FIRST INITIATION AND THEOSOPHICAL MODEL COMPARISONS
In this section I would like to now to switch to how other Theosophical models view the initiation process. As a reminder, Alice Bailey originally came out of Theosophy, but later broke with it to some degree for reasons I will explain a little bit more of in this section. When looking at the Theosophical model there are actually a few versions: 1) The original model that came from one of the co-founders, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (or HPB as she liked to be called); 2) The model that followed originating from a later President of the Theosophical Society, Annie Besant (who I have spoken of before in earlier chapters), and a man close to her named Charles Leadbeader; 3) The model that came from Alice Bailey. I am bringing up these three areas of Theosophy because even though they all claim to come under the Theosophical umbrella, they can express different views and can even have points of disagreement among them. Let’s take a look at these now.
Helena Blavatsky’s Views
As mentioned at the start of this book, HPB was the co-founder of the Theosophical movement and was considered its most prolific (and perhaps knowledgeable) author. On e of the goals of the Theosophical movement was to bring into public awareness the formerly secret knowledge that was behind many of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions. This was the “esoteric” wisdom that typically was revealed only to “initiates.” In this context, and “initiate” was usually a person who belonged to a secret society in the West (Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Knights Templar, Sufis, Kabalists), who had been “initiated” (or had entered into) a deeper understanding of the spiritual traditions (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) of these major faith traditions influencing Western culture.
These societies were usually secret for a few reasons. First, the majority of human beings simply had no interest in the spiritual subject matter or deeper spiritual practices that these societies were teaching. Second, most people had not developed their minds to the point where they had a capacity to understand these teachings and practices. For this reason they had a high propensity to misunderstand or distort them. Three, over time as the masses got a hold of bits and pieces of these teachings they did distort and misunderstand them involving a tendency to persecute and even kill those who wanted to understand the deeper “mysteries” of these teachings, forcing many of these people into secret societies in order to protect themselves. In Eastern spiritual traditions and some Catholic monastic orders, persecutions were less likely so there was no need for secret societies. Still, a process existed (similar to the ones in secret societies) of slowing allowing seekers, disciples, or chelas into their ashrams and monasteries where they were then trained and “initiated” into various spiritual teachings and practices as they demonstrated they were qualified to learn them.
HPB then, especially in her major works, Isis Unveiled, the Secret Doctrine, and her Commentaries was bringing back into public awareness what used to be taught in secret, and what you used to have to be “initiated” into, in order to gain access to it. At the same time when HPB talks about initiation in her various books then, though you find comments sprinkled in here and there about initiation, you do not get an actually system of initiation given to you, and you do not get an orderly step by step process of how to go through initiation. Some attempts to provide more of an initiation system was started by members of the Theosophical Society, especially in October 1888 when the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society was formed with HPB as its head. But, HPB passed away around three years later, meaning that the work of Esoteric Section was passed on mainly to the new President of the Theosophical Society, Annie Besant.
Annie Besant & Charles Leadbeater Views
After HPB passed away and Annie Besant took over as President of the Theosophical Society the theme of initiation within the Theosophical Society appears to have become increasingly emphasized. Annie Besant was one of the original people within the Esoteric Section that Blavatsky started. Along with the books that Besant wrote on initiation, there was also wider circulation of a book written by Mabel Collins (aka Mrs. Kenigale Cook) that had been written in 1885 called Light on the Path, that talked somewhat about the initiation process. In Besant’s books and in Collins’ book initiation involves many stages that parallel what Bailey writes about, which in a way is no surprise as Bailey most likely had access to these books.
As in Bailey’s model before you can take initiation, Besant stresses the need to travel upon the Path of Probation. Once this is completed, like in Bailey’s system, you can take the First Initiation. However, in the Theosophical model as put forward by Besant, the First Initiation starts when you move onto the Buddhic Plane, which is quite different from what Bailey asserts. For Bailey, you only enter the Buddhic Plane as you get in touch with the Monad. That “Monad” operates through the “Spiritual Triad” of “Atma-Buddhi-Manas.” The Spiritual Triad is only reached in the Bailey model at the start of the Third Initiation, and only at the Fourth Initiation do you reside at the level of the Buddhic Plane. Obviously then, there are some big differences between the Besant and Bailey models here.
Another difference between Bailey and Besant has to do with how the Theosophical Society, especially when a man named Charles Leadbeater became a close associate of Besant, began to emphasize how initiations are given out by one of the Masters of the Theosophical tradition of which there are a number. Bailey also discusses these Theosophical Master’s in her books, but Bailey emphasizes how the Soul and then the Monad are the primary “Masters,” who give out initiation. As mentioned before, Bailey does acknowledge that a Master who is a person may add energy to an individual to assist their development. But, in the Bailey model this happens once a person reaches a high point of development, usually around the Third Initiation, where for Besant and Leadbeater this happens much sooner. In Bailey’s model it is not enough to reach a high state of spiritual maturity. A person has to have something to offer the world in the way of service, because in her model these Theosophical Masters are never interested in someone’s personal or spiritual development. Bailey insists that is up to an individual’s Soul to help them develop. Rather, a Master (a person who has reached the highest stages of spiritual development) only cares about helping individual’s who are capable of being of service to humanity in a reliable and spiritual way.
