PHYSICAL DISCIPLINES SECONDARY TO HIGHER PURPOSE
During the stage of Aspirant much is made of the physical disciplines. Eating a certain way, looking fit, being able to do certain Hatha yoga poses, dressing in a certain spiritual way — are of these are very important. At the stage of the Probationary Disciple the focus on physical disciplines shifts. Though the physical disciplines remain important, Bailey is trying to say that “the life emphasis is laid on soul contact and the life expression is extroverted into service to others.” (Esoteric Healing, p. 193 –194). In other words the obsession with keeping the body looking a certain way becomes secondary to the service activity one is engaged in. And, the naïve magical thinking (especially so prevalent in Group 3, 4, and even 5 types) that spiritual people never get ill is also released. Bailey’s views on disease are actually quite balanced. Though she agrees there are psychological and spiritual causes to disease, she also emphasizes that diseases can be inherited and are even inherent in the soil and world around us. She also advocates Western and Eastern approaches to treatment so long as things are approached in a scientific manner. Her main point is, that you do what you can to take care of your physical and even vital/etheric bodies, but again you are not obsessed with either. Rather, the emphasis on the physical body shifts and becomes secondary to your higher spiritual purpose.
Bailey states it like this. “The true disciple does not need vegetarianism or any of the physical disciplines, for the reason that none of the fleshly appetites have any control over him. His problem lies elsewhere, and it is a waste of his time and energy to keep his eye focused on ‘doing the right things physically,’ because he does them automatically and his spiritual habits offset all the lower physical tendencies; automatically these developed habits enable him to surmount the appeal of those desires which work out in the fulfillment of lower desire“ (Rays & Initiations, p. 126). Now, so that you do not make another distortion, Bailey is not saying you should not be a vegetarian. In fact, she advocates it. And, she is not saying ignore your physical body and let bad physical habits dominate you. And, she is not saying ignore cultural and religious norms you were raised with. She is saying that the physical body and physical disciplines ideally have already been handled to such a degree good spiritual habits are already in place already in regards to physical practices and disciplines. If they are not in place, then continue to build in good habits on the physical level. But, do not do so at the expense of higher spiritual values and principles that can go beyond the various dictates that various spiritual and cultural traditions put into place regarding the physical realm (such as how to dress, what to eat, and how best to maintain the physical body and live within the physical world).
She is also saying that we need a sense of perspective. Group Seven people are learning to go beyond the right/wrong, good/bad polarized thinking so common in Group 3, 4, and 5 types. Existing more on mental plane they are learning to make more subtle distinctions and to see things according to greater and greater inclusive wholes. I am reminded of a book I once read conveying a story of how a young man had visited a Middle Eastern country with his ambassador father. While meeting with the local tribesmen he and his father were invited to dinner. One of the delicacies offered to him were sheep’s eyeballs. Fortunately, he followed his father’s lead and ate the eyeballs without hesitation. Many years later, now as a United States General in the region, some of the same tribesmen remembered him. Precisely because he had bonded with them by courageously eating the sheep’s eyeballs years before, he was now able to negotiate with them about averting an entire regional war. Had he been a vegetarian and insisted on principle that he not eat some sheep’s eyeballs, possibly hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the region might have killed. This story illustrates then how the Probationer is better able to understand that there will be exceptions to hard and fast rules. Though they may still be fanatical to some degree about spiritual people having to look and be a certain way physically, having to be engaged in certain physical disciplines, or having to demonstrate a certain level of health in order to be considered spiritual, this fanaticism is starting to be let go of.
Within the Integral community there is a popular phrase known as “shadow work” that applies to the same idea of purifying and eliminating your faults spoken about here by Bailey in regards to this stage for the Probationer. When you don’t do your shadow work, or take a regular amount of time to work on your faults Bailey states it can lead to “cleavages” or “gaps” in development that can cause difficulty in one’s spiritual development later on. In Integral language these gaps in spiritual development that come about as a failure to do your shadow work are known as “spiritual bypass.” Fortunately, this notion of gaps in spiritual development is much better known in the Western world and there are a number of good authors writing on the topic. Some of the authors that have inspired me include Mariana Caplan’s books Halfway Up the Mountain and Eyes Wide Open, Robert Augustus Masters books Spiritual Bypass, Knowing Your Shadow, and Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark, and the book by Buddhist writer Jack Kornfield titled, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. All these books by represent a growing need to understand that spiritual progress is rarely even or a step by step approach (as mentioned in The Problem With Levels chapter in this book).
As far as the Bailey books go there is a lot of information regarding how to prevent (and even eliminate) some of these gaps in development and it is not useful for me to try to restate everything she says here. I will, however, mention a few things. First, beginning with the Probationary Path, Bailey recommends a the study of the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, which lay down guidelines (especially in regards to what is known as the yamas and niyamas) to help ensure that gaps are less likely to take place. Though there are a lot of good translations of the Yoga Sutras that I have been lucky to read (B.K.S Iyengar, Swami Satchiandanda, and Paramahansa Yogananda to name a few), Bailey has her own translation titled the Light of the Soul, and if you are familiar with and not put off by some of her terminology, I find it to be very good. Regarding the various Yoga Sutras Bailey talks about “practices” vs. “methods” stating that, “It might be noted, therefore, that we could refer the practices more specifically to that stage in the life of the aspirant in which he is upon the probationary path, the path of purification, whilst the methods relate to the final stages of that path, and to the path of discipleship” (Light of the Soul, p. 384). Meaning that the practices are for the Probationary Disciple and the methods are for those more at the stages of Pledged and Accepted Discipleship.
