To fulfil our duty in the divine scheme
we must try to understand not only that scheme as
a whole, but the special part that man is intended
to play in it. The divine outbreathing reached
its deepest immersion in matter in the mineral kingdom,
but it reaches its ultimate point of differentiation
not at the lowest level of materiality, but at the
entrance into the human kingdom on the upward arc
of evolution. We have thus to realize three stages
in the course of this evolution.
(a) The downward arc in which the
tendency is towards differentiation and also towards
greater materiality. In this stage spirit is involving
itself in matter, in order that it may learn to receive
impressions through it.
(b) The earlier part of the upward
arc, in which the tendency is still towards greater
differentiation, but at the same time towards spiritualization
and escape from materiality. In this stage the
spirit is learning to dominate matter and to see it
as an expression of itself.
(c) The later part of the upward arc,
when differentiation has been finally accomplished,
and the tendency is towards unity as well as towards
greater spirituality. In this stage the spirit,
having learnt perfectly how to receive impression
through matter and how to express itself through it,
and having awakened its dormant powers, learns to
use these powers rightly in the service of the Deity.
The object of the whole previous evolution
has been to produce the ego as a manifestation of
the Monad. Then the ego in its turn evolves by
putting itself down into a succession of personalities.
Men who do not understand this look upon the personality
as the self, and consequently live for it alone, and
try to regulate their lives for what appears to be
its temporary advantage. The man who understands
realizes that the only important thing is the life
of the ego, and that its progress is the object for
which the temporary personality must be used.
Therefore when he has to decide between two possible
courses he thinks not, as the ordinary man might:
“Which will bring the greater pleasure and profit
to me as a personality?” but “Which will
bring greater progress to me as an ego?” Experience
soon teaches him that nothing can ever be really good
for him, or for anyone, which is not good for all,
and so presently he learns to forget himself altogether,
and to ask only what will be best for humanity as
Clearly then at this stage of evolution
whatever tends to unity, whatever tends to spirituality,
is in accord with the plan of the Deity for us, and
is therefore right for us, while whatever tends to
separateness or to materiality is equally certainly
wrong for us. There are thoughts and emotions
which tend to unity, such as love, sympathy, reverence,
benevolence; there are others which tend to disunion,
such as hatred, jealousy, envy, pride, cruelty, fear.
Obviously the former group are for us the right, the
latter group are for us the wrong.
In all these thoughts and feelings
which are clearly wrong, we recognize one dominant
note, the thought of self; while in all those which
are clearly right we recognize that the thought is
turned toward others, and that the personal self is
forgotten. Wherefore we see that selfishness is
the one great wrong, and that perfect unselfishness
is the crown of all virtue. This gives us at
once a rule of life. The man who wishes intelligently
to co-operate with the Divine Will must lay aside all
thought of the advantage or pleasure of the personal
self, and must devote himself exclusively to carrying
out that Will by working for the welfare and happiness
This is a high ideal, and difficult
of attainment, because there lies behind us such a
long history of selfishness. Most of us are as
yet far from the purely altruistic attitude; how are
we to go to work to attain it, lacking as we do the
necessary intensity in so many of the good qualities,
and possessing so many which are undesirable?
Here comes into operation the great
law of cause and effect to which I have already referred.
Just as we can confidently appeal to the laws of Nature
in the physical world, so may we also appeal to these
laws of the higher world. If we find evil qualities
within us, they have grown up by slow degrees through
ignorance and through self-indulgence. Now that
the ignorance is dispelled by knowledge, now that
in consequence we recognize the quality as an evil,
the method of getting rid of it lies obviously before
For each of these vices there is a
contrary virtue; if we find one of them rearing its
head within us, let us immediately determine deliberately
to develop within ourselves the contrary virtue.
