WHAT IS AN ESOTERIC SCHOOL
- 1. Esoteric Schools in the Past
- 2. Esoteric Schools of the Present
- 3. Esoteric Schools in the Future
- I. Some Definitions of Esotericism
- II. How an Esoteric School Is Formed
- III. The Truths Taught in the True Esoteric Schools
WHAT IS AN ESOTERIC SCHOOL
By ALICE A. BAILEY
There are many so-called esoteric schools today. All of them are relatively modern and have come into existence during the past sixty years. I am not here referring to the ever-existing Esoteric School, which is present in every part of the world, having no name, represented by no exoteric organisation and having no recognised leaders. This one true School has eternally met the need of seekers who—down the ages—have demanded entrance to the Mysteries and have found admittance, after fulfilling the requirements. I refer to the numbers of mystical, metaphysical, Theosophical, Rosicrucian and occult orders which are everywhere to be found. These organisations are composed of groups of people with devoted spiritual intention, animated by great aspiration and gathered around some teacher and some body of teaching. The teacher supplies them with his personal interpretation of standard, occult information, emphasises the need for character-building and purity, indicates to them the necessity to tread the Path and (usually) takes the place of the ultimate and final authority.
This phase in the history of esotericism has been good, preparatory work. It has brought to the attention of the general public the nature of the secret doctrine, of the esoteric teaching and of the inner government of the world. The fact of the existence of the Masters of the Wisdom—as They work in the planetary Hierarchy under the direction of the Christ—has been widely presented, either in terms of orthodox Theosophy, of Hindu metaphysical speculation or under Christian terminology. Much knowledge has been imparted. The intricate process of divine creation, and the consequent manifestation of God, bring much mental stimulation and mental unfoldment but frequently little real understanding. Esoteric schools are occupied with promoting the growth of understanding. Certain elementary rules, intended primarily for the purification of the emotional-desire nature have been usefully disseminated; the many planes, the creative fires and the differentiation of substance have been exhaustively discussed, as have been the various septenates which condition life, consciousness and form. None of this is esoteric teaching. Devotion to the Masters has been taught, but They have been inadequately presented. Those Masters are portrayed as peculiarly interested  in the teacher of the group, and the personal friends of the teacher are frequently informed that the Master has accepted them into the inner ranks of His disciples. There is thus built up within these groups, practically without exception, a close corporation of devoted adherents to the teacher; these devotees can be depended upon to give unquestioning obedience to the teacher and to the commands of the Master, supposedly transmitted by the teacher, in violation of the occult law that no Master ever gives a command or expects obedience. The average esoteric group is today a closed organisation, exclusive in its membership, fostering an unwholesome sense of mystery and presenting only those half truths which serve one purpose—to testify to the existence of the real.
It will be apparent, therefore, that no true esoteric school has yet come into existence. The emergence of these schools remains as yet a hope, but one which has reached the point where due preparation can be made for their appearance.
The above is not an indictment of much faithful though uninspired service. Students must recognise that the schools with which they are familiar are only preparatory in nature, full of faults, based on the weaknesses and the strength of the teacher who founded them; they are, therefore, tainted by personality emphasis, demanded loyalties and misapplied and misinterpreted teaching. They have, however, been useful as signposts to the future.
The time has not been ripe for the manifestation of the true esoteric schools. Humanity has not been ready. Today, however, there are enough intelligent men and women to warrant the forming of the more advanced schools of training. These will lay the foundation of those future schools which will—under the Law of Evolution—make their appearance. Esoteric schools are no exception to the evolutionary process and ever appear in response to man's demand and when his mental development requires them. The next seventy years will see the founding of the new schools. Those now functioning can begin to clean house, relinquish non-essentials and isolate the truths which are really occult and thus vision clearly the goal of esoteric training. This they have not yet done. The discipline to which the neophyte in the future should subject himself must be understood and the right techniques imparted; all this will have to be shifted to a higher level than at present. The teaching must be divorced from its present theological trend and autocratic pronouncements. Of these dogmatic utterances, the many occult schools, the  inner schools and the various esoteric sections have been disastrously guilty.
Teachers will later appear who will have a true understanding of the spiritual nature of authority. This will not be based upon claim-making and mystery but upon a life lived in accordance with the highest ideals, and upon the presentation of a teaching which will evoke both the respect and the intuitive response of the disciple. The teacher of the future will simply point the Way, tread the Way with the disciple, and emphasise the ancient rules but with their new interpretations. He will no longer stand (as he frequently does today) between the group and the light or between the aspirant and the Master.
These preparatory schools are already in process of forming and the starting of the Arcane School in 1923 was a part of this spiritual effort. From these proposed schools will emerge, early in the next century, the first of the true Schools of Initiation.
Up to date, the so-called esoteric schools have dealt with aspirants upon the Path of Probation or of Purification. The schools now forming, such as the Arcane School, are concerned with training disciples and preparing them to tread the Path of Discipleship and to come—at some later date—into direct contact with the Masters. The new schools which will appear in the next century will take disciples and prepare them to tread the Path of Initiation.
We have thus one graded, unified effort for which the Masters are responsible. The schools now forming to train disciples are intermediate in nature and are intended to bridge the gap between the esoteric schools of the past and the true schools which will later appear. These facts might be summarised as follows: