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Discipleship in the New Age I - The Six Stages of Discipleship - Part III
Every Ashram or inner group is essentially a reservoir of thought and that reservoir has for its spring or source, the ideas, dreams, vision and aspiration of the Master. This is impulsed by his monadic potency, influenced by the One who is his Master and developed and fed by his experience, unfolded as his wisdom grew and his capacity to further the hierarchical Plan had been dedicated, used and increased. Then it becomes a clear pool of thought, augmented and fed from the spring of many lives, from the pure vision and consecrated dreams of many disciples.

To this reservoir of pure thought, every pledged disciple is asked to make his contribution and, if he can do so, it will enable the Ashram to meet the need and help every aspirant to pass off the Probationary Path on to the Path of Accepted Discipleship. Every center or focus of power has a definite sphere of influence and a true, active Ashram is a positive force within the center which we call humanity.

The disciple now naturally and rightly questions how thought power and spiritual instinct are related, how they can work constructively and how their interdependence demonstrates. I wonder how I can make the idea clear to you? Let me first call your attention to the fact that it is instinct which leads a disciple to respond to a Master's call or note, to his vibration and to his group. Instinct, in its early stages, is the name given to the response of the material mechanism to its environing material world - the three worlds of human evolution. Later, upon the evolutionary ladder, the mind appears as an interpreting agency and the nature of the mechanism and of the environment is slowly understood. The relationships become clarified. Spiritual instinct is the capacity of the soul to register contact with the Hierarchy of which the soul is inherently a part, just as in the body a man's mechanical, instinctual responses, reactions and reflexes are an integral part of the material mechanism. In the case of the spiritual instincts, [698] it is the intuition which interprets and illumines the mind. The power of thought as employed in the work of the Ashram is dependent upon the power of the disciple to focus and raise the conscious mind, to contact the soul and evoke the intuition. When that has been successfully done, then comes the unison of the three factors: mental illumination, soul impulse and intuitive perception. This triple combination will produce that type of thought which will be effective in activity, productive of the Plan, conducive to selflessness and motivated by love.

According to the ability of the group, as a whole, to function under the impetus of the spiritual instinct will be the success of the Master to carry out his plans through the medium of the group. Under divine law, he may not work alone; he cannot work alone. He can inspire, teach, ask for cooperation and give guidance as to the needed work. Beyond that, no Master may go. In this world cycle, the work of the Hierarchy is conditioned by the disciples, and they can well understand, therefore, why the last fetter cast off by a Master is irritation! No initiate can form a true Ashram until all capacity to misunderstand, to express irritation and to criticize has vanished. The power of thought of a Master, if misused, could be a potent destructive force. He must be able to trust himself before his Ashram can run on right lines and with safety

In this work of assembling the necessary thought power for constructive work, the etheric web is definitely involved. It leads then to a reorganization of the web. Academic explanations do not help the student to understand this. When the mind (the instrument of thought) is the vehicle of soul life, soul light and soul love, and the etheric web is responsive to the inflow of energy from the mind, then the reorganization of the individual etheric web takes place. The individual etheric body is only a part, an aspect, of the etheric web of humanity; the steady reorganization of the many parts leads to a transformation of the whole, when enough time has elapsed.

The medium through which this takes place is the Mind. The mind creates or formulates those thought-forms (or embodied energies) which express, upon the mental plane, the measure of the disciple's understanding of the Plan, and his [699] ability to convey the embodied mental energy to the etheric body - unimpeded by the emotional nature or by any lower upsurging desire.

The etheric body is a web of light energy, impulsed or motivated by the type or the quality of the energies to which it responds, from the angle of evolutionary development. It might be stated that:

  1. Unevolved or savage man responds simply to prana or physical energy, vitalizing the appetites of the lower nature, developing the instincts and thus laying the foundation of a physical vehicle as the outer garment of the soul. At this stage, intellect is embryonic; the physical appetites and the five senses are dominating factors. All this is due to the activity of prana as it pours through the etheric or vital body.
  2. Average man is impulsed by desire which is an energy, emanating from world desire and which - developing or organizing the astral body - generates desire-energy. It pours into the vital body and galvanizes physical man into those activities which will lead to the satisfaction of desire. This is a parallel process to the work of prana, impelling the animal instinctive nature into activity. These necessarily parallel and produce conflict - the first clash (within the man) of the pair of opposites. Gradually, the pranic energy becomes automatic in its activity; the shift of the consciousness is into the astral or desire body and the functioning of the instinctual nature drops below the threshold of the consciousness. Man then focuses his life in the astral vehicle and his etheric body becomes animated by the potent inflow of desire-energy.
  3. The developed man, with an integrated personality, gradually brings the etheric body under the control of mental energy and his physical plane activity is not then so much implemented by instinct or desire as by thought energy, dedicated to and expressing the nature of the man's plan. This plan indicates increasingly his intelligent desire - selfish in the early stages, complex and dualistic in the intermediate stages but slowly responding to the world plan and to the divine intent for humanity. [700]
  4. Finally, when the power of the Triangles (the spiritual name given in The Secret Doctrine to the soul) is being imposed upon the personality, then their energy supersedes the other energies and the personality - focused now in the mind and responsive to soul impression - expresses upon the physical plane, through the medium of the physical brain and the body, the intent, potency and nature of the all-inclusive soul.
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