Every high school graduate is familiar with the theory of evolution - how life started on this planet, first in a very simple single-celled form and then gradually evolved into ever more complex forms (plant as well as animal) until it culminated in the birth of the human species. In many spiritual traditions, this theory of evolution is not considered a theory, but a hard fact beyond any doubt. These traditions, however, see this evolution in slightly different terms. Here is a brief explanation of how the process of evolution applies to an individual human being, seen from a spiritual point of view, the process which eventually contributes to the evolution of the human species as a whole (Some predictions for the future evolution of the human species can be found here):
According to spiritual traditions, the evolution of life progressed through the following stages - the mineral kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the animal kingdom and finally the human kingdom.
They also posit the existence of a fifth kingdom, one still unknown to science - the spiritual kingdom. The spiritual kingdom on earth consists of the Spiritual Hierarchy and the members of its various groups or Ashrams. If you reached this web page directly, you may want to read about the Spiritual Hierarchy before you continue further with this page.
Legend says that each human being has seven hundred and seventy seven lives
on earth (reincarnation is taken as a given but the number 777 should not
be taken literally, it is merely a symbolic number, actually most humans
experience several thousand earthly lives).
Though a human does not remember his past lives, every time he incarnates he is exactly at the point in his development or evolution as he was at his death in his previous life, so none of his progress is lost.
This path of initiation for the evolution of an human being and eventual liberation from the cycle of birth and death, is not compulsory. Human beings can attempt to gain liberation from the need to incarnate by living normal lives without the aid of discipleship, but few opt for this path since it can take many more thousands of lifetimes.
In simple terms, a human being can be said to be made up of:
His personality can be further split into four parts:
At each incarnation, the previous personality is lost (ceases to exist) and the soul gains a new personality. However, its stage of development is retained. In the process of his evolution, what a human being needs to do is gain complete control over his personality, achieve conscious contact with his soul and eventually make contact with his Spirit (Atma). The goal is to achieve 'self-realization' or at-one-ment with his real Self.
For this he needs to develop in four different ways:
The various initiations mark his specific achievements in this process and the beginning of the next endeavour. These achievements apart, the path of initiation is essentially a path of service - service to humanity and cooperation with the Plan - the plan of the Great Beings who have set this process of evolution into motion.
If the point in evolution of a human being on earth is considered to be between 0 and 5 (1.0 being that of a person who has taken the first initiation) , the interested reader of this material (on the web) is probably somewhere between 0.6 to 1.2 (this is my personal estimate - I am, myself probably in the same range too). As more and more human beings in incarnation make progress along this path, the point in evolution of the human species as a whole also rises. The average point in evolution of all of humanity is said to be approximately 0.3 at the current time (1997 - according to Creme ). Again according to Creme, there are about 850,000 people living on earth who have taken the first initiation, about 240,000 who have taken the second, about 2400 who have taken the third and about 450 who have taken the fourth initiation.
These are ways or methods for the physical/energetically, emotional, mental and spiritual
evolution of the human being. Since these four aspects of the human have
to be developed more or less in parallel, the Soul, in order to achieve a
balance, may choose to utilize each of these methods in turn in different
lifetimes or it may choose to use a combination of two or more of these basic
methods in any one lifetime.
Brahmcharya means remaining single and practicing strict celibacy - although some modern yogis have tried to change its meaning. The reason for celibacy is two-fold. Sexuality and involvement with persons of the opposite sex are always a distraction from your main goal of attaining perfection and liberation. The other reason applies only to male yogis (and not to female yogis). Every man has a certain amount of etheric energy (or prana). Every time a man ejaculates, he loses some of this prana (pranic as well as spiritual energy). So it is not the sex act itself, but the ejaculation (not orgasm) which retards spiritual progress. If he remains celibate this pranic energy is retained, so the best practice for a yogi is to avoid ejaculation completely (or at least minimize it). This does not apply to women (so they can have as much sex as they want). However, women lose similar prana/energy every time they menstruate. So the best spiritual condition for a woman is being pregnant or suckling a baby (this not being sexist - it is just the way it is), in that case there is no menstruation. Unnatural sexual acts (between same sex partners or opposite sex partners) are usually highly detrimental to spiritual growth (although not necessarily sinful if they do not harm anyone)
Note:The use of prolonged breathing exercises or advanced forms of meditation like meditation on the chakras or kundalini yoga should always be done under the close guidance of a teacher (Guru) or can prove to be quite dangerous.
An interesting observation: Many aspirants in the Christian world have traditionally been on the path of action, those in the Hindu world on the path of devotion, while Buddhist aspirants have been on the path of knowledge. A minority in both the Hindu and Buddhist world have been on the path of meditation. But traditions are rapidly being broken and these days, the practice of meditation is growing faster in the West than in the East.
