We now celebrate the third of the great spiritual and psychical events of the esoteric year, the initiation cycle centering in the Summer Solstice; we celebrate in teaching and by spiritual and intellectual suggestion the actual events of the initiations which take place at this time elsewhere on the surface of the globe.
It is a most suggestive thought, and one that we should carry with us always — each one of us as his or her most prized ideal — that anyone belonging to the outer ring of the mystic Body can, if he or she so will, some day pass from the outer ring to an inner ring, and from that inner ring to one still nearer the center; and so on, until finally, if the disciple prevail in the conquest of self and in the enlargement of consciousness, he shall one day reach the center, and thence by his own will and act be swept into the initiatory life-currents which will bear him on the mystic pilgrimage, on the esoteric round of experience, and return a willing and self-conscious renouncer of what he knows he can get, but which he refuses in order to remain and to help the world as one of the stones in the Guardian Wall surrounding humanity.
You will remember that the mystic year contains four seasonal points, and that these four seasons in their cycle are symbolic of the four chief events of progress of initiation: first, that of the Winter Solstice, which event is also called the Great Birth, when the aspirant brings to birth the god within him and for a time at least becomes temporarily at one therewith in consciousness and in feeling; a birth which indeed is the birth of the inner Buddha born of the spiritual solar splendor, or the birth of the mystic Christos.
Then, second, comes the period or event of esoteric adolescence at the Spring Equinox, when in the full flush of the victory gained at the Winter Solstice, and with the marvelous inner strength and power that come to one who has thus achieved, the aspirant enters upon the greatest temptation, except one, known to human beings, and prevails; and this event may be called the Great Temptation. With this initiation at the time of the Spring Equinox the Avataras are particularly concerned, forming as they do one of the lines of activity — a god-line, in fact — of the Hierarchy of Compassion and Splendor, although the Avataras are outside the circle of temptation except insofar as concerns the human portion of them.
Then, third, comes the event of the Summer Solstice, at which time the neophyte or aspirant must undergo, and successfully prevail over, the greatest temptation known to man just referred to; and if he so prevail, which means the renouncing of all chance of individual progress for the sake of becoming one of the Saviors of the world, he then takes his position as one of the stones in the Guardian Wall. Thereafter he dedicates his life to the service of the world, without thought of guerdon or of individual progress — it may be for aeons — sacrificing himself spiritually in the service of all that lives. For this reason the initiation at this season of the year has been called the Great Renunciation.
Then, finally, comes the fourth and last period of the cycling mystical year, the event of the Autumnal Equinox, which perhaps is the most sublime, but which actually is not as holy as the initiation which we are now commemorating; because in the initiation of the Autumnal Equinox the neophyte or aspirant passes beyond the portals of irrevocable death, and returns among men no more. One line of this activity, lofty and spiritual but yet not the line of the Hierarchy of Splendor and Compassion, is that followed by the Pratyeka Buddhas. Aeons will pass before these Pratyeka Buddhas reawaken to take up anew the evolutionary journey, the evolutionary pilgrimage.
The Autumnal Equinox is likewise straitly and closely related to the investigation, during the rites and trials of the neophyte, of the many and varied and intricate mysteries connected with death. For these and for other reasons it has been called the Great Passing.
Children of the Sun and Offspring of the Stars: Has it ever occurred to you to ask yourselves why it is that the stars glitter in the violet dome of night; why our sun shines with unceasing glory, pouring forth through aeons after aeons its own substance of light and life and energy; and why, on the other hand, such vast stretches and realms of nature are sunken in apparently cold and crystalline rigidity: asleep, dormant, seemingly unmoving, although indeed pervaded everywhere and throughout (so that not even an atom is deprived of it) by the all-permeant life and consciousness of the Boundless? Have you ever wondered why these two great contrasts exist in the manifested universe — on the one side, light and movement, activity and power, offspring of divinity and of the spiritual energies; and on the other side, relative immobility, rigidity, crystalline somnolence, and the realms of cold and spiritual sleep?
If you have not asked yourselves these questions, you have not yet really awakened; your spiritual souls are not yet stirring consciously within you, and you are asleep, you are dormant. It is the beasts that ask themselves no such questions as these, as they live within the restricted bounds of their limited consciousness, for it is a consciousness of feeling and of reaction to feeling only, without the divine fire of self-conscious thought, and without that inquisitive intelligence, that thirst for light and knowledge, which characterize man as a son of the Sun and as an offspring of a stellar parent.