As for Besant this process seems reversed. Besant states that the individual begins the spiritual journey by being put in touch with one of the Theosophical Masters, who then puts the person onto the Probationary Path, which (like in Bailey’s model) is also known as the Path of Purification in Besant’s system. As outlined in a number of Besant’s books (In the Outer Court, Initiation: The Perfection of Man, The Path of Discipleship), the Probationary Path for Besant is mainly about personal development. Regarding contact at this stage Besant says, “He [the Master] summons the man to His presence—not, naturally in the physical body, for, for the most part, the Masters live away in retired places difficult to reach, hard to find. But long before this the man has learned, when the body is sleeping, to work actively in the world invisible to fleshy eyes, and in what is called his astral body; which is remember, the lowest of those invisible bodies above the physical, in which the whole man is present, Spirit and soul, clothed in a subtler body; it is in that that he receives the summons of the Master to enter into the Master’s physical presence, to stand face to face with Him and listen to His words. Then that Master places the man on what is called “probation” (Initiation, The Perfecting of Man, p. 62). Again in the Bailey model no such contact would take place since in her version of Masters, they don’t care at all about someone’s personal development. That would be like a Ph.D. professor of Mathematics teaching someone elementary arithmetic. It would be a waste of the Ph.D. professor’s true skills.
Unlike Bailey who tried to minimize people being interested in contact with a Master in regards to initiation, Besant and Leadbeater encouraged it. In Besant’s book Initiation, The Perfecting of Man and Leadbeater’s book The Masters and the Path much is said about coming into contact with these Masters primarily by meeting them on the “astral plane.” To be fair Bailey does talk a lot about what the Masters are up to, especially in her book Externalization of the Hierarchy. And, we do find in Bailey’s Discipleship in the New Age, Vols. I & II, that Bailey has a Master giving some suggestions for personal development to people, though that is not emphasized nearly as much as trying to get people to become what Bailey calls “a world server.” Still, Bailey does talk about these Theosophical Masters, and it is interesting to see how her version of what these Masters are like seems very similar to how Besant and Leadbeater describe them. Of course, now we are into the whole notion of who these Theosophical “Masters” are to begin with, and whether they were real beings or not. Though that is an interesting conversation, I don’t want to address it in more detail until much later in this book. For now, I want to stay focused on the initation process, though I will close this topic off by saying there seem to be some differences between Besant, Leadbeater, and Bailey’s Masters and Blavatsky’s Masters. This is an important point, because it was Blavatsky who brought the notion of these “Masters” existing somewhere in the region of the Himalayas to the attention of the world. HPB was the one who claimed to have met these remarkable men in person and in human bodies. She never claimed to have met them only the “astral plane” as Leadbeater and Besant did. Later, it is said that HPB even regretted mentioning the notion of Masters at all since she felt it led people to distort who these Masters really were. Actually “pure” Theosophists who follow HBP only, believe that Besant, Leadbeater, and even Bailey did greatly distort and even mythologize HPB’s Masters causing a great deal of confusion about them. Of course, there continues to be an ongoing debate about that in various Theosophical circles.
Setting the “who are the Masters” question aside, I want to also state that for Besant and Leadbeater, initiation again was a process you went through by falling under the guidance of one of the Theosophical Masters, who often let you know you were now under their tutelage by taking you through an ornate ceremony in the “astral realms.” Bailey does not refute Master’s can guide people on the “astral realms.” But, Bailey did take issue with how Besant, and especially Leadbeater, presented the initiation process to the world. Bailey especially felt that Leadbeater and Besant (who was increasingly influenced by Leadbeater) were falling into psychism and distorting the process of what really took place in an initiation process. Bailey especially took issue with Leadbeater’s “discovery” of the “New World Teacher” through his clairvoyant vision, when Leadbeater picked out a young man named Jiddu Krishnamurti seemingly out of nowhere to fulfill that role. Bailey didn’t believe you in using your psychic abilities to select a New World Teacher and then cultivate them to be what essentially amounts to a new Buddha or Christ. For Bailey initiation was primarily a “self-initiated process” where in essence you bootstrapped your way up by learning to expand your own consciousness. Yes, you may have someone who helps guide you and helps enhance your abilities (like giving fertilizer to a plant). But, essentially you had to be a certain kind of “plant” to begin with, otherwise all the fertilizer in the world wouldn’t change you from a weed into a rose. Only your own self-initiated growth and development under the guidance of your own Soul or Monad could do that. (Note: I am aware that in Tibetan Buddhism they have a process of going out and finding reincarnated enlightened beings, much as Leadbeater found’ Krishnamurti. In the Tibetan model of finding “tulkus” — reincarnated lamas — the process, however, seems a bit more rigorous. For example, visions tend to direct a lama to pinpoint where the reincarnated “tulku” might be. Then a group of lamas is sent to investigate often putting the potential “tulku” through a series of tests that try to objectively prove this is the likely reincarnation. Though at times they too may make mistakes, or be motivated by reasons that are not totally pure — like selecting the child or a wealthy family as a tulku so that the monastery can benefit from donations — at least in the Tibetan system of selection there is a little more rigor in trying to find the right person than basing the whole thing on one person’s psychic impression, which is how Leadbeater went about it.
