SECTION THREE - THE SIX STAGES OF DISCIPLESHIP - Part 3
In connection with this, I would remind you that though I am seeking to train many at this time for further expansions of consciousness, I am writing primarily for the future and for those disciples who, in years to come, will read my words and find their way into the Ashrams of the Masters. The Hierarchy builds for the future; it is not occupied with the present. All that it does is done with the intent to open the way into a wider and more expansive world. Humanity is preoccupied with the things of the present; the Hierarchy is working and laying plans for the future; Shamballa is engrossed with the Eternal Now and with the dynamic life which has created the past, which controls the present (the centre of illusion) and  with the future. You may perhaps gain some idea or picture of the conditioning life of Shamballa if you will study the present era of human living. In it, people with the Lemurian consciousness, focussed on the past and concerned with the physical plane, are present; people with the Atlantean consciousness, emotional in content and focussed on the present, are everywhere to be found; and people who are definitely Aryan in their state of awareness, mentally focussed and occupied with the future, are likewise found. The three constitute one race of men and embody the whole of mankind.
Stage II. The Chela in the Light.
This stage is definitely one in which the consciousness of the probationer is occupied with the overcoming of glamour and the curing of the distorted, myopic vision of the man who has been immersed in the life of matter or form. He is now attempting to see the new vision, to control the world of emotional reactions and to work in a new medium, that of Light.
The Masters do not work upon the astral plane. Certain schools of occultism teach that They do, but such is not the case. For Them (having overcome glamour and illusion) the astral plane is non-existent; it is but an illusory concept of the kama-manasic type of mind—the mind of the average aspirant. The chela is, therefore, at this stage guarded and guided by someone who is still subject to glamour, but is, at the same time, aware of the ephemeral nature of the astral plane.
This stage involves so many aspirants in the world today that (before I proceed with other matters) I would like to touch upon the nature of the work which the Masters are seeking to do with Their groups of disciples in this hour of world crisis. This is a matter of paramount importance to the world from the angle of the Masters Themselves. Never forget that in all our discussions and in all your effort to understand, I am endeavouring to decentralise you by giving you, as far as I can, the point of view of the Hierarchy, stepping it down until it can come within the range of comprehension of the average aspirant.
As far as these aspirants are concerned, the one thing which the Masters are endeavouring to bring about is the stimulation of the flame of the spirit in them so that they may set the world on fire. The fires of judgment and of substance, of karma and its vehicle, matter, are raging in the world at this time. Fire must be countered by fire, as well you know, and to stop the raging inferno of fire which is today devastating the world, the fire of spirit must be opposed, distributed and effectively used by the disciples of the Masters. The task of Shamballa, in relation to the Hierarchy, is similar in nature but expresses itself upon a higher level. They dispense the ultimate fire of the Will. The fire which must, in the final analysis, be used by the disciples in the world is the fire of the will-to-love.
This fire is not what you think it is. The will-to-love means the love of the greater Whole and the ability to do that which is needed for the good of the group in the right way and with the needed skill in action. It involves capacity for firm action where need arises, because the disciple has a long range vision and is not misled by the immediate perspective. He works and prepares for the future. It is, in other words, the loving intention to fire the entire world with the new idea of the "spirit of relationship," beginning with the disciple's own self, his family and immediate group. This is the will-to-fire. It would be well to reflect deeply on these ideas. To bring about and render effective this fiery stimulation, the disciple must apply the fire to himself and in the ensuing blaze see himself as he truly is. The fire of the material aspect (the fire of the personality) is still too prevalent and too powerful in the lives of aspirants. It renders them harmful. I would remind you that the fire of the mental plane (that is, of the mind) is the reflection (and the distorted reflection) of the fire of spirit. Some disciples use only the fire of the mind; in their highest and best moments, they attempt to use the fire of love to offset the fires of the critical mind but at the best it is no spontaneous flow but a laborious effort to be nice, to refrain (through drastic disciplining of themselves) from uttering the things which their critical minds say or to act upon the opinions they may have formed through the use of the fire of mind. This fire is always directed at a brother and the effort to refrain from  the use of this fire inevitably creates a gap or barrier. Among the majority of aspirants, there is no true love in action but only much personality effort to be non-critical. Their concentration is upon the recognised and basic need to be non-critical because it is right so to be, and there is a reward for those who achieve it, but the concentration is not based upon the effects upon others when the fire of the mind is let loose with its destroying, burning and damaging effects.
