lightning-standing-still which is Nirvana, I perceive the imprisoned lightnings in all things. I perceive the Light which is dull—the savage; the Light which is bright—the man evolved; the Light which is glory—the Superman, the Master. I see colour every­where in process of transmutation, of glorification, of transcendence. There is no blackness anywhere in the sense of a negation of Light. God said: “Let there be Light.” And there was and is light everywhere. “His Light shineth even in our darkness.”

What is Nirvana? The Light Divine. I am touching, perhaps only for a moment, its lowest reaches, its densest layers. I cannot conceive down here even this Glory, but it leaves in me as I return to earth a new perception of Reality. I have taken a step nearer to the Real. There is a greater comradeship in the world than I had thought—a deeper identity, a more glorious origin, a more glorious way, and a more glorious goal. Round everywhere and at all times are God’s Sunshine Messengers. Every colour speaks his Word and his Voice. Every form breathes his purpose. I, dust in the Sunshine, yet am part of it, and looking upward to the Sun I see the sign of my own Divinity, and the embodied promise of my ultimate achievement. As is our Lord the Sun so shall we all be, for he has willed it so.

Light is language, thought, vesture and vehicle. A flash of light conveys for us down here a whole philosophy.

Light is the Will of the Sun, the Wisdom of the Sun, the Love of the Sun. It is written in books that Nirvana is bliss. Even from the outermost region, at the frontiers, I know Nirvana to be infinitely more. Just one glimpse and all things seem to be made new, within me and without me. I remain, yet am wholly changed, and everything round me seems to be undergoing a process of re-valuation. Even now, everything means far more than before. Every object, in every kingdom, seems in one way far more a shadow of Reality than a reality, for I perceive how feeble and inadequate must be all reflections of the Light. I did not know before that they were so feeble. And yet, equally true is it that every object is far more real, far less of a shadow of Reality, than I had thought. I see the prison-opportunity of form, and I perceive the shadows. I see the unfolding splendour of the Light-Eternal, and I perceive the Real. All other worlds are shadow-worlds compared with this Nirvanic world. And yet they are more real worlds because of this Nirvanic world, for I now perceive the seal of God’s purpose set upon all things, and I must reverence all things in far deeper measure than before.

Philosophers talk of pure Being. I seem to be able to sense what pure Being must be, not because I have contacted it, but because I have contacted that which is less short of pure Being than all other consciousness-states I have so far experienced.

How true it is that language in this case conceals thought and meaning! I need Nirvanic language to convey the sense of Nirvanic things. As Myers has said so beautifully:

O, could I tell, ye surely would believe it!

     O, could I only say what I have seen!

How should I tell or how can ye receive it,

     How, till he bringeth you where I have been?

It is only fair to the distinguished author to say that the quotation given above is but a series of disconnected extracts.

The Buddhist monk Ananda M. in his book The Wisdom of the Aryas writes of Nirvana as follows:

The literal meaning of the word is simply “ blown out “—extinguished as is the flame of a lamp when it has been blown out; but you who have so far followed what has been said concerning it will understand how great has been the error of those who have expounded it as simply tantamount to sheer annihilation. Annihilation it is indeed in one sense—the annihilation of Desire, of Passion, of Self-delusion. But when we come to try to expound its meaning in terms other than negative, we are met with an insurmountable difficulty; that, namely, all our positive definitions must necessarily be in terms of the life we know, in terms of human thought; and here we speak of That which is beyond all Life, the very Goal towards which all Life is tending....

