This chapter continues to look at the spiritual tasks that are part of Bailey’s Probationary Path as it applies to the 6th Subplane of the Mental Plane. The post explores the initial relationship the Probationer has with devotion and idealism and some of the pros and cons in regards to both.
CHAPTER TEN: GROUP SEVEN, Part One
DEVOTION & IDEALISM
Devotion and idealism at the highest levels are very important on the spiritual path. Both provide a certain level of intensity that can greatly speed up spiritual progress. After all we see time and again how human beings accomplished things like climbing to the top of Mount Everest, or landing on the moon, primarily because despite all obstacles and seeming logic that they were attempting the impossible, they remained steadfast in their devotion and idealism that it could in fact be done and therefore did it. At the same time too often devotion and idealism cause us to set aside reason and lead us into a path that ends up being far less than we hoped for, or worse, leads us into a disastrous situation with consequences we never took the time to consider or anticipate? Especially on the Path of Probation Bailey asserts that we have to begin to clear about the positives and negatives of devotion, because if we are not careful, we could easily be led astray by them, assuming we are much farther on the spiritual path than we are, or ending up in sidetracks that take us a long time to see and recover from.
Starting with the positive side we see that devotion and idealism fuel the ability of the Probationer to make great strides on the path especially when these two things helps the Probationer to be “devoted to a cause, to a teacher, to a creed, to a person, to a duty, or to a responsibility” (Glamour: A World Problem, p. 77). Devotion and idealism can also aid the development of the will, which is so important at higher levels of the Mental Plane, because both devotion and idealism give one the tenacity and perseverance to remain committed to higher spiritual values, allowing the Probationer to see something through until the ideal becomes a reality (or a Realization) in the Probationer’s life. Devotion and idealism can be reflections of love since they provide the ability to hang in there and get through set backs, difficult times and disappointments in regards to people we care about. And, devotion and idealism can help feed what is best in people.
Especially in the field of positive psychology (that emerged in the late 20th century) we find factual evidence of how a glass “half-full” vs. a glass “half-empty” approach to life helps to relieve stress and triggers the brain to release positive endorphins that in turn help us to “keep going” so we can eventually achieve positive results in our lives. And, when we set an ideal in front of us and then actively visualize and believe that we can manifest that ideal, it is much more likely to happen. Successful people are very adept at this process of visualizing themselves as becoming what they want to be by acting “as if” they are already successful, helping them to adopt the mindset and habits of successful people. In the spiritual world, if one is devoted in the right way to a spiritual teacher, then that person is applying a similar method of using the teacher as a role model that one can emulate and become like by “acting as if” one is capable of achieving what the spiritual teacher has already achieved.
Devotion and idealism become a problem on the Probationary Path, however, mainly because there are still too many glamours, or distortions, in regards to how idealism and devotion are best used. Though the mind is becoming increasingly engaged so that the Probationer can become more aware of the distortions on the spiritual path, the Probationer is still not yet polarized in the Mental Plane enough to adequately handle overly emotional states. Bailey states that too often then these feelings “run the gamut between a potent joyfulness as the man seeks to identify himself with the object of his devotion or aspiration, or fails to do so and therefore succumbs to the blackest despair and sense of failure” (Glamour: A World Problem, p. 79). For example, a Probationer may create a very idealized image of a spiritual teacher acting as if that spiritual teacher embodies a certain state of perfection that may not at all be the case. Like a lover who is infatuated, the Probationer may project onto the spiritual teacher all kinds of wishes, hopes, and expectations. Upon seeing the spiritual teacher in person for the first time, the Probationer may even feel quite high emotionally maybe even going into an altered state or experiencing “shakti-pat” (a transmission of spiritual energy). This will confirm to the Probationer that the teacher must in fact be the perfected image matching all the Probationer’s hopes and dreams. Like a teenager who has over-romanticized someone the Probationer may obsessively think about becoming the “chosen one” of the spiritual teacher. Much time and mental/emotional energy may be spent thinking and dreaming about the teacher creating a “special” connection with the spiritual teacher that may be a pure fantasy.
Later, the Probationer may wake up to this misplaced idealism and devotion and struggle with it. Perhaps the Probationer starts to hear certain things about the spiritual teacher that do not match the ideals or expectations they have of that teacher. Maybe the spiritual teacher ignores the Probationer and fails to treat the Probationer as the special person in the way he or she believes they deserve to be treated. Or, the Probationer may discover hypocritical or even scandalous behavior (illicit sex, breaking vows, drinking and smoking when they tell others not to engage in these things, living an excessive lifestyle when they tell others to live simply, and so forth) that the spiritual teacher is engaging in. At first the Probationer may attempt to cope with all of this by trying to rationalize or justify these behaviors away. For example the Probationer may say things like: My teacher really does see me as the favorite, but she is not ready to admit it yet because I am being tested first. My teacher is not really a hypocrite and breaking vows; he or she is engaging in “crazy wisdom” practices that make what my teacher is doing alright for some reason I don’t fully understand. My teacher is not exploiting or abusing others financially, sexually, emotionally — these are all just methods that my teacher is using to purify the selfish tendencies of the rest of us. All of these “reasons” allow the Probationer to stay devoted to the teacher no matter what, even if there is blatant evidence that indicates that the spiritual teacher is in fact engaging in behaviors that are hypocritical, exploitative, and even abusive. This kind of blind devotion and idealism sadly is hung onto by the Probationer because of the mostly selfish desire to retain the feeling of being “special” because he or she is part of a “chosen” teacher, teaching, or group. The need is strong then to continue to rationalizing and denying the truth of what is really going on, because to do so would break the “special” status the Probationer is clinging to. Admitting that the Probationer may not be as evolved as he/she pretends to be, or recognizing that he/she is lacking in discernment through misplaced devotional expectations and ideals, is simply too hard on the personal ego.