Spirit on one side and matter on the other, conscious life on one side and relative immobility and somnolence of consciousness on the other. As we look upon tenfold nature and consider her activities, we realize that we can figurate the situation as a vast army of the sons of light working upon dark and sleeping matter, the sons of light existing in their imbodiments between two poles, both of which to our present human consciousness seem to be impenetrable realms of being. What are these two poles? One is the pole of matter, but the other is the pole of spirit which, because of its incomprehensible brilliance and power, is so far beyond all our intellectual conception or loftiest ideation that it seems as impenetrable to understanding as does the nether pole just spoken of, also apparently dark and incomprehensible.
The reason why nature is thus divided in twain to the understanding of us humans is because we observe on one side the hosts of light, and on the other side the hosts of matter; and yet both fundamentally are one, the difference being that the hosts of light are entities more or less progressed towards the pole of spirit, and the hosts of darkness are ruled by the mamo-chohans; as, indeed, the light side is ruled by the Hierarchies of Splendor consisting of dhyani-chohans in ever increasing ranges of glory, ascending along the ladder of life beyond the reach of our utmost vision, strain we it upwards as we may. These two, nature's dark side and her light side, are the two eternal pathways, eternal because of being mighty nature herself. We may speak of the upper or light side as being that of the Hierarchies of Compassion, and the lower or dark side as being that of the Hierarchies of Matter; yet both sides are eternally evolving upwards in everlasting progress. After all, these are but two modes of life, for fundamentally the two are one.
As said a great sage and seer of the Far Orient, Lao-tse, when speaking of the Tao:
Its upper part is not bright, and its lower part is not dark. Unceasing in action, nevertheless it cannot ever be named, but from action returns again to the spiritual Void. We may call it the form of the formless, the image of the imageless, the fleeting and the indeterminable [and yet it is the ever-enduring]. Go you before it, you cannot see its face; go you behind it, you cannot see its back. . . .
Without a name by which it may rightfully be called, it is the origin of the spheres celestial and the spheres material. When it has a name men call it the Eternal Mother of all things. Only he who is constantly free from earthly passions can understand its divine essence; but he whose mind is clogged and blinded by passions can see no more than its outer form. Yet these two, the spiritual and the material, though we call them by different names, in their origin are identically one and identically the same. This sameness is a wondrous mystery, the mystery of mysteries. Understanding this mystery is the portal of all initiation. — passages from the Tao-te-ching paraphrased from Lionel Giles's translation.
Children of the Sun, Offspring of the Stars: Are you like the blind unreasoning beast that has no divine curiosity for wisdom and knowledge and love? Or are you becoming like unto the sages and the seers of the ages, who see in all that surrounds them, in every minutest as well as in every greatest thing or event, a key to a cosmic riddle? Think, and pause a moment over the thought. When you consider the glittering orbs above us and our own glorious daystar whom we call Father Sun, has it never occurred to you that these very stars are manifestations of the Hierarchy of Compassion, bringing light and life and love and wisdom into the dark realms of nature's material spheres? Verily it is so!
Every sun that we discern in the midnight sky, every human creature, every dhyani-chohan whose presence we may instinctively feel, is not only an evolving and progressing entity — especially in the cases of the stars and of the gods — but is also an entity which, motivated by celestial love and wisdom divine, each one in accordance with its own karmic powers and to the extent that it may, has halted on its path or advances slowly on its path, in order to give help to the multitudes and hosts of less progressed entities trailing along behind.
Thus a star, our sun for instance, is not only an evolving god in its divine and spiritual and intellectual and psychical and astral aspects, but is also bending towards us from its celestial throne as it were, and thus appears in our own material realms helping us, giving us light, urging us upwards.
These are no merely vain words of an empty poesy, but are suggestive truth. Everywhere around us nature proclaims law, order, regularity, a succession of event ever following event as beings and things are swept along through the ages on the vast bosom of the river of lives; and all this is the work of the Hierarchy of Splendor and Compassion, of which we in our own humble way form on this earth the outmost circle or sphere. It is the same impulse which sways the gods and the Silent Watchers and the starry beings to help those less progressed, that sways the hearts of the Buddhas of Compassion, and of the Masters of Wisdom and Peace and of their chelas, to take the initiation of the Great Renunciation, thus copying in our human realm what takes place in sublime degree among the divinities. An Avatara is but an exceptional case of a peculiar kind, exemplifying the rule of which the Buddhas are the still nobler and outstanding examples of the general case.
