In the Ageless Wisdom teachings there are said to be “Six Stages of Discipleship” that represent certain spiritual lessons to be learned along the path. This post attempts to explain the first stage of “Little Chelaship” and compares it to what the Integral teachings by Ken Wilber have to say about spiritual growth and development.

Stage One: Little Chelaship

To begin with “chela” is related to the Hindi word meaning “a disciple of a spiritual teacher.” (Though a search for the meaning of the word on Google brings up an association with “beer” in Spanish!  Well, as we read along there might be something to this lower use of spirits instead of Spirit, so all may fit together here!  Smile!)  Humor aside, let’s now look once again at the chart below.

Levels and Terms

The first thing we see is that the very first spiritual stage of discipleship, Little Chelaship, begins around the Love/Love petal of the Egoic Lotus, moves through the Love/Sacrifice petal and ultimately rests primarily in the Sacrifice/Knowledge petal. For those unfamiliar with the Alice Bailey model, this lotus is symbolic of spiritual development.  A picture of it is placed again for reference here.

egoic lotus3

As you notice there are twelve petals.  Three Knowledge Petals: Knowledge/Knowledge, Knowledge/Love, Knowledge/Sacrifice.  Three Love Petals: Love/Knowledge, Love/Love, Love/Sacrifice.  Three Sacrifice Petals: Sacrifice/Knowledge, Sacrifice/Love, Sacrifice/Sacrifice.  And, three white petals known as the Synthesis Petals that contain at the center the “Jewel at the Heart of the Lotus,” which is the meaning of the Tibetan Buddhist phrase Om Mani Padme Hum.

As we talk about the first stage of discipleship, Little Chelaship, it is correlated with Group 8 (out of 10 Groups talked about in the Alice Bailey teachings).  It is also explicitly said to be related to the 1st Initiation (initiations are expansions of consciousness, or enlightenment experiences).  And, it is connected with different terms such as Aspirant, Probationary Disciple, and sometimes even Disciple.  To let the reader know sometimes the Alice Bailey writings can seem hugely frustrating as a term like “Aspirant” or “Disciple” can be used in different ways.  In general, someone who is an “aspirant” aspires to spiritual life, but is not very consistent. They want to be spiritual, but the ego keeps taking over. There is simply not enough real dedication and persistence. An analogy might be like someone who wants to lose weight, but who only goes to the gym and works out on a rare occasion, or still indulges in a lot of sugary and fattening foods.  The intention is there, but the discipline to be consistent isn’t.  Progress is sporadic and usually to make up for a lack of discipline, there are a lot of rationalizations and excuses! That is why one needs to become a disciple, a person who accepts the disciplines that make a real change occur.  Ultimately, these disciplines are in regards to truly becoming humble and losing one’s sense of self-importance, or ego. As we read about the Little Chela it seems like this stage really is more like an aspirant.  For this reason, I have suggested that the Little Chelaship begins at the Integral/Orange level.

Why? Because according to the Integral model (Group 6 in the Alice Bailey teachings), people here are usually highly successful, but only slightly spiritual.  They may tithe 10% or give to charity, but often only if they get something out of it (like their name on a building, political leverage, or fame and applause for doing so).  Even if they give to others, it doesn’t put much of a dent in their overall wealth. Real sacrifice for the benefit of others just isn’t in their vocabulary. Yes, at times they may aspire to be spiritual through small spurts of genuine selfless spiritual giving, but only to a very small degree. At the Green level (Bailey’s Group Seven), this changes somewhat. In the Bailey tradition they enter the Love/Sacrifice petal where they learn to “love sacrifice” a little bit more. Over time (or lifetimes) they have learned money, sex/pleasure, power/fame haven’t got them the happiness they want.  For this reason those at the Green (Group Seven) level tend to have more genuine spiritual impulses, but they are frequently sporadic, unfocused and lack discernment as they go.  For this reason, I have kept the word Aspirant on the Green level of the chart, as it seems to fit a lot.  Still, the Alice Bailey texts say Little Chelaship is connected to the beginning of the 1st Initiation, which starts at the Sacrifice/Knowledge petal.  So, I have placed the phrase Little Chelaship in the chart primarily at the Integral Green/Teal level.

What exactly is Little Chelaship according to Alice Bailey?  In Discipleship and the New Age, Vol. I, pps. 713 – 719 this stage is described in great detail.  In brief summary we are told that this stage begins when a “light flashes forth” and for the first time the individual becomes aware of inner subjective realities. This is quite different from the religious, literal approaches to spiritual life employed by those in Group 4/Integral Amber.  Religious “conversions” at that level are more a result of peer pressure, or an emotional stirring up to join a religious group to be free from emotional pain or to find a way to belong. This type of conversion is very different from what goes on here. The “initiation” or “expansion of consciousness”that takes place here is an interior experience that gives “birth to” the fact of the inner subjective realms. To use Integral terms, a “state” experience usually of a mystical nature occurs that lifts one out of their usual lives into a new way of being.  (Saul turns into Paul in the Christian Bible, or someone who was highly material in focus transforms into being more truly spiritual like in the documentary I AM, or maybe someone gets some skatkti-pat from a guru or drug experience activating some kundalini or altered state experiences). From this point forward life is never the same, and often unlike with a typical religious conversion, there is an odd sense of spiritually not fitting in.

On a technical level, we are told that before this Initiation takes place (known as the 1st initiation), the “karmic agitation of the man’s life becomes greatly increased and — apart from his own individual karma — he, for the first time, consciously takes part in and shoulders a part of the karma of his group.  This dual karmic undertaking sets up a veritable vortex of force in the group aura. This attracts hierarchical attention.” The “soul force descends and the personality force ascends and this takes place through a process of conscious descents and ascents.” Then, as the greater Light (soul force) and the lesser light (personality force) are related a light flashes forth as the end result.

