This post continues continues to list some of the general characteristics associated with the Probationary Disciple focusing on the spiritual practices that are engaged in such as beginning meditation and mind training, breathing exercises, an understanding of the centers or chakras, character development, and growing insight into “gaps” in development.
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.
One of the differences between the Aspirant on the spiritual path and the Probationer is the greater interest in spiritual practices that are designed to help them transform their lives. Though the Aspirant may dabble in these practices, the Probationer is much more likely to make a more sincere and steady attempt at them. And, one of the first practices the Probationer may undergo on a more regular basis is that of meditation. At the time Bailey wrote her books in the early to mid 1900’s, very few people in the Western world knew about meditation. In fact, it was seen as a mysterious, exotic, and foreign process. Today, meditation is a common place word and many people engage in it. Aspirants especially are more likely to be attracted to meditation practices that allow them to reduce stress, feel more calm emotionally, and attract what they want materially in the world. Probationers are more inclined to see the limitation in these approaches and as they move into more spiritual circles, they are more inclined to engage in meditation practices that help them learn to witness and observe what is really going on in the various aspects of their personality (the mind, emotions, vital and physical bodies). They are also more likely to encounter meditation practices that help them to inquire as to who they really are as Soul or personality.
This approach to meditation is more along the lines of how Bailey understood meditation to be, which was mainly a tool for Soul contact and transformation of the personality. Actually, the kind of meditation Bailey mainly recommended was mainly a form of Raja Yoga, though Little Chelas were less likely to be attracted to this kind of meditation practice. At times Bailey also recommended visualizations on different kinds of spiritual symbolism along with focusing on spiritual teachers. Some of this seems similar to the Vajrayana tradition found primarily within Tibetan Buddhism where complex visualizaations are employed. Bailey also takes an approach to meditation that is essentially prescriptive. In her books Letters on Occult Meditation and Discipleship in the New Age, Vols I & II you see how certain meditations are given to different people because they are intended to result in certain effects that help to transform them spiritually. These more prescriptive type of meditation practices were mainly given to those beyond Bailey’s stage of Little Chelaship. As they were given a number of factors were accounted for including understanding the type of personality the person had (known as their “ray makeup”), the kind of karma they were working off, the various groups they were associated with, what they their immediate need was in the way of spiritual develoopment and more.
Another interesting factor regarding meditation in the Bailey books is the emphasis on the “dangers” of meditation. For example, she stresses that, “Meditation is dangerous and unprofitable to the man who enters upon it without the basis of a good character and of clean living.” Treatise on White Magic, pp. 205. Dangers include: “a suffusion of the blood vessels and a consequent strain upon the delicate brain tissue,” which if persisted in can cause brain damage, imbecility, and even insanity (Treatise on White Magic, pp. 104); an overstimulation of the nervous systems, which if persisted in can cause sleeplessness, nervousness, lowered vitality and even depression; over-stimulation of the sex organs leading to the problems of either an over-emphasis on sex, or an unhealthy suppression of it; turning people too much into passive mediums rather than conscious and awake observers; causing people to become over absorbed in trying to obtain spiritual powers; using meditation to the point where thoughts, emotions and even the use of the physical body itself becomes atrophied; and much more. Meditation can even become a form of spiritual selfishness if meditation is used as a way to prove that one is superior to everyone else, or others are always forced to accommodate their around the meditator, something Aspirants and Probationers (the Little Chelas) are more inclined to force others to do.
Probationers are also unlikely to approach meditation as a science in the way the Bailey system does. Instead, they tend to gravitate to the simpler meditation practices so many modern day and generic meditation books speak of. However, unlike Aspirants, Probationers usually take more to heart the following advice Bailey gives regarding establishing the habit of any meditation practice. She states, “To the man therefore who undertakes wholeheartedly the process of occult meditation I would say with all conciseness:— a—Know thyself. b—Proceed slowly and with caution. c—Study effects. d—Cultivate the realisation that eternity is long and that that which is slowly built up endures forever. e—Aim at regularity. f—Realise always that the true spiritual effects are to be seen in the exoteric life of service. g—Remember likewise that psychic phenomena are no indication of a successful following of meditation. The world will see the effects and be a better judge than the student himself” (Letters on Occult Meditation, pp. 93 — 94). Why these tips are so important are only understood as one goes farther on the spiritual path. But, at least for Probationers, these foundational injunctions in regards to meditation are something that are more likely to be considered.
