This post connects the stage of Probationary Disciple as I believe it relates to the 7th subplane of the Mental Plane to and provides comparisons of this developmental level with what traditional Theosophy has to say.
NOTE: This book is now in the process of being edited. Once it is completely edited it will no longer be free online. As of 3/21/20 this chapter has not been edited.
When it comes to Theosophical comparisons regarding the subplanes of the Mental Plane, to my knowledge there is only two books that attempt to address this in Theosophical literature, The Mental Body and the The Causal Body by A.E. Powell. Even there some classical Theosophical writers don’t accept Powell’s writings, but for me it is useful to consider various insights different people have. To begin with Powell relates the lower four subplanes of the Mental Plane in the Theosophical model (which make up the Plane of the Lower Mind in the Bailey model) to the experience of Devachan. (See the previous chapter in this book for a discussion of Devachan in regards to the Mental Plane). Regarding the details of the 7th sub-plane, Powell has little to say about it and what he does write is mainly in regards to the heaven state of Devachan, and not viewed as a developmental stage in regards to incarnation. Of the 7th subplane Powell states, “The lowest heaven, that of the seventh sub-plane, has for its principle characteristic that of affection for family and friends; that affection must, of course, be unselfish, but it is usually somewhat narrow” (The Mental Body, p. 206). Powell then goes on to describe the various kinds of mostly unselfish affections that people have for each other, including these examples: “Some were lovers who had died in the full strength of their affection, and so were always occupied with the one they loved, the the entire exclusion of all others. Others there were who had been almost savages, yet who had some touch of unselfish affection” (The Mental Body, p. 207).
These descriptions, based upon what we have been outlining in regards to the Bailey model in this book and the previous book I have written, Becoming Human, simply do not line up. An obsessive affection for a lover to the exclusion of others, and someone who is almost a “savage” but who has a touch of unselfish affection, has almost nothing (if not nothing at all) to do with the various themes emphasized by Bailey in regards to Mental Plane development. These themes again include: Freedom from Desire, the Evolution of Love, Control of Thought, a Mind Oriented to Higher Realms and so on. Being occupied with someone you love to the exclusion of others, or being a savage with some unselfish affection in the Bailey model would not qualify as evidence of being on the Mental Plane at all. Rather, they are evidence of emotional attachment and an emphasis on personal so-called love, that could equally fall under the category of an emotional obsession and addiction. What we are seeing then is the beginning of a break from at least the Powell version of Theosophy, which means Theosophical comparisons as we move through the rest of this book, will also start to fall apart.
Along these lines, having looked at the 7th sub-plane of the Mental Plane more specifically, I would now like to consider more in general some Theosophical comparisons to Bailey’s Probationary Path. As you will see I have decided to associate both the 7th and 6th subplanes of the Mental Plane with Bailey’s ideas of the Probationary Path. I believe these to be reasonable correlations based upon my understanding of the Bailey teachings at the time I wrote this book. Regarding how Theosophy sees the Probationary Path, I would like to focus specifically on the second International President of the Theosophical Society, Annie Besant, mainly because Bailey mentions her in her own books, and Bailey and Besant were alive and active in the Theosophical Society around the same time and knew of each other. In her books Alice Bailey speaks very warmly about Annie Besant, despite the fact that Alice and and her husband, Foster Bailey, became politically at odds with the Theosophical Society after a political upset took place when Louis William Rogers became the President of American Theosophical Society in 1920. Bailey even states that Besant came to her and her husband’s aide at one point during this political upset (The Unfinished Autobiography, p. 177). This said, despite the many positive and almost glowing statements Bailey makes about Besant, there are a few quotes where Bailey is in disagreement with some of Besant’s views primarily in regards to two of Besant’s books called In the Open Court and the Path of Discipleship.
To quote Bailey directly (writing at this point under the guidance of the man she calls “The Tibetan”), “The picture of a man moving along the Path of Evolution until suddenly one day he stands before an open door through which he may joyously pass has no faintest resemblance to the truth; the idea that a man of a nice disposition and possessing certain character developments such as those portrayed in such books as The Open Court and the Path of Discipleship, which condition the theosophical aspirants, is exceedingly misleading. These books are very useful and should be carefully studied by the man upon the Path of Probation, but are not so useful to the disciple, for they lead him to put the emphasis in the wrong direction and to focus upon that which should already have been developed. Naturally, the character development must be present and assumed to be stable in the man’s equipment; these characteristics have, however, little bearing on initiation and passing through the “door” on the Path. They are indicative of the point reached upon the Path of Evolution, as a result of experiment, experience and continuous expression, and should be common to all aspirants who have reached the point of facing discipleship; they are unavoidable developments and connote simply the reaction of the personality to time and experience. It is eternally true that no one may pass through this door unless these character indications are developed, but that is due to the fact that the aspirant has progressed to a certain stage of unfoldment and automatically now has a measure of self-control, of mental understanding and of purity (Rays and the Initiations, p. 348). Bailey also goes on to say, “the requirements for treading the path of discipleship in the present race are steadily increasing in difficulty as the centuries slip away. At the same time the assets brought by the aspirant to the task of achieving discipleship likewise steadily evolve, and the equipment is as steadily arriving at a greater adequacy, thus measuring up to the opportunity offered. Such books, therefore, as the The Outer Court and The Path of Discipleship by Annie Besant state the requirements for the path of probation, and not for the path of discipleship. A Treatise on White Magic gives the needed data for those who tread, at this time, the path of discipleship. In these three books are to be found the requirements for the two stages of the path of conscious unfoldment” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. I, p. 354).