The Masters are, therefore, anxious to "burn up the disciple in the fire of the will-to-love so that he is set free and the barriers to the inflow of the avataric force may be dissolved." Why is this? Because it is the disciples in the world and not the mass of men who today hinder the Coming of the Avatar and render useless His intention. He dare not come until the disciples and aspirants in the world bring about the needed changes in themselves, for the reason that there would not be "enough of the will-to-love with the fiery essence." Where that will is present two things can take place:
1. There can be the needed stepping-down of the inflowing energy which the Avatar would bring with Him so that it can be rendered effective in humanity.
2. The Avatar and Those Who are working with Him and under His influence can be provided with a group which can:
a. Respond intelligently to that influence, recognising it and absorbing it.
b. Distribute the inflowing energy.
c. Interpret to humanity the new impelling forces which are occupied with the precipitation of the new vision, the new world order and the New Age ideals.
There will then be very many chelas in the Light and on the other graded steps of discipleship.
The vision which many have of the influence and work of the Avatar is that of a Great Appearance which will end all strife, inaugurate the new era of peace and goodwill, soothe the hearts of the people and lead mankind into realms of beauty and of happiness. He will be the consummation of the  wishful thinking of countless minds down the ages. He will be the solace of distressed humanity. He will sweetly love and quietly deal with His Own people and will sweep the evil doer out of the Earth and prevent him from again molesting the peace of the world.
I tell you that such a picture does not enter into the vision of reality at all. It is based on theological interpretations and human selfishness; it is founded on the misery of mankind and on the failure of disciples and aspirants everywhere to grasp the true nature of love and the real vision of the hierarchical Plan.
It is the Fire of Love which He will bring; it is the message of the purificatory fire which He will sound; He will not teach anent the waters of purification, as has hitherto been the symbolic imparted truth; He will impart the fire which burns and destroys all barriers in man's nature, all separating walls between individuals, between groups and between nations. Are you prepared as individuals, as disciples and aspirants to submit yourselves to this fire?
When a man becomes a chela in the Light, certain developments take place which enable him to see the vision more clearly and to know what he must do, for the Light ever reveals. These are:
1. The aspirant makes a transition in consciousness from the astral plane to the mental and, in effecting this, the senior helping chela gives definite aid and guidance.
2. The aspirant learns to distinguish, eventually infallibly, between the pairs of opposites.
3. The aspirant becomes aware of glamour as something from which he must eventually free himself and aid in freeing the world.
These three stages have been dealt with in a Book of Rules for disciples on the probationary path. The rule can be roughly translated into modern English as follows:
"The one upon the Way leaps forward, leaving the world of fluid life. He makes the great transition and leaves the watery way behind. He walks upon the water and is  not submerged therein. A chela with a light leads him by the hand from light into a greater Light.
"This is a Transition upon the lesser way, preparing for a higher.
"The one upon the Way becomes aware of this and that. The poles appear. The two attract his daily life, first one and then the other; betwixt the two he moves. A transformation must be wrought; the two become as one. A step towards unity takes place. Between the two he forward steps. A chela in the Light throws light on either side and thus the little one can walk.
"This is a Transformation upon the dual way, leading into the Way.
"The one upon the Way gazes around and sees life as through a haze. The fogs and mists of glamour rest upon the valleys and the hills of life and these he must dispel. He must transmute them through the burning rays of radiant light. A chela in the light directs the burning, fiery light which dissipates the enervating fog.
"This is the Transmutation. These fires release the hidden light and blend it with the greater."
It is, therefore, under the guidance of a chela who is far more advanced than the chela in the Light (though not yet adept) that the first lessons in these three processes are learned. Whilst this is going on, the aspirant remains unaware of the Master's interest in him. The Master is receiving regular reports (based on certain charts) from the senior disciple who has the neophyte in charge. It is in this way that many hierarchical relationships are established. When they are once established—through work in the Ashram of a Master and not focussed upon the physical plane—they are persistent and constitute one of the factors which produce:
1. Hierarchical integrity.
2. Eventual close relationship between humanity and the Hierarchy.
At this time, there is a great increase in the number of people who are being thus related and the senior disciples of all the Masters Who take chelas are exceedingly busy with the training  of aspirants, as well as with the work entailed by the gravity of the world crisis. The aspirants thus trained are in reality the nucleus of the future world servers, and are consequently of real importance. The task of those thus engaged falls into three categories; as the senior disciples and initiates are thus occupied, they are themselves learning much. These three categories of work are:
1. The establishing of magnetic influence.
2. The setting-up of telepathic rapport.
3. The making of basic karmic readjustments.
The first task which confronts disciples is to arrive at an understanding of the nature of the aspirants for whom they have made themselves responsible and also to establish a zone or path of influence, so that they can be definitely useful and able to communicate with the aspirant. It might be pointed out that, in the past, such relationships were between soul and soul, and consequently required a long period of "bringing through" to adequate recognition in the mind and brain of the aspirant. Today, this method still persists in the majority of cases but many of these helping disciples are experimenting (under direction of their Master) in working directly with the aspirant upon the physical plane, thus involving personality as well as soul relation. This constitutes a far more difficult relationship but is a part of the new process of externalising the hierarchical effort of which all outer Ashrams (which are now slowly forming) are a part. By means of this, the chela in the Light is trained to recognise members of the Hierarchy by first becoming aware of disciples more advanced than himself and by learning to give due weight to their words and suggestions. You can see, therefore, how a great effort is being made to bring the two centres—Humanity and the Hierarchy—into a much closer rapport and relationship, both objectively and subjectively.