All of this can seem like strange language, so perhaps this illustration helps using the images of a vortex.


Start by imagining that a series of crises are happening in the person’s life that demonstrate that the three lower impulses of money, sex/pleasure, and power/fame are no longer satisfying.  These crises create a sort of reaching up (ascension) of the personality force to something higher (to Spirit, God, Allah, whatever the person wants to call it).  If that lesser light (personality force) is strong enough it invokes a response from above (from the greater light/soul/etc.).  A vortex is created between the two and a light is created at the center that “flashes forth” so to speak as the higher and lower aspects create a spark. How has this happened?  It starts when the “karmic agitation” in the life has “greatly increased.”  Agitations can include illness, loss of status, financial crises, death of a loved one and so forth.  But, these crises go beyond having these things occur and wondering “why do bad things happen to good people like me?” When these crises take place, instead of lamenting, “Why have these bad things happened to me,” the person begins to realize, “Why shouldn’t bad things happen to me?  They happen to everyone.  What makes me so special, so exempt from the suffering in the world?”  A new motivation takes place beyond simply wanting to be free from your own suffering. Now, you are also sensitive to the suffering of others, and for this reason you want to help them be free from suffering as well. What a beautiful motive. With this realization a light, a new way of living, has flashed forth.  A new way of seeing and being has been born. However, the motive to be selfless and serve is far from stable at this stage and selfish motives often take back over.

So the spiritual quest begins in more earnest. As the Alice Bailey text puts it, new “spiritual habits” are beginning to form. Still, the motive here is often mixed and though there is a sensitivity to the pain of others, the spiritual path becomes primarily still mainly about oneself. The Alice Bailey text states that this stage is “one of pure mysticism and of selfish spiritual purpose. The recognition of group relationship is missing; the knowledge of group inclination is not present; there is no true, unselfish desire to serve. There is only a vague desire for personal liberation, for personal integrity and for personal lasting happiness. This has to be changed into group emancipation, group cohesion and group joy.” (p. 715)  This desire for my own “personal happiness” is easy to see in a number of spiritual movements that wrap themselves for the most part in a spiritual materialism. It can also be found with people on a spiritual quest that is primarily oriented towards their own spiritual achievement and self-importance.

Finally, we are told that this stage is “usually spread over several lives.” (The belief in reincarnation is part of the Alice Bailey teachings). That means from a reincarnation standpoint, we may have many lives where we were absorbed mainly in our spiritual quest, or set ourselves up as some sort of spiritual guru. We are also told that during the phase of Little Chelaship a certain instability exists based upon chasing after the latest spiritual trends within the culture we are in. The Bailey texts state that the “aspirant at this stage runs from one teacher to another, according to inclination, opportunity and necessity.”

Digesting the above we can also take note of how people at this stage are usually “mystically inclined.” In the way the word “mystic” is used here, it refers to approaching spiritual life primarily along the lines of wanting to escape one’s suffering, or about having a spiritual life that is all pleasant and full of bliss.  That is part of the selfish motive.  So long as spiritual life feels good, the person sticks around.  It is all about getting “high” and staying high.  Drugs, throwing oneself into ecstatic states, “raising the kundalini,” becoming a “spiritual somebody” (who can still get all the goodies of money, sex/pleasure, power/fame), are a big part of this process.

Known as the birth initiation in the Bailey teachings, this stage is also related to the metaphor of the Birth of Jesus.  I often like to joke that like the baby Jesus this can seem like a really self-important stage.  Just look at the Jesus story as a metaphor.  Here, the angels show up and sing, humans and animals all bow down to say how great you are, kings show up with great gifts to proclaim what a special person you are and shall be, and a star appears in the heavens just to benchmark your birth in history.  Pretty amazing stuff. Only one problem.  You are an infant.  And, like all infants before too much longer the world will not revolve around you.  You will have to chop wood and carry water, and maybe even live a really boring life (or lifetimes) for awhile.

This is hard stuff to let go of, and the Little Chela does not want to let go of all this.  The Little Chela wants to be the “special one,” who is way more advanced than everyone else.  Yes, the person operates with a “selfish spiritual purpose.”  Yes, the “group relationship is missing.” (You mean other people may be as special or even more special than me?  No way!).  And, yes, there is no “unselfish desire to serve.”  There is only “my personal liberation.” (Or, me as a special spiritual leader that others bow down to for their personal liberation).  There is only a desire for “personal lasting happiness,” which is why so much of the spiritual teaching is about learning how to escape into spiritual and mystical “states.” Finally, it is all about me, and not about being part of a group, especially a group of EQUALS to oneself.

In the Bailey teachings we are told this is actually a pretty difficult stage for others to manage.  Just like a real infant, the person demands a lot of attention (money, sex/pleasure, power/fame) and often there is not as much give back in exchange for it all. Humility is noticeably lacking. In relation to the Integral stages it seems to be most like their Green stage.  It even seems like Ken Wilber’s “Boomeritis” (the 60’s Boomer generation with their over-indulgent get it quick enlightenment and make me really special because I am so advanced over every one else syndrome).

Anyway, I hope this clarifies for you a bit more how the Alice Bailey system of spiritual unfoldment works.  We will go on to Stage Two “Chela in the Light” in the next post.

Have comments, questions, suggestions?  They will be posted so long as they are civil and expand the discussion.



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