Having taken the time to read Besant’s two books, In the Outer Court and The Path of Discipleship myself while writing this book, I for the most part agree with Bailey that they seem to apply more to the Probationary Path and not the Path of Discipleship. However, in Besant’s defense, she herself in her two books emphasized that she was talking about experiences that happened mainly on the Probationary Path. To me that made the statements from Bailey seem a little unfair and inflammatory. Still, I would like to but Bailey’s comments within the context of what was going on in the Theosophical Society at that time. As mentioned the Theosophical Society went through a major upset in 1920 when Rogers came in as the American President. Many agreed with the changes that were taking place after 1920, but many (Alice and Foster Bailey included) did not. Instead, they felt that the Theosophical Society was becoming too personality oriented. Too many many people were believing that if you just focused on good character development and had a few psychic visions you automatically went through an “open door” from the “outer court” to the “inner Temple” on the “path of Evolution” (to use Besant’s terms). Many like the Bailey’s saw the spiritual path as being much more complex than this and were unhappy with how many people were proclaiming themselves as now spiritually advanced individuals. This problem of “spiritual inflation” is something Bailey actually shows in her model of spiritual development is something that is quite common on the spiritual path, especially at the Probationary Discipleship level, something we will emphasize even more in the next chapter.
Keeping this in mind, I want to highlight some of what Besant has to say about the Probationary Path according to her views. For Besant the Probationer needs to focus mainly on cultivating moral and spiritual virtues, while at the same time dedicating oneself to service. Besant in her book In the Outer Court emphasizes mainly “purification,” “thought control,” “building of character,” and “spiritual alchemy.” As Besant writes about the Probationer, to my mind a more surface read makes it seem as if her Probationer is already very pure, very noble in character, and already has a very high level of spiritual refinement. But, looking more deeply we see that Besant uses phrases here and there that emphasize how those in the “outer court” still face temptations and are still working at building in virtues. For example, Besant mentions that Probationers still face the temptations of intellectual ambition and pride. That they may still desire knowledge too much for themselves. And she says that they may attempt to love others, but that “this supposed aspiring love is often the desire to be separated from its fellows” (The Outer Court, Kindle Version, location 175). In short, as I went through Besant’s books I found there was a lot of agreement between Besant and Bailey despite some of Bailey’s concerns regarding the Probationary stage of spiritual development.
I will mention, however, in Besant’s book The Path of Discipleship to my mind Besant again seems to elevate the Probationary stage too highly. In this book Besant borrows mainly from Hinduism to describe the qualities that the Probationary Disciple has to cultivate. These qualities are (starting with the Sanskrit word first): 1) Viveka, or discrimination; 2) Vairagya, indifference to worldly objects; 3) Shatsampatti, self-control; 4) Shama, control of the mind and regulation of thought; 5) Dama, control of the senses and body; 6) Uparati, tolerance; 7) Titiksha, patience or endurance; 8) Shradda, faith or confidence; 8) Samadhana, balance, composure, peace of mind; 9) Mumuksha, desire for liberation, enlightenment, or emancipation.
Having gone through the above list, naturally if you had “perfect” discrimination, indifference, self-control, control of the mind, tolerance, composure, and so forth you would be way beyond being a “probationer.” Again the word probationer implies that you are still being tested and that like anyone on “probation” you could still easily fall off the “path.” Because Besant’s words in her books are often forceful and very declarative, it is easy to feel that perfection has already taken place at the Probationary level. But, as I have tried to point out, a careful read of her books, easily reveals how Besant does not mean to make the Probationary path so perfect or advanced. Also, I want to mention that Besant did not originally write these as books. Rather, they were derived from speeches she gave. Maybe I am cutting Besant too much slack, but it is easy for me to see that when someone is speaking versus writing, to help hold an audience the language often becomes more declarative and emphatic. I believe that this is why Besant’s books tend to come off they way they do.
In conclusion, though the parallels between Powell and Bailey mostly fall apart here, the parallels between Besant and Bailey are more congruent. Because Bailey was herself a Theosophist, and Bailey and Besant lives overlapped somewhat, it is not surprising to me that their language is also similar. However, Bailey wrote much more extensively on the spiritual stages of development, especially in regards to the difficulties that could happen on the path, than Besant ever did. In fact, it was a major thrust of Bailey’s books, to help bring in the new “spiritual psychology,” which is perhaps as a psychologist myself is why I gravitated to Bailey more than other Theosophical writers. And, it is why this book likewise focuses primarily on Bailey’s much more detailed approach.
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