Another practice that is extremely popular in the West is Hatha Yoga - this practice of postures and exercises works mainly on the aspirant's physical body. The progress made with the physical body (unlike the other practices) is not carried over from one lifetime to another. However having a healthy, strong body is an important ingredient in making progress along any of the other paths (I myself practice this type of 'yoga' regularly). However, this should not really be your main spiritual practice. Some of its very esoteric exercises - esoteric bandhas, esoteric pranayama, kumbhaka etc should be avoided altogether. Not only could these be dangerous to your body, such practices may lead to magical or psychic abilitities which could entrap or endanger your spiritual well being.
This is the period in the evolution of the individual human when he sets out on the task of bringing the personality under control and sows the seed for his spiritually development. His principal task is to know himself, his weaknesses and to work on correcting them. He is known to a Master, has entered the Hall of Learning and is in the care of one of the disciples of the Master. He may not be conscious of this while awake, but he is being tutored while asleep.
Once accepted by a Master as his disciple, the 'pilgrim' becomes part of the Master's group. He is still under the care of one of the Master's disciple (rather than the Master himself) and now continues to work towards his first initiation. He is now on the 'razor's edge', a difficult and lonely path. Though he is working towards initiation, his goal is not initiation itself, but service to his brothers. (Making initiation the purpose of your life is a path of delusion, equivalent to making graduation rather than learning the purpose of an educational career). This service he does through writing, teaching, music, art, leadership - he becomes a helper and server of his race.
Disciples are not necessarily very religious or outwardly spiritually persons nor does discipleship involve withdrawing from the mundane world. In the final analysis, the purpose of humanity (to the extent that we know it) is to spiritualize matter on earth and this can not be achieved by withdrawal from the world, but only by engaging with it (Some lives may, of course, be spent as a hermit or monk) .After a few lifetimes, the disciple is brought by his efforts to the Portal of Initiation. A brief description of the first five major initiations follows.
An excellent guide for appropriate conduct of probationers and disciples is a book prepared by Krishnamurthy, from instructions given by his master, entitled 'At the Feet of the Master'.
It is interesting to note that the life of Jesus in his incarnation in Palestine demonstrated by actual enactment the five initiations from his birth at Bethlehem to his resurrection.
Though there are five major initiations before a man (or woman) achieves relative perfection and liberation, there are many other minor initiations in between which mark incremental progress in his/her development. There are also four more major initiations that can be taken in the earth system, after these first five, but they are not taken on the physical plane. The path of evolution is therefore a continuous one and does not end with perfection / liberation on earth. (Where it can eventually lead, if there is such a final end, is not known to us).
|0.||Entry into the Human Kingdom||Physical Body||-||-||Hatha Yoga (Asanas,Pranayama)|
|1.||Spiritual Birth||Pranic Body||Muladhara||Earth||Karma Yoga (Selfless Service)|
|2.||Baptism||Astral/Emotional Body||Svadhishthana||Water||Bhakti Yoga (Unconditional Devotion)|
|3.||Transfiguration||Mental Body||Manipura||Fire||Jnana Yoga (Intuition/Discernment)|
|4.||Crucifixion||Causal Body||Anahata||Air||Raja Yoga (Renunciation)|
(Entry into the Spiritual Kingdom)
|Soul||Vishuddha||Ether/Space||Integral Yoga (Liberation)|
Eastern gurus 'selling' spiritual traditions or mysticism to westerners, often hold forth the carrot of 'enlightenment'. What they fail to mention is that though the third initiation, where the personality is completely conquered, can be considered to be achieving 'enlightenment', even for advanced human beings this is not achievable in one lifetime (and true enlightenment which is only reached at the fifth initiation is further away still). Even so, the path of evolution has to be trodden at every level and stage, even if this is to be achieved in a later life.
However, at each initiation (as well as the minor ones in between), the aspirant is presented with a revelatory vision - a vision of 'reality'. This moment of clarity enables him to see things as they really are and also see more clearly the way ahead. So though true, lasting enlightenment maybe many lives ahead, an enlightening, mind expanding experience is possible in any lifetime.