Little do men know of the immense love, the divine impulses of compassion, which sway the souls of those who make the Great Renunciation, giving up all hope of personal evolutionary progress, it may be for aeons to come, in order to remain on earth to help their fellows and in the service of the world. Unrecognized, unthanked, ever silent, ever compassionate, ever filled with holy peace, they work steadily on, watching others go past them as the slowly moving river of lives sweeps along in unending flow. There they stand like pillars of light, these great and noble ones. Although they know that some day their reward shall come, a reward beyond all human understanding, nevertheless there they remain through the ages without thinking of their reward, and endure and endure and endure.
Men in the world have no cognizance whatsoever of the mighty hands and powerful wills which hold back certain cosmic forces and elements, lest these forces and elements ravage men because of the ignorant stupidity and blind willfulness of men in invoking, through their selfish emotions and thoughts, cosmic powers of which they actually have no real consciousness. Because these Great Ones are the protecting shields of mankind, therefore are they called the Guardian Wall.
Every man or woman who does a generous, unselfish, and compassionate act is, by the same token and insofar as the compassionate impulse and act extend, a member of the Hierarchy of Compassion and Splendor. Every man or woman who commits an act of selfishness or who follows blindly and solely an impulse of the matter side of himself or of herself is, by the same token and insofar as the impulse and act extend, acting under the influence of the somber and unholy powers of the material world whose chiefs are the dread mamo-chohans presiding at the pralayas. Every man or woman who does a selfish, evil, or ignoble act, in very truth is taking a stride backwards and is, let us say in passing, by just so much hindering the forward progress of his fellows; for we are all knitted inseparably together into one web of life, into one living organic union.
How beautiful are they upon whose foreheads shines the light eternal, the light of everlasting peace, the light of wisdom, and the illumination of deathless love! They are growing, and growing rapidly, stimulated by the radiant light which pours forth from within the deeps of their own spiritual being. How blessed is their peace, how unspeakably great their happiness, how calm, how majestic, do they appear! What wonderful strength also are they gaining by each such noble thought, by each such noble act! Men and women who incarnate this spirit of selfless devotion, in however small a degree, are preparing themselves for a future time when they in turn will stand at the door and knock, seeking, asking for, demanding, and demanding with the innate right of embryo gods, this initiation of the Great Renunciation; and then they will find their place as self-conscious workers in the Hierarchy of Compassion and Splendor.
As Lao-tse again says in this connection, when speaking of the Tao, which is at once the cosmic organism in its divine side and the timeless splendor within the aspirant's own breast: "The entire world of men will flock eagerly to him who holds within himself the mighty form and power of Tao. They will come and receive no hurt, but will find rest, peace, tranquillity, and wisdom."
In speaking again of the practical ethics of him who has already made the Great Renunciation and has passed through the holy rites, the great Chinese Master continues:
He that is empty shall be filled; he that is worn out shall be renewed; he who has little shall have all; he who thinks he has much shall go astray. Therefore the sage embraces in thought the cosmic unity, and thereby becomes a model for all under heaven. He is free from self-display, therefore he shines forth; free from self-assertion, therefore he is distinguished; free from self-glorification, therefore he is glorified; free from self-exaltation, therefore he rises above all. Inasmuch as he never strives with others, there is no one in the world who strives with him.
And further, the same sage and seer, in his paradoxes, taught as follows:
Therefore the sage, wishing to be above the people, must by his words put himself below the people. Desiring to be ever nobler than the multitude, he must put himself modestly behind them and at their service. In this way, though he has his natural place above them, the people do not feel his weight; though he has his natural place before them, they do not resent it. Therefore all mankind delight to exalt him, and weary of him not.
The sage expects no recognition for what he does; he achieves merit but does not take it to himself; . . . I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize above all. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is proper humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle, and then you can be bold. Be frugal, and then you can be most liberal. Avoid putting yourself before others, and you naturally become a leader among men.
But in the present day men cast off gentleness, and are all for being bold. They spurn frugality, and retain only extravagance; they discard proper humility, and aim only at being the first. Therefore they shall surely perish.
It must never for a moment be supposed that the Great Renunciation implies an abandonment of any single part of the manifested universe in order that the neophyte or aspirant may devote himself only to following the sole pathway of light. This in itself is a subtly spiritual selfishness which, let men say what they may, is the spirit governing the career of the Pratyeka Buddhas. It is necessary for the neophyte or chela who desires to pass through even the first gateway of the initiation leading to the Great Renunciation to understand that instead of abandoning the world he remains within it, in order, as he grows greater and stronger, wiser and loftier, to serve ever more largely in the cause of all things that are.