MIND TRAINING — DISIDENTIFICATION & MINDFULNESS
To be a success in the material world as an Integrated Personality, it is clear that some mental training is needed. That is why many people go to universities, to train their minds so that they can be accomplished in certain fields as doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, professors, and so forth. What in the world is meant then in regards to training the mind at the Probationary stage? To quote from Bailey. “In the west the idea has mostly been held that the mind is that part of the human mechanism which utilizes knowledge. The ‘process of turning things over in the mind,’ of striving to solve problems by hard mental labor has no part ultimately in the unfoldment of the soul. It is only a preliminary stage and has to be superseded by a different method.” Light of the Soul, p. 16 —17 In other words, most of what humanity believes to be mental training, is not really mental training in the higher sense. So what is it according to this teaching?
For starters, the Probationer begins to understand he or she is not the mind. Only then will true mind training on the Mental Plane begin. Just as we have to disentangle from the Emotional Plane (with its focus on kāma or desire), so that our “minds” are no longer conditioned by emotional reactions and desires, we only make our way through the Mental Plane as we continue to realize that we are “not the mind,” but that which lies behind, underneath, or around it. Only then can the mind become the instrument of what Bailey calls “correct knowledge, correct perception, correct deduction and correct witness (or accurate evidence).” Light of the Soul, p. 16. Bailey says this is what Raja Yoga is about since it teaches “that the mind is intended to be an organ of perception,” and trains the mind to be the clear and receptive enough that the Soul can see through the mind and utilize it correctly. As a reminder, the Soul in the Bailey teachings is itself a temporary vehicle of perception, just as the physical body and its five senses is temporary, and the emotional and mental bodies are temporary. At the stage of Little Chelaship (Aspirant and Probationer), we are learning to perceive that we are not the body, not the emotions, and not the mind.
When we are not the body, we can then disidentify from it and begin to consciously train it. The same is true for our emotions and our thoughts. We have already seen how we can start to unhook from the emotional/desire nature. The emotional reactions and unnecessary desire impulses die down. Now at the Probationary stage we engage in mental training on the Mental Plane, and as we progress we learn to disengage from the mind so that it becomes simply an instrument or organ of perception, the same as the five senses in the physical body are. This training goes on long past the Probationary stage and we will talk more about that later in this book. But, for now the Probationer, primarily through meditation practice, starts to learn the following: “1. Right control of the modifications (or activities) of the thinking principle. 2. Stabilization of the mind and its subsequent use by the soul as an organ of vision, a sixth sense, and the synthesis of all the five other senses. Result: Correct knowledge. 3. Right use of the perceiving faculty, so that the new field of knowledge which is now contacted is seen as it is. 4. That which is perceived is rightly interpreted through the subsequent assent of the intuition and the reason. 5. Right transmission to the physical brain of that which has been perceived; the testimony of the sixth sense is correctly interpreted, and the evidence is transmitted with occult accuracy. Result: Correct reaction of the physical brain to the transmitted knowledge.” Light of the Soul, p. 17
In many ways it is almost like you start to view your brain as a computer that “you — the Soul” utilize to download new software into to. This can only happen when the constant chatter of the mind (the modifications of the thinking principle) calm down, so that the old programming (or conditioning) of the mind can be consciously reorganized or even deleted. Then the new knowledge can be contacted not through studying, memorizing, or listening to something someone has said to us, but by way of contacting directly the intuition (which again is a comprehensive understanding that comes into the Mental Plane from the Buddhic Plane). For this new knowledge to come through, or be transmitted accurately, the brain has to be in good shape, and the old programming and static (monkey mind chatter of what is already known in the mind) has to be set aside. Again, this kind of mind training is not like university training where you read books, study ideas, listen to lectures, and assimilate the information others give you so you can use it somehow in your everyday life. This mind training is training the mind itself to be an organ of perception so that new ideas that consist of an increased sense of Universal awareness and love is automatically perceived and known by the mental vehicle.