Just as the physical body has a genetic code that determines its makeup and capabilities, the three lower vehicles, the personality as a whole as well as the Soul itself has a code or structure that determines its virtues/vices, strengths/weaknesses, possibilities and tendencies. Each of these five aspects of a human has a structure which can be one of seven 'rays'. The three lower vehicles (physical, emotional, mental) and the personality are changed every lifetimes so their ray may change at each lifetime, while the ray of the individual Soul remains constant during all of its lives on earth. Here is a table of the rays and their characteristics (from Bailey/Creme):
|The Seven Rays|
|1||Will or Power||Strength, courage, vision, fearlessness, steadfastness, leadership||Pride, ambition, obstinacy, willfulness, anger, aloofness, destructiveness, arrogance|
|2||Love / Wisdom||Patience, endurance, intuition, wisdom, tact, faithfulness, serene temper||Coldness, indifference, selfishness,
contempt for mental limitations (in others), self-pity, fearfulness, self-satisfaction
|3||Creative Intelligence||Abstract thinking, sincerity, clear intellect, caution, philosophic viewpoint||Intellectual pride, inaccuracy in detail, absent-mindedness, critical, impractical, deviousness|
|4||Harmony through Conflict, Beauty or Art||Strong affections, generosity, devotion, quickness of mind||Self-centredness, worrying, lack of moral courage, strong passions, extravagance|
|5||Concrete Knowledge or Science||Accuracy, justice (without mercy), perseverance, common-sense, keen intellect||Critical, materialistic, narrowness, prejudice, unforgiving, lack of sympathy|
|6||Abstract Idealism or Devotion||Devotion, single-mindedness, love, tenderness, loyalty, reverence, idealism||Selfish and jealous love, overbearing, sectarian, fanaticism, emotional response, violence|
|7||Ceremonial Magic (Ritual) or Practical Art||Strength, perseverance, courage, curtsy, meticulousness, self-reliance, thoughtfulness, creativity||Formalism, bigotry, poor judgment, arrogance, superstition, secretiveness|
It is a good idea to try and understand one's own ray structure (remember there are 5 different 'parts' and each may have a different ray structure). This knowledge provides one with an insight into one's strengths and limitations and often determines which initiations are the easier (or more difficult) to gain and what practices may need to be followed to control the lower vehicles.
Just as an example, the following was the ray structure of Mahatma Gandhi (according to Creme's information):
Soul Ray - 2 (Ray of Love-Wisdom)
Personality Ray - 2
Mental vehicle Ray - 6 (Ray of Abstract Idealism and Devotion)
Emotional vehicle Ray - 2
Physical body Ray - 3 (Ray of Creative Intelligence)
The article, Mahatma Gandhi: a ray biography by Peter Liefhebber has a wonderful analysis of this ray structure and how it manifested itself in Gandhi's life. Again, according to Creme's information Gandhi was a second degree initiate.
The Ray structure of people (or as some have called them, the seven human temperaments) also provide a logical explanation for the origin of the hindu caste system which however, has been perverted over time.
Karma is basically the Law of Cause and Effect governing our existence. Every thought, every word and every action is a cause that will lead to effects - in other words it is not fate, but our own thoughts and actions that effect are current and future lives. Though this is well accepted in the West as expressed in the phrase 'as you sow, so shall you reap', it is nor realized that this also extends across lifetimes.
On the other hand, some traditions in the east (particularly among the Jains), advocate the 'working-out' of karma as the way to liberation, going so far as to recommend 'non-action' as a means for avoiding creating more karma (good or bad). A far better way to achieve liberation or salvation is to follow the path of initiation and letting karma take care of itself (right action will naturally not create any new bad karma). Though karma will no doubt influence the circumstances and difficulties one encounters on this path, the service to humanity that is required for attaining initiation is the best means of working out of karma.
One other point may be added, though the poor circumstances of other people may be present because of their karma, it does not imply that they 'deserve' it. It is often your dharma (duty) as a fellow human, to save them from this bad karma. If you choose to be the instrument (whether by commission or omission) of this circumstance, then that itself may be adding to your own karmic burden. Also, the circumstances may be caused by group (national or tribal) karma rather than individual karma in which case the suffering person is 'innocent'.
A fairly recent development in the path of evolution has been the possibility of group initiation. There are many candidates on earth at this time who are ready to take the first initiation so the Hierarchy is said to have adopted a policy of group training and group admission. So in the future, initiation will become a effort for whole groups rather than just individuals. These groups have been formed on a higher plane and disciples already belong to a spiritual group. However, it is not easy to recognize and find your group on the physical plane, so forming a group on the physical plane will often not succeed.
Though group initiation will be a reality in the future, even now, initiation is not for those who walk alone. To quote from Alice Bailey:
Only the man who holds his brother's hand can see the Door in truth; only the man, surrounded by the many who are one, can enter by that Door which shuts itself upon the man who seeks to enter it alone.
The Door here is the Portal of Initiation. So fellow traveller, my request to you:
Hold my hand and walk the path with me, together we can try crossing the threshold safely to the other side.
Once a human being has taken all five initiations, he is free of the need to be reborn on Earth. He is then given the choice of taking one of seven paths for further evolution:
My sources are mainly the writings of Alice A. Bailey, Benjamin Creme and Torkom Saraydarian. Their books have been published by Lucis Trust ( The books), Share International and T.S.G Publishing Foundation.
Created: December 28, 1997