The slightest tinge of individual yearning for personal advancement will bar the doors fast against him, for the very core of this initiation is utter self-renunciation. The effort is indeed a titan's labor, for not only must the personal nature be washed clean, but must be utterly transmuted, as far as is compatible with existence in these realms, into becoming a channel or vehicle or mediator between all above the neophyte and all below him and less than he. He must, in consequence, be tested in every fiber of his being before he can even raise his heart to dare the greatest trials which will lead him first into the gloom of the regions of the Underworld — for he must prevail or fail; and later, when his utterly pure heart and indomitable will have carried him safely out of these, he must be tested in loftier spheres, so that no yearning hunger for more light for himself and for communion with the divinities for his own grace can entice him away from his self-chosen path.
The path of the Pratyeka Buddha, after all, is a relatively easy one by comparison with the way of the one who has chosen the Great Renunciation; but oh, how inexpressibly beautiful and sublime is the guerdon that comes to the latter in the far distant future when, his work once done, fully accomplished, like the butterfly he frees himself from the chrysalis and, taking wing into the ambient ether where the gods abide, he becomes at one with them, self-consciously a collaborator with them in the cosmic work. But aeons will pass before this stage shall be reached, aeons upon aeons of remaining in our realms of imperfection and often of strife and pain. But to the one who has made the Great Renunciation there is a joy in the heart which passeth all understanding, the joy of helping and of raising and of leading others up the stairway of life. Power becomes his; faculties hitherto but partly recognized and perhaps unknown develop within him; he becomes cognizant of mysteries of which in the earlier stages of his growth he had but the faintest adumbration, if indeed any intuition of them at all; and the reason is that the farther he advances in his progress the more perfectly, the more completely, the more entirely, does he become a self-conscious mediator of the wisdom and love of the hierarchies above him, who now can work through him as a perfect instrument, willing, self-sacrificing, joyful, strong, and fully capable.
For him no more is there Dead Sea fruit which turns to ashes in the mouth; for him sorrow and pain as men know them have evanished away. He has come to make his own the world's great sorrow and pain; but, marvelous paradox, the unspeakable peace and bliss that are his because he is an utterly unselfish helper transmute the world's sorrow and pain into the greater light and peace of the splendor above and within him. He becomes at one with universal nature, and instinctively works with her in all her labors; and because of this, nature recognizes him as her master and makes obeisance unto him.
There are many grades of those who take the path of the Great Renunciation: there are, first, the loftiest ones, the very gods themselves who lean from their azure thrones, so to speak, and who communicate with those of the same hierarchy but who are less than they. There are innumerable grades still lower down; there are the Buddhas of Compassion; there are the Masters of Wisdom and Peace; there are the high chelas; there are the chelas of lower degree; and there are even ordinary men and women who feel within themselves the upsurging force of the mighty fire of compassionate love which, at times at least, fills their hearts with its flame. Celestial Buddhas, Dhyani-buddhas, Manushya-buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Masters, chelas, inferior chelas, and great and noble men and women — there in brief is the line or ladder of being which forms the Order of Compassion.
As the chela advances into masterhood, as the Master becomes the Bodhisattva, and as the Bodhisattva develops into the Buddha, and so forth, there is a growing self-conscious realization that every individual of this Hierarchy of Compassion and Splendor is the vehicle or mediator of a divine entity which works through him as its human channel; and in the seventh initiation, although nothing more here can be said of that last and greatest of rites, the initiant comes face to face, it may be for a brief instant or even for months or possibly years, with this inspiring and overshadowing divine entity.
It must never be supposed that the Great Renunciation implies that, once taken, this debars one from further initiation. The Great Renunciation implies, rather, that the entity so devoting himself consecrates himself to a series of further and ever loftier initiations, but with the sole and single purpose of rendering himself ever more fit for transmitting the divine light to others less advanced than he, and for that purpose alone.
The Great Renunciation is also an initiation having many degrees, for the Silent Watcher of whatever grade is the first exemplar and outstanding type of one who sits on the threshold of knowledge absolute and of unspeakable peace, and yet enters not but remains before the last and greatest holy of holies in order that those less developed may have a link with the highest.
Every higher grade entered into during the long cycle of initiation before man becomes a Bodhisattva is an awakening within the neophyte of a new plane of consciousness and the consequent coming into lofty personal relation with the different powers and forces and even entities that belong to each plane as they are attained, the one after the other. Initiation is not something which is added unto the growing and expanding consciousness of the neophyte, as brick is added to brick in building a wall; but the steps of initiation represent, each one, a quickening of the evolutionary process. In other words, initiation in every instance and throughout time is the bringing out or forth into manifested activity of what already exists within the individual. This thought is so important that I must ask you to pause upon it and to ponder it well. You will at once realize that no initiation can possibly take place merely by request or by petition; that therefore it is utterly impossible for anyone successfully to pass through the rites who is not already prepared to do so. It would be impossible — spiritually, intellectually, psychologically, and psychically — to initiate a beast into even the lowest of the initiatory grades, for the simple reason that the respective inner parts of its constitution are not yet functioning together under the direction and control of a self-conscious entity, as is the case with man.