If a man realizes that in the past he has been selfish,
that means that he has set up within himself the habit
of thinking of himself first and pleasing himself,
of consulting his own convenience or his pleasure
without due thought of the effect upon others; let
him set to work purposefully to form the exactly opposite
habit, to make a practice before doing anything of
thinking how it will affect all those around him;
let him set himself habitually to please others, even
though it be at the cost of trouble or privation for
himself. This also in time will become a habit,
and by developing it he will have killed out the other.
If a man finds himself full of suspicion,
ready always to assign evil motives to the actions
of those about him, let him set himself steadily to
cultivate trust in his fellows, to give them credit
always for the highest possible motives. It may
be said that a man who does this will lay himself
open to be deceived, and that in many cases his confidence
will be misplaced. That is a small matter; it
is far better for him that he should sometimes be
deceived as a result of his trust in his fellows than
that he should save himself from such deception by
maintaining a constant attitude of suspicion.
Besides, confidence begets faithfulness. A man
who is trusted will generally prove himself worthy
of the trust, whereas a man who is suspected is likely
presently to justify the suspicion.
If a man finds in himself the tendency
towards avarice, let him go out of his way to be especially
generous; if he finds himself irritable, let him definitely
train himself in calmness; if he finds himself devoured
by curiosity, let him deliberately refuse again and
again to gratify that curiosity; if he is liable to
fits of depression, let him persistently cultivate
cheerfulness, even under the most adverse circumstances.
In every case the existence of an
evil quality in the personality means a lack of the
corresponding good quality in the ego. The shortest
way to get rid of that evil and to prevent its reappearance
is to fill the gap in the ego, and the good quality
which is thus developed will show itself as an integral
part of the man’s character through all his future
lives. An ego cannot be evil, but he can be imperfect.
The qualities which he develops cannot be other than
good qualities, and when they are well defined they
show themselves in each of all his numerous personalities,
and consequently those personalities can never be
guilty of the vices opposite to these qualities; but
where there is a gap in the ego, where there is a quality
undeveloped, there is nothing inherent in the personality
to check the growth of the opposite vice; and since
others in the world about him already possess that
vice, and man is an imitative animal, it is quite
probable that it will speedily manifest itself in him.
This vice, however, belongs to the vehicles only and
not to the man inside. In these vehicles its
repetition may set up a momentum which is hard to conquer;
but if the ego bestirs himself to create in himself
the opposite virtue, the vice is cut off at its root,
and can no longer exist neither in this
life nor in all the lives that are to come.
A man who is trying to evolve these
qualities in himself will find certain obstacles in
his way obstacles which he must learn to
surmount. One of these is the critical spirit
of the age the disposition to find fault
with a thing, to belittle everything, to look for
faults in everything and everyone. The exact
opposite of this is what is needed for progress.
He who wishes to move rapidly along the path of evolution
must learn to see good in everything to
see the latent Deity in everything and in everyone.
Only so can he help those other people only
so can he get the best out of those other things.
Another obstacle is the lack of perseverance.
We tend in these days to be impatient; if we try any
plan we expect immediate results from it, and if we
do not get them, we give up that plan and try something
else. That is not the way to make progress in
occultism. The effort which we are making is
to compress into one or two lives the evolution which
would naturally take perhaps a hundred lives.
That is not the sort of undertaking in which immediate
results are to be expected. We attempt to uproot
an evil habit, and we find it hard work; why?
Because we have indulged in that practice for, perhaps,
twenty thousand years; one cannot shake off the custom
of twenty thousand years in a day or two. We
have allowed that habit to gain an enormous momentum,
and before we can set up a force in the opposite direction
we have to overcome that momentum. That cannot
be done in a moment, but it is absolutely certain
that it will be done eventually, if we persevere,
because the momentum, however strong it may be, is
a finite quantity, whereas the power that we can bring
to bear against it is the infinite power of the human
will, which can make renewed efforts day after day,
year after year, even life after life if necessary.