To the instructed Buddhist, Nirvana stands for the Ultimate, the Beyond, the Goal of Life—a state so utterly different from this conditioned ever-changing being of the Self-dream that we know as to lie not only quite beyond all naming and describing, but far past even Thought itself. And yet—and herein lies the wonder and the greatness of this Wisdom of the Aryas, won by the Greatest of the Aryans for the enfranchisement of man from all his self-wrought bondages—this Glory utterly beyond all grasp of thought, this Peace that is the very purpose of all strife-involving being lies nearer to us than our nearest consciousness; even as, to him who rightly understands, it is dearer than the dearest hope that we can frame. Past all the glory of the moon and sun, still infinitely far above the starry heights of conscious being sublimated to its ultimate; beyond the infinite abysses of that all-embracing æther wherein these universes have their bourneless home;—illimitably far remote above the utmost altitudes where Thought, with vainly-beating wings, falls like some lost bird that had aspired till the thin air no longer could support it;—still it dwells higher than the very thought we now are thinking, higher than the consciousness that, for the transitory moment, is all that truly can be termed ourselves.

Selfless to live and selfless die—seeking for no reward, but only service of the greater life; hoping for no high heaven, for no aeonian bliss, but only to grow selfless every day—such is the lesson that pervades alike the Master’s life, the Master’s Teaching; thereby may Peace come to all life at last!

Dr. Besant, referring to this subject in a recent lecture, said:

There is, in the Buddhist philosophy, a wonderful sentence of the Lord Gautama Buddha, where he is striving to indicate in human language something that would be intelligible about the condition of Nirvana. You find it in the Chinese translation of the Dhammapada, and the Chinese edition has been translation into English in Trübner’s Oriental Series. He puts it there that, unless there were Nirvana, there could be nothing; and he uses various phrases in order to indicate what he means, taking the uncreated and then connecting with it the created; taking the Real and then connecting with it the unreal. He sums it up by saying that Nirvana is; and that if it were not, naught else could be. That is an attempt (if one may call it so with all reverence) to say what cannot be said. It implies that unless there existed the Uncreate, the invisible and the Real, we could not have a universe at all. You have there, then, the indication that Nirvana is a plenum, not a void. That idea should be fundamentally fixed in your mind, in your study of every great system of Philosophy. So often the expressions used may seem to indicate a void. Hence the western idea of annihilation. If you think of it as fullness, you will realize that the consciousness expands more and more, without losing utterly the sense of identity; if you could think of a centre of a circle without a circumference, you would glimpse the truth.

The man who has once realized that marvellous unity can never forget it, can never be quite as he was before; for however deeply he may veil himself in lower vehicles in order to help and save others, however closely he may be bound to the cross of matter, cribbed, cabined and confined, he can never forget that his eyes have seen the King in his Beauty, that he has beheld the land which is very far off—very far off, yet very near, within us all the time if we could only see it, because to reach Nirvana we need not go away to some far-distant heaven, but only open our consciousness to its glory. As the Lord Buddha said long ago: “Do not complain and cry and pray, but open your eyes and see, for the light is all about you, and it is so wonderful, so beautiful, so far beyond anything of which men have ever dreamt, for which they have ever prayed, and it is for ever and for ever.”

“The land that is very far off” is a quotation from the Prophet Isaiah, but strangely enough it is a mistranslation. Isaiah did not speak of the land which is very far off, but of the land of far distances, which is a very different idea and one of great beauty. It suggests that the Prophet had had some experience of these higher planes, and was comparing in his thought the splendour of the star-strewn fields of heaven with the cramped catacombs through which we crawl on earth; for that is what this life is as compared with that higher one, a blind crawling through dark and devious ways as compared with a splendid purposeful life, an utter realization of the Divine Will ensouling and working through the wills of those who dwell therein.

The Work of the Arhat

A mighty work the Arhat has before him to climb to the topmost heights of that utmost of human planes of existence, and while he is doing it he must cast off the remaining five of the ten great fetters, which are:

6.   Ruparaga—desire for beauty of form or for physical existence in a form, even including that in the heaven-world.

7.   Aruparaga—desire for formless life.

8.   Mano—pride.

9.   Uddhachchha—agitation or irritability, the possibility of being disturbed by anything.

10. Avijja—ignorance.

The sixth and seventh fetters include not only the idea of raga, or attraction, but also that of dwesha or repulsion, and the casting off of these fetters implies a quality of character such that nothing in the lower planes of form, or the higher and formless planes, can hold him by its attraction even for a moment, or can repel him by its disagreeableness if he have work therein. As the eighth fetter, Mana, is filed away he forgets the greatness of his own achievements, and pride becomes impossible for him, since now he stands always in the light, and measures himself against no lower thing. Then comes the perfect serenity which naught can disturb, leaving him free to acquire all knowledge, to become practically omniscient as regards our planetary chain.