All who have, in this life, transitted from the stage of chela in the Light to that of accepted disciple have established two recognitions:
1. A recognition of the senior disciple whom they have discovered "in the Light."
2. A recognition of the Master. This whole question of recognising the Master will be dealt with by me later.
The consequent developing process of telepathic interplay is one which should be most carefully studied. All groups of disciples, working in or out of an Ashram, should be in close telepathic rapport and thus provide a training ground for the development of this type of sensitivity. The first thing that has to be established in a group of disciples is love and trust, for without that there can be no true transference of thought. Where love and trust do not exist, they must be definitely and consciously developed.
A second rule governs this telepathic relationship and this is that all "crises of criticism" must be most carefully avoided by all disciples if they want to bring about the needed rhythm. In any group of disciples, there are those who do not put "first things first"; they put many things and people before their duty and spiritual responsibilities; this necessarily gives their fellow disciples just grounds (apparently just) for criticism. There are times when criticism is unquestionably a recognition of fact. This means that a criticising disciple has reached the point where his judgment is so based on love that it produces no personality effect in his own life or that of his fellow disciple. It is simply a loving recognition of limitation and only becomes wrong when these undoubted facts are used to arouse criticism in the unqualified and provide points for discussion. The disciple or aspirant who has glaring faults and who fails to make the required changes himself creates a barrier which he must in time destroy by removing all causes for criticism. These barriers prevent free telepathic communication.
An interesting question can he asked at this point and one which should unquestionably arise: Is the group of working disciples to be keyed to the note of the more advanced disciples in the group or is it to be stepped down to a generally lower average to suit the least advanced? Let us put it in another form: Are the least evolved in a group of disciples and aspirants to pull down to their level of work and understanding the more developed? Will they make a supreme effort to measure up to the higher vision and attain to the attitudes and points of view of the more advanced? These questions prove a fundamental  problem in all Ashrams and only the chelas themselves can provide the answer.
In the mastering of the task of karmic adjustment, the guiding disciple is governed by certain requirements. He must ascertain just what karma must be worked out by the aspirant in his charge, during this incarnation. He must then induce him to add to this established karma, what I might call "freeing karma." This is a part of the forcing process to which those who choose the more difficult way of initiation must subject themselves, voluntarily and by free choice. The disciple seeks to do certain things in this connection, referring here to the chela in the Light:
1. He works off unavoidable karma as intelligently and consciously as possible.
2. He takes on some karma which ordinarily would be precipitated in some later life.
3. He begins to shoulder some of the general karma of humanity, thus increasing his own load of karma.
4. He begins to work with and to comprehend something of planetary karma, though as yet he undertakes no responsibility in this connection. Only after the third initiation does he consciously and as an individual cooperate with the karmic responsibility of the planetary Logos.
I would here like to point out that I am referring to good karma as well as bad. It is the task of the helping disciple to guide the chela in the Light so that he does adjust his karma. This the senior disciple does by thought impression. All karma, when consciously faced, is precipitated by the power of thought; this is perhaps the major lesson which the senior disciple has to teach the neophyte. In this way the latter is aided to see "in the light" which falls upon his way, and the disciple who is preparing him for the stage of accepted discipleship is in constant touch with the Master. Thus a triangular relationship is set up which is of occult value.
If the chela in the Light is truly in earnest and is consciously developing the higher sensitivity, this stage can be relatively short. Two lives sometimes are sufficient to cover  this period. The chela in the Light is one who treads the way of what is called "the lesser revelation"—lesser because it is concerned with the revelation of that which must be done in the personality life; it is not the way of the higher revelation of divinity and its nature. It is the revelation of that which is already manifested and not of what must be manifested. Ponder on this. The searchlight of the soul reveals faults in character, limitations in expression and inadequacies in conduct. These must be intelligently corrected. In the symbolic charts which the guiding disciple presents to the Master twice a year, the effort made along these lines is indicated, not the results; it is effort which counts. The results will be inevitable and commensurate with the effort. When these charts (three in number) are geometrically related and superimposed one upon the other, they indicate a definite ray pattern. Then the Master can gauge the rate and type of development and can determine the time for authorising the senior disciple to recommend the stage of accepted discipleship. When the demand of the aspirant, the guiding disciple's recommendation, the karmic condition and the note which the Master registers coincide in time, then the third stage is reached.
