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Rules for Spiritual Initiation

Rules for Spiritual Initiation

by Zachary Lansdowne

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Zachary Lansdowne, author of earlier books on the Ageless Wisdom, reveals the esoteric significance of fourteen symbolic rules that were originally published by Alice A. Bailey. He shows that the symbols in each rule have both an outer and inner meaning. The outer meaning describes an objective in character building, and the inner meaning describes a stage in the


Zachary Lansdowne, author of earlier books on the Ageless Wisdom, reveals the esoteric significance of fourteen symbolic rules that were originally published by Alice A. Bailey. He shows that the symbols in each rule have both an outer and inner meaning. The outer meaning describes an objective in character building, and the inner meaning describes a stage in the process of meditation. The initial sequence of seven rules provides elementary instructions for the path of probation, leading to the first spiritual initiation, and the next sequence provides advanced instructions for the path of discipleship, leading to the second and third initiations. Lansdowne also discusses the close relationship between these rules and the typology of the seven rays. The end result is an easy-to-understand guidebook to the various stages of the spiritual path.

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By Zachary F. Lansdowne

Samuel Weiser, Inc.

Copyright © 1990 Zachary F. Lansdowne
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-87728-707-0


Elementary Rules for Character Building

To understand the nature of the spiritual path, it is helpful to review some concepts from theosophy. Every human being consists of a personality, a soul, and a spirit. The personality has four aspects: The mental body or mind gives the power of discrimination; the emotional body gives the capacity to sense, desire, aspire, and attract; the vital or etheric body gives the power to act and be energetic; and the dense physical body, which is controlled by the three preceding aspects, enables activity to take place in the physical world. The soul has three primary aspects: will or purpose, inclusive love, and wisdom. The informing, indwelling soul seeks to impress, impel, and motivate the personality. The personality and the soul are in turn animated and impelled by the spirit, which is the energy of life itself.

The spiritual path is divided into several distinct segments, corresponding to the various initiations, and each segment has a definite curriculum. The word aspirant connotes someone on the path of probation, which extends from the beginning of the spiritual path to the first initiation. The main lesson of each aspirant is learning to express the love aspect of the soul through outer behavior. A disciple is someone on the path of discipleship, which extends from the first to the third initiations. The main lesson of each disciple is learning to express the various aspects of the soul through the mental, emotional, and etheric bodies, resulting in what is called the soul-infused personality. An initiate refers to someone on the path of initiation, which extends from the third to still higher initiations. The main lesson of each initiate is learning to integrate the soul-infused personality with the spirit.

The path of probation is divided into two distinct stages, called Little Chelaship and Chela in the Light. Chela is a Sanskrit word meaning spiritual servant or disciple. During the first stage, or Little Chelaship, aspirants seek out and are instructed by various teachers in the physical world. During the second stage, or Chela in the Light, they slowly learn to be guided by the light of their own souls, which explains that particular name.

Character building is defined as the effort to express the soul attitude, soul awareness, and soul consciousness, through the medium of the personality, in the physical world. In this chapter, the first seven of Bailey's rules for initiation are interpreted as describing a sevenfold process of character building for the path of probation. Rules One through Three give instruction for the first stage of that path, Little Chelaship; and rules Four through Seven give instruction for the second stage, Chela in the Light.

Bailey scattered a mass of information about initiation through all of her books, written over many years. In her final book, she stated that this information needs to be collated and brought together as a basis for instructing individuals in training for initiation. The purpose of the present book is to interpret her rules for initiation by collating and bringing together her many scattered fragments. Although based on Bailey's own material, these interpretations are solely the responsibility of the present writer and may not be what was originally intended. Thus, the reader must carefully judge the accuracy of the interpretations that follow.

Rule One

Let the disciple search within the heart's deep cave. If there the fire burns bright, warming his brother yet heating not himself, the hour has come for making application to stand before the door.

Before interpreting this rule, it is necessary to review some additional concepts. According to theosophy, the solar system is divided into seven force fields, called planes. Only three planes are discussed in this book: the physical; the emotional, or astral; and the mental. Each of these planes is further divided into seven subplanes. In the case of the physical plane, the names of the seven subplanes are first ether, second ether, third ether, fourth ether, gaseous, liquid, and solid. The three lowest physical subplanes — gaseous, liquid, and solid — compose the dense world of matter and are perceptible with the five physical senses. The four highest physical subplanes represent the etheric region. Although imperceptible with normal faculties, these four ethers are considered part of the physical realm.

Corresponding to the division of the physical plane into dense and etheric portions, a person's physical body also has two portions. The dense physical body is composed of solids, liquids, and gases, including such parts as the bones, blood system, nervous system, brain, and endocrine glands. The etheric body, sometimes called the vital body, is composed of the four ethers. Although of a tenuous nature, the etheric body is the framework or foundation underlying every part of the dense physical body, and it vitalizes or energizes the dense physical cells.