It is upon this great and basic fact of natural fitness that reposes the entire structure of the ethical teaching which the great Masters of the past have given to their disciples. Discipline must precede the Mysteries — not by any Master's mandate, but simply because it is nature's irrefragable law. Man must prove himself to be worthy, and not only worthy but ready, and not only ready but fit, before his knocking at the portal of the sanctum sanctorum can be even heard; and remember that this "knock" is soundless and made without gesture, for it is a movement of the will, intense and determined, combined with an expanding of the consciousness.
How fit would a man be to enter into the dread regions of the Underworld and to face the often dangerous denizens of those realms if he cannot even control his emotional nature or successfully guide the operations of his own will, and if he does not understand the intricate functioning of his own consciousness? Again, how can a man pass safely through the regions of the superior realms of the universe, with what would be to him, in an unprepared state, all their manifold dangers and subtil appeals, if he himself is not already strong in will and expanded in consciousness and therefore fit to enter those realms? It would be as impossible as to ask a beast to take charge of a chemical laboratory or of an electrical works; or, on the other hand, to demand of a beast that it should compose an oratorio or write an outline of a cosmic philosophy that would mightily and persuasively sway the minds of men.
Yet hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of human beings today are not far from being ready and fit to undertake the first of the initiatory trials; but so sunken are they in the web and entanglements of material existence, that not only do they not know of these wonderful truths and of the powers lying latent and hid in their nature, but they would not care to attempt the tests even if they knew of the glorious possibilities that are their birthright. Their own ignorance and inertia prevent their advancing; and it is a part of our duty to awaken the minds of our fellow human beings and to open the doors of their hearts to nature's sublime verities.
I might say in passing that the greatest and simplest preparation for all the various grades of initiation is our daily life. Here one can prove what he is made of; here he can show the stuff that is in him; here he can strengthen his character, evoke his will, enlarge his understanding, expand his heart- life. The Masters judge, or rather test, a beginner, a neophyte taking his first steps, by the way in which he acts in daily life and reacts to the temptations and trials that daily life puts upon him. These remarks, I repeat, are no vain words of an empty theory, but are sheer truth; and you will understand this at once when you remember that life is the great school, and that all the initiations, without a single exception, are but higher grades, the reaching of higher classes, in the school of life — life terrestrial and life cosmic.
Recollect the nature of the constitution of man which is composed of the following fundamentals or bases: first, a divinity derived from a star, the stellar parent for the individual, and each individual has his own. Next, a monadic essence of an intellectual type, called the manasaputra, deriving from the sun. Third, a psycho-emotional apparatus commonly called the human soul or monad, derivative from the moon-chain. And fourth, a psycho-vital-astral apparatus or body derivative from our own globe earth. And over all and within and running through all these is a superdivine, flameless fire of fundamental consciousness which we can generalize by calling it a son of the Boundless, whose habitat is the range of the frontierless spaces of space. This is man's own individual ladder of life; and he should earnestly and continuously strive with never an instant's intermission to raise his consciousness ever higher along this ladder, from and out of the body to place it in mastery of his psychomental lunar apparatus which he should conquer and control; and thence still higher to become at one with the manasaputric essence living within him; and in future ages to arise out of this into something still more vast and lofty, which is the divine monad with its range of consciousness extending over the universe which we call the Galaxy or Milky Way; and later on, in aeons to come, he shall go higher, and then again higher, and still higher forever.
Thus verily are we born of the moon, children of the sun, offspring of the stars, and inheritors of the cosmic spaces; for space itself is we and we are it, for we and the Boundless are in essence not twain but one.
In these brief remarks I have endeavored to give, by hint and by allusion, some definite and clear ideas of the character and range of the matters comprised under the esoteric term, the initiation of the Great Renunciation. It too has its compensations unspeakably beautiful, and its end is the heart of the universe. Yet why do I say its "end"? This is but a figure of speech, but a manner of phrasing; for the heart of the universe is indeed boundless Infinitude, and the frontierless deeps of the Divine. Progress, therefore, is endless; the light becomes ever stronger as one progresses along the path; and what the chela would consider the loftiest summits of the Mystic East which he must climb, he finds when he has arrived and has placed his feet upon those distant peaks, that there are immeasurable distances still to go, and of a grandeur and sublimity which even the gods have not attained.