I would here again remind you that all these stages are related to work in the Ashram and to the life and vitality of the inner group. This group is composed, as you know, of old and experienced disciples and initiates and also of neophytes in various stages of development and also of disciples, passing through the many different stages of the Path. It is these widely different types of active disciples which bring about the inter-relation between the outer and the inner Ashrams, between the objective group upon the outer plane and the very much larger inner group. This brings me to a question which may quite normally arise in the minds of those working in the outer group and loosely related to the inner group: Is the level of the consciousness of the outer Ashram determined by the personnel of that group or by its relation to the whole Ashram of which it forms a relatively small part? When this question is posited by a member of an Ashram, it indicates a definite preoccupation with the personnel of the group and not with the group as an aspect of some Master's Ashram. Disciples need  to remember that an Ashram is not confined to a few who may know each other and who may even meet together as Ashram members. An Ashram is an international group; it is composed of souls in incarnation and out of incarnation; it is a synthesis of initiates of various degrees and of accepted disciples. The Masters do not regard those who have taken the first initiation as initiates. This is a point which needs re-emphasis.
Disciples who have taken the second initiation are regarded as "probationary initiates," and only when they have taken the third initiation are they truly initiate from the standpoint of the Hierarchy. The first initiation is sometimes spoken of as the "Lemurian Initiation" and the second as the "Atlantean Initiation," but the third initiation—that of our Aryan race—is technically regarded by Them as the first initiation. This is a new angle upon which I would ask you to think. The term, therefore, of Accepted Disciple covers the stages of the first and second initiations; when a disciple has taken the third initiation, he is no longer technically an accepted disciple, even though he still remains in a Master's group until he has taken the fourth initiation. I am pointing out these technicalities so that there may be clarity and proportion in your thinking.
An Ashram is, therefore, representative of all stages of unfoldment, from the most advanced to beginners, such as those who read these instructions. The point of importance to each disciple in an Ashram is whether he can step up his consciousness and his conscious response to the ashramic vibration so that he does not hinder the planned activities of the Ashram. Must the senior and the more advanced initiate-disciples halt, or wait and step down their activities so as to give the less advanced the time and opportunity to measure up to them? The question therefore is: Do the senior disciples wait or do the junior disciples hinder?
I would assure you that the standard of measurement is not a dead level and I would assure beginners that they cannot hinder the advanced members of an Ashram, but that they can throw themselves out of the sphere of activity, though not out of the group. It is the unready and the untrained who do the waiting, not the ready and the truly dedicated.
The task of the Master is to stimulate as many as possible in His group to work consistently on levels of spiritual activity, wherein the fire of the will-to-love may animate and dominate. Frequently, a part of the Ashram is still struggling with the first stages in the task of understanding the fires of the mind; these must be first comprehended and their fiery essence quenched before the fire of the will-to-love can flow through the disciple.
The point to be grasped is that the work of the Ashram goes on and disciples and initiates (whose hearts are aflame) continue to work unimpeded. This covers the individual reaction to the Ashram personnel. But where all the group are aflame with love and are living as souls, then the Ashram becomes a vital centre or vortex of force and dynamically effective. The effort of the Masters Who work through the method of forming Ashrams is to bring about as rapidly as possible this unity of love and intention (will). It is only the beginner who is preoccupied with his individual effect in an Ashram. The trained, released disciples are more concerned with the task to be carried on and with the work to be done. An individual disciple may suffer in his personality as a result of the failure of his group brothers to understand or to arrest the fire of their minds, but he goes on steadily with the work and his personal effectiveness, as a serving unit, remains unaffected. He knows that some day they will be liberated from themselves. In the meantime, he labours to offset their influence and to this extent his task is harder, but he knows that they are on the way to understanding; he knows too that at present they cannot help but see in him and even in their Master the very qualities which are dominating them. For, my brother, we see in others what is in us, even when it is not there at all or to the same extent. Disciples need to learn the distinction between true analytical insight and so-called criticism. A Master does not criticise the members of His Ashram. He seeks to analyse for them the points wherein they may hinder the usefulness of the service of the Ashram. There is a basic distinction between this constructive aid and the criticism which is based on a sense of personal superiority and a love of fault finding.