In addition to how Leadbeater chose Krishnamurti, Bailey also worried about how Leadbeater was selecting other people to be initiates who were were primarily Leadbeater’s personal friends. She says, “A strong phase of psychism was sweeping through the society due to the psychic pronouncements of Mr. Leadbeater and his extraordinary control over Mrs. Besant. The aftermath of the Leadbeater scandal was still causing much talk. Mrs. Besant’s pronouncements about Krishnamurti were splitting the society wide open. Orders were going out from Adyar, based upon what were claimed to be orders to the Outer Head by one of the Masters, that every member of the Theosophical Society had to throw his interests into one or all of the three modes of work—the Co-Masonic Order, the Order of Service and an educational movement. If you did not do so you were regarded as being disloyal, inattentive to the requests of the Masters and a bad Theosophist.
Books were being published at Adyar by Mr. Leadbeater that were psychic in their implications and impossible of verification, carrying a strong note of astralism. One of his major works, Man: Whence, How and Whither, was a book that proved to me the basic untrustworthiness of what he wrote. It is a book that outlines the future and the work of the Hierarchy of the future, and the curious and arresting thing to me was that the majority of the people slated to hold high office in the Hierarchy and in the future coming civilisation were all Mr. Leadbeater’s personal friends. I knew some of these people—worthy, kind, and mediocre, none of them intellectual giants and most of them completely unimportant. I had travelled so widely and had met so many people whom I knew to be more effective in world service, more intelligent in serving the Christ, and more truly exponents of brotherhood that my eyes were opened to the futility and uselessness of this kind of literature” (The Unfinished Autobiography, pp. 170—171).
As for the scandal that is referred to regarding Leadbeater it has to do with accusations that arose that he was teaching young men to masturbate and possibly even masturbating them, which is an act of pedophilia. Leadbeater was actually dismissed from the Theosophical Society for this reason, but then when Besant became President of the Theosophical Society, she brought Leadbeater back into the the society and made him one of the most influential people around her because she did not believe the charges against Leadbeater. The result of Besant bringing Leadbeater back split the Theosophical Society, which is what Bailey is referring to in her text above. Bailey and her husband Foster Bailey were part of that split and left the Theosophical Society at this time. Later they went on to found their own organization, the Arcane School. Ironically as soon as Krishnamurti was given control of his own destiny at age 35, he split from the Theosophical Society as well. He spent the rest of his life encouraging people to essentially let go of the idea of Masters or even the need for them. As he put it, “truth is a pathless land,” which essentially meant you, and you alone were responsible for your “own path” and your own spiritual development.
Some say Krishamurti went to an extreme. As psychologists would call it he may have had a “reaction formation” where he swung too far in the opposite direction due to having formed a reaction to what he perceived as the misguided devotion to Theosophical Masters as well as their misguided initiation rites. At this point then in the Theosophical Society we have a number of trends going on regarding initiation and the so-called Masters. Theosophical “purists” who followed only the teachings of HPB and the original Theosophical founders likewise felt that Besant and Leadbeater had succumbed to “astralism.” They felt Bailey had fallen into “astralism” as well. Though they believed in Masters, their version of the Masters was quite different from Besant’s, Leadbeater’s and Bailey’s and some even accused the three of them as having become part of the “dark lodge” (kind of like the dark side of the force in Star Wars).
As for Besant and Leadbeater they did their best to hold on to their original ideas of initiation and their version of the Masters, but this was hard to do especially when their main protégé Krishnamurti rebelled. Then there was Bailey, who believed much as Krishnamurti did that initiation was process you mainly had to do yourself. However, she kept the idea of contact with a Master in place, but believed that such contact only could occur when you were very evolved spiritually and it only happened when you had something useful to offer the world. In the decades to follow these clashes would continue and the entire idea of what initiation was often got lost in a mass of confusion. Since this book is primarily attempting to lay out the Bailey model, it is important to see initiation from her point of view as primarily a developmental process that expands your sense of who you are and helps you enter a new state of consciousness (much as Krishnamurti proposed). But, unlike Krishnamurti who threw out the idea of spiritual teacher helping with the process (much as you see in other spiritual traditions such as those found in Buddhism, Yoga, Hinduism, and even the Catholic church), Bailey stressed that ultimately the true initiator or “Master” was for most people one’s own Higher Self, or Soul.
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