Another great difficulty in our way
is the lack of clearness in our thought. People
in the West are little used to clear thought with regard
to religious matters. Everything is vague and
nebulous. For occult development vagueness and
nebulosity will not do. Our conceptions must be
clear-cut and our thought-images definite. Other
necessary characteristics are calmness and cheerfulness;
these are rare in modern life, but are absolute essentials
for the work which we are here undertaking.
The process of building a character
is as scientific as that of developing one’s
muscles. Many a man, finding himself with certain
muscles flabby and powerless takes that as his natural
condition, and regards their weakness as a kind of
destiny imposed upon him; but anyone who understands
a little of the human body is aware that by continued
exercise those muscles can be brought into a state
of health and the whole body eventually put in order.
In exactly the same way, many a man finds himself possessed
of a bad temper or a tendency to avarice or suspicion
or self-indulgence, and when in consequence of any
of these vices he commits some great mistake or does
some great harm he offers it as an excuse that he is
a hasty-tempered man, or that he possesses this or
that quality by nature implying that therefore
he cannot help it.
In this case just as in the other
the remedy is in his own hands. Regular exercise
of the right kind will develop a certain muscle, and
regular mental exercise of the right kind will develop
a missing quality in a man’s character.
The ordinary man does not realize that he can do this,
and even if he sees that he can do it, he does not
see why he should, for it means much effort and much
self-repression. He knows of no adequate motive
for undertaking a task so laborious and painful.
The motive is supplied by the knowledge
of the truth. One who gains an intelligent comprehension
of the direction of evolution feels it not only his
interest but his privilege and his delight to co-operate
with it. One who wills the end wills also the
means; in order to be able to do good work for the
world he must develop within himself the necessary
strength and the necessary qualities. Therefore
he who wishes to reform the world must first of all
reform himself. He must learn to give up altogether
the attitude of insisting upon rights, and must devote
himself utterly to the most earnest performance of
his duties. He must learn to regard every connection
with his fellow-man as an opportunity to help that
fellow-man, or in some way to do him good.
One who studies these subjects intelligently
cannot but realize the tremendous power of thought,
and the necessity for its efficient control.
All action springs from thought, for even when it is
done (as we say) without thought, it is the instinctive
expression of the thoughts, desires and feelings which
the man has allowed to grow luxuriantly within himself
in earlier days.
The wise man, therefore, will watch
his thought with the greatest of care, for in it he
possesses a powerful instrument, for the right use
of which he is responsible. It is his duty to
govern his thought, lest it should be allowed to run
riot and to do evil to himself, and to others; it is
his duty also to develop his thought-power, because
by means of it a vast amount of actual and active
good can be done. Thus controlling his thought
and his action, thus eliminating from himself all evil
and unfolding in himself all good qualities, the man
presently raises himself far above the level of his
fellows, and stands out conspicuously among them as
one who is working on the side of good as against
evil, of evolution as against stagnation.
The Members of the great Hierarchy,
in whose hands is the evolution of the world, are
watching always for such men in order that They may
train them to help in the great work. Such a
man inevitably attracts Their attention, and They
begin to use him as an instrument in Their work.
If he proves himself a good and efficient instrument,
presently They will offer him definite training as
an apprentice, that by helping Them in the world-business
which They have to do he may some day become even as
They are, and join the mighty Brotherhood to which
But for an honour so great as this
mere ordinary goodness will not suffice. True,
a man must be good first of all, or it would be hopeless
to think of using him, but in addition to being good
he must be wise and strong. What is needed is
not merely a good man, but a great spiritual power.
Not only must the candidate have cast aside all ordinary
weaknesses but he must have acquired strong positive
qualities before he can offer himself to Them with
any hope that he will be accepted. He must live
no longer as a blundering and selfish personality,
but as an intelligent ego who comprehends the part
which he has to play in the great scheme of the universe.
He must have forgotten himself utterly; he must have
resigned all thought of worldly profit or pleasure
or advancement; he must be willing to sacrifice everything,
and himself first of all, for the sake of the work
that has to be done. He may be in the
world, but he must not be of the world.