Each Master has reached the point where the vision is clear to Him; this is part of the reward accorded to the initiate. He identifies Himself with it, colouring it necessarily, richly and helpfully with His ray "apprehension," and interpreting it in terms of His contribution to the whole. Therein lies the secret of the inevitable and the unhinderable (is there such a word, brother of mine?) success of the vision as it is materialised through the combined efforts of the Hierarchy, conditioned in time and space by some Master or group of Masters, working on some one ray or rays. In the early days of the present cycle of hierarchical effort (between 1925 and 1936), the ray at work upon humanity was the first ray. The activity of this ray culminated in the declaration of war by Great Britain in 1939, when the destructive force of that ray—misapplied and misdirected—led Germany to invade Poland. In 1932, the influence of the second ray began to assert itself and will continue to do so until 1945 when the seventh ray will swing slowly into activity. You will then have three rays producing simultaneous effects upon mankind:
1. The first Ray of Will or Power, expending its force.
2. The second Ray of Love-wisdom, reaching its meridian and holding the centre of the stage until 1957.
3. The seventh Ray of Ceremonial Order, coming into activity in combination with the other two—the will-to-love and the will-to-order—producing beauty out of the present chaos.
The disciples, therefore, of the Master Morya, of the Master Koot Hoomi and of the Master Rakoczi are reaching out towards a period of the intensest activity. The destiny of the world lies in the hands of Their three groups of initiated disciples; with Them, the accepted disciples of the three groups are asked to cooperate and this offers opportunity to many everywhere. As they seek to vision the Plan, to cooperate with the three Masters and Their initiate groups, their opportunity will emerge. This triangle of energy is held responsible by the great Leaders in Shamballa for the regularising of world affairs. More than this it is not necessary for humanity to know.
Forget not, an Ashram is a vortex of force and a centre of energy—a centre through which both force and energy flow in  order that the vision may be materialised. This force and energy is, in the last analysis, directed by a Master, by a group of three senior initiates and by another group of lesser initiates, thus representing (in each Ashram) a miniature of the planetary government. These step down the inflowing energy so that accepted disciples can handle it safely and act as distributing agents. The energy with which the Masters work comes from Shamballa; the forces with which They work are provided from within the Hierarchy itself, and just in so far as the accepted disciples react to the combined forces will it be possible for them to be used in service. In other words: the initiated disciples in a Master's group focus the inflowing energies; the accepted disciples, through the medium of their souls, focus the force which the Master directs outward into the world of men in conformity with the Plan of the Hierarchy, working in accordance with the revelation, coming from Shamballa.
Initiated disciples have no interest in anything but the vision, the Plan and its direction and materialising upon earth. Accepted disciples are learning this and in the meantime have to react to the vision in what I might call a second hand manner; they are occupied with the Plan and with the distribution of the forces which will materialise it. Thus the entire activity of the Ashram is coordinated. Newly accepted disciples (who are only learning to cooperate) are valuable as "agents for experiment." According to their reaction to the imparted truths and Plan, according to their ability to sense the need and to bring the need and the medium of release into relation and according to their capacity to work with the world disciples (who are definitely responsible to the Master of the Ashram for some aspect of the Plan) will be the success of the effort in the outer world.
Thus again the concept of the "Hierarchy of Relationship" is brought to your attention. In these days of world strife, it is this bringing about of right relations which presents the key to the immediate aspect of the vision which must be precipitated upon our planet. Therefore, an Ashram is a centre wherein relationship is tried out.
One simple question arises here: How can right relations he established upon earth if the accepted disciples in a Master's  group are themselves unable to react to the idea and to preserve, among themselves, right relations, correctly, unanimously and unerringly? What hope is there for the outer world if the inner circle of workers (pledged disciples) are unable to establish and hold among themselves these right relations. At this time, the problem is threefold. These right relations must be fostered between:
1. Accepted disciples, initiate disciples and the Master.
2. Between the members of an Ashram and other Ashrams.
3. Between these Ashrams and the outer world.
The Master of an Ashram and the senior initiates in His group are responsible for the relation between Shamballa and the Hierarchy. Accepted disciples and the lesser initiates are responsible for the relation between the Hierarchy and Humanity. Thus the great chain of the Hierarchy of Being is preserved inviolate.
Stage III. Accepted Discipleship.
It is not my intention in this short series of Instructions to deal with the Stage of Accepted Discipleship. Much has been written about this stage. I have covered every practical angle in my many books and there is nothing to be gained by duplication. The books on discipleship put out by the Theosophical Society adequately cover the Probationary Path; I have dealt in detail with the Path of Discipleship.
