The question anent initiation is one that is coming more and more before the public. Before many centuries pass the old mysteries will be restored, and an inner body will exist in the Church—the Church of the period, of which the nucleus is already forming—wherein the first initiation will become exoteric, in this sense only, that the taking of the first initiation will, before so very long, be the most sacred ceremony of the Church, performed exoterically as one of the mysteries given at stated periods, attended by those concerned. It will also hold a similar place in the ritual of the Masons. At this ceremony those ready for the first initiation will be publicly admitted to the Lodge by one of its members, authorised to do so by the great Hierophant Himself.
FOUR WORDS DEFINED.
When we speak of Initiation, of wisdom, of knowledge, or of the probationary Path, what do we mean? We use the words so glibly, without due consideration of the meaning involved. Take, for instance, the word first mentioned. Many are the definitions, and many are the explanations to be found as to its scope, the preparatory steps, the work to be done between initiations, and its result and effects. One thing before all else is apparent to the most superficial student, and that is, that the magnitude of the subject is such that in order to deal with it adequately one should be able to write from the viewpoint of an initiate; when this is not the case, anything that is said may be reasonable, logical, interesting, or suggestive, but not conclusive.
The word Initiation comes from two Latin words, in, into; and ire, to go; therefore, the making of a beginning, or the entrance into something. It posits, in its widest sense, in the case we are studying, an entrance into the spiritual life, or into a fresh stage in that life. It is the first step, and the succeeding steps, upon the Path of Holiness. Literally, therefore, a man who has taken the first initiation is one who has taken the first step into the spiritual kingdom, having passed out of the definitely human kingdom into the superhuman. Just as he passed out of the animal kingdom into the human at individualisation, so he has entered upon the life of the spirit, and for the first time has the right to be called a “spiritual man” in the technical significance of the word. He is entering upon the fifth or final stage in our present fivefold evolution. Having groped his way through the Hall of Ignorance during many ages, and having gone to school in the Hall of Learning, he is now entering into the university, or the Hall of Wisdom. When he has passed through that school he will graduate with his degree as a Master of Compassion.
It might be of benefit to us also if we studied first the difference or the connection between Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom. Though in ordinary parlance they are frequently interchanged, as used technically they are dissimilar.
Knowledge is the product of the Hall of Learning. It might be termed the sumtotal of human discovery and experience, that which can be recognised by the five senses, and be correlated, diagnosed, and defined by the use of the human intellect. It is that about which we feel mental certitude, or that which we can ascertain by the use of experiment. It is the compendium of the arts and sciences. It concerns all that deals with the building and developing of the form side of things. Therefore it concerns the material side of evolution, matter in the solar systems, in the planet, in the three worlds of human evolution, and in the bodies of men.
Wisdom is the product of the Hall of Wisdom. It has to do with the development of the life within the form, with the progress of the spirit through those ever-changing vehicles, and with the expansions of consciousness that succeed each other from life to life. It deals with the life side of evolution. Since it deals with the essence of things and not with the things themselves, it is the intuitive apprehension of truth apart from the reasoning faculty, and the innate perception that can distinguish between the false and the true, between the real and the unreal. It is more than that, for it is also the growing capacity of the Thinker to enter increasingly into the mind of the Logos, to realise the true inwardness of the great pageant of the universe, to vision the objective, and to harmonise more and more with the higher measure. For our present purpose (which is to study somewhat the Path of Holiness and its various stages) it may be described as the realisation of the “Kingdom of God within,” and the apprehension of the “Kingdom of God without” in the solar system. Perhaps it might be expressed as the gradual blending of the paths of the mystic and the occultist,—the rearing of the temple of wisdom upon the foundation of knowledge.
Wisdom is the science of the spirit, just as knowledge is the science of matter. Knowledge is separative and objective, whilst wisdom is synthetic and subjective. Knowledge divides; wisdom unites. Knowledge differentiates whilst wisdom blends. What, then, is meant by the understanding?
The understanding may be defined as the faculty of the Thinker in Time to appropriate knowledge as the foundation for wisdom, that which enables him to adapt the things of form to the life of the spirit, and to take the flashes of inspiration that come to him from the Hall of Wisdom and link them to the facts of the Hall of Learning. Perhaps the whole idea might be expressed in this way:
Wisdom concerns the one Self, knowledge deals with the not-self, whilst the understanding is the point of view of the Ego, or Thinker, or his relation between them.
In the Hall of Ignorance the form controls, and the material side of things has the predominance. Man is there polarised in the personality or lower self. In the Hall of Learning the higher self, or Ego, strives to dominate that form until gradually a point of equilibrium is reached where the man is controlled entirely by neither. Later the Ego controls more and more, until in the Hall of Wisdom it dominates in the three lower worlds, and in increasing degree the inherent divinity assumes the mastery.
ASPECTS OF INITIATION.