The word chakra means "wheel" in Sanskrit; it refers to a subtle wheel of energy, or force center, in the etheric body. Traditional yoga philosophy recognizes the existence of seven major etheric chakras. For each of these chakras, Table 1 lists the English name, traditional Sanskrit name, approximate location, and associated endocrine gland. The rest of this book refers to the chakras by their English names.

The first rule describes the beginning of the path of probation as well as the overall objective for that path. In this rule, the symbols have the following interpretations: "The heart's deep cave" refers to the heart chakra; "fire burns bright," to compassion, which is the quality associated with the heart chakra; "brother," to another human being; "making application," to practicing self-discipline and purification; and "door," to the first initiation.

Each phrase of this rule is interpreted separately. The first phrase is "let the disciple search within the heart's deep cave." Because of their ambition to achieve material success, individuals who are approaching the spiritual path have already attained enough alignment with the soul to utilize their faculty of abstract thought, representing the wisdom aspect of the soul. Because of this alignment, they also have gained the potential of sensing feelings of oneness with others, such as sympathy and compassion. These feelings are sensed within the heart chakra and represent the love aspect of the soul. Since awareness of these feelings leads to inner conflict, people initially wish to suppress or ignore them. Although such suppression does bring temporary relief to the personality, it also arrests and delays the work of the soul. The meaning of the first phrase of the first rule is that people should not try to suppress or ignore their feelings of oneness with others. When they consciously acknowledge the presence of these feelings, they begin the initial stage of the spiritual path known as Little Chelaship.

The second phrase is "if there the fire burns bright, warming his brother yet heating not himself." If aspirants perceive that they have genuine concerns for the welfare of other human beings rather than for themselves, they become aware of cleavage or contradiction between these feelings of oneness and their self-centered behavior. Because the sensed cleavage produces psychological problems — discomfort, frustration, and nervous distress — aspirants are brought to a point of inner crisis. When facing this crisis, it would be helpful if they accepted the following premises: First, their psychological difficulties are not unique and are faced by everyone who passes on to the spiritual path. Second, these difficulties indicate progress and opportunity, rather than disaster and failure. And third, the power to produce the needed integration, ending the sensed cleavage, lies within themselves.

The third phrase is "the hour has come for making application to stand before the door." After consciously recognizing the existence of cleavage between lower and higher aspects of themselves, aspirants are ready to begin making application of an intelligent bridging process consisting of self-discipline and self-purification. Their objective is to express inclusive love through their outer behavior, enabling their psychological distress to be resolved through integration rather than suppression. This objective is equivalent to attaining the first initiation and is symbolized by a door for two reasons. First, a door permits entrance into a larger area. After attaining the first initiation, aspirants will enter into a sphere of wider activity because their relationships will be more extensive and satisfying. And second, a door is a discrete threshold. Each aspirant will attain the first initiation at a discrete moment in time, after sufficiently mastering the lessons encountered on the path of probation.

Rule Two

When application has been made in triple form, then let the disciple withdraw that application, and forget it has been made.

During the stage of Little Chelaship, aspirants have a selfish spiritual purpose, such as a vague desire for personal liberation from inner conflicts, for personal integrity, and for personal lasting happiness. They have no true unselfish desire to serve others. During the first part of this stage, they investigate various psychological and spiritual teachings, and they run from one teacher to another according to inclination, opportunity, and necessity. It is important that each aspirant transcend this period of itinerancy, gradually settle down with a single teacher or teaching, and learn to apply a discipline of self-purification.

Impurities are associated with each of the four bodies that constitute the personality. Although most people try to keep their dense physical bodies clean, an aspirant needs to be concerned with impurities associated with the deeper aspects of the personality: illusion on the mental level, glamour on the emotional level, and maya on the etheric level.

Illusion is defined as the power of some mental thought-form to dominate and distort thinking. Such a thoughtform could be based on traditional beliefs from the past, an idea from a current ideology, or a dimly sensed idea that will become popular in the future. Whenever we have a real grasp of the whole idea, there can be no illusion. But if we wrongly perceive, wrongly interpret, or wrongly appropriate the idea, then it can become a narrow and separative ideal, resulting in illusion. Because of illusion, we become fanatics, enforcers of narrow ideals, and limited visionaries.

Glamour is defined as an emotional reaction that prevents clear perception. Its effect is similar to a fog that distorts everything we see or contact, preventing us from viewing the surrounding conditions as they essentially are. Because glamour enters the mind through familiar habits of thought, it is frequently present; because of the nature of emotional reactions, it is powerful; and by being able to masquerade as the truth, it is subtle. For instance, glamour is present whenever we have pride, self-pity, or criticism.

The Sanskrit word maya means "illusion," but this word is given a special meaning in the context being considered here. Whereas glamour is illusion that has been intensified by desire, maya is glamour that has been intensified by vital energy. For instance, maya is present whenever we have a compulsion — an irrational repetitive behavior that is difficult to resist. Examples of compulsions include pathological gambling, various eating disturbances, excessive hand-washing, and such sexual disorders as fetishism and voyeurism.