The angle of the contacts which become possible upon the Path of Accepted Discipleship are well known but cannot be described in too much detail. They vary according to person, and ray. I would only ask you to have these modes of approach in mind, remembering that they do occur and occur in varying degrees of clarity and at various stages upon the Path. They are as you know:
1. A dream experience.
2. A symbolic teaching.
3. The thoughtform of a Master.
4. A direct contact with the Master in meditation.
5. An interview in a Master's Ashram.
The first three are more usually the experience of the probationary disciple. The last two are undergone by the accepted disciple. They have their astral or lower psychic counterparts. They are, in this case, not all glamour and illusion and are not basically reprehensible, for they are—in reality—the seed or guarantee of future inevitable experiences upon the Way. People do see thoughtforms of the Masters, for those thoughtforms exist; they do receive symbolic teachings upon the astral plane or in the dream states. Beginners and the inexperienced are then apt to do one of two things: over-estimate the experience and believe it to indicate a high spiritual development; they begin to lean upon the experience and to substitute this astral happening for the future reality or they dismiss it as undesirable lower psychism, forgetting that so-called lower psychism is only so when the interpretation and the use of the experience is at fault. It is the task of the accepted disciple to aid in the interpreting, to indicate direction and to point out the significance of the experience to the neophyte. Workers in the spiritual field should bear this carefully in mind and remember that—as a result of the war, of tension and of aspiration towards the New Age—these dreams and visions, these episodes of symbolic teaching, these contacts with thoughtforms will steadily increase and are indicative of growth and of expansion. Undirected, unexplained and misinterpreted or laughed down and ridiculed, they can greatly hinder and can be forced to descend into the category of true lower psychism; rightly interpreted and explained, they can constitute a series of graded revelations upon the Way to light; they exist then as guarantees of future knowledge and as signposts of a relative achievement. But they are not the reality when astrally focussed.
Disciples need to bear in mind always that they grow by the answering of their own questions; the task of the Master is not to answer questions which, given a little time or thought, the disciple could answer himself, but to suggest or throw into the disciple's mind the type of question which warrants his thought and then to stimulate his abstract mind so that he can successfully find the answer.
You can see, therefore, how important this entire problem of questions can be and how, in a Master's Ashram or group,  the responsiveness of the membership to the questions, registered either by the individual disciple or by the group as a whole, and the answering of these questions has a conditioning effect upon the group. It is here the Master's particular work comes in—the arousing of the Ashram to the asking of those questions which will lead to revelation. A Master has always two things to bear in mind: the group condition which is dependent upon the aggregated vibration or note of all the members of the Ashram, insofar as they work together, and, secondly, the period in which the group is functioning. To this must be added the total responsiveness of the entire Ashram. One of the difficulties confronting all ashrams (viewing them as wholes) is to absorb new members and disciples, either singly or in groups. One question that necessarily arises is: How can a group within an Ashram (constituted of relatively new disciples and beginners on the Path of Accepted Discipleship) become increasingly sensitive to the vibration of the Ashram as a whole and to the Master of the Ashram?
This question in reality embodies the major problem existent between the personality and the soul, between the Master and the disciple and between humanity and the Hierarchy. It is basically a question of registering essential unity and the cessation of separativeness. Disciples in their consciousness have to learn to avoid differentiating between aspects of the Ashram, inner and outer, and between the few Ashram members whom they may know and recognise, and the vast number who remain unknown to them. An Ashram is one group or band of disciples, initiates of various degrees, world disciples and neophytes at the very beginning of the Way of discipleship. Disciples must not think in terms of different Ashrams but in terms of the Ashram as a whole.
The key to this realisation, little as you may think it, is Intensity. Intensity, or working from a point of tension, brings in the flood-tide of revelation, and it is then possible for a disciple to learn in one short day what might otherwise take months and even years to learn. Tension, when focussed rightly, is the great releasing Power. So many disciples focus tension wrongly and release energy in the wrong direction and (if I might so inadequately express it) from the wrong location.  Right tension is brought about first by correct orientation; this necessitates a true sense of values and freedom from those minor preoccupations which produce extension instead of tension. If you are (to give a very usual illustration) preoccupied with your physical condition, you will not experience the tension which will make you a magnetic centre of power and love; if you are preoccupied with the failures of other people or with their ideas about you, you will again fail to experience the tension which releases. You would find it of value to discover where your "extensions" are and then retreat inward to the point of tension from which you can consciously and effectively direct soul energy.
This is the true esoteric work. The majority of disciples are not even 60 per cent effective because their points of tension are scattered all over the personality and are not focussed where the point of individual tension should be. Each has to discover that point of spiritual tension for himself. The reason that disciples are not sensitive to the Master, to the life of the Ashram and to each other is that they are extended and not tense; they are working and living on the periphery of consciousness and not at the centre. Their service, therefore, is partial; their consecration is weak and they are overwhelmed by inertia, by lack of interest in others and by many preoccupations with the form side of life.