Another meditation practice that I personally believe is helpful here is the popular mindfulness meditation training. Here you take up the attitude of the Observer or Witness and start to observe your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness meditation can also assist in the process of disidentification, as you discover that because you can observe your thoughts as something outside of you, you in fact can not be them, leading you to question who you are at a deeper level. Though I have no way of knowing how Alice Bailey may have felt about the now very popular mindfulness meditation practices, I believe she would have seen them as valuable as a tool for disidentification, as well as for gaining insight into the workings of the personality (thoughts, feelings, bodily responses). I believe this to be the case because Bailey states in Letters on Occult Meditation (pp. 10 –11) how meditation is useful for stabilizing all aspects of the personality. However, I am not aware of any form of mindfulness meditation being taught by Bailey.
STUDY OF CENTERS
Another focus of attention that happens at the Probationary stage involves learning more about the etheric body and chakras. The etheric, or energy body, is said to underlay the physical body. Within this etheric body are vortexes of subtle energy known as chakras, or centers, that are thought to interpenetrate the physical body at various regions. The chakras are also said to be associated with various states of consciousness and are said to be connected to various glands in the physical body. Those in Groups Four, Five and Six may have had some exposure to the chakras, or centers if they have been by some “New Agey” type store that has images of them. And, Aspirants may have dabbled in working with them. But, prior to Group Seven it is unlikely any serious attention to understanding the chakras had occurred.
At the time the Alice Bailey teachings were written (1910’s to 1940’s), the idea of centers, chakras, or vortexes of energy existing within an etheric, or vital, body was quite mysterious. Now, the notion of an etheric body and the chakras is quite common. Though some people may know the A, B, C’s of the centers and what they stand for, a great deal of what is taught about them has been distorted. What it takes to awaken the centers has also been drastically over-simplified even at times to a dangerous level. The Probationary Disciple is learning to be a lot more cautious regarding the centers. The study of the centers Bailey says “is a study as yet in its infancy in the West, and little applied in the East. Our approach will be somewhat new, for though we will accustom ourselves to the names, locations and relationships of the centres we shall do no meditation work upon them. Eventually we shall arrive at an appreciation of their vibration, of their tone and colours and of the astrological significances. We shall not work with the centres down the spinal column, nor aim at their conscious utilisation as does the clairvoyant and clairaudient person.
All the work done by students must be done entirely in the head and from the head. There is the seat of the Will, or Spirit aspect, working through the soul. There also is the synthetic expression of the personality, and in the understanding of the relation of the two head centres and their mutual interplay will come gradually by the domination of the personality by the soul. This will lead to the consequent and subsequent guided activity of the five other centres. The work in these five centres will eventually be as automatic as the present functioning of the heart and the lungs in the physical body. The presiding Intelligence, the Self, ‘seated on the throne between the eyebrows’ and guided by the Light in the head will be awake to the interests of the soul and as alert as is the ‘I’ consciousness of the average self-centered man. By the rhythm of his divine life and by his conscious cooperation with the Plan, and functioning through the use of the Will, must the disciple in incarnation act as the agent of his soul in the three worlds.” Treatise on White Magic, pp. 205—206. In other words, the focus according to the Bailey teachings is to develop the two head centers (ajna and head), which create a light in the head that in turn awakens the Soul. Actually, there is a deeper meaning to what she is saying, but that will be discussed later in the chapter on the First Initiation. For now it is probably best to be mindful of what Bailey has to say and avoid directly working on the centers, or chakras, in any way, regardless of what some popular teachings advocate.
THREE MAJOR SHIFTS IN THE CENTERS
During the Probationary Path, which is a very long process (taking lifetimes Bailey asserts), specific changes, or shifts, in the centers take place. According to Bailey the main objective for the Probationary Disciple “is to transfer the forces from the centres below the diaphragm, via the solar plexus centre, to the centres above the diaphragm. The energy of the base of the spine has to be transferred to the head; the energy of the sacral centre must be lifted to the throat, whilst the energy of the solar plexus must be transferred to the heart.” (Esoteric Healing, p. 138). Once these three stages are completed, the Probationer is ready to become the Chela in the Light and take what Bailey calls the First Initiation, or the first major expansion of consciousness (enlightenment experience) that brings the individual into the “Fifth Kingdom of Conscious Souls.” To put it another way, the person is no longer a separated, selfish Integrated Personality, but awake and factually, not just theoretically, aware of the existence of the Self, or Soul.