Let us now interpret the second rule. The first phrase is "when application has been made in triple form." When aspirants have applied self-appointed rules to themselves, they have taken another step toward simplifying their lives, integrating their personalities, and working efficiently in the world with accuracy and one-pointedness. Application of the rules needs to be made in triple form: dispelling mental illusion, dissipating emotional glamour, and devitalizing etheric maya.

The second phrase is "then let the disciple withdraw that application." A basic law of the universe, sometimes called the Law of Periodicity, states that all evolutionary growth is characterized by rhythm, ebb and flow, and cycles. This law is applicable to all forms in nature, including the solar system, the various kingdoms of nature, and the daily life of an individual human being. The point is that the effort of character building should also be periodic. Spiritual initiation cannot be accomplished in one furious continuous stretch of rushing forth to work, nor can it be accomplished in one eternal siesta. Thus, aspirants have to achieve the wisdom of knowing when it is time to apply self-discipline and when it is time to withdraw that application. If they develop as desired, each period of withdrawal is succeeded by a cycle of greater activity and of more potent achievement.

The third phrase is "and forget it has been made." One should do one's best to complete the active and passive phases of the current cycle of work. Then one should begin a new cycle, forgetting about the previous effort: experiencing neither pride over what was done nor depression due to any lack of accomplishment. However, if aspirants ignore this injunction, they may take pride in being able to adhere to a self-imposed discipline and feel superior to those who are not so disciplined. They may then make self-discipline their goal, confusing the means with the ends and becoming fanatical. Such confusion would increase their sense of separateness, even though the overall objective of the path of probation is to become more inclusive.

Rule Three

Triple the call must be, and long it takes to sound it forth. Let the disciple sound the cry across the desert, over the sea, and through the fires which separate him from the veiled and hidden door.

The first three rules present different aspects of a single process of training. The first rule describes the training objective. The second rule describes the cyclic nature of the process, the context in which all work should be done. The third rule describes how the discipline of self-purification should be applied during the active portion of each cycle.

For either an individual, a group, or a kingdom of nature, consciousness unfolds through a series of ascensions. These ascensions are the result of a method of invocation by the lesser entity, followed by the evocation of a factor that is greater, more inclusive, and more enlightened. The lesser entity invokes the greater, and the greater factor responds according to the degree of understanding and dynamic tension displayed by the lesser one. The task of the lesser entity is invocative, and the success of the invocative rite is called evocation. According to Bailey, "The definition of religion which will in the future prove of greater accuracy than any yet formulated by the theologians might be expressed as follows: Religion is the name given to the invocative appeal of humanity and the evocative response of the greater Life to that cry." Invocation and evocation can be thought of as being a science, and Bailey predicts that this science will someday take the place of what is called prayer and worship.

In the case of an aspirant on the path of probation, the effort is to create a point of invocative tension in the personality, which then evokes the attention of the soul. As a result, the vibrations of the personality and soul slowly become reciprocally stronger, until there is a contact between them. The third rule describes this process, and the symbols have the following meanings: "The call" refers to an invocation for purification; "cry," to the responding evocation; "desert," to physical life; "sea," to emotional life; "fires," to mental life; "him," to the aspirant; and "veiled and hidden door," to the first initiation.

According to the first sentence of the rule, the aspirant must invoke new patterns of behavior, feeling, and thinking ("triple the call must be"), and these invocations must be made over a relatively long period ("and long it takes to sound it forth"). Through these invocations, the inner spiritual nature is evoked, enabling it to emerge into manifestation. This evocation can be thought of as a process of unveiling: Each body of the personality is successively brought to a point where it is simply a transparency, permitting the full shining forth of the inner spiritual nature.

The aspirant's first task is to express evoked patterns of behavior across the physical plane ("let the disciple sound the cry across the desert"). The dense physical body is only an automaton, obedient to the controlling forces in the etheric body. Is outer behavior to be controlled by emotional force, producing desire for the gratification of physical appetites and emotional desires? Is it to be responsive to the mind and work under the impulse of projected thought? Or is it to be directed by an energy greater than these, the energy of the soul? The process of evoking new patterns of behavior is based on distinguishing between the spiritual self, which expresses only virtues, and the not-self, which expresses only vices. There are three steps: First, through refusing to be identified with anything regarded as the not-self, become indifferent toward any impulsive irrational behavior but without fighting or placing any concentration on that behavior. Second, through constant recollection of the truth of being the spiritual self, call forth right thought and true idealism from the mind and soul. Third, by projecting the evoked energies down into the etheric body, express new patterns of behavior in the physical world.

Excerpted from RULES FOR SPIRITUAL INITIATION by Zachary F. Lansdowne. Copyright © 1990 Zachary F. Lansdowne. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
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