One more question might here be considered, dealing with a phrase which I have deliberately used several times in these talks: What is the distinction between love and the will to-love? It is one which constantly is asked in the early stages of the path of discipleship. It is a most revealing question and is based on a sense of individual need and also on group need. It indicates also a penetrating analysis which has carried the questioner to the point where he knows the difference between theory, plus effort, and a spontaneous demonstration of that which is.
The will-to-love involves the recognition of limitation, of desire, of the forcing of an issue and of the intense aspiration really to love. It does not indicate the inflow of Shamballa energy through the medium of the soul whose intrinsic nature is spontaneous love. Where there is a determination to be  loving, certain attitudes—either natural and belonging to a developed personality or forced through attention to soul behest—emerge. The disciple knows that he lacks love, because he is constantly finding himself isolated from and not identified with others; he is irritated by others: he is critical of his brothers, either feeling superior to them or looking at them and saying: "Here they are wrong and I am right; here they do not understand and I do; I know them but they don't know me; I must be patient with them," etc., etc. Throughout this phase, the attitude is definitely that of the will-to-love, coupled to a deep realisation of the handicaps to the expression of love presented by those others and presented also by one's own habits of thought. This is all a form of self-centredness. The true way to love is to reflect and meditate deeply and constantly upon the significance and the meaning of love, its origin, its expression through the soul, its qualities, goals and objectives. Most of the reflection carried on by the aspirant is based upon his innate realisation that he does not really love in the spontaneous, free way of the spirit. The disciple is, therefore, thrown back on a self-centred position in which he feels: "Now I am loving; now I am not loving; now I must try and love." Yet all the time none of these attitudes is really true love nor is their result a loving expression because the disciple is identified with himself and focussed in the personality. Love is never worked up, if I might put it so, in the lower nature; it is a free unimpeded inflow from the higher.
Love is spontaneous and carries ever the free spirit of Christ. I would suggest that there has never been a better description of the nature of love than that given by the initiate Paul, even though the translation of his words is faulty at times. Study those passages in the New Testament in which he defines love. Give up emphasising the will-to-love and emphasise in your own consciousness the need of others for understanding, compassion, interest and help. The usual loneliness of all disciples is frequently incidental to the fact of the self-centredness of all those whom they contact and the intense preoccupation of the neophyte with his own growth. The cry of the neophyte is: "Tell me. Tell me. Then I will change. I will accept anything that is said but tell me." The cry of the disciple is: "Aid  the work. Forget yourself. The world needs you." So many disciples are still shut up within themselves, hidden behind the wall of the personal self and little true out-going love is present. Until they break through and truly love, their usefulness is impaired.
We have considered briefly the stage of Little Chelaship and that of Chela in the Light. These stages lie behind quite a large number of human beings today. It is necessary, however, to revive the effect of these two experiences and the need to do so lies behind much of the work being done by disciples and teachers at this time. Many other people are today passing through the stage of Accepted Discipleship. The keynote of that stage is, as you know, the establishing of contact with the Master; it is primarily and technically the task of the Master to evoke the direct response and the conscious reaction of the disciple. Along with these reactions, the Master looks for an effort on the part of the disciple to be impersonal in his dealings, both with Him and with his co-disciples; impersonality is the first step upon the road to spiritual love and understanding. The effort of most sincere disciples is usually concentrated upon loving each other and in this (to use an old simile) they put the "cart before the horse." Their effort should be to achieve, first of all, impersonality in their dealings for, when that has been achieved, criticism dies out and love can pour in.
The Master also looks for an effort upon the part of His disciples to work on a larger and more generous scale in connection with His work in the world of men; He leaves them free to work as they may choose but He most certainly looks for the effort to take place along the lines of the specific activities which constitute His intention. To achieve this vital and strenuous effort, there must be the ability to focus upon the work and its needs and to develop the power to cooperate with those also engaged in similar work. This, again, involves impersonality and right focus. The Master is today looking for dedication to the needs of humanity in these days of human agony; this involves a sensitivity to world pain as it demonstrates from day to day in world affairs; it requires also a "divine indifference" to outer events in the life of the little self and a sense of proportion which enables the disciple to see his little personal  affairs—physical, emotional and mental—in terms of the whole. So again we arrive at impersonality—this time impersonality to a man's own reactions.
The Master has, therefore, necessarily to ask Himself whether the expenditure of time and energy which He gives to the members of His group or Ashram is rightly warranted and whether, as a result, the group has "quickened" for increased service, and is more closely knit together in the bonds of the ashramic fellowship and is decentralised and less a group of dedicated personalities and more a group of living souls.