These three shifts represent then the following three stages: 1) The Sacral Center, also known as the pleasure center that is connected to our sexual natures, has to shift to the Throat center. There sexual energy is sublimated and used in a healthy and regulated way. Once the animal, or hormonal drives, of the sacral center are no longer causing us to make unhealthy choices along these lines, a higher level of creativity and generativity comes into play. The same could be say for the orientation towards pleasure, which some also associate with this chakra. Once we are not driven to participate in the constant quest after pleasure, there is more time, energy, and space for “higher” or Soul pleasures to arise. 2) The Solar Plexus Center (connected in to emotions, kāma, and our overall desire nature), has to be shifted to the Heart Center. As this happens our emotions and our desire nature settle down because they are increasingly infused, guided, and motivated by spiritual impulses that allow us to become a focus of love. As for the solar plexus center and its association with power, it might be said that this shift results in the famous line from Mahatma Gandhi (later restated by Jimi Hendrix), “The day the love of power overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” 3) Next, the Base of the Spine Center, that grounds us into incarnation and makes us believe we are nothing but a physical body, shifts to the Head Center. At first, this manifests as a sublimation or healthy regulation of the material instincts so that money and survival are no longer a focus of our attention. Freed from this focus we are liberated more and more to follow spiritual pursuits. But, ultimately this shift frees us from the fear of death as we factually come to realize or know our true identity as Soul or Self.
The best way to make these shifts in the centers according to Baily, is to allow for their natural evolution and unfoldment. Then these transfers happen naturally under the guidance of one’s own Soul. However, an understanding of the centers is recommended if the Probationary Disciple is going to comprehend how the energy, or etheric, body works. Though we have only talked briefly about the Seven Ray types in this book, Bailey mentions that the work of transferring these centers is also influenced by the Rays. She states that these transfers are “done in response to the magnetic ‘pull’ of the soul ray as it begins to dominate the personality ray.” (Esoteric Healing, pp. 138). Bailey also goes into a lot of detail regarding these shifts in the centers, which if you care to you can read more about here (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, pp. 523—528).
In addition to meditation another spiritual practice Probationers are often found engaging in are breathing exercises, also known as pranayama. Regarding breathing exercises Bailey both cautions Probationers from pursuing these exercises as well as recommends them. The seeming contradiction happens because too many Little Chelas dive into this kind of spiritual practice before they really comprehend what they are doing when engaging in them. Regarding breathing exercises, or pranayama, Bailey says the following.
“Breathing Exercises. Little by little as progress is made will the needed instruction be imparted. Let me point out however that no breathing exercises can be safely used where there is no attempt to impose rhythm upon the life of every day. The two activities must go hand in hand. The effect of breathing exercises is varied: a. There is an oxygenating effect. The blood stream is purified and pressure is relieved. A symbolism underlies this:—for as the blood is oxygenated so is the life of the man in the three worlds permeated by spiritual energy. b. There is the imposition of a peculiar rhythm, brought about by the particular spacing and time limit of the breaths—inhalation, retention, and exhalation—and this will vary according to the counts.
c. There is a subtle effect of prana (which is the subjective element underlying the air breathed in and out) which affects most potently the body of prana, the vital or etheric body. Students should remember that subtle effects are more powerful than the physical effects. They produce results in two directions; on the physical body and on the etheric body. The entire vital body assumes a particular rhythm according to the breathing exercises. This kept up for a long period of time will have a shattering or a cohesive effect upon the physical body, and devitalise or vitalise the etheric body correspondingly. d. There is the effect upon the centres, which is most effectual and which follows the trend of the aspirant’s thought. If, for instance, a man thinks upon the solar plexus, that centre will inevitably be vitalised and his emotional nature be strengthened. Hence the need for students to hold their meditation steady in the head and so awaken the head centre. Let no one doubt the effect of breathing exercises upon the vital body. As surely as eating and drinking build or destroy the physical body, and aid or hinder its right functioning, so do breathing exercises produce potent effects, if rightly used over a long enough period of time” (Treatise on White Magic, pp. 206—207).