Initiation, or the process of undergoing an expansion of consciousness, is part of the normal process of evolutionary development, viewed on a large scale, and not from the standpoint of the individual. When viewed from the individual standpoint it has come to be narrowed down to the moment wherein the evolving unit definitely apprehends that (by dint of his own effort, aided by the advice and suggestions of the watching Teachers of the race) he has reached a point wherein a certain range of knowledge of a subjective nature, from the physical plane point of view, is his. It is in the nature of that experience wherein a pupil in a school realises suddenly that he has mastered a lesson, and that the rationale of a subject, and the method of procedure, are his to use intelligently. These moments of intelligent apprehension follow the evolving Monad throughout his long pilgrimage. What has been misinterpreted somewhat at this stage of comprehension is the fact that at various periods the emphasis is laid on different grades of expansion, and always the Hierarchy endeavours to bring the race to the point where its units will have some idea of the next step to be taken.
Each initiation marks the passing of the pupil in the Hall of Wisdom into a higher class, marks the clearer shining forth of the inner fire and the transition from one point of polarisation to another, entails the realisation of an increasing unity with all that lives and the essential oneness of the self with all selves. It results in a horizon that continuously enlarges until it includes the sphere of creation; it is a growing capacity to see and hear on all the planes. It is an increased consciousness of God’s plans for the world, and an increased ability to enter into those plans and to further them. It is the effort in the abstract mind to pass an examination. It is the honour class in the Master’s school, and is within the attainment of those souls whose karma permits and whose efforts suffice to fulfil the aim.
Initiation leads to the mount whence vision can be had, a vision of the eternal Now, wherein past, present, and future exist as one; a vision of the pageant of the races with the golden thread of pedigree carried through the many types; a vision of the golden sphere that holds in unison all the many evolutions of our system, deva, human, animal, vegetable, mineral, and elemental, and through which the pulsating life can be clearly seen beating in regular rhythm; a vision of the Logoic thoughtform on the archetypal plane, a vision that grows from initiation to initiation until it embraces all the solar system.
Initiation leads to the stream that, once entered, sweeps a man onward until it carries him to the feet of the Lord of the World, to the feet of his Father in Heaven, to the feet of the three-fold Logos.
Initiation leads to the cave within whose circumscribing walls the pairs of opposites are known, and the secret of good and evil is revealed. It leads to the Cross and to that utter sacrifice which must transpire before perfect liberation is attained, and the initiate stands free of all earth’s fetters, held by naught in the three worlds. It leads through the Hall of Wisdom, and puts into a man’s hands the key to all information, systemic and cosmic, in graduated sequence. It reveals the hidden mystery that lies at the heart of the solar system. It leads from one state of consciousness to another. As each state is entered the horizon enlarges, the vista extends, and the comprehension includes more and more, until the expansion reaches a point where the self embraces all selves, including all that is “moving and unmoving,” as phrased by an ancient Scripture.
Initiation involves ceremony. It is this aspect that has been emphasised in the minds of men, perhaps a little to the exclusion of the true significance. Primarily it involves the capacity to see, hear, and comprehend, and to synthesise and correlate knowledge. It does not necessarily involve the development of the psychic faculties, but it does entail the inner comprehension that sees the value underlying the form, and recognises the purpose of pervading circumstances. It is the capacity that senses the lesson to be learnt from any given occurrence and event, and that by means of these comprehensions and recognitions effects an hourly, weekly, yearly growth and expansion. This process of gradual expansion—the result of the definite effort and strenuous right thinking and living of the aspirant himself and not of some occult teacher performing an occult rite—leads to what one might term a crisis.
At this crisis, which necessitates the aid of a Master, a definite act of initiation is performed, which (acting on a particular centre) produces a result on some one body. It keys the atoms to a certain pitch, and enables a new rate of rhythm to be attained.
This ceremony of initiation marks a point of attainment. It does not bring about attainment, as is so often the misconception. It simply marks the recognition by the watching Teachers of the race of a definite point in evolution reached by the pupil, and gives two things:—
1. An expansion of consciousness that admits the personality into the wisdom attained by the Ego, and in the higher initiations into the consciousness of the Monad.
2. A brief period of enlightenment wherein the initiate sees that portion of the Path that lies ahead to be trodden, and wherein he shares consciously in the great plan of evolution.
After initiation, the work to be done consists largely in making that expansion of consciousness part of the equipment for the practical use of the personality, and in mastering that portion of the path that has yet to be traversed.
THE PLACE AND EFFECT OF INITIATION.
The ceremony of initiation takes place on the three higher sub-planes of the mental plane, and on the three higher planes, according to the initiation. The five-pointed star, at the initiations on the mental plane, flashes out above the head of the initiate. This concerns the first initiations which are undergone in the causal vehicle. It has been said that the first two initiations take place upon the astral plane, but this is incorrect, and the statement has given rise to a misunderstanding. They are felt profoundly in connection with the astral and physical bodies and the lower mental, and affect their control. The chief effect being felt in those bodies the initiate may interpret them as having taken place on the planes concerned, as the vividness of the effect and the stimulation of the first two initiations work out largely in the astral body. But it must ever be remembered that the major initiations are taken in the causal body or—dissociated from that body—on the buddhic plane or atmic plane. At the final two initiations which set a man free from the three worlds, and enable him to function in the body of vitality of the Logos and wield that force, the initiate becomes the five-pointed star and it descends upon him, merges in him, and he is seen at its very centre. This descent is brought about by the action of the Initiator, wielding the Rod of Power, and puts a man in touch with the centre in the Body of the Planetary Logos of which he is a part, and this consciously. The two initiations called the sixth and seventh take place on the buddhic and atmic planes; the five-pointed star “blazes forth from within Itself,” as the esoteric phrase has it, and becomes the seven-pointed star; it descends upon the man and he enters within the flame.
