This post further examines Bailey’s Probationary Path as it applies to the 6th Subplane of the Mental Plane. The post goes into the problems the Probationer experiences when the emphasis is too concerned with mystical state experiences of a lower nature. The four problems of devitalization, delusion, delirium and detachment (in the worst sense of the word) that Bailey mentions are especially talked about.
CHAPTER TEN: GROUP SEVEN, Part Two
As a reminder, Probationers are not only grouped under the category of Little Chelaship, they are also belong to Group Seven. We are told that about those in Group 7 that “they are the mystics, conscious of duality, torn between the pairs of opposites, but who are yet unable to rest until they are polarised in the soul” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol II, p. 207). The mystic being spoken of here is not a highly spiritually realized human being. That comes much later. The mystic at this stage is still someone who is emotionally based and “who refuses as yet to widen the concept [of mysticism] so that it includes also the intellectual approach to divine identification” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol II, p. 542). The lower type of mystic Bailey refers to within Group 7 is made up of someone who aspires and believes, but does not yet fully know. Let’s take an example using a saying from Rumi, a truly realized “mystic” who says, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the ocean in a single drop.” The lower type of mystic will be happy to affirm and believe in what Rumi is saying. And, at one level there is nothing wrong with this. Affirmation and belief can be positive. But, the higher mystic goes beyond belief. The higher mystic knows from direct experience the truth of what Rumi is saying. To use a different analogy, someone may watch a film or read a book about how hard it is to climb Mt. Everest. But, that person does not really know this from experience. At some point the Group 7 mystic will have to move beyond belief and go into a place of realization. That is what Bailey is talking about.
Bailey is also speaking about a particular kind of duality that exists still at the Group 7 and Probationary level. This duality is taking place between the individualistic and more highly selfish Integrated Personality and the Self, or Soul, which is more unselfish and unitive in nature. The Probationer may be getting glimpses of that Soul, but he or she has yet to become the Soul. That is why Probationers are torn between the pairs of opposites. They believe in the Soul (Higher Self, Atman, God, and so on). But, the tendency is to still too inclined to take too much of an emotional vs. a mental approach to spirituality. The “spiritual mind” or “higher mind” is not yet developed enough. For this reason the Probationer is much more inclined to strive after “state” experiences (to use a word from the Integral system), which are essentially spiritual highs, causing the Probationer to neglect the much more difficult processes that Self or Soul Realization requires. Usually, these state experiences involve wanting mystical contact with the object of their devotion. What these mystical experiences look like are frequently conditioned by the religious orientation of a person. Christians will contact Jesus, Mary, or a Christian saint. Buddhists will see a Buddha, a White Tara, or someone like Milarepa. Hindus may experience Krishna, Shiva, Kali or some other out-picturing. Muslims may experience the Beloved (since they are conditioned to avoid seeing Mohammad or seeing the Divine in human form). Those outside of mainstream religions may contact angels or even aliens. Or, if the person is agnostic or atheistic, he/she may seek out state experiences through drugs or go through state experiences during a Near Death Experience (NDE) and become overly attached to the things they experience putting way too much importance on these “states.”
Though there is some value to these state experiences in that they can help the Probationer feel as if there is something real to the Real (so to speak), too often they can sink into depression and become discouraged when these mystical experiences end. Now the individual may become hooked on having these mystical experiences. They may resort to taking drugs that readily put them into these state experiences (marijuana, LSD and ayahuasca for example). Or, they may go through extreme disciplines that help them activate these mystical states once more such as going through prolonged fasting, sleep deprivation, intense breathing practices, and putting their physical bodies through extreme exertions are just a few examples. These methods heighten the individual’s nervous system allowing him/her to catapult into mystical realms. Sex, music, nature, kundalini yoga practices may also be employed as a means to help them trigger these mystical states off. The individual may even become a “spiritual guru junkie” striving to get high off of a spiritual teacher’s energy (often known as the shakti-pat), without using that energy to help them further their own spiritual practices and realizations.