She goes on to say that, “The practices refer primarily to: 1. The means for removing obstacles. (See Book I. Sutras 29 to 39.) This is affected, we are told earlier, by: a. Steady application to a principle; b. Sympathy with all beings; c. Regulation of the prana or life-breath; d. Steadiness of the mind; e. Meditation upon light; f. Purification of the lower nature; g. The understanding of the dream state; h. The way of devotion.” (Light of the Soul, p. 383—384). Of the things mentioned in the list above, the idea of steady application to a principle means that we have certain principles that guide our lives. Discerning what these principles are is a big part of the Probationary stage. Later, at her Accepted Discipleship stage, we learn to adhere to these principles through increased discipline and the right use of the will. As for understanding the dream state, this is not so much dream analysis as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung spoke about (interestingly enough Alice Bailey and Carl Jung knew one another). Nor does this phrase refer so much to the now popular approach of lucid dreaming. It is more along the lines of what is now being called “Dream Yoga” where the Probationer learns the first steps to establish continuity of consciousness so that whether asleep or awake the recognition of the Real is starting to be maintained. Again, this process is not achieved at the Probationary stage, but the Probationer does become aware of the basic fundamentals.
Finally, though it is important to objectively see our “vices” (shadow elements and personality reactions), Bailey emphasizes that often vices are best managed by substituting them with “virtues.” She states, “Let me illustrate! A man is the victim of an irritable and nervous disposition. We say to him that he needs to be calm and peaceful and to cultivate detachment and so gain control of himself. We teach him that in place of a cross disposition there should be sweetness and calm. This sounds a platitude and most uninteresting. Yet what is really being stated is that in place of the restless self-centered emotional nature and the activity of the solar plexus centre (carrying the powerful forces of the astral plane) there should be imposed the steady detached and harmonising rhythm of the soul, the higher self. This work of imposing the higher vibration on the lower is character building, the first pre-requisite upon the Path of Probation. On reading this the earnest student can begin to sum up his energy assets; he can tabulate the forces which he feels control his life, and thus arrive at a reasonable and truthful understanding of the forces which require to be subordinated and those which require to be strengthened. Then in the light of true knowledge, let him go forward upon the path of his destiny” (Treatise on White Magic, pp. 202—203).
Of course objectively identifying our vices is not always that easy, which is why they often express themselves as “blind spots.” Still, once we reach the Probationary Path it is wise to always consider that this shadow work and these blind spots are very likely to exist. Only then we will have the necessary humility to even be open to looking for our “vices.” On the flip side we also need to become increasingly clear what the virtues look like. That is why getting increasingly clear about what a spiritual life resembles so that we can visualize what we “as Souls” are meant to become.
MORE GENUINE ENGAGEMENT IN SERVICE
Whereas Aspirants are more concerned with self-development and Probationers continue to examine and improve their characters, Bailey states Probationers are becoming more concerned with helping others through some sort of service activity. However, even then Bailey states that Probationers, let alone Aspirants, are “not often stable enough in their lives to handle strains of service” (Discipleship in the New Age, Vol. II, p. 61). Motive is also important because too often Little Chelas want to serve primarily as a means to attract attention, to be viewed as a spiritually advanced human being, to gain power, make money off of others, and increase their capacity to have access to pleasure. Especially if there is an aversion to doing one’s shadow work on a regular basis, many Aspirants, Probationary Disciples and even Accepted Disciples may become submerged by a lack of right motive as they seek to serve others.
As for how to serve, Bailey recommends that Aspirants and Probationary Disciples start with their families and local communities. (Discipleship in the New Age, Vol. II, p. 537). She also suggests that one become very clear about what their service should be by meditating on it, learning to be sensitive to what the new “impulses” or needs are in the world where they are, continue to cultivate more genuine love and understanding of others, render service with complete impersonality by eliminating personal ambition and love of power, and refuse to pay attention to public opinion or to failure by simply learning from one’s mistakes and pressing forward with what needs to be done (see Treatise on White Magic, p. 636).
Finally, Bailey talks about three dangers in regards to service (see Treatise on White Magic, pp. 636—638). One is the individual’s physical condition and physical surroundings, which may not always be ideal forcing the individual to monitor and upgrade their physical condition as much as possible. Second, she talks about having to navigate the “astral illusion” that humanity lives in and how other people’s emotional impulses, needs and desires can take one over during service and cause the Little Chela to “lose touch” with what is essential. An example of this might be letting other people’s worship of you go to your head making you believe you are much more advanced spiritually than you are. This would lead then to the third danger Bailey mentions of “mental pride and consequent inability to work in group formation.” Learning to work effectively with others is essential. But, Bailey says at this stage the motive is one 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” (Discipleship in the New Age, Vol. I, p. 715).
The inability to understand how a group is needed for actual change to happen in the world is a major issue here. In some ways this failure to appreciate that it ‘takes a village” to use a more modern day phrase is a hang over from Groups Four and Five’s mythical consciousness that tends to look for a single individual (like a Superhero) to save them and fix everything. It may also be a difficulty carried over from when the person was in Group Six, where he or she did learn how to work with a group, but primarily with oneself in a dominant position of power over others. This kind of group is not what Bailey means when she talks about group work. For her a well rounded out group includes not only those who may not be as advanced as you, but those who are more advanced and those who are at the same stage of spiritual development that you are. When we don’t have that too often the service environment we are in is not as creative or energized. Plus, if we are the leader of that group it is important that we not surround ourselves with people who only tell us what we want to hear, or who are trying to undermine our efforts for their own advantage. If this happens then our service efforts will stagnate and we will not be nearly as effective as we could be. Only as we learn what “group emancipation, group cohesion, and group joy” are really about will true group work emerge and tese negative tendencies remedied.