Again, the four initiations, prior to that of the adept, mark respectively the attainment of certain proportions of atomic matter in the bodies—for instance, at the first initiation one-fourth atomic matter, at the second one-half atomic matter, at the third three-quarters atomic matter, and so on to the completion. Since buddhi is the unifying principle (or the welder of all), at the fifth initiation the adept lets the lower vehicles go, and stands in his buddhic sheath. He creates thence his body of manifestation.
Each initiation gives more control on the rays, if one may so express it, although this does not adequately convey the idea. Words so often mislead. At the fifth initiation, when the adept stands Master in the three worlds, He controls more or less (according to His line of development) the five rays that are specially manifesting at the time He takes the initiation. At the sixth initiation, if He takes the higher degree, He gains power on another ray, and at the seventh initiation He wields power on all the rays. The sixth initiation marks the point of attainment of the Christ, and brings the synthetic ray of the system under His control. We need to remember that initiation gives the initiate power on the rays, and not power over the rays, for this marks a very definite difference. Every initiate has, of course, for his primary or spiritual ray one of the three major rays, and the ray of his Monad is the one on which he at length gains power. The love ray, or the synthetic ray of the system, is the final one achieved.
Those who pass away from the earth after the fifth initiation, or those who do not become Masters in physical incarnation, take their subsequent initiations elsewhere in the system. All are in the Logoic Consciousness. One great fact to be borne in mind is, that the initiations of the planet or of the solar system are but the preparatory initiations of admission into the greater Lodge on Sirius. We have the symbolism held for us fairly well in Masonry, and in combining the Masonic method with what we are told of the steps on the Path of Holiness we get an approximate picture. Let us enlarge somewhat:—
The first four initiations of the solar system correspond to the four “initiations of the Threshold,” prior to the first cosmic initiation. The fifth initiation corresponds to the first cosmic initiation, that of “entered apprentice” in Masonry; and makes a Master an “entered apprentice” of the Lodge on Sirius. The sixth initiation is analogous to the second degree in Masonry, whilst the seventh initiation makes the Adept a Master Mason of the Brotherhood on Sirius.
A Master, therefore, is one who has taken the seventh planetary initiation, the fifth solar initiation, and the first Sirian or cosmic initiation.
AT-ONE-MENT, THE RESULT OF INITIATION.
A point that we need to grasp is that each successive initiation brings about a more complete unification of the personality and the Ego, and on higher levels still, with the Monad. The whole evolution of the human spirit is a progressive at-one-ment. In the at-one-ment between the Ego and the personality lies hid the mystery of the Christian doctrine of the Atonement. One unification takes place at the moment of individualisation, when man becomes a conscious rational entity, in contradistinction to the animals. As evolution proceeds successive at-one-ments occur.
At-one-ment on all levels—emotional, intuitional, spiritual and Divine—consists in conscious, continuous functioning. In all cases it is preceded by a burning, through the medium of the inner fire, and by the destruction, through sacrifice, of all that separates. The approach to unity is through destruction of the lower, and of all that forms a barrier. Take, in illustration, the web that separates the etheric body and the emotional. When that web has been burned away by the inner fire the communication between the bodies of the personality becomes continuous and complete, and the three lower vehicles function as one. You  have a somewhat analogous situation on the higher levels, though the parallel cannot be pushed to detail. The intuition corresponds to the emotional, and the four higher levels of the mental plane to the etheric. In the destruction of the causal body at the time of the fourth initiation (called symbolically “the Crucifixion”) you have a process analogous to the burning of the web that leads to the unification of the bodies of the personality. The disintegration that is a part of the arhat initiation leads to unity between the Ego and the Monad, expressing itself in the Triad. It is the perfect at-one-ment.
The whole process is therefore for the purpose of making man consciously one:—
First: With himself, and those in incarnation with him.
Second: With his higher Self, and thus with all selves.
Third: With his Spirit, or “Father in Heaven,” and thus with all Monads.
Fourth: With the Logos, the Three in One and the One in Three.
Man becomes a conscious human being through the instrumentality of the Lords of the Flame, through Their enduring sacrifice.
Man becomes a conscious Ego, with the consciousness of the higher Self, at the third initiation, through the instrumentality of the Masters and of the Christ, and through Their sacrifice in taking physical incarnation for the helping of the world.
Man unites with the Monad at the fifth initiation, through the instrumentality of the Lord of the World, the Solitary Watcher, the Great Sacrifice.
Man becomes one with the Logos through the instrumentality of One about Whom naught may be said.