Again, though state experiences and mystical episodes do have a place and can to some degree help one on the spiritual path, an over-emphasis on mystical (or state experiences to again use an Integral term) Bailey states leads to a number of difficulties. In Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II (pp. 598—606) Bailey emphasizes four. I will briefly discuss each of these here. To begin with we have the problem of devitalization. Bailey indicates that devitalization happens when the Probationer becomes so focused on spiritual life and mystical pursuits that he/she becomes highly impractical in regards to the necessity to still live in the physical world while pursuing a spiritual life. Chasing after mystical (or state) experiences and overly immersed in “esoteric” pursuits, the Probationer too often fails to adequately take care of his/her physical body or basic physical needs. Because of this the Probationer reduces his/her ability to be of any real use or service in the world. The Probationer’s physical body and environment simply become so neglected they become “devitalized” — void of vitality or the ability to accomplish much beyond the individual’s mystical (or state) pursuits. As we will continue to see spiritual life is not meant to leave us with an abused and neglected physical body. Spiritual life is not about ignoring the physical world. As Jesus said in the Bible we are to learn to “be in the world, while not being of it.” Still, Probationers at this level with mystical tendencies, too often ignore the need to be practical in their spiritual approach going to extremes that leave themselves in ill health and states of poverty. Then they end up devitalizing and debilitating themselves so that they can no longer enter into spiritual practices that improve their ability to both know the Real and serve in the world, rather than devitalizing both.
The second difficulty Bailey speaks about is that of delusion. Delusion takes place when the mystical person allows his/her mystical dreams, fantasies, visions, and “state” experiences to take them away from the deeper spiritual path. Bailey states, “The man becomes deluded by the best that is in him; he is the victim of an hallucination which embodies the highest he knows; he is overcome by the glamour of the spiritual life; he fails to distinguish between the vision and the Plan, between the manufactured unreal of the ages of mystical activity and the Real which stands ever in the background of the life of the integrated human being” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, p. 602). Here we see a number of ways this delusion operates. Again, the Probationer tends to be too absorbed in mystical or “state” experiences, that in turn cause the person to over-estimate his or her true spiritual status. These seemingly “extraordinary” state experiences tend to make the Probationer feel even more special, seeing only the best and proclaiming to others only the best that is within them, while ignoring or not even recognizing the many flaws that remain. When Bailey says there is a failure to distinguish between the vision and the Plan, what is being referred to here, is that though visions (state experiences) may be nice, there is still an overall Plan (long period of development for oneself and for humanity overall) that has to be unfolded, acknowledged, seen, and served. (Note: the Integral movement is recognizing this more when they talk about “state vs stage” experiences). Finally, when Bailey talks about the “manufactured unreal of the ages of mystical activity and the Real,” it is referring to how later in the spiritual path the person comes to understand what these mystical experiences are really about and how they are often conditioned by the brain, the person’s culture, and the mystic’s expectations during contact. The Real can include these experiences, but goes far beyond these experiences, which is something the Probationer will realize much later on the spiritual path.
(Note: Richard Alpert, also known as Ram Dass, is a good example of someone who was succumbing to Bailey’s “delusion” and overcame it in his life. Ram Dass relates how he was overly involved in state experiences through his use of LSD. But, when he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, he moved out of his delusion and entered into the next phase of the spiritual path. To here Ram Dass describe it in his own words I encourage you to watch this video).
Interestingly enough, according to Bailey one of the best ways that a Probationer can handle the problems of devitalization and delusion is when he or she “swings into a frankly agnostic state of mind” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, p. 602). Now the Probationer will begin to more mentally question what these mystical experiences have really been about. The capacity to do this is a sign that the Probationer is moving beyond the Probationary path. It also reveals some of the main distinctions between Group 2 magical thinking processes and Group 7’s mystical processes, in that those in Group 2 (of which there are very few said to exist in our planet) cannot go beyond magical thinking. They are too immersed in it. But, Group 7 types can because they have already gone through some agnostic and even atheistic tendencies while in Group 6. During that stage magical and mythical tendencies were renounced and even at times ridiculed. When they re-emerge during the Little Chelaship phases of Aspirant and Probationer, it can be quite confusing. Are these things real? Not real? I mean they do have a reality to them. Telepathy, mystical visions, siddhi powers are seen by the Probationer as not just figments of the imagination or hallucinations. But, then what are they? Discerning between the “manufactured unreal of the mystic” and the Real is something that comes later on the spiritual path beyond the Probationary level. But, I should emphasize that just because we say the “manufactured unreal” does not mean there is not some “reality” to these experiences. It just means that they do not represent the ultimate Reality, which is something important to remember.