At some point, however, the Probationer needs to wake up to these misplaced and overly romanticized (and fantasied) tendencies that this misplaced devotion and idealism has brought about. Eventually, the imperfect nature of the spiritual teacher or teaching may reach the point where the Probationer can no longer deny it or rationalize it away. Then the Probationer risks going the other extreme by crashing into a state of doubt and depression. The Probationer may go through a prolonged period of grief, hurt, and anger over this disillusionment. These dark emotions may be viewed as a “dark night of the soul,” when in fact it is really more of a “dark night of the personality” which has to wake up and see how many distorted perceptions and glamours one’s own ignorance and pride were leading one into. Or, the Probationer may slip back into Group Six forms of atheism denying the value of all spiritual teachers or teachings. The anger the Probationer feels over the hypocritical behavior in regards to the spiritual teacher or teaching, may even cause the Probationer to campaign against that teacher or teaching, warning others to stay away, or even becoming overly aggressive in regards to “exposing” the hypocrisy of the teacher or teachings. This kind of “swinging to the other side of the pendulum” behavior is known as a “reaction formation” (forming the opposite reaction) in the field of traditional psychology. Now instead of over-idealizing how wonderful the teacher or teaching is and being devoted to that false ideal, the Probationer will be devoted to the ideal of dismantling the teacher or teaching so everyone can now understand how terrible the teaching or teacher are.
Eventually, however, the Probationer has to calm down from this emotional roller coaster ride and learn that devotion and idealism can serve in a positive way if the Probationer learns more discernment, cultivates more steadfastness despite the highs and lows, stands at the center of their spiritual core with greater calm assurance, and treads along the path in a more patient and persistence way with less emotional intensity, while maintaining the determination to progress. Then, with a greater sense of equanimity, dispassion, and perhaps even humor, that same devotion and idealism can arise again and this time act like a steady fire capable of fueling the Probationer in a way that helps him or her stay on the spiritual path no matter what obstacles are presented within or without in regards to his or her spiritual life.
SHIFT IN MOTIVE IN REGARDS TO DEVOTION
During the Little Chelaship stage (that includes the Aspirant stage associated with Group Six and the Probationary Discipleship stage associated with Group Seven), we have seen that the primary motive displayed when approaching the spiritual path is often mixed. The motive underlying spiritual practice too often includes a need to escape the suffering and difficulties of the everyday world, a desire to become someone special in a spiritual sense, and a need to chase after some sort of personal “enlightenment” experience. All these motives are understandable, but they are not the main goal of spiritual life. At a slightly higher level the motive may be one of wanting to belong finally to a spiritual community, or of wanting to become good, or to emulate a spiritual teacher or teaching that one feels a connection with. That spiritual teacher may be someone that the individual knows who is in a human body, or it may be one of the “Great Ones” (as Bailey puts it) such as Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, or Krishna for example. Though this can be good at some level, eventually the motive shifts some more so that the Probationer turns that devotion not only inwards towards a spiritual teacher, but outwards as well towards a love of humanity and the One Life itself, which includes way more than human kind. All of this prepares the Probationer to move onto what Bailey calls the path of Discipleship where the motive is one of increasingly being of service to what Bailey refers to as the Divine Plan.
To quote from Bailey directly, “The question which the seeker now asks and which he only has the right to answer is: What is the motive governing my aspiration and my endeavour? Why do I seek to build upon a true foundation? Why do I so diligently invoke my soul? The development of right motive is a progressive effort, and constantly one shifts the focus of one’s incentive when one discovers himself, as the Light shines ever more steadily upon one’s way, and constantly a newer and higher motive emerges. Again, let me illustrate: An aspirant in the early stages is practically always a devotee. To measure up to the standard set by a loved friend and teacher, he struggles and strives and gains ground. Later, this object of his devotion and ardent effort is superseded by devotion to one of the Great Ones, the Elder Brothers of the race. He bends all his powers and the forces of his nature to Their service. This incentive is, in its turn, surely and steadily superseded by a vital love for humanity, and love of one individual (be he ever so perfect) is lost sight of in love for the whole brotherhood of men. Unceasingly, as the soul takes more and more control of its instrument and the soul nature steadily manifests, this too is superseded by love of the ideal, of the Plan, and of the purposes underlying the universe itself. The man comes to know himself as naught but a channel through which spiritual agencies can work, and realises himself as a corporate part of the One Life. Then he sees even humanity as relative and fractional, and becomes immersed in the great Will” (Treatise on White Magic, pp. 203—204).
Before this Divine Plan can really be understood, the Probationer has to go through a number of purifications in regards to his or her character. Because that purification is not fully complete until well beyond the Probationary Path, the Probationer must always be vigilant regarding motive. That is why it is a good habit at the start of spiritual practice to dedicate oneself to the spiritual teacher you have a resonance with, the service you are here to perform, and to humanity (or the One Life) as a whole. For example, in Buddhism you find the dedication to “the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.” The Buddha is the spiritual teacher that inspires the practice and acts as a role model. The Dharma is both the spiritual teachings of the community you are aligned with, and the “duty” you have spiritually in terms of service in the world. The Sangha is comprised of those who walk with you on the spiritual path. In a similar way, no matter what faith (or non-faith) system you resonate with you can learn to start any spiritual practice by dedicating it the spiritual teacher or teaching that inspires you, the service of human kind (or even to the good of the One Life itself), and to the spiritual community of Souls who walk with you on your spiritual journey seen and unseen. In this way as a Probationer you help avoid some of the difficulties of misplaced motivation that treats the spiritual path as something that involves your own spiritual gain, instead of the well-being of the whole.
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