Impersonality has also to be developed in connection with the Master Himself. He is not occupied with making His group of disciples satisfied with themselves, their status or their service. He frequently lays the emphasis (in His few and rare contacts with His disciples) upon their failures and limitations. He does not only give them a steady flow of teaching and increased opportunity to serve. His work is primarily to help them detach themselves from the form aspect of life and fit them to undergo certain great expansions of consciousness. He assumes the factual nature of their dedication and desire to serve. This he has shown by receiving them into His group of disciples. When He did that, He assumed also the responsibility of preparing them for initiation. It is no part of the Master's duties to pat disciples upon the back or to congratulate them upon work done and progress made. He has instead the task of watching closely their note or vibration and of indicating where changes must be made in attitude and expression, where intensification of the spiritual life is in order and where personality adjustments could lead to greater freedom and, therefore, to more effective service. If this process, when applied by Him evokes resentment and disappointment upon their part, then the indication is that they are still steeped in personal reactions.
Another thing which disciples are apt to forget is that the Master has to protect the larger Ashram as a whole from the reaction of those who are learning to work in smaller supervised groups and in cooperation with their more experienced brothers. Sometimes disciples become discouraged—from a natural morbidness, self-centredness, lethargy and sometimes  good intentions—and endeavour to resign from the Ashram or group. This they can only do exoterically, for the esoteric link always persists, though it may be temporarily negated in the need of the larger group to protect itself from some unit in its midst. The members of an Ashram and accepted disciples are always engaged in world work and effectively so. Newcomers and beginners have to be trained to participate in that work and ample scope is always provided to this end.
Certain periods come when disciples have to be faced with clear and definite questions, in the answering of which they discover themselves and the scope and fruitfulness of their demanded service. Some of these questions might be expressed as follows:
How effective is my work in relation to my sphere of activity?
How effective is my thinking and planning in relation to what may lie ahead in the immediate future? We have an instance of this today, in connection with the plans for a post-war world and the need for intelligent and spiritual reconstruction activity.
What results can I recognise as the fruit of my work?
Do I feel that my work has been satisfactory from the standpoint of my soul and, incidentally, of my Master?
Have I worked with impersonality in relation to my fellow disciples and co-workers, no matter what their status?
Have I preserved the needed spirit of loving cooperation?
Do I recognise truthfully my own and my co-disciples' limitations and do I then move forward with those who are serving alongside of me without criticism and with silence?
Do I realise exactly where I stand? Whom I can help? And to whom I must look for example, aid and understanding?
One of the first lessons a disciple has to learn is to recognise what is occultly called "hierarchical progression." This enables the disciple to place himself consciously at the point to which evolution and spiritual unfoldment have brought him and, therefore, recognise those whom he can assist from the standpoint  of his greater experience and those to whom he must look for like aid.
This is a hard first lesson. The neophyte is always more consciously conceited than is the experienced disciple. It was the need for the understanding of this fact of hierarchical progression which prompted me to choose the six stages of discipleship as our study theme. To be a disciple does not mean that all within the Ashram are upon the same rung of the ladder of evolution. It is not so. An Ashram is composed of all degrees, ranging from that of a disciple who is taking his first steps upon the arduous path of training, up to that of a disciple who is a Master of the Wisdom. This hierarchical progression is something warranting careful consideration. I would remind you of the Law which states that "we grow through the medium of our recognitions." A recognition, when it is seen as an aspect or fractional part of a greater whole, is the seed of a major expansion of consciousness. A stabilised expansion of consciousness connotes initiation. This is an occult statement of major importance.
It is essential that disciples cultivate the attitude of spiritual recognition and they will find their lives greatly enriched when they do so. Contact with disciples, initiates and Masters is ever evocative in the result. The power they normally and unconsciously wield has a dual effect. It draws out the best and evokes the worst whilst presenting situations with which the disciple must deal. Every disciple is a focal point of power to some degree. The more advanced the disciple, the greater the force or energy which will radiate from him; this necessarily presents situations which the lesser disciple has to handle. The true disciple never does this with intention. The theory (so prevalent among occult groups) that the leader or some senior working disciple must stage situations in order to develop the pupil is contrary to occult law. The moment, however, you step into the range of the radiation of a Master or of any disciple senior to you, then things are bound to happen in your life. The radiation is effective when rightly received, registered and consciously used to bring about the sensed and needed changes. Eventually when the disciple's vibration is constant and responsive to the higher one, the two can then be synchronised.  It is this synchronisation which characterises all grades of initiates and which indicates to an initiate of a higher degree that an initiate or disciple of a lower grade can be admitted into the higher ranks. Synchronisation is the key to initiation.
Stage IV. The Chela on the Thread.
With these preliminary remarks, let us pass on to another of the Stages on the Path of Discipleship. The fourth stage is described as follows: