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Discipleship in the New Age I - The Six Stages of Discipleship - Part III
The individual etheric web galvanizes the automatic physical body into activity. The energies, controlling the physical body through the medium of the etheric web, are the four mentioned above. The conflict in the brain consciousness of the evolving human unit begins to assume importance when the man starts to recognize these controlling energies, their source and their effects.

It is immediately obvious that the work of the disciple is, therefore, almost entirely within the realm of energy and forces. The study of occultism is the study of forces and of their origin and effects. An Ashram is a place wherein this study enters the laboratory or experimental stage. The disciple is supposed to be in process of becoming aware of the forces and energies which condition him as an individual; these originate within himself and produce changes and specific effects in his life-expression upon the physical plane. When he knows himself to be the "Life and the lives" (as The Secret Doctrine puts it), a sumtotal of forces and a controlling energy, then he can be a world disciple and work significantly in an Ashram.

It will be apparent to you, therefore, that when a disciple enters into an Ashram and works in closer relation with his Master than heretofore, he begins to collaborate as far as is in him with his fellow disciples; then you have (in terms of occultism) a repetition of the relation between the "Life" of the group (in this case, the Master) and "the lives" (in this case, the disciples), of the central energy and the responding forces. From the Master's angle of the group problem, duality enters into the group expression. He, the central energy, must work through the forces. From the angle of the disciple, a force (which is himself) is brought into relation with other forces; [701] it must, at the same time, become responsive to an energy, that of the Master. This response comes through the recognition of identity of purpose, of origin and of nature, but not identity in the field of expression. You can see, therefore, that an Ashram is, indeed, a very vortex of forces, set in motion by the many types of energy within the ring-pass-not of the Ashram itself. The basic principles of dualism make themselves felt as the energy of spirit makes its impact upon soul force and personality force. Forget not that a Master expresses monadic energy, whilst disciples in his group are seeking to express soul energy and are doing so, in some measure, through their love and service. To this soul energy, they add personality force which arises from their being, as yet, focused in the personality life, even whilst aspiring to soul consciousness. Herein lies their usefulness from the Master's point of view and herein lies their difficulty and - at times - their failure.

Disciples within the Master's group or the Master's Ashram have a potent effect upon each other, for everything in their nature is accentuated. The Master has to watch carefully to see that he does not unduly stimulate the disciples' vehicles through the very fact of his relation to them.

The individual disciple has, therefore, to watch the effect of three groups of energies which all make an impact upon him:

  1. Those within his own nature (physical, emotional and mental) and those which come to him from his own soul.
  2. Those which make an impact upon him as they come to him from other members of the Ashram or group. This effect will be dependent upon his being detached where he himself is concerned and thus responsive to what comes from them. The occult law is that the more you love the more you can respond to and include the point of view, the nature and the force of your fellowmen. This is vitally true also of a group of disciples. What protects most disciples from too great a sensitivity is their preoccupation with themselves and with their own development. [702]
  3. Those transmuted forces which come to the disciple from the Master or are definitely transmitted to him by the Master.

The goal for all work done by disciples, either in group formation or in the Ashram, is the expression, within the group, of the causal creative process. This is summed up in the words which I have already quoted to you "the Life and the lives." You have the analogous idea and its sequence of effects in the realization that the Master (spirit or Monad) reflects himself in or inspires the disciple (soul) and the latter is thus enabled to demonstrate soul activity upon the physical plane.

I would like to consider in greater detail the nature of a Master's group, sometimes called an Ashram. It might be valuable if I endeavored to define an Ashram to you and so leave you with a clear idea of the difference between a Master's particular group, and the many outer groups which, though working under his inspiration and upon the Plan, are not definitely and technically his Ashram.

An Ashram is a subjective fusion of individuals and not of personalities, gathered together for service purposes. It is a blending of individual activity into one whole - a whole which is united on objective and vision but which may (and frequently does) have differing methods and techniques. The work of the Ashram is essentially the presentation to the work of those service purposes which are carried forward as seem best to the individual disciple, under the "impression of the Master" and with the cooperation of his group. A group of disciples is not pledged to do the same type of work in the same way and at the same time. They are pledged to work under the inspiration of their soul, as their souls may direct and dictate strengthened by contact with the Master and with each other. They are related to each other through identity of vision and of vibration, plus mutual respect and complete freedom - particularly the latter.

As you ponder on this, I would ask you to realize that an Ashram is not a group of people, working under the tutelage of some Master. This is an important point to remember. I is - as said earlier - a magnetic point of tension, a fusion of [703] energies, directed towards a common center and involving two magnetic factors:

  1. A united urge towards group formation upon the mental plane. This is the higher correspondence to the herd instinct of the animal world and of the world of men, but is of a spiritual nature and quite differently motivated. The lower herd instinct is motivated largely by the instinct of self-preservation; the higher by the recognition of the immortal nature of the soul, and by the instinct to serve even with the sacrifice of oneself. The law of "death unto life" controls. When the magnetic pull of the group is adequately strong, then comes the death of the personality life. Until, therefore, the group of disciples in all its parts expresses this outgoing sacrificial urge, it is not an Ashram.
  2. The magnetic pull of the positive center at the very heart of the group; that means the magnetic pull of the Master. As you well know, theoretically at least, at the center of the Ashram stands ever the Master, or else an initiate or a world disciple. His task is to blend and fuse the energies, tendered and proffered by the group (under the urge to serve) and to indicate the field of service. The mode of this instinctual activity is called occult obedience and this is voluntarily rendered and untidily followed. When any group - working in this way under a Master - is moved by one spiritual impulse and functions through one firm organization (like electrons around the positive nucleus in an atom), the potency of the group will become immediately effective and not before.
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