The Fifth Initiation

Now does the candidate approach the fifth Initiation, that of the Adept; “he hath wrought the purpose through of that which made him man,” so now he takes the final step that makes him Superman—Asekha, as the Buddhists call him, because he has no more to learn, and has exhausted the possibilities of the human kingdom of nature; Jivanmukta, as the Hindus speak of him, a liberated life, a free being, free not because of any separate independence, but because his will is one with the universal Will, that of the One without a second. He stands ever in the light of Nirvana, even in his waking consciousness, should he choose to remain on earth in a physical body, and when out of that body he rises still higher into the Monadic plane, beyond not merely our words but our thought. Hear again the Lord Buddha:

     ... Measure not with words

The Immeasurable; nor sink the string of thought

     Into the Fathomless. Who asks doth err;

          Who answers, errs. Say naught!

In Christian symbolism the Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Ghost stand for the attainment of Adeptship, for the Adept does ascend clear above humanity, beyond this earth, although if he so chooses, as did the Christ, he may return to teach and help. As he ascends he becomes one with the Holy Spirit, and invariably the first thing he does with his new power is to pour it down upon his disciples, even as the Christ poured down tongues of fire upon the heads of his followers at the Feast of Pentecost. A glance at any of the diagrams showing the principles in man, which have been published in earlier books, will show the relation between the manifestations of the Logos in the Prakritic Cosmic plane and in the soul of man; we shall see that the triple atma, the threefold Spirit of man, lies in the lower part of the nirvanic or spiritual plane, and that the lowest manifestation of the Third Person, God the Holy Spirit, is in the higher part of the same plane. The Adept becomes one with him at that level, and that is the real explanation of that Christian feast of Whitsunday, the festival of the Holy Spirit. It is on account of unity with him that the Asekha can take pupils; the Arhat, though he has very much to teach, still works under an Adept, acts for him and carries out his orders on the physical plane, but does not take pupils for himself, because he has not yet that special link with the Holy Spirit.

Beyond Adeptship

Above the Initiation of the Adept lies that of the Chohan, and further on still others, of which I will speak in the Chapter on the Occult Hierarchy. The ladder of being extends up into clouds of light, into which few of us as yet can penetrate, and when we ask those who stand higher than we and know infinitely more than we do, all they can say is that it extends beyond their sight also. They know very many more steps of it than we do, but it goes still further, onward and upward to unimaginable heights of glory, and no one knows its end.

Although what I have just said is absolutely accurate—that none of us can see the end of that ladder, and that the work of those in the higher ranks of the Hierarchy is almost incomprehensible, still I wish to make it perfectly clear that their existence and work is as real and definite as anything in the world—nay, more so, and that there is not the slightest vagueness about our vision of those Great Ones. Though I know but little about the higher part of his work, for many years past I have seen the Bodhisattva constantly, almost daily, engaged in that work, and I have very many times seen the Lord of the World in his wonderful and incomprehensible existence; so that they are to me people just as real as any whom I know, and I am as certain as I can possibly be of their existence and of something of the part that they play in the world.

Of the tremendous truth of what I can say about them I am utterly certain, and yet I cannot explain them, nor understand more than a fragment of what they are doing. I have seen Dhyan Chohans and Planetary Spirits and Ambassadors from other solar systems, and I know absolutely of the existence and transcendent glory of those people, but what their tremendous life-work may be I do not know at all. I have myself seen the Manifestation of the Logos of the Solar System, seen him as he is among his Peers, and yet millions of times more than the unspeakable grandeur that I have seen in him must be that which they see when they look at him. As Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita is said to have seen the Divine Form, so have I seen, without the shadow of a doubt. And I want to put my testimony on record that these things are so. I dare say that I lay myself open to a certain amount of scorn for writing this; people will ask: “Who are you, to say these things?” But I have seen, and it would be cowardly to refuse to bear witness.

I have repeatedly declared, both in speech and in writing, that I wish no one to base his belief in Theosophy upon any assertion of mine. I think that each man should study the system for himself and come to his own conclusions, the fundamental reason for his acceptance of any doctrine being either that he knows it from his own experience or that he finds it the most reasonable hypothesis at present before him. But that in no way alters the fact that I have evidence to give to those who care to listen to it—evidence which I have placed before them in this and other books. We who write upon Theosophy in this twentieth century can fully reaffirm St. John’s plain statement of nearly two thousand years ago:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled ... that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.[2]

We who have been bear witness; whether the world accepts our testimony makes little difference to us.

Whoso has felt the Spirit of the Highest,

     Cannot confound nor doubt him nor deny:

Yea, with one voice, O world, though thou deniest,

     Stand thou on that side, for on this am I.[3]

The Seven Paths

Immediately beyond the Asekha Initiation this higher path opens up in seven great ways among which the Adept must take his choice, and on this subject I cannot do better than quote what was said in Man: Whence, How and Whither:

When the human kingdom is traversed, and man stands on the threshold of his superhuman life, a liberated Spirit, seven paths open before him for his choosing: he may enter into the blissful omniscience and omnipotence of Nirvana, with activities far beyond our knowledge, to become, perchance, in some future world an Avatara, or divine Incarnation; this is sometimes called “taking the Dharmakaya vesture”. He may enter on “the Spiritual Period”—a phrase covering unknown meanings, among them probably that of “taking the Sambhogakaya vesture”. He may become part of that treasure-house of spiritual forces on which the Agents of the Logos draw for their work, “taking the Nirmanakaya vesture”. He may remain a member of the Occult Hierarchy which rules and guards the world in which he has reached perfection. He may pass on to the next Chain, to aid in building up its forms. He may enter the splendid Angel or Deva Evolution. He may give himself to the immediate service of the Logos, to be used by him in any part of the Solar System, his Servant and Messenger, who lives but to carry out his will and do his work over the whole of the system which he rules. As a General has his staff, the members of which carry his messages to any part of the field, so are these the Staff of him who commands all, “Ministers of his that do his pleasure”. This seems to be considered a very hard Path, perhaps the greatest sacrifice open to the Adept, and is therefore regarded as carrying with it great distinction. A member of the General Staff has no physical body, but makes one for himself by kriyashakti—the “power to make”—of the matter of the globe to which he is sent. The Staff contains Beings at very different levels, from that of Adeptship upwards.

The man who takes the Dharmakaya robe retires into the Monad, and drops even his nirvanic atom; the Sambhogakaya retains his nirvanic atom and shows himself as the Triple Spirit, and the Nirmanakaya retains his causal body and also the permanent atoms which he has carried all through his evolution, so that at any moment he can materialize round them mental, astral and physical bodies, if he so desires. He definitely keeps his link with the world from which he has come, in order that he may supply the reservoir from which spiritual power is poured down upon that world. The Nirmanakaya are spoken of in The Voice of the Silence as forming a Guardian Wall which preserves the world from further and far greater misery and sorrow. For those who do not understand the inner meaning, that seems to imply that the misery and sorrow come to the world from outside, and that these Great Ones ward it off, but that is not so at all, for all the trouble in the world comes from those who suffer it. each man is his own lawgiver, each decrees his own doom or reward; but the duty of the Nirmanakaya is to supply a great store of spiritual force for the helping of men. All the time they generate this force, taking no part for themselves, but putting it all at the service of the Brotherhood for their use in lifting the heavy burden of the world.

It will thus be seen that of those who attain Adeptship compara­tively few remain on our earth as members of the Occult Hierarchy, but these and their work are of vital importance, so we will devote to that subject the remaining chapters of this book.

[1] Op. cit., p. 82.

[2] I John, I, 3.

[3] St. Paul, by Professor Myers.