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Autobiography of Alice A. Bailey - Appendix - What is an Esoteric School
I. Some Definitions of Esotericism

The words "esoteric" and "occult" signify "that which is hidden"; they indicate that which lies behind the outer seeming and point to the causes which produce appearance and effects; they are concerned with the subtler world of energies and forces which all outer forms veil and hide. They deal with that which must be known before the initiate-consciousness can be developed.

Emphasis in the past has been upon subjective but nevertheless material forces (hidden within the human being), and frequently upon the psychic powers, such as clairvoyance and clairaudience which man shares in common with the animals. Physical purity has been enormously emphasized in the old schools and concerns the cleansing of the forms through which the soul must manifest. This cleansing is not esoteric in nature and is no sign of esoteric or of spiritual unfoldment. It is only a most necessary preliminary stage; until this purification has been undertaken, more advanced work is not possible. The physical disciplines are needed and useful, and must find their place in all schools for beginners; by their means the neophyte establishes habits of purity and builds the type of body, required by the disciple when he starts true esoteric work.

This elementary training enables the neophyte to shift his consciousness out of the tangible world of daily living into the subtler worlds of his personality forces. He becomes aware of the energies with which he must deal and dimly to sense that which lies behind them - the soul in its own world, the Kingdom of God.

The new schools are occupied with more esoteric values. They train the disciple to work as a soul in the three worlds and prepare him to work in a Master's group as a pledged disciple. Most of the schools, which belong to the old order, have ignored the stage of [267] personality integration and of trained knowledge of life in the three worlds in which the beginner should be instructed. Instead, they have held out to the beginner the tempting prospect of contact with a Master and a Master's group, and this before he was even a coordinated person, when he hardly merited the word "intelligent" and before he had any soul contact. Emphasis was, and is, laid upon devotion - devotion to the teacher at the center of the group, devotion to the truths enunciated by the teacher, devotion to the Master, plus a fixed determination to merit the title of "disciple" and so be able, some day, to say, "I know this Master or that." At the same time, the beginner is given no true idea of discipleship or its responsibilities. The new schools, now forming, convey very different ideas to their students and very different techniques of training.

1. An esoteric school is one in which the relation of the soul, the spiritual man, to the personality is taught. It is the major line of approach to the student, and soul contact becomes his first great endeavor. He comes to know himself and struggles to work as a conscious soul and not just as an active personality. He learns to control and direct his lower nature through a technical understanding of its constitution and to pour through it the light, love and power of the soul. Through alignment, concentration and meditation, he establishes a permanent contact with his inner spiritual being and is then well on the way to become a useful server of humanity.

2. An esoteric school is an extension into the physical outer world of the inner group or Ashram of a Master. Just as the individual disciple is taught to regard himself as a channel for the soul, and as an outpost of the consciousness of the Master, so the true esoteric school is the outpost of some subjective spiritual group or Ashram, conditioned and impressed by the Master, as the disciple is by his soul. Such a group is, therefore, in direct relationship to the Hierarchy.

3. A true esoteric school works on four levels of service and of experience. This enables the disciple to make a complete approach to humanity and to use all of his equipment. In the true spiritual schools, as approved and endorsed by the Masters, service to humanity is taught and not the need for the disciple to be in touch with a Master, as is the case in the majority of esoteric schools of the old order. Contact with the Master is contingent upon the measure and [268] the quality of the service rendered by the disciple to his fellowmen. This is a point oft overlooked by teachers, who lay the emphasis upon the personal attainment of the individual and upon individual perfection. The new schools, now forming, are preoccupied with training men to meet world need and to serve spiritually, upon the following four levels of conscious activity.

  1. That of the outer world. The disciple is taught to live normally, practically, effectively and spiritually in the everyday world. He is never a freak or a crank.
  2. That of the world of meaning. The disciple is taught the why and the wherefore of circumstances and happenings - both individual and universal. He is thus trained to act as an interpreter of events and to function as a light bearer.
  3. That of the soul in its own world. This makes the disciple a channel for divine love, for the nature of the soul is love. He heals and carries inspiration into the world.
  4. That of his Master's Ashram or group. He is taught to cooperate with the Hierarchical plan as it is gradually revealed to him and to arrive at the knowledge which will permit him to direct some of the energies producing world happenings. He thus carries out the purposes of the inner group with which he is affiliated. Under the inspiration of the Master and His band of working disciples and initiates, he brings to humanity definite knowledge about the Hierarchy.