He must be careless utterly of its opinion. For
the sake of helping man he must make himself something
more than man. Radiant, rejoicing, strong, he
must live but for the sake of others and to be an expression
of the love of God in the world. A high ideal,
yet not too high; possible, because there are men
who have achieved it.
When a man has succeeded in unfolding
his latent possibilities so far that he attracts the
attention of the Masters of the Wisdom, one of Them
will probably receive him as an apprentice upon probation.
The period of probation is usually seven years, but
may be either shortened or lengthened at the discretion
of the Master. At the end of that time, if his
work has been satisfactory, he becomes what it commonly
called the accepted pupil. This brings him into
close relations with his Master, so that the vibrations
of the latter constantly play upon him, and he gradually
learns to look at everything as the Master looks at
it. After yet another interval, if he proves
himself entirely worthy, he may be drawn into a still
closer relationship, when he is called the son of the
These three stages mark his relationship
to his own Master only, not to the Brotherhood as
a whole. The Brotherhood admits a man to its ranks
only when he has fitted himself to pass the first
of the great Initiations.
This entry into the Brotherhood of
Those who rule the world may be thought of as the
third of the great critical points in man’s evolution.
The first of these is when he becomes man when
he individualizes out of the animal kingdom and obtains
a causal body. The second is what is called by
the Christian “conversion”, by the Hindu
“the acquirement of discrimination”, and
by the Buddhist “the opening of the doors of
the mind”. That is the point at which he
realizes the great facts of life, and turns away from
the pursuit of selfish ends in order to move intentionally
along with the great current of evolution in obedience
to the divine Will. The third point is the most
important of all, for the Initiation which admits him
to the ranks of the Brotherhood also insures him against
the possibility of failure to fulfil the divine purpose
in the time appointed for it. Hence those who
have reached this point are called in the Christian
system the “elect”, the “saved”
or the “safe”, and in the Buddhist scheme
“those who have entered on the stream”.
For those who have reached this point have made themselves
absolutely certain of reaching a further point also that
of Adeptship, at which they pass into a type of evolution
which is definitely Superhuman.
The man who has become an Adept has
fulfilled the divine Will so far as this chain of
worlds is concerned. He has reached, even already
at the midmost point of the aeon of evolution, the
stage prescribed for man’s attainment at the
end of it. Therefore he is at liberty to spend
the remainder of that time either in helping his fellow-men
or in even more splendid work in connection with other
and higher evolutions. He who has not yet been
initiated is still in danger of being left behind by
our present wave of evolution, and dropping into the
next one the “aeonian condemnation”
of which the Christ spoke, which has been mistranslated
“eternal damnation”. It is from this
fate of possible aeonian failure that is,
failure for this age, or dispensation, or life-wave that
the man who attains Initiation is “safe”.
He has “entered upon the stream” which
now must bear him on to Adeptship in this present
age, though it is still possible for him by his actions
to hasten or delay his progress along the Path which
he is treading.
That first Initiation corresponds
to the matriculation which admits a man to a University,
and the attainment of Adeptship to the taking of a
degree at the end of a course. Continuing the
simile, there are three intermediate examinations,
which are usually spoken of as the second, third, and
fourth Initiations, Adeptship being the fifth.
A general idea of the line of this higher evolution
may be obtained by studying the list of what are called
in Buddhist books “the fetters” which
must be cast off the qualities of which
a man must rid himself as he treads this Path.
These are: the delusion of separateness; doubt
or uncertainty; superstition; attachment to enjoyment;
the possibility of hatred; desire for life, either
in this or the higher worlds; pride; agitation or
irritability; and ignorance. The man who reaches
the Adept level has exhausted all the possibilities
of moral development, and so the future evolution
which still lies before him can only mean still wider
knowledge and still more wonderful spiritual powers.