[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]
The Lord Buddha has said that we must not believe a thing merely because it is said; nor traditions because they have been handed down from antiquity; nor rumors, as such; nor writings by sages, because sages wrote them; nor fancies that we may suspect to have been inspired in us by a Deva (that is, in presumed spiritual inspiration); nor from inferences drawn from some haphazard assumption we may have made; nor because of what seems an analogical necessity; nor on the mere authority of our teachers or masters. But we are to believe when the writing, doctrine, or saying is corroborated by our own reason and consciousness. "For this," says he in concluding, "I taught you not to believe merely because you have heard, but when you believe of your consciousness, then to act accordingly and abundantly."
The subject of Initiation is of such a nature that it fascinates those who are wont to think. It is so abstruse that I have tried to eliminate as much as possible any ideas of my own and if I seem to quote too often, I trust it will be forgiven, for only "One Who Knows" can speak "as One having authority."
The message in this article is not directed to "the man in the street," but to Fellow-Students. To me there is no "man in the street" per se; there is only humanity in three walks of Life — Humanity in three Halls or Departments of Life. These are the Hall of Ignorance, the Hall of Learning, and the Hall of Wisdom to which so few aspire, yet it may be reached, for:
To every man there openeth a way, and ways, and a Way,
The high soul takes the high road, the low soul takes the low,
And in between on the misty flats the rest drift to and fro;
But to every man there openeth a high way and a low,
And every man decideth the way his soul shall go. — Oxenham
To the Theosophist, or Esotericist, the Way is no other, can be no other, than the "Way of Initiation." The word "initiation" means "into," and "to go'; an entrance into or a new beginning. A changing from one condition into another, from a purely material life into a spiritual one. It is the first step and the succeeding steps upon the Path of Holiness; literally, therefore, one who has taken the first initiation is one who has taken the first step into the spiritual Kingdom of Nature, having passed out of the definitely human kingdom into the super-human, and has a right to be called "a spiritual man," in the technical significance of the word. But, "Except ye be converted (changed), and become as little children (initiates) ye shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven." (Matt., xviii, 3)
In the middle of the Fourth Root-Race, the Atlantean, one door was closed and another opened. The opened door is known as the Portal of Initiation and is still open to permit members of the human family who are willing to undergo the necessary discipline, and to make the required strenuous effort, to enter the fifth or spiritual kingdom of Nature.
The Probationary Path precedes the Path of Holiness and marks that period in the life of a man when he definitely sets himself to the re-building of his own character, takes himself in hand and seeks with diligence to bring his personality under control. He will have to transfer his consciousness out of the personal into the Impersonal and during the transitional stage much of difficulty and suffering is necessarily endured. Yet in the overcoming of the lower self, in the ever-becoming, higher and higher, the Goal is finally attained. A server of the race stands forth.
After a longer or shorter period of time the disciple stands at the Portal of Initiation. We must remember that as one approaches this Portal and draws nearer to the Master, it is, as says Light on the Path, with the feet bathed in the blood of the heart. Each step up is ever through the sacrifice of all that the heart holds dear on one plane or another, and always must this sacrifice be voluntary.
To quote our Leader:
Initiation is the strait and narrow way, thorny and perilous, yet it is the short way, it is the way of the Teachers themselves, the way of self-renunciation to the service of the world; the way of personal self-forgetfulness; the relatively quick way of evolving forth the grandeur which lies latent within.
"There is a road steep and thorny, but yet a road, and it leads to the heart of the Universe." Wondrous words are these of H. P. Blavatsky! Initiation is the way by which the evolutionary process of growth can be quickened greatly; but a man must have attained the qualifications therefor, and have learned to know how to give the "right answers'; in other words, he must be ready for initiation before he may venture to attempt passing through its rites. All this involves very serious self-training, comprising a yearning for the Light, a being immensely hungry for it; and the possessing of an inflexible will to go ahead which nothing can daunt. In still other words, it means a man's becoming at-one with his inner higher constitution, with the higher part of himself: living in it and for it, and letting it prevail — actively working in his daily life — instead of doing, as the multitudes do, merely resting in quiescence, in somnolence, spiritually asleep, and indifferently allowing Nature's slow River of Time to carry him along on its tranquil and ever moving wave. — The Esoteric Tradition, II, 1036-7
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the Heaven, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up. — Ecc, iii
. . . everything in the Universe, in the last analysis, is based on the Cosmic Intelligence, so that even certain seasons of the year are more appropriate for initiatory ceremonies than other seasons. — The Esoteric Tradition, II, 1080
These times are called the Sacred Seasons, the two Solstices and the two Equinoxes, forming a cross in the Heavens.
The places of Initiation have sometimes been described as chambers, caves, crypts, temples, halls, lodges, pyramids, and in the case of Iesous on the cross, Golgotha, the Place of a skull.
He who treads the Path is he who has counted the cost, whose sense of values has been re-adjusted; he is one who is attempting to take the "kingdom" by "violence," and in the attempt is prepared for the consequent suffering. He is one who counts all things but loss if he may win the goal, and who in the struggle for the Mastery of the lower self by the Higher, is willing to sacrifice even unto death.
Euripides has said: "O blest is he whose fortune it is to have learned the divine initiations; he sanctifies his life."
And Plato: "Constantly perfecting himself in perfect mysteries a man in them alone becomes truly perfect."