RECOGNIZING GAPS IN DEVELOPMENT
I have already mentioned a bit about Bailey’s ideas of cleavages or gaps in development. Again the chapter on The Problem With Levels shows how few, if any, of us develop in a step by step fashion in life. Rather, we excel in some areas and lag behind in others. All of this can cause difficulties later on if especially if we move too far ahead developmentally in one area, and get too far behind in another. One of the roles of the spiritual, or esoteric, psychologist of the future then according to Bailey, will be to help people bridge the “cleavages” in development. As for what are some of the major gaps at the Aspirant and Probationary levels especially? Bailey lists three (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, pp. 426 — 437). 1. The cleavage between the mind and the physical, vital, and astral or emotional bodies. In other words, the person has not learned to truly use the mind to think! At the Aspirant stage I talked about the tendency to have an aversion to thinking as part of a reaction formation to a materialistic mindset exercised too often in Group Six, as well as a reaction to the magical and mythical mindsets found in Groups Three, Four, and Five. But, the truth is the mind is essential in spiritual work, especially if we realize we are not talking about the kāma manasic mind of the astral plane, or the so-called “reasonable and logical” mindset of the Group Six types. Helping Little Chelas (Aspirants and Probationers) overcome their aversion to the use of the mind, and getting them to see what kind of mindset they are reacting to (magical, mythical, seemingly logical) is important. Even more important is helping them to not throw the mind out altogether, but to show them the necessity for developing the higher levels of mind found on Mental Planes so that they can clear up the difficulties of their emotional, vital, and physical bodies.
Another cleavage spoken about is the one between the individual and the environment. Though there are more and more Aspirants, Probationers, Accepted Disciples and Initiates in the world, there are still not too many. Most of humanity is focused in the Emotional Plane and caught up in the concerns of Groups Three, Four, Five, and Six, which is mostly about money, pleasure and power. The feeling of loneliness and the struggle to fit into the world around one can be intense, especially if the person on the spiritual path does not have a pioneering spirit. In the Integral world they have recognized this same issue, hence their fairly successful attempt to create community for their “Green, Teal, Turquoise, Integral and beyond” levels. Bailey reminds us that ultimately the goal is to learn to “live in the world and not be of it,” which is why this cleavage between the individual and the environment must eventually be worked out.
Finally, Bailey talks about the cleavages that happen between the personality and the soul. As a reminder, Bailey does not use the word ego as traditionally used. In her model the Ego is the soul. Back in the early 1900’s when she was alive, the word Ego simply implied an individual unit. We do not lose our individuality on the spiritual path. But, we do lose our selfish orientation and sense of separatism from others. To avoid confusion she used the phrase “personality” to represent the selfish and separative tendencies of an individual, and Soul to refer to the unselfish, unitive, and inclusive tendencies. To be honest, I like her use of terms here because too many people get confused about having an “ego” in the modern use of the word, because they start to believe that to be “egoless”, or unselfish, implies you give up your individuality. You don’t! Coming back to the cleavage between the Soul and personality as we are seeing there are many difficulties that occur and Bailey speaks a lot about them in many of her books, which I am making mention of here in these books as well.
So how do we overcome these gaps? Fortunately, the areas of Transpersonal Psychology and Integral Psychology are increasingly coming up with techniques to help here. Bailey has her methods as well as one of Bailey’s direct students, Roberto Assagioli, who developed the psycho-spiritual approach known as Psychosynthesis. Bailey has some of her own ideas to add (see Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, pp. 430—431) including: 1) Determine what the cleavage is. 2) Identify what the duality is. For example, between mind and emotions? Oneself and one’s environment? Soul and personality? 3) Identify the difficulty in that person’s life to see if the cleavage is creating “wild unrest, frustration, futility, nervous or mental breakdown, and to generally chaotic and undesirable conditions.” 4) Begin to intelligently apply a bridging process. 5) Help the person see the opportunity for growth that is possible and minimize the sense that this cleavage is a problem or disaster. 6) Use the “as if” method by engaging the creative imagination to help one bridge the gap and become that which the person desires in a whole and healthy way.
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