4. An esoteric school trains the disciple in group work. He learns to relinquish personality plans in the interest of group purpose - ever directed to the service of humanity and the Hierarchy. He becomes merged in group activities and - losing none of his individualized and particularized identity - he is a dedicated contributor to the Plan, with no thought of the separated self conditioning his thinking.

5. An esoteric school is not founded upon authority or on the demand of some teacher for recognition and obedience. It is not based on the claims of some usually mediocre person to be an initiate and, because of his status, authorized to speak with dogmatic emphasis. The only authority recognized is that of truth itself, intuitively perceived and then subjected to the mental analysis and interpretation of the disciple. The disciple who (working under some one of, the [269] Masters) starts an esoteric school has absolutely no authority, except that of a life lived as dose to the truth as possible, plus the measure of truth which he can present to his group. The obedience developed in his group of students is that of recognizing joint responsibility, united loyalty to group intention and purpose, as indicated by the group leader (suggested by him and not presented as a command). The presence of authoritative statements, emanating from the teacher of the group, or any demand upon his part for recognition, or for the unquestioning obedience and loyalty of his followers marks him out as a beginner and as simply an aspirant - well-meaning and with good intention. It indicates that he is not a disciple, charged with the work of the Hierarchy.

6. An esoteric group is one in which the rounded-out development of the disciple receives attention. Character-building and unselfish aspiration are regarded as necessarily present, but no great emphasis is laid upon the ordinary virtues, or upon the purity in the outer life, or on kindness, good temper and freedom from self-assertion. These qualities are regarded as basic essentials and as present in some measure, but their further development is regarded as the personal problem of the disciple and not that of the teacher and the group. Mental development is emphasized in order that the disciple may be intelligent, analytical (but not critical) and in possession of a rich, well-organized mental equipment. The head and the heart are regarded as of equal importance and as equally divine. It is with the states of consciousness of men everywhere, of all ranks, races and nations that the Hierarchy works and disciples are trained to work the same way, eventually themselves becoming Masters of the Wisdom. This they achieve by mastering all difficulties and obstacles by the power of their own souls. They thus release some Master, now active in the world, for higher and different work.

7. An esoteric school is, therefore, a medium through which the disciple's life-focus becomes that of the soul; neither the physical world, nor the emotional and mental worlds are to him the major sphere of his activities. They are simply his field of service, and his personality becomes that through which his soul serves. He learns to work entirely from spiritual levels, and his consciousness is stably centered in the soul and in his Master's Ashram. The esoteric school teaches him how to achieve this, how to make contact with his soul, how to live as a soul, how to recognize a Master and how to work in [270] a Master's group. He learns the techniques whereby he can register impressions from the Master and be responsive to group intent and thus increasingly sensitive to the Plan with which his Master and the Ashram is pledged to cooperate. He is taught how to play his part in raising the consciousness of the race; this he does through a conscious, directed use of the trained mind, of his controlled emotional nature and his responsive brain. He becomes proficient in playing the difficult, dual role of the disciple. This is to live as a soul in the life of every day and to work consciously in relation to the Hierarchy. There are many other definitions of an esoteric school but I have chosen the simpler of them, and the ones which must be first grasped if right progress is to be made. Step by step the disciple is led forward along the Path until the time comes when he is ready for those great unfoldments of consciousness which we call "Initiations." He then begins consciously to tread the Path of Initiation with which the esoteric schools of the future will familiarize the general public.

It is with the effort to meet these seven requirements of all esoteric schools, that the Arcane School is occupied. It is not occupied with preparing disciples for initiations and never has been. It is attempting to train its students to make the preliminary contacts and to work as true servers in the world. There is no true esoteric school today which is giving training for initiation. Those who claim to do so are deceiving the public. Training in the life of discipleship, academically understood, can be given. Training in the life of the initiate has still to be ascertained individually, and through contacts in the world of spiritual being.

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