Reading about Bailey’s understanding of how those prone to mystical experiences often go back into agnosticism made me think actually about the life of now Saint Mother Teresa. Much of her desire to serve the poor in Calcutta came about after her mystical experience on a train when she felt Jesus spoke to her and wanted her to go serve the poor. As long as she kept having these kinds of mystical experiences, she remain sustained in her spiritual life. But, people were surprised and even shocked when her journals released after her death reflected how much of her later life was spent in a state of deep depression and frankly agnosticism as to whether or not God even existed when her mystical contacts with Jesus ended. Thankfully, despite her constant inner doubt and struggle regarding the existence of God, Saint Mother Teresa continued to benefit and inspire countless people. Though Saint Mother Teresa had come to doubt her mystical experiences, ultimately they were highly beneficial. Bailey echoes this when she states, “The true and valuable fruits of the mystical experience of the past are never lost. he inner spiritual realisation remains latent in the content of the life, later to be resurrected to its true expression but the vagueness and the sense of duality must eventually be transformed into a realised mental clarity; dualism must give place to the experience of the at-one-ment and the mists must roll away. The mystic sees through a glass darkly but some day must Know, even as he is known” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, p. 602). Still, in a way it made me sad to think of how no one was able to convey to Saint Mother Teresa how this kind of agnosticism and doubt is almost a predictable stage of development on the spiritual path, when mystical experiences die down. Maybe she would not have felt so much despair if the spiritual and religious system of the Catholic church she was a part of had been able to convey this more to her, revealing how her greater service of helping the poor regardless of whether she continued to have mystical experiences, was in fact a truer sign of spiritual development and even contact with God.
The third problem of the mystic Bailey talks about only happens if the mystically orientated person fails to balance out the problems of devitalization and delusion by becoming more practical and engaged in the world, and/or more agnostic and discerning regarding their mystical experiences. Now, Bailey says something referred to as delirium can emerge where the Probationer “arrives at a stage where he has no real inner control, he develops the mystical sense to the point where he has no sense of proportion, where the conventions (right or wrong), social training, economic responsibility, human obligations and all the aspects of daily life which integrate the human part into the whole of humanity fail to police the lower nature. His outer expression becomes abnormal and he (from the highest and best sense of values) anti-social. Such an anti-social attitude will range all the way from a relatively usual fanaticism which forces its possessor to see only one point of view out of the many possible, to certain pronounced and recognisable forms of insanity. The mystic is then obsessed by his own peculiar thoughtform of truth and of reality. He has only one idea in his head. His mind is not active, for his brain has become the instrument of his astral nature and registers only his fanatical devotion and his emotional obsession” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, p. 602 — 603). Bailey goes on to say that if this tendency is not caught early on it can even lead to a “strenuous one-pointedness, real fanaticism, sadistic effort with a supposed spiritual motive (such as was seen in the Inquisition), and certain forms of mental breakdown” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, p. 603).
In light of the above there are some who might want to point to the many examples of mystics in the present and past who are said to live in the desert and in caves pursuing solitary spiritual practices as examples of how mystics are meant to avoid human contact, economic responsibilities and human obligations. Still, if you look closely at the many spiritual traditions who send their spiritual practitioners off to engage in solitary practices they are not asking them to do this as a means of escapism or to help them live in some fantasy world that encourages them to over-idealize how exalted they are in their own minds. Rather, we find in these traditions (Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu primarily) how time and again these individuals are called out of their various “hide-a-ways” once they have done enough inner spiritual work and then are put into positions of greater service within the world. And, even though it appears as if these mystics are alone in solitude, frequently they are not there all alone. They are receiving instruction from a guru, lama, sheik or other spiritual teacher, who is helping them interpret their mystical experiences in a way that helps them put these experiences into proper context so that the mystic is prevented from getting overly englamoured or attached to what is happening to him/her. That is why spiritual guidance and proper explanation of mystical phenomena is so necessary in these traditions. It helps prevent the mystic from becoming anti-social, fanatical, abnormal, and inflated, which are the very problems of Bailey emphasizes can take place at this Probationer stage.
The last main problem of mystics that Bailey mentions is that of detachment. She states that this problem “is one of the hardest to handle. The mystic who can see naught but his vision, who registers that vision in terms only of symbolic forms, of sexual longing, of agonising aspirations and an intense ‘wish-life’ of dream and desire may eventually succeed in severing all right relations both within himself (with his physical body in one place, his emotional life directed to another and his mind preoccupied elsewhere) and with his surroundings and environing responsibilities, so that he lives entirely in a world of his own manufacturing —detached, unmoved, and untouched by normal affairs or human calls. This is sometimes also brought about by an unrecognised desire to escape from responsibility, from the pain and irksomeness of daily living or from the clinging hands of those who love him; it can be brought over from another life of mystical experience which should, in this life, be permanently transcended and outgrown, having served its useful purpose and done a needed work. This is a detachment of the wrong kind” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, p. 604). Again, with this quote we see the emphasis on how spiritual development ultimately needs to be for the sake of service and the well-being of the whole, and is never meant to be a means of escapism from the world. From a modern psychological perspective we could even say that those who are prone to this kind of escapist attitude are more than likely victims of psychological trauma in their lives that they have not fully recognized or worked on to heal. These traumas typically happen at early stages of their lives and frequently disrupt their ability to bond with others. Feeling rejected, isolated, and unsure how to fit into the world, when these people come to the spiritual path they tend to sexualize or overly-romanticize their spiritual lives and the spiritual relationships they encounter in their minds or in the physical world. Seeing themselves as outcasts in a world they don’t understand, fit in with, or know how to relate to, they tend to create a reaction formation (form a reaction) by going to the other extreme. Now they are no longer misfits, but “super-evolved” mystics, or spiritual beings who are just horribly misunderstood. Yes, probably most Probationers experience themselves as misunderstood spiritual beings. They are in Group Seven of which there are supposedly very few in the world. (Again Bailey asserts that most of humanity belongs to Groups Five, Four and even Three). But, to set yourself apart as overly special (the whole “indigo child” movement comes to mind) is too often a ploy to just feel special again. Making yourself out to be overly special so you can keep yourself apart from the world that you don’t feel you fit into relates again to Bailey’s wrong kind of detachment, that leaves one still too set apart from the world, feeding the personality (lower ego) instead of dismantling it.
Bailey concludes this section on the four types of problems for mystics by saying, “I realise as I give you this teaching upon the difficulties of the mystical life—devitalisation, delusion, delirium and detachment—that those who have gained much from the mystics or those who are at this time mystically inclined will violently disagree. I would seek to make myself clear on these points. The mystical way is the right way for people at a certain stage of evolution, the Atlantean stage, provided it is not carried to the point of insanity, hallucination, furious fanaticism and psychopathic complications. It is, rightly expressed, a useful and needed process whereby the astral body is re-oriented and spiritual aspiration begins to take the place of desire” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, p. 604 — 605). This statement reveals that Bailey is not totally against mysticism. And, as we shall see, she later talks about another form of mysticism that comes into play at a higher level. That is why in her book Letters on Occult Meditation, Bailey stresses how at some point the mystic has to become the occultist (the person who approaches the spiritual path more from the head), and the occultist has to become the mystic (the person who approaches the spiritual path more from the heart). Meaning at the higher stages we learn to approach spiritual life from both our heads and our hearts. But, this takes place when the higher mystic to freed from the problems of the “lower” mystic that we have articulated in this section. At the higher mystic level visions and other state like experiences are more clearly understood and handled in a more calm, controlled and less separative manner. The love the mystic feels likewise is freed from emotional obsessions and attachments. The mystic at the higher level does not seek out mystical experiences as a substitute for psychological issues of early abandonment or other traumas. Nor, does the higher mystic use mystical experiences as a form of escape or as a means to look and feel more special than others. Yes, the higher mystic will most likely have experiences of ecstasy, rapture, deep love of and devotion to the Divine, and absorption in samadhi states. But, as these experiences end they leave the higher mystic more sane, more grounded, more capable of service, and more able to both feel and demonstrate a love for humanity and the entire world, instead of less. That is why unlike Bailey’s mystic described here at the Probationary level who is more likely to risk becoming imbalance, inflated, overly special and detached, or even insane due to an imbalanced application of mystical practices, the higher mystic ends up being perhaps one of the most sane, balanced, loving and humble types of human beings on the entire planet. That is what we are meant to strive for, but that higher form of mystic has evolved way beyond this Probationary level.
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